When Advocacy Spills into my Day. Crazy or Not Crazy? That is the Question.

I am a dog advocate.

This is a truth so deeply ingrained in who I am, that I sometimes see things a little differently than most people.  You might say I view the world through dog-colored glasses.

I had an experience this past week that perfectly illustrates what I mean. When I related it to my partner, she said that I have become a Crazy Lady.

I was shopping in Walgreens and walked down the pet aisle on my way to the register. But what I saw there made me stop in my tracks and boggle. Right there, next to the bags of dog and cat food, was a 4 foot display of glade candles and odor eliminators.  They were butted up against each other.walgreens dog foodNow, I don’t know about you, but those glade candles smell pretty strong to me. And I immediately thought of how when you buy that kind of stuff in the grocery store, the baggers never put that kind of thing into a bag with food…not even boxed items. I’ve always thought that was because the scent of the perfume of the soap or candle or cleaning fluid might permeate the food package.

As we all know, dogs have a sense of smell thousands of times greater than ours. So, this store set-up seemed wrong.  I asked to speak to the manager, and I took him over to the aisle and told him what I was thinking. He is a young man, very nice, and always eager to please. His response, however, was that he was “sure that the dog food bags were thick enough that nothing could penetrate them.”  Well, I know that water penetrates them, and I know that my dogs can smell the food inside even when they are sealed. Still, I didn’t argue with him. He said the store set-ups were decided “by corporate”, but that he would mention it to his district manager. We left it at that.

Yesterday, I was in this Walgreens again, and I noticed a man in a suit talking with one of the store employees. He reeked of corporate. I approached the young man I had spoken to last week and asked him who the guy in the suit was. He told me that he was the district manager. I asked if he had spoken to him yet about the pet aisle, and he hadn’t. So I approached the man in the suit, who greeted me in a friendly, professional manner, and asked him if I could talk to him about my concern. When I showed him, he understood exactly what I meant. He looked at the aisle and said they could flop the display so the items like mops and dusters were butted up against the canned pet food…putting the glade at the far left of the aisle and the bagged dog food at the far right. He said they would make the change right after Christmas.

Will he remember? I don’t know.

Did he make a note of it? I don’t know.

Will I be checking after Christmas to see if it’s changed? You can bet your damn boots I will!

This, incidentally,  is the second time I have talked to a drug store about their pet food set up. The last time they had the pet food butted up against the rat poison!

So now I put the question to you   – crazy, or not crazy?

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From Under the Porch to Up on the Bed

rotting_and_unsafe_deck_in_overgrown_backyardBack in July, you may remember that I blogged about a dog who had been banished to a life of solitude. A lot of people thought it was a poem, but it was really a statement of intention and my thought process underlying my resolve to steal the dog.

The dog wasn’t the one in that post’s photo. That photo represented my perspective of that dog’s lonely life. I have a history with the actual dog I was writing about. She belonged to somebody whom I’d known for many years, and she had been dearly loved at one time. Before her “mom” died of metastasized breast cancer, she told me and D that she wanted us to have her dog when she died. At one point, she told us that “it was time”, to take her dog home with us…but we didn’t that day because it was like admitting that her death was imminent. This refusal would haunt us for four years; because after the woman’s death, her husband didn’t want to give the dog up. I suspect he didn’t want to give her up because she represented a connection to his deceased wife.

The man had never been a dog person. He’d put up with this dog, and others before her, because it was what his wife wanted. He never had the rewarding experience of sharing a bond with a dog,  and he had a “dogs are just animals”  attitude that someone who has never loved a dog sometimes has. He had watched Cesar Milan on APL (please, do not get me started), and after his wife died he set out to turn her dog into what he thought a dog should be.

Holding Milan in high regard (I told you not to get me started!) turning the dog into what he thought a dog should be was all about exerting his dominance over the dog. The man began by limiting the dog’s freedom; no getting on the furniture. No entering the living room. No petting or affection. Eventually, long lonely days outside. He is not a bad person, he just has a neanderthal view of what a dog should be — and underneath it all,  he didn’t really want to be bothered with a dog. zoeyfence

When his wife had been sick, I had taken the dog to get her shots, and because I expected that the dog would one day be living with us, I’d made a note that day so I’d know when she was due again. When that date rolled around, I told him. Although he could afford it, he said he would not take her for shots. And although I could not afford it, I told him that I would.

A few days before her appointment, I called his house and asked his son to bathe the dog in preparation. I knew she’d been in the yard day in and day out, and we were in the height of flea season.

The day before the appointment, I called to let the man know what time I’d be picking the dog up, and I asked if his son had bathed her. He told me that she didn’t need a bath because she had been out in the rain the whole day before. His offhand and callous remark cut right to my heart. I picked the dog up at the arranged time (thankfully, the son had bathed her) and took her to be vetted.  When I took her back to the man, I asked him if he was ready to give her up. He wasn’t.

I asked him several more times over the following years, but she was “his dog now”. I worried about her whenever the weather was too hot or too cold, whenever it stormed or snowed, and whenever I knew he’d been drinking. One day D and I stopped for a visit and asked that he allow the dog to sit with us on the front porch –something she had loved to do with his wife. He brought her out and D and I loved on her while we visited. When we were ready to leave, the man put the dog back into the yard. When she heard our engine kick over she let out a heart piercing sound of anguish. She knew her “mom” had wanted her to be with us.

D and I drove away in tears, and heard that sound over and over in our memories for months to come. Again and again we asked for her, and he refused.

Fast forward to July.

It was time for the dog to get shots again, so I made the necessary arrangements. Only this time, I had no intention of returning the dog to him. I had resolved to steal her. I did not clue D in. My plan was to take the dog for her shots and then take her to our house for some fun time. When it was time to take her home, I’d make some excuse to the man. “We got tied up and can’t bring her back tonight…we’ll bring her tomorrow”. I knew he wouldn’t come to get her, because he didn’t want the dog in his car. I blogged about it to strengthen my resolve. But then an amazing thing happened. The man’s son called me the night before the appointment and said “Dad said if you want to keep her, you can.”

Freedom ride.

Freedom ride.

Apparently, the dog was now urinating whenever she was in the house, and he had now limited her to a tiny room at the rear of the house when she came in at night. When we picked her up that day, he said she’d have a better life with us…so our persistence had paid off. What we thought had been falling on deaf ears, eventually got through.

She lives with us now. Her name is Zoey. She was urinating in the house because she was drinking loads of water, and she was doing that because she had a terrible infection in her mouth. It took a number of visits to the vet, and a pile of money to work out and fix what was wrong, but thankfully, Valley Save-a-Pet helped us pay for that.

at the gate

At the gate with the pack.

Zoey and our pack of dogs didn’t have an adjustment period. She just walked in our house, everyone said “hi” and that was that. Everyone, including her, knew she was supposed to be here.

Zoey spent the first three days at our house playing. She climbed into the toy box and tried out each toy. She squeaked toys to her heart’s content. She never stopped wagging her tail. She sleeps with me in my bed,  she sits beside D or me in our chair when we watch TV. She takes walks with Waldo and me. She plays and plays and plays. She gifts me with kisses.

Still, those years of solitude in the yard took their toll. She has terrible arthritis, and hurts whenever the weather is cold and damp. She cannot bear to be in the dog pen with the other dogs unless I am in the pen too. I think she is afraid she will be left out again. She is afraid of the dark. She has moments of hysteria if she becomes tangled in her leash on walks, or sometimes when she is picked up, or if her foot gets wedged beside the chair cushion. It’s a panic induced hysteria.

Playing with her squeaky duck. She has toys now.


Sometimes she goes far far away…lost in thought like she is in a trance. Maybe she is thinking about her “mom”, maybe she is remembering long lonely days under the porch, maybe she is just ‘checked out’ into a safe place. We continue to love on her and work with her. She’s going to be okay, and we are resolved to see to that. She is a good little dog,  full of love and joy.

Dogs have a beautiful, resilient spirit.

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The Heart of a Rescuer

I’ve read heroes described as people who run toward danger instead of away from it. They are the firemen who run into burning buildings. They are the people who snatch children out of the path of speeding cars. You get the idea.

I thought about this today after an experience I had on Facebook. I was tagged into a rescue conversation early this morning about a pair of dogs who had been found in Portage County. Meet Bert and Ernie.

ernie_bertThese two little guys were found in the woods near a cage from which they had escaped. Somebody had abandoned them there, inside of a cage that had been duct taped closed. The people who found them rounded them up and took them home, then contacted a friend of theirs who is a rescuer. That person started a conversation on Facebook and tagged a bunch of other rescue people, including me. The conversation was meant to mobilize our community to get these boys to safety. By day’s end, they were safe with JJRuff Roads rescue in Stark County.

cageTwo little dogs abandoned inside of a duct taped cage in the woods. I wish I could say that this was a highly unusual case — that people are not usually this cruel — but I can’t. It’s just another case in a never-ending stream of cruel things people do to pets. Many times far more cruel than this.

Sometimes the circumstances really bother me. Sometimes I dwell on the stories for days, unable to get them out of my head. But more often than not the story behind the circumstance is the last thing I am interested in. Once these guys were safe, I posted them on my Facebook page explaining the circumstances and with a shout out to everyone who worked on getting them safe. Then, some of my friends began posting comments of outrage that someone could do such a thing to these two precious dogs. I’m glad to know I have empathetic friends.

That’s when I started to think about the difference between action and reaction; what makes people heroes, and what makes people rescuers. The comments on my post were reactions. The people commenting weren’t rescuers, they were just people disgusted by the story of abandonment. That they reacted is not unusual – most people react.

But rescuers are different. Rescuers act. Part of acting means that you have to let go of how the situation makes you feel, suspend your anger, figure out what needs to happen, and then work to make it happen. This is what rescuers do on a daily basis – shove the horror and disgust way down deep and focus on the task. There’s time for screaming into the void later.

I realized today that not everyone is capable of that. The heart of a rescuer is strong and fearless.

I wonder what we are running toward.


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My Jack of Hearts

It’s been a rough couple of months.

Our oldest dog, Lammy Lamb, has been getting nearer to the end of her life, and I have been struggling. I’ve had to make the dreaded decision before — only two of the 9 dogs we have lost over the years died in their sleep– but for some reason, this time it is especially hard.

manga napLammy Lamb came into my life when I needed her most. I was trying to claw my way out of a deep, suicidal depression. She was nine-years-old, and not like any dog we had ever had. She was hilarious. In a world that I was finding increasingly baffling, and uncomprehendingly cruel, the laughter she drew out of me was no small feat.

She came to us with the name ‘Desiree’, a moniker too high class and polite for such a little rascal. Being a Jack Russell Terrier, she was clever and mischievous. It kind of comes with the territory. She loved being the center of attention, and she loved to be babied.

desi_t_smThe removal of all of the bottom teeth between her incisors left a wide space, and where before her tongue had rested against those teeth, now it often protruded a half-inch or so out of her mouth. The result was a face with an expression so adorable we were often reduced to baby talk when addressing her. Like two little girls with a favorite doll, Dalene and I dressed Desi in baby clothes and took turns holding her and rocking her. She loved the attention and would let us hold her for hours. Whenever we passed her back and forth like an infant we wouldn’t be able to keep from laughing. She was such a stiff little dog, but so content to play the baby, dressed in jammies with her tongue sticking out. Never had a dog been made to feel more loved and welcome in our home.” (from Circling the Waggins)

 Her curly coat and peculiar gait reminded us of a little goat, and so she became known as “Lammy Lamb”. At nine years old and true to her breed, she was full of life and full of business. She kept busy by aggravating the other dogs, and teaching them bad habits.

all ready for Cleveland's Gay Pride, circa 2008.

all ready for Cleveland’s Gay Pride, circa 2008.

Lammy-Lamb has (also) taught Waldo how to chase the cats. He caught on immediately and takes great delight in tormenting them. (…)

Lammy-Lamb does not chase the cats. She leads the charge, but as soon as she knows that Waldo has taken up the chase, she backs off and watches while he bullies and chases and is scolded and shamed. Lammy-Lamb is a very bad influence. If she didn’t live here, I wouldn’t let Waldo hang out with her.” (from Circling the Waggins)

Lammy Lamb has been circling the exit ramp since December of 2013. She had a honking tumor on her adorable doopa that had reached a crisis stage. It was surgery or euthanasia. We opted to give her a chance, and she had the surgery. Throughout 2014, she waPICT1439s back to her feisty and incomparable self. But by April of this year, her health had begun to head south.

We gave her everything we could think of to give her quality of life. When she began to lose weight, we switched her to a high calorie food to help her keep the pounds on. When she was having trouble retaining body heat, we dressed her in a onesie. When she began getting forgetful about going outside, we put her in diapers. I washed her soiled bottom sometimes five times a day. When her eyes failed and she began getting herself into sketchy predicaments, we crated her at night for her safety. When she had trouble getting traction on the floors, we bought her traction socks; and when those weren’t as successful as we’d hoped, we bought her shoes. On cold nights, I took her to bed with me and curled my body around hers.melammysleep

Lammy Lamb had bad days that were very very bad, and good days that were amazing. But it was a roller coaster. After a run of bad days, I would begin to struggle with what should be done. She became very sick and dehydrated, and in a last ditch, we gave her lactated ringers for ten days. She regained her strength. She ate with gusto!

Then, three weeks ago another low so frightening I became resolved and made an appointment, but Dalene convinced me to hold off, and the following day Lammy Lamb bounced back with new vigor.

Each up-and-down-and-then-up-again, the ability to make a decision became harder.

Sound asleep.

Sound asleep.

Now, it’s only a few months short of her eighteenth birthday. She has been with us for half of her life. Her spine is so bent, that head hanging, she staggers like a drunken crone. Her movement across the room is often achieved via a combination of drunken stumbling, somersaults, and scoots. Sometimes, when standing still, she places the top of her head on the floor to balance herself. Everything has become a struggle.

The only thing left to do for her is hold her, which she loves — except when she doesn’t. Then she makes her will known by kicking her legs like any two-year-old taking a tantrum.

This past Saturday, she stopped eating. lastlammy2We have not been able to tempt her palate even with Prime Rib, so we know that now it is truly time. I took her outside today so she could lie naked in the grass for thelast time. To feel the sun on her bones, the breeze in her fur. I will take her to bed with me tonight and cuddle her as long as she’ll allow.

Tomorrow, I will help her run free again.

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I’m Stealing Your Dog on Friday

I’m stealing your DOG on Friday.

You know, that dog who your wife used to hold on her lap all day long. The dog that stayed glued to her side while she fought cancer. She loved that dog.

I’m stealing your dog on Friday.

That dog you leave outside in all kinds of weather. The one you said didn’t need a bath because she’d been out in the rain all day.

I’m STEALING your dog on Friday.

Because she’s spending way too many hours lying under your porch. She’s lonely.
You might be feeding her, but there’s more to having a dog than just providing food and water.

I’m stealing YOUR dog on Friday.

Because the only time you talk to her is when you are snapping at her. Because since your
wife died three years ago, she doesn’t get petted. She never hears a kind word.
She doesn’t wag her tail any more.

I’m stealing your dog on Friday.

Because you won’t license her or get her shots, or put her on heartworm preventative. You let her nails get so long I’m afraid they will grow into her pads. She is neglected.

I’M stealing your dog on Friday.

Because the way she howled the last time I drove away has been haunting me. She was crying for help.

I’m stealing your dog on FRIDAY.

Because she deserves better than the lonely life she has.
Because she deserves to be loved and valued.
Because she deserves to be happy.


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A Dog Poem. A poetic interlude, Up on the Woof.


Summer nighttime

I park the truck and let you out.

Gravel crunching underfoot

So small and fast, you fly ahead

Barking at some unseen trespasser

To protect our home that’s not our home


In low dark shapes

My fear darts across our moonlit yard

That’s not our yard

To meet you

Your angry snarls are swallowed

By a chorus of throaty others


Teeth flash, fur blurs

In the unseen engagement

heart pounding, I run

Praying I’m not too late

to save you.


Sensing my fear perhaps

you wake me from the horror

that’s not our horror

with sheepish reassurance

cold nose to my ear

you save us both



2011 C.A.Wulff

Illustration: “Black Dog Runs at Night” Akwaforta, 2005

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Super Seven Hour Sunday Sale!

TODAY ONLY, between the hours of 3 pm – 10 pm, you can get a copy of Born Without a Tail: the Making of an Animal Advocate for half off the cover price and FREE shipping! As a bonus, you’ll also get a Circling the Waggins bookmark.
Hurry, supplies are limited

bwatcoversamp_sm (2) Buy now button
“Born Without a Tail captures the real scenario of those people who simply find it impossible to turn away, or say no to, a stray or an animal in need of human intervention and love. Wulff writes with an imagery that is easily visualized by the reader. Anyone who enjoys animals in the least will appreciate Wulff’s adventures with these four-legged creatures.” — Brecksville Magazine

“If you [also] love animals, I can guarantee you will adore this gem. The love Cayr and her friend, Dalene, have for these animals is clearly portrayed in this moving yet uplifting book. They are animal lovers with big hearts for not only domestic animals but for the waifs and strays too. I couldn’t put this one down. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant book, especially as I myself share the same passions as the author and her “life mate” have for animals.

This is a tale that will appeal to animal lovers and perhaps children too.” — Bookpleasures.com

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