Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sgt. Thomas Tibbs on steroids

So, here's the good news about Sgt. Thomas Tibbs:

After three and a half years with me, he is still making slow progress toward becoming, as I like to characterize it, "a real dog." He has settled in nicely to life in Calimesa. We both loved the fact that over the Fourth of July holiday it was relatively quiet around here, except for the occasional bottle rocket shot off by some miscreants on the nearby golf course, and of course, a half hour or so of muted booms from the fireworks display at the local high school (which we toughed out nicely by sitting in the truck in the garage, me reading, Thom panting).

Dog lovers know that living with a dog is like living with a secret agent; you're constantly followed by someone who seems to take notes of everything you do, everywhere you go. I never thought Thomas would ever get to this level of companionship, but since I've been retired, he's been very intent on scrutinizing my routine. He knows if I put on a certain pair of sneakers, we're going for a walk, and he will follow me down the hall without being called. On the now rare occasion that I put on slacks or a skirt, he stays on his bed—with very sad eyes. In that case, he knows I'm leaving without him and will be gone for a long time.

And he absolutely loves riding in the truck. Every afternoon at 4:00 (he reminds me if I'm caught up in writing something and forget the time), we go for a drive to get the mail and just get out of the house for awhile. Thomas is happy to sit in the back seat for as long as I want to chauffeur him around. Yes, this is the same dog whose anxiety would make him puke if he had to ride more than a mile or so. Now that's progress.

He's also gotten extremely good at playing 'possum. I'm still getting up pretty early, usually around 5:00. All the dogs I've ever companioned with (except for Osa, when she was very, very old) have begun their potty dance as soon as I swing my legs over the side of the bed. Thom remains where he is, absolutely still, until I come to his bed and rub his belly. When he first started this, I thought he wasn't feeling well. He'd lay in his bed, unmoving, until I came to sit by him and pet him. Slowly, he'd begin to "wake up." It took me awhile (humans are notoriously slow to catch on, as dogs know), but I finally realized he was staying in bed so I would come scratch his back and behind his ears. When he's felt sufficient love and adoration, he simply jumps up, shakes all over, wags his tail and trots for the back door. He's such a goofy, funny dog now compared to the depressed, traumatized and shut down dog he was three years ago.

But... here's the bad news about Sgt. Thomas Tibbs:

He was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It's called Pemphigus. When his nose began to look like this

I Googled "Why does my dog have spots on his nose?" and ended up on, reading about how dogs can get lupus. I picked up the phone and called the vet's office.

Our new vet, Dr. Thompson at Adobe Veterinary Clinic, was really great with Thom, understanding and empathizing with his fear of humans. (And Dr. Thompson appreciates the work of Temple Grandin, so that makes him even more wonderful.) Plus he has horses. And a sense of humor.

He explained that no, we don't know what causes Pemphigus, but yes, it usually does respond well to a certain steroid, and he is confident that Thom's quality of life will remain good. "He has a strong heart," he commented as he applied his stethoscope to Thom's ribcage. We left with medicine which Thomas is swallowing down with his treats (never suspecting). I think he'll be fine in a few weeks. I've already told him I need him around for a few more years. We've got a lot of walking—and driving—to do.

Monday, July 10, 2017

68 points

Here are the two salient points in today's post:
1. I've lost weight. (YAYYYYY!!!!!)
2. I've lowered my cholesterol—by 68 points. (In this case, "yay" in all caps with five exclamation points may not suffice to express my elation.)

If you read the blog on a regular basis, you may recall being vaguely annoyed by my post of January 3 wherein I discussed my weight gain over the holidays and my strategy for fitting more comfortably in my clothes again. So here's the update on that:

I stopped eating sweets. No homemade oatmeal cookies or lemon-lavender muffins through the winter. No more agave nectar (or half & half) in my morning tea. (Whew, that was hard. Like, really, really hard.) That's all. Well, I mean, I tried not to overeat or snack out of boredom or whatever but mostly, I curtailed sweets. I've lost eight pounds. Yep. Sloooooowly, a couple ounces at a time, the weight came off. I feel better. I move more fluidly. My clothes fit better. Yoga is... still hard but slightly less hard and worth every bit of the workout every time. Namaste.

In November, my new-really-horrible-doctor had me do blood work and my cholesterol level was 278. She sent me an email saying she'd enrolled me in Kaiser's here's-how-to-eat-better class—even though I'd already told her I do eat healthy and I've been a vegetable vegetarian for fifteen years. I didn't attend the class. I did ask Kaiser nicely for another new doctor. I was then assigned my new-really-wonderful-doctor (Dr. Vendiola in the Redlands facility, and she's awesome). She asked me to do blood work. I said, "Of course. I came in fasting for that very purpose." Three days later I got the result: My cholesterol level is now at 208.

Seriously?!? This is good news. I haven't had a number below 240 in twenty years.

How did I do it? I retired.

You're laughing. I'm serious. That's all I've done differently. I'm not exercising any more than I did before. I'm not eating differently (other than these past couple of months without cupcakes—sob).

I was so fascinated by this number, I spent a bit of time researching the correlation between stress and high cholesterol, and then it made sense. Want me to explain it? You can read a fascinating abstract by clicking here, but this is the bottom line of the study:

Stress produces elevations in serum cholesterol concentrations.

Know what else does? Standing. In the same study, the cholesterol concentrations in test subjects rose when they were tested while standing. Yeah. What did I do all day long five days a week for twenty-seven years? I engaged in a highly stressful activity (teaching teenagers in a public school setting—damned bell to damned bell) while standing. No wonder my cholesterol kept going up and up and up no matter what I did. When the stress ended, my cholesterol level plummeted. Just. like. that. Booyah.

So once again, I highly recommend retirement (unless you can sit while performing the very relaxing tasks required for your job). Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going out to work in the garden. Then maybe I'll play my guitar for awhile.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Come to think of it, the whole thing started with a guitar

When I was fifteen, my sister taught me to play guitar. I've always said my instrument is my voice, but I needed some accompaniment if I was going to sit around in a circle with my hippie friends and sing "Blowin' in the Wind," so guitar was the best (coolest) option. We went to the swap meet, picked up a nice little folk guitar for 30 bucks (my birthday money), and so it began.

It only takes three chords to play "Blowin' in the Wind," although if you play it in C you have to play an F, and that chord gave me fits until I finally conquered it. Of course, a hundred more songs followed. But, one year later, it was that song, "Blowin' in the Wind," that I was singing the day my eventual husband walked up onto my lawn where I was sitting placidly, playing, singing. We'd never met. He lived in the neighborhood. I'd seen him around. But that day he heard me singing and simply walked up and sat down, listening quietly until I finished.

Six months later, for Christmas, he bought me a guitar. He had told me repeatedly that I needed "a good guitar," a steel string acoustic. Although I had told him I was perfectly content with the guitar I had, as an axe-wielding teenager, I would've loved to have had a Martin (sort of the equivalent, as guitars go, of buying a Landrover). Realistically, given my socio-economic level, I could only dream about owning such a fine instrument. (By the way, "axe" is a euphemism for guitar. The etymology of the term is fascinating, so Google "Why is a guitar called an axe?" sometime just for fun.)

However, on that Christmas Day in 1971, I opened a large cardboard box the size of a small refrigerator to discover a guitar case, and inside that case, a very beautiful guitar. Not a Martin. An Ibanez. Ever heard of it? Neither had I. Now, don't get me wrong. Ibanez makes some really fine guitars, and this one was no exception. But... this was definitely not my dream guitar.

[Quick side note here: Inside that guitar case, in the pick box, was a small jeweler's box. And inside that box was a ring. A thin gold band. "It's a wedding ring!" the man said—in front of my entire family. "Put it on!" That was his proposal. I should have seen monumentally huge red flags unfurling so rapidly they blotted out the gorgeous December-in-Southern-California sun. But I didn't.]

My response to the guitar, I think, was, "Um... ... .... It's nice." I just didn't know what to say. It was huge, a "D" size (no, ladies, guitars don't come in bra cup sizes, though that might've helped), and far too big for me. And it was a "dreadnought" shape (see photos above and below). And it was a light wood, spruce. None of these are characteristics I would have chosen for myself.

And I couldn't play it. At least not yet. No "set-up" had been done on the guitar (sorry for the jargon), so the strings were too high, and they were steel (as opposed to the more forgiving nylon strings I'd learned on), so pushing my fingers down to make chords felt like jamming on razor blades.

"The neck is solid rosewood!" my now-fiancé beamed. He loved that guitar. And what I came to realize is that he bought the guitar that he wanted. No consideration had been given to what I might have wanted (which, no surprise, ended up being a theme in our doomed marriage).

But it was a nice guitar with a beautiful sound, and he had it worked on so that it would be more forgiving on my fingers. So I played it. And played it and played it.

(I'm the one in the middle.)

For forty-five years—at church, in countless weddings, for several funerals, someone's baby shower, several luncheons—I have played that big, loud, sweet-sounding guitar. What a trove of memories we've shared... both good and bad. The good ones involve happy weddings and informal gatherings like my brother's birthday a few years back when he, my sister and I all played our guitars and sang the songs of our youth. Perfect day.

But the bad ones... well, they're pretty bad. Because I mostly sang in church. And I suppose I should mention here that the man I married, the one who bought me that guitar, became the pastor of a church (despite being an atheist when we married). As the pastor's wife, certain things were expected of me. I didn't mind singing; I loved it. But, after eleven years, I just couldn't remain married to... him anymore. (For a list of all the adjectives I just deleted in reference to him, you'll have to private message me.) I separated from him, and when I did, I was asked to leave that church. I went anyway (when he wasn't there), and when I showed up, I was escorted out by deacons and told not to come back. In the years following, while my children and I lived at the poverty level (because their father refused to pay one dime of child support, and he never did), there wasn't much time for singing or song writing or guitar playing while I hustled and struggled to raise four kids on my own, make ends meet, attend college classes, and try to make sense of what had happened. And frankly, I was so grief-stricken over my failed marriage and the treatment I received by the people I thought were my friends, I didn't much feel like singing anyway.

Eventually I began again, picking up the guitar every once in awhile, singing for special events on occasion. But every time I pulled that guitar out of the case, I drew out a swath of bad memories a mile wide along with it.

What to do?

You know, I'm here to tell ya, life is tough. We often wish we had a reset button to enable a do-over, but really, when you knock over hurdles in the race, you don't get to go back, set them back up, and try again. You just have to keep moving forward as best you can.

Having said that, though, I will say this: I accept that I cannot fulfill all my life's longings. I'm resigned to the fact (now, finally) that I'll probably never marry Robert Redford. Sigh.... I won't get that interview with Oprah about my great-grandmother. But damn it, I'm not ready to stop singing. In fact, now that I've retired from teaching, I find myself singing quite a bit.

Which is why I bought a new guitar last week (at The Fret House in Covina). It's a Martin 00-15 mahogany beauty with tones so deep and resonant it nearly makes me cry when I play it. I spent weeks researching what I wanted, and with the help of a few old friends and some really cool new ones (thank you, Doug, Tom, Rick and Jorge!), I bought the guitar I've wanted all these years. (See photos below.) And oh Lordy, am I ever ready to make some new memories.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

In Memoriam: Brian Doyle

A star has quietly blinked out in the heavens.

A surging river has reached the end of its tumultuous journey and transitioned into the eternity of the sea.

A voice as clear and pure as a crystal bell has rung out its last metaphor and repetition, leaving behind a resounding silence.

One of "the Good People," in the purest Irish sense of the word, has left us.

The first poem I read by Brian Doyle left me weeping and asking aloud, "Who is this man?" One of the finest writers of our time, it turns out. A man of love and life and laughter and more love and more laughter. A dreamy poet and even dreamier novelist who crafted words with the same playfulness as Yeats, the same passion as Dylan Thomas, but with a style so unique it could only have been a gift to us from the Universe.

And oh, how I will miss him. How we all will, his wife, his family, his friends, and all the thousands of us who read his work and reeled from its beauty.

I miss him already. As I write this, I'm halfway through his novel, Mink River (a novel I put off reading for too long, it turns out), and I don't want it to end, so I'm dragging my feet, reading a couple of pages a day, savoring the words, the poetry, the longing, the deep love, the impossibly long lists of flora and fauna, the archetypes, the archaic languages—Gaelic, Latin, "American"—the innocence of the children, the mystic wisdom of the non-human characters. What a book.

What a writer. What a voice. What a short life for someone so filled with it, so willing to offer it.

I am bereft. We are bereft. There are no words for this loss. Here, then, are some of Brian's:

Last Prayer 
by Brian Doyle
Dear Coherent Mercy: thanks. Best life ever. Personally I never thought a cool woman would come close to understanding me, let alone understanding me but liking me anyway, but that happened! And You and I both remember that doctor in Boston saying polite but businesslike that we would not have children but then came three children fast and furious! And no man ever had better friends, and no man ever had a happier childhood and wilder brothers and a sweeter sister, and I was that rare guy who not only loved but liked his parents and loved sitting and drinking tea and listening to them! And You let me write some books that weren't half bad, and I got to have a career that actually no kidding helped some kids wake up to their best selves, and no one ever laughed more at the ocean of hilarious things in this world, or gaped more in astonishment at the wealth of miracles everywhere every moment. I could complain a little right here about the long years of back pain and the occasional awful heartbreak, but Lord, those things were infinitesimal against the slather of gifts You gave mere me, a muddle of a man, so often selfish and small. But no man was ever more grateful for Your profligate generosity, and here at the very end, here in my last lines, I close my eyes and weep with joy that I was alive, and blessed beyond measure, and might well be headed back home to the incomprehensible Love from which I came, mewling, many years ago. But hey, listen, can I ask one last favor? If I am sent back for another life, can I meet my lovely bride again? In whatever form? Could we be hawks, or otters maybe? And can we have the same kids again if possible? And if I get one friend again, can I have my buddy Pete? He was a huge guy in this life—make him the biggest otter ever and I'll know him right away, okay? Thanks, Boss. Thanks from the bottom of my heart. See You soon. Remember—otters. Otters rule. And so: amen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rescuing Dogs: Part Three

Corgi and Basset Hound? I see a bit of German Shepherd in there, too. But those ears!

If you haven't yet read Part One and Two, you can find them by scrolling down past this post or clicking on the title or date (April 30, May 1) in the left sidebar.

The Living Free Animal Sanctuary in Idyllwild, California was founded in 1980 by Emily Jo Beard who "created a sanctuary where animals would be safely housed without being caged." The mission of the shelter is to "rescue, rehabilitate and find permanent homes for healthy cats and dogs that were scheduled for shelter euthanasia." For my Cali readers, if you haven't driven up to that beautiful mountain setting to visit Living Free, I strongly recommend doing so—even if you're the sort of sensitive person who becomes upset and/or saddened by visiting traditional animal shelters. Trust me, you'll find nothing of the sort at Living Free, just happy dogs in the kennels and happy cats in the cattery.

In my quest to find a companion who would fit well with me, Thomas, Purrl and Sugar Plum (see previous post), I scrolled through the profiles of the dogs currently available at Living Free and came upon the photo above of "Impala." (I have my suspicions about the name choice; I'll keep them to myself.) This is what his profile said:

Impala is a sweet, loving, happy dog that makes you feel good just to look at him. His soft brown eyes sparkle with intelligence and humor and he is always smiling. He loves people, wants to please and would be a wonderful family dog. He is very agile and can jump up on a chair despite the fact that his legs are very short.

Well, who doesn't want a dog who is "loving, happy" and "is always smiling"? And on my part, ever since little Harper (a Corgi/Sheltie mix) blessed my life (you will recognize her name if you've read The Dogs Who Saved Me), I've wondered if I might be blessed again with a Corgi mix. Add Basset Hound, and that's double blessings. I shot off an email to Edgar, the kennel manager, asking if Impala might still be available and received a response within a day confirming that he was and inviting me to come up the mountain and meet him.

The sanctuary opens daily (except Wednesdays) at 11:00. I was there the next day by 11:20—and by the time I signed in and got up to the kennels, another family had already spent time with Impala. "But they haven't filled out an application yet!" said the enthusiastic volunteer who brought Impala out to meet me, explaining that it was already his second introduction of the day. And did this dog match the description posted about him online? Oh yes, and then some. He was a happy, tail-wagging bundle of dog joy who loved being petted and meeting new people. "He's definitely a favorite," the volunteer told me as he scratched behind the little dog's ears and talked baby talk to him. I loved him at first sight. (The dog, not the volunteer, though he was very nice as well.)

When I asked if I could take Impala for a short walk, however, I was told that there was "some issue with his spine." The volunteer went on to explain that Impala was a "return." He'd been adopted previously at an adoption event, and though the family had kept him for several months, they were now returning him—injured. They couldn't afford his medical care, it seems. The online description of Impala was the one they'd used prior to his first adoption; he could no longer jump up on a chair, and he seemed to be in a considerable amount of pain.

"But the vet is coming on Wednesday and will give him a thorough examination at that time," the volunteer said. "We're giving him pain medication in the meantime, and it seems to be helping."

I decided not to bring Impala home, to wait and see what the vet said. It's not that I was unwilling to take on a dog with medical issues; I just didn't want to make an emotional decision ("But I love him! So it will all be okay!") that wouldn't work with my pack and our lifestyle. Any new dog would need to be able to walk with Thomas in the morning and the evening. I needed confirmation from the vet that this would be possible for this little dog who was short on legs and long on personality.

I did go home and immediately fill out and submit an application online. Then I had to wait three long agonizing days until Wednesday. I thought of him every day, looked at his picture, and hoped. On Wednesday afternoon, I called the direct number they'd given me for the kennel—and Edgar was busy. He returned my call a couple of hours later, but by then I was out walking Thomas. We finally connected the next day, and after a long, detailed conversation during which Edgar listened patiently to my concerns and explained with absolute honesty all of Impala's limitations, I decided not to adopt him. Edgar thanked me for weighing all the factors before making my decision—then told me there was another family who'd just been waiting for me to decline so that they could adopt him. Perfect.

And this is how dog adoption should go. In my mind, the process should be one of matchmaking. The specific personality and behaviors—both good and bad—of the dog should be matched carefully with the needs and lifestyle of the adopter so that when a dog finally does get placed, that home remains his or hers forever. Matching dogs to compatible humans can only be done with patience, communication and understanding. This is how Sgt. Thomas Tibbs came to bless my household, because of the terrific volunteers at Upland Shelter, and I have to applaud Edgar and all the staff and volunteers at Living Free for being equally dedicated to the well-being of each and every dog and cat they rescue and place for adoption.

So: No short-legged Corgi/Hound for me. But hang on... this story isn't over yet....

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rescuing Dogs: Part Two

If you haven't yet read Part One, you can find it by scrolling down past this post or clicking on the title or April 30 in the left sidebar.

Then this happened:

Twice in the past three years, I've tried adopting a second dog so that Sgt. Thomas Tibbs could observe and learn from an older, calmer, more experienced dog. Both bitches I tried this with bided their time until the perfect moment to strike and then went after Purrl. (No, they weren't "just playing chase," and yes, I grabbed them in time to save Purrl from any harm other than the trauma. And no worries; both dogs are living the good life in forever homes. Just not mine.)

But lately I've felt brave enough to try again, so not long after the Irish Wolfhound experience (see below), I visited another local shelter to look at the dogs available there. I looped around all the kennels three times and was eventually drawn to a medium sized (maybe 30 pounds) female they were calling a "terrier" mix. (She was really a hound-pit bull mix, but she was the perfect size and who cares?) She (Dog A) was in a cage with another dog (Dog C). Both were black and white and similarly marked, as if they'd come from the same litter, except that one (Dog C) was considerably taller. Dog A was more calm, and had made curious but respectful eye contact with me. When I inquired about her, the employee at the reception desk called a kennel assistant who came to help me. As we walked back to fetch the dog to take her outside to a play yard, the assistant—we'll call her Bea—asked me which kennel. When I told her, she said, "Oh, she's the feisty one! When you get her out in the yard, she's very protective of the other dog. Yeah, she can be really feisty." Hmm. That was not the behavior I'd seen.

Then I understood why she'd said that. When she approached the kennel, she immediately bent over double and began talking in a high-pitched voice to both dogs, pulling down a leash from the door and waving it around. The excitement level of Dog C went from zero to ten in about half a second. She began yelping and jumping up on the assistant (which wasn't discouraged) as the woman tried to manage getting a leash on Dog A (who remained calmly and quietly at the back of the kennel) while Dog C barked and dodged and spun beside her. It took several long minutes to extract Dog A, and by then she was panting heavily, unsure and anxious.

As we left the building and made the trek to the play yard, long-legged Bea strode along quickly, pulling Dog A with her, oblivious to the fact that the dog, obviously house-broken, kept trying to pause at every tiny patch of grass because she desperately needed to poop. Alas, the poor dog was literally dragged in a half-squat through the gates of the play yard where she was immediately able to finish her business.

On our walk to the yard, Bea had kept up a steady stream of information about the dog—she was fearful, she said, wary of people, and she repeated that she was "feisty" around the other dog. But when Dog A finally relieved herself, she approached me right away, wagging her tail and lowering her head. I patted her and told her to sit. She did.

"Huh," said Bea. "Well, I tried to play with her yesterday out here, but she had no idea what to do with the ball."

I picked up a tennis ball, showed it to the dog, and rolled it. She bounded after it, picking it up and returning with it in her mouth. It only took five or six repetitions to teach her the command "Drop." She was extremely smart and very athletic, leaping into the air to catch the ball on a high bounce.

During this time, Bea kept up a steady stream of chatter. Each time I tried to explain my particular concerns about introducing this dog to Thomas, she cut me off in mid-sentence—not to respond to me but to talk to Dog A. It went something like this:

"Since Thomas has severe anxiety issues—"

"Oh! Who's a good girl! You like that ball, don't you?!?"

"Sometimes he'll shut down completely if—"

"Oh, look at you! Look at you! Good girl!"

"So it's important that—"

"Go get it! Go get it! Drop it! Drop it! Good girl!"

I finally gave up, told Bea I'd have to think about it, and left, again anxious to get home and just cuddle up with Thomas and the cats.

While the experience was somewhat frustrating, I felt consoled to know that at the very least, Bea gained more accurate information about what Dog A had to offer, and I have no doubt that young, sweet, tail-wagging dog went to a home with kids who would throw that ball over and over for her.

Part Three in this series will post on Wednesday (if I can find time to finish it in between dog walks and naps).

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rescuing Dogs: Part One

Once upon a time, Sgt. Thomas Tibbs looked like this.

So this happened:

Not long after I moved in August—to this place with cleaner air, bluer skies, fluffier clouds and a thousand dog walking trails—I started exploring my neighborhood and looking for dog rescues and shelters with a mind to eventually (after I finish my current book project and I finally unpack that last box) doing volunteer work.

One nearby shelter I found has a website that gives basic information about events and donations but redirects to to list dogs that are available for adoption. I scrolled through the profiles and stopped when I saw an Irish Wolfhound mix. The Grandson has been wanting an Irish Wolfhound since he was... I don't know, ten? Now he's twenty-two and finally living in a house with a yard, ready for his first very own dog. Huh, I thought. Maybe it's serendipity.... (It wasn't, as you'll see.)

So on a very cold (low 40's) December day with wind gusts dropping the temperature even more, I stopped in at the shelter to see what it was like and also take a look at the Wolfhound. I met a nice volunteer who spent some time answering my questions about who manages the shelter and how they get funding (entirely from donations, without help from municipalities, which may explain why adoption fees there range from $200-$400). Then I asked about seeing the dogs. She told me that they were "probably all inside" as it was so cold, and that I might want to come back another day. I made a small donation then left, somewhat confused.

A week later, when I returned, I understood what she meant. The dogs are kept in kennels that have dual access, inside and out, which is great for them. But it's difficult for potential adopters because we can only see them from the outside. And direct access to the kennel is prohibited. Visitors have to view the dogs from behind a low chain link fence that sits five feet or so away from the kennel. I asked a young woman who was volunteering to "show me the Irish Wolfhound," so she walked to his kennel (with me on the far side of the low fence, herself on the inside) and pointed into his cage. The dog remained sitting toward the back of his kennel, watching us. He wasn't timid or wary; he just wasn't very interested in either of us.

Then it was just... awkward. She didn't offer to bring the dog out, nor did she come to the fence where I was standing, but I had questions, so we engaged in a conversation that had to be shouted above the barking of the dogs in other kennels.

I mentioned I'd seen the Wolfhound online and that it seemed he'd been with them a long time. She shrugged, said, "Not really," and explained that he'd been adopted and was gone for awhile but had just been returned. I had to ask why he'd been returned, and she allowed as how he "went after" the smaller dog in the family. To my question regarding whether he'd actually harmed the other dog or just growled, she shrugged again and said, "I don't know. He gets along well with other big dogs here. Maybe he just doesn't like little dogs." She gazed off into the distance.

Pulling out my phone, I asked if she would bring him out long enough for me to take his picture. She leaned against the door to the kennel—next to the leash that was hanging there—and told me there was a picture of him on their website. (That's the one I'd seen—a glamour shot of him in a bow tie, taken from a distance, which didn't offer a close-up of his face or any perspective on how tall he was.)

I offered to post a photo on my Facebook page that might help him find a forever home, since I have a lot of dog-loving friends.

She replied defensively that he was "well taken care of" there at the shelter, that he received "good food" and got to "run in the yard" every day.

Then she said I wouldn't be allowed to photograph him unless I spoke to someone in the main office and signed a "media release" form. She excused herself to go help someone else "for a minute" and never returned, leaving me standing there, trying to get a sense of the big dog who still sat quietly ten feet away.

I considered going to the main office, asking if another volunteer could help me, but by then all the sense of fun and adventure had gone out of the experience, and I just wanted to go home and hug Sgt. ThomasTibbs. So I did.

If you're wondering, it does appear at this time as if the Irish Wolfhound has been adopted. Best wishes to him and his new family.


Not long after I posted this, a story appeared in the local newspaper about this very dog (now named Sherlock). And I quote: "Sherlock is now the newest member of the San Bernardino Police Department's community affairs team. Sherlock has quickly stepped up in his new role and served as a source of comfort to North Park Elementary students after a recent on-campus shooting." Lt. Vicki Cervantes had gone to the shelter in search of a dog and met the (alleged) Irish Wolfhound/Lab mix. When she took Sherlock to her office, he was so well-mannered and such a gentleman that he became a member of her team. She said they never expected to use him so quickly after adopting him, but the need arose with the shooting, so she took him to comfort the kids, later telling a reporter, "His demeanor was just so amazing with these kids during this tragic event. They all just fell in love with him and he put smiles on all their faces."

Cool, huh? Three cheers for dogs with jobs! Especially this sweet guy!