My gratitude journal chronicles my appreciation of being the guardian for this Chihuahua family.
They've grown. The puppies are sweet and kooky and playful. Miki and Mini are best friends, whether cavorting or cuddling. Miki is a Mama's boy.
I'd contacted an animal communicator I'd met online. She suggested a session. I agreed.
I asked her to ask Mama why her bark was so quiet and raspy. Did she remember going to a vet and having a procedure?
It's referred to as "de-barking" and it's performed by a veterinarian. The animal is anesthetized and the vet deliberately severs the vocal cords. It's not an uncommon practice. Sometimes it's to allow someone to continue to keep a pet who barks constantly, putting the person in jeopardy of being evicted or unable to keep the animal. Sometimes it's to reduce the amount of barking in a kennel. No matter the reason, it's not kind or compassionate. Imagine if someone were to cut out your tongue for talking too much or speaking too loudly.
I recently received a message asking me to speak out against this unneeded practice and sign a petition. I replied to the message and requested a call from the author, whom I didn't know, to learn more. A few days later, I received a call. We chatted and I asked questions. She referred to the procedure as "devocalization" and said the group of volunteers that she worked with are tirelessly striving to raise awareness of and eliminate this cruel procedure. I'm glad someone is raising this issue. Meanwhile, thousands of dogs are dying each day, callously put to sleep in shelters throughout the country. I asked her if she was vegan. She hedged. Not everyone in our group is vegan, she responded, though some of the people are. I expounded. Loving dogs but eating pigs or wearing cows does not reflect a complete commitment to compassion. Vigilant advocacy for one species of animal does not absolve someone from mistreating, abusing, killing or eating animals from another species.
My friend, Melanie Joy, PhD, has written a book explaining the concept of what she calls "carnism." It's a type of prejudice. We're familiar with the term, "racism," preferring one race over others. Carnism is a form of speciesism in which one (or more) species of animals receive preferential treatment over another. I highly recommend Melanie's lectures, if you're in a city on her lecture circuit, or reading her groundbreaking work, "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs & Wear Cows." Her speaking schedule is available at www.carnism.org.
The woman replied that she herself is vegan. I am glad she is passionate about this cause that gets little attention. Many people I've met have never even heard of debarking. I'm also grateful that she's making choices that don't involve the killing of or solicitation of the killing of animals.
My friend, Will Tuttle, PhD, travels the world sharing his perspective that "peace begins on the plate." His popular book, "The World Peace Diet" promotes eating for spiritual health and social harmony. He puts the history of food consumption into perspective in this well-researched, articulate work. Will's speaking schedule is available at www.worldpeacediet.com.
But I digress.
"I'll ask her," the animal communicator tells me.
A couple of minutes, she says, "Mama is showing me that a man throttled her, crushing her larynx. The violence happened years ago. That's what happened to her voice. She then went to a new family who got a male dog and proceeded to have several litters. Her puppies were always stolen from her," she says, "before she was ready, and she feels deep sadness about this. Mama wants to know if you're her permanent home."
I was touched by the pain and suffering this little dog had endured.
"No," I responded. "This is a temporary place. But I am the person who will be caring for her until we find her a wonderful new home. Please tell her she and her babies will be safe and loved here until that time."
"Okay. Hold on," she said.
"She wants to feel complete with this litter. Please don't take away her puppies too early," she shared.
"She can take care of her babies until she decides the time is right. It's her body. I'll let her choose how long to nurse and nurture the little ones," I told her.
And so I never deliberately separated Mama from the babies to wean them from her. Mama allowed them to nurse for longer than I've ever seen: the puppies were 18 weeks old before she stopped access. Meanwhile, they had sharp little puppy teeth and had already begun eating dry dog food. Miki received preferential treatment over his sister and was able to suckle whenever he wanted, while Mini's attempts were avoided or rejected with a low growl.
And as the days passed, the amount of time the sweet Chihuahua family had been with me expanded. One week blurred into a few weeks, and all of a sudden, they'd been here for six months.
During that time, I'd postponed the remodeling of the bathroom where they were staying. I had postponed several out-of-town speaking opportunities. I had postponed making flyers and posting on Facebook and area bulletin boards.
I had started taking Mama with me a lot, introducing her to people. I took her and the puppies to a party and the host fell in love with Mama. She held her for much of the gathering. A couple of hours later, she said she and her husband wanted to adopt her. I knew her and she had two other Chihuahuas. I'd been to her home many times. No need for a house check. Maybe this was it. Mama's new home. I was excited. Prayers answered. Once Mama was situated, it would be easy to find homes for the puppies. I agreed. I offered to bring her the next day. They invited me to leave her there, rather than making another trip. Everything would be fine. I agreed. While she was with Mama in another room, I gathered the puppies and left.
Turns out, it wasn't a great fit. Mama became highly agitated after we left, searching and searching for me and her babies. My friend tried to console her, holding her, but once she fell asleep, Mama jumped off the bed again searching. She ended up in the bathtub and couldn't get out. I got a call. Please come pick her up. This isn't working.
I made the return trip that I would have made anyway, had I brought her the following day instead of leaving her.
Mama had apparently finally calmed down and was relaxed when I got there, but by then, the decision to return her had been made. I trusted that it just wasn't the right time or right situation, and Mama and I headed home.
A couple of weeks later, a woman came over to pick up a household item I'd posted to give away on Freecycle.org. I was holding Mama when she arrived and she exclaimed how beautiful she was. I told her that Mama was available for adoption.
Turns out, I already knew her husband. He's deaf, and our paths had crossed many years ago (before I was a TV news anchor/reporter) when I was working as a sign language interpreter at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California. Small world.
The couple and their four beautiful children came over to visit Mama and the puppies. The children wanted the whole Chihuahua family to come home with them. Their mom said she'd let me know in a few days what they had decided.
After 3 or 4 days had passed, she called. The family had had a powwow and Mama was it. I scheduled a home visit. I took Mama over for a visit, and brought her things, in case it was a good fit. It was. After about two hours, I told Mama goodbye and left.
Text messages shared heartwarming news. Mama was doing well. Everything was great. And then...
About a week later, I got a text. "We need to talk."
I called. Turns out, Mama had behaved like a dog.
The youngest child in the family, age 5, had taken a piece of pizza on a paper plate and set it on the floor. Mama saw an opportunity. She made a dash for the pizza, grabbed it, pulled it about 6 feet and started munching.
The child shrieked, ran to grab the pizza and Mama, defending her prize, nipped him, drawing a little blood.
I completely understand that the family was shocked and upset, and that Mama didn't really fit the bill for "family dog." Instead, she'd bonded to the mother, and pretty much ignored the rest of the family. Another family powwow. Mama needs to go.
I said, "Bring her back. It's fine. It's no problem."
And so, Mama returned.
The puppies had been fine without her, but they were happy to welcome her home.
My travel schedule and the timing for beginning The Silent Project was starting to loom. I was ready for Mama to transition. A mini-session with the animal communicator had confirmed that Mama, too, was ready. But again, it wasn't the right fit.
I moved into action. Steve designed the flyer for Mama, using a beautiful photo of Mama with Miki and Mini, and a touching video, both generously created by our friend, Ursula Liv, and we posted her on RescueMe.org. A neighbor had told me about the organization and said it had been effective for her a few times in placing foster dogs in permanent homes. I had high hopes.
After a few days and no responses, I let those go.
"Continue to trust" was the message I received from the Universe.
Despite the flipping pages of the calendar reminding me the time of my departure was coming closer, I understood. Message received. Loud and clear.
I contacted a few friends, posted the flyer on Facebook, was doing my best to spread the word. I had asked my friend, Susan, to share Mama through her social network. We ended up having a long conversation catching up on all kinds of things, and I offered to drive to San Diego to visit her and bring Mama and the puppies so she could meet them. Susan fell in love. And Mama, Miki and Mini loved her sweet soul right back.
Susan is a person of service. She is a kind, compassionate, gentle person. She supported me during The WE Conference 2011, sharing her time, energy and talents to help promote the event, and was a loyal, dependable, generous volunteer.
During the visit, Susan fell in love with Mama. Her adult son, Andrew, was there, too, and Mama readily curled up on his lap, too, as did the puppies. Susan said she really would love to have a dog, but she already had travel plans for the holiday season, plus she needed to consult her husband who works out-of-state.
"Of course," I said. "Just let me know."
It's been five days since Susan, her husband, Roger, and son, Andrew [pictured] came over to pick up Mama. Another animal communicator had donated a session and Mama had accepted them as her family. I told them what I had received from the latest session, and shared what I knew of Mama's history (her-story). Mama wanted this to be her final home where she could live out her life in peace. They understood. And they love her without condition. They've renamed her "Mama Mia" and are calling her Mia for short. Mini had already found her happily-ever-after home in the interim. And Steve has agreed to love and nurture Miki during my travels.
Since adopting Mama, Susan has taken her several places, including to a nursing home to visit Roger's mother, who has Alzheimer's. Susan has sent me a few photos, but this one really touched me. It came with the following text message--
"Mama Mia is such a joy to have here with us. She brightens our day, such a delight. She sleeps on Andrew's bed and always follows him. He, in turn, holds her like a baby and just gets crazy about playing with Mia. Roger loves Mia, too! Here's a photo of our family with Mia giving so much joy to my mom-in-law at the Alzheimer's facility. Priceless. P.S. Yes, you can use my photos for your blog."
Mama has gone home. For good. The Universe delivers. And so it is. Amen.
Thank you, Susan, Roger and Andrew for opening your hearts and your home to welcome this beautiful little girl. May you all enjoy great love. Thank you.