Posts Tagged ‘friends’

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Humility

November 21, 2011

I need to build a bat house.  When we moved here in 2007, there was one bat living on the front porch behind the shutter.  She didn’t bother anybody, and nobody bothered her.  Recently, though, there seemed to be more bat poop on the porch than usual.  I kept checking at different times of the night to see if she was okay.  Then, one night, I saw them, yes, them: six bats!  There are now six bats living on my front porch!

My friend, Alison, who loves animals of all kinds, told me if I put a bat house close to where they are now and made the spot they’re in now uncomfortable, they may relocate to the new house.  Bat houses are fairly easy to build; there are basic plans on a number of different websites.  The houses are all pretty much the same — typically made of a couple pieces of plywood and some nails.  Fabricating one, I determined, would not take long;so I made a list and got myself ready to go buy the materials.

There are two home improvement stores I could go to get what I need — one blue and one orange.  The blue one is brightly lit; the shelves are well stocked with goods that are neatly organized; and the people who work there are very helpful.  The orange store is dark.  The aisles are lined with displays in front of shelves that are often messy and disorganized.  The employees always seem too busy to help.

“You’re joking; you brought a crate.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“The look on your face . . . I can tell when you’re lying.”

“I am a terrible liar.”

“Well, go get your crate.”

“I didn’t bring one.”

So went the conversation, recently, at a disc dog contest.  I brought my dog, Boston, but not a crate to keep him in.  I wanted to drive the two-seater sports car, and a crate just didn’t fit.  I wanted both, drive the Z3 and bring a dog.  So, I had to leave the crate at home.

Boston did really well on the drive down.  He wore his harness and special leash that was buckled into the seat.  He likes riding this way with the top down.  He rested his head on my bag on the floor in front of the passenger seat, and slept most of the three and a half hours it took to get to the event.

When we got there, I let Boston out of the car, hooked his leash to my belt loop and grabbed the two bag chairs from the trunk — one for me and one for him.  Then, I set us up in the administration tent, where I do the scorekeeping for the club.

“Your dog is not chair trained.”

“He’ll stay in the chair or under the table.  He’ll be fine.  Don’t worry.”

Going into the blue home improvement store, for me, is like walking on stage in a theater.  As the bright lights shined in my eyes, I thought I heard an announcement on the intercom declaring, “Heeeere’s Debbie!”  I adjusted my eyes and saw the voice was coming from an associate who’d just greeted me, and asked if I needed help finding the items on my list.

“Building a bat house?  I can help you with that.”

“I’m okay.  Where’s the precut plywood?”

“Let me show you.”

“No, I can manage.  Is it over there?”

“Yes, just let us know if you need help.”

I said, “Thanks,” as I hurried to get away.

Everywhere I went, I was afraid to touch anything.  There was always someone behind me who wanted to know what I was making and giving me suggestions on how to improve it.  My list became crumbled and soft, as I held it tightly in my hand.  Despite all the help they offered, I could not find what I was looking for, and now had no idea how to build a bat house.  I was humiliated, so I left with only my list.

Boston was calm that whole day.  A couple of times someone would trip on him, because they did not see him lying down on the ground near the admin table.  I am not sure why everyone was so surprised.  Just because I don’t compete with him doesn’t mean that I don’t train him.  I take him with me a lot of places, and most of the time he walks along nicely with me or lays down and waits until I’m done.  If he can ride in a car with the top down, he can sit in a chair under a tent.

I took Boston with me when I later went to the orange home improvement store.  We walked in the contractors’ entrance door and were greeted by an employee in an orange apron which made him look much bigger than he actually was, who said, “Is that an Irish Setter?  He’s beautiful.”

“Thanks.”

“I’m building a bat house and need some . . .”

“Does he hunt?”

“Bats?”

“No, your dog.  Does he hunt?”

“Sometimes I take him hunting.  We don’t kill anything, though.  We go to a wildlife management park and he runs in a field of tall grass and points and flushes birds.”

“That’s cool.”

“I want some of the precut plywood.”

“Oh, down that aisle on the right.”

“Thanks.” I love this store.

Before I went for the plywood, I stopped in the paint department.  I am planning on painting the bat house the same colors as my house and front porch shutter.  According to Bat Conservation International, bats are pretty particular about what color their house is.  They live behind the shutter, so they must like the color.  I figured I would make their house the same.

While Boston and I waited for our turn at the paint counter, a woman rode up on one of those battery-powered carts.  She stopped and said, “Oh, you have a dog.  I almost didn’t see him.”

“I’m sorry.  Is he in your way?”

She spoke in a heavy southern accent.  “No, no, honey, he is fine right where he is.  He is beautiful!  Look at him, just lying there being so good.  Is he one of those show dogs?”

She was a very distinguished looking black woman.  Her hair was gray.  Her forehead had creases in it that hid a lifetime of wisdom.  Smiling put the deep wrinkles around her mouth and eyes.  Although I’d never met her before, I knew her.

I said, “No, I don’t show him.  He’s my companion.  I take him with me whenever I can.”

She laughed as she said, “I wish I could take my dog with me, hehe, she laughed. ” He would be jumping out of the chair, getting into everything!  Oh, no, I can’t take him anywhere.”

“A year ago, I didn’t take him, either.  It takes some maturity and practice.  I am a dog trainer, so- . . .”

“You train dogs!  I see so many stray dogs in the street, Lord!”  She looked down at Boston.  “Maybe if some of those dogs had training on them, they could find homes.  What’s your name?”

“My name is Debbie.”

“Well, Miss Debbie, I think you are a wonderful person.  Stay who you are.  I will keep you in my prayers.” She looked away and drove off.

I got my paint and went to the aisle where the plywood is kept.  Stay who you are . . .  Who am I? I thought, standing there in front of the stacks of plywood.

I am a humble dog trainer.  My dog does not catch flying discs or retrieve game birds, but he does sit in a chair and behave himself in public places.  I shop in the orange home improvement store.  I do not seek the spot light or announce my presence.  And I pay respect to wise women.  Women who have the wisdom of ages and smiles on their faces.

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Inspiration

October 10, 2011

For the first time in our life, my younger sister weighs less than me.  Big bones are what she was always told, and she believed it.  Her weight was normal.  She wasn’t fat; I was skinny.  I remember one time when I was in junior high school.  Our parents made us trade seats at the dinner table so I sat next to my father and she sat next to my mother.  My father was to make sure that I ate.  Not that my mother wasn’t attentive, I just did what my father told me to.  This was the alternative to putting me in the hospital.  I was too skinny and they worried I had something wrong with me.

No one has called me skinny for a long time.  When I joined the Navy after college, I had to drink a gallon of water on the way to the induction center so I would weigh the required minimum of 105 pounds.  At boot camp I gained almost 20 pounds and after four years in the service I weighed 145, the heaviest I weighed in my life.  The pounds came off, but I had to work at it.  For the first time in my life, I had to watch what I ate and exercise.  My weight has fluctuated between 135 and 150 ever since.

My sister Maryann on the other hand has always weighed more.  Not much more, but more, always more than me.  Earlier this year, there was an oil spill at her house and she had to move out for a few months.  Her and her husband stayed with friends and family until they finally settled into a hotel.  By the time the environmental protection agency allowed them to live in their house again, she lost 8 pounds.  It was a good start, so she tried to lose more.  As of today she lost 45 pounds.  She now weighs 15 pounds less than me.

Becky called me last week.  Becky and her husband have dedicated their life to reducing the excessive population of dogs and cats.  They run a non-profit group called Dade Animal Resource Team.  The primary mission of DART is spay and neuter.    They raise money and transport over a thousand dogs and cats every year to low-cost spay / neuter clinics.  They also facilitate temporary care and adoptions of stray, abandoned and unwanted pets.  I have helped them out occasionally by providing free training for foster and adoptive families.  I haven’t done much, not as much as I could do.

“How are you doing?  I haven’t heard from you in a while”. Becky said.

“I am fine, getting better”.

Becky’s father died just one week after my mother.  He also had diabetes.

“How about you?”  I said

“Okay, there is more work to do to sort through dad’s things and get the house ready to sell.”

“I am so sorry.  I am in Massachusetts visiting with my dad right now.  I plan to be back home in a few days.”

“How is he doing, okay?”

“He is adjusting.  He doesn’t like living alone”

“It will take some time.”

“I know.”

“Debbie, are you still doing dog training?  Ruff and I would love to come and do some agility.”

“Funny you should ask, Bob and I were looking at the field and discussed getting it cleaned up.”

“Cleaned up?”

“The rain from the tornado washed most of the wood chips off the field and replaced them with a layer of dirt.  We now have weeds growing.  Bob and I want to solve the drainage problem before we buy new wood chips.  We have a plan, we just need to get going on it.”

My sister looks great.  I told her she inspired me to lose some weight.  I am at the high-end of my acceptable range.  Maryann was surprised and said I was the second person that week that called her that.  Her weight loss coach was the first.  She didn’t say it, but I wondered if that was the first time anyone ever called her that, an inspiration.  She has trudged her way through life, just getting by and trying to be happy.  She went to school, worked, and raised two kids on her own.  It was hard, it is hard, but she does it, she has done it for a long time.  After a life time of doing for her family, Maryann is finally doing something for herself.

“If you need some help, I don’t mind doing some of the heavy work.”

“Thanks Becky, I may just take you up on that.  But I want to put some drainage in the road, before I start on the field.  I think that is where the dirt is coming from.”

“Okay, just let me know, Ruff and I are anxious to come over and see you.”

“I can’t wait for you to see Wisconsin.”

“Who is Wisconsin? Did you get a new puppy?”

“I did.  Wisconsin was born at the end of January; I got her the beginning of April.  I thought you knew.”

Oh no.  Did I not tell Becky I got a puppy, that I bought a puppy?  I thought I had but Mom died three weeks after I got her and I have talked to so many people, and I don’t know what I said to whom, and…and.  Oh no.  I didn’t tell her.  When I told her I wanted a puppy, she asked me to adopt one, “there is such a need”, she said.  I bet I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want to tell her.

Since I last spoke to Becky I agreed to foster a dog.  A young Irish Setter named Zoey.  Her owners couldn’t keep her, so she is staying with Bob and I until a permanent home is found.  We can’t keep her.  Five dogs are too many.  It is too expensive and I can’t manage that many dogs at once.  Besides, Zoey needs a home with a family; she is a great family dog.