The Loss of a Friend

Adoption.

Rescue.

When we find that little four-legged friend, we know that we will most likely outlive them, but we give them our hearts and treat them like family. And if we’re lucky, we get years of love and devotion back from them.

After Jan and I got together, we decided to find a little dog to keep me company while she commuted to and from work. We found an ad in the paper for AKC Chihuahua puppies, for only $175. Although we knew it was probably a scam, we hopped in the car and traveled for almost an hour to a home northwest of Dallas. We sat outside on the porch while the woman brought a small, trembling pup to us. She was overly skinny, cowering and covered with scabs and bites. She was the “runt” of the litter, and according to the woman, was picked on by the other puppies. She had the little doe head of a Chihuahua, but we had a bad feeling this dog was no more a registered pup than I was. But the moment she was placed in my hands, I fell in love with that stinky, shaky little thing. Jan and I had a silent conversation, and we “rescued” the pup from what was obviously a puppy mill.

When we got home, we found that the little thing was so scared of everything and everyone that she wouldn’t come out of her carrier. Jan had to feed her by hand, and she’d only drink water from the tips of Jan’s fingers. It took weeks and weeks of patience, but soon Princess ButtNugget learned to trust us, at least enough to eat and drink on her own. After a few months, she became a rambunctious puppy, demanding attention and play.

Nuggie, as she became to be called, was a year old when we decided she needed company. We joked that we needed to get a dog for our dog. I started checking the local animal shelter sites for a suitable companion.

Have you ever just seen a picture and felt an immediate connection? That’s what happened when I stumbled across the photo of a two-year old Rat Terrier, at a nearby city shelter. Jan and I hopped into the car and drove the four to five miles. The city shelter was busy, loud and the smell wasn’t the most pleasant in the world. They told us to go back and look around. The small cages were stacked three high and four across. Most of the inhabitants were either barking, sleeping or trembling in their boxes. The card on the outside of the cage read, “Vivian, Female, Rat Terrier.” Nothing prepared us for the sad eyes that looked back at us through the narrow bars. “Vivian” was so skinny you could almost see through her. The animal control officer explained how she had been found roaming the streets after having a litter of puppies. She placed a leash over Vivian’s head. The moment the cage was opened, Vivian jumped into my arms. I had been claimed. We weren’t allowed to take her home until after she had been spayed, but as soon as Jan returned, Vivian happily accepted her leash and followed Jan out to the car and hopped into the front seat for the ride home.

Our newest family member didn’t look or act like a “Vivian.” Our daughter, a fan of the movie, “Clueless,” named her Cher. While not my first choice, it worked okay for me. The moment Cher met Nuggie, she “adopted” her. Nuggie became the puppy that Cher no longer had, while Cher became the friend and companion that Nuggie needed. For the next ten years, they were inseparable.

As Cher aged, she fought through several health problems. Because of her previous life on the streets, she had bad teeth, brittle hair, and poor eyesight. Her hearing slowly left her until she could only hear a loud snap of the fingers or a clap. Her balance became shaky, and she’d undergone two surgeries to remove cancerous lumps. She’d walk along the concrete edging around the swimming pool, losing her balance a couple of times and falling in. We pulled her out the first time, and my brother spent quite a while teaching her how to find the steps to get out. The next time, she raced into the house, soaking wet. We were glad to know the lessons worked, but worried any time she was outside for very long.

Cher also had some hilarious habits. She loved to “shop” in the kitchen. She’d stand on her hind legs and walk around the counters, sniffing and seeing what was close enough to steal. Once, she grabbed a fried chicken leg, which scared Jan to death. Cher raced to our bedroom and dove beneath the bed. Before we could stop her, she devoured the leg, bones and all. Jan just knew she’d choke, but she was fine. It took us a lot longer to get over it than it did her, that’s for sure!

Another crazy thing was her hoarding. When she and Nuggie were younger, we gave them rawhide chews or pig ears to chew on. The moment one would hit the floor, Cher would grab it. The more we tossed in the floor, the faster she moved. Poor Nuggie stood by and watched as Cher gathered each “chewie” and put them in a pile. Before Nuggie could get one, Cher would lay down on top of them. Sometimes we’d toss half a dozen of the chewies around the room, just to watch the show.

The older Cher got, the more attached to me she became. I was home all the time, and she’d look to me for comfort or security. Her mind began to go, and she’d get even more clngy. She hated for me to get out of her sight, and she would panic and chase me down if she noticed me missing. I can’t even count the times she’d race between our feet, usually causing either Jan or me to trip or fall. Thoughout it all, she was still our sweet Cher. I could sit beside her and start giving her a good head scratch, and she’d give me a gap-toothed smile that would almost make me cry. She never met a stranger, and was always happy to see anyone that came to the house.

The past year was rough on Cher, and us. Her hearing worsened, and her eyesight and balance deteriorated as well. She followed me every step of every day, which at times would frustrate me.  She started losing her bladder control, so we took her to the vet. After several hundred dollars worth of tests, he came to the conclusion that she was in the beginning stages of renal failure. He also put her on monthly shots for arthritis pain, which he thought was the cause for her sitting in bed and moaning or groaning. Not only was Cher terrified when we put her in the car for the trip to the vet, but she would yell out for any shots she was given. It broke our hearts. When I asked our vet if she was in pain, he said yes, but he thought we could keep it managable for the time being. While we didn’t want her to suffer, we were glad we’d have more time with her.

The week of Christmas through New Year’s was rough on Cher. It was almost time for her next shot, and she seemed more lost than usual. She wouldn’t let me out of her sight, and she was often confused.

The day before New Year’s Eve, Cher developed a hoarse cough that I was going to mention to the vet on her next visit. She slept more and wasn’t her usual frisky self. We spent extra time with her, and when our nephew came over on New Year’s Eve day to go geocaching, he gave her lots of love, too. After he left, I fed the dogs and then joined Jan in the office for our evening of surfing. Later, I went to the kitchen to clean up. When I was finished, I did my usual headcount of dogs, only to find Cher missing. In a panic, I raced to the backyard. With the light from the sunroom, I could see her in the pool. I screamed for Jan and pulled Cher from the ice-cold water. We removed her sweater and I began to carefully press on her body in the hopes of getting her to breathe. No water escaped, only air. I raised her head and blew into her nose and mouth, and realized she was gone. Since I had lost a dog to congestive heart failure before, I knew the signs. Poor Cher had died and fallen into the pool. Our only consolation was that we know she didn’t suffer, and had passed away before she hit the water.

Jan and I were both in shock. We had prepared ourselves to say goodbye to Cher, but not this quickly.  I was a mess. It was close to ten o’clock on New Year’s Eve, and we were at a loss as to what to do. Finally, Jan realized we had a 24-hour pet hospital less than five miles away, and we called them. They were wonderful, and treated us kindly when we showed up, shaken and teary. Thanks to their help, Cher’s remains will join others and be spread at a local pet cemetery, where she’ll never be alone. I can’t think of a better way for her.

I’m going to miss my little shadow, who we lovingly referred to as crazy dog, or psycho dog. She was fun, she was loving, and she gave us the best years of her life. Over time the pain will lessen, but she’ll always be in our hearts. Rest well, Cher. And thank you for rescuing usImage

Naive or Stupid?

So, last year I had written an “It Gets Better” blog after being contacted from someone from my past. She had written a sweet apology for her hateful remarks when she severed our friendship, once I had come out. With rose-colored blinders on, I happily latched on to the friendship once again, only to find that she had ulterior motives.

While I’m no James Michener, I enjoy writing. And I’m always happy to answer questions or help new writers, even though there are much better teachers out there. But this long-lost “friend” used a fake reconciliation in order to pick my brain about writing – or more to the point, selling books. She had written a book about her near-death experience, and thought getting back into my good graces would give her an edge, I guess. We became Facebook friends, although I found out she had two different accounts – one she friended me on, and another for her friends and family. I should have listened to my gut instinct, but thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately, she didn’t come right out and say this. No, she made a big deal about how sorry she was for her previous actions (telling me rudely that because I was gay, I was dead to her, and no contact for over ten years). She called me and we talked for a while – it was scary for me, but I enjoyed it. Then, in the same phone call, she spoke of her book, and asked me how I marketed my work. I gave her a fairly detailed explanation, but told her she really had to find a good publisher for her type of market. She thanked me, told me to call her during the day at work, since she wasn’t always very busy.

A great start, right?

Not really. The next time I called her, she was busy. I understood, and promised to call back again.

Two more times of this, and I realized that she got what she wanted from me. Not long after that, I had been mysteriously “unfriended” as she deleted her Facebook account that she had added me on. Classy.

Honestly, if she had just written me and asked me questions about publishing, I would have gladly answered. She didn’t have to go through such an elaborate hoax. At least I wouldn’t have been gut-punched twice by her. I truly considered this woman a big sister at one point in my life – and before now, I would have never thought she’d be the type to do something so underhanded. Maybe that’s why I never saw it coming.

In order to give myself closure, I wrote her an email, wishing her and her family a happy life. I told her that while I don’t really understand her motives, I’ll move on. But, deep down inside, there’s always going to be a part of me that feels sick and hurt at her deception. That teenage me who looked up to her as a big sister, and who helped her through two pregnancies when her husband had to work long hours and she needed someone to talk to, or to make sure she ate properly. That person is hurt, and will probably never trust so blindly again.

The Next Big Thing – Writers Discuss New Work

“The Next Big Thing” – Blog Hop 2012

While I haven’t been too active on my blog as of late, I have been busy. I read a lot, write some, and harass friends online. Anyway, I’ve been tagged by MJ Williamz in “The Next Big Thing Blog Hop”. It’s a chance for different writers and their readers to cross pollenate, or something like that. I know that sounds as fuzzy as the dust ponies under my bed. But, trust me – it’ll all make sense. This is week 27 of the Hop – tons of great authors have participated.

The concept is simple: each writer answers the same questions (although not every writer answers EVERY question) about either a new release, or a work-in-progress. Then, that same writer will point the finger of doom, um, tag other authors to do the same.

And heeeeere we go!

What is the working title of your book?

I’m going to talk about my most recently published work, Heart’s Resolve.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s based extremely loosely on my old memories of working in the Texas State Park system one summer, when I was sixteen. The fictional park in the book is set up very similar to the park I worked at, right down to the spread out campgrounds and large area coverage. Of course, things have most likely changed a lot since 1980.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary romance – I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
In my head, Delaney Kavanaugh was eerily similar to a bit younger Dana Delany – but maybe that’s because I’m hooked on her latest series. Gibson (Gib) Proctor is a little harder to pinpoint – she’s not the usual “actor” type – so I’ll let the reader try to figure that one out. Usually, I like to let the reader make up their own mind.

What is the one-sentence synopsis for your book?

Park Officer Gib Proctor has all she can handle at her newest assignment, especially when fiery architect Delaney gets underfoot and under her skin.

What is the longer synopsis for your book?

Gibson Proctor, a Park Police Officer for the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife, has returned after twenty years to the rural area she once called home. She’s able to easily adapt to the slower pace of the farming communities that surround the town of Benton, Texas.  She tries her best to handle the expectations of her family and friends, who never understood why she left in the first place. Gib’s comfortable existence is set into a tailspin when she unwittingly offends Delaney Kavanagh, the fiery-tempered architect who’s in charge of repairing the spillway at Lake Benton.

Although Delaney is currently in a relationship, she can’t seem to get the amiable officer out of her mind. Not used to the type of attention she receives from the chivalrous woman, Delaney keeps waiting for the “real” Gib to show up. Will she ever accept Gib’s acts of kindness as truth, or will she be content to stay in a relationship where she has to fight for everything?

Will your book be self-published, or represented by an agency?

It was released by Regal Crest Enterprises in May 2012 and is available for purchase (plug, plug).

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About five months; but I was also writing another story (Trust Our Tomorrows, featuring Lex & Amanda, also published by Regal Crest Enterprises) at the same time – not something I’d recommend, by the way. All those voices talking at once!

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

It is actually a “prequel” to a short story I wrote for the Academy of Bards. I had gotten a lot of emails asking about the characters, and decided we needed to “meet” them when they first got together. Then I used my old memories to help add a backdrop to the book, and ended up really liking the characters.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

People seem to be fascinated by anything to do with Texas – I know I am. These two ladies are more like everyday people than the usual protagonists we read. There are no secret agents lurking about, but we do get a chance to see how growing up in southern families can affect women differently. Delaney is the beloved daughter surrounded by brothers, while Gig was raised as if she were a boy – and her old-world gallantry shows it. It’s fun to pit these two different types of women against each other and watch the sparks fly.

And, there you have it. My answers to the age-old (or at least 27 weeks) questions. I hope I interested you in my work, or at least gave you a few minutes of fun. I’m going to try and keep my blog more up to date in the future, so stop in again and see me!

** Next Wednesday, here’s the blogs you just HAVE to check out – I know I will!

ML Skinnerwww.MLSkinner.com

Jan Carrhttp://jmcarrbooks.wordpress.com/

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It’s Not About Chicken

It’s not about the chicken. It’s not about freedom of speech, which I am 100% for. It has nothing to do with my spiritual beliefs, or the religion of others. It’s about hate, about wishing ill to someone for no reason other than who they love.
 
Yes, I’m gay. I’ve been in a committed relationship for thirteen years. Nine years ago, my partner and I flew to Toronto to exchange vows legally. No one from her family was there, and only my brother was there for me. Yet we had a great time with the family we created out of those who loved us for who we are. We’ve been together longer than a lot of our legally wed “straight” friends. 
 
We pay taxes. We’ve gone to softball games, Little League games, school plays and choir programs. We’ve helped friends and family move, grieved over lost loved ones and celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. We’ve bought Girl Scout cookies, wrapping paper and all sorts of things for school fundraisers, paid to have our cars washed for “free” for good causes and tipped the kids working hard at Sonic to buy uniforms or send them to camp. 
 
We’ve laughed, we’ve cried and we’ve spent countless hours at holidays – both with gay and straight friends and family. 
 
I’ve read countless articles on the “gay agenda”. On how “the gays” are trying to force other people into their lifestyles. I didn’t get that memo. My “agenda” is much like everyone else’s – to live my life as well as I can, loving and taking care of my family, my friends and my neighbors.
 
I support everyone’s right to free speech. But I cannot, in all decency, support hatred. My wife and I live in Texas – a very conservative state, in what has been said to be the most conservative suburb in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Our neighbors know us, wave to us, and even stop to speak to us. Obviously, they have the same agenda as we do.
 
Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone’s agenda was like that?

Just Another Day?

Valentine’s Day. Two words that can bring either joy, fear or angst to a person.

I’m one of the lucky ones – I’ve been happily partnered for almost twelve years, to a woman whose smile can still make my heart race. Thankfully, we don’t really subscribe to the whole “Valentine’s Day” hoopla. Neither one of us really need a special day for love. We show each other our love every single day – whether it’s in bringing morning coffee, or just looking into each other’s eyes for long moments at a time.

We figured out a long time ago the secrets to a happy marriage. Loving – Listening – Laughing.

Sounds simple, right?

It really is.

We both had troubles and issues before we got together. I think almost everyone does. But the months we spent talking on the phone and online before we ever met face-to-face, built a strong foundation that is solid to this day. Now I can’t remember a time when we weren’t together.

The hardest part, at least for me at the beginning, was to set aside egos. Instead of thinking, “I’ve done this for you, now what are you going to do for me?”, it quickly became, “I want to do this for you to see the happiness on your face.” Believe me, everything you put into the relationship, you’ll get out of it – double. At least that’s what’s happened for me.

Do we have our problems? Of course. Mostly because I’m a very pig-headed, stubborn person. But my wife never calls me on it – at least not in a way that I’ve noticed. She’ll listen to my rants and have me calmed down pretty quickly. Goodness knows I could never live with me and be sane – I don’t know how she does it. LOL!

She makes me laugh. We can spend time together, playing silly word games and laughing so hard that we both have tears running down our faces. Or we’ll be watching a favorite television show, seeing ourselves in the situations and giggling like little children. It’s never dull, and it’s often more fun than the program itself.

We have “date nights” regularly, whether it’s in a nice restaurant or a new “dive” we want to try, or a box of pizza on the bed while we snuggle up together and watch a movie.

She’ll see something, either a card or a silly gift, and bring it home to me. I’ll take a rose from the front garden and leave it in a vase for her as a surprise – no need for a special occasion.

For us, every day together is Valentine’s Day – no need for a “special” day once a year to remind me that I love her.

Clue By Four

So, we were cleaning out some old boxes and came across a very interesting photo taken of me on my eighth birthday.

While it wasn’t too much of a shock to my system considering my upbringing, it made me wonder – why did it take me until I was in my thirties to come to grip with my sexuality? I mean, duh! 

Obviously my parents didn’t care, as long as I was happy. And as you can see by the photo below, I seemed pretty darned pleased. I pointed out to my mother that while I was wearing a Dallas Cowboys football uniform, somehow she managed to make my cake with ROSES on it. LOL! Poor woman – she tried. And I won’t even go into the years of fighting over dresses vs. jeans.

A couple of years ago, Jan asked my mother if she and my dad ever thought that I was gay. Mom shrugged and said they did, but wanted to wait until I figured it out on my own. Gee, thanks, Mom. I sure could have used a hint or two along the way. :-)

But, in the long run, things worked out for the best. It took me a while, but I finally understood why I always felt ‘different’. When my girl friends were swooning over the hunk of the day, I was more interested in what kind of car they drove. Besides, back in the Seventies, the “hunks” all looked like danged girls, anyway! Does anyone remember Leif Garrett, Andy Gibb or The Bay City Rollers? <shiver>  I had posters of Burt Reynolds (Smokey & the Bandit), Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry) and a ton of silly animals. With Burt, I think it was more Sally Field and that awesome Trans Am that I liked. And with Clint…well, did you ever see what a cool gun a Magnum .357 was? 

But, since I waited until I was older, I was able to connect with the greatest gift I could ever be blessed with – my wife, Jan. And, to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t change a damned thing.

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Empty Nest? What Empty Nest?

My wife and I did our best to raise our daughter to be smart and responsible, so when she decided to move out a few months ago, we were pretty sure she’d be fine.

Only a couple of weeks went by and we were almost ashamed to enjoy the “empty nest”. But, being the troopers we are, we did our best.

At the same time, my mother, who turned seventy about two months ago, told me she was having trouble taking care of the home she rented. I can understand that, because it was a three bedroom, two bath house – much too big for a single woman to keep up with. I spoke to my wife, and we came up with a solution – move my mother into our daughter’s old room.

Before you think we’ve totally lost our minds, hear me out – Mom would always spend her weekends with us, even though we were less than 10 miles away. But she was lonely, and we loved the company. Our weekends tended to be filled with cooking, shopping and laughing – mostly laughing. So it really wasn’t much of a stretch to bring mom here.

So now, it’s several months later, and there’s been no blood spilled, and no threats to anyone’s life. Believe it or not, we enjoy having our new “roomie” with us – we watch a lot of the same television shows and movies, And, it didn’t take much work to add Mom’s desk to our office space.

Our weekends are much more relaxed – we’ll usually cook breakfast together, visit at the table, then retire to the office to play video games.

In other words, not much has changed. We just put a lot less miles on our vehicles, and get to spend Saturdays in our jammies :-)

As for our daughter, she seems happy and well-adjusted. Other than the panicked calls asking where gnats come from (not her salad, that’s for sure), and the occasional “I have a cold, what should I take,” question, she’s doing great. And when she comes to visit, we actually spend more quality time with her than we did when she lived here. Everyone wins.

Of course, I haven’t even gone into the “pack” situation – with Mom’s chiweenie, we now have four dogs under twenty pounds. I’ll leave their adventures for another day.