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Rescue Stories 2011

My thanks to Sue Storms, who always does a wonderful job keeping us informed of Westies that have come available for adoption. Here are several great stories of dogs finding their forever homes!—Sid

A number of Westies were adopted this past year by members of our Little White Terriers group. I have asked their new families to write their ‘love story’ to share with us. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?
Give your Westie an extra hug while you read these happy-ending stories.
Miss Paisley (formerly Trouble) by Sue Storms
“Trouble” entered my life in January when I was alerted of a 14-year old Westie in an east-suburban shelter. Her original owner had died and she was given to a family member who kept her for a month before taking her to the shelter because “we just can’t handle her”. Trouble then went into foster care with John and Steph Wisecarver. After a week and 2

Miss Paisley

adoption announcements to the Little White Terriers group, no interest was shown. Older dogs really pull at my heartstrings and I wanted to bring her home with me but my Homeowners’ Association rules allow only 1 permanent dog. I put my best writing skills to work and contacted each board member asking for a special dispensation for this old gal. Unanimously, they said “yes” and on January 14, 2011, “Miss Paisley Aberdeen” (who was no “Trouble” at all) moved in with Quinn, HobieCat and me.
It was quickly evident this gal had been well loved; she told me the human bed was where she wanted to sleep, the front seat of the car is where she requested she ride, her meals dare not be late, and a human lap (anybody’s lap) is where she preferred to sit. And with her deep, loud barks, she made sure her demands were heard! That deep bark was the only un-lady-like characteristic of this “Grande Dame”. Quinn instantly accepted her, HobieCat adored her and I was totally smitten – we loved having her in our lives!
She quickly became well-known and well-loved in my condo community. Her stroller rides brought lots of smiles as she held her head high and sniffed everything around her as we ventured through our complex. Our Westie friends also liked meeting her and she was happy to allow anybody to hold her if they wished. She also enjoyed going to Doggy Day Care every Wednesday and took it upon herself to keep an eye on all that was going on around her – she even learned how to use the doggy door! A huge honor was bestowed upon her when she reined as Queen of the Wayzata Westie Walkers in the James J Hill Days parade; a position very fitting for this lovely old girl.
I always hoped her former family was looking down upon her, watching her enjoy life, recognizing that it was possible for her to go on and still have fun after they died. Sadly,
her time too, had come to an end. After a short illness, she left us on November 8th. I thanked her for allowing me to spend these last precious months with her; I was honored to be her mom even if it was only for a short time.
I was surprised and comforted to hear my neighbors talk about her, taking a piece of ownership of her. I heard comments like “We were lucky to have her with us” and “We all loved her so much”. She was greatly loved by so many, many people that she met in the last 10 months of her long life. I think all her new friends eased her transition from her loving family.
I hope her story is a reminder to all that older dogs can still enjoy life and bring joy to many people despite their age or the fact that their family has left them. I’m convinced that Paisley is now reunited with her family, making her demands, once again enjoying the love she so rightly deserves. And I’m convinced that she is being “No Trouble at all.”
Vinnie by Julie Gibbons
It was a crowded room. I walked in, mingled a bit, and then I saw him. Our eyes met, well mine did at least, he was resting his head on his foster dad’s shoulders, and it was love at first sight. Well for me anyway. Even though he looked like a cross between a wombat and a kangaroo. But looks aren’t everything. I will make him love me I thought. I asked what his

Tony and Vinnie

story was. He was 8 months old and kept in a cage the first six months of his life at a puppy mill. I didn’t need another dog. Husband just retired early. Check. Daughter just graduated college and found a good job. Check. Our other Westie son was about to turn eight and he was a calm and well mannered little guy. Check. But I reached for the phone and called hubby. ‘Can I get another one?’ I asked. ‘Another what?’ he said. He said okay. He knows me very well. We brought him home from Crossroads and named him Vinnie. Vincent when he’s naughty. We now had Tony and Vinnie, the boys from Brooklyn, the only Italian names in the household. Tony hated Vinnie for the first few months. But now they rip through the house after each other. Vinnie thinks every wastebasket is a toy box for him. He chewed my brand new shoes I bought for a wedding. He walks around the bathtub and nudges everything he can into the water. Then he jumps in. His teeth are worn down on one side… I believe it’s from gnawing on his cage out of boredom in the puppy mill. He can’t be in the Westie Walk yet because I don’t have experience walking in Macy’s parade as a balloon handler. But this little guy has won our hearts and is so happy every single day. Our little Vinnie, er… Vincent, is very much a challenge but we absolutely adore him.

Atticus by Mike & Lyn Berglund
Our little Westie passed away about a year ago and my wife and I talked about getting another Westie, but we wanted to adopt or rescue this time. Your email this past February regarding Atticus, a 10 year old male whose elderly owner was put into a nursing home,

Atticus

made us think that this “big” little guy who is mostly deaf might be the one for us. My son and I left very early one Saturday morning in February to make the 5 hour drive to Bemidji to see if he would be a good pet for us. Upon meeting him at the kennel in Bemidji, he just warmed up to us, was all attitude, and very playful for a dog of any age and we thought we have to take him.
He has been a great addition to our family and blended right in. He is affectionate, attentive, has high energy in spurts, well behaved, and has a “nose” that makes up for his lack of hearing. What a joy he has been.

Caesar by Mary Kay Pewowaruk

This past September, our 16-year old Westie Guthrie, passed away. This was especially hard for me as he had been with me since he was just 7 weeks old. Right about the time of Guthrie’s death, an email came out from the Little White Terriers about several dogs who were rescued by Secondhand Hounds and needed homes. At the time, I could hardly even look at the email and so deleted it. But about a month later, we heard again that Caesar was

Caesar

still available. The month we had spent without a dog in our home was very lonely and sad. My husband, who works from home, was just lost without the company of a furry friend. I wasn’t sure I was ready but I decided to inquire anyway. After a couple phone calls, I learned Caesar came from a backyard breeder in Ohio. His hair was pretty messy so when we finally met him, he was sporting a rather short haircut. But we all knew right away that Caesar would be a great companion for us and would help to fill that hole that was left in our home and in our hearts. We brought Caesar home on October 17 and he has now adjusted very well. It was a bit of a shock for us to have this 2-year old with so much energy (and the need to chew everything). We learned a few lessons the hard way: Caesar tore the frosted film off one of our French doors, he tore a hole in our car’s leather seat, and he ripped the bedskirt on my daughter’s bed. But we only blamed ourselves for these mishaps and fortunately, they are minor and can be fixed. Caesar is such a sweet, loving dog. He really likes to be held, is always ready to go for a walk or a car ride, likes to sleep with our 10-year old daughter, and is so fun to watch when he plays with his stuffed animals and chew toys. Caesar has captured our hearts and we are so thankful he is a part of our family! Thank you to Secondhand Hounds for bringing Caesar to Minnesota and thank you to Crossroads Animal Shelter, the Wisecarvers, and foster parent Greg Palmer for helping us in the adoption process.
Patty McPatty by Dori & Roger Schlins
Our June 21st, 2011 Adoption of Patty McPatty:
After the loss of 17 year old Weaver, the most magnificent Westie in the universe, we spent seven months grieving and trying to figure out how to choose the right Westie to bring into our home again. We never doubted that we would have another Westie; we just wondered where to find another puppy.

Patty McPatty and Dori

When we transitioned to the idea of adopting an adult rescue Westie, we suddenly had several immediate choices. Ultimately, the Crossroads Shelter in Buffalo was the wonderful source of our next Westie. Bless the Wisecarvers for their work with rescue and matching up potential owners.
This is the thing: Roger and I had owned 5 other dogs but all different breeds – we thought all Westies would be like our first in temperament and attitude, since we had never had two dogs of the same breed. Weaver was wonderful, but we had no idea that even among Westies there is a wide spectrum of personalities. Our Patty McPatty has been a revelation: she is extremely affectionate with humans/hates other dogs, never barks at all unless she sees another dog outside or catches a glimpse of a squirrel, never begs, loves to play with squeaky toys/balls, and passionately hunts mice or other critters in the yard.
Weaver was very even tempered and got along with all dogs; he accepted affection from us but did not lick our faces; he was a very noisy dog, barked at everything, but did not care to chase a ball. We loved his enthusiasm and quiet dignity. Now we have an angel in a dog suit. Patty lets us know every day how grateful she is to have landed in our house. We are working on the anti-social canine behavior, however. I do want to have her participate in walkabouts and the Sept parade.
All in all, the right pairing of rescue Westie and adoptive home is key but so incredibly worth it. Thanks to those who found Patty for us – we will be eternally grateful!
Roger and Dori Schlins
Rosie (formerly Sugar) by Vanessa Rico
I lost one of my Westies unexpectedly in August. Sad as I was, Allie, my other Westie, was

Rosie

also grieving. Things were just too quiet around our home. In late September, I learned of some Westies available for adoption through Second Hand Hounds. Rosie was one of a group that came here from an Ohio breeder and she was fostered with the Wisecarvers through Crossroads Animal Shelter. I decided it was time for an addition to the household, so I filled out the application and got a call to go out to Crossroads and see her. Apparently there were many applications for the dogs! I was not sure what to expect when I arrived at Crossroads and I didn’t want to get too excited. When I got there, the Wisecarvers brought me to meet the dogs who were very excited by all of the attention. Rosie (her name was Sugar originally) caught my eye right away. I believe I did not pick Rosie – she picked me. She followed me around the kennel and just seemed to know I was the “one”. She wasn’t much to look at to begin with. She was pretty skinny and was shaved. From what I was told, she was used for breeding purposes and she had had at least one litter. She was a friendly little dog, though, not afraid or shy so I don’t believe she was abused in any way. So, she came home with me that day and promptly settled in on my couch next to Allie! She has turned out to be a great dog! She’s quick to learn, happy, has a good disposition and is a good protector of my property from varmints such as squirrels and rabbits. She and Allie are good friends and get along great! This is another furry-tailed, happy ending! Vanessa
Bently by Mary & Gary Johnson
We adopted Bently, a Westie mix, about a month ago from Crossroads Animal Shelter in Buffalo, Mn. We are now wintering in east Texas – my wife and I, Bently, his older brother Scooter, a miniature Schnauzer, and Popcorn, a yellow tabby. The dogs go on daily walks along the Toledo Bend Reservoir with Mary and the local dog pack – a total of 7 or 8 dogs each day. Bently loves walking in the water, even with his short legs, and enjoys carrying the little treasures he finds each day. Has fit into the family really well and is a joy to have.
Glad I receive your emails – especially the one that alerted us to Bently.
Merry Christmas,
Mary and Gary Johnson
We hope you have enjoyed reading these happy-ending stories!
“Adopting a dog will not change the whole world, but it will change the whole world for that one dog.”

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OK, I just have to rant here, my popularity amongst strangers in cyberspace be damned.

I was out walking my four Westies yesterday along a path adjacent to the Mississippi River, and we encountered three adults and a 2–3-year-old girl. I could see from the “I’m ready to pounce” body language of the kid that she was, well, ready to pounce on my dogs. With Blanche, a.k.a. Miss Congeniality, or Ambrose, our Mr. Mellow Playfulness, that might not be a problem. And face it, these dogs ARE phenomenally cute (see the following photo), so I understand the attraction. However, having learned from painful experience that Keely does NOT like kids and barks at them angrily if they move fast past her, and that Oliver even bites ME if I try to grab or pick him up, I knew this could be a recipe for disaster. 

Ambrose, Keely, Oliver and Blanche

I was pulling my pack away from the pouncing child and trying to explain the folly of this situation to the adults, who all wore vapid, “Isn’t my kid cute as she lunges at this stranger’s unfamiliar dogs” looks. I told them, trying not to overtly blame the actual offending party—the kid, “These dogs are all rescues, so sometimes they have issues about being grabbed.” Still they stared, though a little bemused by my supposed ruination of their kid’s fun. I went on to say, “I’m sorry, but even though it might be safe with this one (Blanche), this other one has even bitten me when he’s startled.” My face registered the expression that said, “I’m protecting YOUR kid, guys! I’m doing YOUR job here!” Again, these idiots said nothing and did nothing to either protect or correct or plain old teach their kid a thing about asking permission first before approaching someone’s dogs and, even then, approaching them slowly and calmly—never pouncing.

Now don’t get me wrong, my dogs are not “dangerous animals.” In fact, they’re amazingly well-behaved on walks—people comment all the time about this—and they’re all awesome when reasonable adults (and even sometimes kids) approach them to pet them. Even Oliver is much less likely to get aggressive while on a leash and out on a walk like this. But we must always remember and respect the fact that they ARE animals, first and foremost. They can be instinctively territorial or self-protective, and that can be expressed by growling or snapping. Thus far, this hasn’t happened with my dogs while in public—in fact, being the alpha bitch, I’M the one who’s most likely to growl and snap at annoying people out of the lot of us—but I for one don’t feel like risking a law suit over a dog bite when it’s clearly the fault of the stupid adults who couldn’t be made to heed my polite warnings and pull their child aside and let us pass. Besides, it’s not my job to teach their child proper behavior, as I had my hands full trying to keep both my pets and her out of harm’s way.

The little troupe of supposed grown-ups looked befuddled by what I’d said and stared at me now as if I’d popped the child’s balloon or thrown her half-eaten lollipop down the sewer drain! (She didn’t actually have either of these things. I’m just saying…) I extricated myself, shaking my head in exasperation, and continued our walk.

A short while later, I passed a group of teen-aged boys goofing around on a foot bridge and had the one with dozens of piercings and metal doohickies protruding from his face—which may be neither here nor there as far as his mental capacities, but it was pretty gross to look at just the same—check out my furry pack and tell me, in case I’d been previously unaware, “You have four dogs.” All I could say was an affirmative, “Um-hum” and keep on walking. Who says our school systems are failing? This teen successfully counted my dogs and articulated that in a complete, albeit simple, sentence.

I thought I heard the faint strains of “Dueling Banjos”* in the background and wondered, too, if there wasn’t something in the water around here.—Sid

*”Dueling Banjos” was a song played in the movie “Deliverance” by an inbred hillbilly, rendered otherwise mentally deficient as a result of the too-small gene pool that spawned him.

Maggie Mae and her son, Angus, are still waiting for their forever family to adopt them.

Maggie Mae is 5 years old, recently spayed, up to date on her vaccinations, completely housebroken and sweet as pie! Her unique look of “one ear up, one ear down” is endearing and she is ready to show you how much love she has to share. Her hair is starting to grow out (she had to be shaved when she came into rescue) and she likes to stand and play patty-cake. She’s a petite little girl, not a big barker, but loves to play with other dogs. Could she be your little girl??? Her adoption fee is $250.

Angus is now 9 weeks old and full of himself – a typical Westie puppy! He’s diligently working on the housebreaking thing and it’s coming along nicely. He will need to be neutered when he is older and of course, will need vaccinations. His adoption fee is $280 with $80 refunded upon proof of neuter. Is this bouncing baby Westie-boy for you?

If you are interested in adopting one of these wonderful Westies, contact John or Steph Wisecarver at 320-963-6085 for more information.

Maggie Mae

Angus

This weekend, we did a highly impractical thing: We drove nearly 600 miles, round-trip, to watch our new movie, “Attack of the Moon Zombies,” in its natural element, the drive-in movie theater! We had to go from our home in Minneapolis, MN, to Jefferson, WI (just outside Madison), to get to the Hi-way 18 Outdoor Theater. Along with us on this adventure were our four Westies, Blanche, Keely, Ambrose, and Oliver. They truly had the right to be there, too, because all four dogs were associate producers of the movie!

Why would we do such a thing, you ask. Chris Mihm had continually teased us during filming about our heads being 90-feet-tall on the drive-in screen so I had to see for myself.

The pooches were angels the whole ride there and during the meet-and-greet before the movies started, and they drew in a lot of dog lovers as they sat alongside director Christopher R. Mihm and his “Zombie” stepson Michael Kaiser, pictured below.

Naturally, we brought our own camera then proceeded to forget to get any pictures of our own adventures. Grrrr. Ah well, one must live in the moment.

“Attack of the Moon Zombies” was the third in a triple feature following “Pirates of the Carribbean on Stranger Tides” and “Tron Legacy.” (Both only so-so movies in my opinion, despite their big-budgets, big-name-actors, and special effects-ladenness.) I was asked to make announcements over the P.A. system to remind people to drop by the snack bar to buy Mihmorabilia and DVDs of all his movies. I had to announce, following the almost totally CGI-based “Tron,” “And now for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT…” because of the absolutely low-tech, ’50s creature-feature quality of our movie. The fact that it started at nearly 2 a.m. didn’t help keep the crowds there, but a few diehards remained nevertheless (and all those LOVED the movie, by the way!). And a good number of people thought ahead and bought their own DVDs to watch at home after a good night’s sleep.

We’d been planning on staying the night in a camper trailer in Stephanie Mihm’s (Dr. Rutherford in the movie and Chris’s wife in real life) mother’s driveway, because she lives only about 45 minutes from the drive-in, but throughout the night we discovered that might not be a good idea. Keely and Oliver had begun spazzing over every new noise and every person who walked past the car. They almost never do that when in the car during the day, unless another dog or a squirrel passes by. Plus, I think Keely spotted some kind of night-rodent action near the car and stayed on high alert for hours. It was exhausting keeping them quiet. We finally learned the only way to shut up Oliver was to bribe him with popcorn.

Oliver, Blanche, Keely and Ambrose, associate producers and barkie dogs at the drive-in

Given this ongoing naughtiness of theirs, I knew we’d get no sleep in the trailer and the dogs would likely just disturb those trying to sleep in the house, so at nearly 4 a.m., we drove back the five hours to the Twin Cities. We took turns, so we’d each have had at least a small nap to sustain us.

One cool thing was that by the time we were leaving, ours was the only car left in the whole drive-in and a heavy fog had drifted in. I felt like we were in the midst of the mist from an old Universal Studios monster movie. More than a little cool-creepy. But driving home was treacherous to say the least. I’d counted more than a dozen dead deer along the freeway on the way there, and I was really worried one would dart out in the heavy fog so I’d stand zero chance of avoiding a collision. Luckily, we made it out unscathed, but two days later, my bio rhythms are still out of whack. I’m too old for operating on this little sleep!

But the experience was nevertheless infinitely worthwhile. The Hi-way 18 Outdoor Theater is a wonderfully maintained piece of Americana. For $8, you get to see three movies, they have great burgers and popcorn at the snack bar (and probably other stuff is yummy, too, but this was what I personally sampled), their staff was friendly and personable, AND they have WORKING SPEAKERS for you to hang on your car window!! Old school drive-in action at its best! Before the shows started, these speakers were playing awesome oldies music to put you in that nostalgic, 1950s mood. Part of a dying breed, this drive-in is a treasure and worth a trip if you’re ever in the Madison/Jefferson, WI, area in the summer.

You can emulate this experience at home by fashioning a screen from, say, a bed frame with a white sheet stretched across it, and projecting your own collection of Christopher R. Mihm DVDs onto it. Watching these lovingly made cheese-fests is best under the stars!

“Attack of the Moon Zombies” is available for just $10 at <www.sainteuphoria.com>. And, if you live in the Twin Cities and missed the May 25 premiere, you can catch it on Thursday, July 14, at 7 p.m. at the recently renovated New Hope Cinema Grill. A mere $15 will get you in to see the greatest B-movie of our time, PLUS an all-you-can-eat salad bar/pizza/soda buffet! (Alcohol is also available for the grown-ups.) Bring the whole family! Advance tickets are available. Purchase yours NOW because there are only 150 seats available and the premiere sold out at the Heights Theater, with 400 seats.

Height Theater premiere lineup

How many of you saw “Toy Story 3”? Among you, how many of you cried at the end? If you said yes to both of my questions, you have my permission to keep reading. If you didn’t, you may want to continue surfing the Web because I’m going to be talking about my grieving process over giving up a stuffed Kodiak-like bear named Basil.—Sid

Basil

Basil is a BIG bear, well over three feet tall when sitting and four feet wide. I can’t fully get my arms around him even at his narrowest point below the shoulders. He has been a member of my family and moved with me six times over the past nearly quarter century. I bought him in 1988 as a birthday present for my first husband who collected bears. (When we split in 2001, he kept the Robert Bateman limited edition print of a grizzly, and I kept Basil.)

Several years after I “adopted” him from The Wooden Bird Factory store (specialists in wildlife art and collectibles) for about $300, my “nephew” Schatze the schnauzer chewed a hole in Basil’s foot. It wasn’t repairable, hence, you see an Ace bandage wrapped around it.

On Halloween and Christmas, Basil wore costumes (once, he wore a fedora and slung a raincoat over his shoulder and bore an astonishing resemblance to Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain”) and oversaw parties and celebrations from his corner perch. He and his entourage of other stuffed toys such as the stuffed dog I’d given my mother while she lay in hospice, dying of lung cancer, finally wound up in our bedroom corner after my current/second/final husband’s and my last move. I saw him every day of my life for almost 25 years, frequently pausing to pet him.

I really, REALLY love that bear.

But my hubby bought a much-needed art deco armoire (Victorian houses such as ours are notorious for having too little closet space) that could only fit in Basil’s corner of our bedroom, where he’d been sitting atop our Westie Ambrose’s crate. I couldn’t place him on the ground or risk our latest adopted Westie Oliver’s chewing on or marking him. That left me with two choices: leave him forever stuck on top of a plant stand in my husband’s office or give him to a new home.

After much deliberation and MANY tears, I decided to bring Basil over to my “Attack of the Moon Zombies” director Christopher R. Mihm’s house. He has four young children, and I recalled how my great-nephew Grayson had loved to climb on Basil when he was a toddler. I asked Chris’s wife Stephanie to guarantee me two things: 1) someone in the house would call him Basil; and 2) if he got destroyed in the kids’ playing with him, they wouldn’t let me know. I went into this realizing it was a good possibility Basil would be “loved to death” in his new home, but I just couldn’t bear, pardon the pun, to watch that. Either way, he’d probably prefer, like the Velveteen Rabbit, to be loved to pieces rather than molder on a plant stand or, worse, wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in the rafters of my garage. Images of him “suffocating” made me wail with despair.

Heck, I’m still crying as I write this. How pathetic am I? I know Basil is an inanimate object and the only “feelings” he has are ones I project onto him through my anthropomorphic tendencies. But I feel just like the college-bound kid in “Toy Story 3” as I say goodbye to my dear, stuffed pal.

Add to this the fact that there were likely lingering tidbits of wistful feelings from when my first marriage was truly happy attached to Basil, too, which require still other layers of letting go. And, at this same time, I also had to donate 16 grocery bags full of my clothes that had become too big for me, including many all-time favorite outfits I couldn’t hang onto for fear that to do so would mean subconsciously planning on gaining back the weight I’d worked so hard to lose just so I could wear them again. This was a major week for feng shui-ing my life. I know it was necessary on many levels, but I can’t say I only feel good about it all.

Getting back to Basil, I know for a fact that this is probably exactly what millions of people have had to face recently in having to relinquish their pets to new homes because of the economic downturn, foreclosures, etc. You can know you’re doing what’s in that pet’s/stuffed bear’s best interests, but it is still the loss of a loved one, the death of a relationship. It hurts like hell. You wonder if you’re doing the right thing. There’s a ton of guilt. (In the case of my grieving a stuffed bear, there’s a fair amount of embarrassment, too. You think pet loss is a disenfranchised form of grief? Try getting sympathy for stuffed-kodiak-bear loss!) There’s a kind of missing them that can’t be mitigated by, say, an afterlife visitation that assures you they’re still around you and doing fine. There’s worry that the new owner will not love and value them as much as you did. What if, for instance, that whole household of kids totally ignores Basil because he’s not a video game and they think stuffed bears are passe? (I don’t pretend to understand what’s appealing to this new generation of kids.)

It’s been several days since I made the decision to give away Basil and delivered him to his new home. I’m clearly not past the grief yet. I know that with any new experience of grief come remnants of all other past grief feelings that bubble up along with the new ones. You never say goodbye to just that one person/place/pet/thing. You say goodbye again to everyone and everything you’ve lost. Goodbye, Basil. Goodbye again, first husband (the version of you I loved with my whole heart). Goodbye again, youth and innocence (and all the beloved toys I’d sold at a garage sale to buy a new bike when I was 17). Goodbye again, Mom…Dad…everyone I’ve lost. Goodbye again, previous beloved homes and parties and holidays therein. Goodbye again, Schatze, the sweet, chewing schnauzer…and my Westies Tuppence and Ludwig who knew you…

And so on…

Gee, I guess I had the right to feel kind of low about all this. Who knew one stuffed bear was connected to so many heart-strings?

Dearest Basil, I hope you know I gave you up with love and the hope that you’d now bask in the attention of a household of playful kids and not feel neglected. Forgive me if that’s not what eventually happens. It’s no longer in my control. I thank you for being my steadfast friend and housemate for nearly half my life. I will miss you and remember you always.

You were the best bear EVER!

Love,

Sid

********

Update, Christopher Mihm just let me know that Basil is, indeed, in good hands. His 3-year-old daughter, Alice, just threw her arms around Basil’s neck and said, “I love you, bear.” Sigh.

Through the months of March and April, The Photographer’s Guild in St. Paul, Minn.,  will give you a FREE pet portrait session and one FREE 8×10 print (reg. $98) when you make a tax-deductible $40 donation to Pet Haven, a wonderful local animal rescue organization, through which we adopted one of our beloved cats, Xander, and our Westie, Keely.

(I also donate $2 from every copy of my book, “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss,” sold through this website to support Pet Haven and four other local no-kill shelters.)

Check out the Photographer’s Guild website for more info or call them at 651-646-3239. They do an absolutely FABULOUS JOB on these photos. I’ve brought in my entire pack and gotten their pics taken several years running, always for the one low price of $40. But, to be honest, you’ll probably feel the need to purchase a few more of these adorable shots from the Guild directly—unless you have superhuman powers of sales resistance when you see all the choices featuring your furry (or feathered) friends’ beautiful visage!

You still need proof? Check out my Westies, Ambrose, Keely and Blanche (this was before Oliver joined us) in their ad!!!

Below is our free 8X10 from their March 2010 photo shoot.

Memorialize ’em while you can!—Sid

Blanche, Keely and Ambrose, photo by The Photographers Guild

I was discussing the importance of the human-animal bond today with my PetPAC colleague, pet photographer Patrick Nau. We noted the current expansion plans for the business Chuck & Don’s Pet Food Outlet, where Nau’s beautiful pet portraits are on display and for whom he does newsletter and advertising photography.

I wondered what might allow Chuck & Don’s to achieve success like this in the midst of the Great Recession, then I answered my own question. Studies have shown that pet-related businesses are one of the few recession-resistant ventures. Many people, myself included, will sacrifice their own comforts to provide for their animal companions. Why is this, when so many of us are losing sleep at night over our climbing levels of debt and dwindling incomes? It’s certainly not “rational.”

What I decided must be a motivating factor is the fact that our companion animals are our “anchors to sanity.” (Patrick really liked that phrase.) With them we find a relationship wherein we get out of it much more than we give, no matter how much we give. What work or interpersonal relationship can consistently boast that? Being around our animals lowers our blood pressure, reduces our stress, makes us feel unconditionally loved and accepted, gives us a sense of being necessary to another living being, etc. Is it any wonder we place such a high value on this relationship?

When the rest of our lives may appear to be spinning out of our control, we know we can still go for a walk with or play fetch with our dog, sit quietly in a rocking chair with our cat, talk to our birds, and so on. We are reminded by our animal companions of the simple pleasures, of the joy to be found in living in the moment. We may not be able just now to shell out money for expensive trips to Cancun, all the latest in techno-gadgetry, or visits to a high-priced psychiatrist to diminish our stress, but as long as we have our dearest four-legged (two-winged, etc.) friends with us, we just may not have as great a need for any of those things. —Sid

My husband, Anthony, with Blanche and Oliver

Today, I’m heading out to my sister Diane’s place to help her out after her second surgery on her wrist. She broke it last summer and had a plate and screws put in. Her carpal tunnel tendon was then squeezed by scar tissue and her hand was numb. They did a carpal tunnel release yesterday, and she’s feeling better. Yippee!

But she recently stepped up and offered to foster a young boxer named Sassy for a friend who is between houses, and therein lies a problem. She can’t let Sassy out in the backyard the same time as her two older dogs, Corky and Bruno, because the rambunctious youngster runs roughshod over them and has already hurt them unintentionally because she has 40+ pounds on them. That’s where I come in. I have to go there and give Sassy some much-needed exercise to tucker her out so she’ll be a bit more manageable for Diane. I also have to open cans of food because my one-handed sister can’t manage that either. 🙂

Only problem is I haven’t walked my own dogs for several days because of the slush-and-muck state of the sidewalks. (We’re in Minnesota and the snow is beginning to melt into puddles of yuckiness—NOT my favorite time of year. It’s gorgeous when it’s all white with new snow and when the snow is soaked up and grass begins to grow again. Between times…ugh!) My sweet little white dogs develop blackened under chassis every time the walk with me, and trust me it takes a LONG time to bathe and dry FOUR Westies. I’m feeling quite guilty for walking a complete stranger dog while my own pack goes stir crazy in our house. I may have to break down and let them get filthy anyway. I do, after all, believe in the adage: “Dirty dogs have more fun.”

Oliver, Blanche, Keely and Ambrose beg me to walk them.

Actually, a favorite T-shirt of mine from the Dog Perk reads “Dirtiness is next to dogliness.” Yep, I’ve talked myself into it despite the fact that my hubby and I spent most of last Sunday cleaning the dogs and grooming them with an electric clipper and my amateurish attempts not to create divots in their fur. They look rather pretty again, a far cry from their season’s-long ragamuffin appearance beforehand. I was so enjoying them being clean, soft and fresh-smelling, re-filthifying them is not an easy decision. But I can’t exactly explain to them that they aren’t going to be walked until mid-May! I’ll have a mutiny on my hands. All right, all right, I’m getting my walking shoes now…

Oh what a responsible dog-mom does for her babies!—Sid

Recently, my hubby and I had a couple stop by for a dance lesson through our in-home business, Two Right Feet Dance. They were both personable and funny at first, but then something changed. Our four Westies came to greet them at the door, as is their custom, and I perceived a subtle shift in the energy around the guy. He made some scoffing remarks about the dogs, supposedly in jest but not quite making it. Then he actually growled at them! (When scheduling them, I asked specifically if they had allergies or just didn’t like dogs so we could be sure and have them outside when the people arrived. I was told they were fine around dogs.)

Ambrose, Blanche and Keely pretty much ignored this, but our newest adoptee, Oliver, looked traumatized. He hung his head and looked like if he could have sunk into the floor, he would have. The guy then boasted about his effect on Oliver, “Look, he’s demoralized!”

The couple had come on a gift certificate, so their lesson was paid for already and I couldn’t boot his butt out of our house. But it made me slightly sick inside. I comforted poor Oliver and just said to the young man, “I can see you’re not much of an animal lover.”

His girlfriend said to me, “He hates my kitty, too.”

I couldn’t help thinking, “Swell. Yeah, lady, build your life with this guy! That’s a great idea.”

During the lesson, when he was just around us humans, the guy was all right if a tad bit sarcastic with his humor. But when he and his date were about to leave, again, he took on the “tone” with my dogs who were being nothing but friendly, not even jumping up on him.

I took my cues from Oliver’s response and bid him a hasty farewell. I know we did a good job on the lesson, but this is one person from whom I don’t seek repeat business.

Oliver is by far the most sensitive among our Westies, so it came as no surprise he’d pick up on the man’s animosity most intensely. It broke my heart to see him shrivel under that creepy human’s derisive remarks and growling. I really wanted to go alpha bitch on the nasty man, but, again, the business person in me had to bite my tongue, as he and his girlfriend would only be around the dogs for a couple of moments before going to our studio upstairs.

Nevertheless, I would never seek to have a friendship with someone with that kind of energy and who would be stinky enough to treat someone’s pets that way upon our first meeting. Talk about lacking social skills.

Don’t worry, Oliver. Mama won’t let that man back in to be mean to you ever again.

Oliver kisses his daddy

Cathy Menard, owner of The Urban Dog in Minneapolis and host of “Pet Connections” radio show (AM 950 KTFN, 11 a.m.-noon, Sundays) used our home for the photo shoot of two of her “Pets in the City” segment hosts, Roxie, a fashionista Yorkie, and Tulip, a King Charles spaniel who reports on community events. The photographer was Rebecca Sabot. Her assistant was Delee, a graphic designer who has worked on Cathy’s websites. I took some behind-the-scenes pictures as the day progressed. —Sid

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