More Dogs of Destiny!

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 3.56.23 PMDog lovers of the world, you are many and you are fabulous. I have loved putting together these dog of destiny posts. What began as a celebration of my new Percy, Dog of Destiny picture book has turned into a celebration of dogs in general. Soulful, hilarious, generous, slightly evil, sometimes scheming, always beautiful dogs. This is the last in the series. Enjoy!


This is Chip. During his time on earth he was an expert counter surfer known to eat frozen sticks of butter, cleaning fluids and an entire bottle of vitamins. Please don’t judge him by his vet bills. Noble Chip is sharing his Halloween candy in dog heaven now.


This is Lucy. She’s 16. She’s giving her human the cold shoulder right now because she’s peeved. Why should she have to go to the groomer if she doesn’t want to? HELLO SHE IS SIXTEEN.

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How Lottie loved Owl, her favorite toy from back when she was a puppy. And how Lottie loves the bed she knows she’s too big for and shouldn’t be on anyway, but she can’t always play by the rules and she doesn’t think you should either.


My turn! No, my turn! Toby and Petey wouldn’t stop bickering over who got to sit on the cushy chair, so their human had to step in. #yourfault #noyourfault


If Buckminster’s favorite toy is Scarlet, and Scarlet is a cat, then Cats = Toys. This is how dog math works.


Air Charlie was part of the famous Flying Frisbee Dog team. He adored squeaking hedgehogs with all his heart but could not resist de-squeaking them, and once de-squeaked, a hedgehog was dead to him. This is why Air Charlie’s kind but perhaps enabling humans bought them in bulk.


Air Charlie is pictured here surrounded by some of his bulk hedgehogs. He’s aware that he’s part of the 1% and he’s a little uncomfortable with that. He wants you to know that he always pays his taxes. You’re welcome to check his returns.


Sir Winston was far too erudite for toys, but he would graciously accept bones of any size.


Cooper, always the gracious host, figured that tug of war would be a good icebreaker when Buddy came to visit. Boy was he right.


Tank and Tucker would like you to know that they were told to “act dignified” in this portrait and they followed instructions. Didn’t they? Didn’t they?


This is Cooper. See that look in his eyes? He’s trying to tell you how much he loves toys, loves loves loves toys. But his human allows him only one. So can you blame him for going a little overboard that one day at his aunt’s house? #dogsgonewild


Max did not enjoy playing dress-up, but his human used to dress him up anyway. He then went on to have a storied career as a rural attack dog. Correlation/causation? Max is in dog heaven now. Or possibly dog hell.


Meet Charlie and Lulu. They want to tell you about their perfect day. It began like this. . .


And it ended like this. They hope that someday everyone will be as happy and loved as they are.

Dogs of Destiny

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 3.56.23 PMTo celebrate the release of Percy, Dog of Destiny, written by me and illustrated by the wonderful Jennifer K. Mann, I sent out a call for photos of your dogs.

Please meet some of them, with more to come, pictured below in all their glory.

(I did not tell my own dog, Petey, about this blog post, as he would be jealous that I was looking at other dogs.)

This very fine fellow is named Percy, just like the dog in the book. He’s a political activist. We need more public servants of his ilk.


This little scragglepuff is Sarah Moochie. She loves hanging out in the ballet studio and chewing up ballet slippers if she can get her paws on one.


This is Piper. This is also Piper’s ball. Do not try to take it away from her, please.


Meet Mo. He doesn’t really play with toys, but he does love his bone.


This fine fellow is Jackson. He’s a one of a kind Schnauzer-Schipperke mix. Currently retired from his gig as a bookstore greeter and looking to pick up some part-time work if you hear of anything.


This is Yoda. She likes bones. Chewing is only one of her many passions, along with barking. She was feeling demure when this photo was taken.


This is Wrigley with his kong. He grew up to be a highly trained American VetDog. He rides in helicopters, wears goggles to protect his eyes from the sun and desert sand overseas, and brings love and comfort to veterans in need. (This is all true! Google him.)


This is Khaki with her squeaky pink dog. She might look slumberish but she’s got her eyes on you, so keep your paws to yourself.


This is Miss Chloe. She’s two years old and she’s trained to go into nursing homes and work with folks who suffer from depression, but in her spare time she loves destroying squeaker toys. In the background is one she hasn’t yet found the key to destroy. Don’t give up, Miss Chloe. We’re rooting for you.


This is Charlie, taking a nap with Piglet, his favourite* toy. (*Please note that Charlie spells favourite with a u. That’s because he is Canadian.)


This is the beloved Mr. Pickles with his favourite toy watermelon. Pug sibling Pancake, also pictured, cares not for toys. (Please note that Mr. Pickles, like Charlie above, is also Canadian.)


According to one of their humans, this is Wolf-butt and Bark-face. According to their other human, this is Finn and Daisy. According to both humans, Wolf-butt/Finn and Bark-face/Daisy are each other’s favorite toys.


Blackie relaxing with her Lambie, which she has been known to parade back and forth before guests in an “I know you want this but guess what, you can’t have it” sort of way.

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This is Guinness (he’s an Irish terrier) happily guarding Jello, his favorite toy.

The dedication behind the dedication

I dedicated my brand-neScreen Shot 2017-03-21 at 3.56.23 PMw picture book, Percy, Dog of Destiny, to my dear friend Judy Osborn. Why? Take a look at that handsome dog below. His name is Wrigley, and he’s one of the astonishing American Vet Dogs, trained to provide moral support to our troops and veterans. (See the goggles and weights on Wrigley’s back? That’s part of his training as a helicopter dog. Check out this video if you don’t believe me.) A dog of destiny if ever there was one.

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I’ve had the honor of watching Wrigley grow from a tender puppy (last photo below) into the soulful, beautiful dog he is now. Not in person, but through my friend Judy’s photographs. Judy, who is a civil servant by day and a dog whisperer the rest of the time, worked with Wrigley almost every weekend for a year. During the week, Wrigley was loved and trained by Sam, an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, MD., and each weekend, Judy picked him up and took him with her everywhere, so that he would be as used to the enormous outside world as he was to the confines of the prison. 


Q. Judy, what drew you personally to the Vet Dog program?

A. I’ve always loved dogs and I’ve always been interested in how dogs can help all kinds of people — kids learning to read; people recovering in hospitals; veterans dealing with PTSD or physical disabilities; prisoners who need unconditional love; senior citizens who need connection.  I became more conscious of veterans because I live near Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and I see veterans in Bethesda who are amputees.

After the recent deaths of three dear friends, I decided life was too short to wait until retirement to do what I loved. I had done some volunteering with Warrior Canine Connection (puppy petting!) but wanted to do something on a regular basis that involved dogs and vets and inmates. America’s Vet Dogs was perfect because the dogs are trained during the week by inmates and the prison was relatively close (in DC terms, anyway – an hour and a half drive). And since my commitment was only on weekends, I didn’t think I would get attached to the dog (ha ha!).

Q. You worked in tandem with an inmate to train Wrigley. What was that like?

A. “My” inmate — Sam — is an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center in Hagerstown, MD. Sam was the main trainer of Wrigley, who was his first dog, and he worked with Wrigley 24/7. My commitment was at least three weekends a month, two nights each weekend, to practice the commands in the “real” world and to socialize Wrigley, i.e., expose him to all sorts of situations, places, people, noises and smells.  Doorbells!  Garbage trucks!  Leaf blowers!  Construction sites!  People who walk funny!  Skateboarders!  Drunk people!  Clowns!  Squirrels and cats!  Bowling alleys!  Hospitals!  Libraries!  Buses!  Boats!  Subways! I even did things with Wrigley that I failed to do with my own son when he was little (a pontoon boat at a local lake). 

The list they gave us is quite extensive. We had a training book that gave us “field trips” that were appropriate for the age of the dog. Each weekend we were supposed to repeat two field trips we’d done before, and add two new ones. Sam and I made a great team. We gave each other lots of detailed information from week to week, and Sam would work on things that I found Wrigley hadn’t yet mastered in the outside world. 

Q. What was the most rewarding aspect of working with Wrigley?

A. The most rewarding thing is knowing that I helped bring the joy (and boundless energy) of Wrigley to the many veterans he will meet. He will be deployed for a while (though it’s unclear if it’s with the Army, the Air Force, or the Mass National Guard) and he will bring great comfort to our soldiers who are under so much stress. He is then on track to be a “facility dog” who will be assigned to a military base or VA hospital and get to hang out with all the veterans who are there for therapy.

Q. What was the hardest aspect of this work?

A. Saying goodbye.  Worrying about him — knowing that he doesn’t like being in a kennel; wondering how it will be for him overseas; hoping he is with people who love him and treat him well.  I miss his goofiness and his beautiful face.

And it was also tough never getting to meet Sam to talk about our boy together, since the rules prohibit any interaction. Towards the end, we both could really appreciate and understand how far we — and Wrigley — had come. We were able to share that through notes, but it wasn’t the same.  I did get permission to write Sam a goodbye letter.

Q. Do you have insight or advice for the general public with regard to vets and their dogs, or service dogs in general?

A. DO NOT PET THE DOG. Service dogs are working and having a stranger pet the dog (or even talk to the dog) could endanger the handler’s life. It’s best not to even ask to pet the dog since sometimes that can cause stress for the handler.

I did meet some wonderful people who would come up and speak to me. Lots of people wanted to know about the Vet Dog program, lots of people offered a ton of support to us and to him. Children could always pet him provided they asked first and stayed calm; I tried to make these teaching moments. One of the last weekends I met an eight year old boy at the farmer’s market. Wrigley and this little boy just fell in love with each other. So very sweet.

Q. What have your dog experiences in life thus far taught you, either about yourself or about human relationships?

A. People need connection, unconditional love, and acceptance; dogs provide all of the above. Dogs also make you live in the moment — there’s no way I can hurry through my morning to get to work without first rubbing my dog Khaki’s belly. (She goes downstairs first and lies on her back so her belly is the first thing I see when I come downstairs.)  And, as hungry as she is when I come home, she demands — and I give  — a belly rub and cuddle then too. 

For more information about America’s Vet Dogs, or to support the wonderful work they do, please click here.

from an unfamiliar photo sent by a friend

See that photo there, in the upper left? Of course you don’t. That’s because there is a tiny mutant rebel army wielding swords and running amok in the walls of this blog, much as tiny mice used to run amok in the walls of the very old house in which I grew up, and they have decided to chop out all the photos that once could be viewed here.

The tiny mutant rebel army soldiers also stand guard at the gate of New Photo Uploads, denying permission to every new photo I try to include. So you shall have to use your imagination when you look at the invisible photo to the upper left, and trust me when I tell you that it’s a colorful snapshot of five teenagers, all wearing green t-shirts –they must be part of an urban summer camp of some sort– playing Double Dutch.

Remember Double Dutch? I do, sort of. Two of the teens hold a jump rope in each hand and stand opposite each other while two others watch. The jumprope-holding teens are, from the looks of the photo, swirling back and forth with each hand, creating a double rainbow of a jumprope, through which Teen #5 is leaping.

He is the only boy in the photo.  He concentrates intently, his red sneakers flashing. The girls watch, expressionless. There appears to be no real happiness in any of them. Why not, though?

Now I see –this is the first time I’ve noticed this, so focused on the jumper and holders have I been– that there’s a crowd in the background.

Girls and boys and adults sit on a low curb that flanks the parking lot where the Double Dutchers stand, their hands between their knees. An older woman with a long necklace and a yellow sun hat and Birkenstocks sits in a green plastic lawn chair.  I have no sense of conversation.

Hark! A table to the left holds papers, a tall can of Mountain Dew, and not one but two trophies. Behind this table sit a man and a woman, also watching the jumpers.

Is it possible that I have stumbled upon a Double Dutch Jump-Off? I do believe it is possible. In fact, the evidence seems incontrovertible: the intent teens, the green t-shirts, the silent bystanders, faces full of wary expectation.

Now I’m remembering the feel of a jumprope in my hands. It’s been a long time. Would I still like it? Because I used to, on the hot black pavement outside the elementary school.

I used to bring a jump rope with me when I traveled, so that I could jump rope in my hotel room. But did I ever actually jump rope in a hotel room? Methinks not.

The first time I met my friend Karla was through a story she wrote, in which the girl was great at making up jump rope rhymes. You know the kind, chanted in a singsongy voice. The girl in Karla’s story made up wild and unique rhymes. I looked at Karla, sitting across from me, her beautiful dark curls and her beautiful smile, and I hoped that we could be friends.

Long ago, my friend Judy used to jump rope in the fourth floor stairwell of our dormitory. You could hear the monotonous beat all the way down the hall, nearly inaudible most of the time and then, when someone opened the door to the stairwell, suddenly loud and echoey. My God, that woman could jump rope.

I have it in my head that she would jump for an hour at a time, but thinking about it now, that seems excessive, even for back then, when most of us were skilled at the art of excession.

“Excession,” in case you’re wondering, appears to be the title of a science fiction by Scottish writer Iain Banks, but which I believe should be the noun form of “excessive” instead.

Judy, hello, are you out there? Did you in fact used to jump rope for an hour at a time?

Would I be disappointed if she said no, of course not, you have a deeply flawed memory?

And now I’m remembering the Rope Power team at my children’s elementary school. My God, could those kids jump. Single Rope Freestyle, Single Rope Power, Double Dutch Speed, Double Dutch Pairs Freestyle, and on and on.

At one Rope Power tournament, I sat in the stands with a videocamera –perhaps the only time I, the camera loser, ever tried to videotape anything– taping. The children leaped and flipped around the gym, ropes swirling in all directions. It was stunning.

For the finale, a lone jumper came leaping out into the center of the ring, one leg somehow pretzel-twisted up behind his ear, backward and forward jumping on one leg. The crowd roared –it was truly an amazing sight, this twisted-up one-legged child nimbly spinning about– and just then the video ends with the sudden sound of my voice saying “Holy shit! That’s my son!”

A my name is Alison, I come from Alabama, I eat apples and I like the month of April.