Happy 2nd Gotcha Day to Chester…

Two years ago today we were on a mission. I had stumbled upon the City Dog website and realized that there were far too many dogs in need of homes. Not exactly news, smarty pants. I knew we couldn’t take them all, and I had avoided going to any kennel or even walking by the cats in the petsmart for many years. I guess it was a weak moment but I took a look at the doggies. Too late, I was sunk. Our kids had moved out and we had dogs before, we knew what we were doing. My husband and I talked, and we agreed that while we couldn’t take them all, we were in a place to help one dog at least.

Side bar alert: our first dog was from a shelter also. We had just moved to Euclid and, looking to make community contacts, I volunteered for a group that tried to place animals with people who called in. I felt hopeful because I had talked with a lady interested in adopting. I tried to match her wants with a couple of dogs I thought she would like. I chose two; a black lab puppy, and what looked like a mini shepherd. When I went to the front desk to ask for their cards I got the lab’s, but the shepherd didn’t have one. The lady at the desk looked him up and said he had been there for a verrry long time but did NOT have a card. I could hear the wheels grinding. Remember, this was 35 years ago, and this was not a no-kill shelter. After a certain amount of time, the animals had to be put down if only because there were so many. It’s pretty unbelievable how many there really are. Until I worked for a shelter I had no idea. But I digress…

The lady didn’t show up to adopt–that bitch! I took the lab’s card back, but now I felt the burden of being a snitch. I had alerted them to a situation that would not result in anything good for this mini shepherd type dog. Yes, you guessed it. I took him home. My husband, bless his heart, bathed him outside with the hose because between fleas and dirt and kennel cough, he was a mess. The dog seemed OK with it. In fact, he seemed OK with everything. He lay in the back yard with his face to the sun looking up and smiling. We named him Pax.  And he was.

Now, 35+ years later, given that we could help a dog, I was looking at the City Dog website and saw a picture of a dog that reminded me of Pax. His name was Roosevelt. He looked about beagle size and looked a little like a mini shepherd/pit bull mix. In fact, the vet at the shelter called him a shepherd mix. It said so right on his form! He was 5 years old and we had agreed that being older ourselves we wanted an older, calmer, not as active dog. My husband chose a few from my list and Roosevelt was one of them.  The city was doing a “Clear the Shelters” week, and I was afraid that the dogs we were interested would be gone, so we went on a Thursday after work to meet the ones we had earmarked.

We met Stephanie, the counsellor, and saw Roosevelt first. He was bigger than I thought, not exactly beagle size. They had taken the picture of him from standing, so he looked smaller. Kind of like when you are fishing and hold the fish close to the camera, only reversed. He loped out into the little play area and peed on the plastic house thing. How many dogs peed on that house do you think? It boggles the mind. He did acknowledge us, coming up and letting us pet him. He was interested in the dog we saw walking with a volunteer and ran around awhile. He seemed stable. We saw another dog next, but while he was beautiful and happy, he was young and very energetic.  My husband said he liked Roosevelt. Stephanie walked him by the resident cat, and he put on an academy award winning performance by not even lunging. Honestly, he ignored a CAT. He knew what was on the line. Sheesh. After some paperwork, he was a DiLorenzo.

We took him home, renamed him Chester and realized that A) he was not small, B) he was pretty much housetrained, and C) while he seemed OK with Milo at first, within a few minutes he chased him down the stairs. Oh, and D) he was not the mellow oldster we expected! He ran around the house and yard like a rocket ship doing zoomies morning and night. He climbed over the fence the second day we had him. He tore up the garbage the fourth or fifth day when we went back to work. He would rip up any box available (still does). He would take stuffed animal toys, tear out all the stuffing, and shake their limp outsides back and forth vigorously until no innards remained (still does). Then he would tear up the outside. We took him on two long walks a day and got the amazing Brittany to take him during the day (still does😊) Then we took him to Petsmart training. We got Kongs to help with the chewing. We spoiled him to the tune of 15 pounds…mostly milk bones I think. It kept him from climbing the fence at least. Over the weeks and months he got a little better, and a harness worked wonders for walking. Days flowed into years. Time happens. Chester the dog (his full name–to differentiate between him and Chester the cat who is my nephew’s cat) and the two old people got to know each other. He calmed down and now tosses around the throw pillows then lays on them to watch t.v. He gives me his paw to go outside. He will sit nicely while we eat but if he sits too close he will drool on us. He usually gets the last bite but don’t tell the veterinarian. Chester has become part of the family.

Chester my sweet dog, two years have passed. You have gotten me walking and daydreaming. This blog would not be without you.  You have become my laughter and my friend. You keep us on our toes but are happy just to be here. You love your backyard and are doing an excellent job of keeping those terrorist bunnies and squirrels out. The cats…well, we will work on it. There is always hope.

Happy 2nd Gotcha Day my big goofy happy pup. You are truly a good dog and I love you.  

Below are pictures of Chester/Roosevelt when we got him, his Gotcha Day burger which he inhaled (I took off the candles first), and our first baby, Pax. Have a wonderful week!

Roosevelt before he was Chester
Gotcha Day Cheeseburger!
Our beautiful Pax

A Chester Q&A and my house…

I belong to a facebook group called City Dogs. It’s a great group for adopters who have pit bull mixes from the city kennel. Mostly we show each other our cute pictures of the smooshie faces of the pups and rave over how cute they are. In that vein, they started a Q&A so I filled it out for Chester. It goes like this:

Name: Chester

Nickname: Chester no! No, No Chester! OMG really Chester?

How old are you? 5-7

What’s your favorite human food? cheese sticks. I could be in a coma and wake up if I heard the wrapper.

What are you scared of? the big inflatable snow men that I saw at Christmas. And little white bossy dogs.

Favorite toy or thing to play with? any stuffed animal. it needs tearing up. Especially if it’s a bunny.

What’s something you don’t like? when mom shuts me out of her office because a cat is in there. I sit in the hall and whine. also bunnies. I hate bunnies. Favorite things to do? zoomies in the back yard, especially after a bunny.

Have any other furry siblings? two bad cats but we had a falling out. I thought they were bunnies.

Human siblings? no, just the two little boys that come over sometimes and drop food.

Something you get in trouble for? eating things off the counter. But it’s soooo goood!

Where do you sleep? On the bed of course. I really stretch out.

Do you bark? Yes, I have to let mom and dad know when the UPS guys comes or a dog walks by or somebody is pushing a stroller or a squirrel is getting cheeky.

What is your best attribute? I make the hoomans laugh. Also I never have accidents in the house and I have a cast iron stomach. I like most dogs except for Enzo down the street. He’s evil. My mom says she loves me.

Do you go to the groomer? No I go to the dog wash. But they’ve been closed so I’m kind of dirty. Mom loves me anyway.

Do you like car rides? Yes! Especially to PetSmart!

Do you snore? Yes sometimes!

Pass the time and share about your dogs!

Then we post a bunch of pictures. It was fun, so I wanted to share with you. I’ll share some photos below.

I walked Chester this morning in the rain. I thought it would be a wormapalooza but we only saved one. In fact, I just redirected it since it was heading toward the street. It turned around and I encouraged it to the grass. So in between worms needing saving and raindrops and pee breaks, I thought about my house.

My house is not my house, and if you believe my grandson, it never will be. It’s a little house on the way home from picking them up. It used to have all sorts of stuff in the yard like old bicycle wheels or metal pots or just plain junk. The house itself is adorable. It’s brick in front, on a corner, with a small yard. Apparently someone made the garage into another room, a maneuver that I hate. And, it was really run down.

My grandson and I would play a game and pick one thing to take out of the yard that would improve the looks. Or, it could be something like fixing a door. Or the windows. The house was somewhat in disrepair so this went on for awhile. But a funny thing happened. As we mentally removed things, I began to see some artistic value in the stuff. We changed our game to what we would keep. I began to love the house, junk and all. And I was super curious about the people inside. This went on literally for years.

One day, we noticed that some of the stuff was gone and the lawn mowed. We commented on how nice it looked. Then more stuff disappeared, and brush and trees were cut down. Something was going on. I looked up the address on Zillow and put my investigator skills to work. The house was foreclosed on and I had not noticed. Apparently an artist did live there. I found him on ETSY. The bank owns it now but for much more than it’s worth at this point. I called the bank to see if they were going to put it up for sale. They said maybe in February. I called the realtor who put me on a list. But nothing yet. Once we drove by and a window was left open. I called the bank and told them to get over there and close it. The next day it was closed. I started calling it “my house.” My grandson said it wasn’t my house and never will be. He got sick of hearing about it and told me to drive home the other way. (I didn’t)

The grandson is right. I know that. I’m being totally irrational. I would love to think we could buy it and fix it up. My husband and I don’t have the skill or know-how for that extensive of a project, not to mention the money or time. Shoot, If we did our own house would be in better shape. We don’t need another house that’s for sure. And if we did fix it up, I don’t think I could sell it. What is it about this house? Why does it call to me?  Maybe because an artist lived there and I grew to see the beauty in the junk. Maybe it just looks like a cozy, warm home. I feel good driving by. I don’t know–all I know is that I want it to be happy. I hope it finds a new owner who can fix it up. I hope someone will plant flowers and make the garage a garage again. I hope someone will love it as their first house, a dream come true. When this happens, I will stop driving by.

City Dogs…

Today was the annual City Dog Reunion. City Dogs is a program that promotes and works with “bully breeds” who are frequently not adopted from kennels.  Let’s be honest, most are pit bulls. In Cleveland, as in many areas of the country, pit bulls are prevalent. Yet because they were, and unfortunately still are sometimes used in dog fighting, the breed is looked upon with trepidation. In addition, any injury by a pittie is going to get media attention. Some cities have a ban on pit bulls, others have rules on fence size and insurance.

The City Dog Reunion consisted of maybe 50 or so pit bulls. Some would think that it would be a melee of fighting dogs, but they were the most well behaved dogs I’ve ever seen. Truth is, pit bulls are great dogs, for those that look beyond the outer shell.

Anyway, Chester had a wonderful time at the reunion, and so did we. There were station/tents set up a good distance apart from each other, and a “passport” you could get initialed when you went to the tent. We got lots of freebies, bought some City Dog stuff, and Chester entered the “most expressive ears” and “best smile” contests. He didn’t enter the “biggest head” or “best trick” since his best trick is getting us to give him more treats. He got lots of loving from the people there, and there were multiple baby pools set up for the dogs to drink from or get in, whichever suited them. I did learn that many of the pit bulls love water; not just drinking but playing in it. Chester really doesn’t like to swim, but he drank and watched the others jump around. There were no fights, and it was a feel good kind of day. All of the dogs were exhausted at the end of the three hours judging from the facebook photos. I know Chester was! All in all, it was loads of fun and a super celebration of “pibbies.”  Yes, they played, yes, they sniffed each other’s butts, yes they ignored each other, yes they rolled in the grass, basically they were just like any other breed.

Chester is 25% pit bull and 25% boxer. The rest is a mix. This qualifies him as a City Dog, but he doesn’t look like the typical pit bull. At one point, a lady made a comment that she “forgets that they have other kinds of dogs than pit bulls” at the Cleveland city kennel. She was being nice, there was no offense taken, but it gave me pause. Truth is, I wondered if others thought we were interlopers, if we belonged. The adopters and other owners were very welcoming, don’t get me wrong. I just wonder in the back of their minds if they assume he is not a pit bull based on what he looks like.

Of course since my mind then takes everything to the next step, I thought about how much we all make assumptions based on appearance. I speak with a lot of people on the phone daily, and many I have not met in person. Our company just added photos to the staff directory and it’s freaking me out a little. The first thing I did was go through and look at the pictures of people I talk to a lot. They don’t look anything like I imagined. I had to pause. Does it matter? I know who is kind, who is a good worker, who is quick to respond, who has a wicked sense of humor and who is frankly, not easy to deal with. Does it matter if the guy I speak with has a beard that would rival ZZ Top? What do they think of me? Did they think I was younger, prettier, more composed, or just the opposite?

Part of the problem is time. To build a good relationship, I was taught there are five “must haves”—time, space, positive tone and words, living in another’s shoes, and being connected. (The Good Life)  I want to think on time for a moment; how much time do we give people? Do we have time to get to know them? Or do we make assumptions based on first impression, then move on. Just like people glance at a pit bull and move on. The inside person may be just like me, but I’ll never know unless I make an effort over time.

This world is fast paced. I get it, my job involves quick thinking and analysis of a situation. I listen to calls to an incident hotline and determine if the situation needs investigation based on the rule and a quick assessment. But the investigators I assign the case to–they spend 45 days with the incident. They will know the person much better than I do. In fact when I go back at the end and read how it turned out, I’m often surprised. I don’t have the gift of time. Yet I think that the world would be a much better place, and I would be a better person, if the visual first impression was just that, a first impression. The thing about first impressions is that often there are no second or thirds. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a second chance? Had time to know you and you, them?

We own a part pit bull. But he’s not like any other doggie, he’s simply Chester. He’s treat motivated, hates bunnies, loves digging squeekers out of toys, likes other dogs, chases cats, and sometimes goes into wild dog mode where he runs through the house at top speed. He’s one of a kind just like you and I are. It’s been a year since we adopted him and it took every bit of that year to get to know him. There are people who we can get to know too, if we take time and have an open mind.

The pictures are Chester at the reunion…he’s tired but happy!  😊