Betty and Martini had a plan

After Martini passed away, I just could not see myself getting another dog. Gary and I grieved so. She was the happiest girl I’ve ever had. Although she was a stubborn Pekingese, of her own mind, true to the guarding temple dogs of the Ming dynasty. I don’t know if it was because I had evolved to be the best mom I’d ever been, or because she was truly such a joy. We missed both our girls so much. And when Betty left us, Martini was heartsick for months. I had to hand feed her, or she wouldn’t eat.
Then, around the nine months after loosing Martini, I started looking, and by November I had convinced Gary we were going to be a home with a dog once again. Previously it’s never been a big search. Usually, once I’ve decided, one just dropped in my lap. Well, not this time. Honestly, I think it would be easier to buy a gun then to go through the pet adoption process, and Sarah McLaughlin can go jump in a lake. I really feel for parents who are trying to adopt, or those who are trying to get pregnant. The roller coster ride of emotions, finding a girl that calls to you, filling out the application, radio silence, then, as with a couple of times, the foster mom keeping her. Good for the dog, although, discouraging me from becoming a foster as I didn’t want to do the same to someone else.
Literally a hundred emails, and over 20 text messages, with less than a handful of responses. I looked at breeders too, then another friend sparked my interest with searching on Craig’s List. Craig’s List people were actually the best at responding. I was a bit nervous however because on Craig’s List there are warning’s about buying pets as this is an outlet for potential scam artists, or backyard breeders. These adorable pup pics were located up and down the far reaches of California. I worked, and I was too ill to make a 4 hour drive. It was all so stressful. I also get that the non-profits are spread too thin on people and resources, but for someone that has 85K emails in my in-box, and all the other balls I have in the air, I fully understand busy, and yet I still do my best at trying to get back to people.
The kicker, and last straw was a local Ventura County group that did call me back on a Lhasa Apso puppy. I got so excited. I thought I am first in line! Then I had a couple of weird vague email exchanges with the founder, so I braved going to the store front. The gal at the counter was just as sweet as could ever be, and the sweetheart who kindly called me back. I got my hopes up all over again. I asked for an application to take home and review. The store front was adorable, not at all depressing, or dingy, and with a few more questions the young gal offered up a wish list, which I decided I could accommodate.
What ever you do, on any commitment, READ THE APPLICATION!!! Although I had already received used donated blankets from friends, to bestow, which I totally intended to deliver, I knew I could never sign my life away with the adoption agency contract. They “Reserve Ultimate Ownership” of adopted dog. Infraction fees of $1,200 if the pet is lost or other misfortune. And, no matter the reason (suffering or otherwise) they want to be contacted & give written permission if the dog needed to be euthanized, or endure a $4,500 infraction fee. I totally get these are measures to discourage mis-treatment of an animal, however, as a family who Loves our animals this contract was offensive to me, extreme, no matter how many lives they save. I’ve soured since on the adoption process and have reduced our non-profit giving because of it.
Taking matters into my own hands, I created my own beautiful adoption form, sending it out to a few non-profits. Just a couple responses, getting back stating “we don’t travel that far”, 70 miles, again, saving a life. And, yet again, crickets chirping. Ultimately, I sent it to the 2 veterinary clinics that we enjoyed excellent care from, and the emergency vet hospital that cared for Martini twice.
Then my friend Cheryl sent me a message: “Betty is being extra choosey from above. She wants to find you the most excellent dog” She was right. I relaxed a bit. I actually had two wonderful dogs in heaven who were looking out for us, finding us the perfect pet.
One day, as I was home ill, Tilly, my friend’s dog who was discovered on Criag’s List came to mind. I went on Craig’s List again, and there, just posted within hours, I would have missed it if I blinked, two Shihpoos, in Oxnard (that’s 30 minutes away!), asking $350 a pup. I text my husband right away that I found dog(s). He said “with an s?” What do you think about getting both of them? We don’t want to break up the family?” He was so funny, and I so appreciate him saying so, even though his work travel takes him away from home often, he said; “it will be difficult, but WE can do it”
I communicated with the seller family. Cristina was so sweet and we picked up our two pound Olive and Penelope within a couple of days. Olive in homage to our beLoved departed Martini, and Penelope, as in Homer’s Odyssey, because it was such an odyssey in finding them. Even though they were bought, our girls are rescues.
Our Twins are such a joy and nothing a like, nor like any dogs I’ve ever own before them. Two distinct personalities. They play together all the time, and I simply don’t know where all that energy would go if not for having each other. They Love their home and act like they own the place. They won the dog lottery.

Although she was just a whisper, the house is so quiet without her bigness

Today was her day

Martini Bednorz   11/4/02 – 2/26/16

How do you say thank you to a bundle of white fur that taught me all the more about unconditional Love, who won my husband’s heart (as much as he resisted), who made me a better person, dog mom, and stripped me of my big dog snob ego. 

How do I say thank you to the Creator for making such miraculous creatures.

Pets teach us that no matter what we look like, how big or small, rich or poor, white, black, purple or green, we are the bee’s knees to them. They are always there to listen with their floppy ears, and happy beyond belief to see you with the inability to hide it because of their wonderful truth tail. I’ve always said dog is God spelled backwards, because they show us how God Loves us.

How do I say thank you to her bloomers (groomer & beauty parlor blended together) Ray & Joe, all her babysitters Arlene Parker, her backup babysitter Emily Boyes, backup to backup Mindy Rae Lawrence, and her familial auntie babysitter Kasey Louise.
How do I recognize my manager Rafael, and all my colleagues who enjoyed having her around everyday & Loved her. Natasha, (Moo Feyh’s mom) always willing to keep an eye out on her if I needed to go to a meeting.

Pink princess resting under my desk PHOTOGRAPHER: Karen Bednorz


Bossy pants taking over meeting PHOTOGRAPHER: Cheryl Endo

To my daughter, who called me when she was moving back to Vegas and couldn’t take Martini. I said without hesitation, I’ll take her! It was suppose to be for a month. I transferred all my Love of my daughter into this one year old pup.

She Loved everyone she met. When she was young she was lightening fast, and gave us unending entertainment when she would ricochet around our house, us unable to catch her, when we would come home from the day at work. She grieved Betty for months. 
Martini lived fast and died fast. I was with her the entire day, held her for hours waiting for Gary to come so that he could hold her one last time too.
IMG_3407 (1)

Tender & intimate heartfelt goodby PHOTOGRAPHER: Karen Bednorz

Martini had great Vets, and today especially, those who tried to save her. I know she is with Betty now. The Catholic church espouses animals don’t go to heaven. C’mon!!! I say how can they not? It just wouldn’t be paradise without them.

Letting go

From his website about loss, Howard Lunche describes:“Mourning is the expression of sorrow for the dead. It is what we do to demonstrate the grief we are experiencing, and is the means for sharing the pain and disruption caused by a death. Funerals, prayer, unveilings, wearing black, sobbing, visiting the gravesite, journaling, memorials, and looking at photos are examples of how we overtly express and acknowledge the importance of the one who died and his or her death and absence. It is important to foster grief’s natural and healthy progression toward an outcome of acceptance of, and adjustment to, the reality of the death.  Mourning is how we do this.

In summary, grief is what is happening to us; our uniquely personal experience in all realms of our being. Bereavement is about who we are without the one who has died. Mourning is the method by which we alleviate the pain and disruption of grief and solidify the memory of the deceased and meaningfulness of our shared life and relationship.”

This precious family member was more than a dog, she was Love, and the loss is great, and so very real.  Losing Martini has also brought up for me, the many losses we’ve suffered this past three years.  Some happening so quickly upon one another, I realize now, I didn’t process each grieving period fully at the time.

We buried Martini’s ashes on Easter Sunday, as we did with her doggy sister and best friend Betty just three years earlier.  In a beautiful cardboard daisy shaped box with pastel polkadots, along with all the condolence cards we received, next to the fountain in the rose garden under the juniper where she liked to lay her belly to cool.  I see thirteen pink hearts every morning from my kitchen window.  Somehow this tribute / memorial art installation,  lifts and carries me.

Elizabeth Josephine Valentine, otherwise known as The Betty

17yr.old Betty

17yr.old Betty

It had been over a year since our much Loved Butch passed and Gary brought home the Mutt Matcher, liken to a personals for dogs.  He had an Australian Sheppard in mind, thinking he would actually have time to play Frisbee again, only this time with a dog.  I knew better.  Any pet we decided on would be mostly my care responsibility.  The Love responsibility would definitely be a partnership.

When I saw the photo next to the dog Gary was interested in, and noted her age, counting the 49 days Buddhist believe the soul reincarnates, a little math of when Butch passed & Betty’s age,  I said “Look, Betty seems sweet.  I wonder if she is Butch”.  Well that did it…Gary stared at me then slowly turned his gaze with the conversation bubble appearing above his head (Oh my God, my wife has lost it).

We contacted Betty’s foster mom, Cindy, the big hearted women who found her abandoned in a park. Cindy had taken Betty to the shelter. She already had too many pets and could not take on another.  Betty was on death row! Just in time, Cindy went back, making our adopting possible.

Cindy & George brought Betty to our home while subtlely observing our house, fenced yard and surrounding, taking on the protective roll of K9 Greenpeace activist.  Ensuring Betty’s new home was appropriate, stable & Loving. She had finally, indeed, been rescued.

In a Christmas card I introduced her to everyone in this letter:

Hi, I’m new to the family.  My name is Betty. Mom & Dad rescued me.  Dad tells my foster parents brought me over on “Super Bowl Sunday”.

I Love my home and I get lots of attention.  In fact I’m a much bigger girl than when I first arrived. Mom keeps talking about someone named “Jenny Craig” when she feeds me.  I don’t know that person.  All I know is that I Love when Mom gives me  the last of her breakfast. A treat in the morning –  yummm, yummy.

Mom & Dad go to a place called work a lot and there is this narrow bar that rings all the time and my parents talk to it. They are very busy people.

I have a big sister, Marguex. She doesn’t live here, but takes care of me when Mom & Dad are  gone for a few days. Her boyfriend Casey is nice and sometimes comes to visit when Marguex stays with me.

Sometimes I get to go on trips with my parents but I get real nervous usually the first night. There is no place like home and my spot next to their bed on my special blanket.

I get lots of walks and have made friends with some of the neighbors. My favorite are Tom &  Gayle.  Sometimes I sneak into their kitchen and eat the cat food.  Bad dog, bad!

Mom tells me that this is a very special time of year.  A time to share much Love and to try to  be forgiving.  All I can say is I hope everyone is Loved as much as I am.

Who knows what trauma our girl suffered before joining our family, but it was clear… She had anxiety. Chocolate lab, pit bull mix, I’ve always said she is a permanent puppy that protects.  One thing was for sure, she was strong. I’ve had my feet knocked out from under me, and several occasions had to be readjusted by my chiropractor after an enthusiastic walk.

She was such a ‘nervous Nellie’, jumping over or busting through our white picket fence was a daily event! with Gary repairing it every weekend. After every escape I would get a call from one of the neighbors. I would leave work, find her, put her in our garage and hope for the best. She ate through the drywall and door moulding trying to get into our house. Also chewed through the side garage door! Once I came home to find her wedged between the washer & dryer where she bit through the copper gas line.  That did it ~ to the vet for doggy downers – a temporary fix at best.

Upon the arrival of doggie #2, Martini, I finally relented. Letting them both stay in the house. However, there was the time she dug through our new carpet unraveling it in two places. Another day another repair.

All that aside, Betty has been a great dog. And, I’ve absolutely grown into a better doggy mommy.  We did two sessions of dog obedience school, but it was I who was trained. I always feel safe knowing she is doing her job patrolling our property.

A family member had a Peeping Tom experience so she got a HUGE gun.  I had way worse happen to me and I rescue dogs.  Different approach most definitely.

Betty also helped with healing our friend who had a brain injury. When we first got Betty, she escaped and went right up to our neighbor’s Tom & Gayle’s backyard sliding glass door.  This was remarkable because Butch did the exact same thing when we first moved to our new home at the time.  When their son was in a near fatal car accident with a eighteen wheeler, he miraculously awoke from a 3-month coma, on Good Friday no less.  I took Betty up to the Brain Trauma Center in Santa Barbara and this was very helpful for Barry.

Betty would also eat anything.  She loved finding the apples that would drop, and we often noticed her carefully picking the loquats from the tree until we trimmed it back to grow taller.  But the most memorable Betty binging was after we planted our garden it exploded with the carrot crop.  She discovered them, and when I came home after work the entire back yard had carrot tops sprawled all about, and Betty in a carotene drunk nearly passed out.  Her tummy was so upset I slept with her on the floor giving her little sips of warm 7Up. Vegetables gardens were difficult to maintain after she discovered those raised beds had food in them.  There were a few seasons of “oh, what’s the use”.

When Martini arrived, the tiny lion hearted Pekingese, has some kind of Napoleon complex, or simply does not know her size.  Aside from her puppy play by chewing on Betty’s tail and ankles, she, still to this day, viciously attacks Betty if she even thinks Betty is coming near her food at meal times.  Betty is so gentle, never ever harming this piranha at her paws & ears.  Which she could so easily do in a simple aggressive move.  But Betty knows Martini is small, so she tolerates all the bullying.

Betty is nearly 18yrs. old, deaf, and in some ways easier with less power behind that relentless reincarnated spirit. She can no longer make it up the stairs, so her DogFather carries her up and back down in the morning.  When Gary isn’t home I carefully pick her up (legs & abs, legs & abs), and in the morning bring her to the top of the stairs, steady her head between my thighs, at the same time I left her back legs while I back down the stairs one at a time, gently easing her down to our first floor.  More recently I have to hold her upright while she eats.  If you let them, dogs make you a better person, and yes, Betty has taught me a lot.

DogFather taking Betty to bed

DogFather taking  Queen Betty to bed

The Protector

Written Aug. 1990

He’s big, he’s black, ferocious and a cupcake all wrapped up into one unique.  His name, Butch.  The stalwart knight ~ the guardian of the domain keeps watch over what we call home on Hurst Ave.  Hurst is a quaint, and usually quiet, with periodic traffic which consists of athletes, restaurant help and beach goers.

Eight years ago Butch’s life was much different from what it is today. He worked as a blood donor, he didn’t have family,  And, although his life had meaning, it was empty.  He was caged up.

Our knight in shinning flee collar is a slightly rotund Labrador retriever which has brought much color to Marguex’s and my life.  Butch is a dog of an independent mind.  I recognized this fact when once I tied his leash to the newspaper stand outside of Surf Liquor.  Something, of course, caught his attention so Butch took off in full gallop with the metal newspaper stand dragging behind him down Seaward Ave. like a tin can rolling down a driveway.  Newspapers dramatically flying into the air, I chased after him mortified but relieved that the stand missed crashing through the large glass display window by an inch.

Like any knight of the realm, Butch’s rather ample figure serves many functions in his roll as personal protector.  He accompanied me roller skating and only after the beginning of our trek it was I that was accompanying him as he pulled me down the street at warp speed.

Most importantly, this K-9 provides freedom and security.  Eight years ago Hurst Ave. had constant traffic.  The neighborhood consisted of drug dealers and the headquarters for the Orphan Motorcycle gang.  Interesting, to say the least.  But our home has never been broken into.  I can leave Marguex home alone with confidence.  And, I can take runs at almost any hour with very little threat.

When I arrive at the door or awaken from a good nights rest Butch staying true to the nature of a retriever, always brings me a present.  It may be a leaf, an avocado pit, a flower, or a particular tempting piece of underwear.  Guardian, Knight, friend; Protector of all I hold dear.

* Butch passed on Saturday, November 25, 1995.  Dr. Gray came to our home where he administered the compassionate injection and most tender words I’ve ever heard in such a situation.  My friends & neighbor were there to comfort and help the doctor removed Butch’s 15  1/2yr. old tired body.