Neighbors unite to find a dog named Donut

Annie and I came around the bend, and there was old Tom. He was holding a empty leash.

“She got away?” I asked.

He nodded, his ancient face working with tears and frustration. His black Lab, ridiculously named Donut, broke through a fence and escaped. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do. She keeps taking off.”

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My puppy Chico in the early days

I sympathized. I once had a black Lab-pit bull mix named Chico, Annie’s brother, who was always running away. I couldn’t build a tall enough fence to keep him in. I remember the fear that filled my heart as I walked the streets of our forested Oregon coast neighborhood with an empty leash in one hand and a box of Milk-Bones in the other. What if he never came back? What if he got out on the highway and was hit by a car? Why doesn’t he come when I call? Ultimately I had to take him to a shelter. I couldn’t keep him in, and he was fighting with other dogs. One neighbor threatened to shoot him. The day he bit a dog and then bit me while I was trying to stop the fight, I knew I had to give up my baby, whom I had raised from seven weeks old. I still have a scar on my leg and a pain in my heart.

“Is that her?” Tom asked, pointing way down 98th Street where I could just make out a black dot next to a green garbage bin.

“I think so.”

Just then, another neighbor drove by the dog, and Donut started running west toward Highway 101. Please God, I prayed, let her turn on Birch and go toward my house where it’s safe. The neighbor, Shirley, stopped and rolled her window down.

“Is that my dog?’ Tom asked.

“Yes, it is.”

Shirley and I, both widows, talked for a minute about how glad we were to see a break in the weather, some blue sky instead of constant rain. “It’s depressing,” she said. “And I never get depressed.” Oh, I could tell her things about being depressed, but Tom was already walking toward where we had last seen Donut. Tom will be 80 this year, and his legs seem to miss a beat with every step. I feared this chase was too much for him. Annie and I hurried to catch up.

You see, dog owners understand each other. When a dog is in trouble, we all jump in to help. I may not be part of the Mom club, but I’m deep into the dog lovers’ club. I think Tom has children and grandchildren, one of whom may have chosen Donut’s name, but at that moment, it didn’t matter. There were no kids around. It was all about our dogs.

We caught up. Tom leaned down to pet Annie. “You’re a good dog,” he told her. I shared that she had been throwing up earlier and seemed a little sluggish, but now she seemed better. He rubbed her tawny head. “Not feeling so good, huh?” Donut and Annie are both nine years old, starting to feel the aches of old age.

We walked down Birch to where the resident dogs would have been barking if Donut were nearby. Nothing. Annie had been sniffing the trail where Donut had urinated, but she didn’t find anything on Birch.

It was getting late. Annie was limping. I had to be at church in an hour to lead choir practice. But all I could think about was Donut. Tom was hoping Donut had come home by now. We parted at the turnoff to my street.

As we got to our house, Pat across the street was just getting out of his truck.

“Have you seen a big black dog?” I asked.

“Well, yes.” He said he had seen Donut prowling around his yard at 3 a.m., but he didn’t know where she was now. He shook his head. His own yellow Lab named Harley barked at us from inside the house.

Twenty minutes later, I was at the piano practicing when Pat pounded on my door. He and another neighbor had gone looking for Donut and found her on Highway 101 heading south. The running dog did not respond when they tried to capture her.

Oh no. I ramped up my prayers. She could get killed out there.  I called Tom’s house. No answer. I left a message, but that wasn’t enough. What if he was in his yard or still walking around with his empty leash? I drove to his house. Nobody home, garage open, car gone. Clearly he had gone to look for Donut.

Please God, please God. Should I get in my car and try to catch her? But Pat and the other neighbor had already tried. Donut didn’t know me. I could cause a wreck or cause her to run into traffic. Tom was already out there somewhere. I had to get ready for church.

A half hour later, my phone rang. Tom. He and yet another neighbor named Larry had found Donut up near the airport, a half mile north of here. I was afraid to ask. “Is she okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s a wonder she didn’t get hit.”

I let out my breath. Thank you, God. I could picture their teary reunion, Tom scolding and hugging his dog at the same time. This morning, writing with Annie asleep beside me, I’m still saying thank you. I’m grateful that Donut is safe and grateful to be part of a caring neighborhood that will unite to save a dog with a stupid name and an urge to run.

Tom is no doubt working on his fence and cussing out the dog that almost broke his heart.

When you don’t have kids around, your dogs mean everything.

I told you last week I’d offer a dog story to counter the recent heavy posts about abortion and religion. I didn’t know the Donut story would happen.

I welcome your dog stories. I know dogs are not children and it’s tragic when a child disappears, but we love our dogs and consider them family. I did not bake a cake or throw a party for Annie’s birthday last week, but I did sing to her and give her lots of Milk-Bones. Her vet sent an e-card which I shared with her.

Keep the comments coming on the other posts, too. Take a minute to look back at what other readers are saying. We have a great community here, and I’m grateful for all of you.

 

Teaching My Baby Dog to Swim at Beaver Creek


I might have sounded like a crazy person at the beach yesterday. The weather was perfect. I decided to take an afternoon off and help my dog Annie learn to swim. At Ona Beach, just a little south of where I live on the Oregon Coast, Beaver Creek ends in a wide, relatively shallow finger of water that runs into the ocean. To get to the beach, you have to walk a long trail from the parking lot through the picnic area and a bit of woodland. Then you cross a small wooden bridge and finally hit sand.
I talked to Annie all the way along. I usually do. In between discussing my life with her and giving commands—No! Off! Don’t eat that! This way!—I found myself teaching her. “This is where we had that picnic. That’s Salal. Those people are from New Mexico. That’s called a velella velella (blobby creatures on the sand that looked like yellow Jell-O).
And then we got to the water. Annie’s a little nuts, so I don’t dare let her off the leash. If she swims, I swim. Annie splashed into a shallow area that isn’t deep enough for swimming and flattened herself in among the rocks. I urged her up and led her to deeper water. She got anxious and pulled me back out. Standing on the shore, I pointed out tiny fish swimming along the edge of the water. She was busy with a smell in the weeds. Eventually I lured her back into the creek and started toward the deep part.
The cool water rose up my shorts, but I didn’t care how wet I got. I was busy shouting encouragement. “Come on, girl. You can do it. Just a little more.” As her paws left the ground and she started to dog-paddle, I was screaming, “Oh, look! You’re swimming! Look at you! I knew you could do it!”
A family nearby watched us. “She’s swimming!” I called. Soon everyone within earshot was watching. Some teenagers came down close. I know it’s not that big a deal. Most dogs can swim. The human kids were having a good time in the water already. But this was Annie, and I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. Our weather is usually too cold, and I’m usually so busy I don’t get to beach nearly as much as I’d like to.
Annie clambered out, shook water and sand on everyone, and accepted some petting from her admirers. Then she led me on a long walk across the sand. I felt wonderful, young, alive, and happy. I did not miss having human children or even a husband—Fred didn’t like the beach much anyway. Too sandy.
Walking back across the bridge, I got into a conversation with a woman from Los Angeles who was hunting for agates. “I guess the dog needs her walk,” she said.
“Oh yes,” I replied. “And so does her mom.” It didn’t seem the least bit weird.
Dear friends, I’d love to have children and maybe you would, too, but life without them doesn’t have to be all grief and regrets. I would love it if you would share some of your happy childless experiences here in the comments.

Can I sleep with you, Mom?

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You know how in movies and TV shows, we see little kids climb into bed with their parents when they can’t sleep. Maybe this happens in real life, too, but how would we know, right? This morning when I got up at 5:30 to use the restroom, I heard my dog Annie shaking her tags outside the door. Darn. She was already up, despite my trying to sneak in and out. Usually I would take her outside, feed her and start my day, but it was too early, even if it is daylight in Oregon this time of year. I wanted to go back to bed. Plus I felt guilty because I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow. Annie will have a dog- and house-sitter whom she adores, but it’s not the same. So I got into bed, patted the covers and Annie flew into place beside me.
Oh, she was a happy dog, licking my face and thumping her tail. She lay her head on my shoulder, and I thought, wow, this feels good. However, there’s a good reason I don’t usually let my dog share my bed. Okay, two good reasons. One is fleas, but I thought she was flea-free right now. The other is that my dear 80-pound dog-daughter cannot lie still when she’s with me. She flaps her tail and paws at me unless I keep rubbing her belly. Sleep? Forget about it. I turned on the radio, and we listened to oldies while I pet her until 6:00. Then we got up. I fed her and turned on my computer while she went back to sleep. Last time I looked, she was in deep snooze mode. Me, I’ll be falling asleep at my desk all day.
But that’s dog-motherhood for you. It felt amazing having someone to hold–like a child but furrier. I’m sleepy, and I have a flea bite on my back and some tiny bruises on my breast where Annie got me with her nails when I stopped petting her. Now I’m afraid she’ll want to join me every morning. Bad mommy.

My birthday wish and a poem

Dear friends,
Today is my birthday. I wish I had a big family to spend it with, but I don’t. Instead, I have a wonderful friend who will join me for a walk along the beach then take me to lunch. Later I will lead the choir and play the piano at church. It looks like a sunny day here on the Oregon Coast, so I am blessed.

You know what would make me really happy? If lots of people would buy my books, not only Childless by Marriage, but also Shoes Full of Sand, Stories Grandma Never Told, Azorean Dreams, and Freelancing for Newspapers. These are my offspring.You can get them all at Amazon.com or at my online bookstore.

Finally, I’m going to share a poem with you. I have been working on various forms of poetry. This one is called a Triolet. It’s eight lines in which you repeat the first line in the fourth and seventh line and the second line in the last line. The first, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh lines rhyme and the second sixth and eighth lines rhyme. It’s like doing a puzzle with no clues. So here’s one attempt:

Dog Mom
The dog is running in her sleep,
whimpering as she dreams here in my lap,
climbing a mountain rough and steep.
The dog is running in her sleep.
Chased by lions? Herding sheep?
I stroke her soft fur as she naps.
The dog is running in her sleep,
whimpering as she dreams here in my lap.

You are a great gift to me, not only on my birthday, but every day.  Have a wonderful weekend. Your questions and comments are always welcome.

Dogs too much for me?

I know this is not about babies; it’s about dogs. Again. If I had children who turned big and wild right as I was becoming a single parent, I don’t know how I would handle them. They might end up in foster care. Then again, I wouldn’t be in my 50s, so I might have the energy to parent them properly. Perhaps if I had had children, I wouldn’t have felt so driven to raise puppies. Anyway, that ship has sailed.

With my husband in a care home and his doctor confirming yesterday that he needs to stay there, I’m on my own. I’m grieving and trying to adjust to big changes in my life. I know I’m not thinking straight, but for the first time, I’m wondering if I should find another home for Annie and Chico. The dogs were in the kennel last night and this morning, and it was so peaceful.

When I went to pick them up, I was asked not to bring Chico back. He’s too aggressive toward other dogs. I don’t see him that way, but he and Annie are very rough with each other, clacking their teeth, throwing each other around, banging into the door, the furniture, my knees. I need to acknowledge their half pit bull-cousin ancestry. They love me and would never hurt me on purpose, but I can’t handle them both at the same time. Chico can pull me right off my feet. I wish I’d had these thoughts before I approved a $2,000 fence and the posts were cemented in. I love my dogs. They’re only a year old, and they will calm down, I hope, but maybe they’re too much for me.

Of course I didn’t expect them to get so big, and I didn’t expect to be alone at this point.

Even as I pet these big dogs and hug them to me for comfort, they exhaust me. I wonder if I should give them away. I don’t want to separate them. They’re siblings who have always been together. Maybe the new fence, going up tomorrow, will make life manageable. But are they worth the effort now that my life has changed so dramatically? My father says I should get rid of them. He may be right.

Then again, he doesn’t like my stepchildren either.

Uh oh, dogs again

I know I said I wouldn’t mention the dog who came and went again, so I won’t, but my husband and I just adopted two puppies. They won’t actually move in until Sunday, but we’re excited and scared. Just like parents of humans, I suppose. At this stage in life, I can live without a human baby, but I’ve just gotta have a dog to love and take care of. I’m a dog mom. How many of you feel the same way? Show of hands? That’s what I thought.

We bought a boy and a girl, one black, one tan. They’re a terrier-Lab mix and should be smaller than that other dog, and at 7 weeks they’re already better trained than she was. I’ll post pictures as soon as I can. Oh God, I’m a doting mommy already, and we haven’t even named them yet.

Let’s see, we need puppy food, a car carrier, toys, treats, collars and leashes, trips to the vet, training classes, oh my. What have we done? We’re pregnant with puppies.

Calling Supernanny

If you’re following this blog, you know we adopted a new dog, Halle, last week. Well, she’s beautiful, gigantic and out of control. Yesterday, I was about to take her back to the shelter, but first I called a local dog trainer for emergency help.
Within minutes, she had the dog sitting peacefully at our feet.

I could almost hear the British tones of TV’s Supernanny Jo Frost as she told me that I have to be the Mama Dog. Who’s in charge here, she asked. The dog. You can’t let her run your life. You have to let her know you’re the parent.

She showed my husband and me how to put Halle in the crate and then walk away, ignoring her no matter how much she barked or whined. Is this not the same as the Supernanny putting the kids on Timeout? Of course it is.

I don’t know if it’s going to work out in the long run with Halle. We hadn’t planned on adopting a dog that needed so much training. Those parents on Supernanny have to reorganize their whole lives to work out their problems with their children. They can’t give the kids back, so they have to do something. That part is different with dogs; we can take her back.

The Supernanny seems to work miracles. However, I strongly believe that at least half of all those families we see on TV waving happily as Jo drives away in her PT Cruiser revert to chaos within a week. Just as the dog and I were battling till midnight last night, despite everything the Super Dog Trainer had taught us. This morning we’re not speaking to each other.

I don’t think there’s that much difference between being a dog mom and the mother of a human child–except that the human child eventually grows up and moves away. Also, the human child rarely eats your remote control.