Friday, November 4, 2011

One Year

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure I was ready to adopt another dog after so recently suffering the heartache of losing my precious Spyder to bone cancer. But the unbearable loneliness of coming home to a dogless house every evening after work was doing nothing to ease my grief and sorrow, and the sad eyes and skinny body of the little black pup in the Super Dog Rescue adoptable dog photo listing were so heartbreaking that I reluctantly agreed to at least go meet him.

Even before heading to the foster home, I had pretty much already decided that I was just going to see the dog, as I had already made the rounds at the local shelter and, although they were all special in their own way, none of the dogs I had met thus far had had that special “something” – that intangible feeling I had gotten with both Spyder and Zoe that let me know we were meant to be family. And I just figured the right companion wasn’t in the cards for me yet.

On arriving at the foster home, I unenthusiastically knocked at the door. Imagine my utter surprise at being greeted by this adorable, wiggly little black body with the most soulful brown eyes that absolutely melted my heart right where I stood.

After introducing herself to us, the foster mom invited us to the living room where I sat on the couch and Fry (then known as Mike) hopped up into my lap, planted the softest puppy kiss on my cheek, then curled up with his chin resting gently on my thigh. I was immediately helplessly, hopelessly in love with this little miracle dog – he had been spared a gruesome death in a Georgia pound, rescued by Super Dog the day before he was scheduled for the gas chamber, after having suffered near starvation in a neglectful home situation. I mouthed to Steve “I want this dog”, but he acknowledged he had known that the instant we laid eyes on Fry. :-)

That was Wednesday, November 3, 2010. Fry’s foster family and neighbors had asked for some time to say goodbye to him as they all had fallen for his charms as well, and we needed to make arrangements at our own home since we hadn’t really planned on adopting again just yet. So we scheduled to pick him up the following evening after work. I spent almost the entire night preparing his bed, food and water dishes, and generally making plans for his arrival, including taking off work the day after we were to bring him home in order to acclimate Fry to his new home and surroundings. And on Thursday, November 4, 2010, our lives changed forever once again, with the addition of a new puppy into the household.

From the moment Fry arrived at our home, he seemed completely content with us. And although the past year has been a rollercoaster ride, as it always is with a new dog, it’s a ride I wouldn’t trade for anything in the universe. As with our previous furbabies, we’ve experienced chewed up furniture, holes dug in the lawn, bedtime “zoomies”, snuggles on the couch watching TV, puppy kisses, learning to walk on a leash, dog hair on the floor and furniture, worrying with every little scrape or injury, and laughter with each new trick learned.

Each of our dogs has had – and will always have – a special place in my heart, and Fry is no exception. In just one short year, he has already taken me from couch potato to borderline athlete and brought me back to mountain biking, hiking, jogging and swimming. Fry’s loving and gentle nature transformed my two-year-old nephew from a child who cried and screamed at the mere sight of a dog to a child who now shares apples and hugs with Fry and adores petting him. Even our cats love Fry, and are never so content as when the three of them are curled up on the same couch together.

Fry is a quick learner and a marvelous athlete with unmatched speed and agility who loves his family more than anything and wants nothing more than to please us. He is clearly primarily an English Pointer mix and frequently points wildlife when we are out walking – and even climbs trees! His love of swimming belies possibly some Labrador Retriever too, but I think there may be some hound in there as well, based on his beautiful singing voice. LOL

This little man has quickly become my buddy and my joy. His happy and submissive nature is truly remarkable, and I honestly have never seen a dog as simultaneously bold and gentle as Fry is. He is completely confident on the gun range or in a storm, with no fear or flinching at any noise, and yet will take a treat from the hand of a child with the softness of a feather.

Naturally, I have dozens of videos and photos of Fry's first year with us in my YouTube and Picasa galleries, and many more to be added as time goes by as well!

He is my angel, and I’m so thankful to Super Dog for saving his life, to his foster mom for sheltering him and to Fry himself for coming into my life at the time I needed him most. I only hope I can make the rest of his hopefully long and happy life as part of our family as complete as he makes mine. :-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Remembering Spyder

It was one year ago that I held my precious Spyder for the last time as he drew his final breaths, and today was filled with memories of his too-short life and how much he meant to me for those 11 years we shared. He was my best friend, my protector, my confidante and my sunshine. I remember how he would curl up on the bathrug like my little guardian angel while I showered, and the cute way he smiled when he was happy, which was all the time as he truly knew the meaning of stopping to smell the flowers.

His whole body wagged with joy when I got home from work, and he had an amazing talent for making me laugh no matter how rough my day had been by playing peek-a-boo with his front paws over his own eyes. I still smile when I think of him lounging on the bed with his hind legs stretched out behind him frog-style, back pawpads to the sky, and that silly mischievous sparkle in his eyes.

Every day I miss you, sweetheart. I will always love you dearly and your pawprints are forever etched upon my heart and soul.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

As The Arrow Flies

A couple of weeks ago, I decided on a whim to take an archery lesson. I have to admit I was surprised at how relaxing, almost meditative, this sport is. It's quiet and requires no hearing protection, allows me to set my own pace, and the only limit to how long I can shoot is my own fatigue since the arrows merely have to be retrieved and reused, thus there is no issue of running out of "ammunition". Steve and I searched a variety of archery shops online and had the great fortune to land upon Twig Archery's site where the owner, John, kindly offered his expertise to help me select an appropriate bow - a Samick Sage takedown recurve - and then also talked at length with me about arrows and what would work best for me, and made me a dozen absolutely beautiful Eastons. The bow and arrows each arrived merely a couple of days after the order went in, so I was set up and ready to shoot even more quickly than I could have hoped. So Steve and I headed up to Caswell Ranch today for what was scheduled to be an Archery Fun Tournament. However, as only four of us braved the cold windy day, it wound up being more of a practice match than anything, but that actually worked out great for me as I am a brand new shooter and this meant I didn't yet have to deal with the stress of a big competition right away. Plus, with the strong wind gusts we had this afternoon, it was nice to be able to work on figuring out windage at various distances without a lot of pressure. Overall, I am absolutely thrilled with my bow and arrows from Twig. The fit, weight and handling are perfect for me so that I can shoot quite a few arrows without fatiguing, and I find that my accuracy is improving each time.

While at Caswell, Dean was kind enough to also let us try out his longbows, a 50# Bear and a 35# English longbow, and I thoroughly enjoyed both of those even though the poundage was well over my range.

But my favorite bow by far is my Sage; it already is starting to feel like "home" to me and I don't think it's going to be long before we're working as a single unit. Right now I'm still working on locating my perfect anchor point, although by the end of today's practice, I was starting to feel like I might have found it or am at least getting very close, and now just need to focus on consistently drawing to that point. Thanks so much to Romeo and Dean for encouraging me to give archery a try, to Steve for being such a wonderful and supportive husband joining me in this new endeavor, and to Twig Archery for their expertise and unsurpassed customer service in helping me select the perfect bow and arrows to get me going comfortably and happily. :-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fry Visits the Mountains

Before we adopted Fry last November, his foster mom had informed us that he had always had anxiety issues resulting in fairly severe motion sickness associated with riding in a car. So we’ve invested a lot of effort into easing him into traveling by going on very short car rides - less than his nausea threshold of about an hour - to fun destinations several times a week for the past eight months.  He’s done well with this, so we decided to take a leap and try him on a long trip this past weekend. We knew going in it was asking a lot of the little guy, but we took him to visit Steve’s parents in the mountains.

On the way out on Saturday morning Fry was, as usual, very anxious in the car, panting heavily despite having the air-conditioning running on high, and unwilling to do anything but stand nervously right behind me. We do lay the back seats down to give him a comfortably wide, flat, secure place to stand, and we place blankets and towels down for him as well. He made it a little over an hour before unloading all the previous night’s dinner due to the nausea probably brought on by his anxiety and panting.

After stopping to gas up the car, let Fry stretch his legs, relieve himself and have some water, we spread his huge snuggly Kong bed out in the car and covered it with a soft towel to see if we could convince him to lie down on that. To our surprise, within a few minutes of getting back in the car, Fry did in fact lie down on his bed. He was still fairly anxious, but I think he was so tired from an hour of frantic nerves that he gave in and decided to rest a bit.

[caption id="attachment_1215" align="alignnone" width="497" caption="Fry in the Car"][/caption]

After each of the next two successive rest stops, Fry seemed increasingly comfortable riding in the car, particularly at the steady highway pace. And, even more surprising, he was absolutely wonderful during the stops, behaving beautifully on his leash with no pulling whatsoever, going tinkle and drinking water from his doggy sippy cup, and then very happily hopping right back into the car with no coaxing at all and immediately curling up on his bed and resting.

Once we arrived at “Grandma” and “Grandpa’s” house, Fry settled in fairly quickly, after his initial barking since he hadn’t seen them in a few months. He was amazingly well-behaved, always staying close by and listening very well while in the yard. In the house, he made himself at home on the couch, and was quite happy with all the petting and attention. As Fry was exhausted from the trip, we just hung out at the house for a relaxing visit Saturday evening, and that night he slept in the spare bedroom with Steve and me, with just minimal restlessness due to being in a strange place.

By Sunday morning, he seemed to be more at ease, although was a bit nervous about getting into the car again to head out for a hike on the Parkway before the trip back home. He did hop in though, but was nervously panting again the entire half-hour drive to our picnic location. Once again, Fry showed excellent manners during the picnic and seemed content to lie in the grass at the overlook while we had a quick lunch.

[caption id="attachment_1208" align="alignnone" width="497" caption="Fry at the Overlook"][/caption]

We then headed to a very little-traveled trail about a mile down the Parkway and took Fry in for a hike. The weather was warm but overcast with the threat of an approaching storm which brought in a nice breeze, and Fry had a great time sniffing and investigating the trail. We also discovered he’s quite talented at finding and eating blackberries right off the branches!

[caption id="attachment_1216" align="alignnone" width="497" caption="Fry Picking Blackberries"][/caption]

He was so sweet during the walk, never getting more than a few feet in front, and generally preferring to walk either right beside or right behind me. When we got to an open grassy area of the trail filled with flowers and tall grasses, Fry had a blast running around, hiding in the grass, and then leaping out to run back to us again.

[caption id="attachment_1217" align="alignnone" width="497" caption="Wheee!"][/caption]

He was very good about drinking from his sippy cup, and when the hike was finished, was happy to hop back into the car and immediately lie down on his bed.

In fact, he was lying down for most of the ride home, really only getting up when we exited off the highway for rest stops. He was once again very good at each stop, taking care of his personal business and drinking a little water, then happily hopping back into the car. Despite beginning to breathe a little heavily and nervously as the trip progressed, he managed to make it all the way home without throwing up or getting too anxious, even though we passed through two heavy thunderstorms during the ride. But he certainly was happy when we finally arrived home. As soon as we opened the front door, he immediately ran inside, greeted “his” kitty-cats, and then hopped up on his ottoman, gave me a big lab smile, stretched out those hound-dog feet and flopped over for a real nap. I’m so proud of our little man. I know this trip was difficult for him, but he handled it like a champ and never got grumpy or irritable even though I know he was exhausted and stressed. He’s just the best little pup and I don’t think I could love him more. :-)

[caption id="attachment_1211" align="alignnone" width="497" caption="Me and My Boy"][/caption]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Open Water

At the ending of the movie Open Water, as  lost diver "Susan" looks out over the vast expanse of ocean for any glimmer of rescue after nearly two days adrift, she realizes there is no sign of help on the horizon in any direction. It is at this moment she becomes aware also that sharks are circling her, and allows herself to slip under the water to drown before they attack her. This is how depression feels. The horrific realization that no one is coming for you – there is no rescue boat, no island to swim toward, no plane searching  for you, nothing except that vast expanse of seeming emptiness with silent terrors circling below the surface. It’s hopelessness, helplessness, fear, loneliness, sadness and emptiness all engulfing you without rhyme or reason. Worse, it’s overwhelming guilt for feeling those things and being so consumed by them that you’re unable to see past the darkness to what is hopeful, resilient, joyful, beautiful and wonderful, and the belief that somehow you don't deserve any good thing anyway. “Snapping out of it” and “being happy for what you have” are not, as many assume, necessarily options for one caught in the claws of depression. It’s an illness that is the deep blue sea of the psyche and is just as capable of drowning the spirit as the ocean is of drowning the body. How overwhelmingly frightening to look around and see no rescue boat, only dark and angry Open Water as far as the soul can see…

Monday, April 18, 2011

Every Day is FRYday

Frylie has now been with us for a little over five months and the bonding process has definitely taken hold, especially for me. I took him for a private lesson with his pet-sitter/trainer, Christie at Teamworks Dog Training, and he has shown a dramatic response. Fry now sits quietly for petting when meeting new people, and is doing incredibly well with his focusing exercises such that I can get his attention immediately with a simple verbal command. His sweet nature, cute face and docile personality make him absolutely irresistible.

I'm also seeing some additional very impressive maturity for such a young dog at only 12 months old. Despite being what we suspect is some type of pointer/hound mix, he has demonstrated a remarkable ability to control his prey drive. Two young rabbits and two squirrels were playing in our front yard this weekend while we had Fry on the porch with us. The youngsters ran right in front of him, probably not more than a few feet away, and although he was quite interested, Fry immediately responded by sitting quietly when asked and made no effort to chase the rabbits or the squirrels. On the trail this past week,  he once again demonstrated his "chase" control by calling off a full herd of deer running right across the trail in front of him.

But one of his most amazing talents has to be his incredible agility and confidence. Out on our daily trail hike, he time and again wows us with his ability to run at full speed and turn on a dime, jump nimbly from limb to limb on a fallen tree, zip across narrow bridges, swim out in the lake to retrieve sticks, and maneuver deftly around our mountain bikes. As impressive as all that is, however, last week he truly left me speechless. When a squirrel raced up a tree to taunt him, Fry decided to just climb about five feet up the tree and give the squirrel a quick scare before hopping effortlessly back down and splashing through the creek and then falling in behind the bikes to head back home.

With this precious little boy, every day really is FRYday. :-)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Happy Fourth Birthday!

Happy Fourth Birthday Venus, our little angel!

[caption id="attachment_1069" align="alignnone" width="341" caption="Venus"][/caption]

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy Eleventh Anniversary

Happy 11th Anniversary to the man I love, my best friend and my soulmate. I love you, Honey!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happy Fifth Birthday!

Happy Fifth Birthday Andy, our beautiful green-eyed man!

[caption id="attachment_1066" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Andy"][/caption]

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy First Birthday!

Happy First Birthday to our precious little boy, Fry! We love you very much and are so glad you came into our lives. :-)

[caption id="attachment_1063" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Happy Boy"][/caption]