Saturday, February 22, 2014

Romy's Story (Part I)

Romy's story was first published in Quiet Laughter,
October 3, 2012

The last weekend of September [2012] I got a call from CARF. "There's a dog at the dump," the woman said. "We've been feeding her for a while, and we think she's ready to be caught and brought to the vet. Can you foster her?"

Romy, at the dump, the day
before she was rescued.
Uh, yeah. But--at the dump? The garbage dump? They threw her away like garbage?

"The rescuer will meet you at the vet's Monday morning."

The rescuer called me Sunday evening, a lovely Dutch woman, wife of a Marine officer, unfortunately only stationed here in Curaçao for a few more years. Why can't people like these stay around forever?

When I walked into the vet's waiting room, she was holding a reddish-yellow dog, smaller than I thought, on her lap. Huge eyes, all sweetness. Her legs were stiff from fear, but she let herself be moved over to my lap and we cuddled while we waited. She was so dirty--he-llo, garbage dump--that I got a rash all over my arms and neck. Nothing that a good shower didn't cure, though.


Romy, her first full day with us,
boasting new collar and tag
"I named her Romy," the woman said. "But you can change it if you want to."

Romy sounded fine to me; maybe a little masculine--I was thinking it might be short for Romeo.

"No," the woman said, "it's for Romy Schneider."

Who? The name meant nothing, but I didn't ask, and Romy it stayed.

Romy at home, with Sasha
II and (half of) Rusty in the
background
Romy behaved royally while the vet examined her, poked and prodded, took her temp, took some blood, checked glands and internal organs, listened to heart and lungs. I'm sure the vet would've liked to give us better news, but alas, the only good news was she's alive and she's young (therefore adaptable). Otherwise, she's got tick fever (ehrlichiosis), worms, anaemia, and--tah-daah--heartworm. All of which, aside from the fact that she's not healthy, also means she can't be spayed yet--and thus cannot be put up for adoption.

So here we go again. Got a full baggie of meds for good ole Romy and brought her home.

Romy and Rusty, playing

Now Romy is the diametrical opposite of Sasha II--she looooves to be touched, she can't get enough of it. She doesn't have one dominant molecule in her body, so her defense when faced with a pack of four dogs (ok, three dogs and a mop of white shag) was to lie belly-up and whine for mercy.

It worked. By the next day, Tuesday, she was as much part of the pack as if they'd all grown up together. She and Rusty, my Rottie-Lab (we assume) mix, played at gnawing each other all day long. Panchita, my Alpha, wasn't too excited about the newcomer, and neither was Winter, our bitchiest bitch, but they left Romy alone and she respected their space.

Except when it came to food.

Romy is a mild dog, shy and scared of her own shadow (I hate to think of what made her that way), but she's known hunger. She won't fight anyone for it--she simply doesn't have the strength or the physique--but she cannot stay away from it.

Maybe I should explain how doggie mealtimes work chez moi. We have three, right? Panchita, Rusty, and Winter. Acquired (from the street, all of them) in that order, and thus that's the order we follow for food. I bring out kibble (in the mornings) and canned dogfood (only in the evenings), and serve all their plates. Everyone sits in a circle around me until I'm done, and then I hand them their plates one by one: Panchita, Rusty, and Winter. They don't eat until their plate is on the floor in front of them, they don't even sniff in the direction of the others' plates. And they don't steal food from each other--though sometimes Winter cheats, but as soon as I look in her direction she slinks away with a very guilty look.

You can see how Romy's hunger issues presented a problem.

The first evening was a nightmare of spilled food and panicked dogs. Sasha had learned fast; all I had to do was take a step in her general direction and she'd back off from any plate. But Romy had no such qualms, and my hand did nothing to deter her. threw herself on the plates--she'd probably never seen so much food in her life--as soon as I turned my back, even while her own was still full. The other dogs are so well-mannered (or well-fed, some would argue) that they backed off in horror and let her have her way with whatever she wanted. Panchita--who moves in highly cultured circles and abhors any breach in etiquette--refused to eat at all.

So the next day I fed Romy earlier, by herself, so that when Pack Mealtime came around she wouldn't be famished and desperate. I did want her to participate in the mealtime ritual, because it's an important socialization moment. And it went much better. Romy still tried to steal from other plates, but I'd gotten better at gauging when she'd make the lunge. She ate much faster than the others, so I made sure her plate stayed full until she didn't want any more (Rusty can always be trusted to eat any leftovers).

Three days later she was actually sitting and waiting for her turn, even at night, when the canned food always adds extra temptation.

This (very badly shot) video was taken the following Monday morning, breakfast. Romy's first-week anniversary of arrival. Please forgive the unsteady hand; feeding five dogs and holding a cellphone isn't the best combination :) Bonus: you can hear me (in Spanish) begging Panchita to eat, and you can see how Romy learned not to steal the others' food.



Romy was with us for a week exactly, almost down to the hour. The day this video was shot CARF had to shuffle some dogs around--someone fostering a mother and her puppies had their neighbors rat them out and the landlord was threatening to evict them (ah, for neighbors like these--may they rot in hell), so those had to be placed somewhere--not an easy job. Bottom line, I delivered Romy to another of CARF's angels and brought Nassau home. Remember Nassau? The older dog with a liver tumor from Sunday's post?

We're all missing Romy--her cute face, her tentative bark, her playful attitude, her softness of character and gesture. But she's in fantastic hands, and I get to see her still because I help out twice a week where she is. Next week she's got a date with the vet; we'll find out how she's doing. In the week she was with us, she lost the bony look, started looking more like a normal dog, if somewhat skinny still. But she's young, she's got the energy to fight, she'll recover.

And, being the absolute sweetheart she is, she'll find a wonderful home, too.

[Editorial note, 2014: Romy did, in fact, find a wonderful home--one of those once-in-a-lifetime people that make dogs the centerpiece of their lives. But her journey to that home had a few more bumps... Seven, to be exact. She was pregnant when we rescued her, and in November she gave birth to seven puppies here at our place. More on that, and Romy's happily-ever-after, later.]

54 comments :

  1. There's a special place in heaven for people like you and my friend Jeremy Doll. He and his family have fostered pregnant moms and litters of babies, both canine and feline long since before I met them. Thank you for all you do for these wonderful creatures! I am reminded of the saying of, I believe, St. Francis of Assisi, "Animals grace us with their presence". Mary

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    1. Thank you, Mary :) Indeed, there's no grace like the one animals--especially rescues--bestow on our lives. Give your friend Jeremy a big hug for me next time you see him--and have him give you one back (tell him I said so, no opting out) for being such a wonderful person :)

      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  2. I cried and laughed with this post. I absolutely loved the video. So glad Romy found a happy home - bless her heart. I'd love to see pictures of her pups.

    I cannot imagine people ill-treating animals. It hurts the heart so much - and the worst part - or the best part is - their pets continue to show unconditional love, no matter what.

    Your dogs are gorgeous and so sweet. Guilie, you have a heart of gold. God bless. You make the world a better place.

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    1. If my heart is gold, Vidya, yours must surely be platinum :) I agree--mistreating an animal is the worst kind of betrayal. I see it every day, and I still can't understand it. What goes through these people's heads? What sick, twisted souls must they have? One of my mandates in this incarnation must be to find the compassion to accept these people--why else would I keep encountering them, right? But... it's hard. Maybe I'll need a few more lifetimes to achieve that.

      Thanks for all the positivity, Vidya. You make the world a better place, too :)
      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  3. Guilie, I'm too full of tears and words to actually say something.

    I'll just say I'm honored you're my friend.

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  4. Aww...I absolutely love this post! And Romy and all your other dogs! They are so so so gorgeous! I'm always in awe of people who foster animals...I think it's the most wonderful thing ever! I got one of my cats from a rescue where this lady fostered several cats...she was a single mum with a 5 yo and still managed to rescue all these little kitties. You are amazing Guilie! I'm so glad Romy found a happy home and am looking forward to reading part 2...

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    1. Thank you, sweetheart! The four-legged ones are all blushing :D Congratulations on adopting a rescue cat! Those are hard, even harder than dogs, to place, so you did a great thing. And kudos to the woman who fosters them--yes, fostering is a lot of work, but I'm sure if you ask her she'd tell you, like I would, that it's more than worth it. It's an honor to be involved with animals, with getting them the chance to have a good life and a good family.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  5. So so so beautiful. Its so great that eventually everything kind of works out. Do share more on Romy! God bless!

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    1. Isn't it wonderful? Life does take care of things, sometimes not as fast as we'd want, but... well, we're all learning to go with the flow, aren't we? I'll definitely be posting more on Romy and her kids--three of them are part of my pack now, and--well, I'll save that for the next Romy story ;)

      Thanks for the visit!
      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  6. Guilie, this made me cry. I am sitting here in office and reading it for the 3rd time again with little tear drops on my cheeks as I felt this post is so beautiful. So nicely written :)

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    1. Aw, Srilakshmi--thank you! Those tears you shed are grace in its purest form, and Romy is a lucky dog to have touched your heart that way. I'm glad :) I do hope your boss didn't walk past right then, though ;)

      Thanks for this--means a lot.
      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  7. Your Dogs are so amazing. Makes me want to care for at least one such life. :( Hopefully soon, I will be able to. :)

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    1. They are, aren't they? *fans out peacock tail* Haha... Seriously, all dogs are amazing. In the rescue business I come across all sorts of different ones--just like people, they all have their own particular way to shine, to bring light into our lives. I hope you'll be able to join the joy soon, and in the meantime perhaps you can volunteer once a week / month at your local shelter or rescue organization? Doesn't take much, and it will "train" you for when you have pets of your own. That pet, by the way, will be so lucky to find a home with a heart as caring as yours.

      Thanks for visiting!
      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  8. Absolutely loved this post and the video, Guile!! You are awesome and doing such a fantastic thing!! Your dogs are so wonderful and so glad that Romy is fit and healthy and got a lovely new home too. Looking forward to know more about Romy! :)

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    1. Thank you, Shilpa! I'm glad you enjoyed the video in spite of the bad cameraman-ship (aren't we glad I don't have to shoot movies for a living? ;) ). I should really edit it into something more watchable... Or maybe just shoot another one :D

      Yes, Romy got super lucky! I'll definitely share the ending to her story soon. Thanks for stopping by!
      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  9. Bless the soul who rescued Romy and to those who'll take her in, which I believe will be soon and a warm caring home! We do need people like you and her more! Lovely post - bitter sweet but most importantly hopeful :) and adorable photos.

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    1. Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it. Yep, the people out on the streets caring for strays deserve all our respect and blessings. Thanks for appreciating them, Aditi--and thanks for the visit! Hope to see you here again soon.

      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  10. I dnt have enough words to express how I am feeling.. Thus is such an amazing and inspiring act of love... Kudos to you and you're team. I am proud that both my siblings are vet and they have often rescued wild animals n birds. Yours is an amazing story of kindness n humanity.

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    1. Thank you for that, Rajlakshmi--it means a lot. And wow--two vets in the family! Veterinarians have all my respect because the training is as hard and time- and energy-consuming as that for human doctors, but they'll never make the kind of income a human doctor will--which means that they do it for the love of animals, and that--well, wow. Every vet is an angel without wings. Congratulate your two siblings for me :)

      Thanks for commenting, Rajlakshmi!
      Guilie @ A Hop Within A Hop: The A-Z Theme Reveal!

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  11. Though I dont have a pet yet I do think I have some connection with dogs. They follow me around or sit around me especially the strays. Planning a pet soon :)

    PhenoMenon
    http://throodalookingglass.com/2014/02/squirrel1/

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    1. That's how it starts... Dogs following you around, then you find the one that you simply cannot turn your back on and you take him home... then someone brings you a little one that's dying and you think, "I'll find a home for it when it's back in full health," but by then it's too late, you're in love... And then... And then...

      Welcome to the world of dogs :) And thanks for stopping by!

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  12. I love pet stories, especially dogs. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. There is a special place for people who have so much love to give to our four legged friends.

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    1. I'm with you, Carol. I can talk pets all day--which I can't say for all subjects ;) Thank you for your kind words, and for visiting--much, much appreciated!

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  13. I have a pet at home and she is my lovely Dalmatian daughter. I can't differentiate between her and my two kids, Sparky loves me more and is a joy to behold and love. I have a dear friend who is a foster parent to rescued dogs till they get a permanent home, and have seen the heartbreak she goes through when she has to hand over the dog back to the shelter or the new owners.You are an amazing person and doing a great service with your loving warmth. Glad that Romy is doing great, share her pups pics please.

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    1. Sparky is a lucky, lucky dog :) I'm glad you found each other. Yes, fostering--like anything related to dog rescue--involves a lot of heartbreak. When the dogs get adopted, of course, although it's great to know they're moving to a forever home. But there's also the less happy scenarios: the health and behavior issues, the cruelty one sees reflected in their eyes, the ones that don't make it. Still, I wouldn't trade it for the world :)

      Thanks for the visit!

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  14. Loved the post and videos like everyone else has already said...I never really had any pets, actually never wanted any...but reading this post makes me want to get one ...Thanks for sharing...

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    1. You're so kind :) I'm glad you feel inspired to get a pet, and I do hope you find one right for you. Do take into account that they only understand *forever*, so take your time to educate yourself about owning and caring for an animal before you get one. That way you can make an informed decision on whether pets are or aren't for you :)

      Thanks for the visit!

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  15. Excellent post. Very well written. Glad to hear it has a happy ending (ending? continuing? new beginning?).

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    1. Thanks, Lenni :) Ah, well... every beginning has an end, and every ending is nothing if not a beginning, right? ;)

      Thanks for the visit!

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  16. What a sweet dog! It would have been hard to get rid of her for me. I probably would have had to kept her after getting her healthy and the birth of pups.

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    1. Kathy, the hardest thing about fostering is exactly that: letting go. Which is how we've ended up with seven four-legged children (instead of the three that was the ABSOLUTE LIMIT according to my boyfriend). But--aw, if you saw how Romy's new mom treats her... They watch TV together every evening, mom on the sofa, Romy on her lap. She's spoiled silly--and she deserves every bit of it, after what she went through :) To a home like that it's... well, not "easy", but perhaps less difficult to let go.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  17. though I am not fond of dogs for some reason but I respect those who love dogs and other pets... lovely post..

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    1. Thank you, Amrit. Especially coming from a non-animal-fanatic, it means a lot :)

      Thanks for the visit!

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  18. This is such a heart-warming story, Guille. It's amazing how forgiving dogs can be of human beings.

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    1. They are, Corinne. Rehabilitation--rebuilding the covenant of trust between a dog and a human--takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, but compared to human therapy, it's a breeze :)

      Thanks for this blitz, Corinne! You made my week ;)

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  19. So sweet. I love when it when we find our callings and act upon them. This story is inspiring.

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    1. Thank you, Mary. Indeed, finding our calling--whatever it is that gives us the greatest satisfaction at the deepest level--is a powerful thing. It might take sacrifice to live it, but denying it is closing the door on joy.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  20. So sweet, really ! Loved the description, the pics and the whole story :) Keep up the good work :)

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  21. I've always had a soft spot for dogs. I have three shiba inus. Love the story. Glad to hear Romy is getting back on all 4 feet in a good home.

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    1. Thank you, Loni! Shibas are great dogs--not for the faint of heart, though, so three speaks highly of you :) Thanks for the visit!

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  22. this is just so beautiful... loved it. Bless you :)

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  23. Heartwarming read Guilie, all animals are lovely but dogs are extra special...you found Romy in the garbage dump, sad. Reminded me of the human babies found in garbage dumps...I can't even cry it's so heartrending. Anyway kindness and love triumphs, always...

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    1. The world is a sad, cruel place. Then again, in those few and far-between instances where we're given the opportunity to make a difference, there is so much good. So much beauty.

      Thanks for the visit!

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  24. oh boy...you have a big heart..while I struggle to bring up my two kids, isn't this such an effort to foster and raise so many pets at once? a very touching story.

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    1. Huge effort, Folsom. Worth every minute of it ;)

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  25. Hi, I checked and my comment did not get posted so here I am again:) I am a dog lover too....had two pets and one stray. All of them break your heart with their love.
    True unconditional love is dog love and so glad you take it up with so much passion. We have had incidents of dog bites and loss of life in both cases so many times. Hope we can work like you here too.
    We must have more passionate and committed people in our lives. Lots of love,health and happiness to you always.

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    1. This is beautiful, Inderpreet--across half a world, to find a like mind. I hope you can help a few animals, too! Lots of heartbreak involved, but... who cares, right? ;)

      Thanks for the visit. For your comment. For being you.

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  26. You are doing such a good and beautiful thing by fostering these dogs - thank you so much for sharing this story.

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    1. Thank you for the visit, Laurel. I do wish this kind of thing weren't necessary--if everyone did a little bit, starting by spaying and neutering their dogs, by boycotting puppy mills, even by just not turning a blind eye on the cruelty around us... Maybe us dog rescuers would (finally, praise the heavens) be out of business :)

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  27. I hope Romy finds a good home. What a sweet little thing she is.

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    1. Aw, Suzy, she *is*. Totally adorable, and so very gentle. She was a fantastic mother, too.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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No love like Dog Love--or Commenter Love!