Picture of Lily
When I volunteer Fridays at 6:00 pm, final walks and final cleaning are the main agenda and we work fast. Walk any “Green” dog, the staffer says. (green = easy)
I leash up a newcomer, a pudgy, four-year-old Beagle, yet unnamed. A. says she calls her “Lady.”
“Lady” isn’t too interested in the challenge of the staircase.
—But that’s the only way out, sweetheart.
If she were any larger, I wouldn’t attempt to pick her up. But I do, and I carry her up the stairs.
—Lady, you just made the weight limit.
Lady and I walk down Centre Street, then cross Howard Street. Lady picks up steam in the crosswalk and I am grateful. Every SoHo street is busy. After starting up Lafayette Street, Lady tires in the home stretch. Standing still suits her just fine. With encouragement, we make it back home.
I put the Beagle in her corral and she launches a heart-breaking wimper.
A. tells me to walk Natasha next, so I head down the back aisle to find her. Natasha is in the corner corral, the one with the door too high to see over. Natasha’s info doesn’t indicate a color, but if A. told me to walk her, she must be a green dog. A. said Natasha, right? Right.
What if there is a big feisty brute behind that tall door?
I open the corral door and a small happy black puppy, maybe four or five months old, tells me she is very happy to see me. Her leashed up, with treats in my pocket, Natasha and I hit the SoHo streets. I give her a treat just for being adorable. Natasha never forgets for a second that I have treats in my pocket.
—It will take a lot of treats to grow into my big paws, she says.
I return for Lily, a small rambunctious Shepard Mix. She has one bloodshot eye, probably not from Lasik surgery. Her head is all brown-and-black and her body is solid white, like the head was pasted on the wrong body.
Lily is a handful. Forget the stairs, she wants to grab the leash, taste my sneakers and chew my pant leg. Lily and I struggle to make it down Centre Street. That is, I struggle. Lily could care less. But once we turn the corner onto Grand Street, we figuratively turn the corner as well. Lily’s walking improves.
—Dear God, she just stuck her head through the fencing around that tree.
Lily slips her head back out easily. Relief.
—Lily, you are not going near those fenced trees again.
I get help harnessing big, red Clifford. With a harness and two leashes, I feel like Clifford is a pony and I am the sleigh. This is my second walk with Clifford and I am much more comfortable with him today.
I check the AH website over the weekend. Nick is adopted. Natasha is adopted. Myrtle is adopted. Clifford, too.
Lily and Lucy—I’ll see you next week.
Nick: The Cutest Boy on the Block
A pattern emerges.
The animal shelter population is always shifting. This time, Lona and the last two Billy Joel puppies are gone. Tammy, the little girl missing an eye is gone too. She never appeared on the adoption website. The staff is busy and I don’t ask where she is.
But mellow Myrtle, the black Chihuahua is still around and on display in the store window today.
Nick, the soft Yellow Lab puppy, still calls the animal shelter home.
—Why are you still here?
Nick walks like a little gentleman-in-training while every other puppy walks like its the first time they have seen SoHo on a leash. The puppies—in front of your feet, doing a circle around you.
—I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to step on your paw, but you put it right in front of my moving foot.
The young ones run ahead and look back at you to say, aren’t you coming?
People on the street react to lush Nick like they spotted a celebrity. Two sets of people don’t just admire him; they want to adopt him. The shelter is just around the corner, I tell them.
Nick stops in front of a gold reflective door to gaze at his own image, and why shouldn’t he?
Elmo, a skinny white poodle with a black Groucho Marx nose, kept pace with me so perfectly I had to keep checking that I still had a dog at the end of the leash. Elmo would be perfect for my parents, I think. Small, older, mellow.
I tell my mother about Elmo and she says absolutely, yes she will adopt him. She says, your father and I were going to look at poodles Monday. Coincidence? Or meant to be?
But Elmo had left the shelter for his forever home, which means another poodle waits somewhere for my parents to adopt.
Eager to help, I find a white poodle in an Ellicott City, Maryland shelter on a poodle rescue website. Just as eager to adopt, my parents drive over to meet him the same day. Sweet Delancy jumps into my Dad’s lap. They pronounce him perfect.
But two potential adopters applied for Delancy ahead of my parents and for the second time, they miss out. Many people seem to be adopting dogs, but the small mellow ones and the irresistible puppies are snatched up while bigger, older dogs linger in the shelters.
Clifford and Namesake
Wearing my purple volunteer shirt, I enter the animal shelter and admit I forgot all the instructions from Orientation.
I didn’t forget exactly. During Orientation volunteers, potential volunteers, staff and customers were milling around and weaving in and out of tight spaces. I couldn’t see much of the time. Orientation was like a typical concert experience for me—not made for short people.
New volunteers can only walk the easy-going “green” dogs. I am assigned to walk Clifford, a green dog in shelter parlance, but in real life, a big red dog. He is, in fact, a Mastiff Mix aptly named after the Scholastic mascot, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Clifford requires a harness and a double leash. He bursts out of his corral and flies up the stairs with me in less than full control. I’m swimming in the deep end.
Clifford and I walk around busy SoHo blocks and I try to hold him close to me. Immediately, I notice respectful, admiring looks from people on the street. Guys nod their approval and not because I look great in my purple t-shirt.
I return to home base and M. tells me to keep Clifford upstairs; someone wants to meet him. A young woman in a smart trench coat drops to her knees and starts petting Clifford. A trench coat? This is a good sign. Isn’t Clifford the Big Red Dog a detective? I’m sure I’ve seen cartoon Clifford with a Sherlock Holmes hat and a magnifying glass.
The lady in the trench coat starts firing off questions and I admit to her that it is my first day and my first walk with my first dog. Even though I can’t answer questions about Clifford, she keeps asking them and I look helplessly toward the two staff members who are busy with customers. The lady starts addressing the questions to Clifford himself.
‘Would you like to live on five acres?’
Yes, yes, I’m sure he would.
‘Do you shed?’
Uh-oh. I look down and see three dog hairs on my jeans.
‘I think you shed, Clifford, right?’
Say no, Clifford! Say no!
In the spectrum of shredding, Clifford is low-end. I want to tell the lady in the trench coat that if she just touched my dog, Aimee, she’d have enough hair in hand to weave a toupee.
The other staffer, A. comes over and tells us both about Clifford. He’s a big sweetheart, she says. I can see that—Clifford is sitting like a prince and nuzzling his face against my jeans. But he has separation anxiety A. admits, but there are a lot things you can do to work on that. She runs through a list of tactics.
The lady in the trench coat decides to fill out an application but wants to bring her mother and sister to meet Clifford. Fair enough. I bring Clifford downstairs and put him inside his corral. He makes his separation anxiety known with the saddest howl I’ve ever heard.
When I return the following week, Clifford is still at the shelter, ready for his walk. If you get a chance, stop in and meet Clifford.
What would the Alabama gunman have done with his pent-up hatred if he didn’t have guns? He probably would have just stayed home and seethed. Besides the ten human victims, he shot and killed his mom’s three dogs, for god’s sakes. The murderer pushed both sets of my buttons: I’m up with dogs and down with guns.
The media doesn’t know yet what the teenage German gunman’s problem was, but since he had access to his father’s 15 guns, we know he was angry.
The guns in both rampages were legal. Ask the NRA, they will tell you we should all carry guns to protect ourselves from other people carrying guns. We could have a worldwide shootout.
The incidence of these shooting sprees come closer and closer together. Both sprees claimed victims in the double digits, and happened only a day apart. Second amendment supporters need to wake up and face reality: guns kill far more innocent people than they ever protect.
G. and I are subjecting our Yellow Lab, Aimee, to the worst humiliation a dog can suffer–the cone.
Aimee has a food allergy, the vet said. She has red rashes all over her belly that she scratches and two bald spots (perfectly symmetrical) on either side of her back where she has bitten. Therefore, the cone.
The latest cones are clear and seal with a velcro strip. But that doesn’t improve the cone experience enough for poor Aimee.
Aimee’s equilibrium has always been off and the cone makes her balance worse. Misjudging distance, she walks into doorways and furniture with her cone. She needs help jumping on the couch.
Earlier I posted that Aimee weighs 57 pounds. Correction: she weighed in last week at 86 pounds. G. says he and the vet were holding her on the scale and they probably got a misread. Aimee doesn’t look any fatter to me.
(Artwork courtesy of Gene Cawley)
When you order stuff from the Internet, pay attention to the size.
I ordered this dog bed in Extra Large from Orvis, remembering that the largest size dog clothing rarely fits 57-pound Aimee. (Weight at her last weigh-in, not necessarily current.)
But I didn’t process the 50″ diameter specification. Think about 50 inches, take a tape measure to the floor area and see how it fits before you buy.
Aimee looks downright petite on her king-size bed. She reminds me of Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann in her oversize rocking chair.
Aimee sure is happy though. And that’s the truth!
Dogs, by nature, are prone to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Who hasn’t seen a dog circle a specific number of times before they sit? I don’t know if vets diagnose OCD as a disease the way psychiatrists diagnose it in humans (or how people self-diagnose OCD and label their neighbors with OCD).
Dogs embrace their OCD. Their behaviors bother only their human caretakers, not them. I think dogs are comforted by their tics and quirks.
Meet Aimee. She is our five-year-old Yellow Lab and she is classic OCD. She paces in the elevator. She can only eat treats in her special spot. She licks obsessively. She licks her paw and then changes position slightly and licks some more.
The result: she she leaves a perfect ring of saliva on the rug. A crop circle so perfect, you and I couldn’t have drawn it with a protractor. (Remember protractors, anyone?)
Maybe Aimee is just trying to tell us the UFOs have landed.
Even as an animal lover, I was horrified that the Queen of Mean left $12 million to Trouble, a white Maltese who lives up to his name.
But do the math –Mrs. Helmsley’s estate is worth from $4 billion to $8 billion. Her gift to Trouble is at most .003% of her estate. That’s 1/3 of one percent. If I left my little A. that percentage of my net worth, she would be begging for Kibble on a New York street corner. And Helmsley left all but $50 million to charity.
See? Its all relative.
Speaking of, Ms. Helmsley’s human relatives fare worse. Two of four grandchildren get nothing, and “they know why”, Helmsley states smugly in her will. The other two get less than Trouble, but the gift has sticky strings. They must visit their father’s grave every year or be cut off immediately.
Shouldn’t Helmsley want the grandkids to visit because they care? A forced visit is tainted. Even if they would have paid annual respects without prodding, each visit will reported by the New York Post, positioned as a homage to greed.
They remain under her thumb.
Was Helmsley afraid to stipulate they visit her own grave instead of her son’s? Since Harry, Leona and son are all housed in the same mausoleum, a visit to the son equals a visit to Leona.
Ah, but even if the grandkids hit financial skids, they can always move in with Trouble.
Most shelter animals are a victims of circumstance rather than abuse. That is the point of the new ad campaign of Animal Care and Control of New York City.
Go to their adoption page, but I warn you, it’ll break your heart.