MAY HAVE FINISHED THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE about my close-to-terminal
empty nest syndrome and thought, "Well, that's
very nice, but what does it have to do with dogs?"
It has a great deal to do with dogs, but exactly what
has not been revealedyet.
in my daughters' teen years, as my deep subconscious
began to realize that they would grow up and leave,
I discovered a wonderful new aspect of contemporary
culturethe Internet. I learned to search
and find and bookmark and revisit site after site,
letting my fantasies guide me in a wonderful new world,
the worldwide Web.
go the way we're bent: Some people get on the Net
and are hooked by unsavory stuff, which ends up costing
them a lot of money, and may eventually destroy their
My fantasies are pretty boring. I found three primary
areas of pretty tame exploration, which as it turns
out, could cost me lots of money and mess up my life
just as easily.
GOT THIS ADORABLE FIGURINE ON eBay!
love black and tan Cockers.
Check Ode to eBay to
get your doggie stuff!
MY FAVORITE ON-LINE OBSESSIONS:
On-line auctions, chiefly eBay.
This craze resulted in my writing An
Ode to eBay, a multi-part series giving you
the tools you need to succeed on the world's largest
auction. Check it out:They sell dog supplies and goodies
on eBay, and I got the cutest black and tan cocker
spaniel Christmas figurine . . . He's shown above,
demonstrating that this article really does have to
do with dogs.
you want the real scoop on my experience with on-line
auctions, check out
Real estate. Did you know that Multiple Listing
Services are increasingly being put on line? And that
you, the person panting after the perfect, most wonderful,
trouble free, glorious existenceor a piece
of property that conveys all of that to your mind
in 200 by 300 pixel picturescan search
the real estate market to find THE PERFECT PLACE?
several years, I searched the continent for an even
better, larger, cheaper, and more wonderful place
to park our horses, ignoring what I already had. After
enormous personal growth, I realized I already had
what I was looking for and stopped my on-line search
anyone relate to this? Looking for love (or something)
in all the wrong places? When you already have it?
Yep. We're human
don't own all of this, just the part in front with
the house and hay barn, but we do get to look at all
of it. .
I've always loved dogs. As my subconscious prepared
for my children leaving, I found myself thinking about
dogs. Cuddly, furry dogs. Sweet dogs. Dogs who would
wiggle from head to foot at the mere sight of me,
just like my kids did as babies. Dogs are an almost
perfect child substitute.
found dogs well represented on the Net. Every SPCA,
animal shelter, pound, rescue operation, as well as
every single breed of dogno matter how
obscurehas its very own Web site. A person
can look at pictures of adorable dogs that need new
homes all day long. And all night long. I did.
look at page after page of doggy faces, all with pert
smiles. Oh, isn't that one adorable? How about that
one? I must have over a hundred breed associations
and rescue groups bookmarked on my computer.
ALL THIS SEARCHING?
didn't really get it. Why was I doing all this searching?
the bone chilling dread? What else does the kiddies
packing off mean?
India, they have a very clear division of life stages.
With the kids at home, I was in the second to last
stage, the householder stage. My life was about performing
my duties in the world, the duties of a wife and mother,
and writer, in my case.
came next? The final stage of life, in which the smart
person takes up spiritual pursuits and polishes his
or her soul. Why? Because after that, the next big
growth jump isdeath.
my girls left, death would stare me in the face. I
could not pretend to be a nubile young thing, a luscious
young mother, or even a pretty well-preserved older
people try to dodge the factsgetting nipped
and tucked and pounding their bodies into an approximation
of their younger form. (Don't get me wrong: I believe
that cosmetic surgery should be mandatory and applaud
anyone who can remove those last fifteen pounds.)
But you can't hide from the fact that you are as old
as you are.
smart person faces it.
COULDN'T PASS FOR A YOUNG MOTHER ANY MORE.
all this is useful. It takes a bit of the edge off
the anxiety which I hope you're feeling now. Facing
reality takes a brave soul.
very interested in reality; I think we all do better
if we live in the real world. If we have dogs, they
do better, too. We're more likely to treat them in
a respectful and humane fashion appropriate for dogs.
you're extremely brave, check out Ernest Becker's
Denial of Death. Becker wrote his masterpiece
as he was dying from cancer. What did he say?
humans are the only creatures who know we are going
Ernest Becker said that everything we human beings
do is an attempt to avoid facing our deaths. This
means everything: from being compulsively neat,
to compulsively achieving, to spending our lives creating
monuments to ourselves, like the pyramids or shopping
centers in modern times. Running from death
also includes hobbies such as collecting dogs, horses,
or anything else: These activities soothe our knowledge
that life is finite. (Becker wasn't talking about
religious tenants about an afterlife here, he was
referring to physical death. Regardless of what you
believe about what comes after death, I think you'll
admit fear of the event itself. I sure do.)
visceral fear of my kids leaving had fear of death
at its root. No kids at home meant I was definitely
in the last life stage. Death's gaping jaws opened
I being dramatic? Overly negative? No. I'm reporting
my experience. The only way to become free is to know
the truth. Psychological introspectiondeep
examination of drives and fears and complexes and
rigorous truth telling about what one findsis
one of the major ways to become spiritually healthy.
was spending all those hours on-line running away
from my own death.
didn't know this, of course, which is why I'm writing
about it now. I am an optimist: I believe that telling
people about my little inner depth charges and insights
will help other people understand what they're
doing, thus uplifting and improving the world.
force pushed me as I cruised from dog site to another,
looking for a new dog to squelch a fear of death that
I'd just as soon not admit. I've had many dogs during
my life. They all go from this:
YUKI AS A GLOWING, VIBRANT YOUNG
YUKI AT AGE 13 1/2, SHORTLY BEFORE
dogs die. Playful pups stop jumping for joy. Instead
of frolicking in circles around us, they walk alongside,
sedately. My dogs become more dear, more vulnerable,
more present as they age. They look at me with clouded
eyes and struggle up walkways they once galloped across.
I love them more, for our history together, and for
the time we have left. Every day of it.
only alternative to watching our dogs age is having
them leave us early.
humans often use animals to express our limited views
of life, distorting their bodies as we breed for the
show ring's latest fashion and distorting their lives
by forcing them to live in unnatural ways: hauling
them from one show to another and forcing them to
live in boxes. Used this way, our animals become extensions
of our egos. They are used as decorating props or
prize winning machines, means of puffing up our sense
of superiority at the expense of their souls. And
ours. This use of animals diminishes us.
life filled with animals also can serve spiritual
can enjoy our animal friends for what they are,
not our anthropomorphized, cheapened versions.
This can include showing them, if its done in a way
that acknowledges the animals and humans involved.
Check out The News on
Rancho Vilasa's site
for some personal/spiritual lessons I learned at horse
animals in our lives does one thing very well: It
shows us the cycle of life with absolute clarity.
Our pets don't live as long as we do, so we must witness
and cope with their living and dying, preparing us
for our own.
RUBY, A FEROCIOUS FIGHTER IN HER
YOUTH, CURLED WITH A KITTEN IN HER OLD AGE.
my girls were getting ready to leave home, my beloved
Yuki was aging, stumbling toward the night. Sumo,
the "Robert's hound" I picked out of the
back of a truck in front of the grocery store, became
gray and grizzled.
Yuki died. It came unexpectedly; she started choking
and gasping for breath. I took her to the vet. He
couldn't help her.
I made my way home from the vet's office without my
dear friend. I couldn't believe it. I could not face
losing another dog. I could not face Sumo's death.
search for a new dog became frenzied. Whenever a particular
dog's picture attracted me, I'd look up where the
shelter was located on Yahoo. How long did it take
to get to Atascadero, anyway? How about San Diego?
That wasn't too far, was it?
SUMO: A NATURAL DOG
He's been rolling in hay as he poses
here. That's not all he rolls in.
can't just clean up Sumo and bring him inside, Mom?"
said my youngest daughter, not understanding my distress.
that wouldn't work. Sumo's a ranch dog: He won't go
indoors unless he's terrified of something. Lightning.
Fireworks. Someone shooting. His idea of being groomed
is jumping into the horses' water trough. He jumps
in every day in the summer, giving his coat a green
iridescence and a delicious (to a dog) scent of algae.
Sumo could never be a lady's companion.
started talking to dog rescue people, in addition
to looking at pictures of dogs on the Net and scanning
the ads. I had a number of very interesting conversations.
For instance, one woman specialized in rescuing Rottweilers.
Talking to her on the phone, I confessed my fear of
most of them are wonderful dogs. They're very loving
and loyal," she replied. "Do you know what
the most dangerous breed of dog is? I read about it."
I confessed that I didn't, so she told me.
Cocker Spaniel. They have a rage syndrome where they
just go crazy and attack anyone around. They're responsible
for more dog attacks than any breed."
I wasn't clear as to what breed I wanted, but I sure
would never get a Cocker Spaniel. That would
be like having a Viking berserker in the family room.
PRASSIDHI ARTS IN LITTLE INDIA, ARTESIA, CALIFORNIA
Click to be transported to an article
on Little India.
THE SEARCH ESCALATES:
this period, my daughters and I found ourselves in
Little India, near Los Angeles, California, is the
shopping Mecca of the universe and one of my favorite
places on earth. (Click on the link to read my article
about Little India.
If that doesn't have have in your car and heading
to LA, I'll be surprised.)
from the joys of shopping, the trip gave me the opportunity
to check out some of the tantalizing dogs I'd found
on my search of the Net. Many rescues and shelters
exist the LA Basin, and I intended to check out all
of them. I had lists of photos and descriptions I
was determined to go home with a dog! A young dog
that would hang around past Sumo. Past me, maybe.
I was on a mission.
girls didn't know about my plans, until I started
making some pretty hairy freeway maneuvers to get
to towns with Spanish names that none of us had ever
heard of before. They were not happy about any of
this. It wasn't part of their plans.
cared? I was gonna get my dog!
ended up going to two large dog rescues. I'll write
more about our experience of these places in a later
article. The bottom line is: After visiting two rescues,
our nervous systems couldn't handle any more.
left, without a dog.
WHAT WAS I LOOKING FOR?
I had no clue when I started looking
140 POUND GREAT DANE?
That my husband would love.
OR A LOVELY COMPANION?
That I would love.
visit to the rescues was a learning experience. I
thought I was looking for a large dog, preferably
a black Lab, or something even bigger. A dog that
my husband would like so he wouldn't barbecue me when
I brought it home.
that sound familiar? Our dogs are reflections of our
personal images, and a few more thingslike
the people we live with, how our relationships with
them are structured, our physical environments . .
. I needed a dog for myself, but looking for one for
we women more likely to stuff our own needs to look
after our spouses? So that we don't even know what
we really want? Is that a woman thing, or is
it just human nature?
me, but I've never heard of a man coming home with
a poodle because his wife would get mad if he came
in with a retriever.
had no clue that the dog I was looking for wasn't
what I needed. However, the Universe did.
REDBONE COON HOUND
Click on the photo to go to
the ASAP pet list on Petfinders.com
Chico is a purebred
Redbone Coonhound. I'm showing his picture
to illustrate a breed. HE IS NOT THE
PROBLEM DOG I DISCUSS BELOW. Look at the bone
and chest on this dog: This is the kind of
structure that I, as a horseperson, like to
see. You can find truly fine dogs in rescues
and the pound. I understand from my rescue
friends that 50% of such dogs are purebrednot
mutts (which I LOVE, by the way.) If
you are interested in adopting Chico, contact
Deborah at (805) 528-6930. He's available
through Animal Shelter Adoption Partners,
San Luis Obispo County, CA. (Which is not
the rescue I discuss below.) I'm providing
this information as a service, and do not
make any warranties or guarantees about this
animal, other than expressing the opinion
that I think he's gorgeous.
went to one very large rescue to see a big hound-type
dog, a lovely athletic thing that my husband had approved
in concept. He'd seen a picture of a similar hound
and said, "I could go for that dog."
dog looked entirely different than its picture on
the Net, about twenty or thirty pounds heavier, for
one thing. It still was a beautiful dog and I knew
I could get its weight down. The volunteer at the
rescue got the dog out of it's kennel for me.
Leading it was like being pulled out of the water
by my father's water-ski boat with its 322 cubic inch
Chrysler marine engine. The phrase "could use
some obedience training" was an understatement.
I couldn't imagine how this dog would be trained,
or by whom.
got to a sitting area, where prospective adopters
could get to know the dogs. I sat on a bench, and
pulled the hound to me. He leaned away, eyes scanning
the perimeter fence and entrance gate. He never once
made eye contact. He had no interest in anything but
escape. This gave me a clue about how he'd work out
at our ranch. Still, I tried:
buddy. This is a job interview. How are you qualified
for the job of making me happy?" I asked him
* * *
About the relationship between people and animals:
I keep animals for pleasuremy pleasure.
When I ride my horse, his job is to make me happy.
I'm tolerant of mess ups and errors, which are normal
parts of life. I deal with these with all my resources,
pulling in professional trainers as necessary. But
my horse is in my life for my pleasure. I pay the
bills, after all. I do not allow my horse to walk
all over me. I am the boss, a benevolent dictator.
attitude makes the horse happy; horses are herd animals.
They live in herds with strict hierarchies: Everybody
has a place and knows it. In the the hierarchy of
my horse life, I'm the herd leader. I can be relied
upon to deal with emergencies. This includes hawks
swooping down and having a fight right in front of
my poor horse's face, which happened today when I
was riding. I made sure my horse knew he'd survive,
and so would the hawks. We had a very nice ride.
I'm the boss, and my horse is happy about it. We
both have a good time.
philosophy also works with dogs, which are pack
rather than herd animals. The difference between
a pack and a herd is: You don't want
to be late at feeding time for a pack animal, especially
if its not domesticated. A herd tends to worry
about being lunch for other species; a pack is
on the lookout for lunch.
problem: both need a top dog/Alpha. It should be the
* * *
hound pulled his lead out of my hand. I let him go,
watching him run along the fence line frantically,
trying to escape so he could run more. That's what
hounds do: They run after things. This hound boy wanted
to head for the hills and run something down.
could imagine him at our ranch, seeing actual open
space, real living wild life: deer, bobcats, our neighbors'
cattle and cats. The neighbors wouldn't like it if
houndy-boy took off after their livestock, baying
OUR NEIGHBORS APPRECIATE OUR HOUND CHASING THEIR CATTLE?
I DON'T THINK SO.
buddy! You're failing your job interview." The
hound never returned, and may be patrolling the rescue's
perimeter to this day. I sat back in disappointment.
The dog portion of our trip was a total bust. Dog
rescues are LOUD. Imagine the sound of a hundred hounds
baying. My nerves were shot.
sat on the bench, with the hound and several dozen
other dogs, the people looking at them, and rescue
attendants orbiting around me. Small dogs yapped without
pause. This was not how the rescue seemed on the Internet.
Profoundly disappointed, I looked around for my daughters.
One was in the car, furious with me; the other was
petting a puppy that looked like a baby coyote.
I felt something touch my leg. Looking down, I saw
a tiny creature with the sweetest face. Its eyes grabbed
mine. It was a long-haired miniature Dachshund, so
small that its raised head couldn't reach my knee.
It begged to be picked up. I did, feeling awe. The
little thing crawled up my torso and nuzzled under
my chin, cuddling like a baby. I petted it softly.
I could barely breathe for the wonder I felt.
THIS WAS WHAT I WANTED! I wanted a sweet, little dog
like this, not a big hound my husband would love.
I WANTED A SMALL DOG. A quiet small dogthe
yappers continued to screech while I had my dog
moment with the Dachshund. I had to have this
dog. My daughter had found a puppy she had to have.
We were in love!
BEAUTIFUL LONG-HAIRED DACHSHUNDS AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION.
LOVELY MIXED BREED
This lovely dog,
a young female, is available at the L.A. County
Animal Care Control, Castaic Shelter, Castaic,
CA 661-257-3191 Ask for ID: A3349685. If you're
interested in this dog, call NOW. This is
a public shelter and
they do not keep dogs very long..
Niner is a longhaired
Dachshund, about 5 years old. He's available
at the Smiley Dog Rescue Oakland, CA 510 496
3484 SmileyDogRescue@yahoo.com http://www.smileydogrescue.org
didn't take either the puppy or the mini-Dachshund
home. When I asked how much adopting the two dogs
would cost, I found the rescue wanted an amount equivalent
to a month's mortgage payment on our ranch. I am not
could go to a breeder and get a purebred, registered
puppy for less than that," I croaked to the volunteer,
in shock. She looked at me like I'd offered to consort
with the Devil. I think the word "breeder"
was the trigger. I got that the rescue people didn't
think much of dog breeders.
left. I will discuss this episode in a later article,
presenting all sides. The bottom line is: Two dogs
that could have found great homes didn't and I learned
DOGS MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY!
This is my mom with her beloved poodle.
Aren't they adorable?
mom tried to tell me. "Why do you want a big
dog, Sandy? A big, clumsy thing! Get a small dog.
You can cuddle them. They're so sweet." So many
things that my mom told me now make such sense. I
didn't get what she said until years after she died.
me, a dog was a utilitarian animal, something to guard
the house, run stray cattle off the front lawn, intimidate
bad guys, and lie at my feet while I read or watched
TV. A dog was affectionate, but nothing you'd want
in your lap. Especially if it weighed more than one
that little Dachshund cuddling into my shoulderI
couldn't get it out of my mind. What a darling! That's
what I wanted; a real baby substitute.
of a sudden all the small breeds made sense: Dogs
could be companion animals! Dogs could give love in
ways I hadn't understood. And my mom and her Pepe
were right there in my mind. They were really, really
decided to buy a miniature DachshundI
found a breeder who'd been in business for almost
fifty years and called her. Shortly after, I found
myself heading down the freeway, planning on driving
a very long way to look at puppies.
hadn't told my husband of my change of doggy plans
or where I was going. Or the fact that the puppies
cost $450. That was a reasonable price, the going
price in our area, and less than that rescue wanted
for a dog without papers or known parentage.
along, driving and driven. Now I would get my dog!
up US 101, I was almost at the central California
town of Santa Maria, when I felt like something took
a hold of my steering wheel and pulled me off the
freeway. In minutes, I was pulling into the parking
lot of the Santa Maria Animal Services office. I knew
that Santa Maria had a pound; I even had a Yahoo map
to it with me. But I intended to buy that Dachshund
puppy, that's what I wanted.
matter, a giant hand guided me to the Santa Maria
pound. I went in and found out where the dogs were.
later, I was walking down a row of kennels. A little
dog strolled toward the gate, looking at me steadily.
aren't you just the cutest thing?" He was a black
and tan, long haired Dachshund mix. He sauntered along,
completely calm and self possessed, as if he were
waiting for me to arrive. I squatted and talked to
him through the fence. His front feet toed out slightly,
he had tufts of long hair sticking out between his
toes. He licked my fingers and wagged his tail. Very
dignified. I was captivated. He was larger than the
mini-Dachsie and better for our ranch, which is a
pretty rugged place.
beautiful mixed breed dog stole my heart.
went inside to get an attendant so I could look at
the little fellow. I'd found him, I knew it already!
back out with the staff person, I noticed something
else: Another dog had emerged from inside the kennel.
He was almost identical to the first, just possessing
longer legs. He was a cocker spaniel mix, maybe a
purebred. He walked to the front of the kennel, more
wary than the other dog. Still, he looked at me calmly,
right in the eye. This was a truly beautiful dog.
took the Dachshund mix out on a leash, leading him
around a side yard. We were the only ones there; this
was so different from the hellacious rescue. A funky
old cat hung out in the middle of the yard. The little
Dachshund walked around it respectfully. A good sign;
we have cats, and so do our neighbors. The dog was
just a pup, nine months old. Walking him was a dream.
He'd obviously never had any training, but he was
take him." Putting him back in the kennel to
go inside and do the paperwork, that little Cocker
kept looking at me, wagging his tail softly. I heard
myself say, "Oh, let me look at this one, too."
Cocker acted like he was obedience trained. He, too,
eyed the cat respectfully, actually pulling away from
it in fear. I like this, I thought. A dog who's
afraid of cats. They had an old kitchen chair out
there so people could sit and pet the dogs. I sat.
Cocker sat better. Just snapped into a "sit"
like a agility dog. He sat, the most elegant creature
I could imagine, head up, looking at me, with pale
brown eyes the color of root beer.
HAD THE PERKIEST, CUTEST "SIT".
you just the cutest thing?" I was in love, what
can I say? The two of them were captivating.
went inside and handled the paperwork. I adopted both
picked them up as strays. We don't know a thing about
them," said the very nice young man at the desk.
Well, they were so nice when I handled them, how could
I have problems when I got them home? They were even
afraid of cats . . .
WE'RE IN JAIL!
Santa Maria Animal Shelter is a very nice shelter,
but it's not home.
* * *
didn't tell my husband about the dogs until it was
time to pick them up. And I chickened out: I only
told him about one. I knew what he'd say. I was afraid
of his anger. Part of it was due to the fact that
we had maybe 18 horses at that time. Anyone who takes
care of eighteen horses is likely to be a little testy
if you mention adding anything else. Plus, I was always
saying things like, "Why don't we ever go on
vacation? It's been fifteen years, Barry."
feelings were justified. When I told him about the
second dog, it wasn't pretty. He was very, very, very
angry with me. So angry that it took all my counseling/negotiation
coach skills to handle it, plus the skills of a counselor
friend. Very angry.
more angry when he saw the little darlings.
jokes about people and their dogs going together:
Big tough guy with bulldog, elegant woman with whippet.
Sporty runner with hunting breed. Our choices in dogs
do reflect our self images.
husband's self image did not allow for the presence
of two small, adorable dogs in his home. They were
an affront to his masculinity, and lifestyle.
my dogs, not yours. I need them." And I did.
As difficult as this was, I knew I'd done the right
thing for myself. I needed these animals. And they
needed me, let me tell you. The pound is not a long
term recreational facility. I stuck my guns: "I
promise I'll take care of them; you won't have to
do a thing." I've kept that promise.
glad that I didn't tell him about the $450 Dachshund
I GET TO SIT WITH MY ADORABLE LITTLE DOGS.
free: Throughout it all, I knew I was being true to
myself. I needed these little guys. They were meant
for me. The eerie way we came together seemed like
a miraclesomething pulling me off the
freeway and into the Santa Maria shelter. Finding
them, calmly waiting for me to rescue them. The love
these little dogs gave me back makes me cry.
was home, in love. I've had so many dogs, but none
that I felt like this about. This was a piercing kind
of love, a to the death kind of love. That aching
of my heart was quelled; I was happy. Even my husband
seemed to be accepting the turn of events.
could possibly go wrong?
find out, click on the link and go to: A
PROBLEM DOG: That Dog's Just Insane!