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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Keep looking up!

Hawk I saw soaring over the back field today.

Hawk I saw soaring over the back field today.

 

I knew it was going to be tricky balancing taking care of the girls, writing freelance and doing my college work but I wasn’t quite prepared for all that and the other unexpected challenges I’ve faced over the past week. Things that had been constants in my life became unpredictable and I dealt with the pain of loss in familiar, heart wrenching ways. The most important thing though is that I’m still here, still kicking, still fighting the good fight. I attribute that to my ability to keep looking up even when I’m on the ground.

Trying to read online text books and complete college assignments while I had the girls proved a mostly futile endeavor but I got everything done once they were back with their father. Then I was faced with the challenge of defining a thesis and writing an essay about it. I thought that would be relatively easy but I was wrong and I was left frustrated and doubting my abilities as a writer. I may never be great at thesis and essays but I know I’m a good writer. I was born to be a writer and I’m certain the challenge of college English will help me grow and strengthen my abilities.

I floundered a bit when contact with friends faltered and vanished but I knew they were facing their own challenges so I mustered my courage and marched onward. I know my mom and my girls are always there to cheer me on and support me but I still long for the social circle aspect of my life that has been missing since my divorce. I knew there would be a transition/adjustment period when my marriage ended but I didn’t expect to still be in it three years later.

I’ve definitely made progress in my different and better life but sometimes it’s tough to go it alone. Well, I’m not totally alone, my pup Jazzmin will be my shadow to the ends of the earth and beyond. I’m so lucky to have her in my life because she’ll never judge me or question my choices. She always sees the best in me and through her eyes I see what a kind-hearted human I am.

Jazzmin is great at making me smile and laugh!

Jazzmin is great at making me smile and laugh!

I’ve also started keeping a journal of all the positives things in my life and the positive omens and signs I see every day. Taking the time to write it all down every single day really put it all in perspective for me. I receive numerous positive messages every day and have more blessings than I can count. Focusing on the positive aspects of my life completely outshines any negativity I encounter and it gives me the strength to continue on my journey.

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As I said in the beginning of this, I keep looking up and I mean this literally. I’m always looking up toward the sky for signs and spirit guardians. Every day I see numerous little butterflies around my yard and at least a couple of monarchs. For several days in a row I’ve seen hawks soaring in the sky and they’ve gone out of their way to make sure I see them. The hawks have circled in front of my living room window, cast shadows in front trees so I’ll go outside and see them in the back field and flown directly over me during walks with Jazzmin.

A quick online search reveals various meanings behind seeing a hawk but I believe that they’re guardians and guides from the spirit world sent to remind me to see the world with a wider vision. I tend to become too focused on small issues without having patience and faith in the bigger picture. When I see a hawk, I’m filled with a sense of calm and of knowing that everything will be okay. Whether the hawk is soaring or sitting atop a tree or pole, I’m aware of their watchful eye and I’m filled with reassurance that I’ll always be on the right path as long I keep looking where I want to go: up!

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Fences, flowers, furry pups and feathered friends

Fruit tree blossoms down the road from my house

Fruit tree blossoms down the road from my house

It was another beautiful day today that felt more like summer than spring. I happily enjoyed it because 80  and humid is infinitely better than -25 and three feet of snow!

Morning thunderstorms cleared out rather quickly and have only recently started up again now that it’s dark. I don’t mind thunderstorms at night except when I have the girls. I don’t blame them for being scared when lightning flashes and thunder shakes the house. I think they’ve finally settled though so I’ll continue my rambling.

I took Jazzmin for a short walk in the early afternoon and the heat off the pavement was intense enough to make her pant by the first turn. Even on that short walk though we saw an abundance of spring beauty and I took some pictures with my phone camera. Only after returning home and looking at them did I realize that most of them included a fence of some kind. To be expected since I live in the country near several farms but certainly not intentional. Regardless, they turned out surprisingly lovely for my little camera phone.

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Upon returning home, Jazz was hot, tired and happy. She laid on the floor panting while looking eager to go back out walking once she caught her breath. Once again proof that the pup wants to walk 24/7 in any kind of weather!

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

Jazzmin panting a smile after our walk.

This evening I was blessed with the return of my resident hummingbird. I was watching the birds in my wild bird oasis and in the hummingbird zipped looking for his feeder! I hadn’t put it out yet so I quickly remedied that by hanging it where the unoccupied barrel bird house had been hanging. He returned later as I watched the storms roll in and he seems to know where his feeder is now. Always nice when he returns because it means the buzzing little birdies think it’s a safe bet that warmth will stick around. I certainly hope they’re right!

Piles of Pathetic Pupness

Jazz flopped pathetically by the couch this morning.

Jazz flopped pathetically by the couch this morning.

I adore my pup Jazzmin but she, just like every other dog in the world I imagine, is an expert at flopping about in the most pathetic and pitiful piles of pupness. She can go from happy and tail wagging after playing to flopped on the floor in utter misery and woe because I haven’t pet her in the last two breaths. She goes from gratefully burping in my face after wolfing down her food to melting on the floor in feigned utter starvation as if her last meal was months ago. Full on doggy drama queen!

It’s been way too cold to take Jazz for a walk the past several days. Just to put her outside for her morning answer to nature’s call I have to dress her up in her booties and sweater to prevent her from becoming a pupsicle. I even had to carry her 55 pound butt back in the house last week because it was too cold for her to walk in the snow! She’s always so eager to get back in the house and I’m always so hopeful that feeling will last all day. Alas, it never does. Within moments, she’s wondering why I haven’t taken her outside for a walk. She looks at me in utter dismay wondering what horrible thing she’s done to make me punish her with lack of walks. My eyes are about to roll out of my head from her constant puppy dog eyes of death!

Time for a walk yet, Mama?

Time for a walk yet, Mama?

I love Jazz but bundling up to my eyeballs in a snowsuit and ski mask to walk her in negative temperatures just isn’t going to happen. Especially since she’d have to be equally bundled and would never keep a full doggy ski mask on, if such a thing even exists. It was so cold this morning that she was holding her paws up out of the snow even with her booties on! I don’t recall that ever happening before and with her leaky steel trap memory, Jazz doesn’t remember it happening at all by now.

The cold shoulder pout.

The cold shoulder pout.

My daughter Jordan asked me last night if I thought Jazz was born looking that pathetic. I said I highly doubted it and that from what I remember of puppies, they’re furry, round butterballs that sleep a lot, chew on things and pee and poo all over the house. I’m not up to dealing with THAT variety of pathetic pup piles around my house! Despite her constant “woe is me” body flopping in every room of the house, I know Jazz is a happy dog. She has by now forgotten her less than lovely life in the animal shelter but her periodic stays at the boarders remind her what a good thing she has in my tiny, cabin-fever filled house.

Ohhh woe is Jazzmin!

Ohhh woe is Jazzmin!

Eventually the weather will break and we’ll be able to go for walks again but for now I’m doing my best to ignore the sighs, huffs, grunts and stares of longing she keeps aiming in my direction.

Zoey’s Story

The moment I picked up the little black and white cat at the shelter, she melted in my arms. She sprawled out, exposed her belly and showed me that she completely trusted and loved me at first sight. The love was mutual and I took her home that day. My then husband was with me and he liked her too despite not being an animal lover. He came up with the name Zoey for her and it seemed to fit her.

Zoey didn’t discriminate, she snuggled with everyone. She especially loved snuggling with my father when he’d come to my house and relax in the rocking recliner. I swear Zoey would instantly appear on his chest the moment he sat down. My dad always hated moving and disturbing her snuggling but Zoey was always good at resettling.

Zoey loved my daughters from the moment I brought them home from the hospital. Why wouldn’t she? They were more warm bodies to snuggle with! The girls loved her back and they were both fortunate to spend the first years of their life with such a sweet cat.

When I found Owl in my barn as a small, scared, stray black kitten, she didn’t know how to meow. She’d hiss but not meow. I couldn’t imagine then what a meowing loud mouth she’d become or how much of a great snuggler she’d grow into. Zoey wasn’t exactly thrilled by the little black kitten trying to tackle her all the time. Sometimes she’d play with Owl and sometimes she’d put her in her place by knocking her down. Eventually, they learned to get along harmoniously and most days I couldn’t tell where Zoey’s black fur ended and Owl’s began.

Zoey and Owl engaged in a very lazy cat fight.

Zoey and Owl engaged in a very lazy cat fight.

Unfortunately, Zoey eventually grew sick and the vets couldn’t figure out why. She was still a young cat, less than 10 years old but something was wreaking havoc on her body and draining her energy. They gave me medication to ease her pain and I took her back home so she could be comfortable. I had such high hopes that she’d recover somehow. I gave her medicine daily, snuggled with her and told her I loved her.

One night I snuggled with her on the couch and then left to go upstairs to bed. I came back downstairs the next morning and couldn’t find her. I then went searching in the basement because there was an old chair down there she loved to sleep on. That’s when I found her. She’d already passed, her spirit was gone from her tired body. As I write this now it’s been over four years since she died but it still makes me cry. I will forever miss that sweet little cat.

Much to my amazement, my then husband constructed a coffin for Zoey out of wood pieces in the barn. The coffin was far bigger than required for her tiny form but he placed her in it and dug a huge hole out in the back yard to bury her. That was the final resting place for her body but I know her spirit is never far from me.

Three months after Zoey died, my father passed. As hard as losing them both in such a short span of time was, I was comforted by the fact that they were together in heaven snuggling on a rocking recliner, snoring happily together.

Just as my father bestowed so many gifts upon me, Zoey bestowed gifts upon Owl. She taught Owl how to be a really dedicated and open-minded snuggler and to love anything and everything she met. Owl used those teachings to stubbornly and determinedly attempt to become friends with Jazzmin until she finally got her way.

Whenever Owl comes in the house from being outside, she seeks Jazzmin out and rubs against her until Jazz can’t stand it anymore and walks away. Jazz pretends not to like it but I know she really loves Owl. I’ve caught her looking for Owl when she’s not in the house and going to the door when she hears Owl outside meowing. Thanks to Zoey, Owl transformed a dog with no history with cats to a dog who can’t imagine her future without them.

A New Face on the Doggy Gauntlet

The new face resembled this adorable guy! Source: Pinterest

The new face resembled this adorable guy! Source: Pinterest

Yesterday morning I decided I’d take Jazzmin walking through the “Doggy Gauntlet.” I originally discussed why I call it this in a post back in April entitled (appropriately) “The Doggy Gauntlet.” Feel free to click the link to read the post.

I’ve walked that particular area enough times that I thought I knew where all the dogs lived. I discovered during our walk yesterday that I was quite wrong. Jazz and I had made it peacefully by all the homes with known dogs without incident. People were at work and their dogs were confined inside or away at doggy day care. Confident we were safe, I stopped in the shoulder of the road so Jazz could do her business. No sooner has she finished when I heard a deep growling approaching from behind us. Uh oh!

Pulling Jazz close to me and holding her leash tight, I whirled around to face the oncoming dog and found it to be a pup that must’ve been a mix of mastiff and something else. He had the height of a mastiff but not the big jowls and he was a quite handsome blend of brindle and white. I took all that in rather quickly as he came running, growling and barking at us from the house across the road. I’d never heard or seen a dog at that house before so I was rather surprised.

Many thoughts whipped through my head in quick succession as I stood in the shoulder of the road with Jazzmin behind me. Foremost were “Oh crap! Big dog! Eeek!” Thankfully, I’m pretty good when faced with a crisis so I remained calm and silenced the panicked voices so I could focus on the useful voice in my head. The voice and advice came from someone I’d asked almost 2 years ago what to do if a dog came running at me. All I could remember was something about looking and sounding tall and yelling…what was I supposed to yell??? The only word that would come to mind and come out was “NO!” The moment I yelled that in my biggest, most authoritative voice, the dog stopped running at us and looked confused and taken aback. He’d slowed but he kept coming so I stood my ground and kept saying “NO!” as I held Jazz behind me. My voice was obviously doubly intimidating because both the big dog and Jazz obeyed me.

The dog was partially wagging his tail and had stopped barking and growling as he stood 5 feet from Jazz and I in the road. I don’t judge dogs negatively by their breed or size and I think he just wanted to play but I had been told by the owner of the voice in my head that having two dogs meet head to head wasn’t a good idea. Not to mention this dog probably weighed two of Jazz so “playing” might have been tricky. Having heard my yelling, the owner of the dog finally stepped out his side door and called the dog back.

Grudgingly the dog left us and trotted back across the road. For once the owner didn’t try to reassure me by shouting “Oh, he’s friendly!” I’m sure the owners mean well when they say that but when their dog has just come charging at Jazz and I barking and growling, it’s hard to accept at face value. It really would be better for everyone involved if they kept their dogs on a leash or safely confined by invisible fence. Thankfully I knew what to do when faced with a charging dog and it worked but not everyone who walks by will possess that knowledge.

After that bit of excitement I was very proud of myself for standing my ground and of Jazz because she didn’t try to lunge out in front of me or emit a single bark. I was so pumped with adrenaline and endorphins that we made record time on our six-mile walk! It helped that the road was relatively flat and mostly shaded but I was impressed with us nonetheless.

Yesterday morning proved to me that the voice in my head can be a saving grace when I need it most. Somehow in the turbulent waves of my mind, that important piece of advice popped to the surface and I was able to do exactly what I needed to. Among the swirling whirlwind of my mind there exists a calming force, a stabilizing anchor, a rock that grounds me. It began with my father’s influence and continues with a powerful, living presence I feel very fortunate to know.

Jumping from the Height of Luxury

The palace architecture resembled that of King's Chapel in Boston, only magnified 100x!

The palace architecture resembled that of King’s Chapel in Boston, only magnified 100 times!

I had a dream last night that I was in a grand palace. The palace was far too big for my tastes. Grand hallways of polished marble stretched on forever, fine artwork decorated the walls and the furniture was too luxurious and fancy to sit upon. I don’t remember why I was there but I do know Jazzmin was with me and we were both feeling rather lost.

I encountered some former friends while I explored the palace and after talking with them I just wanted out of the place. The friends had moved on with their lives and left me behind but now that they saw me again, they felt the need to brag about how happy they were. How in love they were, how wonderful their lives were, how they had everything they ever wanted. I was wearing jean shorts and a tank top while they were dressed in expensive designer clothes. My yellow mutt and I felt horribly out of place.

I was upset that my former friends were so obviously fulfilled without me in their lives. All I’d ever done was be kind to them and try to give helpful advice and they’d snubbed me for the “love of their life.” They’d tossed me like a dirty rag because I’m the weird girl who spends most of her time writing, walking her dog, listening to birds and watching butterflies. They were much more “fulfilled” spending every conceivable moment with their beloved. I didn’t care how happy they appeared to be because I was certain their words were lies and their whole demeanor just a well-rehearsed performance.

In my efforts to get away from these former friends, Jazz and I became separated. This was horrible for me because Jazz is always stuck to me like my shadow. Somehow one of my ex friends had lured her away from me and I was desperate to find her. I finally found my way out onto a balcony and gulped in the fresh air like a fish gulps in water after being on dry land too long. The luxury and grandeur of the place was suffocating to me and I wanted out!

While standing on the vine-covered balcony, I heard Jazzmin barking above and to the left of me. I looked to find her on a higher nearby balcony poking her head through the marble railing with her tail wagging happily. She was obviously very eager to get to me despite the offer of treats from the person on the balcony with her. As anxious as I was to be reunited with Jazz, I was afraid she was going to try and jump to get to me. No matter how much she loved me, I didn’t think even Jazz could leap that far.

So I shouted at her to wait, that I’d find her. Too late. Jazzmin leapt through the railing across the open expanse and poof! my dream created a balcony between the two of us for her to safely land upon. I was so relieved! She then made the last jump to me and I hugged her and praised her as her tail happily whipped back and forth and she rubbed her head against mine. We both wanted out of that place but had no desire to go back inside.

Looking below me I realized the balcony was now much lower than before so I swung my legs over and jumped down. Jazz squeezed through the railings and hopped down to me and we took off running through the lush, emerald-colored garden overflowing with fountains, flowers and topiaries. I didn’t need those former friends or that grand palace to make me happy. I knew in my dream, as I do in real life, what real love feels like. Genuine kindness, caring and love are luxuries and treasures far greater than all the money in the world.