Sunday, September 30, 2012

Introducing Dottie Braun!

Regular readers of the blog know that a week and a half ago the Braun family lost it's beloved "Big Dog" Snuggles after fourteen years of sweet, loyal, goofy companionship.  After debating whether or not it was appropriate to get another dog, a wise financial decision to add another pet, and if we were all emotionally ready to bring a new personality into the mix, Ling our fourteen-year-old Chow/Fox mix made the decision for us.

Since Snuggles' passing Ling had been moping around.  She had been the alpha dog in a pack of four dogs for most of her life and in the last year the other three members of the pack, Maggie, Odie and of course, Snuggles had passed on.  So poor Ling just seemed to be a little lost.  She clearly needed someone to boss around and impart her sage canine wisdom to.  Also, it just seemed a fitting tribute to Snuggles, who had been a rescued dog, to give another little shelter dog a home.

My initial reaction was to look up the animal shelter in our home county of Mariposa, which is the most rural county in our fair state of California, and adopt a dog that would love life on a 100 acre spread with other dogs and cats to play with and a steady stream of visitors who would gladly give him or her a belly rub.  So I typed in the url for the animal shelter to view the animals currently awaiting adoption.  There was just one...a rooster.  Okay, so much for that idea.  And by the way, who abandons a rooster?

The school year was starting so I had to head back down the mountain to Los Angeles for the work week.  A couple of days later I got an e-mail from my mom who had been looking at the shelter animals in neighboring Merced County and came across this little face:


Her name was Dottie...which was my Grandma Dorothy's nickname. It seemed like a sign.  And she kind of looked like my Grandma Dorothy's dog Tiny Tim who she had back in the 1920s in Chicago.

I am not sure why Tiny Time looks like he only
has three legs in this photo...I was assured he
had all four.  

I called from LA, Mom called from up at the ranch and after a few days we heard back from the volunteer at the shelter, Wendy, who told us she was still available, had been born to a Chihuahua mom and a Miniature Doberman Pincher dad at the shelter and all of her family had already been adopted.  They were hoping to find her a home before winter because she is so tiny and gets cold so easily that she needs a forever home with a fireplace and nice people who will make her sweaters.  We said that we could do that.  

The next morning my Mom called me on my way to work at the university and said that they had gotten her and that she didn't quite look like the puppy in the picture anymore...she said to think more along the lines of Dobby the house elf from the Harry Potter movies.  


So far Dottie has been a member of the Braun family for about four days and has settled into a routine of sleeping under the covers in the bed, trying to engage Harriett the cat to play with her, running up and down the driveway to the house and jumping onto my Dad's face when he is sleeping and engaging in a licks and kisses-attack.  

Regal, no?

She weighs about eight pounds, has a rat tail, bat ears, little deer feet and the nose of a chocolate lab.  As mentioned previously, she is a Chihuahua and Miniature Doberman Pincher mix, or as my friend Chase has said, she's a Chipincher.  

So far she seems to be fitting in quite nicely and Ling is attempting to teach her everything she knows...except how to take baths.  That hasn't quite been communicated yet...but it's a work in progress.

My mom is giving Dottie a thorough ear cleaning.

She looks strangely like a hippo to me here.

Now she is channeling her inner seal.

Dottie is just the sweetest, kindest, most trusting little doglet you could ask for which can only be a credit to the volunteers at the Merced County Animal Shelter.  They foster the animals and provide them with love and safe place to live until they can find "forever" homes.  I would strongly encourage anyone out there who might stumble across this blog post to check them out and consider getting your next four-legged family member from the good people at the Merced SPCA.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Remembering Snuggles

Once again, I am back on my blog at the end of summer with a bummer post.  I am sad to report the passing of quite possibly the coolest beast of a dog that ever lived...Snuggles.

For the three people that read my blog that don't know who Snuggles is, here is a little bio.  Snuggles showed up fourteen years ago when my mom came home from work one day with what looked to me like the love child of a wild African savannah cat and a pitt bull.  My mom had just lost her little Chihuahua and told her co-worker whose husband was a Sheriff's deputy who frequently found stray animals that if they came across another little Chihuahua-esque munchkin dog to give her a call.  The next day they brought us Snuggles...a giant solid mass of muscle and sinew with huge puppy dog eyes. She wasn't quite a Chihuahua but was she ever adorable!

Snuggles had been bred to make monster dogs for dog fighting but was rescued from a fighting ring in South Central LA and found her way to our home through a series of kind strangers who wanted to help when it became immediately evident that she was the sweetest, gentlest creature that had ever walked the earth.  Initially my dad named her Jezebel...but that just wasn't quite right.  Despite her size she seemed to think she was a lap dog and wanted to cuddle...thus Snuggles seemed a more appropriate name.  But she also answered to "The Big Dog".

When my mom brought her home she weighed 50 pounds and we assumed she was full grown so you can imagine our surprise when the vet said she was only three months old.  By the end of the year she was 125 pounds...and still liked to cuddle in your lap.

She also liked to eat avocados that had fallen off the tree in the backyard and hide the pits in our shoes. In the afternoons she would sit next to my grandma's desk while she clipped her coupons and Grandma would pat her on the head and call her "Sad Sack".  She also loved to lay on the couch and listen to my Grandmother play the piano and organ and if that wasn't available she's settle for opera music on the iPod.  She was an Eeyore-like character, long suffering and sweet.  When she would ride in the truck with my Dad the back of her head in silhouette looked like a little girl with pig tails.

Snuggles remains the only dog that I know of that successfully took down a mountain lion.  One winter we were all up at the family ranch outside of Yosemite and Snuggles and Maggie (our other dog) were outside playing in the woods.  Maggie was curious to a fault and had a penchant for trouble.  We heard a growl, the distinctive growl of a mountain lion and our hearts sank because with both dogs out there we assumed that neither dog would survive the encounter with the giant cat.  But moments later we saw Maggie come trotting in unharmed and no Snuggles.  A few more minutes passed and then Snuggles came walking up covered in blood with blood in her mouth and the distinctive slash marks of the paw of a mountain lion across her breast bone.  Snuggles was such a good pal that she saved her pack mate Maggie and emerged victorious from the fight with the giant cat.

Snuggles' deadly encounter with the mountain lion was not representative of her overall relationship with the feline community.  Snuggles' best friend was a little cat named Harriett who would cuddle up next to her whenever she got the chance and rub her little head against Snuggles' massive jaws.

This is Snuggles' little pal Harriett.  Unfortunately Snuggles
swallowed Harriett's little Johnny Cat toy
(pictured in the left corner)

One of the funniest moments I will remember with Snuggles involved another instance of Maggie our late Rottweiler mix getting into trouble in the mountains.  Maggie antagonized a bear who took a swat at her and as a result needed surgery to reattach some ligaments in her back legs.  The vet put Maggie in the e-collar, the famous dog cone headdress, to keep her from chewing on her stitches.  Snuggles just seemed to stare at Maggie, almost jealous of her "cool hat".  It is hard to explain but you could somehow read that in her expression.  I was doing homework on the floor and my Dad was laying on the couch when Snuggles and came trotting into the den, chest puffed out, wearing Maggie's cone.  It was as if the expression on her face read, "Look, I have the cool hat now!"  She was extremely pleased with herself.  My Dad's only words were, "What the...?!?"  We guess she must  have yanked the cone off of Maggie with her powerful jaws and then shoved her head in it.  Who knows?  All I can say is that it was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed.

Another memory that will stay with all of us, forever, is the night Snuggles got sprayed smack dab in the middle of the chest by a skunk.  It was the foulest-smelling, melted-butter-looking liquid splash on her white spot on her chest and for the next five years every time she got a bath the thiol molecules in the skunk spray were reactivated by the water molecules and the stink returned with a vengeance.

Snuggles passed away last Wednesday at Yosemite Springs, the family ranch.  We should all be so lucky...the vet came out and gave her a tranquilizer and she drifted off right in front of the house looking up at the woods she loved to play in.  We were all there, her dog and cat friends were all there and when it was over Ling, her best dog buddy walked around her and said her good-byes.  Like I said, we should all be so lucky as to pass that way.

It seems cosmically unfair that animals don't live as long as we do.  I am thankful for the time I had with her and I will never forget her.  I like to think that we will somehow meet again some day.  I study theology and yet I have no idea if humans and dogs ever meet up again in any plane of existence but it would be nice to just choose to believe that somewhere, somehow, our souls will cross paths again.

In the meantime I don't know how to honor Snuggles' memory any better than to give another shelter dog a forever home.  So hopefully very soon I will have a new member of the family to announce and I hope that wherever Snuggles is she is getting to eat lots of avocados and listen to lots of opera music.