Friday, October 9, 2015

A Crisis

The police officers just left. They actually came to my home much quicker than I would have imagined, but they didn’t stay very long. I guess there is really not much they can do for me and honestly having a Fed-X package stolen out of your garage is not what one would deem a heinous crime. But maybe we could have speculated with them for a short time about the people who were out to do me (personally) wrong, or perhaps the details of a recent rash of delivery thefts, or maybe even the pros and cons of DNA evidence?

Of course I don’t mean to make light of the police force. I really just called them because I wanted the theft of my package documented; I wanted to be sure this didn’t happen to my neighbors. The two officers were very nice, and honestly, what could I expect them to do? No more than they actually did.

I tell this story to myself quite often these days. I do so to remind myself how to treat others. An emergency, a crisis, or even something as monumental as a home purchase, has to basic sides-the side in need and the side providing assistance. I’ve often wondered how emergency responders manage to face another day, but then I answer my own question as I watch a man climb inside a septic tank with a hose and a broom. Practice makes perfect-we can get used to most anything.

But along the way we have to remember that the side in need is often having one of the worst days of their lives. A litter of kittens left on your doorstep; a low appraisal on the home that finally has a buyer; a crisis for one, just another day for another. My reaction (often more than my action) will set the mood and dictate the outcome. I will remind myself of this every day.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Holding My Head Up

The door opens for a third time, and the young man walks back inside. I knew that he was having trouble leaving, saying his goodbyes, but this time he wears dark glasses. Without a word, he moves toward the dog and kneels in front of him. I can see his mouth moving, but I don’t hear a sound. The dark glasses do little to mask the emotion in the room and I turn my back to both of them and take a few steps away.

I hear the sound of the door opening and closing again, and I close my eyes. I realize that I’m holding my breath as I listen for the sound of the young man’s truck leaving the parking lot. I hear the engine roar to life and it’s clear that the young man wastes little time fleeing the shelter. He’s gone, but it’s not over. One of us still has to take the dog to Animal Control.

This sounds like the long goodbye of lovers in an airport or the soldier headed overseas, but it is not. This is a scene that unfolds daily in the world of animal rescue. The young man saying goodbye is not even the owner of the oblivious young dog sitting in the lobby of the shelter. The young man is a college student who spends a great deal of his free time with the dogs that we actually have room to take in at the shelter. This was the first time he witnessed what happens when the shelter is full.

I would love to tell you the story of a sad goodbye between this little dog and his soon to be estranged owner; I cannot. This little dog was abandoned by his owner across the street from the shelter. Two students found him standing in the middle of our busy street minutes after his owner was told there was no room for him at our facility. This owner was not looking for help; he was simply turning his problem over to someone else. There is a difference. This man will sleep well tonight; I will not.

Luckily this is not something that happens to me every day. If it did, I’m not sure I could hold my head up; I’m not sure anybody could. But what about the young man I mentioned earlier? Will he continue to come to the shelter? It’s possible that he will become very busy elsewhere. Maybe he just won’t have the free time he had last semester when his course load was lighter. Perhaps he will volunteer somewhere that offers experience in his field of study. He may go somewhere else where it’s easier to hold his head up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


In the “self-help” world we live in today, it can be confusing to know who we are and what we really want. Book stores are flooded with written advice on how to accomplish the most obscure tasks, and even my daily internet news feeds post success stories about things that I honestly have trouble qualifying as positive…much less successful. I understand that most of this is simply advice, but it often leaves me feeling like I’m the only person out there who is not obsessed with losing weight or erectile dysfunction! I want to re-grow hair, and now I can do so like a “pro”!

But as complicated as this all sounds, I truly believe that we are all searching for one basic thing. We seek to be understood. This quest is further complicated by the notion that we are all more complicated beings than our predecessors. Really? Of course; I’m the new Andrew 2.0! Throw in the fact that with one click I can find thousands that seem to agree with me and I’m now really on to something. I should write a book!

Of course there is good advice out there. We are, if anything, a more open society and few topics remain taboo. But have we traded our skills to convince and persuade others with simply lining up a posse of internet followers? This hit me hard a few months back when I ended up in (what could have been) a huge argument with my eighteen year-old daughter. It started innocently with her response to my commentary following a story on the morning news. Maybe I didn’t realize that I was looking for a “hell yeah!”, but when I didn’t get one, I got mad. How could she be so stupid?

Luckily this argument began when we were both rushed for time. We stepped away from the altercation with our typical “have a good day” and “be careful on the road”, but I feel sure that the disagreement still bothered us both. Okay, I’m sure that it still bothered me. But the longer I thought about this, the less sure I became of my resolve. I was still as sure of my views on the news story as I was a few minutes before, but my thoughts on her understanding changed completely. I realized that I had placed the burden of her understanding me on the wrong person. This was not her responsibility, it was mine. If you want to be understood, the ball is in your court.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Sometimes I wonder why I am compelled to spend so much of my free time at the shelter. Okay, I never really wonder about this; maybe I should have said that I wonder where all of my free time goes. But I do understand that look people give me when I’m standing in front of Petsense on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, holding a leashed dog, attempting to strike up a conversation with anyone who will make eye contact! I’m selling something-soap, salvation, home security systems; I am a salesman.

“If you will simply grasp the end of this rope, you will understand!” Not really; there’s none of that. But as the days run together I often forget from exactly where my motivation originates. Giving up rarely crosses my mind, but a little nudge is always welcome. Let me describe the nudge.

It’s almost dark and it has begun to rain. I would love to walk outside and stand in the deluge, but I know that by doing so it will make the smell of my clothes even more unbearable than it is now. Sweat, dog urine, roach droppings…filth. I no longer noticed the smell of the house, or the group of dogs we had just removed from the house, because I was a part of it now.

The 17 dogs we brought in were terrified. They were huddled in the corners of their cages as we described to each other (and anyone who would listen) the conditions they were removed from just minutes earlier. I think we were all still in shock, and maybe a little sore, from crawling through the filth just to be sure no one was left behind.
I hadn’t really planned on going in to much graphic detail about the living conditions that these dogs were just removed from, and I think I will stop here.

 We had reached a point where ran out of things to say to one another in the crowded little isolation room and the air grew quiet. Quiet, but for a thumping sound in one of the cages behind me; the echo created by a dog’s tail hitting the floor of a metal cage; the sound of a wagging tail. When I turned in the direction of the noise, the thumping stopped. The room was once again quiet, but the little brown dog that had made the noise was smiling; the tactic had worked; she got a bite. I walked over to her cage and opened the door. I removed her and held her to my chest. I could feel her tiny heart thumping in her chest as she tentatively licked my hand.

I’ve told this story to several people and their response is usually that this little dog we now call Princess was thanking me. I’m sure she was thankful, but that is not what I felt…and this is not what keeps bringing me back to the shelter. This little creature, this tiny little spirit, having minutes before been living in some of the worst conditions I’ve experienced, had her head held high and was looking to make a connection. She was moving on; she had hope. She gives me hope.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Season Away

After a great week of early morning dog walks, winter chose today to remind me that he wasn’t going to leave quietly. It was cold! Having to get up and on the road an hour earlier probably didn’t help either, but at least one of my dogs will never accept the notion that something as common as weather could cancel her scheduled expedition. Makes sense to me and it also makes me wonder how many people are killed every year sitting on the toilet when the tornado strikes! “Didn’t hear a thing” the survivor says as the television camera surveys his demolished home, “you know that fan is really loud, but it saved my life this time”.
I’ll stop here with the endless string of bathroom humor that flows through my head daily and talk about what I had planned. Spring is on the way! My neighbor’s Bradford Pear trees are the perfect yardstick to measure the season’s progression and they are the topic of our conversation each morning as the dogs lead us down the street. One would think that after fifty one years of watching the changing seasons the fascination would have faded, but for me it has not. A few cold January mornings may have tested my resolve, but deep down I knew it was just a matter of time before warm weather arrived, and so far, it always has.
Spring is not my true season, no, I prefer summer. The hotter the better! Trust me when I say that I’m not trying to convert you, I understand that we all have our preferred weather conditions, mine just happens to include sweat and biting insects. We all have our seasons.

I’m told that the earth spins and tilts on a predictable basis. Sometimes we are close to the fire and sometimes we are further away; we face the light during the day and we turn our back on it at night. We go through the motions with the understanding that, like it or not, the current conditions will change. If you happen to be in your season, enjoy! If you are simply enduring your present conditions, understand that change is just a season away.

Friday, May 23, 2014


A few years ago I discovered that putting my thoughts in print made me feel really good. I admit that I enjoyed sharing them with others (and fielding comments), but the purge effect I felt after doing so was amazing! Unfortunately, I also discovered that if I don’t write them down during the first few hours of the morning, my thoughts become so commingled with the day’s events that they really don’t come out as intended. Hopefully the summer will allow me a few mornings to clear my head. I can start today!

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t pat myself on the back for choosing to live in a small town. I guess the true award goes to my parents, but I have been free to leave this “mean little Mayberry” for more years that I would like to own up to this morning.  I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t complain about things like Friday’s traffic or a fifteen minute wait in the grocery store line, but deep down I know it could be worse. This town is just large enough to grant a small taste of anonymity, but it’s not too hard to make a connection when I really need to. If you ask the right questions, everybody is always somebody’s cousin that your brother’s ex-wife used to work with before Walmart moved to its third location. We’re practically related!

Learning to use these connections has been fun for me, but I recognize the all-to-familiar “why don’t you just shut up and pay the cashier” look my daughter gives me when I talk to everyone in the checkout line at Kroger. I can only imagine how nervous she was when the duty of taking her to the DMV for her driver’s license fell on the shoulders of her long-winded father! Had she not been as nervous as she was, I’m sure I would have been officially asked to “be quiet…just this once”. Fat chance!

I feel sure that everyone reading this has been to the DMV (now the DDS). Even in this little town, the wait can be long and the employees are…serious? A tough crowd, even for Milledgeville! But anyone who truly knows me can guess how it ended. Credit Taylor with knowing how to drive well enough to get her license, but before we could get out of the building, she got a hug and congratulations from the instructor, a written diagram of what she needed to work on, complimentary key chain, and a visit from the clerk that took our initial information! Okay, this clerk came back mainly to pick on me, but the experience was one that we both will not forget.

It seems as though I have made this all about me, and while that is one of my favorite topics, that was not my true intention. I learned a long time ago that I come with a long list of faults and a longer list of limitations. But luckily I also learned that while I can’t be everything, I can at least be friendly and nice. The treatment we received that day made a difference in our lives, and I like to think that the treatment we gave them made a difference in theirs!

Monday, March 24, 2014

An Accident Waiting To Happen

I’ve always considered turkey hunting a fairly safe sport. I understand that safe is a relative term, but at least the woods are not filled with fellow hunters carrying rifles that could accidentally kill you from a distance greater than the shooter could actually see you! For the uninitiated, turkeys are hunted with a shotgun; a close range weapon. But for some unknown reason, I can often find a way to hurt myself in the safest of ventures.

March is a great time to be in the woods. The sub-zero weather has graciously passed, and usually (early on at least), there are no ticks or mosquitos. To hunt turkey, you venture deep into the woods in the pitch-black dark, find a likely place to stop, and listen to the woods creatures as they wake up. Of course you mainly listen for the sounds of one creature in particular, but it’s always exciting listening to them all. Most of the successful hunters I know already know where the turkeys are roosting, but I usually just go when I have time. I hope to either stumble on one, or get lucky and call one up! This is a trial and error sport, but I have been fortunate enough to actually fool one a time or two.

On this particular morning, after calling, changing locations (and repeating this process several times) I decided to call it a day. There were either no birds in my zip code or my rookie calling attempts had them belly laughing as they headed for the hills; either way I was headed back to my truck turkeyless.  About halfway back I came upon an open area with a big gobbler, standing squarely in the center, doing his thing! He was fanning out his tail and his ugly head was blood red, but before I could kneel down and try to make myself invisible…he saw me. Okay, he kind of saw me. Had he fully recognized me for the armed intruder that I truly was, the story would likely end here.

My heart raced as he halted is garish sexual behavior and stretched his neck for a better view. Not really sure what to do next, I pulled out my call and started making girlfriend noises. This seemed to put him somewhat at ease and he would dance for a few minutes before assuming the “you know I can fly” posture. We played this game for what seemed like forever, and I think he finally decided that any woman that could resist the display he was putting on was probably not worth having anyway. Time to run!

Luckily when he decided to run I was prepared to shoot. He was a little bit farther away than I would normally feel comfortable taking a shot, but my quick reaction put him on the ground! Remember I said put him on the ground…I didn’t say kept him on the ground! Before I could put my hands on him, he jumped up and headed for the next county. He was moving pretty good for a wounded bird, but I feel sure that it had something to do with the overdressed, fat little old guy chasing him! Hunting adrenaline is a special kind of drug, and with a borderline overdose flowing through my system, I caught him! Okay…caught up with him. As I reached down to grab him, he decided to fight back. This big guy rolled over on his back and did his best to bury the 1” spurs in my hands or face!

Before I go any further with this story I should probably tell you that this hunting story, while absolutely true, happened several years ago and has nothing to do with the picture of me with the bandage on my face. Actually, I went to the Dermatologist early Monday morning and had a skin cancer removed. I come by this affliction honestly and that is why I posted the picture of my face with the “old man” band aid plastered in the typical spot. The hunting story sounds better, and I doubt many would have enjoyed a story about my trip to the Dermatologist! But just so you know, I came away that particular day unharmed and carrying a big Tom Turkey! What were you thinking happened?