All I want to do on my day off is…
Pet my dogs, play Pac-Man, and write stories.
Is that too much to ask?
I emailed that I wanted a female golden retriever. You sent adorable pics, but your puppies’ coats were too ivory for my color palette.
Cream dogs matter, but I need one to blend in with our flooring which is the color of fried chicken. I hated to say no to your fluffy, mashed potato hued pups, but I want a golden retriever not a cream retriever.
After I told you why I wasn’t interested in your litter, you suddenly sent another picture of one with the preferred KFC coat. I wondered why you didn’t reveal her in the first place, but I dismissed the question as my heart swelled. What a gorgeous photoshoot; she looked perfect, like a model! I couldn’t believe you were willing to give her up for $400, a discount for a purebred.
It would cost just $100 more to ship her all the way to Pennsylvania from California. You told me I could get her tonight, on my daughter’s fifteenth birthday. What a great surprise that would be. My dog heart leapt and my imagination excitedly chased its tail. I imagined Miss Puppy-Love popping out of a box with a pink bow and saying, “Happy birthday!” like Frosty the Snowman did with that hat.
Back to reality. You explained how our puppy would fly on a private jet to our nearest airport and then complete her journey to my house in a van. She would show up potty trained, healthy, and grateful to be a part of my family. I could buy love for half a grand. What a bargain!
I started to think of names to reflect her birthplace: Cali, Hollywood, Peaches, or Sunny could work. Or we could be original and call her Fried Chicken or Phyllis. The possibilities for this little furball seemed endless.
I admitted I recently contacted so many breeders that I couldn’t remember your website. You reminded me you didn’t have one to offer per se, and shared your contact on a puppy finder site. You revealed that you are a part-time breeder and wanted to keep all five puppies in your litter. Since you got a new job, you realized you couldn’t. That’s why your goldens were eleven weeks old instead of the ideal eight. I figured that contributed to the cheaper price.
Geneous seller, I had some more questions and asked you to call me. I was tired of texting, although I thought it wise to have a record of our conversation in writing. I certainly didn’t want to get duped.
After a five minute pause in our texts, my ringtone went off. I didn’t think it was you because the Caller ID indicated the call was from Darlington, Maryland. I was also surprised by your masculine, foreign voice. Your email name is Jenny Morgan. You had to convince me you were the California seller who had the golden princess and private jet. Suddenly, a red flag went up. Hmm, could this be a hoax?
As sure as dogs and my Canadian friend Doreen love bacon, I can assure you that this was indeed a hoax, a scam, a con.
I caught on during our phone conversation and told you I thought you were lying and trying to pull the puppy fur over my eyes. You reassured me that I could trust you, a god-fearing Christian. Who says that? I hung up and texted a request that you send the dog and THEN I would pay you when I got her, safe and sound. You wouldn’t go for that, “Jenny,” because you have no puppies with fake potty training skills to put on a fake plane in a fake van to join my real family. My final text wished you a blessed day, you god-fearing, con artist! You stink like dog crap!
I plan to report you to the authorities. Give it up. Quit messing with people’s puppy-heart strings. I’m sure you stole the above pics from the internet, so if any readers recognize these as yours, let me know and we’ll work on justice.
If you experience such puppy scams, you can report the shenanigans to the following:
On January 18th, 2017, our golden retriever Italia suffered an unexpected and fatal heart attack. Italia is the reason I became a runner, and three days after her recent death, I ran ten miles in honor of each year I had with her. On February 18th, one month after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I ran another ten miles in tribute to her.
I’m actually shocked I went that far because I have not run double-digit miles in almost two years. Since my last half-marathon in the spring of 2015, I haven’t gone more than six miles, yet both runs were a breeze. Italia’s spirit and memory carried me every step. During these ten-milers, Italia joined me in a brand new way, no leash needed.
The following narrative is an excerpt from a longer piece I composed. Italia was particularly instrumental in healing my grieving heart after my father passed away, and she continued to bring so much peace and comfort to my family over the past decade. Here is the story of how a puppy taught me to run. NOTE – I edited the tense to reflect the current moment.
From The Reckoning of the Black Butterfly:
I significantly changed my life by improving my: mind, body, heart, and soul when I became a road runner at the age of thirty-three. I discovered this activity ten years ago and continue to love it. My first jog (klunk, klunk, almost kerplunk) happened a season after my father’s fatal heart attack.
I was mindlessly eating through my summer grief and earned a six-pack (times four!) Aside from being consumed with calories and sadness, I was queen bee-busy in our new house with my husband, two toddler daughters and a spunky puppy. Oh how I craved health, happiness, strength, and peace; I accidentally gained that and more with unplanned runs that were meant to be walks with my golden retriever pup, Italia.
Italia was just eight weeks old when we brought her home days before the Fourth of July. This adorable, furry baby had the energy, boom, and attitude of a firecracker. Although she got a lot of “oohs and ahhs” she was a painfully hard to keep up with and settle down.
When September rolled around, it was time for me to go back to work and teach high school English. After such a stressful summer, I was exhausted, irritable, and couldn’t fit into anything that zipped or buttoned. I resorted to elastic waistbands and flowy dresses, and my school yearbook picture that fall revealed a puffier, unrested, joyless me.
When I would get home from work and release Italia from her kennel, she bounded, bounced, and begged for exercise. She and I started by strolling our new neighborhood. It felt great to get outdoors, but she kept pulling on her leash to go faster. Instead of training her to slow down, she trained me to speed up, to see more, to move beyond.
Before I knew it, she and I became a running team. She could go as far as five miles (and so could I!) Italia was my one true running partner and was my primary motivation for getting out there. Every run brought us a new scene.
She got so excited when we were about to wag and whisker through the wind for a journey. She acted like it was Christmas morning every time I pulled out our running gear: laces and leashes. I had to keep extra leashes on hand because she would get so pumped-up that she’d bite and tear through them like wrapping paper if she got the chance.
I never realized how beautiful the natural scenery of Meadville, Pennsylvania, truly is until I perceived and absorbed it as a runner. There is certainly a magnitude of rural splendor in my own backyard. My simple Crawford County world frames the mental snapshots of my small town hills, valleys, dirt roads, and meadows.
Running has provided me with the added bonus of pulling up those once stuck zippers and snapping stubborn buttons on my jeans. I continue to thank God and Mother Nature for joining me and my four-legged love on these journeys. Italia’s big chocolate eyes have always viewed nature majestically, and I’m forever thankful to her for helping me rediscover a healthy focus in nature and for pushing (and pulling) me further. May we all go further tomorrow.
She was my 10.5-year-old furry best girl. She moved a little slower, barked less, listened harder, chased less, and paced more, especially when given a bone that she carried, guarded, hid, found, savored, and so on. She snored intensely, like a drunken crew of grandpas dreaming of fishing trips. Although she played less, she still wagged the feathers of her perfectly fluffy and pristine tail everyday. More than any of that, our glory girl loved effortlessly, without limits.
I’m heartbroken that our beautiful golden retriever, our Italia, recently passed away on January 18, 2017. We believe she suffered a myocardial infarction, a sudden and unexpected heart attack.
That morning, I woke around 2:00 a.m., and shortly after, Harry and I could hear her belabored and heavy breathing. She was right outside the girls’ doors in the hallway, guarding them at one of her favorite bedtime spots.
Italia’s eyes, framed by her long white lashes, were unblinking and dilated, like glassy chocolate brown marbles. Although she kept panting deeply, she was unresponsive. Her mouth was so cold, like she ate a box of her favorite Popsicles. I wish.
She was heaving and immobile, so I called the vet who planned to meet us for an emergency visit in a half hour. By this time, the girls woke and joined us on the floor where we all hugged, snugged, and pet her soft fur that absorbed our four sets of tears.
Our five year old sheltie, Louie, quietly walked away and hid behind the couch. Even though these dogs were the best of friends, he avoided sniffing and pawing at her, like he normally did. I now realize he knew what was happening before we did, and he didn’t have it in him to say goodbye to her.
Although scared, disoriented, and helpless, my kids, husband, and I remained hopeful Italia would recover. None of us knew it would really be the end. Harry lifted her hefty body by scooping her up from her soft, warm belly; her four lifeless legs dangled without fussing over this ride to the vet. With love, Harry carried his girl to our SUV and lay her in the far back. The girls got in the backseat, and we sped off.
We drove for six seconds when I yelled, “Stop the car! I need to be with her.” Of course I needed to lay with her but was so confused that, at first, I took the wrong passenger seat, the one where she usually sat. I ran to the back to join her with the Steelers blanket I brought to pillow under her head. I wrapped my arms around her and caressed her until the end.
For most of the trip, Italia sporadically lived, but I feared she was gone before we got to the doctor at Greener Pastures. I said nothing and hoped my private diagnosis was wrong, yet her last moments ended in my embrace. The vet’s stethoscope and warm, trained hands could only detect the true love within Italia’s stopped heart. The kind doctor consoled us in the rainy parking lot where more tears mingled with the sky drops Italia and I loved running under. With great compassion, the vet left us to say our final goodbyes. I clutched my chest as she wheeled her away from us.
Italia had what seemed to be a pain free exit from this world. Thankfully, we got to hug her before she crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge. I took her and Louie for a wintry walk around our hood the day before. She seemed perfectly fine and gave no signs that this was her last walk. She was indeed a lady who went out with dignity. Still, our human hearts are broken and Louie is so confused.
She was an amazing part of our lives for 10.5 years. She rocked her golden years and had so many good times with the people who loved her and the dogs who admired and played with her, especially her lil’ Louie brother.
We are unsure how to be at home without her. We even miss the tufts of fur and fluff she shed on our pants, floors, carpet, furniture… I cannot sweep up the fur left behind in the vehicle. I suppose, it will just blow away in the wind every time I open the hatch.
Personally, Italia was my shadow and was always right there to accompany me in her many roles: daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, runner, secret-keeper, protectress, and heroine. She was more than my antidepressant, my sunshine, my song, my prayer, my light, my compassion, my heart, my soul, and my strength. Italia was all of this wrapped up in the most glorious feathers of golden retriever-ness. She helped me live harder and happier in the years she kissed me with her whiskers and chewing gum tongue.
I will see you again, my dear, but until then, I take comfort in the big heavenly hands that pet you, walk you, run you, feed you, and try to play fetch with you (I know you rather catch and keep, but try again to give it back.)
We all love you, Italia, our golden girl. Thank you! I can’t even put into words what you have done for our family for over a decade, but I will continue to keep your furry and mighty memory eternal through the human words I can grace you with. XOXO.
I first composed the barebones of this over four years ago to highlight (and lowlight) the final run of my first year’s electronically recorded miles using the Nike Running App. Each venture out is as unique as the Pennsylvania snowflakes I waltz with each winter. This last run of the year was certainly a rarity. Road running is full of excitement, rewards, and surprises with unpredictable weather, terrain, and strength. NOTE: I avoid treadmills like lima beans and will only touch one if I absolutely need to.
In September of 2012, I figured out that I could track 500 miles before my one-year “appiversary” on November 30, 2012. This is a little story about those closing, annual steps.
Today, using the same app, I calculated 570 runs and 2624 miles. Such a little thing has made all the difference at inspiring and holding me accountable me as a runner. This morning, I also saw yellow-vest-guy taking his morning stroll (more about him later).
*** NOVEMBER 29, 2012***
Tomorrow marks an entire year since I invested my best $2 for my iPhone’s Nike Running App. Its accurate record keeping and reliable GPS have motivated me to go faster and further. The past 364 days granted me various runs with a burn of over 50,000 extra calories, often stemming from Goldfish Crackers swimming in my red wine sips (my favorite food and drink combo ever).
Today I got up at 5:00 am to snag my 120th run of the year, the one that would get me to mile 500. I ventured out and kissed the frosty 28 degree November wind with Vaseline slathered lips. The dogs and I were ready to hit the road. I pulled my hat down tight over my ears, placed my headphones atop, and nestled my phone in my armband. I pushed start and listened to the encouraging female app voice countdown, “Three-two-one, beginning workout.”
The first two miles were chilly but comfortable. Both dogs had an extra spring in their paws, like they knew this was a special run for me (Every run to them is always special, like extra bacon on Christmas morning). Today’s course was our street lit neighborhood where the dogs know the hills, flat parts, and possible cat sightings.
Italia’s aging hips and legs still carry her forward, but to avoid injury she only runs a couple miles. We needed to clear about five and half, so I dropped her off after two and accidentally “ended” the app workout instead of “pausing”. Dang, I just wanted today’s final mile to happen during one run, but I couldn’t dwell on it. I just had to track two separate workouts instead of one.
Louie would finish the final miles with me though. I used to feel guilty returning Italia while Louie remained, but he’s still such a rambunctious pup who needs the extra exercise. He is almost a year old and is both hyperactive and noisy. He barks at everything with legs, without legs, with wheels, without wheels, with shadows, and without. He barks at his own echoes of barks. Louie is the annoying neighborhood barker. When I can zap some of his energy, it helps mute his squeaky squawk.
Back to the driveway, I hit “start” again waited for the “Three-two-one, beginning workout” signal and sped up the hill. The sky barely lightened since we started. Thankfully the streetlights shine on, especially during these starless, cloudy mornings.
The next two miles were smooth and serene. So far this was a good run. The randomly shuffled tunes blared out the best motivators for a private race like this. I fist pumped around the hood to the beats of “Born to Run” (not joking), “Old Time Rock and Roll”, and a Serbian Orthodox chant that helped me pray. My feet lightened like a gazelle while I dreamily prepped for my finish line and the extra cyber cheers my app would deliver.
Suddenly, the fuzzy needle scratched over the record album as a street light burnt out while I ran beneath it. That happened only once before, and that was a very bad day. Oh oh. Was that a skunk odor spoiling the refreshing air? Louie kept pulling to the right, the source of the smell. I didn’t have time to be jinxed or skunked. I was too close to the end for these distractions.
With less than half mile left, I zipped through my final song-length’s-hill. The finale, the monumental moment was near. I got back into the groove and danced up Stephen’s Road to Rusted Root’s “Send me on my Way”:
(On my way, on my way) I would like to reach out my hand, I may see you, I may tell you to run (On my way, on my way). You know what they say about the young!
This song reminds me of college when I was twenty-years younger, and a pack-a-day smoker, not a smokin’ runner. Thankfully, I gave that habit up and picked up this one.
With just one-tenth of a mile left to go, I diverted back into my current reality. More than ready to flash to the end and grab my imaginary medal, I’d love to report that something like “Chariots of Fire” belted out while I crossed my personal finish line. “Ch, ch, ch, ch bring in the synthesizer, the piano, the percussion, the strings! We are here today to honor the legend. Donna’s gonna do it! Cymbals! Who has the bloody cymbals? With hope in her heart and wings on her heels.” Instead, the cowbell clanged with absurdities and obscenities.
Louie tugged at his leash again, this time to the left. He spied my elderly neighbor taking his early walk. This active old man and I have never spoken to each other during these morning jaunts around the hood, and except for the obligatory wave, I only know that he lives in a well-groomed ranch and wears his reflective fluorescent yellow vest every time he walks. I’m a chatty neighbor and would love to talk, but he just lifts his hand in a half-mast-wave and keeps a serious stride. It’s obvious that he doesn’t want my morning chit chat, so I just wag my hand like a puppy’s tail and smile.
When Louie saw yellow-vest-guy, his need to greet him was strongly intense. Maybe he thought he could get the quiet man to do a trick and speak. Louie yelped and whined and bolted toward him with relentless sheltie persistence. I screamed a bunch of opposing, confusing commands, “Louie! Stop it! Heal! Come on! Let’s Go! Damnit! Quit it!” My crazy minion of a canine and I tug-o-warred with his paisley print leash. Yellow-vest-guy stood like a statue until I got things under control. I wonder if he thought I was yelling at him or if he realized my dog was obnoxiously trying to jump on him to lick his shiny reflectors.
When I successfully yanked Louie back, my iPhone came loose from my armband, jetted out, and dove to the earth like an asteroid. “Sh#@! My phone! My miles!” I quickly sprinted to and picked up my device that luckily landed in the grass instead of the road. Although it seemed unharmed, I still hadn’t made it to my finish line, my app cheers, my fake crowd of fans, my self-made trophy, and my triumphant end.
Yellow-vest-guy stood still, like a mannequin, while I cursed Louie (who now angelically sat by my side like the champion of puppy obedience school). I swore at my cheap piece of sh%@ armband and shook my phone like an Etch-a-Sketch trying to get it out of screensaver mode. I stripped off my non-touch screen gloves to get back to the app.
I needed to record my 500th mile! There it was, Nike+. I plugged the headphones back into the phone, and started running towards home with the phone in my hand. Three-two-one, and in a breath I caught my 500th mile. Imagine that. I was only seconds away from my goal that ended with embarrassing expletives, disturbances of the peace, warped facial gestures, and foul dog antics.
Perhaps my next running year will end on a more victorious step, but, if not, all the footprints that lead up to it will hopefully be as glorious, therapeutic, peaceful, painful, relieving, and energetic as this one.
We are thankful for these two furry friends. Because of their coloring, our daughter Cara nicknamed Louie (the sheltie) “Thanksgiving Dinner” and Italia (the golden) “Fried Chicken.”
After my husband let the dogs out on such a brisk, rainy Thanksgiving morning, Italia ran back into our bedroom and jumped right into our bed. This was a big deal, because of her aging body, she hasn’t been able to get into the bed unassisted for months.
I cuddled with her for an extra spell of time. She would have stayed there forever to be pet and loved. Louie, on the other hand, Mr. Thanksgiving Dinner himself, whined for us to get out of bed, so I could continue fattening him up. He basically sees me as the hand that feeds him. It’s all balances out with the unconditional love from Italia.
I’m so thankful to have started out our holiday with extra snuggles.
Hope you had your own special Thanksgiving Dinner (or Fried Chicken).
It was a dark and stormy night… That’s how Snoopy started (and I think ended) all of the stories he tried belting out of his typewriter. Last night, that’s just how my story began and it didn’t end until this dark and stormy morning. It was 11:38 PM the first time she alarmed me awake with her wails. I was only able to semi-soothe her by rubbing her soft, fuzzy head. Since I can’t figure out how to swaddle her properly, I gave her a dose of Benadryl which Dr. Canine recommended for these “episodes.”
Five hours later, it was a darker and stormier night – I mean morning – and my girl Italia was losing a grip again. When a second round of thunder shook our house like a cup of Yahtzee dice, our ten-year-old golden-years-retriever leapt into our bed and pounced on my head. Italia pierced the slumbering silence with her storm phobia cries and erratic movements. She circled our bed like a track star, a dog chasing her own feathery tail. After my husband got a mouthful of said tail, I took her out of our bedroom to try to console her and let one of us sleep.
Today’s episode lasted a laundry load on the quick cycle, twenty-eight minutes. Yes, if I’m going to be up at that early, why not squeeze in a chore? I spied a basketful of dirty clothes and threw them in the washer while Italia stood up against the washing machine as if she would dive right in. I know enclosed spaces give her some relief, like when she wedges herself behind the toilet or jumps in the bathtub (a place she usually detests), but I have never seen her eye up the washing machine like that before.
Since I couldn’t sedate her again, we had to ride out the storm together. We went downstairs to the family room where she jumped all over our leather furniture then into my lap, then back to the couch, into my lap, onto the recliner, lap, floor, lap, couch, lap… She’s far from a lapdog and isn’t allowed on the furniture, but a 106 pound furry frantic Frogger is hard to tame.
Just when I thought the storm abated and my leather was safe from her unmanicured nails, she started nervously tap dancing on the couch. Grand Finale: Thundercrack! Lightning flash! Sammy Davis Jr. in the house – Tap-tap-tap, sit, turn around, bark, tap-tap-tap, leap down, jump back up, howl, tap-tap-tap! This routine might actually have been cute if she were performing (on the floor) without terror in those big brown eyes.
She needed my full attention, so I got down on the floor and pulled her into a tight hug, feeling helpless as she shivered, yelped, and panted through her full-blown panic attack.
Thankfully, Mother Nature intervened. She’s gotta be the queen of dog lovers, right? Beep-beep-beep! Was that Mother Nature chiming in? Beep-beep-beep! Could it be? Could it really be her? Beep-beep-beep! Was that her waving a sun spritzing wand over our storm cloud? Nah. It was just the laundry sensor reminding my sleep deprived self to put the clothes in the dryer. But right after that, all echoes and rumblings of thunder halted.
Phew! Italia fell fast asleep on my lap. She was heavy, but I didn’t dare disturb her and was comforted by the peaceful rhythm of her snores. Ripples of raindrops gently cracked the house like a long round of applause for the sleeping pooch.
I used to love a good thunderstorm until Italia started freaking out over them just a year ago. Before then, she showed no signs of being a storm dog. Perhaps her double-digit age has made her hypersensitive.
Last spring, I bought her a calming coat for dogs, but I’ve yet to master how to put it on properly. She and I both get stressed trying to fit it on her, but after this morning’s intense and prolonged anxiety, I will try to figure it out again. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Send me your own tips on how to calm the canine on a dark and stormy night.