Thursday, December 22, 2011

Destinations Unknown

Back in August I contacted the Greater Houston German Shepherd Dog Rescue and they agreed for Sam to be accepted into their rescue program, as long as we could continue to foster her until her adoption. They have paid for her vetting and care. She has finally undergone her first heartworm treatment and will finish her second and final treatment in two weeks.

It will be a difficult day for me when Sam is finally adopted and no longer living here with us. We've developed a special and unique bond and saying goodbye will not be easy. I have prayed that she will be placed with the perfect family for her and that she will be a blessing to them. I am excited for her to finally reach this place in her journey, but also dreading our goodbye. In the perfect scenario, I would like to still get to see her from time to time. Who knows, maybe I can volunteer to dog sit for her.

Sam's Bio

On another note, I am in the midst of making a life changing decision that would allow me to have a career working with dogs. I can't think of anything I would rather do, but there are so many factors to consider as I continue to explore this avenue. I must reach a decision soon. If I take the plunge, I will be leaving to attend Triple Crown Professional Dog Training Academy in Hutto, Texas on January 9th for a few months.

I have started the application process and am moving forward with my plans to attend. I'm just waiting for God to give me his final seal of approval with additional confirmation, perhaps in the form of a big flashing neon sign that either says, "Go for it. I am behind this and you will succeed" or "Not now, child, maybe one day".

Things have moved quickly and must be finalized so soon. Maybe that is contributing to my stress and uncertainty. One minute things seem to be so clear and the next minute, I don't know if this is His will or mine, and I can't afford to invest this kind of time or money without knowing that HE has my back.

I struggle with what brand of spaghetti sauce to buy at the grocery store. BIG decisions are definitely not my specialty! The sixteensisters are working overtime and obviously can't seem to reach a unanimous decision.

Deep down, this feels so right. I could do so much with the training they offer. I would have so many options besides just obedience and behavior training. I could train dogs for scent detection, search and rescue and even dogs for special needs people.

The only thing that seems to be holding me back is the fear of putting my family in financial strain if my employment goals aren't met in a timely manner. If we don't take chances, how do we know if we will succeed?

Looks like Sam and I have something in common. We both have destinations unknown.

To go or not to go?

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Am Sam. Sam I Am.

They call me Sam. It’s short for Samantha. I haven’t had that name for very long but that’s what my foster family decided to name me. I like it and know they’re talking to me when they call me now. I came to live with my foster family on Good Friday (April 21, 2011). That was a rough day for me, but looking back on it now, things worked out much better than I thought they were going to when I woke up to some man (my foster dad) trying to capture me with a rabies pole around my neck. I didn’t know it at the time but my foster mom and dad played a trick on me. The pills they put into those hot dogs I inhaled actually had a dog sedative in them and they made me very sleepy. The hot dogs didn’t fill me up so I started to cross back under the freeway to go look for some more food but I ended up passing out underneath the bridge near my old home.

I used to live at the very busy intersection of Highway 90 & Beltway 8 in east Houston. There was lots of traffic in the area but I had been living there on my own for quite some time. The homeless man who sometimes slept under the bridge near my former home told my foster dad that I had been there since at least January when he first started using my bridge, but that I had never let myself get too close to him or anyone else for that matter. I was terrified of people and if anyone tried to approach me I would take off light a bolt of lightning. I was fast and no one could catch me. I was street smart and very familiar with the four corners of the world I lived in. I even knew that it was safer for me to come out at night to search for my dinner. I slept in the drainage ditch during the day so that no one could see me or bother me. I was even smart enough to walk down to the red light before I crossed the busy road, and even waited for the lights to change. I was a creature of habit and had a daily (well, nightly routine). I lived off the trash that people threw out, or sometimes food that good Samaritans would leave me. No one knows how I ended up there but it was the only life I knew, and I trusted no one.

When my foster mom found out about me after a nice lady posted about me on craigslist, she drove out to see if she could spot me and was hoping that I’d hop up into her truck after she offered me some food. Ha! She was sadly mistaken. When I saw her approaching me I took off running and at one point she was afraid she’d caused me to get hit by a car, but I didn’t. I ran off and hid from her in the brush along one side of the road until she finally gave up and left. Luckily for me she still felt sorry for me even after I dodged her and she left some food and water out for me.

Over the next two weeks she came and left me food and water and made several attempts to try to catch me but I was just too smart for her. Whenever I would see her truck pulling up into my “triangle” that I liked to lounge around in, I would take off to the other side of the bridge and wait for her to get the hint and leave.

One night she came looking for me late at night with some guy and he chased me around with a flash light but I outsmarted him. She actually thought that he could catch me! Then another night she put some food out for me but it smelled really bad because she put something in it to make me sleepy but I smelled it and wouldn’t touch the food. She brought a friend with her and they sat parked under the bridge in her truck for like five hours waiting on me to eat that stinky food. I was beginning to think she was stalking me and just wished she would leave me alone. I did appreciate the food I had learned to count on every evening, but she just wasn’t getting the hint that I didn’t like people and she wasn’t going to get close to me.

Then one night she brought my foster dad out with her to try to catch me, and again, I smelled that stinky food and wouldn’t touch it. They sat for hours in lawn chairs in the back of their truck watching me with binoculars. I laid down in my special spot by the food (they thought I ate it!) and my foster dad managed to get pretty close to me before I heard him but I darted as soon as I saw him. There was no catching me.

My foster mom says she saw something special in me the first time she saw me and her OCD (whatever that is) kicked in and she couldn’t quit thinking about me out there all alone, skinny, living among all those cars and big trucks whizzing past me. Her friends and family thought she was crazy and thought she was going to get mugged by the homeless man or hit by a car if she kept coming out there to feed and try to catch me.

My foster mom called her vet (who is also her cousin) for advice on using sedatives to catch me and he told her he would give her pills instead of the liquid stuff and that’s how she ended up tricking me. I smelled those hot dogs and had no idea there were pills stuffed inside of them. Sigh!

Her cousin was concerned about me biting anyone who tried to catch me so he loaned them a rabies pole, just like dog catchers use, and that’s how my foster dad was able to catch me. I ended up passing out and was in a pretty deep sleep when he snuck up on me, but when I felt him trying to slip the noose of the pole under my snout I woke up, flailing and fighting! It was traumatic for me, and especially for my foster dad. He had to fight with me because I totally panicked and immediately started attacking the pole that he still managed to get over my neck just as I started flailing and we had a pretty good little battle and kicked up quite a bit of dust before I became totally submissive and just froze. My foster mom rushed over with the truck and the kennel that I struggled to keep from being put into. I was barking and biting at the wire cage, but I was only scared. I wasn’t trying to hurt them. I was still pretty groggy and terrified. My foster dad is a police officer and he told my foster mom that the struggle he just had with me was one of the scariest things he had ever experienced and that he would rather fight with a bad person than to struggle with a dog like he just had. I heard him say he had a new respect for dog catchers. Apparently, when I suddenly woke up fighting for my life it scared him pretty bad! He said he almost let go of the pole but he knew I would run out into traffic dragging a pole around my neck so he held on. I didn’t fight for long before I froze, but it was an intense struggle.

I finally got a closer look at the crazy lady who had been stalking me. She was smiling and hugging him and thanking him over and over for catching me. I just laid there in the kennel, still groggy, wondering how I’d been duped and where they were taking me. I was terrified but had no way out. I just knew whatever I was in store for couldn’t be good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It Was Always About Caylee, Casey! You Were/Are Nothing Without Her!

Like most of the nation, I was in total shock on July 5, 2011 when the Casey Anthony verdict was read. I’m still trying to come to terms with the mind boggling not guilty verdict and injustice for Caylee. I still struggle with how these 12 (plus 5 alternate) Pinellas County idiots ever came to such a verdict. I can’t even bring myself to respect their decision “because the American Justice system is the best in the world”. I’m totally not feeling it.

I have closely followed this case since day 31 when the media went crazy with the story of a Florida mom who didn’t report her child missing for 31 days. Thanks to the Sunshine Laws in Florida we were privy to countless document dumps from the investigation including photos, lab reports, interviews, jail visits, etc. By the way, I think I love the Sunshine Laws!

I watched pre-trial hearings, jury selection and the trial closely. I even downloaded an app for my iphone that allowed me to watch the trial when in transit. Yes, I was slightly obsessed with the circus it had become and had waited three long years to see justice for Caylee.

I was at HEB when my friend texted me that there was a verdict, moments before my text alert from the Orlando Sentinel sounded. I literally scurried to the check-out with my cart full of groceries so that I could get home for the moment I, and so many others had been waiting for.

I have to say that when friends who weren’t following the case as closely as I was would spout off that she was going to walk, it infuriated me. I was never worried that she would walk. It was inconceivable to me knowing the evidence against her. That was a preposterous outcome. In my mind, there was no possible way that 12 people would all concede that she was not guilty. I had come to terms with the fact that she might not get murder one and even though I personally felt it was premeditated I could concede that there might be reasonable doubt among a few of the jurors and was expecting at the very least a charge of felony murder. I had learned that they could have a broken vote, i.e. 6 for premeditated and 6 for child abuse resulting in the death of Caylee to get the felony murder and was hoping for first degree murder but almost expecting the 2nd degree. I was even prepared for a hung jury, but never, ever did I consider an acquittal on the murder charges. Never!

My husband came home to watch the verdict with me and we had the kids listening on speaker phone because they were away camping and unable to watch it on TV. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut when each not guilty was read. The jury hadn’t even charged her with child abuse. It was literally unbelievable. I was unable to speak and in total shock for quite some time afterward. I couldn't even acknowledge my kids questions and shock as to what had just happened and had to let my husband address them. I was numb and in total disbelief.

After two weeks of trying to digest the end result and Casey walking out of jail this past Sunday, I have finally accepted that there’s nothing we can do in terms of overturning the verdict. It is what it is. I still can’t fathom 12 people reaching this conclusion, much less in 10 hours. Plus it has become obvious from a few juror interviews that they really didn’t understand what the state was required to prove and that motive was not required, however the state did provide one. Plus, they claim there was no cause of death given. I guess it was lost on them that after Caylee’s body had sat out in the swamp for 6 months, her bones being scattered about by animals that the M.E. couldn’t find a definitive COD, but the duct tape on her mandible and the fact that the circumstances surrounding her death all pointed to murder Dr. G was only able to rule it a “homicide by undetermined means”. Nor did her statement that 100% of accidental deaths are reported to authorities or that she has never seen an accidental death be made to look like a homicide seem to register in any of their hollow heads!

The fact that they never asked for any evidence during deliberations or for clarification of the jury instructions made it even harder to swallow. Plus there seemed to be some confusion as to reasonable doubt among the 12 pinheads. I honestly think this group needed a video of Casey murdering precious Caylee in order to have come back with a guilty verdict. The prosecution provided ample evidence of her involvement and being the last person to have seen Caylee alive, and I find the excuses being thrown out by a few jurors about why they came to their decision to be appalling. No wonder they’re in hiding and the local citizens and businesses are shunning them. It’s scary to think 12 people can lack such common sense and that no one was bold enough to stand up against the others or to even ask for clarification on the points of jury instructions they were confused about. UGH!!!!

If these jurors felt there was no real evidence in this case then Scott Peterson must be reeling over in San Quentin because all they really had on him was one of Laci’s hair in a pair of his pliers and he’s sitting on death row! But the jurors in his case used their common sense and put the pieces of the puzzle together. I watched that trial, too, and knew he was guilty but in reality they had so much more evidence pointing at Casey than they ever had on Scott. When will people learn that most cases are circumstantial? I’m so sick of hearing that there was no proof! How often do we have murders caught on tape?

I have turned off my Nancy Grace, In Session and Tru TV’s coverage of where’s Waldo, I mean Casey. I don’t care where she's hiding or what she has to say. I don’t want to look at her smirking horse face anymore. She totally thrives on the media attention and I refuse to be part of the demand for anymore Casey news. I refuse to help put money in her pocket so she can profit from killing her daughter and will boycott any organization or product that offers to pay her for her story. Is anyone stupid enough to think that she would tell the truth now, anyway? Truth isn’t in her vocabulary!

I have signed the petition for Caylee’s Law and will now move on to follow the next sad case that catches my eye. I will never forget precious little Caylee and what an impact her short life and senseless murder had on so many people. I will always look back and remember how the Pinellas 12 failed to see the writing on the wall and allowed a child murderer to walk free among us. Caylee's egg donor will eventually get what she has coming to her just like OJ finally got his. It’s just unfortunate that it wasn’t in a court of law as charged. Mark my words, somewhere down the road someone else will fall victim to Casey Anthony. In the end, Caylee will get justice.

RIP Caylee Marie.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Woof, Woof!

I am a sucker for dogs. “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened” is one my favorite quotes. I can be stopped at a traffic light and see a dog hanging out of a car window or riding in the back soaking up the fresh air and I can’t take my eyes off of it. It makes me smile. I’m more of a big dog fan, but little dogs are cool, too, as long as they’re not yipping at my heels. We often hear about cat ladies on the news, you know, an old lady living in squalor with 76 cats overrunning her home, (or often times her trailer!) with cat feces in every spot the camera shows us. The camera also always shows the police having to hold the poor little lady back as the SPCA carts her precious cats off in cages. It’s actually pretty sad.

I always joke that I’ll never be the cat lady but I could quite possibly end up being the dog lady, minus the feces all over the house. If I’m ever lucky enough to acquire some land I could very possibly end up taking in every stray dog I came across and being accused of dog hoarding.

There’s something to be said about coming home to someone greeting you with a tail wagging at full speed, regardless of how you look or feel. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, or what kind of mood you may be in, the dog is always there, ever so faithfully awaiting your arrival, thrilled beyond measure when you walk through that door. Well, that’s a typical dog greeting one can expect unless said dog or dogs have misbehaved while their master was away. i.e. rummaged through the trash, chewed up a newspaper or left a little (or often big) surprise that they instinctively know you will not be happy to see. So, as long as your dog hasn’t misbehaved while you were away, your loyal companion will be eagerly waiting for you as you walk through the door with the warmest of welcome, without fail. I can’t think of anyone else in my life that is ever as happy to see me as my dogs are. Hence, another one of my favorite quotes is “My goal is to someday be the person my dog thinks I am.”

A few years ago I became involved as a volunteer for a local dog rescue group. I worked as their foster coordinator, which basically involved making calls and emailing our foster families to check on the progress of our foster dogs. I also attended their pet adoptions and other events to help with various things such as setting up, walking the dogs or talking to potential adopters. Due to some issues within the group, I no longer do that and haven’t been actively involved with a rescue group for about a year now and am truly missing it. It was something I really enjoyed doing and I also met some great people in the process. Hopefully, I’ll find the time to become actively involved with another rescue group again in the near future.

In the meantime, I do what I can, when I can on my own. I keep a “rescue kit” under the back seat in my truck. It’s a plastic container that contains disposable bowls, dog food, cat food, dog snacks, water and a leash & collar. If I spot a stray I will almost always stop and feed it, and sometimes I’ll attempt to coax it to me with the intention of taking it home, temporarily, until I can network and find it a home. Most of the time, the strays are skittish and won’t let me approach and will run off. In that case, I always leave some food.

After our dog Abby passed away we decided we wanted to eventually foster dogs instead of adopting a second dog. Lady was our first foster dog and she left her paw prints embedded deeply into my heart. When I met Lady, we had only discussed fostering but still had not decided it was time. I had only gone to select a dog from the shelter to pick up for a weekend visit. Sometimes rescue groups will ask for volunteers to take a dog home for a few days just to get them out of the kennel environment for a while where they can receive some outside interaction and socialization. They figure that a few days spent with someone are better than nothing, even though it’s only temporary and they have to return to the shelter. So I went to the shelter to pick out a dog to visit with us for a few days.

I probably had about 15 dogs to choose from. I walked from kennel to kennel reading each dog’s bio, sticking my hand through the wire cages to show them some affection. Some were receptive, some not so much. Some barked non-stop and some just stared at me or cowered. On first glance there was nothing special about Lady. She wasn’t the prettiest of dogs and nothing about her seemed to stand out. I have a hard time even making minor decisions so this was no easy task. I walked around and around and around but there was just something about Lady that kept drawing me back over to her. I’d have to say it was the way her big brown eyes followed me around the room. She really caught my attention. Once I learned that she had been with the rescue group for about a year and had been kenneled most of that time due to a shortage of foster homes, it made my decision easier. Lady was getting out of jail for a few days.

She was used to leashes and car rides from being transported to and from the vet and to adoptions and rode in my truck seat like a little Lady, sitting up staring out the window. She was such a sweetheart and after only spending a few days with her we had learned about her personality and quirks. Sadly, we didn’t feel that we were ready to take on fostering just yet so it was always understood that she would be returning to the shelter, which was actually a “haven” or home for dogs, but they were still kenneled most of the time. I was a little sad, but okay until I got her back to the haven and met the volunteer who was going to take her from me and put her into her kennel. Lady looked at me with those big brown eyes and watched every move I made while I was in the house. I sadly said my goodbyes then used the restroom and as I walked to the door to leave I glanced over and she was sitting wide-eyed and upright staring intently at me as if to say, “Where are you going? You’re leaving me here? No, wait. You can’t do that. We’re buddies now. Please take me back to the place with the other dogs and the rooms that I can roam freely in. I want to play ball in the back yard again. You’re not really leaving me here, right?” I’m really not exaggerating about her eyes. It was like she was communicating with me and begging me not to go. She seemed confident that I was going to open the kennel and we’d be leaving together and I felt horrible. I had no idea how bad it would make me feel. It was an hour’s drive back home and I sobbed the entire way.

When I got home I couldn’t quit crying and to make matters worse the volunteer called to tell me that Lady had sat up for a long time after I left watching the door as if she expected me to come back any moment to get her. On top of that I had also gotten an email that had just been made for the website to promote Lady’s adoption. It was photos of her from the shelter with a sad, sad song playing in the background. My husband was outside smoking a cigar and I went outside and literally sobbed on his shoulder. I wanted to go back and get her but I knew we couldn’t keep her and we’d agreed to wait a while to foster because it’s a big responsibility.

He hated seeing me like this but wasn’t convinced that I’d ever be able to ever let her go and we’d already agreed no second dog. I explained that if I was giving her up to a loving family and not returning her back to the haven, where she still spent much of her time in a kennel that I could do it. I could let her go. I just couldn’t leave her in the haven waiting for someone to see in her what we saw in her. It could be months, or even longer before someone chose her and I just couldn’t let her stay there wondering where I’d gone and why. He agreed to us fostering her, if I promised to actively try to find her a home, to attend adoption events with her and to circulate her adoption flyer and video and not to try to “sneak” her in as a permanent fixture. I hugged him so tight! I jumped back in my car and drove right back there that very night to go get Lady. It was just like the volunteer said. She was sitting up in her kennel staring at the door almost as if she knew I would be back, that there had to have been a mistake. She was right! We had bonded and there was no way I could leave her there. I owed it to her to find her a loving home and to ensure she had a good life and I promised her that I would.

Two months later Lady was adopted by someone who works with my husband. She saw her adoption flyer posted in the break room and immediately fell in love with her. She proved herself to be a perfect fit for Lady and responsible dog owner so she was approved to adopt her. When we took her to her new home I still cried because it’s always hard to say goodbye, but I knew without a doubt that she was “home”. She had found her destined place in this world and it made me so happy that she was finally going to have the life she deserved.

It’s been a year and a half since now since Lady found her forever home and we get regular updates on her. I came home recently and saw a stack of glossy photos laying on the table. It only took me a moment to realize they were of Lady enjoying a beautiful day at the beach and it made my day. I visited her a few months after the adoption and hope to see her again soon. I’m hoping that she’ll still remember me after all this time. I like to think that I’m kind of special to her, too.

We ended up fostering for a few months but had to stop when we inherited a second dog from a dying relative, but about a year ago we picked up a wandering stray from outside of a restaurant that we frequent. It was a cold and rainy night and he was more than happy to come to us for some food. He was friendly and seemed to be happy when we put him into the truck and took him home. His hair was horribly matted and he was infested with fleas. That night I sat on the back porch and with scissors started cutting the knots and matted pieces of fur and trimmed around his eyes so he could see, then bathed him and made him a bed in the garage. He went right over to that bed, curled up and we never heard a peep out of him all night. The next day I took him to the vet to have him scanned for a microchip, which he didn’t have, had him examined and got him a rabies shot. He was so matted that I had to break down and get him groomed. When I picked him up he looked like a totally different dog. He was adorable and once the fleas were gone he got to come inside.

I really felt like he had belonged to someone at one time because of his habits and how well adjusted he was, but he’d obviously been living on the streets for a while to be in such bad shape. Hoping someone was looking for him I posted ads on Craigslist and around the neighborhood but no one ever claimed him. We kept him for a month before one of my friends convinced her mom to take him and I hear that he’s spoiled rotten.

Currently, we have Jaxon, our 4 year-old German Shepherd rescue, Echo our 3 year-old German Shepherd (inherited from an aunt) and Charlie, our 3 year-old grand-dog Lab-Hound mix rescue living with us. It is a constant battle trying to keep the pet dander and dog hair from taking over the front room of our house where the dogs stay and don’t get me started on the condition of our back yard and covered patio. It looks like land mines have gone off with all of the holes out back and we could start our own fertilizer manufacturing plant with the amount of poop we have to scoop. We certainly won’t be in the running for yard of the month thanks to our four legged babies, but I’d much rather dodge dog bombs and avoid falling into one of those holes than to give up a life with my dogs.

In addition, we also have another rescue temporarily living in our garage (since April 21st), bringing our grand total of furry friends to 4! I’ll share the story of how she ended up there the next time I write. Her story has to be my best rescue story yet. Of course, her ending has yet to be written, but considering where she came from and what she has already survived, I know it will be a happy ending. She is destined for someone out there and will greatly enrich their lives. It’s just going to take some time before she is ready and we find that special person or family, but we will.