Thursday, August 13, 2015

Simplifying

I'm on a mission. I've decided that the best way for me to lessen my "generalized anxiety" (a diagnosis I received a few years ago, which was kind of funny because before that I had spent a lot of time making fun of the commercials for "generalized anxiety" medication) is to remove some of the unnecessary stuff from my life. I decided to start with my email. I receive 50-100 emails a day. A day, mes amis. Up until now, I've been willing to slog through them and delete the junk every day, but the clutter has started to bother me more and more. So, I started unsubscribing from stuff left and right. For messages I actually want to receive (like Kohl's coupons, because who doesn't want those?), I set up various filters so that those emails are sent automatically to a Coupons folder. Do I need emails from the comedy club I haven't attended in nearly a decade? Probably not. Unsubscribe. It has been oddly cathartic to shrink my in-box so significantly. I didn't realize the sheer volume was causing me as much anxiety as it was.

The other change I have made is to resign (effective December 31st) from the board of directors for the Boxer Rescue for which I have volunteered for the past 15 years. That's a third of my life, so it's a long time when you think about it. I am hoping to stay on as a volunteer, limiting my involvement to fostering and working on the website (however, I am planning to train other volunteers on how to edit the website in case I get hit by a bus or something). The organization means a lot to me, so I'd like to remain involved in some way.

One minute, I feel like a weight has been lifted. The next minute, I feel a terrible sense of loss. Sometimes I feel like I might just sit down and have a good cry. Dog Rescue is my passion (and probably always will be), but I know it's time to step aside and let another (younger, more energetic, less crabby) volunteer take my place. I think I probably have the organizational skills to serve on the board but what I don't have is a thick enough skin. Ultimately, I think I just wasn't cut out for it. My dog skills are probably fine, but my people skills are . . . less fine. All of the volunteers are great and everyone has good intentions - make no mistake about that. I am sure that conflicts are to be expected (and are common in all rescues). It's just time for change.

I mentioned my resignation on Facebook the other day and was a bit taken aback by all the nice comments I received. I was also a little embarrassed, I must say. I truly do not want any recognition or accolades for the work I've done. I'm just one of many. I do hope that when I'm dead, people will remember me in a good way. I'd like to be remembered for helping lots of dogs. I sure don't think I'll be remembered for my stellar parenting skills. Ha!

I still remember many of my early foster dogs. My very first foster dog was named Daphne. She was
Me and Caesar.
such a sweet dog. Her original name was DOG. Like, Dee-oh-gee.  No lie. So, I renamed her. I remember that she was handed to me with a rope instead of a leash. The rope had duct tape wrapped around it. I remember Kenny, the sweet little white Boxer. He came out of a shelter and smelled awful. P and I drove him home with the windows down. My Lucy Annabel was still alive back in those days. She gave every new foster dog "the business" and then ruled their lives with an iron paw. I remember Kaya, the chronic runner. She continued to be a runner for the rest of her life, but her family worked hard to keep her safe. Then there was Hunter, who was a wild man. When I took him to his new home, he ran straight into the house and peed on their Christmas gifts. After that, we enacted a policy not to do adoptions so close to Christmas. I remember Jamie, who was in a shelter because her owner was in jail. The owner sent his brothers to steal Jamie from the shelter, so the shelter asked us to take her. She was adopted by a nice lady who has been one of my closest friends ever since.

Elsie was so traumatized that she would only eat Easy Cheese.
 So many wonderful dogs have passed through my front door over the past 15 years. People ask, "How can you let them go?" and yes, it can be hard. But I got into this rescue gig to create happy endings, not to keep a gazillion dogs for myself.  In 15 years, I have only adopted two: Gideon and Gretchen. While most of the endings have been happy ones, I also had to learn a lot of hard lessons along the way. I have had to euthanize aggressive dogs and terminally ill dogs. Placing dogs in new homes does get easier over time, but euthanasia does not (and probably shouldn't get any easier, when you think about the magnitude of that). I have learned a lot about deaf dogs, separation anxiety, and cancer (all of which are common in Boxers). I have learned a fair amount about canine behavior and training. I'm no expert, of course, but it's fascinating stuff.  Once you spend a lot of time with a lot of dogs, you get pretty good at reading them. The book that taught me the most was "The Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson. I feel like anyone who works with dogs should read that book. I've also spent a decent number of Saturdays in canine behavior seminars, listening to speakers like Patricia McConnell. These things are like heaven for dog nerds like me.

I also made some dumb mistakes over the years. I was bitten a couple of times. Dog bites are no fun, let me tell ya. (Just in case you actually thought they were fun, I felt like I should mention it.) I will never forget Arlo (AKA Arlo de Barlo). He was mostly a jerk (particularly with other dogs) but he liked me. He was goofy and had a good sense of humor. Here's an example of one of his quirks, though. If he could see his empty food bowl and another dog at the same time, he would attack that dog. I wasn't sure if he was adoptable, so I had him evaluated by a behaviorist. She deemed him a "yellow light" adoption. That's the tricky thing about rescue - what do do about the borderline dogs. You can't just go around euthanizing dogs because they've got some flaws. When my husband and I started the long legal process for adopting an infant, I knew Arlo needed to be moved to a new foster home. We had to deal with home inspections and social workers and all that jazz. We found a volunteer who could take him. I warned her not to take him to pet supply stores and stuff like that.  However, because Arlo was such a nice dog when it was just him and one other human, she decided that I must have been mistaken with my warnings. She took him to a pet supply store. A little girl ran up to Arlo and hugged him around the neck. He bit her. (Side note to parents: please don't allow your children to hug unfamiliar dogs). Anyway, to make a long story short, I had to have Arlo euthanized. On my birthday, no less. The parents of the little girl got tons of money from the rescue's insurance company. I still don't know what I could have done differently, but I definitely felt changed by that whole experience.

Then there were the ones that took forever to place. I had Kaiser for three years before he found his forever home. Fritz (AKA Fritty Cent) was with me for a year. There were some other long-timers, too. My friend Candi always encourages me never to lose hope that there is a home out there for every adoptable dog.

Evan, the distinguished deaf dude
I could go on and on about my rescue adventures, the friends I've made, the friends I've lost, the happy tears, the sad tears, the lessons learned, the feelings hurt, the amazing adopters (I particularly adore the ones who adopt senior dogs), the many laughs (I still chuckle when someone applies to adopt a dog and misspells their own occupation), and all the dogs who touched my heart. I find something to like about every foster dog. For the young, healthy ones, it's easy to see them off to a new home and wish them the best. It's the old ones and the sick ones that chisel little chunks out of my heart. I am still upset about Duncan and he's been gone for many months now. I truly wish that I did have a thicker skin. I feel like it would be a lot easier to get through this life if I didn't have to feel every little thing so deeply. The good things and the bad things.

So, what will I do with my extra free time? I am already pretty involved with my church but I may take on extra stuff if needed. I may foster for other organizations. I told my friend Anita that I'd foster a German Shepherd for her sometime. So, who knows! My daughter wants to get more involved in a local reptile club, so I may sign us up for that (I'm not sure if she is old enough to volunteer without me being with her).  I also want to spend as much time as I can with my Giddy Giddy Gum Drops. He is not doing well and I fear his days are numbered.

Anyway, I don't know what the future holds but I can't wait to find out. (I'm guessing there will usually be a dog in it, though.)

Giddy and Chloe

Lucy and two foster dogs

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