Communion Of Dreams


The debts we pay.

“How far did you drive?” she asked, a noticeable touch of twang in her voice.

“From Columbia. Missouri.”

“That far?” She looked honestly surprised. “Y’all are very, very kind people, to drive that far.”

* * * * * * *

A couple weeks into the New Year, a Facebook friend forwarded a pic to me. It was of a medium sized dog which kinda-sorta looked like a German Shepard.

They’re looking for a home for this pup. She’s here in the KC area.”

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, dog

* * * * * * *

Thirteen years ago, we adopted a stray. A stray we named ‘Alwyn’.

He  was a great dog.

And he did a lot to help heal me, following the closing of our art gallery the previous spring. I was deep in the depressive trough of my bipolar cycle, feeling like I had failed. Having a new pup to love and train helped pull me out of that darkness.

And saw me through the many troubled times ahead, being a care-giver for my mother-in-law through the arc of Alzheimer’s, with all the stresses and demands that included. There’s nothing quite like a brisk walk with the dog for clearing your head. And the routine of it, walking a mile or so every morning, probably helped keep me alive as well as sane.

Alwyn died suddenly and unexpectedly when he was about 8 years old. Since he was a mutt and in good health, we had expected to have him for at least another four or five years. But it was not to be.

I grieved for a long time.

Then, a year or two ago, my wife and I decided that we were ready to welcome a new dog into our lives, and that we would keep our hearts open to that possibility should one come along who needed a home.

* * * * * * *

I passed the picture along to my wife. “What do you think? Her name is ‘Ramali’, and she’s from Kuwait.”

She thought the dog looked like a good candidate.

I got in contact with the folks from Puppy Rescue Mission. Ramali was still available. We decided to apply for adoption.

It took a week or so, with the application, and discussion, and background checks and everything. We had someone come look over our home and make sure it was suitable (fenced yard, decent neighborhood, no evidence that we were running a meth lab or conducting animal experiments, etc). The folks at the rescue were polite, helpful, and thorough. A few days later we drove to Kansas City and picked her up from where she was being fostered. Here she is on the trip home:

Ramali was about 14 or 15 months old, and hadn’t had the best life. She’d come over to the States with a service member, but things didn’t work out. After bouncing around a bit, she came to the attention of the the rescue, thanks to the microchip she had, and had been transferred to the foster home while they sought to get her a permanent place.

On the application for adoption, there were the expected questions about our experience with animals, previous pets we’d owned, and our thoughts about training and discipline. We’d filled all that out with confidence that we’d be able to deal with whatever challenges Ramali might have — both my wife and I had always had dogs, and I had always had a great deal of success at working with dogs to train them, whatever their background. We expected that while Ramali might have some issues due to her previous home life, that we’d be able to work through them without too much a problem.

We were wrong.

* * * * * * *

Well, we were right, for the most part. There were some problems she had that we were able to work through. She was a sweet pup, eager to please, though high-energy. She just needed a stable home and regular exercise, combined with consistent training and attention. Within the first couple of weeks we had gotten past the worst of it, and she was learning to be well-behaved while walking on a leash, or playing, and was making real progress on almost all fronts.

The one problem was her response to cats. To our cats inside the house. To the neighbor’s cats she saw through the window. To cats she saw on our walks. At first I thought it would just take a little work as she adjusted to living in a home with cats, and that as she settled into some stability, the problem would pass with regular discipline. That had always been both mine and my wife’s experience in introducing dogs into a home with cats, or cats into a home with dogs. After a week or two everyone would calm down, and they’d get along pretty well from there. I expected that the same tactics would work with Ramali’s problem with our cats.

It didn’t.

In fact, it got worse over time.

I started reviewing online resources about training a dog to deal with this problem. I consulted friends with experience having both cats and dogs. From all those resources,  it looked like we were doing the right things, and that if we stuck with it, it’d work eventually.

It didn’t.

Finally we consulted our vet of 20 years for his thoughts. After discussion with him, he recommended an animal behaviorist in the area who has a great reputation for working through such problems. We got in contact with her clinic, and after a long discussion they said that they probably could help us with Ramali, but that it was likely to take months or even years to succeed.

That’s when we told the rescue that we just couldn’t keep her. It wouldn’t be fair to our cats, who had basically taken up permanent refuge in the climbing tree I had constructed for them last year, any time Ramali was in the house and not shut up in her crate for sleeping at night. It wouldn’t be fair to Ramali, who would have to be kept on a close leash indoors at all times to prevent her from attacking the cats until the training could change her behavior. Ramali needed to be rehomed, someplace where there weren’t cats, and where she could have a sane and normal home life. The folks at Puppy Rescue Mission agreed, and set to work to find her another home.

* * * * * * *

They did find a good home for her, one without other pets. In North Carolina. Arrangements were made for transport. We said we’d be willing to drive her to Nashville (about halfway), where she’d be put up in a pet hotel overnight until the second half of her journey could be done the next day.

We got to the pet hotel about 2.5 hours late, due to a massive traffic jam an hour or so north of Nashville. But Ramali had been a good girl, and stayed pretty calm and relaxed through it all. We got her situated inside the kennel, then were chatting with the owner before we got back in the car to go to our hotel.

“How far did you drive?” she asked, a noticeable touch of twang in her voice.

“From Columbia. Missouri.”

“That far?” She looked honestly surprised. “Y’all are very, very kind people, to drive that far.”

“She deserves it,” I said. Which was true enough. But I had also done it for my own selfish reasons. And to pay an old debt.

I hate to fail at things. But still, being human, and ambitious, I do fail.

Alwyn had helped save me after a previous big failure. Adopting him had been mostly about healing myself.

Adopting Ramali had been about healing her. And though we couldn’t keep her, we’d made progress in healing her. Sometimes, all you can do is be part of the chain; doing what good you can and then passing along the person, or pet, or thing, to the next link in the chain. Driving to Nashville was my way of closing that loop the best I could.

Goodbye, Ramali, now known as Pepper. Have a better life.

 

Jim Downey

 

 

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Catnip madness.
June 29, 2012, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Humor, movies, Music, YouTube | Tags: , ,

Oh, gods, this is hilarious:

It *perfectly* captures the tone of those anti-drug vids I was subjected to as a kid.

I had to share.

Now I think I’ll go get the cats stoned…

Jim Downey



Context matters.

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

* * * * * * *

People keep saying things like this:

The storyline itself I would put on a par with some of the best SF I have ever read. I felt much the same at the end as I did 50 or so years ago when I finished “Childhood’s End”.

And this:

This book is an unapologetic homage to the “hard science fiction” style of writing and to Arthur C. Clarke himself.

* * * * * * *

It’s not surprising that people see this, since from the very beginning I have been pretty open about both my intent and source material. I mean, here’s what it says on the Communion of Dreams homepage:

Welcome to Communion of Dreams. You’ll probably find that it is closest in flavor to the works of Arthur C. Clarke and the late Carl Sagan, two authors from whom I draw inspiration.

And there’s this passage from Chapter 6:

“Here’s what our artifact makes me think of,” Ng laughed. Slowly the artifact image started to change in a more pronounced way, becoming taller, narrower, and losing the hexagonal shape. The mottling drifted away, replaced by a hard, black, shiny surface. It was the iconic monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

* * * * * * *

Things change. Last month I sold 550 copies of Communion of Dreams. As I noted a couple of days ago, this month it’s dropped off, and will likely end up somewhere around what the April total was (about 275).

Sure, I wish that the numbers had just kept climbing. They had been basically doubling each month. But these things have a natural ebb & flow to them sometimes. Right now other books are getting the attention, getting the reviews, getting talked about. I haven’t spent as much time & energy promoting the book this month, and next month will probably be even worse since I’ll be overseas for much of it.

Still, we’ll see. You can help, if you want, by contributing your own review, by spreading the word to friends and forums. We all need to watch out for one another in this world. Whether you take that as a warning or a comfort, I’ll leave that up to you.

* * * * * * *

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

See, Hil has long been comfortable going outside. For Mel, “outside” was a New And Scary experience (her previous owners told us she’d never been out). We started going out with her for short periods, letting her know that we were there and she was OK. And then progressed to leaving the back door propped open a bit, so that she could go out on her own, but come running back inside when she got overwhelmed. Finally, we started letting her out and then closing the door behind her.

But only when Hil was outside.

Because, for all that Mel seems to dominate inside, she wants to have Hil around outside. And Hil, with remarkable kindness, stays with Mel, watching over her. If Hil comes in, Mel does too. If Hil comes in without Mel noticing, as soon as Mel does notice she’s howling at the back door.

Context matters.

Jim Downey



New member of the family.
May 11, 2012, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Society | Tags: , , , ,

I mentioned the other day we had a new family member. Here are a couple of informal pix of her:

Her name is Melyn, or “Mel” for short. It’s Welsh (naturally), and refers to her striking yellow eyes (which aren’t all that noticeable in these snapshots). She’s about 2.5 years old and probably about 14 pounds – will know for sure when the vet comes to check her out next week.

And she seems to be taking to us pretty well. Even THE DOG doesn’t weird her out too much.

Jim Downey



“Is that yours?”

I’ve mentioned my earlier involvement in the SCA previously. And generally I’ve always had an interest in different historical recreation groups, particularly those which strive to do the different types of combat throughout history well (one of the reasons I really like Peter Woodward). So naturally I have to share this brilliant little film short:

Hilarious.

Went and rescued a kitty today who was no longer wanted. She’s currently isolated in one of the bathrooms, getting slowly acclimated to being in a strange place with strange monkeys, another cat, and a DOG!!! I promise pix once she’s more settled.

Jim Downey