Friday, October 31, 2014

Daring to Totally Love Again

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Maybe you have experienced it your heart away to a special pet so fully that when that little one leaves your life you are bereft. It has happened to me at least twice, two special little basenji girls that I thought I could never leave my heart open to that kind of pain ever again. First was Ginger who walked alongside me from the time I turned 11 until I grew up, got married and started my adult life. When Ginger left my side, I lost a piece of my heart with her passing. I bound up that bleeding place so tightly it seemed nothing could penetrate the bandages protecting the deep-set scar.
                        Ginger riding in the car.
     More pets came and went over the years, then one midnight I found myself breathing life into a struggling little newborn puppy who could not breathe on her own. The bandaging dropped away while I rooted for her to take that first breath on her own. She did and my heart skipped a beat of its own. Rosie became the salve that healed over old wounds left by the loss of Ginger and all my protections disappeared. Oh yeah, she stuck to me like glue from that day forward for 14 full years. And then one night I knew it was time for me to let her go. The vet had explained that her heart was enlarged and it made it hard for her to breathe, again...and then she was gone and now my heart broke all over again.
Two week old Rosie
     Twice burned, I knew how to guard myself from abandoning myself to the love of a pet. I knew well that their lifespans are shorter than ours. I knew well the pain I had felt after these losses. I also searched for a new dog and found Noelle needed our home within a short time after losing Rosie. This new basenji girl came to us a seasoned adult, experienced in the show ring and having produced a couple of fine litters to pass along the sweetest temperament I have ever experienced in a basenji.
     Alas, we lost Noelle just 5 years after she joined us in our home. A combination of Fanconi Syndrome and contaminated kibble suddenly swept her away with no warning and in just a few days. I was so very sick at that same time, that it was hard to have the energy to breath myself, much less properly grieve this new loss. Within days of losing our little girl I found myself in the hospital in the fight for my own life for the next year and more.
     And then came the day when Pastor Brian spoke about Ecclesiastes and the time of joy and next Kindu came into our home. When I think of the parade of wagging curly tails that have graced my life, I can only give great thanks to a Lord who created such wonderful companions to brighten our human days. My dogs help me keep my footing in a world that I find so difficult to understand at times.
Kindu relaxing at home

     So tonight I found myself sandwiched between my companions for today, Star and Kindu. Both basenjis and opposite to one another in most everything except their love of cookies. And I realized that once more I have lost my heart to these two characters. Their needs overrule my own and I would be lost without their greeting my comings and goings and keeping me company in the long hours of the days when I am in pain. I have learned that the pain of loss when their days come to an end are more than compensated by the long years I enjoy having them in my life. Oh yeah, I am smitten and once again daring to totally love again.
Sleepy Star beside me

Monday, September 22, 2014

Of Velveteen and Porcupines, Critters and Ceramic Dachshunds

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Both Gary and I have been complaining about shedding of summer coats, basenjis who really need a bath, and most mysteriously why some of our kids have coats that you just want to cuddle while others have coats that make you itch. As you might expect, our basenji-girl, named Star, is smooth as silk. This is a girl who knows all about "girly girl" things including a pristine, shining, velvety fur coat.

Our basenji-boy on the other hand is nicknamed the "porcupine." His coat is rough, feels like needles against our skin, and is just the opposite of Star's. She is also much more fastidious in tending to her coat and skin than Kindu. She spends much time washing her face, checking all is in order with her tail, and looking after Kindu to keep him neat and clean as well! Much to his chagrin...

As I walked them yesterday evening, the point was brought home to me that they are indeed sight hounds as well as scent hounds. Our sidewalks are lined with rows of shrubs, that the dogs have delighted in checking
Neighborhood cat our for a stroll
out for cats and other assorted critters. Sometimes they walk right up to the shrubs and stick their noses deep inside trying to decide if an interesting animal might be hiding within. They come home covered in leaves, trimmings and cobwebs from scouting out the bushes. Much to my chagrin...  :-(

We have walked past this front door dozens of times and sometimes been greeted by the dachshund that lives inside. What Kindu never noticed before is the ceramic twin of the inhabitant that resides on the front step. Now this statue never moves, but both dogs noses told them that there was a critter nearby. Kindu spied the ceramic dog and figured that he had found his quarry.

He bounded up that step nearly pulling the leash out of my hand, then stood there stumped. His eyes told him clearly that this was another dog. And despite the short legs, this guy really stood his ground never moving a muscle when Kindu gave him a good sniff. For a full five seconds, my basenji-boy looked confused and wondered what to do next. By this point, Star stared deeply into the bushes beside the front step. Finally I understood that they both knew an animal was nearby, but couldn't see what their noses were telling them. I hustled them down the street to keep them for charging through the hedge.
Kindu relaxing after our walk

All this reminds me that sometimes I charge in not realizing that I have been duped by an optical illusion tricking me into actions that I sometimes regret. I try to keep the dogs from getting too close to unknown critters because frequently they have no idea about the consequences a fight with a cat or possum might cause them. Scratches, bites and bruises will leave my basenjis as unhappy puppies for a few days at least. This night's walk was an object lesson to me that I need to govern my passions too and keep my eyes open for the consequences of acting too fast can cause me too.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The "Forever" Teenager

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Ecclesiastes 3:4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.

Kindu turns 7 years old this December. Funny how it seems like just yesterday when we drove up to Wrightwood to pick our new puppy from a litter available up there. Both Gary and I were downtrodden, depressed and defeated. We had endured 2 full years of assaults on my health, problems with jobs, losing 2 pets in less than 5 years. We had become sedentary since the death of Noelle a year earlier. We just needed some joy in our lives.

So when we went to church on Sunday and Pastor Brian read to us about the seasons of life, I became infected with the thought that we needed a season of joy in our lives. We had fallen into the doldrums with seemingly no way out of them. On the way home from church, I dared to open the subject with Gary. It was the right time of year, early February, just when basenji pups grew old enough to be adopted by families.

Snow lightly fell around us as we looked over the pups in the back of a small pick up truck. While I struggled with such an odd situation to choose a new pet from, Gary asked which was the pup we could afford from the owner. She selected a lively pup from the exuberant litter. Without a second glance, Gary tucked the little guy inside the pocket of his jacket. 
Kindu's first day with us

I objected that I wanted to see this 8-week old pup, but Gary pointed out that the short-haired basenjis were all shivering in the cold. Absolutely true! So I passed the cash to the much relieved owner along with our contact information for her to send his papers to us when they arrived. And before I knew it, we were headed down the 15 freeway south, our new basenji boy proudly standing in my lap, his forepaws on the dash, watching 18-wheelers driving past with no distress whatsoever. I contemplated how the owner had shared with me that this guy's litter name was "Truck." Hmmpphh, he certainly seemed to like big trucks and big noise.

He loved the new-found speed a car ride provided him. He had no intention of laying down and taking a nap, not this boy. He was totally into this new experience and lapping it all up, thirsty to embark on life away from his mom and litter mates. I chuckled as I kept his wobbly legs steady and sat amazed that he was so animated for a young pup. 

We didn't want to go home, so we drove over to my brother's house to introduce him to the family. Everybody welcomed our little ball of energy, especially our nephew, Alex. Kindu didn't know how to navigate the ceramic tile floors at first. But Alex got down on the floor with him and soon was laughing as Kindu grabbed various parts of this new, fun litter mate dragging him around the kitchen. Then he went to grab Alex by the hair. That's when we decided it was probably time to take this rambunctious basenji boy home for a nap.
Checking out the new scents at home

Kindu has enlivened our lives for the last many years. He makes us laugh almost every day. He also drives us to distraction with his demands daily as well. Last Saturday he gave me a particular scare when he bolted out the back gate when I opened it to bring the trash cans back inside. He disappeared in an instant and the temperature outdoors topped over 100 degrees. Star escaped as well, but after a short foray into a neighbor's open garage door, she returned to me when I called her. I secured her safely behind the gate, much to her dismay, ran inside, grabbed my purse and keys and headed straight for the car. I know my boy all too well.

The appeal of a car ride never left this boy, so I began driving slowly through the neighborhood looking for our wanderer. I had caught a glimpse of him tearing down the middle of Flora Lane. I prayed that he avoided the hazard of being hit by a car as he made his madcap run through our streets. The further I circled away from the house, the more worried I became that our boy was in trouble. Rounding a nearby corner, I spotted him greeting a passerby who seemed most amused with his antics.

I gave a shout of his name and opened the car door and before I knew it he jumped onto my lap and into the back seat. He took up his usual navigator spot, front paws resting on the armrest between the two front seats. I kept him carefully confined in the car until I had the garage door secured behind us. Amazingly he agreed to enter the kitchen door instead of giving me a merry chase around the garage. His first stop was the water bowl beside the back door. While I let Star in to join us, he drank the dish down to the bottom. Oh yeah, it had been very hot out there for running like a wild man through our area.

I noticed a bad limp on his left foreleg as he walked into the great room and plopped on the floor. Though he had seemed just fine when I picked him up, closer examination showed all four paws burned badly by the hot asphalt and an extremely sore shoulder. I doctored up his feet, trimmed off the torn skin, massaged his shoulder to ascertain nothing was broken. He was slower than normal for a few days. The pads on his feet healed quickly with a little antibiotic cream. But the whole experience shook me up quite a bit.

The hardest thing about loving dogs is their shorter lifespan than us. We are our dogs forever homes, but they are granted only 10-15 years with us (if a car doesn't get them). Kindu has always had lots of health challenges because of his headstrong nature and a weak digestive system. His madcap run reminded me that I am granted only so many days with this little friend of mine. And it reminded me to thank the Lord for my many blessings and the very special blessing of our Kindu boy who will always be our "Forever" Teenager.
About how tired he looked after his run in the sun!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Memories, Pictures, Finally Home

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Now that Star has lived in her "forever home" for over 2 years, she finally is gaining confidence and security in her new-found lifestyle. She greets visitors to our home with no shyness, usually encouraging the newcomer to spend some time rubbing her ears and petting her. She used to shy away and take her time deciding if someone new was safe or not. Now that behavior is limited to walks when strangers approach her too quickly.

Star keeping watch!
 After living outdoors her whole life, she now enjoys 2 beds just for her (not at the same time), along with lounging on the loveseat, jumping on the couch, and best of all snuggling with the pack on the big bed. Not that she ever wants to get under the covers. She roasts down there! Besides she must always keep her head out, ever vigilant for the opportunity to get petted. 

Gary calls her everything from "skin" to "carpet" because she clings so tightly to us that we cannot breathe. She loves being with her people and most especially with her Pop whom she adores. It is amazing to watch the transformation from a show/working/mother dog to a retired and relaxed house dog. This basenji girl now tears around the house at top speed, faster than Kindu when she turns her fastest of reverses. Leaving the basenji boy looking over his shoulder saying, "Where'd she go?"

Lately she has developed a new way to surprise her basenji brother. She rounds the back of the dining room table, but instead of following his normal path around the opposite end of the table, she takes a quick left turn underneath the first chair and pops out the other side, wagging her curly tell and virtually shouting, "Surprise!" I love when she steps up to greet me when I walk through the door, her cinnamon roll tail flipping from side to side. I can't help but smile and say hi to my little girl.

She is my role model for setting the challenges of the past behind and moving happily to embrace the moment. Gary and I often chuckle about the concept that dogs can only remember the past for 15 seconds. Tell that to Kindu every time we pass the bush that he once flushed the orange tabby cat from! Ha, my dogs have long memories when it comes to hunting or remembering where they left their bones.
Star Baby "eating up life" as a pup.

Yet Star has moved beyond those painful memories of her past, longing for more closeness, more time with her people, more living. Yep, my fur babies never fail to teach me the importance of life's lessons and how to live more fully, basenji-style!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dancing Toes, Bumps and Play Bows

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Recently a new routine has developed in our household, especially when the dinner hour approaches. After spending a day basking in the California sunshine, the basenjis decide it is time to come in and look for dinner. First a polite scratch on the back door, soon followed by more and more insistent scratching, finally if they don't get the desired response long scratches down the screen on the nearest window compelling me to run to the backdoor to save what is left of it.

Let the entertainment begin! The second the door opens, Star and Kindu tumble in racing one another to get inside and flop down on the carpet in front of the couch. Entry achieved, now it is time to pursue kibble-filled bowls after a big drink of water. If I dare tarry, Star soon bows politely to Kindu inviting him to play a game. He bounds up and rushes over to join in the fun.

To me, this game looks very little like fun. First he wraps his mouth around her neck. She bends down to grab him by any foot with her own bite. Frequently she tumbles to the floor, he tries to take advantage of his top-dog position, and she shoves him forcefully off and back, all four of her feet pushing. She jumps up off the floor, play bows again, looks over her shoulder coyly and says with a coquettish look, "I dare you to try it again!"

Kindu jumps back into action going for a different hold, Star spins in a circle and dashes off leaving him sucking air and wondering what she will do next. Sometimes the whole game explodes in fast running around the room and through the whole house if the bedroom doors are open. Up onto the bed, whip around in a circle, race back up the hallway, jump onto the couch, scramble over to the love seat, do a couple laps around the dining table, then pause for a drink side by side at the water bowl.

I begin to wonder if their dinners will do them any good considering how quickly they are working off the calories. I must admire the grace and fluidity of their movements. Star dances circles around Kindu who is very fast in his own right. Always having been a bit of a clutz, watching the furry kids show off their stuff bring smiles and laughter to my lips. And no matter how tough my day has been, my little companions remind me of the important things in life.

To them, dinners are worth dancing for, fun should be shared with those you love, and mischief keeps our all-too-human pride in check. These little friends invite me to keep life in perspective, to be thankful for the gifts God grants me, and to be take joy in every moment I am granted.