Recently, at the Hall, part three

This guy had a birthday. Since it fell on transport day, we had cupcakes there so some of RPM’s amazing volunteers and staff could celebrate with him. And because he’s the compassionate person he is, he asked for only one thing for his birthday: donations to Rescued Pets Movement’s Crowdrise campaign to raise funds to restructure and reopen the Jack C. Alexander clinic after much needed repairs and modifications. If you’re so inclined, you can still show your love for Timothy J. Lambert and the movement to get Houston’s million homeless dogs and cats off the streets, out of the city pound, and into homes in other states where they’re desperately wanted. You can click here to donate or learn more.

Recently, at the Hall, part two


The last two of our foster dogs I shared here were Shannon and Richie. They were adopted immediately upon their arrival in Colorado, and their rescue then asked for their brother Aiden. We picked him up from BARC and fostered him until he traveled, and he is about the sweetest boy ever, with excellent manners, and was a great playmate to all the Houndstooth hounds, falling on the scale somewhere between Shannon’s shyness and Richie’s more boisterous nature. Like his siblings, Aiden was adopted as soon as he arrived in Colorado.


Our next foster was Noah. He’s a little bigger than the dogs we usually bring home, and he is AMAZING. I think this may be the first time all of us fell hard for a dog. He proved himself so trustworthy as a houseguest that we didn’t even crate him at night, letting him have the run of the Hall, though he didn’t object to a crate at all. He loved our dogs, Debby’s dogs, and Tim’s dogs. It was challenging not to be a foster failure and beg to keep him. However, without RPM’s Colorado (and Wisconsin, Toronto, and Minnesota) partners, over 14,000 of Houston’s homeless dogs and cats would be dead. Their rescuers work hard to find them homes, and we agree to let them go to them. Like the others, Noah was adopted quickly upon his arrival in Denver.


I decided maybe we should stop fostering dogs I wished we could keep. Since I’m not really a scruffy or foofie dog person, I thought a Pomeranian mix might be a safer bet: small enough for our dogs to enjoy but not the kind of dog I’m usually drawn to. Ha, Universe! Enter Mitzi. If there exists a perfect dog, Mitzi is it. She is probably the best-behaved, best-natured, easiest dog we’ve fostered since Betsy way back in 2014 at The Compound. She loved every dog and every person, had immaculate manners, barked only twice the entire time she was with us–once because she was excited at mealtime and once to get some petting–and it was just as hard to say goodbye to her as to any of the fantastic dogs we’ve fostered. Pom lovers are nodding their heads knowingly, I’m sure.

And then came Churro. He fit in perfectly with our pack. You can’t see the dark stripe down his back in this photo, but it makes him as cute as can be, along with those ears. You probably do notice his cherry eyes–the red in the inside corners. These are prolapsed third eyelids, and his Colorado rescue will get the easy surgery to fix them. Churro left this past transport day, and I think he may be the one Anime and Delta miss most. He was a lot like a bratty brother, always poking at them and making them play, and they loved him. He kept me laughing the entire time he was here–a wiggling, happy boy who could also curl up with Tom and be the perfect lapdog. Even Lynne’s dog Paco didn’t mind having Churro next to him, and Paco pretty much dislikes any dog who gets on the recliner with Tom.

As hard as it is to say goodbye to the funny, loving, frisky dogs in our care, we know they’re going to great homes. And it makes Houndstooth Hall available to the next one who needs a soft place to land before traveling to a forever family. As with any rescue dog, we get so much more from them than we can ever give. Happy lives, sweet foster kids. You all deserve the loving, lucky families who adopt you.

This is our last dance

Because I haven’t had enough to do while I’ve been sick (is there a font called “sarcasm?”), I decided to foster a sweet little girl dog. It was supposed to be for only a few days until she traveled. But as things have a way of going awry, we realized after we picked her up that she wasn’t simply trying to recover from her spay surgery, something was wrong. She wasn’t thriving, and on the second day we had her, I learned she also had a brother in RPM’s program. Long story short, after getting her good medical treatment from RPM’s clinic and reuniting the siblings, we ended up with two fosters who’ll be with us until mid-April.

This is Shannon.

And this is her brother Richie.

They are six months old and both now in great health and full of mischief. I have to keep a close watch on them, because there is no predicting what trouble they’ll get up to next. For example, I have a small wooden child’s chair with a woven seat that became a tasty, tasty toy. While I was sweeping that up, I realized Anime was on the couch chewing on something. I assumed it was a piece of the same little chair, but no. She’d taken a magazine off the bottom shelf of a table and was eating it. This is the other problem with having two bad toddlers–they lead our teenagers Anime and Delta into misadventures. I keep finding things they’ve pulled from various shelves to hide in dog beds and other places.

Tom’s first question about the magazine Anime was eating was who was on the cover. Chris Martin.

I get crap at Houndstooth Hall for liking Coldplay; apparently cheeky little Anime is on their side.

Mostly I was glad it wasn’t this magazine, because I’d been planning for a while to use it for a photograph and some musing during this insane political year.

There are maybe a handful of songs in our lives that we can remember exactly where we were and who we were with the first time we heard them. “Under Pressure” is one of those songs for me. I lived in Tuscaloosa, two doors down from a friend who’s still my friend, in a big but characterless apartment with a guy who–on the rare times I think of him–I’m so grateful is not still in my life. He and I were listening to the radio one night when I heard this song for the first time. I liked Queen, and I liked David Bowie; the pairing on this song was a little bit of magic. I had almost no money then, but I went down the hill the next day to Albertson’s grocery store, where you could still buy a 45 record, and brought this one home with me. I have no turntable now, but I’m sure it’s full of lots of snap, crackle, and pop from being overplayed.

Freddie Mercury and David Bowie: two amazing artists, lost 25 years apart, and what a legacy they left with all they created, including this song. Since that long-ago day, “Under Pressure” has been covered, sampled, part of movie and television soundtracks, and used to sell products. To me, it still has the same purity as the first time I heard it. I’m still affected by the lines, Love’s such an old fashioned word, and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night, and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves, this is our last dance…this is ourselves…under pressure.

Despite the terror of knowing what this world is about, may I always give love…give love…give love…give love…”

Sometimes it’s so much easier to love dogs than people, but I try.

Dog Tales

I worried about how Guinness would be after Margot died in November. After all, they’d been together since January of 2001, the best sisters in the world. They’d been great playmates and settled into their senior years with a little less playtime but always happy to sleep side by side and generally never more than a few feet apart in any room.

As Guinness aged, and as she began experiencing health issues, some of her habits changed. She stopped having separation anxiety. She stopped being happy inside a crate. She seemed to want more distance between her and other dogs. Although her pain is managed with medications, she isn’t as likely to sleep close to anyone–human or canine–nor does she seek touch in the form of cuddling or petting.

Margot was still willing to sleep aside another dog, including our fosters, and though she wouldn’t play with her new sister after we adopted Anime, she also didn’t mind if Anime curled up next to her.

Guinness watched the day Margot died on the green dog bed. She walked with us to the door as the vet and vet assistant left with her big sister. Later, she lay next to that bed.

They say dogs don’t cry from emotion or grief, but I watched Guinness stare at that bed, her head bowed, for a long time. Finally I lifted her face, and her eyes were wet. So I don’t know if “they” are right. I was really worried about her, but I think in this case, having a touch of dementia worked in her favor. Within a couple of days, she was just the same old Guinness. No decrease in appetite, no evidence that she was looking for Margot. She did scrutinize each new foster dog who came into the house, as if thinking, No, not Margot. Then she ignored them pretty much the way she has for the last couple of years.

Anime, on the other hand, is a great ambassador for our foster dogs. She can be a little reserved, so if they want space in their new environment, she doesn’t push herself on them. But if they want to make immediate friends, or when they decide they are ready to play and snuggle, she’s the perfect companion. I think she, more than Guinness, really noticed Margot’s absence and missed their naps.

I felt bad that she kept making foster friends for a few days or a week, then they’d be gone. When she would try to lie down close to Guinness, it would surprise Guinness awake and she’d move away. She doesn’t dislike Anime–I don’t think Guinness has ever disliked any dog (unlike Margot, who definitely had strong opinions about dogs who just would not do). I think because Guinness can’t hear or see as well as she once did, she startles easily.

I was working one day, and I came across this kennel card in an email. This was not a dog RPM was tagging at that moment, but I knew if they found rescue for her, they’d pull her from BARC as adoptable even though low heartworm positive. The name on the kennel card was Heather, and my first thoughts were, I always love a dachshund mix and Heather is not the right name for her. Then I closed the email and went to the next one.

Except…I couldn’t forget her. I see literally hundreds of kennel cards or dog photos a day as I’m working on records. I note the ones who appeal to me, the ones who I know will be adopted in a heartbeat, the ones who look like they’ve had a tough time and will be so grateful for a new home. When I’m considering dogs to foster, I think about whether they might be a good fit for Anime or if they have any physical illnesses that might compromise the health of a senior dog like Guinness, whether they’re of a size that might provide a challenge with Tim’s dogs–all kinds of things.

Since I wasn’t looking for a foster at that particular time, I couldn’t understand why my mind kept going back to Heather. I went and looked at the email again a few times. Then, not having even talked to Tom, I emailed our rescue coordinator. I told her if it was okay, I wanted to pull this dog, but I didn’t want RPM to look for rescue yet. I was thinking of fostering to adopt, and I didn’t want to take a chance that another group might pull her. I wanted to bring her home and see how she did with Anime. I made arrangements to pick her up the next day after her spay. Then I realized I needed to tell Tom; fortunately, he had no objections.

Debby went with me to BARC to get Heather. She was still pretty out of it from the anesthesia. On the drive home though heavy traffic, she loved it when Debby sang to her and would lie still in her arms and stare at her with wonder, then would turn to gaze at me like, Who are you? Where are you taking me? Once home, she went right into a crate and slept. Now and again, she’d open her eyes and warily look at Guinness, Anime, or me. That night Tom fed her about half of a normal meal, and she pulled the bowl inside the crate and tried to hide it. The next day, and the next, she continued to spend her time in the crate. Her appetite improved, though she’d pick up her food bowl and take it into the crate if it was set across the room. She still had no interest in getting or receiving affection from us, and a couple of times she growled at Anime if Anime ventured too near the crate. I was beginning to wonder if I’d made a big mistake, and I was relieved when RPM’s president told me that it would be no problem finding rescue for Heather if our family wasn’t a good fit for her.

Heather. It still didn’t sound right, and she didn’t seem right. I thought I knew what was wrong, so Debby and I took her to the clinic to be checked out, and sure enough, she had an upper respiratory infection. She received antibiotics, and less than two days later, her turnaround began. She emerged from the safe crate, begging for petting, loving to snuggle, ready to explore the house and the yard. I sent this picture of her to Jim, saying we were thinking of adopting her and hadn’t found the right name. “Delta,” he texted back. And truly, what else, with those jet-wing ears, could she be named?

We watched this progression happen.

As she gets even more comfortable, Delta is starting to push her limits so she can learn boundaries. We’ve begun the “slow” treatment for her heartworms. She’s officially ours, with a new collar picked out by Tom and her tag that matches her sister’s tag. Sometimes Delta’s “wings” even perk up.

Most of all, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship. They play together, sunbathe together, sleep together, and create a little mayhem together. They team up against Tim’s Pollock (still a big puppy at 60 pounds, he LOVES this).

All is right with Guinness’s world, too. She wanders the yard with her two sisters, eats next to them, watches as they run around, and sleeps soundly with them a few feet away. As a rescued dog herself, if she could talk, I know she’d say, “Thank you BARC, for saving them. I’m glad we met them because of RPM. And everyone should ADOPT, NOT SHOP, because rescue dogs are great friends and little sisters!”

Merry Christmas!

However you celebrate, whatever you celebrate, even if you don’t celebrate, I celebrate you. I know that not everyone is happy at this time of year. We’re stressed, we’re facing challenges, we miss people who are far away or who we’ve lost. I’m glad you’re here, and I wish all good things for you. You may not know it, but every day there’s someone whose life you affect in a good way.

Above is LAST YEAR’s photo, our last Christmas at The Compound. Behind us is a mural on the wooden garage doors that Lindsey generously painted using Where the Wild Things Are as her inspiration. I worried the new owner might replace the doors or paint over it, but he considers it part of the charm of the property.

I usually don’t post our holiday photo until it’s been sent to our friends and family in our Christmas cards. I was still mailing our 2014 cards at EASTER–in fact, I never finished mailing them!–so I never published the photo.

This year, I’ve barely begun mailing cards, but I’ve learned from my mistake. You can see below how our family has grown at Houndstooth Hall, with Debby, Harley, and Stewie in Fairy Cottage. Tim lives in Fox Den with Pixie, Penny, and Pollock. Though Margot is no longer with us, Tom and I made sure she was with her sisters Guinness and Anime for one more family photo (thank you, Lynne!). And thank you all for continuing to read my scant entries here or on Facebook. I look forward to the good things the new year will bring for us all!

A Fragile Circle


Sunday I baked the little clay print that was pressed from Margot’s paw. I know I’ll paint it eventually. Yesterday, Tom picked up her ashes, and the card that came with them from Little Friends Pet Memorial had these words from “The Once Again Prince,” by Irving Townsend, from Separate Lifetimes:

We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breeched. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan…

Because it’s World AIDS Day, I can’t help but think of the other fragile circles that were formed among those of us who were friends and caregivers of those with HIV and lost to AIDS. Though society may place different values on who we love, our hearts know no such boundaries. We only love. When we lose who we love, our grief likewise knows no boundaries. We only mourn.

I have infinite happy memories of my friends Steve, Jeff, John, Tim, and Pete, but I still miss them, and I’d rather they be here, healthy and alive. Each of them would have loved Margot and mourned her loss with me. But they and my father were early teachers of a truth: I’d rather hurt inside the fragile circle than live outside it and never know what it is to love.

Today, Giving Tuesday, Tom and I contributed to my fundraising campaign for Rescued Pets Movement in our friends’ memory. I’m going to send out a mass email–one of my least favorite things to do–to encourage others to contribute, as well. When my friends were sick and dying against a backdrop of national indifference, I saw again and again what an impact even the smallest act from one compassionate person could have. I also saw the strength my friends drew from their companion animals, who offered love without judgment.

To support an organization that has saved the lives of over ten thousand dogs and cats in two years, giving those animals a chance to be inside the fragile circle with their adopters–I know my lost friends would support a movement that brings more healing and love to our world.

The campaign continues until January 7, 2016 at 1:59:59pm ET , but if RPM raises the most between 12am ET and 11:59:59pm ET today, December 1, they’ll get a $25,000 donation to their cause. You can donate any amount at all to my fundraiser, and if you wish, you can even say in whose memory or honor you’re donating from your own fragile circle.

Thank you.