Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Renovating The Inner Underdog

 

Part One
Hi. My given name is “Bella,” but for a long while, I was an underdog.

About four years ago, I lived in a warm, supportive family. They taught me valuable life skills, like not barking over every little thing, how to be housebroken, and sitting and shaking hands and paws on command.

I liked people, especially my people, almost all other dogs, and most kitties too.

Things were simply great.

Then one day my family started using words I didn’t know yet, words like “foreclosure” and “eviction.” No longer was anyone, even the kids, playing with me much.

Soon after that, their belongings were all in boxes, and they ushered me into their sedan. They drove me to a “family friendly” neighborhood, opened the car door, and said “Good luck! Kiddo. Hope you’ll find a new home soon.”

Initially, I was stunned and I slunk off to wait for them to come back. But it didn’t happen.

“Family friendly” area or not, people yelled at me a lot. I became rather hungry and skinny as no one would let me approach their pets’ food and water bowls. Worse than that, packs of semi-wild dogs eagerly found me an easy target.

Have I mentioned yet that I am part pit bull? So although such rude canine behavior terrified me, I found I could give out even worse than I got.

Over the next several weeks, a station wagon would show up and two young people, armed with a long broom handle type of contraption, would chase after me. Now in addition to pit, I am also part border collie, so I easily could outrun these folks. Only one day when they showed up with a bit of steak attached to that contraption did they find out that I was an easy catch.

Naturally, I was scared, but they brought me to a local animal shelter. This place was warmer than the outdoors, and I got a doggy bunkmate named Buddy and an adoring staff to feed me all day long. They gave me the name I have now, Bella, and treated me like the princess I had longed to be.

Part Two
So one day soon after my ASPCA capture, my new mom, Carol, was driving down the road. For three years, she had been looking for a large dog to complete her life. The internet was right there helping her. However, every time she thought she had located the right animal, she would go to that specific shelter to retrieve it only to discover he or she was already adopted.

This particular day in June 2015, she was driving along. A voice in her head stated calmly “Do a U-turn and get back to the ASPCA right now. Your dog is there waiting for you.”

I heard the reverse of that internal psychic message, so you better believe I was waiting in the very front of my kennel, cold nose pressed to the wire and my long tail wagging away, when the pet shelter volunteers escorted her in.

Within two days, I was moving into her home. I really loved her, and both she and the big guy with the strange beard often conversed about “love at first sight.” I think they meant me.

But I was not exactly what they expected. Although I had loved the shelter volunteers, I didn’t like most people. I had learned that people will kick you when you are down and out. They are apt to throw sticks and stones, and set their meanest big bad dogs upon you.

People act so cruelly that you end up starving, homeless and going without sleep. I still liked kids, as children are kind to even us homeless dogs. But adults are a different matter entirely. I knew now that when you see grown-up people, it is far better to cower and slink away than try to be friends.

In my case, this meant growling a little and hiding behind my mom. (A bit hard to do given that I now weighed 62 pounds.)

A month after being adopted, there was a smell of smoke in the air. My new family started loading boxes of their favorite things into the garage near their car. They acted nervous. But they still played with me, so maybe I had nothing to worry about.

However, my nervousness skyrocketed when I got woken from a nap and put in the car. I must have had a funny expression as Mom said, “You need to get out with people a bit more. You should realize there are people who are a lot like you. They are going through hard times and they need love. You don’t know this, but you have it in your heart to give them hope.”

We ended up at a place called “Moose Lodge,” in Clearlake, CA. Around 400 people who had been evacuated from a major fire were living in tents and RVs on this property. And now I was expected to show up every few days and be with kids who needed to be around me. These were kids who most likely had lost their homes and their pets.

The thing was, sometimes their moms and dads showed up too.

These grown-ups had an energy I felt was familiar. They were desperate like I had been. They had faith that was shot, and eyes that were tremendously sad. Often they needed to be cheered up more than their kids.

Carol would tell these adults to command me to sit and shake. They were so happy I could do that one trick that they would sometimes wipe a tear away from their eyes. Then I realized I could help them by licking their hands or even jumping up near them, but not on them. When an adult needed a ride to the doctor or to the grocery stores, or anywhere else that came up, they would be shown into our car.

I confess the first few times a stranger got in the car, I was upset. What would I do if they became mean like the adults had been in that family-friendly neighborhood area where I once had tried to live? How would I protect my mom and myself?

But Carol taught the passengers the “Bella Song” which had as the main words, “Bella, Bella, Bella, a Beauty of a dog, she makes everyone who knows her so happy and proud.” The words made the people laugh, and also made me relax. I was once again becoming a “people canine.”

Over the next several years, I was trained as a service animal. This allowed me to accompany my owner to her therapy sessions. The concept she would dwell on the most was this one: “Do feared things first.” (I have to say, there is wisdom there.) And sometimes her therapist would mention that “you can teach a troubled dog new tricks.”

So basically I am a re-created, renovated victim of PTSD. My mom admits she has her PTSD issues to overcome as well. But together we have learned to overcome this affliction for the most part, and then put it in the back of the wheel box should we feel it re-surfacing. Life is good, people are friendly, and I truly can bark that I look forward to each and every new day. Things seem to be getting better all the time.

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  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    A wonderful dog’s tale. The photograph is the icing on the cake.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under January’s theme: Renovation. There are plenty of dates still available. Have a great home renovation story? Maybe with photos? Have a terrible home renovation story? How about furniture, or an instrument, a plane, a train or an automobile? Are you your renovation project, or someone else’s? Do you have criticism or praise for some public renovation, accomplished or desperately needed? Are you a big fan, or not so much, of home renovation shows? Unleash your inner fan or critic. We have some wonderful photo essays on Ricochet; perhaps you have a story with before and after photos, or reflections on the current state of a long project. The possibilities are endless! Why not start a conversation? Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    The February 2019 Theme Writing: How Do You Make That? Is up. Thanks for the great suggestions. I’ll likely use some of the others in March and April.

    • #1
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:57 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Darned allergies.

    • #2
    • January 20, 2019, at 1:53 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. Randy Webster Member

    Speed of lightning,

    Roar of Thunder.

    Fighting all who rob and plunder,

    Underdog!

    • #3
    • January 20, 2019, at 2:12 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  4. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Lovely, thanks for a great start to a cold and blustery Sunday. And I am so glad to discover that I am not the only person who sings happy, and sometimes daft, songs to her pets . . . 

    • #4
    • January 20, 2019, at 3:43 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  5. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wonderful story

    We have had four ‘purebred’ dogs (Brittany and 3 deerhounds) and two shelter dogs. The purebred dogs pretty much lived up to their breeding; the Brittany could run in the field all day and the deerhounds really did trigger on deer) The shelter dogs were the brains of the outfit.

    I wish the shelter dogs came with a history. Mosby wasn’t with us for very long, since he had heart problems, but Scruffy was with us for more than 10 years. He was part terrier and that showed, I’ve seen him attack and kill a groundhog with one bite while the deerhounds stood around with puzzled looks.

    In spite of his seeming bravery, there were some things that seemed to scare him to death. One time when we were vacuuming, he got out of the house, ran into the back woods and dug a hole under a fallen tree where he hid for an hour or so. He also hated men in pickup trucks and I learned quickly that the ‘click’ of snapping shut a 3-ring binder would put him into a panic.

    We figured that he had been abused by a neatfreak accountant with a pickup, but I wish we could have known the history.

    • #5
    • January 20, 2019, at 5:11 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. PHCheese Member

    Bella, Bella, Bella you sure are swella!

    • #6
    • January 20, 2019, at 5:42 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Front Seat Cat Member

    What an amazing story – you two were meant to be together – what a sweet and handsome dog he is!! 

    • #7
    • January 20, 2019, at 5:57 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  8. Kay of MT Member

    I love this story.

    Kaylet’s service dog is a wonder. Not only does he stick to her side like glue, he will comfort any child. We have been in restaurants with crying children and within minutes, Chauncey will have them calmed and charmed. Kaylett walks to the table and asks permission if they will allow her service dog to help. They never say no. I think he completely understands human speech. She can say, “go to grandma” and he will turn and run to me. He doesn’t even bark unless she commands him to. But he does try to talk. He is an Australian Shepherd.

    • #8
    • January 20, 2019, at 6:00 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  9. cdor Member
    cdor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Very nice story Carol Joy, thanks for letting Bella tell it in her own words. She is very sweet. May the two of you share your love for many years.

    • #9
    • January 20, 2019, at 7:07 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  10. KentForrester Moderator

    Carol, thanks for the story on this dreary Oregon morning. I was touched. I love a good dog story.

    I wanted to read it to Bob the Dog, but I would have to teach him English first.

    • #10
    • January 20, 2019, at 8:16 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  11. Kay of MT Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Carol, thanks for the story on this dreary Oregon morning. I was touched. I love a good dog story.

    I wanted to read it to Bob the Dog, but I would have to teach him English first.

    Kent, you have had plenty of time to teach that dog English and to talk, have you been speaking baby gibberish to him?

    • #11
    • January 20, 2019, at 9:13 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    He is an Australian Shepherd.

    One of the smartest breeds out there.

    • #12
    • January 20, 2019, at 10:44 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  13. RightAngles Member

    God bless you, Carol! I even forgive you for ruining my mascara. My Pepper is also a shelter dog. For the first two years, whenever she heard a man’s voice she ran under a table and sat there curled in a ball trembling and shaking until he was gone. I hate to think what must have happened to her before I got her. Now she no longer does that, and her favorite person is SBG who not only has a man’s voice of course, but a very low bass. She runs to him wagging her whole butt.

    I’ve had her for 15 years now, and she’s 16 years old. Interestingly, there is now only one man voice that still sends her under that table: my ex-husband. Always trust a dog’s evaluation of a person!

    • #13
    • January 20, 2019, at 11:23 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  14. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    She (View Comment):

    Lovely, thanks for a great start to a cold and blustery Sunday. And I am so glad to discover that I am not the only person who sings happy, and sometimes daft, songs to her pets . . .

    She, I thought that was you, off in the distance, joining in on one of my dog-silly songs.

    • #14
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:03 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    A wonderful dog’s tale. The photograph is the icing on the cake.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under January’s theme: Renovation. There are plenty of dates still available. Have a great home renovation story? Maybe with photos? Have a terrible home renovation story? How about furniture, or an instrument, a plane, a train or an automobile? Are you your renovation project, or someone else’s? SNIP

    I’ll post the February topic and sign-up sheet mid-month. I’ll consider topical suggestions.

    As a team, Bella and I were delighted to have something to contribute to the Group Writing Series. Thank you for the hard work and devotion that you apply to this project. I am betting it means a great deal to all of us here to be able to bring forth a side of ourselves unconnected to politics and the particular news scandal du jour.

     

    • #15
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:06 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  16. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Wonderful story

    We have had four ‘purebred’ dogs (Brittany and 3 deerhounds) and two shelter dogs. The purebred dogs pretty much lived up to their breeding; the Brittany could run in the field all day and the deerhounds really did trigger on deer) The shelter dogs were the brains of the outfit.

    I wish the shelter dogs came with a history. Mosby wasn’t with us for very long, since he had heart problems, but Scruffy was with us for more than 10 years. He was part terrier and that showed, I’ve seen him attack and kill a groundhog with one bite while the deerhounds stood around with puzzled looks.

    In spite of his seeming bravery, there were some things that seemed to scare him to death. One time when we were vacuuming, he got out of the house, ran into the back woods and dug a hole under a fallen tree where he hid for an hour or so. He also hated men in pickup trucks and I learned quickly that the ‘click’ of snapping shut a 3-ring binder would put him into a panic.

    We figured that he had been abused by a neatfreak accountant with a pickup, but I wish we could have known the history.

    Scruffy sounds like a delight. (Neuroses and all.) Your idea that Scruffy’s past included one neatfreak accountant sounds as likely as anything else.

    I had to let Bella tell the story as I would have gone on forever as far as what possible backgrounds were lurking in her past.

     

    • #16
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  17. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Carol, thanks for the story on this dreary Oregon morning. I was touched. I love a good dog story.

    I wanted to read it to Bob the Dog, but I would have to teach him English first.

    Although Bob doesn’t do English, I venture that you are somebody who speaks dog quite fluently.

    • #17
    • January 20, 2019, at 12:39 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  18. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Beautiful story and beautiful pup.

    • #18
    • January 20, 2019, at 3:51 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    I loved this! I love your dog, too.

    By the way, I have a good friend who lives in Clearlake, CA. Thanks for helping out there.

    • #19
    • January 20, 2019, at 5:23 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Kay of MT Member

    The Vet that saved our pony when he lived in Quincy CA,, now lives in Clear Lake.

    • #20
    • January 20, 2019, at 5:28 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    I love this story.

    Kaylet’s service dog is a wonder. Not only does he stick to her side like glue, he will comfort any child. We have been in restaurants with crying children and within minutes, Chauncey will have them calmed and charmed. Kaylett walks to the table and asks permission if they will allow her service dog to help. They never say no. I think he completely understands human speech. She can say, “go to grandma” and he will turn and run to me. He doesn’t even bark unless she commands him to. But he does try to talk. He is an Australian Shepherd.

    Often when I am out alone or with Bella, people with other service dogs come up to me. I hear about dogs who in addition to other things these trained companions do, can alert their owner that they’ re about to experience seizures. Or that their blood sugar is too high or too low.

    I am so glad that Kaylett has Chauncey and that granma gets some of the love as well.

    • #21
    • January 21, 2019, at 10:55 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Kay of MT Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Often when I am out alone or with Bella, people with other service dogs come up to me. I hear about dogs who in addition to other things these trained companions do, can alert their owner that they’ re about to experience seizures. Or that their blood sugar is too high or too low.

    I am so glad that Kaylett has Chauncey and that granma gets some of the love as well.

    She has a heart condition, so if she goes down, Chauncey has to leave her and go get help. His harness has instructions on using the AED in his back pack. So he has to be people socialized.

    • #22
    • January 21, 2019, at 11:15 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Often when I am out alone or with Bella, people with other service dogs come up to me. I hear about dogs who in addition to other things these trained companions do, can alert their owner that they’ re about to experience seizures. Or that their blood sugar is too high or too low.

    I am so glad that Kaylett has Chauncey and that granma gets some of the love as well.

    She has a heart condition, so if she goes down, Chauncey has to leave her and go get help. His harness has instructions on using the AED in his back pack. So he has to be people socialized.

    The technology of the AED is so remarkable, and combining this with our oldest domestic companion’s abilities is pretty nifty also.

    Off the internet: The beauty of the AED is that it is fully automatic and will tell the user everything they need to know to operate it including if a shock should be given and how to give it. If a shock is not advisable, the machine will not deliver one. These machines are life savers in many situations and should be available in all public places.

    I am so glad that Chauncey can get your daughter immediate help if she should need it.

    • #23
    • January 21, 2019, at 11:28 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Kay of MT Member

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    The Vet that saved our pony when he lived in Quincy CA,, now lives in Clear Lake.

    I meant to tell you the Vet’s name is Tim Strong. I think he has a clinic in Clear, Lake. In the 1970s our pony colic at the Plumas County Fair, and the officials refuse to allow us to leave, claiming that if we left Kaylett would lose all her trophies. So we called Tim and he spent the night walking our pony. As he wasn’t the official Vet for the show, (who had refused to come to the barn,) there was a big static. Tim went and got his trailer, loaded the pony and took him home to Meadow Valley, about 15 miles away. AND did not charge us for the trip, his only interest was saving that pony for a little girl.

    • #24
    • January 21, 2019, at 11:38 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  25. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    Kay of MT (View Comment):

    The Vet that saved our pony when he lived in Quincy CA,, now lives in Clear Lake.

    I meant to tell you the Vet’s name is Tim Strong. I think he has a clinic in Clear, Lake. In the 1970s our pony colic at the Plumas County Fair, and the officials refuse to allow us to leave, claiming that if we left Kaylett would lose all her trophies. So we called Tim and he spent the night walking our pony. As he wasn’t the official Vet for the show, (who had refused to come to the barn,) there was a big static. Tim went and got his trailer, loaded the pony and took him home to Meadow Valley, about 15 miles away. AND did not charge us for the trip, his only interest was saving that pony for a little girl.

    That is a wonderful example of the type of devotion that good vets shower on members of the animal kingdom.

    I will see if I can locate him. The vet I go to often is over booked, so I do need an extra pet doctor from time to time.

    • #25
    • January 21, 2019, at 11:55 AM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Kay of MT Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    That is a wonderful example of the type of devotion that good vets shower on members of the animal kingdom.

    I will see if I can locate him. The vet I go to often is over booked, so I do need an extra pet doctor from time to time.

    We had 3 dogs at the time, and one day they caught a porcupine, and all three of them were in a heap of trouble. Loaded them in the car and headed to Tim. He gave me a pair of clippers and showed me how to deflate a quill to remove it, took us about 2 hours. When I was ready to load them and take them home, I asked Tim how much I owed him, and he replied, he charged so much for one dog, and said there must be some advantage for owning 3 dogs, and since I had helped him he didn’t charge me for the other two.

    • #26
    • January 21, 2019, at 12:20 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  27. Randy Webster Member

    When we had to have our cats put down, the vet made house-calls.

    • #27
    • January 21, 2019, at 3:02 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Nanda Panjandrum Inactive

    What an uplifting story! Thanks so much for introducing us to Bella! What a love…I’ve had a gentleman Dobie mix, a sweetie of a Rottie mix girlie, and a Boxer girlie as unofficial ‘companions’ over the past 22 years. Angels in fur…They’re all across the Rainbow Bridge now, so thanks again for sharing Bellissima. :-)

    • #28
    • January 21, 2019, at 10:01 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Nanda "Chaps" Panjan… (View Comment):

    What an uplifting story! Thanks so much for introducing us to Bella! What a love…I’ve had a gentleman Dobie mix, a sweetie of a Rottie mix girlie, and a Boxer girlie as unofficial ‘companions’ over the past 22 years. Angels in fur…They’re all across the Rainbow Bridge now, so thanks again for sharing Bellissima. :-)

    If you have the time, Nanda, please feel free to share a story or two. Although our fur sweethearts so often leave us, the adventures and warmth they share stay on in our memories until we get to join them.

    • #29
    • January 22, 2019, at 10:33 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  30. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    Scruffy sounds like a delight.

    Mostly, he was a joy. He was, however the cause behind one of the more interesting calls I have gotten from my wife while at work:

    “Joe, where do you keep the really big crowbar?”*

    This was about the second week after we had brought him home from the shelter. He had chased a groundhog under the “potting shed” (the previous owner’s name. It was actually a pretty good size chicken house). It had about an 8″ crawl space under it.

    My wife had called Animal Control and they wound up pulling up floor boards to get him out.

    • Right up there with “Joe, was there a tree on the garage when you left for work?”
    • #30
    • January 22, 2019, at 11:20 AM PST
    • 4 likes

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