July 20, 2007…
HAPPY BIRTHDAY IZZY
How time flies. It’s hard to believe that Izzy is four years old today. So I’m taking a break from bike talk to switch to dog talk and share pictures of my baby. I’m also feeling a little guilty. I had to drop her off at the kennel this afternoon. It’s her birthday and I sent her there for the weekend. She doesn’t know it’s her birthday though, and she get treats when she comes home Sunday.
I got Izzy when she was eight weeks old. When I decided to get a dog, I spent about six months researching breeds and trying to decide what kind to get. I was taking it very serious, because it was almost a test for me. I’m selfish, have major commitment issues, and a short attention span. I couldn’t keep plants alive, and had gone through several cats, reptiles, and fish already. I couldn’t seem to keep an animal around for greater than a year. I’d lose interest and find it a new home. I was worried that someday I’d have kids, and then decide I really didn’t want them (I know that sounds horrible, but I was really concerned about it). I decided I’d start with a dog and see how I did.
I decided on a Dutch Shepherd after seeing one as a police dog. I contacted a kennel that had listed a litter of Dutch Shepherd puppies. They had sold all their dutch shepherds, but were expecting a litter of Dutch Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mixed puppies. I gave them a deposit and had first pick of the females.
Izzy was the only female in the litter. That was probably a good thing, because I also have a very difficult time making decisions. She was mine. A couple of weeks before I got her I received an email from the kennel telling me how she was growing and what she was like. They said she was bold, and was already starting to dominate the males in the litter. I began to wonder if bold was a nice way of saying I had a naughty dog. I guess she tested really well, and I think they were disappointed that she wasn’t going to be trained as a police dog. Her brothers were going to be trained and sold as police dogs.
Her full name is Isolda Vom Lawson. She’s named after the Irish Legend that Wagner based his Opera “Tristan & Isolde” on. (I have one dog named after an Opera and one named after a bike, I’m very diverse). Her official name needed to begin with an “I” because she was part of the “I” litter. It worked out perfect because I had already picked her name before I contacted them. I almost changed it to Isabel, because they flew her out of North Carolina right before Hurricane Isabel hit. I was afraid they wouldn’t get her out in time and I’d have to wait to get her. She arrived in Detroit 12 hours after leaving North Carolina. They flew her to Texas first and then to Michigan. I think she was very traumatized. When I finally got her and pulled her out of her crate, she started howling and wanted nothing to do with me. I felt horrible. I thought, “What have I done, I’ve made a mistake, I have a dog that hates me.” She continued to howl almost the entire way back to Grand Rapids. She finally calmed down when I let her sit on the seat next me instead of in the crate.
These are some pictures from her first night. She was so tiny.
Bold was a nice way of saying naughty. Izzy has been very challenging to say the least. After initially hating me, she now has severe separation anxiety whenever she’s away from me. She’s had some behavior issues. Two years ago I resorted to consulting an Animal Behaviorist (Doggy Psychologist). She’s very smart, and the behaviorist said that she had done a good job of training me. I had to make some changes, and she went on a hunger strike for a week. But I eventually won, and over the past couple of years she’s been doing a lot better, especially this past year. I think she’s finally growing up and slowing down a little, making her easier to control.
Here are some more pictures I dug up:
She had her own couch. She destroyed it and I had to put it on the curb this past winter. She went crazy when the garbage truck took it. I had to laugh.
She loves being in the woods. When she was a puppy she fell in a creek and for a long time hated water, I had to bribe her the first time she went in. Now she loves it.
All grown up. She looks all Belgian Malinois. The only thing she got from her Dutch Shepherd mother was her size. She’s a little on the small size for a Belgian Malinois, only about 50 lbs.
Hanging out with her little sister. I got Kikapu (named after my first mountain bike), on the advice of the doggy psychologist. Having a second dog has helped with some of Izzy’s anxiety.
This is a picture from a camping trip last fall. Kikapu hated it. Izzy loved it, although she panicked whenever I tried to leave the campsite without her. She’s a little over protective, which has come in handy. I don’t worry about anyone coming through my front door. One night a strange guy knocked on my door in the middle of the night. I let Izzy slip through to the screen door and he quickly decided he had the wrong house.
April, 11, 2011…
I is for…
Did you really think I’d have anything else to say about I.
I’ve written about Izzy before and if you want to know how she came to be with me you can find it here.
I was trying to find pictures of her as a puppy that I haven’t used before. I got her before I had a digital camera. So I scanned a couple of pages from her puppy book. Yes, my dogs have puppy books much like baby books.
I have a special bond with Izzy. I think every one who is a dog person has a special bond with their first dog. Izzy has taught me a lot. If you remember I got Izzy because I thought I needed practice in case I might want kids someday. Well I’ve managed to keep her alive for almost 8 years, although she did require therapy at one point.
We’ve come a long way together. From the beginning when getting her to do anything was a struggle, until now when all I have to do is give her a command and she does it. I remember when she was about a year old trying to give her a bath and really struggling. She was not going to let me groom her. She fought and I cried and wondered if she was just going to have to be smelly her entire life because I couldn’t get her under control to bathe her. Now all I have to do is say Izzy it’s time for a bath, go get in the tub and she does it. She doesn’t particularly like it but she does it, and she’ll stand in there until I tell her she can get out.
Meal times use to be a power struggle and she once went a week without eating just to avoid submitting to me. In the beginning I wondered if I would ever be able to leave the house for more than 2 hours, and then I wondered if I would ever be able to leave the house and come home without everything being destroyed. I’ve lost track of everything she’s destroyed but the short list is, 2 TV remotes, a heart rate monitor, one pair of cycling shoes, a pair of glasses, a cell phone, several books, CDs and DVDs, and too many bike shorts to even try to count. I remember coming home to find she had eaten the chamois out of my favorite shorts. I locked myself in the bedroom and cried. Granted I left them where she could get them. I was just so frustrated and really didn’t think I would ever be able to leave the house without first Izzy proofing it. Thankfully those days are behind us. I don’t even think twice about putting things up anymore. She knows what’s hers and what’s mine.
She’s my first girl. I know there will be others. There’s already Kikapu. But I’m sure there will be more dogs in my life. One day after she was born, but before she was with me I was thinking about her and was so excited that I was getting her when it dawned on me that one day I would lose her. Barring some great misfortune I will out live her. I was instantly saddened. I’ve thought about that a lot lately. We have less years together ahead of us than are behind us. She’s slowing down. I can see it in her play. She wears out faster, takes longer to recover and spends more time sleeping. I sometimes feel guilty because when she was this insane overly hyper puppy all I wished for was for her to get old and slow down.
She’s still my girl. She still hikes and rides with me. She still loves to play fetch. It’s her favorite thing in the world. I’ve been taking more time to cuddle with her, although she hasn’t been much of a cuddler since she was a puppy, that’s sort of been Kikapu’s job. But every now and then she’ll push Kikpu out of the way, sit down next to me and put her head in my lap. She’s such a sweet girl.
July 20, 2011…
My First Girl
Eight years ago tonight I got the email that Izzy was born. Her full name is Isolda Vom Lawson, but she goes by Izzy.
Here’s a picture of Izzy less than 24 hours old…
And a more recent picture…
If you’re curious about how Izzy joined our little family I wrote a blog post about it on her fourth birthday which I realized today was half her lifetime ago. You can find it here.
If you’ve read either of my blogs it’s pretty obvious that my dogs are more than just pets. When I decided to add a little two legged member to the family I knew that my relationship with them would change, and it actually brought a little bit of sadness especially as I thought of Izzy. She’s my girl. We’ve been through a lot together. She’s been my protector, comforter and best friend. She’s also broken me in and prepared me for motherhood.
Our relationship has changed. Prior to getting her everything I read about her breed said that you should have experience with owning dogs before getting one, this breed is not meant for first time dog owners. I thought I could handle it. We barely survived puppyhood. I remember once when she was just over a year old locking myself in the bedroom and crying while she sat outside the door whining. She destroyed everything (that day it was a new pair of cycling shorts), she wouldn’t do anything I told her, she tried to attack anyone who came near us, and going to the dog park was out because she beat up all the other dogs. It took a lot of patience, and a lot of training, but now she is a wonderful obedient dog. I never imagined we’d get to the point we’re at now.
A couple of months ago I was giving her a bath, something that use to be an extremely traumatic experience and would typically have me in tears and now is as simple as Izzy go get in the tub it’s time for a bath (and she really will do it), while I was rinsing her off she slipped and feel down. It reminded me of something that would happen to an “old” person. I suddenly realized not only is she not a puppy anymore, she’s not even a young dog, she’s considered a senior.
Her life expectancy is only 10 – 12 years. Today she turned 8. While that thought made me sad it also made me realize something else, my child will not remember her. By the time my baby is old enough to form long term memories, Izzy will be gone. There will be pictures and stories, but to my child Izzy will be the dog my mom had before I was born. It makes me sad that s/he will not have a relationship with the dog that basically prepared me for them.
There will be other dogs. When Izzy turns 10 I’ll get another Dutch Shepherd/Belgian Malinois. I will probably always have a “Bigdog.” But there will never be another Izzy. Right now I focus on the time I get to spend with her, enjoying every hike, every cuddle on the couch. I know in several months things will change drastically. I’m excited for her to meet the baby, she’s always loved kids and been good with them. I’ll cherish the time they get to spend together. And when she’s gone I’ll make sure my child knows how special she was and how she helped turn me into a mama.
August 25, 2014…
How long do you look for something that is lost?
Does the length of time indicate how much you care? As in you look for things you care about longer than those you don’t. Or does the likelihood of finding it dictate the length of the search as in you’ll look longer for something you’ll likely find because the odds are eventually you will and you don’t spend much time looking for something that you’re unlikely to find because its wasted effort, like the needle in the hay stack?
But what if what’s lost is unlikely to be found but of great value? Is the search worth it even if its futile?
I began mulling this over about a month ago when we lost the thing that is most dear to Annelise, her Boo. She has a security blanket she calls “Boo.” The term “Boo” evolved from blue blanket and there is an entire story that goes with the “Boos” there is more than one (they’re not all blue) and they each have their purpose. But this was the special, go everywhere with her Boo. Because I made Boo, I was somewhat prepared for it with a back up Boo waiting in the wings.
It was one of my days off and I needed to go grocery shopping but I also wanted it to be a fun day for Annelise. We made a plan to go to the park in the morning followed by the grocery store and then home for a late lunch and nap. We had fun at the park. She played. I carried Boo and her water bottle. We drove to the grocery store and on our way across the parking lot Annelise pointed out the “Baby store” which is what she calls Once Upon a Child. (Probably because of all the baby equipment out in front of the store). It’s in the same shopping plaza and she wanted to go in so we did. We looked through some of the clothes, then the shoes and finally the books, games and puzzles. Then we left and walked down the sidewalk to the grocery store. As I picked her up to set her in the cart I noticed she didn’t have Boo. I checked my purse, sometimes she hands Boo to me to put in my bag/purse if she wants to use her hands. It wasn’t there. We immediately went back to OUAC and searched all the areas we had been in. I asked at the counter if it had been turned in but we had no luck we didn’t find it. I left my number and a description and they said they would call if they found it. They asked if I was sure she lost it there and I said “Yes, she walked in with it.” Because she always had it with her. If she doesn’t as soon as I buckle her seat beat she asks for it (I’ve had to return to the house on several occasions or risk tears by leaving it behind). Her car seat and bed are the two places she won’t be without her blanket.
We continued with our day. I tried to explain as gently as I could that Boo was lost and that “new Boo” (the term for the back up Boo) would be her Boo now. But as we drove home and had lunch I began to wonder how certain I was that she had walked in the store with it. Had we left it at the park? I had been carrying it with the water bottle and the water bottle had made it back to the van.
It nagged at me. So I packed her up and drove back to the park. I didn’t tell her why because she seemed to be taking the loss of Boo fairly well. I looked around and didn’t find it so we returned home.
I checked in with the store the next day and they still hadn’t found it. Annelise settled in with new Boo, occasionally commenting that old Boo was lost, but I was having a difficult time letting it go. I just had this nagging feeling that I hadn’t done enough to find it. I should have gone through every rack of clothing not just the areas we had been in. I should have returned to the park immediately after noticing it was missing instead of finishing our shopping. I should have gone through the trash bins at the park.
I felt heartbroken that this item that was so special was just gone and that we had stopped looking. Annelise has moved on. She’s stopped call new Boo “new.” It’s just Boo now. There’s another new Boo waiting in the wings in case something happens to this Boo. Annelise watched me knit it and would occasionally comment on old Boo being lost.
One am Sunday night/Monday morning I again found myself contemplating the time we dedicate to searching for something. I was slowly driving my van up and down the street as the search for my missing dog stretched into its third hour. The same street I had already been down several times. First on foot then by bike and now by car. I had been down every street in the area several times with no sign of Izzy.
She’s gone missing before. Last time she was gone for 12 hours. That time I had found her the way you find anything, via the Internet. I put a plea on Facebook, it got shared and someone noticed a dog loose that could possibly be her. I got a call but wasn’t too hopeful because it was a ways from our house, but headed in that direction anyway. As I neared the area there she was trotting down the road cakes in mud and extremely exhausted.
You’d think that since she’d been lost and found before, I’d feel confident that she’d again find her way home. But I wasn’t. I remembered a statistic I had read when she was lost the first time about how only 20% of animals are found. Can you really get lucky twice? (I have since learned that statistic is misleading, only 20% of animals in shelters are reunited with their owners. That statistic for all lost animals being found is somewhere between 60% and 70%).
And while this disappearance started the same as the last, going after a rabbit when I let her out for the last time before bed, this situation was also very different. She was five years older. She was now a senior dog. I didn’t know if she could take it physically. I didn’t know how far she would have to travel back after she realized she had gone too far. And would she even be able to find her way back? We were on vacation. We’d been at my parents for almost two weeks. We’d taken daily walks through the neighborhood but would she know how to find her way back? Would her instinct to get home cause her to try to head for Virginia?
As soon as she took off and I realizes that simply calling to her wouldn’t bring her back, I returned to the house to dress (I was already for bed) and start a search. When I realized she’d gone beyond our block I went back for my bike. I rode in a grid pattern street by street calling to her. A police officer and another late night biker joined in, but the officer went off duty and the cyclist went home, so offer a couple of hours it was just me.
I literally rode every street in town (it is a small town) at least once. What lay beyond the town was open fields. About 1 am I returned to my parents house and then headed out again in my van. I was losing hope at this point. I had called her name up and down every street and she hadn’t come. I worried she was beyond the city trotting through on of the fields trying to find something familiar. Or worse that she had been struck by a car on one of the roads leading out of town. I knew that if she was able she would try to find her way back, but would it be to my parents house or would she attempt the trek home? And what if she wasn’t able? What if she had been found and take in and the person didn’t want to call because it was late? What if she had lost her collar? What if she was injured? What if someone had grabbed her and hurt her (I had just read a story in the local paper about someone being arrested for killing a dog)? There were so many what ifs?
I’d already cried, prayed and begged. When I returned to my parents to get my keys to switch from the bike to the van I slipped into Annelise’s room and because she seems to have a special connection to the Universe, when I kissed her forehead and saw her eyelids flutter I told her to tell the Universe that we needed Izzy to come home.
As I retraced my grid search in the van I wondered what I would tell Annelise in the morning. How would I break the news that Izzy was lost? I started to make plans for what I would do in the morning. I would again turn to Facebook but my reach wouldn’t be as great, I only had a few friends in town but hopefully they would share it. I’d check with the shelters. I’d make posters. I scanned my phone to see if I had a usable picture. I hoped someone would find her and call the numbers on her tags. I was thankful that many, many years ago I had thought to include my parents’ number on her tag. And if her collar was lost I hoped that she would be taken somewhere where her chip would be scanned.
By 1:30 I was running out of city streets.
The last time she was lost something else happened.
I’d stopped looking.
I’d searched the neighborhood and when I hadn’t found her I reasoned that if she could come back she would have. Someone must have taken her in. I returned home, took enough Ambien to knock myself out and slept with the door open in case she wandered back. In the morning I placed a Craigslist ad, called animal control, hung signs and posted to Facebook. But she hadn’t been taken in. She had been out all night. I never forgave myself.
So this time I would keep looking. When I ran out of streets I’d venture a little further out increase my search area. I’d drive around all night. Not because I thought I would find her but because she deserved to be looked for.
I had two more streets to go when I turned a corner and saw an animal about a block up. I tried not to get my hopes up. I had run into numerous stray cats and one dog that looked like he might be lost, but wouldn’t let me get close enough to read his collar. But as I got behind her I saw that it was my girl. The lights scared her and she ran. I jumped out of the van and yelled to her. She stopped but didn’t come to me. I realized that the lights were probably washing me out. I got back in the van, turned off the lights, opened the sided door and slowly rolled up to her. As soon as she recognized me (or the van) she jumped in and we headed home.
I seriously hope that is the last time I ever have to look for Izzy. I didn’t allow her to be off leash the rest of our trip. If she keeps her disappearance interval at once every 5.5 years we should be good. She’s 11. Her life expectancy is 10 – 12. She’s in her twilight years. While I was riding around looking for her I decided she would spend all those years with me. There has been some thoughts and discussions in the past about rehoming the dogs, especially Izzy. My life would be easier without her. She limits where we can live so I pay higher than normal rent. Vacationing is hard, simply going away for a day is hard. And she sheds, all over my house.
While she scares off the occasional random stranger in the night, for the most part I don’t need her anymore. When put that way it sounds very harsh. But my purpose in getting a dog and the need that was meet by her are no longer there. She did her job and now she deserves to spend the rest of her life in comfort with the only family she knows. While I was looking for her I also realized I need those years with her. I need to know how her story ends and to be with her when it does. If I had not found her the not knowing would haunt me.
Thankfully I don’t have to explain to Annelise that Izzy is lost. Another Izzy wouldn’t be as easy to knit as a new Boo. After the search, I slipped back into Annelise’s room gave her another kiss and thanked her for telling the Universe that we still need Izzy. She woke up the next morning, helped me get Izzy and Kikapu’s breakfast like she does and never knew it could have been a very different type of morning.
Annelise with her Boo…
and her Izzy.