animals

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”


Tonight was a night not too unlike any other. I often find myself in tears, still navigating my way up the emotional spectrum trying to find a way to tame them, but I don’t seem able to help it. Things can be terribly beautiful or beautifully terrible. Things can be so incredibly wonderful, there are in actuality sometimes no words in existence to describe how strongly I feel, so they come out in the form of tears instead. Or I can be reminded of something that happened in my past, something I’ve fought desperately to shelve away and hide from the present I’m working so hard to create. Or I can get swallowed up in loneliness and feel forever unworthy of love or attention, or even being remembered. These past two months with the injury have been bad ones for that. But tonight, the tears came for a rather more traditional reason.

A soul passing away is always cause for sadness, but when you’ve known it for a matter of hours, find it thoroughly traumatised, so paralysed with terror it can’t even shake the spiderwebs that have formed on its body, and then you take it inside, build it a home, warm it, feed it, and make it a bed, see it begin to move… to take nourishment… to build a nest… you feel such joy. And when you wake in the morning to find it in the grip of rigor mortis, you can’t help but sob.

Yes, I found a mouse last night. Some of you may remember the pigeon:

Pigeon rescue

He was in the middle of the road, about to get run over, trying to flap his one working wing and struggling. I remember the strange looks I got as I took him through the underground shopping centre on my arm all the way to where I’d parked, and the comments I got from my coworkers, clearly dumbfounded, judging me for taking time off to help something “they’d give to their cat to kill.” I heard about it for weeks, but it didn’t matter. The bird had been patched up, taken home, and even named by the vets.

So I found a mouse. Something terrible had clearly happened, as he was sitting there frozen with cobwebs on his head, but his eyes were open, and he was breathing… albeit oddly. He looked like he’d sustained some kind of awful injury, or fright, or both, and it broke my heart to think of leaving him. So AC and I brought him in, did some quick scouring of the internet, and made him a little home in one of the boxes not yet unpacked. I gave him a heating pad beneath half the box, some kitchen roll, a corner of cotton balls for nesting, a lid with some water, and some tinily cut up pieces of cucumber and apple. I cleaned him off, but he remained frozen in fear, breathing sharply, and turned on a dim light, leaving the room so as not to cause any further terror. Within the hour, we found him nibbling on a piece of apple, and shortly after, making himself a little bed in the cotton balls. I was overjoyed – anyone who knows me will know that even the thought of animals suffering is enough to send me into a sobfest, and I don’t care if it’s a cat you’d take inside and adopt as your own or a rat most would consider vermin and call an exterminator on; if it has a brain, a body, and a little heart, it needs taking care of.

photo (2)

So you can imagine how happy I was to see him recovering. The next morning, however, things didn’t look so good. I called out desperately hoping he was just sleeping, but my head was telling me it definitely didn’t look like sleeping. The sharp breathing had stopped, but it seemed so had any other kind of breathing. I held onto the hope that mice do indeed play dead when feeling threatened and hoped for the best, but by the end of an entire day, he was in the same position, definitely no longer with us. I had a good cry, and AC (thank the stars for another NF) suggested we give him a little burial. After being ridiculed for helping a pigeon, the act of kindness and mutual understanding meant the absolute world, and we headed out into the night, his little home in the back seat.

We’d intended to drive down to the river – our new place isn’t far from the water (the full story on how I kind of lost my home to come soon) – but with his eyes on the road and mine on Google maps, I noticed we were within walking distance of an actual cemetery. Not one to ignore a coincidence, we parked and journeyed through the cold to the big iron gates. I’d wanted to leave him somewhere he’d have company (Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book may or may not have been on my mind), and we soon found a small tree midway through the clasp Autumn takes on all things green. There were a pile of crisp leaves at its base, and I noticed a single star to the north, and a big yellow half-moon hung low in the sky to the south. We lay him down under some leaves where the base met the grass, a cotton ball to mark the spot, and I managed to say a few words through a torrent of tears. You’re probably thinking how ridiculous this all sounds, but I can’t describe how or why I was so sad to lose a little creature I’d known only a few hours.

pebbles

Until AC pointed something out on the car ride home. I was mid-way through apologizing when he hugged me, and told me it probably had something to do with recognizing suffering in others having gone to the depths of it myself. (Of course this didn’t help with the crying, but the thought hadn’t occurred to me before.) I think part of being an NF involves desperately wanting all to be well in the world, and when things aren’t, whether in our personal one or the planet at large, it causes far more upset than in other MBTI types. And I think I’m (and have definitely been described more than once as) also classified as a HSP – something I’ve written about before – and I maintain that every day still is like “living with fifty fingers as opposed to ten.” I wrote that post over a year ago, and my words hold true to this day:

“I don’t like overanalyzing and reading into things that aren’t there, and I don’t like catastrophising every little event in a day. I love that my sensitivity allows me to be incredibly in tune with others’ emotions, or that I read a piece of beautiful prose or hear a great song and want to jump up and down because somebody’s just been an awesome human being. I love being overly enthusiastic about things like simple existence and celebrating creativity and taking the time to see small beauties of nature and spend two hours in the cold photographing them because nature is just so stunning. I love that there may very well be a biological explanation for being extremely sensitive, and I love that just because I cry a lot doesn’t have to mean I’m a giant baby – it just means I care a lot and feel things more extremely. But I don’t like being a slave to its tendency to send me crashing down faster than an IQ after an episode of the Kardashians.”

I think I’m hard-wired this way, and over time I just have to learn to embrace it – if perhaps, too, control it a little better. Someone who means the world to me once told me a long time ago that I was “the Caretaker of Lost Souls” – the biggest compliment I think I could ever receive in a lifetime. That to have plunged the deepest of depths and to have resurfaced and flown is to know what it’s like. To know loneliness and despair inside and out, to know how awful it is to feel forgotten. And that perhaps that was why I had had to do something for that little mouse. I’ve felt twangs of all of the above now and again since I broke my arm, and yes, it is awful.

There were two happy turns to the story after all was said and done – I’d tweeted about being sad before heading out to the river, and had received a message back:

tweet

AC also pointed out something rather lovely: that we laid him down at the base of a young tree, and that within a few weeks he’d start to decompose, and go directly into the ground through which that tree would absorb its nutrients. That life has a wonderful way of recycling itself, and that perhaps one day, we might take a visit to that tree, and know that in some way, our little mouse was a part of it.

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Holiday Guest Blog 1: It’s La Midge!


Brittney from It’s La Midge is one of my absolute favourite bloggers (and new friends). She’s married, a mother to five pets (please pray she and her hubby find their missing cat – it’s breaking my heart), lives somewhere far warmer than I do, and her wicked sense of humour along with her enormous heart just make me smile and feel very lucky to have her in my life.   She’s helping man the fort while I’m away this week – and you can (and definitely should) read her blog over here.

As long as he has a dog, he has a friend;
and the poorer he gets, the better friend he has.” – Will Rogers

Emily is one those rare “awesomes” in this world. She has a sense of humor, she’s humble and she’s gorgeous – yet still down to earth enough to embrace her inner nerd. From the first time I poked around here, it was obvious she was actually as genuine as her writing portrays; the warmth in her heart pours from every post.

So when she asked if I’d like to guest post on her blog, I was ecstatic. What could be more flattering than someone having faith in your ability to be interesting enough that their readers won’t stab out their eyes from sheer boredom?!? Then I took a look at the other fantastics she asked to guest post — a handful of fabulously eloquent and hilarious bloggers – and it feels like a party where everyone is bringing three-tiered cakes and I’m the awkward kid who showed up with a half-eaten brownie I managed to sit on during my drive over. Chocolate anyone? 😉

After agonizing over what to write about (make it count, Brittney, MAKE IT COUNT!) I gave up on trying to be the most witty or most amazing and decided it might be fun to post the first of something I have been meaning to write about over at my own site.

For those of you who know me, I worked for several years at the Los Angeles SPCA. I had varying roles, from kennel staff to behavior analyst, and each allowed me to experience some of the most heart-warming connections between pet and man around. Too often, shelter animals don’t get their day in the spotlight, so I’ve decided to share some of their stories on their behalf! First up, one of my most fond memories is the Tale of Tater Tot.

It was my first day working the field with an animal control officer. I’d always worked the shelter side of things and was excited to test the waters. I was assigned O.B., a level-headed woman with a tough exterior and a heart of gold. Our first call was to pick up an owner surrender, and shortly after 9 a.m. we pulled up to a small yellow California Bungalow. The owner stepped out to greet us, a tiny woman in a pink sweater who could’ve easily played the role of my grandmother. She explained she was no longer able to properly care for herself, and her children were electing to relocate her to a nursing home where she would not be able to bring her shepherd mix. She was heartbroken, and you could feel her heart crumble with every word.

Before taking us inside, she glanced quickly through the porch screen, and then took O.B.’s hand in hers. In barely a whisper, she looked at us both and said, “I’m not a silly old woman, I know how it works. I know she’s old. I know she isn’t a cute little puppy anymore and she isn’t the sweetest thing on the block, but she’s been a good dog. When you put her—” and she lost her hold on the sentence. A few gulps of air to regain her composure (and a few gulps for us to not break down with her), she finished, “When you put her down, can you tell her I loved her? That she did nothing wrong and none of this was her fault? Now come inside, meet Tater Tot.”

Cue heartache. Doing our best to maintain our composure, we ducked inside to meet Tater Tot – and a Tater Tot she was! A blonde shepherd mix, stout and wide as her namesake, she was graying on her muzzle and sat surveying the situation from a giant chair in the corner of the room. She wasn’t friendly, at all. In fact, getting her to the truck was nothing short of a quick unexpected lesson in how not to get eaten alive. After we locked her compartment, we promised the woman that Tater Tot would be adopted and we’d look after her.

On the drive to back to the shelter, out of earshot of Mrs. Clause, we openly discussed the tough situation Tater Tot faced. She was missing all the most “adoptable” qualities folks melted over at shelters: She was older than 3 years old (she was 8), she wasn’t necessarily gorgeous and, thus far, she wasn’t coming across as the type to win anyone over with her charming personality.

The way our shelter worked, all dogs were given one week to get adopted on Side One. Then, on day 8, whichever dogs were deemed to be super adoptable by upper management were moved over to Side Two for essentially unlimited time to find a new home, so long as they remained mentally stable. We spread Tater Tots mother’s message throughout the staff like wild fire. But a touching story didn’t make for an easily adoptable dog, and Tater Tot was in no mood to assist. We spent the first three days trying to get her to show us her good side; she spent it lunging at the bars anytime someone walked past. She had to be lured to one half of her kennel before the other side could be cleaned without her in it, for safety. On Day Four, she exchanged lunging for sulking in the back of her kennel, but let out a throaty growl at passersby. Team Tater Tot kept up our half of the bargain, pleading with her to just let someone in her kennel. The morning of Day 7, a breakthrough!! I was able to get into her kennel and change her blanket. She made it to Side Two!!

The progress stopped there. Though she no longer growled, she didn’t blossom. She didn’t approach potential adopters who tried to engage her through the bars, and when volunteers took her out to socialize, she sat in the corners of the play yard, seemingly blind to the balls and toys that were rolled past her face. She began lunging when children passed her kennel and we were forced to add, “NO CHILDREN,” to her info card. As she pulled further into her shell, we began to worry she was slipping into the mentality that would require us to issue to her that final message from her beloved owner.

Seven months into joining our shelter family, and without a single potential adopter viewing her, I was walking through the kennels when I noticed a small boy with his hand in her cage. For a moment my heart stopped, until I saw Tater Tot leaning intensely against the bars and into his loving hand. He looked up and grinned. “She’s COOL!” he proclaimed. “She IS cool,” I replied. A few moments later, a big burly man approached us and asked if his son could see her outside the kennel. ARE YOU KIDDING ME BUDDY!? I was doing my best to not get my hopes up and pee my pants.

As we entered the play yard, an amazed crowd of staff formed around us. The little boy noticed a chewed-up tennis ball in the middle that must’ve been left behind by a volunteer. He lit up. Grabbing it, he brought his hand back to throw. Sigh. Would she watch it roll past before sitting in the corner? How heartbroken would this little boy be when he realized Tater Tot had zero interest in something like fetch? The ball shot forward and… OMG!!! SO DID TATER TOT!!! She snatched it, doubled back and dropped it at his feet.

We couldn’t contain ourselves and our cheers were contagious! As the little boy continued to play fetch with an energetic and tail-wagging Tater Tot, we explained her story to the father. He misted up. He couldn’t handle it any more than we could. Tater Tot hadn’t been picked, she’d picked them! I can’t even write this with the gooey goosebump-ness it deserves.

While he finalized their paperwork, O.B. and I smashed into the only office that had speakerphone. We had a very important call to make to a little old lady. When we broke the news that Tater Tot was on her way to her brand new home with her very own little boy, all three of us burst into tears.

Tater Tot went home that afternoon, touting not only a brand new leash but a brand new spirit. The father and son visited the little old woman a handful of times, and the last we heard, the three of them were doing famously.

Tater Tot reminded me that sometimes we all need a little time. That, sometimes, it takes the right people to bring out the best in us. The right people to look past the gray in our muzzles and the sadness in our eyes to see a new best friend.

Sometimes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks — but they can certainly show you a thing or two!