Saturday, February 26, 2011

This One is for the Mommies

On a whim, I posted an ad for Cupcake to get fostered on Craigslist. There has been hesitance to post on CL since . . . you just don't know who is up to what on that thing. But a volunteer for Voices for Animals told me they use it for emergency placement of fosters and I should consider it. 

I sat on that for a week or two.  Then another volunteer from Cupcake's original shelter advised that I used my natural talent to write a little story about the Cupsmeister. 

So I wrote:


Cupcake was adopted from West Valley Shelter in April of 2010. She was so terrified the first week, she wouldn't leave her crate even to relieve herself. After a week, she came out to sunbathe with the other dogs and hung out on the couch with me. Still, if a loud song came on she would suddenly try to jump out my second story window and urinate on the sill. If a new person came into the house, she would cower in the corner and freeze in a sitting position with her tail so far between her legs, it was pressed up against her tummy.

When Cupcake came alive she was in the park with my other dogs, Esther and Maggie. She ran like she had wings. She learned the ball wasn't going to be thrown at her, but for her. She learned how to jump over other dogs like hurdles and then, one of the best moments in my life, she learned how to smile.

We tried a few adoption fairs, but she was so overwhelmed by the noise and the new people that she never stood a chance against the happy puppies or wiggle butts who already knew how to love strangers. She was confused and only found a couple pats on the heads from folks as she leaned against my leg or another dog, but she was never held or kissed.

Six months later, we spent more time together. I found a boyfriend who took her for walks and spoiled her with treats. She slowly started wagging her tail. Eventually, she was approaching men to smell them, and then kiss them. She was learning how to be a dog.

Cupcake is just a foster, which I keep reminding myself. She is happy here with me, dancing for her bowl of kibble, climbing on my lap for tofu and cuddling with my two dogs in front of the TV set. I am not a rescue and don't have the resources for rescue. I need to place Cupcake.

She is about 25-30lbs.and the color of a caramel macchiato. She is still learning basic commands as even when I raise my hand with a treat in it, she backs away in hesitation. She is also still learning how to move her body, so she will hurl herself at you for a hug. She tries to high five with both paws at the same time :-) As Cupcake is finding gentle in excitement, like a puppy, she is not right for a family with children under the age of 10. She loves other dogs and I hope to find her a home with siblings so she can blossom alongside a kindred spirit, as she has done with my girls here.

We are back at the adoption fairs, and she found the courage to approach women and children, but still hears excuses like, “If I didn’t have a cat, I would take her home right now” or “If I didn’t live out of state, I would take her home in a heartbeat.” Cupcake has survived excuses but needs someone to give her a chance with a real home. Can you be her hero?

**

Ok, its nothing brilliant, but I posted it.
Two days later, I received three inquiries. One was from a grip who worked on a Disney TV show in Torrance. After I called and spoke to him about Cupcake, I broke down crying. Mind you, I was sick and just finished a job in West LA working valet on a private party. I also missed my unemployment benefits phone interview the two minutes my phone wasn't getting reception and had to rush down to the Unemployment office and beg to return the call. 

It was a tough day, but after talking to this guy, I knew my days with The Cake were numbered.

I looked up this guy's email and tried to pin point it to anything via google. There was nothing.

The next morning, there were the other two inquiries. One from an alcohol/drug rehabilitation coach in Simi Valley, which, lets face it . . . is perfect for a dog with serious personality issues:

"I am very interested in meeting Cupcake! Her story broke my heart. My dog, Norman passed away the week after Christmas, we rescued him as well. After hearing about Cupcake, my husband and I have decided that it is time to bring another dog into our family. We live in Simi Valley. I work full time during the day, and my husband goes to school at night so she wouldn't be home alone that often. We visit our parents occasionally, both have dogs- they miss Norman and I'm sure would love Cupcake. If she is still available for adoption, we would like to meet her!

I look forward to hearing back from you soon!"

The other email was far less personal.

I cyber stalked her, looked at her Facebook profile, read a a blurb published in a magazine about drug counseling. Then I wrote back Simi Valley and told them I would bring her up the next morning for an introduction, and cancelled with the grip guy. It sounded like he was working long hours and he waited til the last minute to text me his address with no personal note. 

When I asked to reschedule since I felt sick, he just wrote, "Feel Better."

Screw that guy! The Cake, The Comic and I all drove up to Simi Valley. She walked into their house, saw her reflection in a wall mirror down the hallway and ran into herself. Ha ha. Dork.

She explored their enclosed yard, but just followed me around their spa and outdoor BBQ/patio. We went back inside and she sat on Norman's old bed. She was far more curious and brave than usual. It seemed like a sign to me. 

The couple asked for a day or two to make up their minds, and we left.

Abe thinks I am psychic, and I don't know if I am, but all day I felt like they missed her. You know when you meet someone or you find the dog meant for you, and after they leave, your house feels more empty. Like the missing piece of the puzzle only came to visit before falling back on the ground again.

After 5 hours, they left a message saying that even after they visited some dogs at the shelter, they couldn't stop thinking about Cupcake. I called on my lunch break and heard my voice crack, "Great. I think its a good fit. I can bring her up tomorrow morning . . ."

It rained. I needed a drink. Abe asked if they were open to adopting a "middle aged" couple. Har har. He means us.

I drove The Cake and Abe up to Simi Valley the next morning. Her crate took up the whole back seat, so Abe had her on the floor of the car in front of him. She crawled up. He tried keeping her down but then said, "Ok fine. You just want to be close to Mommy. Fine. Go to Mommy." 

That word: "Mommy". I love hearing it. I love it like no other word in the dictionary. Funny thing is I never think about my own mother when I hear it. It makes me feel like I am wearing a heavy crown full of warmth, and fur and love. She sat on the edge of my driver's seat, leaning against me with all her body weight. Thinking about how that felt, her body melting into mine just so I could drop her off . . . it takes a cut out of me.

When we walked in, she cowered on the kitchen floor and looked up at me terrified. That is typical Cupcake. No big deal. I stroked her, explained food, went through all of her medical records and then bent down. 

There was that moment. Nothing more to say, only silence. It was time for me to go.

My voice cracked, "Ok .. . ok." They offered me time alone with her but my heart couldn't take it.

My eyes were welling with salt water and I said, "I don't think I can take it. I think I have to go."

The wife hugged me hard like we were old friends and said, "Thank you."

I said, "You spoil that girl." And I rushed out, wiping my face off, and saw Abe finishing a cigarette at the edge of their driveway. He walked towards me. All I did was wave my hand and say, "I can't handle it. I can't handle it."

He then proceeded to drive us one block down to stop at a garage sale and look at a used carpet cleaner when neither of us owns carpet. The whole thing was mystifying seeing as he only had $10 to donate to my gas for the day and this carpet cleaner was $20. 

Abe, "Babe, could we use a carpet cleaner?" I said, flatly, "No."

On the way back, he kept going on and on about this book he is reading called "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." Its amazing he is whizzing through the thing since on our first date, he claimed he never read a book in entirety. I knew that couldn't be true since he is far too articulate but . . . I digress.

As I cried AND drove us back to LA, he spoke about how I have to look at the dogs as assets. How the book states there are liabilities and assets in life and even if you love someone, they are either a liability or an asset to your finances. He suggested I enroll my PIT BULLS into a casting agency and recover money using them for a pet food campaign. Yeah, can you imagine a Pedigree commercial with pit bulls?

He also said that Rich Dad didn't give raises to his employees because they don't know how to properly manage their finances. So instead of losing money by giving employees a raise, he kept the money, managed it properly and made more money for the company. Nice.

This whole conversation was pissing me off. My last two bosses never gave any raises or bonuses. It was this same God damn entitlement bullshit. They deserve it because they are Harvard Grads, or they are from some East Coast bullshit blood line. GO FUCK YOURSELF! If you work for the money, it is YOUR money! If I want to spend it rescuing pit bulls that is my prerogative. I don't need some ass fuck with his testes in a knot to justify ripping me off because he manages money better than I do. 

GUH! I could have ripped Abe's head off! I was furious.

I don't really talk when I am furious. I just boil, quietly. Eventually, he asked, "Do you think I am going to be a bad dad because of how I am acting over Cupcake?" Not even a second, I snapped, "Yes."

Abe was confused as to why I was so upset when I found the Cake a good home. Why was I attached to a dog that chewed up all my things and consumed so much money and time. Why?

How can this person claim to be in love with me and not know why?

The next few days, I was a wreck. My eyes were swollen. No make-up. No contact lenses. My hair was just a fucking rat's nest. I felt like my wings were clipped.

I kept thinking about Meryl Streep at the train station in Sophie's Choice. The Nazi barking, "Which child goes on the train? You choose or I take both!"

Sophie, "No. My little girl. Take my little girl!"

Ok, I realize I gave up The Cake to a loving couple who live in a higher economic demographic than myself, and not the Nazis. I know. Am I being dramatic? The question is, why did I have to give her up? Why didn't I just adopt her?

I am overwhelmed and she wasn't learning with two other dogs at home. My chaotic mess of an apartment was stunting her growth because it was never really her home. Why does that make me feel like a failure?

The Cake's new name is Esta and she is following her path, not mine.

I brought her home.

Why did I wait until February to try to find her a new home? Because they still had Norman and weren't ready the first couple months after his death.

Why did I wait til that moment to post an ad on Craigslist? Because that was the moment they would be looking.

Everything falls under this intricate time line. Everything happened at an exact moment, so the Cake could find her way home. And I had the privilege of taking her there.

I am reading a book myself, one recommended by Abe's Mom called "House Rules". Its about a single mom with two teenage sons. The eldest suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. The other is healthy but doesn't have much of a life as his brother requires so much care and structure. The chapters are written from various characters perspectives . . . much like The Help.


She gives up everything just to keep her sons going even though her eldest can't empathize with her at all. He only studies her like she is an insect. 


Caring for him and keeping her family going is all there is to her identity. She thrives on it. Color coordinating meals, cooling down violent temper tantrums, working to bring in the money for the mortgage . . . all of that consumes every cell in her body and she kind of loves that.


The oldest son is arrested and incarcerated on murder, since Asperger's Syndrome carries many characteristics of a guilty criminal during interrogation (ie. no eye contact, inability to connect, twitching or other nervous behavior) and the mother is free for three days while her son sits in a jail cell.


In those three days, she felt no freedom, didn't go out to eat or take a bath, she didn't inhale a little deeper. She freaked the fuck out and stayed at the jail house until she got her son back. 


Her character writes, "Real mothers know that its okay to eat cold pizza for breakfast.

Real mothers admit it is easier to fail at this job than succeed.

If parenting is the box of raisin bran, then real mothers know the ratio of flakes to fun is severely imbalanced . . . Real mothers may not speak the heresy, but they sometimes secretly wish they'd chosen something for breakfast other than this endless cereal.

Real mothers worry that other mothers will find that magic ring, whereas they'll be looking and looking for ages.

Rest easy, real mothers. The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you already are one."


I am not a mother by any traditional sense of the word. As I explained to Em's husband, "I have been pregnant twice and never had a live birth, but I feel worse about giving up my foster dog to another family. Does that make me a bad mom? Or an un-mom as it were?"

He said I was freaking him out. 
Its not that I connect more to animals than I would a child, I want a child too. Its just . . . loving them,nurturing them is the center of my universe. It keeps all my planets in orbit. It keeps my stars on fire and my sun ablaze. It is indefinable.

While GChatting with Lana on-line, I wrote I had to sign off and cry. She wrote, "You are a good mom. I wish you were mine." I am not sure there could ever be a higher compliment. I will take those golden words to my grave.

**
Email from Simi Valley:

"We are so happy that you like the name Esta! I was a little worried about it, but I wanted to be completely honest with you since Esta means so much to you. Esta has been coming around the past couple of days. John took her to the vet and she was leaning on him the whole time. On the ride home she rested her head on his arm- we were very excited about that! She is such a sweet dog, I can't wait until she is comfortable enough to want to snuggle with us and watch movies. This weekend we are planning on Esta having a little play date with our neighbors' dogs. We are also going to try and get her to explore the rest of the house. She has pretty much stayed in the kitchen and living room since she moved in.

I will keep you posted on Esta's progress and we will be sure to send you pictures soon! :)"

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