How nice is this?
Ace and I were taking the mile-long walk down to the end of Figure 8 Island and back on Sunday when we stopped to meet some other dogs — a golden retriever named Mac and a black Lab named Jet.
Their owners were on the beach, and though strangers — to me, at least – they offered Ace, who was looking a little bedraggled by then, some water. He graciously accepted and drank their entire supply.
After some chatting, Ace, I and friends moved on, walking to the inlet and turning around for the hike back. By then — it being especially hot, and our morning walk having started around noon — Ace was really dragging. In addition to being nearly as out of shape as his master, he had been taking in a little salt water each time he gingerly waded into the ocean.
We were passing by Mac and Jet’s house again when — though the people and dogs had all gone inside – we came across the note above, written in the sand, with an arrow that pointed to a full bowl of fresh water.
Ace made a beeline for it, lapped some up, then laid down, resting his chin on the edge and drinking almost the whole bowl before lazily getting up and lumbering a few hundred more yards.
All along the way, in addition to sniffing in the smells, he was keeping an eye open for shade. Anytime he saw a group under an umbrella, he felt the need to visit, and not being on a leash (shame on me) he did.
We hadn’t gotten far from the Ace watering station when another woman beckoned, and we, eyeing the shade of her umbrella, veered in her direction. She went to a cooler and pulled out a bottled water, pouring it into her cupped hand for Ace. He polished off the whole thing.
Issuing thanks again (though no one was offering me water, I might point out), we trudged homeward — by now having fallen far behind our friends, due to our slower pace and Ace’s philosophy when it comes to humans: There are no strangers — only friends he hasn’t yet met (who might also have good stuff like water and treats and shade).
Shade can be hard to find at the beach.
Kindness, though, is usually only as far as the next beach chair.
(Photos by Amelia Bellows)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 7th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, beach, dog, dogs, drinking, figure 8 island, friends, heat, hot, jet, kindness, mac, north carolina, pets, reunion, salt water, shade, strangers, travels with ace, vacation, water
Another dog guru debuts this week, joining the ranks of televised trainers who straighten out the bad behavior of dogs, usually by straightening out their human owners.
“Dogs in the City” follows New York City trainer Justin Silver, who in the premiere episode confronts a celebrity bulldog who doesn’t seem to like his owner’s new wife; a Bernese mountain dog with a weight problem; and an office mutt who doesn’t get along with strangers.
The hour-long summer reality series will air Wednesdays on CBS, at 8 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific time).
Silver, a dog trainer, behaviorist and owner of a pet care company, is also a comedian and founder of Funny for Fido, a nonprofit organization that raises money for homeless animals by producing a yearly stand-up comedy event.
According to the show’s press release, Silver “has a creative and instinctive ability to connect with his canine customers while solving dilemmas for their two-legged masters. In each episode, he meets with clients who present a range of relationship problems, lifestyle changes or domestic issues. Justin gets as imaginative as necessary to reach a satisfying resolution, often finding that the owners can be a special breed themselves.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aggression, animals, beefy, behavior, behaviorist, bernese mountain dog, bulldog, cbs, dogs, dogs in the city, guru, issues, justin silver, mutt, new york, overweight, pets, reality, relationships, strangers, television, trainer, training, weight
Lisa Ison was going through a rough time four years ago when she met Bella, a Pekingese-Pomeranian mix, at an animal shelter in Denver.
“I was depressed. I was lonely. It was a real hard time and she saved my life,” said Ison, who was recovering from a back injury, a divorce and getting laid off. “I live alone, so having her there, she is always happy to see me and she is so loving. My life would not be the same without her.”
So when Bella became severely ill earlier this week after eating a ham bone, Ison was understandably distraught when a vet told her that trying to save her dog was going to cost around $1,800, half of which would be required up front.
“She was dehydrated, vomiting and not eating,” Dr. Jeff Steen at the Alameda Vet Hospital told 9 News in Denver. “She could have gotten septic and died.”
Ison didn’t have that kind of money. “I live paycheck to paycheck … I was hysterical. I was crying,” she said.
Ison stepped into the rest room to compose herself, and when she came out, a middle-aged couple she had met in the lobby gave her a hug and told her not to worry.
When she went to the front desk, the $900 had been paid.
After a few days, Bella pulled through. Ison still has the other half of her bill to pay, which she plans to do over time. Her donors remain anonymous.
“I was so touched and so moved that somebody would randomly do something so kind and so giving in these hard times. It restored my belief in human kindness,” Ison said.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alameda veterinary hospital, bella, bill, costs, denver, donation, donors, emergency, ham bone, health, illness, kindness, lisa ison, mystery, pekingese, pomeranian, strangers, vet, veterinarian, veterinary
Yesterday, in updating you on Ace’s miracle recovery, we acknowledged in a backhanded kind of way all the prayers and well wishes you sent his way.
Allow us to do it in a forehanded way, too: Thank you.
Ace remains, from all appearances, over whatever it was that seemed to make him lose control of half of his 130-pound body on Monday.
He’s raring to go, darting all over the place when I take him outside, grabbing my hand in his mouth to pull me along for what he’d like to be a long walk. He seems to have totally forgotten the condition he was in two days ago. I, on the other hand, have not, and so, like an over-protective parent, offer up the kind of buzzkill only humans can provide.
“Let’s wait one more day. Slow down. Be careful. Stop frolicking, dammit.”
It’s the main difference between dogs and people. He being a dog, doesn’t let his past, even recent-as-yesterday past, bring him down. He doesn’t let fears of the future dictate his behavior, or maybe he knows better than me that the possibility of being hobbled tomorrow is all the more reason to run your ass off today.
I don’t know if your responses made Ace better, but they absolutely served that purpose for me. (I have more friends than I thought — or at least he does — and lots of them are strangers.)
Through comments left on ohmidog! and Travels with Ace, through personal emails and phone calls, we heard from several dozen people, including a few of those we encountered during the past year as we criss-crossed America.
Our intent in Travels with Ace was not to bog you down with reports of our physical ailments, not to bemoan the obstacles we were confronted with, not to get all cantankerous about the small stuff life throws our way.
Just as we didn’t ignore the country’s warts, we shared our personal bad moments, too – not to evoke sympathy, not to tug at heartstrings, but to reflect reality. The same holds true of our financial condition. Being unemployed was one of things that sparked the trip; and traveling, with the dog, on a shoestring, was an exercise in frugality mandated by the times and my own personal economic situation.
I, like a lot of Americans, and like America, am having trouble paying my bills.
Embarassing as that may be, I’ve admitted it — far more often than my mother would like me to — and I acknowledged again during Ace’s trauma that, short of draining what little remains in the old 401 K and pulling off a heist of some sort, I’m likely not in a position to scrounge up what any surgery he needed would probably cost.
One of the people we heard from yesterday was a woman who offered to pay for any veterinary care Ace needed. We declined her kind offer, given Ace’s recovery. I wrote her back, thanking her, telling her Ace seemed to be doing fine now, and, for some reason, baring my soul. (Apparently, much like a stripper, I will bare my soul for tips, or even the offer of them.) I explained to her how, in selfish pursuit of doing what I want to do, I’ve decided to scrape by without a job, and in the process have become an insufficient provider.
Putting personal dreams above salary and health insurance may be noble, or it may just be stupid. In any event it’s a choice that, for me, leads to some feelings of guilt during times like this week — times that seem to say, “Get a job, doofus.”
I did suggest she buy my book, which would add several cents to my portfolio.
She wrote back: “That’s wonderful news about Ace, John! I bought your book long ago, it’s how I discovered your blog and “met” Ace. It’s a fascinating book, btw, you’re a compelling writer. I understand your reservations about the money – been there, done that, so to speak. Ace is your family though, and by virtue of your blog, he’s my friend, so I hope it will never be necessary but if it should become necessary, I hope you would let his friends help. And pursuing your dreams is a great way to spend a life. Give Ace a good belly rub for me!”
The belly rub has been given, her compliments have been read and re-read (they serve as a belly rub to me), and her email address has been put in a file marked guardian angels, in the second drawer of the file cabinet on the right. (I write that here in case I forget, should I ever need to find it.)
Wrote another total stranger, upon reading of Ace’s improvement, “ …Amen And Pass The Kibble that Ace is doing well this morning. Having read ohmidog! for the past few years, you and Ace are a couple o’ ramblers that I’ve come to care about in that funny internet way. You just about killed me when you described losing your composure when he leaned on you. I know, I know! I was with you, in that moment. I was with you yesterday in the midst of your nerve-wracking vet visit with an IV bag tied to your roof rack. That would be why you’re an award-winning journalist. Big hugs to both of you, and if you’re ever in the upstate NY area, give a holler on-blog beforehand. We would love to meet “our” sweet Ace. Oh, and you, too, of course. You know how it is.”
More belly rubs for me, but, more than that, it was another note that reinforced what we learned during our travels: However down America might be right now, its people, and its dogs, are a resilient bunch; and people still care about people, especially dog people.
Having invited any theories readers might have, I also heard from several people offering guesses on what it might have been that knocked Ace’s legs out from under him
“My vote still goes with ‘ate something that disagreed with him.’ I woke up absolutely dreading this day for a number of reasons. I checked here before I even looked at the news. Now I’m smiling. You guys stay cool, and we’ll keep rolling out those prayers and good thoughts.”
That one was from Anne, one of several from my friend, technical consultant on internetty issues and web space provider in Baltimore, who, though she lost her husband at the end of last month, though both she and her beagle are still working through the grieving process, took the time to pass on her best wishes.
Some thought it might be heat related, and another reader suspected tick paralysis.
“I’m so glad ACE seems to have had a spontaneous recovery! We had a situation eerily similar to what you described with a newfie mix of ours several years ago. Our vet diagnosed tick paralysis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick_paralysis), which he had seen kill several dogs over the years. I had never heard of it, despite living in a state where Lyme and such are common. I thought I’d mention it since our vet said there are a lot of vets who aren’t familiar with it due to its rarity. Warm hugs to Ace!”
And, after our initial report on Ace’s affliction, there were many like this — both from people I know and people I’ve never met:
“I’m crying, and my own dogs are wondering why. Much love and all of our support to both Ace and you. Nothing scarier, for me at least, than a sick pup. Please keep us updated. You two are FAMILY.”
The pesky part of me wanted to write back and ask if my room is ready and what we were having for dinner tonight. Here’s the thing — some of my friends, possibly even some of those stranger friends I’ve never even met, would say come on over. However cash poor America is, it’s rich that way.
We send thanks, too, to Dr. Raymond Morrison, Ace’s vet at Ard-Vista Animal Hospital, here in Winston-Salem, who went beyond the call of duty — and didn’t charge for it — when I ran back into his office after our visit to inform him Ace was copiously vomiting in the back of my car. He strung an IV bag to my roof rack and had a technician adminster about 20 minutes worth of a subcutaneous drip that seemed to immediately improve both Ace’s panting and his legs.
Once he was back home and out of the car, the ailment seemed to disappear as quickly, and mysteriously, as it had arrived.
That we’re living a somewhat insulated life here — partly by choice, in pursuit of another dream, which is to turn our travels into a book — made all the comments and notes, from old friends and new ones alike, worth even more.
What restored Ace’s legs back to full power may be a mystery, but it’s no mystery what reconfirmed my faith in humanity.
It was you.
(Graphic: Pawprint thank you card available at Etsy.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, ailment, america, americans, animals, belly rubs, control, dogs, dreams, economy, faith, finances, friends, heat, humanity, legs, letters, mystery, notes, ohmidog!, pets, recovery, resilience, road trip, strangers, support, thank you, thanks, tick paralysis, travels with ace, veterinarian, veterinary
At 56, it’s not every day I spend the night with a 25-year-old woman, and if it ever did happen, you’d normally be the last person I’d tell.
But, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what I did.
A “complete stranger” invited Ace and me into her home in Albuquerque, went out to dinner with us at a dog-friendly restaurant (Kelly’s Brew Pub) and, though still a kid (relative to me, anyway) taught me a few things about trust and keeping the doors to one’s life open enough that new people can get in.
And she saved me a few bucks, as well.
For this, I can thank couchsurfing.org, a website that, realizing not all of us have money to spare for mint-on-the pillow accommodations, unites people looking for a place to stay with local people kind enough to offer one — on a global scale.
I first heard about it through a comment left on ohmidog! — offering me, a penny pinching traveler with a dog at my side, some advice on finding dog-friendly, cheap, even free, lodgings.
I went to the website, created a bare bones profile, paid a $25 verification fee (though they — see comment below — prefer to call it a donation), and explored the options, especially those members who lived along my somewhat fuzzy route who were open to opening their homes not just to travelers, but their dogs as well.
Jen Walker in Albuquerque was the first one I found. Through the website, I sent her a message, told her a bit about myself, and what Ace and I are up to, and inquired as to whether I might crash — a word I haven’t used in 25 years or so — on her couch.
Sure, she wrote back. She was cool with that.
She’s got a charming little dog of her own, an Italian greyound-Chihuahua mix named Cali who likes to hang out on the roof of the apartment that joins hers, and a cat named Autumn, who likes to crawl into suitcases and more than once has almost been accidentally abducted by a departing couchsurfer.
Ace, once spotting Autumn behind a pillow, immediately hopped in Jen’s bed to better stare at her. Jen was cool with that.
Jen, as she has been with the 67 previous couchsurfers she has taken in, was the consumate host — and even supplied an air mattress for me to sleep on instead of the couch. She’s working, and going to school at the University of New Mexico, and is a delightful young woman — God, how old do I sound? — with a laid back aura, a kind heart, and a curious and open mind.
Taking new acquaintances into her home, she says “allows me to meet people I probably otherwise would never meet.”
It occurs to me that, by hosting couchsurfers, she’s doing what I’m doing — both by taking this trip, and when I made the career choice to be a journalist: ensuring I would see new things, meet new people, keep learning, and not live the insulated life.
She’s made some lasting friends, and — one of the big side benefits – accumulated a long list of places to stay around the globe. As with those who stay with her, she knows those she stays with will offer her much more than any hotel, or even hostel, ever could. Staying with a local person or family provides much better insight into local culture, far more tips on where to go and what to see and allows one to make a more intimate connection with the place they are visiting.
The concept is based on a slightly hippyesque, pay-it-forward kind of philosophy — taking in others leads others to take in others, and so forth. And it gives credence to the belief that in this world there are no complete strangers, only partial ones … friends we haven’t met yet, as I like to think — at least when the cynical journalist, untrusting, worst-case-scenario side of me doesn’t get in the way.
Jen, in her two years as a member, has only couchsurfed once, in Durango, Colorado, but she’s hosted close to 70 times, many of those being visitors from other countries. They might stay a day, or even a week. (Jen is cool with that.) For her, it has led to many long term friendships and not a single negative experience.
In college, and even afterwards, she notes, she had a core group of friends — all with similar backgrounds and interests. Through couchsurfing, she has expanded her friend horizons, and met lots of different types of people.
Jen grew up in Hastings, Nebraska and at first was hesitant to tell her parents about her involvement in couchsurfing. When she finally did, “they thought it was great,” she said. “Some of my friends think I’m crazy, but I’ve met a lot of cool people.”
She’s now averaging two to six visitors a week, and I — who am sitting, not surfing, on her couch right now, Cali on one side of me, Ace on the other (Jen is cool with that) — am number 68.
As couchsurfing.org explains on its website mission statement: “For one reason or another, some of us may not have the opportunity to explore. There could be any number of obstacles that keep us from venturing as freely as we might otherwise, whether it’s economic limitations, cultural constraints, or simply fear of the unknown … If we could address and overcome those barriers, more of us would naturally tap into our own curious nature and actively explore the world.”
That philosophy, too, is sort of similar to the one behind my current journey — having no money is no reason not to travel; maybe, even, it can be a reason to travel. (Bear and his famiy notwithstanding.)
Couchsurfing.org got its start when founder Casey Fenton bought a cheap ticket to Iceland for a long weekend. Rather than stay at a hotel or hostel, he came up with idea of e-mailing over 1500 Icelandic students in Reykjavik and asking them if he could crash on one of their couches.
That led to numerous offers from Icelanders offering to show “their’ Reykjavik.” After his week in Iceland, he vowed to never again get trapped in a hotel and tourist marathon while traveling.
Originally, I planned to stay two nights, but after one I’m heading to Santa Fe to see an old friend who — assuming her three dogs get along with mine — might let me house/pet sit when she and her veterinarian husband are out of town for a week in July.
I’ll send Jen an email, and leave her a note — in case she’s not back from work by the time I have to leave. I’m sure she’ll be cool with that.
(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accomodations, ace does america, albuquerque, casey fenton, couch, couch surfing, couchsurfing, couchsurfing.org, dog, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, free, friends, jen walker, kelly's brew pub, lodging, network, networking, ohmidog!, road trip, social, strangers, tourism, travel, traveling with dogs, website