It’s raining really hard. Which- I’ve heard- happens. But normally not in California so this is new, and a little scary and probably partially responsible for me not being able to fall asleep.
Regardless of my misanthropic tendencies cited here, I really do believe in the world, and the (majority) of people in it. Which is why I spend every Tuesday and some Thursdays hanging out with homeless babies. I look forward to it all week, primarily because who doesn’t love babies? and also because my life is kind of filled with things that I dread doing. But this place is where miracles happen.
I can’t give any details because a handful of the moms who live in the shelter are abused or looking for a way to run from their addictions or crazy stalkers, or whatever. But they, trust me on this, are incredible. And all I have to do is walk in, grab my baby (I’ve fallen madly in love with a 7 month old who just started crawling), and hold him and play with him and just watch his two little teeth show when he smiles wider than I initially thought his face to be capable of. He’s insanely happy and offers me a workout chasing after him. He likes to play peek-a-boo and I like to make funny faces, so we get along quite perfectly.
This place, I’ve been to before. I’ve volunteered here a few years ago, where I met a little girl (4 yrs) named Jessalyn who was being given up for adoption. When I found out she was one of the ones being given up, I didn’t really know how to be around her. Did she know she was moving away? Was she scared? Did she feel unwanted? This little girl, however, was a bad-ass. She proudly announced to me one day that “A lot of people love me.” I didn’t dispute this. Jessa was beautiful, and tiny with long hair and goofy bangs… it would be impossible not to adore this itty-bitty person who was actually kind of bossy. So I said, “I bet they do!” And she explained to me that she had both a heart mommy and a belly mommy, and she got a heart daddy too! There was no fear in her little face, no shame, no worry about where she’d end up. The sheer fact that so many people loved her and wanted to care for her was all she needed.
Jessalyn, and this shelter are why I decided to adopt. I could be a heart mommy… I feel it in my gut that I could do that for a child, and I could make them proud like Jessa was to have a parent like me. But- time has taught me that being a belly mommy is in my future, too. The joy of announcing to my parents that I am pregnant, the feeling of a little kick, and a hugely swollen belly (that I will totally complain about) are things that I now want.
So while I watch these women with absolutely nothing left find ways to make their babies proud, I have found my own direction and my own strength. It reminds me, on days like today when I have run out of reasons to think so, that people really are good. They mean well, but sometimes get a little lost- some though, find their way back. Every Tuesday, I watch magic happen and get to play a (very small) role in it.
Even if the rain is bashing the skull of Southern California in, and the economy sucks, and people get sick, and I sort of forgot who I was this year, I’ve got hope. And should I ever get lost, I know where to go: a tiny building with a whole lot of strollers and an abundance of beauty inside. Thank you Jessalyn, the shelter, and that gorgeous little boy who spit up on my shirt a few hours ago for reminding me to believe.
Lots to write about… this weekend in its entirety and the interesting lessons stemming from these past 72 hours, the awkward run-in dinner with my ex, the dog’s near-death experience, an update on Mr. Pretty, and of course- Yahoo! just predicted the date of extinction for Wild Tigers… Needless to say, I have a lot on my mind this evening.
But because of reasons known only to God and the Wild Tigers, I choose to write about the damned dog that I can’t stand.
Charlie is my roommate, M’s dog. M, it should be mentioned, is a lackluster dog mom. She’s home for maybe 5 hours of the week at best and ignores the animal more than I do. My roommate and I pick up the slack; we walk and feed Charlie when we get home and deal with him as necessary. So when I got home on Saturday night, I grudgingly did so.
Upon getting in the door, he was jumping up on my thighs and anxiously letting me know that he needed to be walked. I sat my bags on the couch and dug for a plastic bag that didn’t have holes in the bottom and secured him to his leash. We were a few feet from returning home when he managed to shake out of the leash and realized he was free. Shit.
I knew from experience that chasing him would be hell on my feet and largely unsuccesful. I also knew from experience that he would undoubtedly be a few houses down having a feeding frenzy in the neighbor’s cat bowl. It was a few minutes before I could coax him back home and regularly reminded him for the next ten minutes how unwanted he was and how much I hated his mom for being so absent a parent.
And then he started shaking. And then, I started worrying.
After a few minutes of his weird shaking, I convinced myself he was cold. Upstairs I found a huge beach towel and wrapped him up in it on the couch- which was unnerving because this dog has ADD and doesn’t sit still for anything. The apocolypse could hit and he’d still try to eat a hole through your favorite pair of heels. A few more minutes of shaking and I knew there was a problem. I hadn’t noticed the blue marks on his face until this moment and thought that I was in for quite a night.
On a whim I called my mom (it’s what I do), who said “eh…. just wait 30 minutes and call me if it doesn’t get any better… I’m sure he’s fine.” Unfortunately, ten minutes after hanging up the phone, Charlie’s shaking got noticeably worse and his tongue was out the side of his mouth. Bundled up in the towel and on my lap, I knew the dog wasn’t cold. I knew this was much, much worse than I was prepared to deal with.
And then his limbs stuck out like somebody had pulled some sort of cord that I couldn’t see and his eyes rolled back violently in his tiny head. Holy shit, I thought, I killed him. Kneeling down on the couch next to him, I did what I saw on Grey’s Anatomy: make sure he was able to drain the fluid from his mouth so he didn’t choke, in case he did live. Dating protocol I couldn’t manage, but learning how to cope with seizures (even in canines), I apparently had acquired.
While holding Charlie’s head off the side of the couch and coaxing him to stay alive, I saw my phone lighting up. Tears were streaming steadily down my cheeks while I explained to my mom that Charlie was dead, or near dead anyway. After figuring out the next steps, she agreed to contact M at work and explain what was going on, and hung up the phone leaving me with an almost dead, very rigid and frothing at the mouth dog. M called shortly after to say she would leave work as fast as she could and meet me at the following animal hospital… it was on me to find a way to get him there.
As soon as I rolled Charlie onto the floor he started seizing again. Even though I was certain there was no way he would live through yet another episode, his tiny heart was still beating when I placed my hand on his rib cage. Funnily enough, as much as I was present for all this, I was having incredibly significant conversations with myself on some other level. Of course I was physically consumed by keeping him alive and reminding him he just needed to “hold on.” But on some other level, it occured to me that I have never seen anything die. Yes, I had attended a funeral or four in my life. Those were hard enough… but I had never witnessed anything passing on, and I sure as hell wasn’t prepared for it then. Something switched on in that instance. I decided I wasn’t going to watch Charlie die, even if I couldn’t stand him and his mom owed me money for three months of bills.
I was running out of options at this point and knew I couldn’t carry him alone without triggering another seizure. It’s hard to guess how pathetic a sight I was when my neighboors answered their door, but they did. I had run accross the lawn to the only people who had seemed friendly in our apartment complex and the two co-eds came sprinting after me as I tearfully explained Charlie’s situation. One very gently helped me carry the rigid animal to my car and the other followed behind, closing doors and picking up cups and things we spilled along the way while we bulldozed our path toward the front door.
Alone again with Charlie while he panted and shook on the way to the animal hospital, I kept one hand firmly on his rib cage. As if I could keep him alive by forcing my life into his. I swerved down unfamiliar roads without lifting my fingers- half out of a need to ensure his heart was still beating and half in a way to remind him he wasn’t alone. He didn’t get to die because of me. I didn’t even like him, I sure as hell wouldn’t give him the option to blame me for his death.
And in the end, I got Charlie to the hospital in time. I ripped the door open in hopes of finding help to lift him from the car, and didn’t find it. Fine, I thought, I’ll figure this out. My keys dropped to the floor with my cell phone and I lifted a quickly fading puppy into my arms and ran back through the doors. The sense of relief I had when I was able to hand over a half-alive dog to the hands of a seemingly capable vet-tech at that instance is kind of inexplicable. I didn’t kill him. I kept him alive. He held on.
He’s just a dog, and I understand how insignificant it seems. But I had never seen anything die, let alone close to die. And struggling to keep something that I so sincerely disliked was an emotional rollercoaster for me… I knew that I had (as bad as it sounds) found a way out of the continual hassle that this dog was. But watching him struggle, and seeing his big brown eyes look at me like he had faith that I could get him through this didn’t leave me very many options. In fact, for the first time in a long time, I prayed. Through my tears and curse words and confusion, I managed a prayer to God that he just show me, guide me, make sure I didn’t do more damage to this poor puppy than he already had suffered.
And generally, I’m not a largely religious person. But, I believe miracles come in all sizes. This dog is a moron, and eats all kinds of otherwise inedible things. But, he lived through three seizures in my presence that evening and various other ills for reasons I don’t understand. Yeah, it’s just a dog… but it goes to show, sometimes life comes in dog-sized miracles.
PS. Charlie ate snail poison. I never said he was a smart dog. I’m glad he lived, and I’ll be trying to convince his mom to find a more suitable home as soon as I’m prepared to have that conversation.