Kodiak was wise, gentle and a great empathizer. He liked nothing better than to wander in a field of grass, smelling the flowers.
It’s been a long time since I volunteered at German Shepherd Rescue fostering dogs. I got to thinking about it the other day when I read a short story about the author’s rescued pug. The tale was familiar…a dog being abused, neglected and finally rescued. My memory spiraled back in time to a spring afternoon when I got a call about an abandoned german shepherd puppy that desperately needed rescue. I had never been able to turn down a puppy.
I met Jaspar for the first time in a parking lot. He lay in a crate in the back of another volunteer’s car. I had imagined him to be roly-poly, full of energy. I couldn’t wait to smell his sweet puppy breath and bury my nose in his soft fur. But the eyes that peered out at me though the bars of the crate were dull. The puppy trembled from fear or cold, I wasn’t sure. I opened the crate and gathered him into my arms. The odor that wafted from his matted fur gagged me. The wetness of urine soaked my shirt. The sickly puppy managed to wag his tail and tilt his head up to give my face a weak lick. From that moment on, I was determined to save him.
That first evening I discovered that Jaspar didn’t just look and smell horrible, he was one very sick puppy. His fur crawled with thousands of fleas. He coughed up vast quantities of mucus from his tiny lungs. His ears burned with a red, ugly infection. His temperature soared. My vet looked me in the eye and cautioned, “Don’t get attached. He probably won’t make it.”
It’s amazing what two baths, a dose of flea medication, antibiotics and round the clock love can do. Jaspar’s fur shone. His ears pinkened. His breath sweetened. He began to get a glint in his dark eyes. His cough, however, lingered on. At night I listened to the painful hacking and worried. Each morning I peered fearfully into his crate and was delighted to hear the thunk thunk of his tail. The weeks rolled by and Jaspar regained his strength and lost his cough. He raced about the house, throwing up his huge feet as he chased a ball.
Six weeks after I had rescued him, I made the decision to find him a forever home. My throat grew tight with the thought. The hardest part about fostering dogs is saying good-bye.
After interviewing several interested families, I chose a gregarious woman named Gigi to be Jaspar’s new mother. I think what cinched it was her comment: “He’ll have his own couch at my house.” I imagined little Jaspar perched on the pillows of an overstuffed couch; abandoned no longer.
Jaspar may be the only puppy that ever was given a puppy shower. Gigi’s friends at work organized the party and there was cake, balloons, dog toys and goodies. Happiness and sadness filled my heart equally.
When it was time to say good-bye, I knelt and gathered Jaspar into my arms. “Be a good boy,” I whispered against the soft fur of his ears. Tears ran down my cheeks. Jaspar tipped his head and licked my face.
I have kept tabs on Jaspar. He has grown from a tiny pup to over 110 pounds of pure dog. His favorite pasttime is sleeping on the couch with his head in Gigi’s lap. He has finally found his forever home.
**Photo thanks to Carol Brandt
Kodiak loved to hunt frogs. He never caught one (that I know of); but he enjoyed the thrill of the hunt. At four months old, I took my german shepherd puppy on his first camping trip. He sat in my lap in the car and quivered with excitement. We lived in Maine, so the woods were green with foliage and the leaf rot smell rose to our noses when our feet disturbed the ground. The mosquitoes were also happy we had come. But, such is camping in Maine.
I chose a level area near the lake to erect my tent. Kodiak trampled down to the water, tail wagging, huge ears pressed forward. He was the picture of the big adventurer. And he was about to discover frogs.
When I heard the splashing, I wiped the sweat from my brow, said a few choice words, left my still rumpled tent laying on the ground, and went to investigate. Kodiak was up to his shoulders in the lake. He stared into the water with an intensity that belied his gentle nature. Suddenly, he launched straight up, his feet clearing the surface of the lake for a few seconds before plummeting back to the water with a splash. His head disappeared into the murk, then reappeared, water dripping from his head in rivelets.
I was momentarily confused. What was he doing? But, as I got closer to my puppy, I could see what he could see. Frogs. Lots of them. They sat on driftwood and rocks; they swam like tiny torpedos through the water. Kodiak was waiting, with the patience of any good hunter, for the moment when a frog would swim by his front feet. Then he made his move. A pounce that any canine could be proud of. I laughed in the still, green forest, my collapsed tent no longer on my mind.
We camped for two days. While I batted away mosquitoes, Kodiak hunted frogs. As dusk fell over the woods, he returned to camp, collapsed in the pine needles and slept a deep sleep that I’m sure included dreams of his prowess.
First Published on The Piker Press (http://www.pikerpress.com/index.cfm) 2004
Low Carb Dieting has become a banished word at my house these days. I’m tired of reading about it, hearing people extoll its virtues and feeling guilty every time I eat a piece of bread. Even pizza places are offering a pizza guaranteed to have sixty percent fewer carbs. Quite frankly, when I eat pizza I’m *going for* the carbo-load. And what’s pizza without beer? Do I really care about sixty percent fewer carbohydrates when I’m scarfing down a couple of beers? To me, low carbohydrates equates to inadequate cellulite.
It’s November. Holiday time. Everywhere I go these days are paper cut outs of turkeys and reminders that Christmas is just around the corner. The glow of hundreds of tiny Christmas lights already grace the front on my local grocery store. I dream about buttery cookies, pies crammed with fruit, the brown glaze of fat turkeys just out of the oven, mounds of garlicky mashed potatoes. I can barely contain the drool as I stroll through the aisles on my weekly grocery buying trip. Yesterday was my day to shop, and as I wheeled the creaky grocery cart (its wheels grinding and twisting and slowing me down) through the front doors, I noticed a woman sitting at a little table giving out free samples of yogurt. I love free food at grocery stores.
“Would you like to try our new low carb yogurt?”
Low carb yogurt? How many carbs does regular yogurt have anyway? And who counts carbs in yogurt?
“Sure, I’ll try it,” I said to the nice lady who looked at me with her head tipped to one side like a curious squirrel.
She gave me a plastic cup with a dab of yogurt inside, and a tiny little plastic spoon. I scooped the yogurt into my mouth and instantly gagged.
“Wow, that’s terrible.”
The woman looked hurt. “I think it’s pretty good.”
“No.” I shook my head. “It’s terrible.”
The woman’s mouth pressed into a firm line. She narrowed her eyes. “Most of our customers like it.”
“Really?” I pretended to be impressed.
Behind me a soft voice said, “I’ll try some.”
I looked over my shoulder at a woman with dark hair cut in a pert little bob. Her frail wrists jutted from the sleeves of an oversized sweater. I noted that her neck was as slim and sleek as a swan’s. Petite. I sucked in my stomach and tried not to feel too inferior in my size ten jeans.
The woman accepted the tiny cup and spoon from the yogurt lady and spooned the yogurt into her mouth.
“Ooooooh, yummy,” she gushed.
“See?” The yogurt lady looked at me with satisfaction.
Dismayed, I glanced into the dark haired woman’s cart. Mounds of fresh vegetables, low carb bread, soy milk, and about fifteen pounds of meat were crammed inside.
“Atkins?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Is there anything else?”
I imagined that my size ten jeans tightened around my hips. I smiled graciously and dropped my yogurt cup into the trash.
“Excuse me.” Impulsively I headed for the beer aisle. “Who needs milk anyway,” I muttered while piling two six-packs of dark, carbohydrate rich beer into my cart. By the time I was finished with my shopping, my cart was overflowing with all the goodies of the season. I even splurged and bought a box of Ring Dings.
I’m ready for the holidays and I plan on eating whatever I like. There will be no talk of dieting. Seconds for everyone. Carbohydrates will be celebrated. After all, they *are* organic. Would you like an extra scoop of glucose with the starch? I thought so.
The wild turkeys ran by the house today. It has been so long since I last saw them, that I wondered if they had changed their roost site. The dogs alerted me to their presence with loud, excited barks. I gazed out the window and there they were: long necks outstretched, beards wobbling, wings akimbo. Their gobbles filled the sodden air as they ran down the middle of the road, then dipped off to the side and disappeared over the ridge and into the trees.
The nights were warm; the sound of the waves soothing…
I must be insane. Kip and I decided to make a Costco run; on a rainy day; on a Sunday. We parked far away because we had no choice. All the other parking spaces were filled with SUVs, pickup trucks and Caravans. I could just make out the yawning entrance of the store through the sheets of rain and the drift of fog.
I pulled the hood of my jacket up. “Let’s go,” I said and stepped out into the rain.
Inside the store people pushed heavily loaded carts. They all wore the zombie look: glassy eyes, mouths slightly agape, face muscles slack. The smell of food floated on the air currents. The glare of the flourescents hurt my eyes.
Our purchases quickly outgrew our cart and we were forced to rearrange.
“What do you mean we don’t have room for the case of wine?” I asked Kip with a raised eyebrow. I moved the 24 rolls of toilet paper to the bottom of the cart and smiled. “No problem,” I said and tipped the case of wine on its side, fitting it neatly into the cart with room to spare.
We wound through Costco along with the hundreds of others who had decided that a rainy day was a perfect day to stock up on supplies. Sometimes there were logjams, people who refused to move to the side while they gazed through the books.
Finally, we had no more room in our cart. The line at the checkout snaked past the tampax and down the cereal aisle. I sighed and rested my head on the handle of the cart.
“Wait,” Kip said. “I forgot your flowers.”
“Your flowers.” He gave me a slow smile, the kind that warms my heart and makes my knees weak.
Did I mention how much I like trips to Costco?