Monday, August 31, 2009

Six years old

That would be my alpha dog, Smoky, who, along with her sister, Bandit, turned six on the 29th of this month. She has been with me since she was seven weeks old, and I don't know what I would do without her!

Smoky is my reincarnation dog. I say that because she is actually Smoky II. She didn't get that name because I gave it to her, but because she chose it.

Let me explain, and if I sound crazy, well, so be it: Smoky I was born in my bedroom back in May 1999. She was the runt of the litter, and the feistiest little thing you ever saw. She would stand her ground and face down the bigger dogs in my house without batting an eye. Just adorable.

One night, I woke up to a keening sound. I turned on the light, and there she was, curled in fetal position up the wall. I mean that her head was on the floor, her hind end up the wall. In her mouth was the electrical cord to my stereo, which was still plugged in. I was terrified when I yanked the plug out of the wall, but she was none the worse for wear. But she was no longer feisty; she became the shyest member of the litter, fearing even the cats. Still, she became my velcro dog. She was the only one who could be walked off-leash, because she would never leave my side. I loved and adored her; who wouldn't?

Four years later, a Chihuahua started a fight with her and her brother Bandit, which resulted in the Chihuahua's death. Animal control was brought in, and the owners demanded the death of my dogs. Two towns away, right after Smoky I and Bandit I were put to sleep, another litter of pups were being born. Seven weeks later, we saw a woman at the convenience store with an adorable puppy, and my other half asked where she had gotten it. We got the number and address of the woman who had bred the puppy, and called. She said she had three pups left. When we arrived at her house, she had two, which we took as an omen that we were meant to have these two dogs. They were christened Lakota and Bandit.

Right from the start, Lakota was a fat, feisty puppy, while Bandit was fat and quiet. Lakota saw the world as a mountain meant to be conquered, and literally climbed over every obstacle. Sure, going around might be easier, but it wasn't as much fun!

As time went on, the pups slowly switched personalities, with Lakota becoming the calm, quiet one, and Bandit becoming hyper and playful. Lakota looked just like Smoky I, except for the fact that it appeared she would be a bigger dog in adulthood, and her coat was a deep, dark chocolate, whereas Smoky I had been jet black. But she had Smoky's habits and ways, and I was beginning to be convinced of her reincarnation when we went to visit my parents and left the pups with friends. My friend's husband called us to let us know that Lakota had been found the night before, curled up in fetal position against the wall, the radio cord in her mouth and chewed. It was eerie.

A little after we got back from the parental visit, Lakota stopped answering to her name altogether. She just flat out ignored it. After about a week, Troy suggested that I try calling her Smoky. I thought that it was a bad idea, but I did it, and she responded on the first try. It has been the only name she will respond to since, so I have no choice but to believe in reincarnation. Troy simply said that there was so much love between the two of us that she couldn't bear to leave me behind. I can't argue with that. It has been five years and eight months since she stopped responding to anything but Smoky. She is still my velcro dog. She is the only one who will sleep in our bed at night, all night. The others will visit, but they won't stay. She is the only one who will be there all night long. Her favorite place, like Smoky I, is right between the two humans in the bed!

When I was pregnant with my first child, she knew it long before I did. If she wanted attention, she used to come and stand with her forepaws on my stomach, but from the second she realized I was pregnant, she would instead distribute her weight by lying down across my stomach, belly to belly. And when my daughter was born, she would be frantic if we took the baby out of the house and out of her sight. She would walk by the baby in her swing, stop the swing long enough to thoroughly clean the baby's cheeks, and wander off on her way. She has been the most loving, patient dog I have ever met in my life, even now when that same daughter is now four and the bane of her existence on some days! I love you, Smoky Bear, and I'm so glad you came back for me!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Some Things Should Never Have to Become Mainstream

When you live in the southwest, it is inevitable that you are going to come into contact with country music. Good or bad, it is what it is, and you will occasionally find that if you listen to the lyrics, whether or not you like country, many of the songs have messages to pass along. Some are the stereotypical "My woman/man left me yesterday, I lost my job, and my dawg ran away", but others have inspirational messages, and still others have sad-but-necessary messages. That's the case of "Alyssa Lies":

My little girl met a new friend just the other day
On the playground at school
Between the tires and the swings
But she came home with tear-filled eyes
And she said to me "Daddy, Alyssa lies."

Well, I just brushed it off at first
'Cause I didn't know how much my little girl had been hurt
Or the things she had seen
I wasn't ready when I said you can tell me
And she said

"Alyssa lies to the classroom
Alyssa lies every day at school
Alyssa lies to the teacher
As she tries
To cover every bruise"

The song goes on, telling the story of how his little girl prays for Alyssa, and he takes her to school, intending to report what his daughter has seen, only to find out that Alyssa is dead, and how his daughter wants to know why this happened.

I listened to the song and its lyrics, and tears just poured down my face. Oh, I know it's a fictional song, at least I hope it is, but I know there are little girls and boys out there in Alyssa's situation that fall through the system's cracks every day. It breaks my heart to know that the problem is so prevalent that it would become the subject of a song that receives so much airtime on the country stations. It saddens me to know that there are women out there who would give anything to have children and can't, for whatever reason, and there are others who can carry a child to term and have no compunction about beating, selling, pimping, drugging, killing that child.

Every time I hear a news story about parents who killed their children, I wonder how it is that they can do it? How can you carry a child for 40 weeks, right under your heart, feel that child move in your stomach, hear that child's heartbeat, give birth to that child, and turn around and kill it? How???

I will not lie: there are times when my daughter drives me absolutely insane. But hurt her? Deliberately? Not a chance in hell. Holler and yell, certainly. Put her in one room and myself in another, definitely. Send her to a friend's house to play so I can have some time to myself, oh yeah. But never hurt her.

I've tried to put myself in the place of those women who have killed their own children, tried to understand what made them do it, but it's impossible for me. My mind just isn't that dark. It's easier for me to understand the terror that their children must have felt.

I can't remember the exact quote, but to paraphrase it, " 'Mother' means 'God' in the eyes of a child." Children look to their parents for protection, guidance, and love. I can't wrap my brain around the concept of fearing for my life when looking at my parents. I can't wrap my brain around the concept of my daughter fearing for her life when looking at me. I can't sympathize or empathize with those parents that harm their kids. They make me want to vomit. Hell, they make me want to be, just for a moment, the type of person who could be a vigilante. It comforts me a bit to know that they won't last long in prison.

How has child abuse become such a huge problem? Is it simply that it has always been this big, but in years past we didn't have the widespread media and communication that we have now, and thus did not see it, or has it really grown so much? Why is it so prevalent now? What can we do to reverse the trend? Children are innocent. There isn't one of them that asked to be here, not one that has a choice in who its parents are. It's our job to take care of them, to love them, to raise them right, to discipline without breaking them, so that when it's their turn to become parents, they can do the same for their own children. Why are so many parents doing exactly the opposite?