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!
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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