Saturday, December 28, 2013

At the Crossroads... and the Road Ahead

Perhaps I’m not a liar. The “I’m not going to foster for a while,” was a truth—albeit a little premature, but a truth nonetheless. And, “Tucker will be in his forever home by Christmas” absolutely happened.

It just didn’t happen as I expected it would. But then again, when does life ever transpire as you plan it?

I spent the first couple of weeks with Tucker putting the adopt-me bandana on him

and telling folks on the street how great he was. I went to adoption events and made business cards. A friend took his glamour shots

and Christy posted a courtesy ad for me on her adopt-a-pet webpage. But then something started to change…

The idea that an adoption application would come in for him made my heart race. I stopped putting the bandana on him. When I introduced him to people on the street, rather than touting his brilliance and humor, I merely stated, “This is Tucker.” Period. End of sentence.

They say that true love isn’t possessive. Well it certainly doesn’t make you want to give him away.

As I scrolled through videos and pictures of him at Thanksgiving dinner, showing him to my friends, one of them said, “You have showed me pictures of all your fosters, but I have never seen you this happy. No dog has ever made you this happy.”

It was true. Tucker made me smile and laugh every day. I looked forward to his wagging tail and greeting bow/stretch when I came home from work. My heart warmed every time I sat on the floor and he chose to put his big butt on my lap while he munched on a toy in search of a squeaker.

When I spoke to my friend in San Francisco about him she observed, “Half the time you talk about him like he’s your new boyfriend, and the other half you sound like you’re talking about your kid. So clearly he’s your dog.”

But I always said that I was meant to be dogless; my home and heart were reserved for those who had neither house nor love in their life. I was to help the homeless, and it would not be fair to my own dog for me to share my love with others. And anyway, my life isn’t structured ordinarily. It is a series of goals—each movie—from pre-production to post, created anywhere in the country. It is living in new places once or twice a year, and returning to home base for short stints of relaxation and days in the sun. Any dog I had would live a life of travel, with dog sitters and dog walkers in every city, going to the office with me if possible, and also, eventually, be my partner in rescue once I returned to it. He would help those who entered the home to feel relaxed and loved. He would not be jealous of my care for others, for he too, would care for them. He would be light and love, joy and happiness.

That’s a lot to ask of in a canine. I certainly didn’t think he existed and therefore never desired it. I accepted my role.

But then Tucker came along. I wasn’t leaving that adoption event without him. I truly believed that I was the one who had to find him his forever home (although I had no idea that home was so close.) I had chosen him. But I had to wonder, had he chosen me?

Some folks asked, “Why this one?” I could give the Jessica Rabbit answer: “He makes me laugh.” Or I could go with what all my friends saw at Thanksgiving: which I that I had never been happier.

The following week was merely my mind trying to convince my heart that it was wrong. That I shouldn’t have a dog. Even though many people in my job field have dogs and make it work. It’s not easy, but they make it work.

But what about not working overseas? What about my bucket list? During that week or two of introspection and outward discussion, a friend called to tell me that he was going to South Africa for a gig for six months. I was right then and there confronted with how I would feel if I had to turn down such a job. It was a millisecond of “Oh, man. South Africa!” And then even my mind agreed with my heart: “Really? In a this-or-that decision of working in another country for six months versus a lifetime of unconditional love, you had to think about it for a second?”

When I told someone else in the industry that I was considering adopting, but I still wanted to work out of the country, he said, “Well then adopt a dog later.”

His answer shocked me. It wasn’t about adopting any dog. It was adopting this dog--this wonderful, playful, funny, joyous, imaginative canine soul that I couldn’t bear to spend a day without.

People don’t plan when they’ll meet their human soulmate. Some don’t even plan on having children and alas, one day it happens, and you find yourself at the crossroads with a companion. Just because the timing isn’t quite right, do you leave them there? Or do accept that the road ahead is still there, but now you have someone to share it with?

The panic in my heart that someone else was going to adopt Tucker got to me. I had discussed and talked it out. I had logicked away all practical concerns. I just couldn’t logic away the love.

And so on December 3rd, a little over three weeks after meeting this dog that I thought I was meant to foster, I sent an email to the rescue. I wished to make Tucker’s forever home right here with me.

Lisa at Hanging with Friends Rescue called me. “What?! Did I read that right?” She was conflicted because she knew that Tucker was in a great home, but that it meant losing a foster for a time. Indeed, I will foster again, but I need some time to prepare my new partner in rescue for that task. Right now, it’s about him and me learning about each other, trusting each other, and getting him used to my crazy life.

I had taken him on “dates” as if testing him for the life to come. We went on a hike. He came to the office.

He met my friends.

He ran in the yard. We went for car rides.

He passed every test; his joyful spirit embraced each new challenge and stood ready for every new experience.  It was clear that I had found my travelling companion on this road of life.

I had ordered a tag with his name on it even before I had sent the email asking to adopt him. I received it in the mail the day after the adoption was official. No dog in my adult life had worn a tag with his or her name on it. The dogs who had shared my truck and my home throughout the years had worn tags that stated, “If I’m alone, I’m lost. Call my foster mom.” As I took that tag off his collar and replaced it with the one bearing his name, my eyes welled up with tears.

“You’re home. Forever.”

I kept thinking of Lady & the Tramp, when Tramp finally decided that having a collar and a license wasn’t so bad after all. Tucker didn’t know the difference on his tag or the paperwork I signed and scanned to the rescue. Nothing changed between us. But one thing clearly changed in me: I was at peace. No more did I feel my heart race that someone else would adopt him. Everything was as it should be.

Becoming a pet parent wasn’t a single moment. It was simply accepting what was from the moment I met Tucker. Tucker is my partner. He is the dog who will see me through my forties; he will travel the country with me; he will help homeless dogs by welcoming them into our home while they search for their forever family; he might even see me get married one day. Tucker is my soul-dog.

When people ask me if I will still do rescue, I reply in the affirmative. But maybe it won’t be in the capacity. I have a companion now. He’s in this game with me. I won’t foster for a time, but I will again in the future. I will immediately be more vocal about Breed Specific Legislation as now it affects my family directly. And it reinvigorates my push to find the right company/people to team up with for my television show. Travelling with Tucker, renovating shelters across America, and making a difference in the lives of animals and people: now that’s the life for us.

Tucker’s tale with me doesn’t end at the crossroads. Instead of bending down and giving him a kiss on the forehead and watching his tail wag as he saunters toward his own path, I give him a kiss on the forward, tell him I love him, stand up, and he wags his tail as he joins me at my side. He looks up at me with his big goofy grin. I smile back, and then side-by-side we continue travelling down the road ahead—together.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Love Isn't Always On Time

In the beginning of any relationship, people’s little quirks are adorable. Their snoring is cute. The way they chew with their mouth open is endearing. The way it takes them forty-five minutes to get out of the house for a five minute walk to the store is totally acceptable. Love creates a tolerance unmatched by anything else.

So I can only suspect that I love this crazy kid. Within a few minutes of being in my house, he lifted his leg on the doorway into the living room. I admonished him and he appeared genuinely apologetic. He just didn’t know. And I wasn’t the least bit angry. The next morning, he walked out of the bathroom (he likes to be by my side during most of my mundane tasks like brushing my teeth) and lifted his leg without thinking. Again, he apologized and I wasn’t upset.

Day three, when he vacated the bathroom while I blow-dried my hair (the one task he’s not up for being around for), he was out of sight for a bit longer than I suspected, and my spidy-senses started tingling. A short inspection of the house revealed that he had tagged a bookcase in my office. Luckily, he chose the bookcase with glass doors, so no literature was destroyed.

For him, where to take a shit is the most monumental decision of his life each and every time. He even changes his mind mid-squat, so I had no fear of him pooping in the house. But then, also on day three, shortly after our afternoon walk while I was outside talking to a fencing contractor for fifteen minutes, he quickly chose my bedroom bookcase in which to take a dump.

After he flooded my kitchen, I invested in a placemat for his water bowl because the ratio of water that ends up in his face versus on the floor every time he drinks is about 3:7. I also have a washcloth handy in which I wipe his face so it doesn’t act as a mobile waterfall on my hardwood floors.

Just this morning while I took a shower, he chose a cardboard box in my room to chew a hole through rather than destroy one of the many toys he’s allowed to eviscerate.

His farts are deadly. Even he leaves the room after laying a good one.

None of these things anger or annoy me. His goofy smile, his joyful spirit, his need to snuggle all make up for the things he doesn’t yet know and the things that are intrinsically him.

I initially thought I’d keep the name Bruno, since that’s what he was used to at the shelter. However, after only one evening with him, I knew it had to change. With the rescue being in Hemet, I was leading this campaign to get him adopted, and a name like Bruno for a pit bull isn’t a great start. It also simply didn’t fit him. He wasn’t a brute; he wasn’t even big (well, maybe he weighed a lot, but like a brick; he’s only up to my knee); he wasn’t mean. He wasn’t any of the things you think of when you hear or read the name Bruno.

Shakespeare posed “What’s in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell so sweet?” Well sure, it would, but if it was called a “muculent sore” I’m pretty sure people wouldn’t be excited to get one for Valentine’s Day. Words describe an entity through and through, and Bruno was an inaccurate description of this gangly, goofy pocket pit bull.

My favorite summation of him is what a friend said after watching him romp around the yard: “He’s like a ballet dancer that’s got all the moves but none of the grace.”

He falls off the couch, he bangs his head into the refrigerator, he slides across the floor into the wall, he leaps up onto the deck, he leaps off the deck and tumbles onto the ground, he chases a toy, only to miss it and get it back on the rebound. He falls into my lap to chew on a toy with his ass in the air and his front legs collapsed backward. He slides off the couch headfirst and upside down until he’s completely under the coffee table. It’s like his limbs aren’t fully attached yet and the soul inside him hasn’t yet figured out how to coordinate the earthly body it’s inhabiting.

I enlisted the social media for nomenclature suggestions, and after much deliberation and trying out words, Bruno was officially renamed Tucker. Now after only a few days of calling him Tucker, I can’t imagine him being a Bruno. He’s a Tucker: with his sweet goofy smile, his loving snuggle, his playful romp.

Now I just need to find his forever person. I’ve said that I’ve only fallen in love with a couple of the dogs I have met on their journeys. Well, Tucker goes in the record books. He’s going to break my heart when he goes. So, the sooner he gets a home, the better.

A friend of mine pointed out his physical resemblance to Tia. It honestly hadn’t entered my conscious mind, but maybe that was the initial attraction. Looking back at old photos though, I don’t see many similarities. Whatever had drawn me to him also drew Jen in and his shelter champion, so I don't think it's a personal thing.  There’s just something special about this kid. He’s got a big life ahead of him, and I need to find it for him.

It’s crossed my mind that maybe he is meant to be mine; maybe he is my partner in crime. He loves other dogs, he’s affectionate, he’s eager to learn and please, and clearly he’s made himself at home both in my house and in my heart.


There’s always a but.

I have a bucket list. It’s like the list of things you want to do before you settle down and have kids. I’m not procreating, so it’s my list of things to do before I get my canine life partner. I’d like to see Europe before I’m fifty. I need to work out of the country at least once, if not many times. I want to travel the world—and you can’t do that with a pit bull. (Or maybe you can, and then write a book about it…)

For now, I’m following my gut. It got me where I am on this path right here, right now, and I have no regrets. The campaign has begun—the quest to find Tucker’s person. I believe he or she is out there… or right here… but no, I’m going with out there. He’s had his photo session, I’ve adorned him with the adopt-me bandana, I’m taking him to adoption events, and I’m making it known that this special, handsome, funny, smart, and loving boy is looking for his forever home.

If you think you're his match, drop me a line. I will warn you that I have high standards for Tucker’s life partner, and I won’t let him go to just anybody. I believe Tucker has a great life ahead of him and that the universe is going to lead us to his co-pilot. Just as my instinct told me to take Tucker in, I know my instinct will tell me when it’s right to let him go.