Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Back in the USA February 7, 2012

It has been way too long since I've written a blog.  I'll try to summarize what has been going on in our lives.  Here is the very short version.  The company that Joe was working for in England sold in October.  Joe stayed until December to help them get through the transition.  He talked to his American boss about his next venture.  He was given four options all in America of course. So we are back in the USA located in South Carolina.  Three of our kids live in Maryland (our original home state) and our oldest is in Oklahoma.  We hated to be away from the kids again, but this was a good opportunity and we are a far cry closer than when we were across the pond.

So a lot has been going on.  I know I never blogged about our Norwegian/Iceland trip and I still want to do that.  But I kept putting it off and that means that nothing was getting written!  I decided to go ahead and skip it for now. We are in an apartment in South Carolina for the moment but are actively looking for a house to buy.  Joe's office is located right over the border between North and South Carolina so we can live in either state.  We are thankful that it is such a good market right now.  

If you read my blog you know how I feel about dogs.  Again, being in an apartment we are not able to have a dog yet.  So I hoofed it right down to the local Humane Society.  I shouldn't say "hoofed it" because I have a car now!  One thing I learned in England, I never want to be left being a housewife without a car again!  Anyway, I am now a volunteer dog walker for the shelter.

Yesterday was my first day at walking the dogs.  There is not a lot of organization among the volunteers.  You basically go in any time after 8:30 am and pick a dog and take it out, returning to switch dogs as each get walked.  The dogs need to be walked by 11:30 for feeding time and then the adoptions hours begin at 1:00.  There are lots of good places to walk the dogs around the shelter.  There was one dog that I had my eye on Saturday during the orientation so I picked that dog first.  She has quickly become my favorite.  She is a red (redbone) Coonhound and the sweetest thing.  She was given up because she kept getting out of her fenced yard.  (I'd want out of my yard to if I were kept in a fence 24/7.)  So I started my first day with her.  Her name is Abby.

I took Abby for a good half hour walk and gave her quite a bit of attention and praise.  After I was finished with her I continued taking dogs out.  Most for fifteen to 20 minutes in order to get them all in.  I noticed that all of the dogs were very thirsty.  They all stopped at this big puddle in the street and drank and drank.  I had noticed their water bowls were empty in their cages, so I don't know if they don't give them water overnight to curb the kennel messes or what.  I felt bad for them though.  There were a total of 7 dog walkers there that day.  I have not been on an exercise program so I was already getting tired when I came upon Connor in his kennel.  I asked the guy who works there if anyone had taken him and he said "no" so I got him leashed up.  He looks to be part beagle with the long ears but about twice as thick as a beagle.  Also his hair was longer too.  I really don't know what he was.  As soon as we got outside he was peeing all over the outer wall of the building.  I soon found out that he was READY TO GO as he began pulling me along, stopping to sniff and pee along the way.  He was SO STRONG.  I had been fostering pit bulls (aggressive ones too) and this dog was pulling harder than they did!  I would get him under control and then he'd catch a whiff of something and jerk me along.  It was awful.  I happened to pass another volunteer who has been there a while and she asked me if I was supposed to take him out because he is heart worm positive.  I told her that Ted had told me to so she said that it must have been alright.  As I continued the walk that Connor was leading me on, I wondered if he hadn't been walked in a while because of the heart worm and if that might be the reason he was so crazy.  I hoped that my arms would still be in their sockets when I finished the walk.

As I had done with the other dogs I stopped occasionally to pet him and stroke him and tell him what a lovely boy he is.  They all seem to be starved for that kind of attention.  The #1 rule there is to keep your end of the leash wrapped around your wrist.  Which I did.  But I had relaxed my hand a bit as I was pampering him and he bolted!  The leash came right off my wrist and off he went.  I was completely taken off guard and immediately stood up and looked around for help.  Not a soul in sight.  I was in an abandoned parking lot with wide open space all around.  I could still see Connor but no way could I catch him.  I refused to go back to the shelter and admit to losing a dog ON MY FIRST DAY without giving it all I had to catch him.  I knew of course that I couldn't catch him so I'd have to find some other way to catch up with him.  I figured my saving grace was that he would stop and sniff and mark territory every few seconds.  This he did, but his jaunts in between sniffs were pretty swift and even though he was dragging a leash, I was losing the race.  We carried on like this through the parking lot, him sniffing, peeing and me keeping up a good pace towards him. When he got out of sight I'd try to step it up a bit (I didn't want him to see me coming after him, he would have thought it was a great game), and I'm not white lightening either so I wasn't getting very far.  

By now Connor has gone through the parking lot and was digging up the newly laid mulch around a pretty bush.  The next thing I know he ran around the corner of a building out of sight.  My panic was really setting in, not knowing if I should go back to the shelter (which would have made me lose all track of where he was) or continue on.  My embarrassment at losing him made me stay in the race.  I hurried up and saw him heading down a nice paved walking path.  I casually called after him (as if I didn't care if he came or not) but it did absolutely no good.  I was starting to imagine all kinds of scenarios about how this would end.  The volunteer coordinator had told us during orientation that if a dog gets away from you when you are getting him out of the kennel scream "dog loose" and they would all come running.  That was if they got loose INSIDE the shelter.  I had visions of all the employees and volunteers running the streets in their aprons chasing the dog that I let out.  NO, that was not happening.

Suddenly Connor headed down a flight of steps and as I looked over a wall I saw the steps led to lake!  OH NO, if he went in that lake that would just be the worst!  He was at the bottom of the steps when I got to the top marking his territory for the 100th time as I came running down the steps.  Suddenly he dashed right for the water.  I was so panicked as I went after him and was eternally grateful to see him standing up to his belly getting a huge drink of water.  I had to slide down the bank on my butt, and only then was able to step on the leash that was floating in the water.  I scrambled down and grabbed it!  Success!  I have never been so relieved.  He, of course, acted like nothing happened, drank his fill and proceeded to drag me back to the shelter (with a little delay by me to allow his legs and my foot to dry).  As I put him back in his cage I saw a sign on the door that said, "do not walk".  Uh oh, I was sure the guy told me to, but maybe he meant another dog??  Connor sure got his money's worth out of that mistake. 

What happened next is anticlimactic after that.  I was so exhausted but just as I was looking around and thinking that all the dogs had been walked I saw this little Puggle (cross between a beagle and a pug) puppy in a cage going absolutely ape in there, jumping up and down and twirling around trying to get my attention.  He looked to be about 4-5 months old.  One of the workers said he hadn't been walked so I gamely agreed to take him out.  How much can a puppy pull after all?  As I walked out the door with him he ran around and around my legs and had me all tangled up.  The worker opened the door and said, "don't let him trip you, he'll run around your legs".  I muttered a thanks and un-entangled myself.  This puppy was so crazy that I thought it would be a great idea to take him into the fenced enclosure (a yard where the dogs can play without their leashes on) and let him get some of that pent up energy out.  So in we went, off came the leash and around and around he ran.  I was standing there feeling very smart about my decision to do this until I decided it was time to carry on with the walk.  Do you think that little rascal would let me get near him to put the leash back on?  NO!  I hadn't even thought about that.  I tried calling, coaxing, the excited calling that you do when you want them to think you just found their favorite toy, demanding, everything.  As soon as I'd get close he'd scamper off in another direction.  It didn't help that one side of the fence was lined with the windows to the cattery in the shelter.  I was just imagining all the workers watching the new volunteer chase the little puppy around in circles. Finally another volunteer came out with another dog and I asked her to bring the dog up to the fence to draw the puppy to it.  It still took some time to catch him but I made a final lunge and got him.  

Wow!  Two lessons learned in one day.  Lesson 1:  Never let the leash go slack or let your guard down when holding a dog.  And Lesson 2:  Never underestimate the little brain in a little puppy, they are going to be smarter than you and faster than you every time!

When I got home my legs hurt and I was so tired.  I had walked dogs over two hours and I was beat!  Joe thought it was very funny that the dogs took that much out of me and asked me if I was going back.  To which I said, "of course".  It's all volunteer work and it's not easy all the time, but it sure is satisfying to see their faces light up when they realize you're coming to their cage to get them out.

Today was less eventful, however I did learn another lesson.  When I got there I was waiting for the manager to hand me the sign in sheet (she was on the phone).  They have a few cats around that just roam around the shelter loose.  On their own they stay out of the large dog area and don't try to go outside either.  While I stood there one was at my feet meowing and rubbing up against my leg.  I bent down to pet it several times but that didn't seem to satisfy it as it kept meowing.  So I reached down and picked it up and got bit and scratched for my effort!  Lesson 3:  Never pick up a cat unless you know it won't attack!  Jeez, why do I have to learn everything the hard way?  I had another good day with the doggies and stayed clear of Connor!  

I'm sure there will be many more adventures to come, and I look forward to all of them!