Unconditional Love Wrapped in Yellow Fur

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Four year ago today I adopted my pup Jazzmin from Happy Tails Animal Shelter in Canandaigua, New York. I’d wanted to get a dog since my divorce in the summer of 2011, but I hadn’t found one that looked like the right fit yet. I grew up with family dogs and loved them, but had been unable to have one during my marriage because my ex didn’t like dogs. He wasn’t overly fond of cats either, but he put up with them because I wanted them. The freedom to get whatever animals I want and love them without concern for allergies or lack of a partner’s fondness is one of the many reasons I enjoy being single.

Jazzmin and I were a perfect fit right from the start and a friend has called her the canine version of me. She’s full of energy, optimistic and has the most adorable brown eyes. Just like me 😉 She goes a little heavy on the 80’s black eyeliner look, but it works on her and adds a deeper patheticness to her puppy dog eyes.

I was trying to keep Jazz's ears warm. She was not impressed...

I was trying to keep Jazz’s ears warm. She was not impressed…

Jazz and I have had our ups and downs as we’ve figured each other out. I didn’t really know the proper way to walk a dog, ie they walk next to you or behind and not in front, but I learned and taught her. Nowadays she stays by my side with only occasional reminders, as long as a squirrel doesn’t run across the road or we encounter another dog. She’s like me in the social aspect, she likes other dogs but gets overexcited and isn’t sure how to act. Whereas I tend to become shy in similar encounters with humans, she gets exuberant. We may never have the “social with our own kind” thing figured out, but she LOVES people of all kinds and is a favorite visitor at the boarders when I go on my road trips.

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

When I adopted Jazzmin, they guessed that she was around two years old, which makes her around six now and she shows no signs of slowing down. She still walks the road like it’s going to disappear if she doesn’t keep moving and she’s my almost constant shadow when we’re inside. Most days I almost trip over her when I turn around and while I appreciate the loyalty, I don’t need help being clumsy.

I’ve managed to teach Jazz a few things over the years. I taught her how to play fetch indoors. We try it outdoors but she loses all focus and just runs in a circle like a lunatic. I’ve taught her to wait patiently for food and treats and can almost balance a biscuit on her nose before she gobbles it. I’ve advanced the traditional “shake” into a “high five” where she raises the paw a bit higher and while I can’t get her to speak on command, she will howl-talk at me sometimes when she’s impatient. My 9-year-old black cat Owl and I taught Jazzmin that cats are pretty cool and while she may never really “love” the younger cats (neither will Owl), she definitely loves Owl.

Jazzmin and Owl snuggling with me today

Jazzmin and Owl snuggling with me

Jazzmin has taught me some things over the years too. She’s taught me that no matter what I do, I’m always worthy of love and that the best snuggles on the couch usually involve a big pile of yellow fur that twitches and snores. Jazz has taught me a new level of patience as I’ve worked to improve her leash skills over the years. I’ve become more aware of my surroundings too as I try to spot squirrels and other distractions on walks before she does.

Jazzmin and the sky

In honor of today’s adoptiversary, I gave Jazz a nice big beef bone and she’s been working at it with occasional water breaks for almost two hours. She’s very determined when it comes to getting every last ounce of marrow out of a bone or chewing on a new toy until the squeakie is suitably dead. There’s a lot to love about Jazzmin. Her porcupine quill-scarred nose, perky ears (her right is always slightly higher than her left) white chest, buns of steel as my vet calls them and upright tail that’s wagging almost all the time all make her uniquely adorable to me.

She's rather fond of lobster tail

She’s rather fond of lobster tail

I can’t imagine my life without Jazz and she’d best live forever! I know I’ll own dogs for the rest of my life and every last one will be a rescue like her because every dog deserves a loving home. If you’re ever looking for a new companion, I urge you to go to your local shelter or contact one of the many pet rescue organizations to find the perfect compliment to your life. I see so many dogs and cats I wish I could adopt, but I don’t have the room or the money to create my own “circus.” Maybe someday, but not now. For now I’ll just love the animals I have and do my best to provide them with a very happy home. =)

The kittens snuggled up against Jazzmin.

The kittens snuggled up against Jazzmin.

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Squirrel!

dog in the snow with booties

This assignment for Intro to Creative Writing was one of my favorites to write. We had to write a short story and though I struggled for a while picking a subject, once I figured it out, it flowed smoothly. Here’s a little glimpse of what it feels like to be Jazzmin…

***

Squirrel!

Sitting quietly and patiently as instructed, I stare eagerly at the front door as my mama puts on her boots to go outside. The snow outside is up to my yellow-furred belly in spots, but I don’t mind because that just makes it more fun to frolic in. I’m wearing my blue and black weighted backpack because I like to have a job and because Mama says it slows me down a little.

Sometimes Mama puts rubber booties on me to keep my feet warm, but she says it’s above freezing this morning and I’ll be okay without them. That makes me very happy because I hate those booties! Whenever she puts them on, I try to stand on one leg rather than put my booted feet down. Unfortunately, standing on one leg is impossible for me because I have four legs and I need to have at least two down to keep from falling over.

Once she’s all dressed in her boots, gloves, and winter coat, Mama reaches for the front doorknob and I stand up, my tail wagging happily behind me. We’re almost out! She turns to me with stern brown eyes and I remain standing still waiting for her command. “Come, Jazzmin,” she says in the authoritative tone that reminds me to move calmly instead of leaping toward the door. I do as she commands and walk slowly to the door, though I have no control over the arched yellow tail still wagging happily behind me.

Mama pulls the main front door open and I press my nose up to the closed storm door beyond it. I’m sure I can suck in the outdoors through my snout if I just try hard enough! I hear Mama’s low chuckle and then the storm door is open and I’m ready to take off on today’s adventure! Mama’s quick tug on my leash stops me though and I remember that she’s the pack leader and she goes first.

Once Mama steps through the open storm door and onto the snowy deck, she says “come” again and I’m eagerly at her side with my short ears perked straight up and my deep, brown eyes trying to absorb everything on the deck, in the yard, and into the trees beyond. We don’t go on as many walks in the winter as we do in the warmer weather so every time Mama puts my backpack on I get very happy and excited.

We move down the steps from the deck side by side and it feels like it’s been months since I was outside walking! There are so many smells I’d almost forgotten existed and so much to see even though it’s all blanketed in snow. The snow crunches beneath my paw pads as we walk down the driveway and then I catch the sight of movement. Is it snow falling from a tree? A bird? A car driving by? Oh no, it’s something much better! It’s a squirrel! Hang on, Mama!

Snowpup

snow dog

Jazzmin is determined to sniff down to whatever animal tracks are hidden.

While the snow that fell yesterday is lovely, the frigid temperatures are getting old rather fast. I did manage to take Jazzmin for a short walk despite the wind chill in the single digits but I’ve been struggling to warm up ever since. These are the days I long for a nice, big garden tub that I can fill with hot water that doesn’t stink of sulfur. Someday!

Jazzmin isn’t as bothered by the cold as I am. In fact, she loves to plunge her head all the way into the snow past her ears to sniff the tracks in the dirt far below. She always comes back up and snorts the snow off, shaking her head as if she doesn’t understand why her head is all cold and frozen. I envy her ability to withstand the cold because I know I’ll never be a snowbunny…or a snowpup in this case. 😉

Winter wonderland

snow covered road

The view on our walk this morning.

 

Thanks to one of those peculiar weather systems that’s spinning the wrong direction and moving east to west, it’s been snowing all day where I live. In New England, this precipitation was freezing rain and rain but when it moved west to where I live, it transitioned to snow and cold. It isn’t a blizzard or anything near the amount of snow dumped on Buffalo recently, but it’s the most snow we’ve had yet. As it’s still the holiday season, I don’t mind the snow and I’m enjoying the sight of it gently falling as it creates a winter wonderland.

kitten snowball

Daisy playing with the little snowball I brought inside. Jazz ate is shortly after this.

birdwatching kittens

The kittens were exhausted from birdwatching.

A little snow and cold wasn’t going to keep me from my vow to walk Jazzmin every day so we headed out this morning when there were only a few inches on the ground. Jazzmin is always happy to walk but she’d be happier if it wouldn’t snow on her head. Even with the cold and the snow pelting my face as we walked, I was happy because I know how lucky I am. I have a strong dislike for driving in snow and thanks to working at home, I don’t have to worry about driving into an office every day, no matter the weather. I’d much rather be out walking Jazzmin as I’m bundled up to my eyeballs than working for someone else helping them achieve their dreams. Nowadays, I get to chase and achieve my own dreams.

dog pawprints

Our footprints in the snow.

Despite a few unexpected interruptions, I was able to finish my work for the day before dinnertime. One of those unexpected interruptions was actually a welcome one as they cancelled afterschool activities and I had to pick Jordan up from school. She usually rides the late bus with her sister to their father’s house on Wednesday afternoon, but the canceled activities meant she needed somewhere to go. That’s yet another reason I feel blessed to be able to work from home, I’m there for my girls when they need me. Living only three minutes from the school comes in handy on days like today and thankfully, the roads weren’t too bad. Jordan and I enjoyed a quiet afternoon together before her father picked her up and I resumed my tasks for the day.

lights on the walkway

Glow of my walkway lights in the snow.

I’ve already had to shovel five inches of snow off my deck and I’m sure I’ll have to do tomorrow since it’s still coming down, but I’ll manage like I always do. I know that the cold is only temporary and that even when I don’t have my girls, I have my felines and my pup to keep me warm and remind me that I’m loved.

kittens and dog

Snuggling on the couch tonight.

Winter writing, walking, and winging it!

winter field

December has arrived with cloudy skies and temperatures dropping into the teens by tonight. One would expect such frigid temperatures this time of year in Upstate NY, but considering that yesterday it was 50 degrees with occasional sun, I’m thinking it wise to expect the unexpected this month.

Along that thought, I’ve already decided something unexpected this month and that is to post a new blog entry every day in December. I was slacking a bit in November with the holidays and having to write my college research paper, but now that the paper is done and I know exactly what I’m getting for gifts for my girls, I can focus on writing for pleasure again! I don’t want my pursuit of a writing career and writing-based college degree to kill my love of writing so it’s best that I continue to express myself with the usual rambling Julie here.

Writing rambling or writing serious work are both easier when it’s cold outside. What isn’t easy when it’s cold outside is working up the motivation to walk Jazzmin. Nonetheless, she and I both benefit from our walks so I vow to walk every day in December! If there are days when it’s -20 with a wind chill we might not make it out, but I’ll do my best to make up for it with more than one walk a day if necessary! Jazzmin could walk forever so I’m certainly not worried about tiring her out and considering how much I love Chex Mix and sweets during this time of year, I could use the beneficial tiring out. 😉

Another thing that tires me out is overthinking. I don’t know if overthinking is just part of being a writer or if it’s just an unrelated malady I have, but it’s an exhausting quirk. I’m constantly thinking of the “what ifs” and “shoulda coulda wouldas” of life and all it does is make me overly anxious and waste my energy. Therefore, for my third W of winter (or at least for December) I’ve decided to wing it. As in go where the wind blows me and not worry so dang much about things I can’t control.

I know two very potent remedies for my overthinking and they’re beading and writing in fantasy books. When I use my overly active mind in my handmade creations, I’m amazed with my own capabilities. Focusing my highly excitable imagination into my writing has helped me come up with plots lines and character developments that astound me. I believe that if I just let go of my worries and allow hope, inspiration, and faith flow freely, I’ll finally be able to break through my writer’s block and create stories the world will love to read. 🙂

Foggy flurries and furry fluffballs

My snowy house this morning.

My snowy house this morning.

Today marked the first substantial snow for the season here. The calendar may still say it’s fall, but Upstate NY has never been a place that abides by such silly notions. I don’t mind snow when it first begins and my girls both seem to love it. I remember loving it when I was a child, but once I became an adult who had to drive in it, snow lost a lot of its magic. The “magical first snow” today started overnight and hasn’t let up since. It’s not accumulating fast but it’s heavy, wet, and perfect for making snowballs.

And make snowballs I did! When I took Jazzmin out this morning, I made a couple snowballs and tossed them at her. She happily caught them in her mouth before spitting them out when she realized they were strange, cold tennis balls. I then took a snowball in to show the kittens and they were fascinated by the cold, white, balls of water. They love water and I’m always plucking them out of the sink, bathtub, and dog’s water bowl. I eventually plopped the snowball in their water bowl and Daisy watched it intently until it melted.

Once the girls were off at school, I did a bit of freelance work and then settled on the couch beneath a blanket to begin some new beading projects. I’d reviewed a new set of instructions for making earrings this morning and I was eager to try them. What I created came out better than I expected, but I discovered I need to start using a thimble to avoid poking my pointer fingers constantly. Thank goodness fingers heal quickly! It’s worth it though because I’m so pleased with last week’s creations that I need more hours in the day to create all the jewelry designs that have popped into my mind.

Modeling last week's beaded earring and pendant creations.

Modeling last week’s beaded earring and pendant creations.

The snow never let up so there was no point in waiting for it to stop before taking Jazz for a walk. I bundled her up in her booties (which she hates) and warm, blue sweater and I bundled myself up similarly in my winter jacket, boots, and earmuffs. It wasn’t exactly frigid today but there was a breeze and I wanted to keep my ears warm. Our walk wasn’t very long but Jazz was happy to be out and we both became thoroughly coated with snow. As we were heading back home, fog began to roll in from the top of the hill which detracted from the beauty of the first snowfall.

Jazz in her sweater and booties.

Jazz in her sweater and booties.

The snowy trees.

The snowy trees.

Jazz smells something...

Jazz smells something…

Yuppers, it's snowing!

Yuppers, it’s snowing!

The fog rolling in down the road.

The fog rolling in down the road.

Jazzmin and I were both happy to get home and thaw out. The kittens were fascinated watching the falling snow and took turns looking out the window or hogging my desk chair because it’s so cozy.

Daisy looking out the window.

Daisy looking out the window.

Angel hogging my desk chair.

Angel hogging my desk chair.

I had to get my snow shovel out of the shed to clean off my deck steps and create a path to the door and it’s now resting beside the door, ready to be used again. Winter has definitely begun but with the combination of foggy flurries and furry fluffballs, I know it will be anything but dull!

 

Whoa! I should have worn a sweatshirt!

This was one of the really windy spots on this afternoon's walk.

This was one of the really windy spots on this afternoon’s walk.

 

Sometimes things in my life don’t turn out as I hoped and I’m left feeling confused, disappointed, lost, and all sorts of less-than-positive emotions. The most effective way of dealing with such times in my life is to go for a nice, long walk! Honestly, any type of exercise can help create a more positive perspective because the endorphins start flowing and energy begins surging, but for me, walks work best!

As I took a rather short walk yesterday due to the cooler, more turbulent weather, I decided that today Jazzmin and I would take a nice loooong walk! Our long walk is a total of four miles and involves traveling all the way down to the local farmer’s huge storage barns, but I had a lot on my mind and I knew I had to work it all out with a properly exhausting walk. Sweet, lovable, loyal Jazzerboo would walk forever if I let her, but she’s limited to what her pack leader (me) can handle, so four miles is our longest walk (so far).

On this lovely autumn day, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was bright blue, and the wind was once again whipping across the hills. Even so, I thought I’d be warm enough in just shorts and a tank top. By the time we reached the end of my driveway I thought, “Hmm, I might want to put on a sweatshirt.” I then talked myself out of that by deciding the long walk would warm me up and I’d just end up tying the sweatshirt around my waste. I was wrong!

While I usually break a sweat on longer walks, it wasn’t even possible today because the wind cooled off my body before it could get hot. After we crested the tallest hill, I was tired but not hot, my arms and legs had goosebumps, and I was feeling rather numb.

Scolding myself for not wearing a sweatshirt, I continued on the walk and looked forward to the areas where trees bordered the road. Usually I like those spots because the tree shade cools me from the sun, but today I loved them because the trees blocked the wind! Wherever the road was open to farmer’s fields and treeless hills, the breeze blew so strong that I’d see tumbleweeds roll across in front of us. The wind was so strong that butterflies were struggling to stay on course, turkey vultures were having a ball kiting through the air, and leaves were flying off the trees!

One of the upsides of being so chilly was that I was walking rather briskly because I was eager to return home and swim in some hot coffee! While on the walk, I rescued five wooly bear caterpillars and a praying mantis from certain death beneath car wheels. I also saw a merlin, a hawk, and three monarch butterflies. The monarch sightings were a pleasant surprise because I thought it was too cold and windy for any of the lovely orange and black butterflies to be up north still.

When Jazzmin and I returned home over an hour after leaving, we were both quite pleased with ourselves. Jazzmin was pleased because she’d sniffed out every squirrel, deer, raccoon, and chipmunk that had ever crossed the road and I was happy because I’d worked off my negative feelings and replaced them with positivity and hope. There’s no denying the benefits of walking because I experience them first hand whenever I take Jazz out. Even on days when I just want to crawl back into bed and nap because I’m feeling down, I’ve discovered that going for a walk helps my attitude do a complete 180 spin into happier, more upbeat and perfectly positive feelings. I’m also positively feeling that I really need to wear a coat next time it’s as cool and windy as it was today!