I’ve been writing my first blog, “Patti’s Grace Notes” for 21/2 yrs and it has changed quite a lot from the early days. My intent was just to write – not great literature in any stretch of the imagination, but just exercise something I love to do. I just went with it knowing that it would evolve along the way. Little did I know then that it would become a form of expression; a way to vent my grief after the death of my husband in August of 2010.
It’s been a rough road, as one could expect, but with the support of my three adult children (two girls and a boy) a wonderful daughter-in-love, other family and amazing friends I’ve come a long way in the past year. The January before losing my husband (who I refer to as Apu, our children’s name for him) I embarked on a challenge to walk every day for an entire year. I was 6 months into my “365 Walks” (which I did complete) when our world changed forever. “365 Walks” became “Widow Walks” as I made it through my year of ‘firsts’ and then “Walking Solo” as I travel this most recent path of my life.
My last couple of posts on my other blog were mostly about very happy moments with Scout. She is with me nearly all of the time and it seems natural to write about her. I used to dread waking up each morning to face another day. Now, as Scout wakes, it is her usual ritual to s-t-r-e-t-c-h slowly while making an almost human screech to accompany it. She then slinks up from the foot of the bed and starts licking every inch of my face trying to wake me. I almost can’t breathe and before I know it I’m laughing so hard….not a bad way to begin a day.
I’m not abandoning my other blog, but I think this is a better forum to wax poetic about my pooch where those with similar interests can appreciate it. This will be a place to share my adventures with Scout – the good (mostly, I hope) and the challenges too. Sorry for any repetition for my faithful followers, but for the record – this is how it all began.
Mikey - Absolute bliss~
While our youngest was away at college she insisted on adopting my mother’s 2 yr/old Chihuahua, Mikey, after my mom died, 10 yrs ago. Three years later she left for the Royal Veterinary College in London leaving Mikey’s with us. Her father wasn’t thrilled since we already had a Chocolate Lab who’d been our son’s before he left to study in Europe and a German Shepherd we got to keep Rufus, the Lab, company. If you’ve been keeping score that’s…two BIG dogs and one 4 pounder. I guess I should include our African Grey parrot that my mother believed we needed for variety – as if the two cats weren’t enough….oh yeah, I forgot to mention them….
Sophie and her favorite toy
Fast forward to December 2009. We had already sadly lost one cat to the coyotes and the 2nd one succumbed to cancer. They had been childhood pets of our daughters who had relinquished them along with other sentimental items when they left home. Sweet Sophie – my husband’s girl – died much too young from congenital complications that often plague German Shepherds. It was just before Christmas and the bell tolled in an unsettling way as I observed my big slavic husband grieve for her. Apu had complications of rheumatic heart disease since I’d known him and had grown progressively more chronically ill in the past few years. By the end of the following summer we’d lost him as well.
I so love Rufus and Mikey for their devotion during that first lonely year. We walked many miles together and they provided me with more than company on my treks. They were my unconditional companions and I shed many tears while hugging their necks…which was a little challenging with Mikey. By now my daughter had graduated and survived her internship year in equine medicine. She was settling in Sacramento to begin her next adventure and she wanted her dogs. I say dog(s) because she was always close to Rufus and was equipped with her new skills to care for him in his advancing years. I also think she was going through some adjusting of her own and needed them as I had the year before. She planned to fly home, pick up the dogs and together we’d drive back to California. That’s when it hit me: I was going to be dogless in Seattle!
I woke up on the morning of what would have been my 38th wedding anniversary feeling awful. We were three days away from our road trip and I was already missing the pups. How was I ever going to return to an empty house? My daughter said she’d already made a list of all the shelters in town and was ready to roll. I pessimistically informed her that there was no way we were going to find the kind of dog that I could relate to. “There’s only going be the elderly and pit bull mixes”, I complained. Admitting that they need love too, I explained that I wanted a younger dog that I could raise, be bigger than my lap but small enough to accompany me everywhere. An impossible order. She seemed unfazed as we headed out for the search.
First we went to P.A.W.S and it was as I had predicted. I felt heart-sick and wanted to take them all home with me. I just wasn’t in the emotional shape to tackle this. Summer drizzle in Seattle isn’t anything remarkable, but it was absolutely all I needed to cap my mood. Next stop – the Seattle Animal Shelter.
I listlessly sauntered in – I knew my way; I been there before. You can hear the barking from the lobby and as soon as you walk through the main door to the kennels the smell of despair hits you. I’d like to think there is a little hope mixed in but I think I was too self-absorbed to catch it. The cells (that’s how they seem) run straight down the cement corridor and branch out at the end. To my right I saw more of what I expected and just then my daughter said, “Mom, that’s Apu’s music.” I stopped to listen not having realized that there even was music wafting throughout the facility. How strange. The last thing I would have expected…and then I heard it – Gnossienne No. 1 by Eric Satie. It had been one of my husband’s favorite pieces; a pianist performed it at his memorial. That’s when I turned and there she was.
She was lying in the back with her head down and one eye on me. There were two other terrier-types in the same pen, but she was different. She stayed back while they were jumping and yapping for attention plus she had these HUGE ears. I called to my daughter and she instantly reached up and snatched the card from the clip on the door that identified her by the pink collar that she wore. I could hardly speak – I couldn’t believe my eyes. “I want her”, I said. “Mom, the card says her owner is deceased and she isn’t available for adoption”. Owner is deceased, I thought. If Apu’s music gave me the chills then this provided, in his accented words, the “goose-flesh”. “Please go out and ask, while I guard her”, I pleaded. It felt like an eternity as I waited and each time a person came up and showed interest in her I told them she was already mine.
My daughter returned and explained that the puppy’s owner had died and the shelter had to hold her for three days to see if any ‘next-of-kin’ claimed her. I was allowed to put my name down as “first choice” if no one called to claim her. Arrrrghhh, I was so impatient - she was mine – I could feel it! It was so hard to leave her there that day, but for the first time my spirits lifted. Finding her and witnessing a family, looking for their lost pooch, scream for joy when they found him in one of the pens, gave me the first whiff of hope since we’d arrived. It would be a very long three days.
I didn’t trust the system at the shelter. They were great and the work they do must be very difficult, but much of the staff are volunteers who rotate quite often and I just imagined all kinds of mistakes – they even admitted that mix-ups occasionally happen. I went there every day to see her, to coax her to come to me at the door, to break all the petting rules, fall in love a little harder, and test the system. I’d walk up to any new worker and say, “what can you tell me about case #200046?” and they’d say….”just a sec….oh it seems that someone named Patti has first choice on her when she’s available”. ”Good answer“, I breathed. I wasn’t taking any chances. I just prayed that no one would call for her.
We postponed our trip from early Sunday morning until noon when I could officially adopt her. After closing time on Saturday evening I got a call from one of the employees with the great news that “it appeared no one was calling about her so I could count on coming in to claim her the next day.” We were waiting at the door, but there were conditions, of course – Lord, you’d think I was adopting a child. She had to have a behavior screening, get clipped and chipped….probably dipped and of course there was going to be the “snipping” part that would require her to stay until I could come back from California. I know it was all for the best, but it just seemed unbearable. I have to say that I made a record-breaking trip down to California and back and I’ve made a few. It was perfect timing. Three days almost to the hour from legally adopting her, she was on my lap and we were on our way home.
I named her Scout after a scrappy character in one of my favorite books, “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I felt a happiness that I hadn’t felt in a long while. My vet believed that she wasn’t older than six months since she still had all her teeth and the week after I brought her home she began losing them, so it seems accurate. That makes her just a year old now and since I don’t know the day I chose January 20th, my mother’s birthday.
I feel she was an anniversary gift to me – that some how Apu and Scout’s previous owner worked out a deal of sorts and the Satie piece was my signal. You may think it’s nuts and that’s ok, I’m good with that. I’m just saying that a person of faith has to remain open and when you do the messages and gifts pour forth. I believe that with all my heart. I respect everyone’s perspective – that’s just mine.
Rags to riches~
So, that’s our beginning. We found each other at just the right moment and she fills each day with joy, abounding energy, and so much love. I knew raising a puppy would be hard work, but I’d forgotten the difficult part - how much patience it takes, the importance of routine, rules, tolerance, constant cleaning up, attention, consistency, sleep-loss, worry, etc…almost like a new baby. She keeps me moving, takes my mind of my own troubles, gives me cuddles and lots of licks. We walk daily and go to the dog-beach often. She’s a people and puppy magnet. During the recent snow we were usually outside playing and taking brisk walks. I proudly tell everyone we meet that I rescued her – but the truth is….Scout is rescuing me.