Saturday, June 30, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? "Happy and Angel"

          I have a dog that I named “Happy.” She’s a 50-pound Puggle, a Pug-Beagle mix that I rescued via the Dutchess County, NY, SPCA, which called her a “designer dog,” as she is larger than your average Puggle. Happy had had other names from owners before me, but I re-named her “Happy” because I needed to get back to being happy myself. I figured that if I said that word over and over again, maybe I would begin to feel happy.

          As I heard recently on a rescued-dog TV show, I saved her life, but she saved mine, too. I get so much comfort and love from her when I am upset. Happy is incredibly in tune with me. She picks up on my tone of voice and jumps on my lap when she hears me talking to someone on the phone who is upsetting me. My 50-pound “lap dog” won’t leave my lap until I calm down. Even when I am sitting silently, she can sense if I’m having an upsetting thought, and she climbs up on my lap to console me.

          I have had dogs my entire life, but this dog is truly a blessing. I have a very difficult time when I’m away from her. When I go out of town, each day I call the kennels I leave her at every day that I am away, just to make sure she‘s doing okay. I need to hear that she‘s well. I really don’t know what I’d do without her. She was a present from God when I needed her most.

          As I have written here somewhere, the latter half of 2009 and the early part of 2010, which was the first year after my brain surgery, I was “high on life.” I wanted to adopt a dog then, but my doctors told me I wasn’t ready for that responsibility quite yet. I still had a lot to learn about how to navigate my life with the brain damage the tumor and the changes due to the operation had caused.

So, I was told in both 2010 and then again in 2011, that I wasn’t prepared to care for an animal yet. I was very disappointed, but I followed both of my doctors’ advice. But, in 2012, I was told I could start the process of adopting a dog.

One Sunday morning, as I sat in church and wept quietly over one more thing that had offended me (yes, that’s how some brain-injured react to offensive remarks), Aiden whispered to me that he would take me to the Dutchess County SPCA right after church. I stopped crying and then paid attention to the service.

So – off for the ride we went. Though I don’t live near that place anymore, I’m attached to it, due to my first dog adoption there, years before. As I walked around the outside of the building, where some dogs were in cages, I looked at this one dog staring at me. Almost as soon as I saw her, a male volunteer came up to us and asked if we wanted to hear this dog’s story. We agreed, and here it is….

This female dog had lived with a married couple. The husband, when he became intoxicated, would hit his wife. This dog watched it more than once. But, one time when this drunk man came home and smacked his wife, “This dog bit him in the balls.”

As soon as I heard that, I said, “Let’s get the paperwork started. I want her!”

Originally, I had intended to adopt a smaller dog, but this particular story struck a chord with me. I knew I HAD to have this medium-sized dog.

I knew this was the pooch for me because she had protected that woman. Because hard times fell on this woman as she divorced that terrible man, she gave this doggie up for adoption. After that, this same dog was supposed to be adopted by some man who got transferred by his job to a faraway place, so he couldn’t keep her. And so, that’s when I came into the picture.

This adorable dog had heartworm, so she had to be cleared of that first. I had to fill out pages and pages of paperwork to get approved. I can’t believe how much the system has changed over the years, because it was easier long ago to adopt a pet. But – now it’s a safer process for these little animals, and I didn’t mind.

It was official on November 13, 2012, and so 11/13 has been celebrated as her “birthday” each year ever since. When I met her, they thought she was three years old, so now she’s approximately seven years old.

When we celebrated her first year with me in 2013, I went with Happy to have our picture taken. Please see how adorable my “Happy-girl” is in the pictures in this book. I love her so much, and she’s most of the reason my bad behaviors have not led to worse predicaments. She has calmed me down too many times to count.

Happy – I saved your life, and you have saved mine!

          The dog I had before Happy was also rescued by me via the same organization. His name there was Prince Charming, but I changed it to Angel because I knew it would be a little weird if he ran away and my neighbors heard me outside calling, “Prince Charming, Prince Charming, where are you?”

          Angel was a Collie mix, and I had him for many years. To this day, I still miss him very much, and I have a hard time dealing with the guilt I feel about giving him away at the end of his life because I could no longer help him.

          Angel developed kidney problems at the same time I developed the mysophobia from my latent brain tumor. Cleaning my carpets was excruciating for me because I was petrified about the germs left on my hands. I scrubbed over and over but never could get anything that was soiled to become clean enough for me. The mysophobia got so intense, I couldn’t even pet Angel anymore.

          My former boyfriend Jim helped me find someone who could take better care of my dog than I could. That person cared for Angel until the end.

          When the veterinarian suggested Angel be put to sleep because he was so ill, Jim took me to the house where Angel had been staying. I was literally shaking when I bent over to say good-bye for the last time to my Angel. I told him how sorry I was that I had no longer been able to be there for him. Little did I know that it was a brain tumor that had caused this fear of touching my dog. 

          I have pictures of Angel around my home, and I try each day to get over the guilt. I do that by loving Happy with lots of hugs and belly rubs!

January 27, 2016

As I write this, my beloved dog, Happy, is undergoing surgery at the local animal hospital. I am beside myself with fear. Though, as I write this, I am heavily medicated by my prescribed controlled substance. I’m trying to remain calm. I’m not all that calm.

When I adopted her in November 2012 from the Dutchess County, NY, SPCA, she had a mole growing on her right side. I was told then that it wasn’t cancer. The vet said he could remove it before it grew bigger.

At the appointment before the surgery, the vet discovered another growth underneath the one that is visible. This is what has caused the most fear in me. I just pray that both growths are not cancer and can be removed as easily as possible. He referred to them as “fatty tumors.”

Every morning I begin my day with books to read that help me make sense of my world now. My condo resembles a mini-Barnes & Noble, with books stacked everywhere. A list of the books that have helped me (and some that I have referenced or quoted throughout my book) are listed in my book recommendations.

The chapter I opened up this morning in the book Shades of Light: A Spiritual Memoir: A Mother and Daughter’s Pathway to God, by Phyllis Cochran, is entitled, “Fighting Fear.” What a perfect way to help me read how another person made it through something too scary.

This is a heartfelt book about a little girl named Susan who had a large brain tumor. Though I haven’t completed the book as of today, I can’t express enough how this author’s choice of words has helped me each morning since my friend Ilse tried to find this book for me and then my editor finally did. [Because I couldn’t locate it after I had heard of it.]

The author quotes the Bible throughout her book. This particular chapter quotes Psalm 91:5, “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” I’m so afraid that my doggie will not make it through surgery. That’s why my doctors told me to take my medicine (with supervision by Aiden) so I could stay as calm as possible. I took it, but I also prayed, read the Bible, read Phyllis Cochran’s book and others that help me to get by.

So, luckily, I just heard that Happy survived her surgery. I will be eternally grateful to God for that. Unfortunately, there were a few problems attached to the post-surgery period….

I had told the vet’s staff ahead of time that I would be medicated when I came at 4 p.m. (their assigned time) to pick her up. Aiden has to chauffeur me under these circumstances (since I’m so medicated, I have trouble processing anything, never mind driving). I obey the law diligently about not driving while medicated.

When I got there, the staff spoke so quickly, I couldn’t comprehend them. There were multiple directions to follow (“use a warm compress for this,” “give this med once a day but this one twice,” etc.). I practically exploded because none of it was written down (and my SHE dog kept being referred to as “he”).

I know all too well how it is when you take a person home from a procedure: there can be pages of printed directions. Here, there were none, and I was so out-of-it (remember – I told them ahead of time that I would be), I was very bothered. Picking up a pet after surgery should be treated similarly to picking up a human being. I left there very upset and scared to death that I would make a mistake, even though they hurriedly produced a full page of handwritten directions.

[As a sidebar here – when I went to back to this vet to have Happy examined five days after her surgery, I calmly told the vet my suggestion – to have printed out the various responsibilities when you take your beloved animal home with you after any surgery. The vet responded with, “We’ll work on that.”]

I assumed that once Happy was back home, the hard part was over. Actually – it was WAY harder than I expected! Trying to get her to keep that cone around her neck so she wouldn’t lick her draining tubes or bite at the 19 staples on her right side was very difficult.

Aiden sat with her when I had to go to other appointments. This craziness lasted for two weeks, because that’s how long the staples were in her. I canceled many plans I had (even not going to a play) so I could be near Happy as much as possible because I was so worried about her. She looked at me with the saddest eyes every time I had to put that cone on her neck or wrap the sweater around her for a walk outside. Though I’ve never had children of my own, I turned into “mommy” for all of this.

We went back to the vet to have the staples removed two weeks later. I thought Happy would throw a party for herself, if she could, the day that cone didn’t have to go around her neck at bedtime or car rides (since I can’t keep an eye on her). I know I sighed with relief when my doggie was back to her old self.

As I have stated here, I have a ton of signs around my condo. The day I move out, I will be spending quite a bit of time plastering up the walls. But, for now, I enjoy reading and rereading these carefully selected signs. Here are some of my favorites that are related to pet ownership [and my opinions added on]:

·       My therapist has a wet nose
·       I want to be the person my dog thinks I am
·       My dog doesn’t think I’m crazy [Though some people do.]
·       This house is maintained entirely for the comfort and convenience of the dog
·       Poop happens! Just pick it up and move on [It’s very difficult to move on sometimes.]
·       I woof you
·       Dogs welcome – people tolerated
·       Dog friendly – beware of owner
·       Dogs laugh with their tails
·       You had me at woof
·       I love dogs – it’s humans that annoy me
·       Count your blessings in dog years
·       Life is better when shared with a dog [How true!]
·       The dog and his housekeeping staff live here
·       All you need is love… and a dog
·       The best things in life are rescued
·       The head of the house is the one with the tail
·       Love is… being owned by a dog
·       Who saved who? Home of a loyal and very special rescued dog
·       Rescued is my favorite breed
·       Beware of dog kisses
·       Dogs leave paw prints on your heart…and on your floor
·       If you slow down, you can catch your tail
·       Happiness is me and my dog
·       My best friend has four legs
·       Heaven is where you meet all the dogs you ever loved
·       Talk to the paw!
·       Home is where your dog is
·       Must love dogs
·       Wipe your paws
·       A house is not a home without a dog
·       The welcome home doggie dance performed here
·       All pets go to heaven
·       The more I get to know some people, the more I love my dog [Amen!]
·       Poop happens. Remain pawsitive
·       Mixed breeds have pure hearts
·       The day God made dogs, He just sat down and smiled!
·       It’s all fun and games...until someone ends up in a cone.
·       Keep calm and woof on
·       “My old life is over. My new life is beginning.” [Not a sign, but a quote from Lucky Dog, CBS-TV, 5/28/16.]
·       You have left my life, but you will never leave my heart. [This is a frame holding a picture of my Angel.]

June 22, 2016

          Once again (like months earlier this year), I'm writing as my dog Happy is under anesthesia at the same vet's office. This time, she's there for shots, tartar removal, and some kind of tooth repair.

The staff told me at 7:30 a.m., when I dropped her off, that I would get a call from them when it was over and after that, I was supposed to call them at noon. I didn't hear from them all morning.

I was not able to take my meds to calm down because I have a chiropractic appointment today. I'm still in the back brace, and so I have to be able to drive, since Aiden was expecting help with construction at his house and thus couldn't drive me.

I am literally shaking as I scribble this down because when I called at noon, the vet’s staff said Happy was still having surgery. They gave me no other information, and I forgot to ask for more.

Sadly, I don't live by the motto, “no news is good news.” I'm WAY too negative for that! I'm assuming the worst every minute the clock ticks because no one has called to tell me anything.

So, I called again less than an hour later because I couldn't wait one more second. The woman in the office said that Happy is okay, but still with the vet. He had to remove two teeth, and that's why this is taking so much longer than expected.

So, Aiden was able to come over to try to calm me down when he ended up having time. He hates when I take my meds for calmness, so he just stayed with me and drove me to my chiropractic appointment.

Right in the middle of my session with the wonderful Judith Dougan working her hands on my very-stressed-out back, they called me to tell me how Happy had fared. Judy is such an excellent chiropractor because she just patiently waited as the vet went over everything with me (which meant I was on my cell for at least three minutes of Judy’s time). Happy’s time at the vet’s went much longer than expected because two teeth had to be removed. I was so relieved to hear she was okay. After I hung up, some of the stress in my back went away….

I went with Aiden to pick up my very-medicated “Happy-girl.” I thanked the vet, the staff, Aiden, and God for the healthy return of my best friend.

I've been told that I worry too much about my dog. This sentence infuriates me. I know there are folks who don't have pets, but if you do, you know how attached pet owners can become.

Once, I heard someone negatively comment about animals and pets right after I had overheard her describing her enjoyment of ironing sheets and towels. Boy, did I bite my tongue that day. Ironing “trumps” pets. Wow! She and I have been only acquaintances, and after hearing that, I definitely realized how different we all can be. So, she went home to iron (oh, so much fun), and I went home to cuddle with my Happy. I'll always be of the opinion that I had more fun than she did.

A friend from my church sent me a card once with important advice from a dog: unleash your talents. Thanks, Jeanne!

When Isabella Shaw, a little girl from my church, was ten years old, she was  petting a therapy dog that attends our church regularly with its owners. Isabella and I struck up a conversation before our service began one Sunday as we both played with the dog. I could tell she loves doggies as much as I do, so I asked her to write something for my book. Here it is (way to go, girl!):

They give you: company, happiness, love. You get to play with the dog, love on the dog.

To take care of the dog, you need to play with it, walk or exercise it, give it food and water, toys to play with.

Services they do for you: seeing-eye dogs, police dogs, therapy dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs, bomb-detecting dogs.

So – I want to end this chapter telling all the dogs I’ve had in my entire life to rest in peace: Tuffy, Sandy, Tara, and Angel – you are all sorely missed. I think of you nowadays since I have my Happy still alive and well. Dogs are like family members. I’m sure all of them are having a good ole time up there in doggie heaven….

For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be
excerpting, weekly, material from this almost-final version of the fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S. Ed., which she wrote over a three-year period with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, Write Your Book with Me.

Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats from Outskirts Press  and



Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 at Barnes & Noble in Kingston, NY. I [DWC] attended, along with about 40 other people. Congratulations to Janet on a fine talk!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 

She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 

She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 

She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.

On 5/31/18 Janet spoke at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.

On 6/9/18 Janet spoke at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library at noon.

On 6/11/18 Janet spoke at the Gardiner Library at 7 p.m.

On 6/20/18 Janet spoke at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.

On 7/13/18 Janet will be at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.

On 7/20/18 Janet will be at the Pine Plains Library at 6 p.m.

On 7/23/18 Janet will be at the Ulster Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 8/11/18 Janet will be at the Northern Dutchess Bible Church in Red Hook at 1:00 p.m.

On 9/06/18 Janet will be at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz at 7 p.m.

On 9/22/18 Janet will again be at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library, at noon.

More signings will be coming up. A fine feature about Janet by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. An article about her book appeared in the May 14 Daily Freeman of Kingston, NY. and another in the Family Life section of the Poughkeepsie Journal on June 8th.

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