Hello and Goodbye, Princess Zelda

It’s been a bittersweet few days at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

My ex-husband found a three-month abandoned puppy crying in the street where he lives.  She had no tags, no one was looking for her; there were no flyers nor anything on Craigslist. None of the neighbors claimed her, either. After exhausting his due diligence, he called me.

Yup, I’m the one everyone calls to rescue a dog, cat, injured bird and even once, a turtle.

A darling little black and tan/lab mix, it was impossible not to fall head over heels. She hadn’t been physically abused, but was hungry, alone, and scared.

He thought perhaps she’d been dumped in his neighborhood; it’s happened a few times before — same thing, a dog wandering, no collar, no one looking for it, and he’s found homes for them all.

I took her to the vet for a check-up — we found out that she hadn’t been microchipped; other than having roundworms (ick), she was in very good health — he prescribed a lot of food and a lot of love.

I went to all the pet stores I hadn’t been to since our beloved sixteen-year-old Victor died in 2006. I loaded up a cart with a cushy bed, toys, high quality food and supplements, shampoo, and treats.

(Read HERE and HERE about Victor, our darling Border Collie.)

I rushed back home to my new baby and emailed the tugboat man. As I expected, he was thrilled to again become a dad. He wasn’t too keen to call her “Princess Zelda” but when he didn’t come up with another option in a timely manner, he abdicated any naming rights.

What a little sweetheart! I slept on the sofa in the family room near the back door so she’d be able to alert me during the night if she needed to go out. After waking me with a little whine and a wet nose, we walked out to the yard together, she did what she needed to do, we came back in and quickly settled down for the rest of the night. We have a lot of coyotes, so it wouldn’t have been safe for her on her own.

But… I woke up with a horrible asthma attack. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t want to believe it was because of Zelda, but as the day progressed, I was getting worse, and my rescue inhaler wasn’t helping me like it should have. I couldn’t even pet her,’cos every time I did, I’d break out in hives.

I’m extremely allergic to cats, but I’ve always had dogs with no ill effects. My doctor said I must have built up a sensitivity to dander all these years that we’ve been pet free.

With my severe asthma, he didn’t think I’d be a good candidate for allergen  immunotherapy injections. They might work, or could exacerbate the asthma.

Luckily, my ex knew someone who had actually wanted to take the pup before he called me. Her uncle just lost one of his beloved dogs, a twenty-year-old German Shepherd, and was over most of the grieving and ready for a new family member. He had another dog, a three-year-old Basset Hound who was lonely for a sister, plus he’s retired and lives on five acres. It seemed like a match made in heaven, especially when I heard that his pets are his children and sleep with he and his wife in bed.

This morning Princess Zelda went to her new home. (By the way, he loves her name.) She settled right into her bed in the car and didn’t look back as they drove off.

What a little survivor! The most recent text informed me that she played with her new friend and they were fast asleep together on the bed.

As soon as she left, my breathing issues subsided. I wonder if it was the breed of dog that triggered my allergic reaction or am i doomed to never again mother another creature? That would be really sad.

Why can’t more people be wonderful animal lovers?

Take a look at some pictures and videos of Princess Zelda. I miss her already…

Princess Zelda playing in a pile of pine needles ( I am a HORRIBLE videographer.)

Princess Zelda

So tired from playing, someone needed a nap! Yes, that’s a rhinestone collar. 

Princess Zelda2


Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

January 1981–Balboa Park, San Diego, California At that time, my son’s dad and I lived near Balboa Park in a little section called Hillcrest/University Heights. There was a back way to the south side of Balboa Park through a canyon trail. That was a favorite walk for my two dogs, Sabrina and Beowulf. Sabrina was a Border Collie. Wolfie was an Akita/Malamute mix that I rescued when I was a junior at SDSU and he was about four weeks old. I bottle fed him and took him to classes in a baby front pack. Fully grown, he was over a hundred pounds and stood about thirty inches high. He had no idea how big he was and sat in my lap just like he did when he was a puppy. He was an awesome pet. They both attended graduation ceremonies with me, which got us into the local paper.

In January of 1981 I was seven months pregnant. I was very active, and continued to attend ballet classes and hike with my dogs. On this particular morning, we walked down 10th Avenue to Robinson and over to the end of Vermont and wound our way through the canyon trail. It was an enchanted place after a rainy winter with lush green vines, mature trees, and a seasonal creek–not at all desert-y  and dry like in this photo.There was probably tons of poison oak but I must have been lucky and avoided it. I remember there was a hill covered in nasturtiums and my dogs loved to roll around in them.  We walked for about thirty minutes and followed the trail toward the park and then turned around. We were halfway to the entrance at Vermont. It was quiet except for the far off hum of Highway 163. I heard a twig crack and ignored it, thinking it was a little critter. My dogs both alerted, ears pricked, hackles rising. More twigs cracked, and I turned around.  I will never forget the next few seconds. A man was sneaking up behind me. As soon as he saw me looking at him, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Moving swiftly was not an option being seven months pregnant and fifty pounds heavier, but I tried. I remember trying to be careful that I didn’t trip and fall. The faster I walked, the faster he walked, and he was closing the gap between us. Sabrina turned to growl at him and Wolfie placed himself between me and the man. I simply FROZE. I couldn’t move a muscle. My brain was screaming at me to run away from DANGER, and my legs felt like they were encased in concrete. The adrenaline was pumping, sending the proper primitive signals, but I panicked. Just before the man lunged at me, I picked up Sabrina because I didn’t want her to get hurt. Yes, I picked up my forty-five pound Border Collie, screamed at Wolfie to COME, and RAN THE WRONG WAY. I ran–lumbered--back into the ravine and NOT toward the street that was full of houses and humans and safety. I ran as best as I could with my huge baby-filled belly, until thankfully, a group of women came down from the park and the man disappeared. One of the women who lived nearby took me to her house and we called the police from there. I was so entrenched in fear and panic that I wasn’t able to provide them with a good description, other than noticing he was overweight and probably couldn’t run any faster than I could. This was before cell phones, and when the policemen drove us home, I called my mom. She was an RN and drove over to check my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as delivering a stern lecture about not putting my unborn baby in danger. Needless to say, there were no more solo canyon adventures. After more than thirty years, the re-telling of this potential rape? murder? robbery? still causes my heart to pound.



Goodbye sweet Victor, part two

The story of Victor did not end on July 15, 2006. We planned a memorial service for a couple of months later, the next time my son and DIL were in town. I tasked everyone with remembering a favorite anecdote or fond memory and we’d light candles and give him a proper farewell. DIL is very crafty in addition to being a super-brain and she created a wind chime with driftwood and seashells and his tags and other jangly metal thingys.

Some parts have fallen off and it looks a bit shabby now, but it’s still a beautiful way to remember Vic every time there’s the slightest breeze.

We gathered by Vic’s favorite spot in the yard with his deflated soccer ball and his ever present bucket. My son read Last Words to a Dumb Friend by Thomas Hardy. There wasn’t a dry eye around this yard, I can tell you.

Pet was never mourned as you,
Purrer of the spotless hue,
Plumy tail, and wistful gaze
While you humoured our queer ways,
Or outshrilled your morning call
Up the stairs and through the hall –
Foot suspended in its fall –
While, expectant, you would stand
Arched, to meet the stroking hand;
Till your way you chose to wend
Yonder, to your tragic end.

Never another pet for me!
Let your place all vacant be;
Better blankness day by day
Than companion torn away.
Better bid his memory fade,
Better blot each mark he made,
Selfishly escape distress
By contrived forgetfulness,
Than preserve his prints to make
Every morn and eve an ache.

From the chair whereon he sat
Sweep his fur, nor wince thereat;
Rake his little pathways out
Mid the bushes roundabout;
Smooth away his talons’ mark
From the claw-worn pine-tree bark,
Where he climbed as dusk embrowned,
Waiting us who loitered round.

Strange it is this speechless thing,
Subject to our mastering,
Subject for his life and food
To our gift, and time, and mood;
Timid pensioner of us Powers,
His existence ruled by ours,
Should–by crossing at a breath
Into safe and shielded death,
By the merely taking hence
Of his insignificance –
Loom as largened to the sense,
Shape as part, above man’s will,
Of the Imperturbable.

As a prisoner, flight debarred,
Exercising in a yard,
Still retain I, troubled, shaken,
Mean estate, by him forsaken;
And this home, which scarcely took
Impress from his little look,
By his faring to the Dim
Grows all eloquent of him.

Housemate, I can think you still
Bounding to the window-sill,
Over which I vaguely see
Your small mound beneath the tree,
Showing in the autumn shade
That you moulder where you played.

I talked about how he easily accepted the cats we brought home; smart as a Border Collie is, he quickly learned how to befriend them–the cats were a little slower to warm up to him but soon everyone was on board. Whenever they would “play” attack his tail or swipe at him with a paw, he would look down at them with such a bewildered look in his eyes, as if to say, “Hey guys, I’m not allowed to hit back, no fair!” Of course, the cats knew they could get away with anything, even sleeping in the middle of his bed. He would patiently lie (lay?) down next to them on the cold tile floor until I came in and shooed them away. Vic loved to eat just about anything; grapes, carrots, watermelon–it was fun to test his palate. The one thing he could not abide was thunder or fireworks. The poor dear would tremble and hide under the computer desk and no amount of reassurance could erase the sheer terror in his eyes.

You can teach a BC pretty much anything.  I taught him some herding commands just for fun, no sheep around here, but it’s a great way to exercise their brains and they love to work. We used to play hide and seek. My son would hide and we’d say to Victor, “Where’s J? Go find J!” and he’d take off running up and down the stairs, and he’d almost always be able to find him, no matter where he was.

Oh, I tell you, a dog like that is priceless.

DIL’s memories were the most recent. She didn’t start out loving dogs as our family most certainly does, but I  believe she has worked hard to overcome whatever obstacles she had in her heart. I mean, who could not love an animal whose only joy in life was to be so happy to see you when you came home, wagging a tail like mad, if you had been gone five minutes or five hours or five months? Maybe it was a bit of fear, too, at the time she met Vic, he was quite old, had some dental and skin issues–he was a senior citizen after all– but I wasn’t going to allow her to miss out on the joy of a pet! We cooked up a deal, a negotiation. She’s a great one for deals, I’ve found out. A master (mistress?) of negotiation, she outlined the arrangement: IF she fed Victor from her mouth, (I know it’s gross but I used to do it all the time) then her reward would be a facial at the spa. Darned if she didn’t put a piece of bread in her mouth, get down on all fours, and let him ever-so-gently take the bread from her mouth. Immediately after that, she screamed bloody murder which scared the hell out of Victor and he ran off, but she had held up her part of the bargain, so yes, DIL got her facial.

Victor turned out to have sea legs–here’s a pic of his very first boat ride, up in the wheelhouse with the captain, loving every minute of it.

Spirit Squirrel™ is back

Spirit Squirrel™ is my name for the squirrel I first saw at dawn the morning after our beloved Victor passed away at the emergency animal hospital.

(First of all, I’ve lived in SoCal since 1969. I don’t recall it has ever been this hot. We live about three miles from the beach and a quarter mile from a lagoon and it has got to be at least 110 degrees in the sun. And so dry, such a dry heat, and all morning I’ve heard sirens, which is never a good thing when it’s this hot and dry.)

There’s nothing as awesome as a boy and his dog

It was on a day like this that our beloved Border Collie died.

My son was ten-years-old when we got this little black and white fluffy fur ball. He chose the name, having recently read “to the victor belong the spoils” and thought that would be a good name for his new puppy.

In 2006, Victor was sixteen-years-old and had been in failing health for about two or three years. Every time he had a setback, we tried to prepare ourselves for the end–I’d call my son wherever he was in the world and give him an update and the opportunity to say goodbye, if only by telephone, because Victor was his dog, his buddy, and even hearing my son’s voice would elicit a wag, a thump of his beautiful feathery tail. (another reason amongst fourteen billion why it is such an act of animal cruelty to butcher (bob) tails or clip (butcher) ears.)

This time I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. by a repetitive knocking sound near the back door. That’s where old Vic slept, just inside the patio doors on a dog bed that was soft and supportive enough to cushion his old arthritic joints. The poor dear was almost deaf and had growing cataracts but he still loved to play soccer and throw his bucket around. He was eating and eliminating OK, but every extra day with him was cherished. I was afraid to go out in the family room, afraid of what I might see; I had a kind of premonition. I didn’t want to rouse my husband just in case I was wrong.  I will never forget what I found. Poor, poor Vic was fully involved in a Gran Mal epileptic seizure. The knocking was his back legs hitting the glass door as he was seizing.  I rushed to him, pulling his bed away from the door so he couldn’t injure himself and gently moved his tongue so he wouldn’t choke. I ran into the bedroom and touched my husband’s back. I tried to be calm but my heart was breaking. “Something happened to Victor. You need to get up. We have to take him to the hospital. It’s bad. It’s real bad.” I called the 24 hour hospital to let them know we were on our way. We took turns staying by his side while we got ready.  By the time we got dressed, the seizing had ended, but he was unresponsive and probably comatose; barely breathing, his chest rose and fell, not agitated and not in any apparent pain. He weighed sixty-five pounds, kind of big for a BC even though he had a pedigree. My husband decided the best way to carry him was on his bed, so he got a big sheet of plywood from the garage and we placed him on that to transport him to his Blazer. I sat with him in the back all the way to the hospital. He looked just like he was peacefully asleep.

Apparently, his organs were shutting down; the vet said it could have been triggered by the heat or cancer or old age, but we all agreed that it would be cruel to subject him to any diagnostic or invasive procedures. For whatever reason, it was his time to go and our job to make it as pain-free as possible.

We covered him with kisses and tears as the vet performed euthanasia, and we were there for his final inhale and his final exhale. The compassionate vet left us alone as we sobbed and stroked him. I think he might have teared up a bit as he watched us say goodbye. Although we knew this day would come, we were not prepared for the depth of our despair.

Victor would never again wake up. We were never again to be greeted by his jumping on the bed, his cold nose prodding us awake. We were never again going to watch him get chased around the house by our cat, Bandit, in one of their games that he always lovingly let her win. Never again was I going to have to spell the word”walk” so he wouldn’t know we were going to go out without him.  I would never again gaze into his massive brown eyes and feel so much love. There will be other dogs in our life, but there will never be another Victor. We still love you, buddy.

Young Victor, Bandit as a kitten

I have had other dogs and loved every one of them but Victor and I had a special bond, maybe because when my son left for college and I was an empty nester and newly alone, Victor became that child who would never leave.

Victor’s favorite toy, the bucket!

Which brings me to Spirit Squirrel.  By the time we got home, it was almost dawn and neither of us could get back to sleep. There was such an emptiness in the house- it was palpable. We were truly bereft as we looked around the house that his absence seemed to fill as much as his presence had; his food and water bowls, his toys, his leash. We had made sure that our cat, Bandit, had said her goodbyes but now she was looking all over the house for her friend, and we tried to explain that Vic wasn’t coming back, but she just ran under the bed for the rest of the day. I honestly think she never recovered from that loss.

I thought perhaps the best thing to do would be to remove all of Vic’s belongings; and I pinky swear this happened: I was standing at the back door and saw a ground squirrel climb up over the side of the deck and take Victor’s rawhide chew bone and run off with it. Right before my eyes! I had never seen a squirrel before so near the house–I knew we had them around but never so bold. One of the perks of a dog is their skill as a deterrent. I named him Spirit Squirrel™ and fantasized that he was really Victor’s spirit brother whose job was to transport the bone to Victor in dog heaven. Since then, and since so far we haven’t brought home another dogchild, other squirrels have taken up residence in our yard, and I know they are unwanted vermin, yet I can’t for the life of me find a good, rational, scientific explanation for the whys and hows of that event on that particular day at that particular time. I’m writing a children’s book about my son and Victor and will include a story about Spirit Squirrel™.

This morning I saw a squirrel run across the deck, I think to eat the almonds I leave out for the scrub jays.  Unfortunately, they are becoming a growing problem, and something the captain is going to have to deal with when he comes home.