By the time I met him, Lance’s life had been up for grabs for a decade. Then, one day, I overheard Lance’s owners joking about “nuking “their dog. Considering how they’d treated Lance for a decade, I couldn't help but think his life might be literally on the line. Since we were living in a no-dogs-allowed apartment, my wife Clara and I frantically searched for a house to purchase and found one within a couple of weeks. A few days after we moved in, I showed up at the Schmidt residence and asked to take Lance. My request was denied. Mrs. Schmidt insisted—I'd say delusionally—that Lance was part of her family. I drove back home, at first confused and then flat out angry. A part of the family? Who the heck was she kidding? I decided that if I couldn't get Lance by hook, I'd get him by crook. I began scheming—I would steal Lance, if necessary. In the book, I mention that I might be a bit rusty in the theft department, not having stolen anything since my shoplifting days as an adolescent. A lapse of memory. It was only after Lance: A Spirit Unbroken was published that I remembered having committed theft as an adult and that thievery just so happened to involve a dog…
…One summer, back in the 1980s, I was going through a tough time. Among other things, I was between jobs. John, a friend of mine, let me stay at his house in Roosevelt, Long Island while I got back on my feet. Living with him at the time was a family (we’ll call them the Smiths) he had befriended. They had a dog, a Terrier mix, named Quincy. The first time I laid eyes on him it was obvious he was being severely neglected. He was a scrawny, smelly mess. I noticed that at dinner he was either ignored or thrown an occasional scrap as an afterthought. The Smiths were the kind of people I wouldn't be caught dead with but my own circumstances had thrown me under the same roof with them.
When I got my initial unemployment check, one of the first things I did was buy Quincy a bag of kibble. Every so often I’d supplement that with some of my own dinner. Within a month, Quincy was back to his appropriate weight. John and I also gave Quincy a bath (the first of his life?). We had to use scissors to cut gum, candy and other foreign objects that were embedded in his coat. Admiring our handiwork, John said, “Quincy has his dignity back.”
I started taking Quincy with me to the local high school where, while I ran around a quarter-mile track, he did the kind of investigating dogs normally do in all the nearby foliage. Every once in a while he'd join in and run right alongside me as I circled the track. Usually, that didn't keep his interest for long and he went back to further canine snooping.
About six weeks after I had moved in with John, I found employment in New York City. That meant a round-trip commute via the Long Island Railroad five days a week. Every workday morning when I’d leave the house, Quincy would stare at me from a window, propped up on the sill with his front paws, begging me with his eyes to either take him along or come back inside the house. Oh, the guilt trips (literally and figuratively) Mondays through Fridays!
The first evening I came back home from my job, Quincy was nowhere to be found. After much searching, I found him up in my bedroom, ensconced in a closet I’d left open. That was where I would find him after every workday. I had the distinct feeling he didn't want to be around any of his owners during my absence.
Then I met Clara. We hit it off immediately. The problem was she lived some thirty-five miles away in the Village of Patchogue. Lots of phone calls led to our first meeting, several dates and, after a January weekend together, the decision that I would move in with her. The following Monday I called off work and headed back to John's place to get my stuff. While driving on the Long Island Expressway, I had no trouble convincing myself that I should and would take Quincy with me.
It was early evening when I got to John's place. No one was home, making my caper easier to pull off. I parked my VW beetle in front of the house, went inside and, after exchanging greetings with Quincy, began collecting my personal belongings and taking them out to my car.
On my last trip to the car the Smiths pulled into the driveway. I happened to be carrying a bag of dirty laundry so I told them I was going to the laundromat, sensing they hadn’t noticed the rest of my worldly possessions crammed inside my VW. I hadn’t aroused their suspicions, but taking Quincy to the laundromat might. I went back inside, trudged upstairs and sat myself at the desk in my bedroom, pondering my next move. Quincy lay down next to his would-be dognapper. What to do? I wasn’t about to unpack my car but I couldn’t leave my possessions in it either—that would be an open invitation to anyone with sticky fingers. No telling what my extensive LP and 45rpm record collection was worth.
Then, opportunity knocked! I heard talking and laughing coming from downstairs. I descended to the first floor and realized the Smiths, all five of them, were in the back room watching TV. From there, they couldn’t see the front door to the house—as long as they stayed put. I went outside, started the car and came back into the house. The Smiths were engrossed in whatever show they were watching so I went upstairs, leashed Quincy, and descended the stairs, hoping and praying he’d keep his yap shut. Out the door we went, high-tailing it (Quincy doing so literally!)to the car. After squeezing Quincy into the back seat between my dumbbells and stereo, I scooted into the driver’s seat and slowly drove away, not wanting to attract attention or arouse suspicions. I kept a lookout in my rearview mirror, all the while trying to cook up an alibi if nabbed and forced to explain what I was doing. Once I entered Southern State Parkway, I gunned my car to the extent you can gun a 1973 VW Beetle. Quincy and I were home free!
We arrived at Clara’s and, before unloading any of my personal property, I let Quincy into Clara’s house to meet her. What did he do? He went into a furious spin and then took a humongous dump on the living room floor. Quincy had introduced himself! Clara is a dog lover so Quincy put a damper on the relationship.
Moral of this story? After a long car ride let your (kidnapped) dog poop outside before bringing him inside.
As for Lance, did I have to kidnap him? I can’t give that away but, if you haven’t already, you can find out by reading Lance: A Spirit Unbroken.
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Undaunted, I signed Gia up for agility, but we had to go through their beginner training first. Add another $195 to the list of charges to rehab Gia. There were a few other dogs there and Gia was not having it. She would bark, growl, and try to pick fights with them. We had to go to the back of the classroom. She was also developing a Stranger, Danger attitude towards people, now adding kids to the list of things that made her nervous. These classes were a little “out there” for me. I guess I am a little old school when it comes to training having been through it enough. Sitting there on a mat, massaging my dog’s ears, etc. was a little weird. It is why I do not do yoga myself. And the whole method of this training was treating. I realized I would have to monitor my dog’s feeding to compensate for the treats during class. Yeah, no! My dog is very food motivated but then so am I. However, when we are out on the street and trying to walk, she is over threshold (extremely fired up) and will not take a treat. It is exhausting. I gave up on this training and tried to figure out my next move.
One weekend, I went to pick up my dog food from the farm. It is a ninety-minute drive each way, so we thought we would take the dogs with us. The farm is in the Hudson Valley of New York. Beautiful countryside. The owner of the farm said that his neighbor had a lot of acreage and there are deer trails he allows people to hike on with their dogs. After we got the food, we went up to the trail. Anxiously, we let the dogs off leash to explore. I have never seen THIS Gia before. She was happy, the white tip of her tail up like a flagpole, while she was exploring the brushes around the lake. Then she jumped in the lake and started swimming. We were astounded. She is a true country dog. But like I said, we cannot afford that move yet. When we got home, the old Gia returned. Not wanting to walk–it is like the Push Me-Pull You from Dr. Doolittle. Or having a pet donkey.
One evening, Gia was in the yard and I heard her barking (no surprise there), but the barking seemed like it was coming from the front of the house. I peeked out my front window to see a man walking towards my front door crouched down with his arms open wide like he was going to “scoop” something up. Turns out, he and his wife were walking their dog and spotted Gia, who had escaped from our yard. He was trying to corral her so she wouldn’t run into the street. We never figured out if she jumped the fence (it is a four-foot fence but when your adrenaline kicks in, you do it) or if she scurried under it. Anyway, the next purchase was a breakaway collar. She escaped once more and hid in our neighbor’s driveway. She has not left since knowing the big, bad world waits for her out there.
Last spring, I reached out to one of Gia’s trainers from before…Gia and Clifford love her. Although her boss’s methods are a little out of date, she has been studying up on some positive training and working with therapy dogs, etc. She came over and the dogs went crazy for her. She is good with them too. She knew we were experimenting with other trainers and ideas and she was fine with that. We thought maybe an in-house training session for ten days (drop off in the a.m., pick up in the p.m., Monday through Friday) might help. I trusted them and signed her up. To the tune of $1800 (because I was an old client, I got a discount). The training worked up to a point but I really need Gia to be comfortable in her own surroundings…on this busy county road.
I took a break from trainers. It did not help that I was laid off from my job last year after twelve years. I started a new job in January, but I do not have the extra cash to spend on trainers right now, and I do not want to give her any more drugs. I am in limbo right now. I have been reading up on some different trainers where I can do the work myself. They all say the problem is anxiety and can be alleviated with exercise. How am I supposed to exercise her when she will not go out??? One thing I am planning (after I read my 1000th book on dog training) is to start her walking on my treadmill. Hopefully, we can burn off some of that stress and she’ll be able to walk outside. When we were using the trainer the dogs adore, they would jump on retaining walls, park benches and tables to burn some pent-up energy. Now what Gia does is run from the back door and bee line it to the front window jumping over the couch to bark at someone walking in front of the house. Not sure that is exactly what the trainer had in mind–making my house Gia’s personal obstacle course.
My dogs’ lives prior to being rescued are all mysteries. I used to ask God to give Gia the power of human speech just for five minutes so she can tell me what to do and what not to do. She is such a sweet, smart, and lovable dog. I enjoy watching her figure out toys and puzzles. I can see her mind working. Clifford is lovable and a manipulator. When he is out in the yard and wants to play, he does this little “woof”. Hearing him, Gia will tear through the house to go outside to see “what are we barking at”. I could swear Clifford gives me a wink and a big Pit grin because he got one over on her. Clifford is calm, cool, and collected and he knows that Gia requires more of my attention and he is fine with that. Clifford loves to walk (if we get to chase cats and squirrels it is a huge score). When I look at either of them and they look back at me, my heart is so full of love.
Having Gia has made me more aware of myself. I take better care of myself so I can be around to take care of her (and Clifford, and my husband, too) but I can also understand why some dogs are returned because people don’t want to put in the time to figure out these dogs. I believe I have a special needs dog.
In the end, I made a commitment to Gia. I want to give her the best life possible. And I will…once I figure out how to do that.
—Patricia Sullivan Jimenez
Don't forget about my special book sale at https://walterstoffelauthor.com/buy-now !
Gia #2 is a border collie/Labrador Retriever mix. She was about a year old when we adopted her. The rescue told us that she was a stray and rescued from a high-kill shelter in western Virginia by a woman in eastern Tennessee. Gia was on the list to be euthanized. In fact, she was 8 hours from the needle when she was pulled. Like all rescue organizations, they had a veterinarian examine and spay her. Once she was cleared for adoption, they transported her to Delaware to the rescue and they put her profile on doggie Tinder where I found her by swiping right (just the way you do on Tinder for humans!). My contact at the rescue told me that her foster mom said Gia was skittish. We did not know to what extent but we would soon find out.
My contact at the rescue brought Gia up from Delaware one Friday night to do a meet and greet with Clifford. They got along right off the bat and she got to stay. And so, it begins…
On our first walk Gia escaped from her harness and briefly ran away. An idling Mack truck had spooked her. Over the next few days and weeks, we were learning that she was afraid of SO MUCH: thunder and fireworks (no surprise there), motorcycles, loud cars, pneumatic tools (repetitive stapling or nailing), etc. She also would bark ferociously at any dog walking with their owners past our house. I took her to a few trainers, but they used a lot of old school methods such as jerking corrections, alpha dog stuff, etc. I’ve probably spent about $2000 on trainers–some group classes and some private sessions. A few months after we got Gia, my husband and I went on our vacation which had been planned the year before. We took Clifford and Gia to a local kennel. I’d never used this kennel, but I did my homework. It had good reviews. I scoped out the kennel and it appeared alright. I brought our dogs down for a couple of doggie day care sessions and they did well. We signed them up for their “vacation”.
When we returned from our trip, Gia was a mess. The owner of the kennel had to keep Gia and Clifford apart from the other dogs because she got into skirmishes with them. Prior to our vacation, I had visited the kennel on weekends. What I hadn’t been aware of was that it was also next to an area where garbage/recycling trucks parked. The beeping sound of those trucks was enough to drive Gia over the edge. The owner suggested that I muzzle Gia because of her aggressive behavior. I felt so bad. Gia had reverted to her old ways and I blamed myself.
I read up on positive dog training (add the cost of MANY books to the growing Gia dog training tab). I believe that with Gia’s issues positive is the way to go. She is already nervous so jerking her leash, pulling, etc. will not make her a happy dog when outside. Inside, she is the boss and you would never know that she suffers from agoraphobia. We live on a semi-busy county road so there are always trucks, a bus or two, and souped-up muscle cars. We cannot afford to move yet to find Gia a country place.
I reached out to my vet who gave her Lorazepam (generic version of Ativan). It dulled her senses and increased her appetite and she gained weight. He recommended I take her to an animal behaviorist—at $300.00/hour! I took her to meet with the doctor (a quick thirty-minute session). The exam room was not your typical vet examining room. It was a giant doggie playroom. A big box in the corner loaded with balls and squeaky toys. It had a bowl of water for the patient, aromatherapy and light classical music playing. The doctor asked me a bunch of questions and evaluated Gia. She also suggested I try another canine expert who was versed in Victoria Stilwell’s training methods.
Having determined that Gia is noise sensitive she suggested I purchase earmuffs for Gia, the kind that dogs that fly on planes and helicopters use to protect their ears. I bought them. They were $85. Add that to the costs of helping my baby girl. I felt so stupid walking her with earmuffs on. They would not stay on her, so I bought her a snood to keep them in place. That lasted for one walk. The doctor gave Gia a prescription for Fluoxetine (generic version of Prozac). We weaned her from the Lorazepam and started her on the new drug. This one made her more anxious and aggressive. Not what I was looking to do. We weaned her off Fluoxetine too. Just say no to drugs! When we weaned her of the Fluoxetine, Gia did seem much better. That, too, turned out to be short-lived.
I contacted the recommended trainer and made an appointment. She came to the house and evaluated Gia. Clifford, the lover of all things human, kept barking at this woman. I had never seen him behave like that. He would get all whale-eyed and bark at her while looking at her from the corner of his eye. Gia would go over to him and try to calm him down (one of her most adorable traits with him) and tell him that the lady was there to help her. Clifford went over to his bed and just watched. The trainer sat there on the sofa taking notes on her laptop. She hardly interacted with Gia at all. I thought it was odd, but she was the professional. The trainer suggested I take Gia to agility classes as this would help with her confidence and, being part border collie, she would excel. She also suggested I change her food. The commercially produced food I was giving her, although the highest quality I could find was not healthy. I did switch. Turns out the agility center also sells it (the proprietor is Tito Jackson, no relation to the late Michael’s brother). I now buy the food direct from the farm in upstate New York. It is an organic raw food diet and the dogs have done well. Believe it or not, it is also much less expensive, and dogs absorb more of the vitamins and minerals (read between the lines here–less waste!).
But I digress. The trainer mentioned that we were going to work in stages to help develop Gia’s confidence. We signed a contract ($700) for six sessions. The first session was after the evaluation. I felt buyer’s remorse but in my heart of hearts I still wanted to help Gia, so I gave the trainer a check and we scheduled our next appointment. During the second session, Clifford did his whole “Danger, Danger Will Robinson” routine. Gia calmed him down and we decided to go for a walk. I had Clifford and the trainer took Gia. A half a block later, the trainer said, “Let’s switch dogs, I can’t control Gia”. I was surprised because that was her job. I agreed and we went back to the house. The trainer cut the session short, I am guessing out of a little embarrassment. I fired her the next day, requesting the balance of my money back. She was surprised and I said that I did not feel that she was bonding with Gia and, therefore, she would not be effective. The good news? She returned the balance. The bad news? I still had an unbalanced dog. Back to the drawing board…(to be continued)
My name is Pat Jimenez and I have a dog story for you.
The first dog I owned as an adult was a purebred Boxer named Milo. He was my buddy, my partner in crime. He loved it when I made the house special for dinner (mac and cheese with hamburger). He was the best dog. He was six years old when I got married and he became my husband’s best buddy, too. Milo developed cancer and passed in February 2005. We were so despondent. We did not think we would ever get another dog. We stayed dog-less for almost a year.
During that year of grieving, I saw one of our neighbors walking a little white dog named Gia. I thought it was a Jack Russell Terrier. Fast forward to January 2006 and that same neighbor, who had moved away to get a larger yard for the puppy came to my door. She was crying and told me that her children were allergic to the dog and she needed to get rid of it. She knew I liked the puppy and didn’t want to see it go to the pound. I spoke to my husband and he agreed. Turns out that in Spanish (the neighbor’s primary language) “my children were allergic” translates to “we can’t housebreak this dog” in English (joke). Incidentally, that family got more dogs.
Gia was a Boxer/Pitbull mix. We had her housebroken in a few days. She was a good dog, but she did not like other dogs. She also had Isolation Distress. Isolation Distress is an anxiety disorder. It is not Separation Anxiety. With Separation Anxiety a pet attaches itself to ONE person. When that person is not around, the pet experiences stress. It does not matter that anyone else is with him/her. Isolation Distress is when the pet does not like to be alone. I could have brought a stranger into the house to stay with her and she would have been fine. Unfortunately, I had a lot of woodwork and furniture that bore the brunt of that anxiety!
Gia liked going on walks and road trips. She was good off leash. My husband used to walk her in the park and then hide behind one of the large trees there. Gia would have fun tracking him down in a game of hide-and-go seek. When she found him, she would give him a scolding look for hiding on her.
Gia suffered three bouts with cancer. The last one was when she was 10-1/2 years old. It was aggressive–the tumor was growing inwards and affecting her organs. We found the tumor just before Labor Day 2015. The vet oncologist said they could do a cat scan, perform surgery and chemotherapy. It would cost us $12,000 out-of-pocket and maybe she’d get three more months– if she survived the anesthesia. If she’d been five years old and they could have given her five more years, I would have handed over my credit card in a minute. We decided that it was not fair to her. We kept her comfortable with pain medication. Ultimately, she crossed The Rainbow Bridge October 2015.
After losing Gia, my husband and I weren’t sure if we wanted another dog right away. I was starting a class online in January and would finish in August. We decided that we would get a dog when my class finished and I had more time to take care of it. Getting a dog in August soon became getting a dog in early summer, which then became getting a dog after the New Year to getting a dog as my Christmas present.
While having Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt’s house, my cousin told me about a nearby rescue organization. When I got home, I went online to their website and fell in love with a Boxer/American Staffordshire three-year boy named Clifford. Clifford was a single guy living the high life on the streets of Georgia. He was rescued by a woman who usually only rescues Pit bulls because of their short lives in shelters but she felt a connection to Clifford. Clifford was being transported from Georgia to a new foster here in New Jersey. He was only here three days when I met him (maybe stalked is a better word) at an adoption event and we adopted him.
Clifford had been fostered on a horse farm. He loves big animals. When we go to any place where there are other dogs, like rescue events, he gravitates towards the Danes, Greyhounds, and Newfies. Maybe they make him feel petite. He is a charmer. Everyone who meets him falls in love with him. This guy and my other guy, Milo, were the easiest dogs I have ever known. Clifford has such a sweet temperament–except he does have a high prey drive. I chalk that up to his survival on the streets of Georgia. Here in New Jersey, groundhogs, birds, squirrels have lost to the Cliff-man. I was able to save one groundhog and one cat. The skunks handled their own business…three times. Ugh!
My husband and I thought that maybe Clifford could use a companion. We have never had 2 dogs at the same time, but we figured, why not? Cue the theme music from Jaws!
We found Gia on Petfinder in early March 2016. Yes, her name was Gia, too. Both girls came to me with the same name. I do not believe in changing a dog’s given name (Clifford came with his, too, and I loved it!). Gia #1 was white with a tan patch (aka white Gia) and Gia #2 is black with a white nose, white feet, and a white patch on her chest (aka black Gia). We felt it was kismet and had to get her. My boys were easy, my girls, not so much! My experiences with my first Gia were a warmup for my trials and tribulations with my second Gia. Nothing could have fully prepared me for what I would endure with Gia#2…(to be continued !)
There's a reason we call them man's best friend (or a woman’s in my case) One day I saw an advert in my local newspaper " Dog for sale £30 ". Unbeknown to me, this ad would change my life forever. As soon as Tess and I made eye contact, we both knew it was meant to be. She came home with me and that’s when it all began. Thirteen years of willingness to provide her family members with unconditional love, loyalty and companionship down to her very last breath. In Tess’s presence, somehow nothing else in this world mattered. I was always greeted with the same enthusiasm each and every time I walked in the door. The pure love she gave, sparing no expense and asking absolutely nothing in return.
They say that dogs have the ability to sense what’s really going on and boy did Tess have that sense! There was a time in my life where I found myself in an abusive relationship. The abuser often exploited my devotion to Tess in order to control and manipulate me. He also made it clear that if I ended the relationship, I would never see my gorgeous girl again. Tess was my stable ground and I clung to her during the storm of emotional and physical abuse I faced. As the abuse continued, her increasing affection and unparalleled loyalty provided a safe harbour for me. Whenever I felt weighed down with discouragement and despair, her wet kisses, snuggles and tail wags inspired me to keep coming up for air.
In the end it was Tess that saved me from abuse. She always showed her displeasure with my abuser’s treatment of me and one day she snapped and took a chunk out of him. Normally, I don’t condone aggressiveness of any kind, but if she had not come to my rescue that day and done what she did, I would not be here now. I owe that pooch my life.
It was a very emotional and physically draining time for me, and I'm sure for Tess to. Do I leave and risk harm to me and Tess or do I stay and risk the same. After Tess bit my tormentor we did leave and stay with my parents, Unfortunately it was still in the same town as my abuser so there were times our paths would cross and when they did, Tess's whole demeanor would change, going from a happy, bouncy, trotting-along-not-a-care-in-the-world little lady to a stand-offish pooch rooted to the spot and stiff, growling until he passed by. Tess always spotted him before I did and my abuser knew to just keep walking. Eventually my abuser moved away and we didn't see him again. It was quite a few years later (Tess had already crossed the rainbow bridge) when we heard that my abuser had actually raped a woman he was in a relationship with and was awaiting trial. In hindsight, things for me and Tess could have turned out much worse than they actually did. I'll be forever grateful to Tess for giving me the strength to get out when I did. There was nothing she wouldn't do for me and I for her, the bond we had has been like no other.
I have two rescue dogs now that are my world, I don't love them any less, I just love them differently. The pain of losing her that day will stay with me a lifetime. There's not a day goes by where I don't think of her and feel thankful for the life we had together.
People have been very generous in complimenting my wife Clara and me for rescuing Lance and then sticking by him despite his unpredictability. Financially, Lance didn’t cost us a lot of money (apart from that time he got “porcupined”). After all, we got him for “free” and he was incredibly durable health-wise. Lance was expensive in the sense that he nearly cost us our sanity. Was it worth living with a dog that had us on pins and needles? Definitely. As I mention in the book, “I would take that dog back in a flash, baggage and all.”
Our current dog Buddy, a poodle/beagle mix, was diagnosed with congestive heart disease several months ago. He is now on a regular regimen of visits to the veterinarian and an assortment of medications. We’re spending about $400-$500 a month on visits to the clinic and another $270 a month on medications. This is money that—as the saying goes—we don’t have.
While Lance had us on edge because of his biting tendencies, Buddy has us on edge financially but much more so because his life is literally a day to day thing. He has wheezing spells when he can barely breathe. Clara and I can only sit, watch and hope. So far, Buddy has survived these fits.
At night, Buddy has taken to sleeping in the living room by himself. When I get up in the morning and come out into the dark I’m never sure if I’m going to find him alive or dead. I’m afraid to turn the light on and find out. I go into the kitchen to make coffee and wait for him to show some signs of life. Invariably, I start hearing his tail thump. My first feeling is one of relief—he’s lived to see another day!
So, in a sense we’re spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars and living on emotional pins and needles just to hear a tail thump in the morning. Dog lovers know that’s a worthwhile investment.
What sacrifices have you made for your dog?
Due to the virus, my personal appearances have dwindled to zero. Among the many postponed events was the Kulpmont 100 Beerfest. Based on my experience at last year’s edition, I had been looking forward to this particular venue with special relish. The following essay explains why (if you’ve already read this on my author website I apologize but reading it here might just make you laugh again).
Dogs and beer?!
What does a Beerfest have to do with a dog rescue? You’d be surprised. I think I’ve found a new target market for Lance: A Spirit Unbroken—beer drinkers that love dogs or, put another way, dog lovers that drink beer.
Last Saturday (June 29, 2019), I drove two hours to offer my book at an event—the Kulpmont100 Beerfest.
Things didn’t start off on a positive note. I missed an exit early in my drive, absent-mindedly continuing on a road that takes me to my day job on weekdays. After getting back on the right track, I got stuck in a traffic jam. I showed up just minutes before the event began and rushed to get everything set up.
A half-hour into the event, the skies began to darken. Then came strong winds quickly followed by torrents of rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. I had all to do to keep my tent from blowing away. I hunkered down underneath it, holding on for dear life to one of the tent poles. My coffee thermos got blown off my table and rolled away, never to be seen again. Custom bookmarks got soaked beyond repair. My flyers suddenly were “gone with the wind.”
While I clung to my tent hoping that it would not be blown away (and me with it!), the attendees of this event remained safe and comfortable just yards away, protected by the huge roof of a pavilion. Sheltered from the downpour, they continued to do what they came there to do—sample beer.
As the storm carried on, the thought occurred to me: so this is the life of a self-published author! Then, another thought occurred to me: who got me into this mess? Why, Lance, of course! No Lance would have meant no book which in turn would have meant no rained-on Beerfest. I thought about all the times on our hikes I wound up stuck in foul weather—weather that never seemed to bother Lance. If he had been with me last Saturday, I’m sure he would’ve been having the time of his life.
The rain continued to come down in sheets. I remained planted under my waterlogged tent, faced with having to pack up my goods and schlep to my car, all in the midst of a monsoon.
Just when it looked as if the day was going to literally be a washout, the storm abated and the sun began asserting itself. I resurrected my tent and put what remained of my goods in order. I was back in business. People began leaving the pavilion and many of them headed (staggered?) toward me. That’s when things took a turn for the better. This would become the most unusual book signing I’ve ever participated in:
1—A lady strolled up to my table and began petting the front cover of the book as if she was actually petting Lance. She did it in such dramatic fashion that it dawned on me she was under the influence. She bought a book and convinced her two friends, also a bit tipsy, to buy e-books on their phones.
2—Another lady came up to me and asked, “Is this book going to make me cry?” That often is the kiss of death as I cannot in good conscience tell people that they won’t shed a tear or two reading Lance’s story. However, I held the book for her and asked her to read the next-to-last paragraph from the book blurb on the back cover (that’s where Lance’s quirkiness is described). She said she was not up to it and I wound up reading the paragraph to her. When I was done she said, “I’ve decided you are a kind soul.” She bought not one but three books.
3—Still another lady wobbled up to my table and announced, “I just lost my dog.” I replied, “I’m so sorry to hear that. When did it happen?” She responded, “Oh, about an hour ago I guess.” “How are you handling it?” I asked. She said, “Fine.” Her response was so blasé I wasn’t sure I had heard her correctly so I asked, “Your dog died? You lost your dog?” “No!” she responded. “I lost my glass.” She was referring to the complimentary drinking glass attendees were given as they went from one beer vendor to the other. She had mistaken me for a beer crafter and approached me to get another glass. When I explained to her what I was offering, she stumbled off to the tent next to me where her needs were met. For the record, no book purchase.
For the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by well over 500 people that were under the influence. Certainly, it was the first time in my life I was sober and found myself surrounded by well over 500 people that were under the influence. All in all, a very surreal feeling.
I left the beerfest a bit ahead of everybody else. I didn’t want to leave surrounded by a swarm of gas-fueled cars driven by alcohol-fueled drivers.
Lance got me into a lot of unique situations while he was living; his spirit continues to “hound” me!
The thought occurs to me—I can get angry with humans, even those very close to me. Sometimes that anger morphs into a grudge which I might hold on to for a long time. Yet, I rarely if ever get angry with the dog. At worst, I might be briefly irritated by one. I definitely have never held a grudge against a dog.
Maybe that’s because I relate to humans on humans’ terms. Just like me, other people are capable of anger and holding grudges. Likewise, I relate to dogs on dogs’ terms. A dog rarely if ever has gotten angry at me and, when it comes to grudges, unlike some people, a dog will always give you a chance to redeem yourself.
Does this make any sense to you?
Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch bad movies. Major accomplishment : He entered a 26.2-mile marathon following hip replacement surgery and finished—dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog Buddy (another rescue), and cat Winky (yet another rescue).
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