Madison Not Madeline

“Well behaved women seldom make history.” 

No stranger to trouble
No stranger to trouble

Maddy wasn’t the most well read, but that quote really resonated with her. My family’s german wired-hair pointer was never described as subtle. She was never one of those dogs where guests exclaimed, “I didn’t even realize she was here!” No, you knew she was there because she gave you more kisses than you bargained for, or maybe she just stole your piece of birthday cake…on your birthday (sorry Grandpa Jack).

My family has enough stories for me to fill this entire blog. And everyone who has met her (or met anyone in our family) has gathered a few as well. They’re these sweet souvenirs that can make me laugh at any moment.

Long before I made it to a yoga mat, she taught us non-attachment. I couldn’t help but be impressed when she limped around the house, and then ate the pizza out of my hand when I bent down to see what was wrong. Another time, she ran down the halls of  my middle school as my mom weaved through students to chase after her. As a sixth grader, this was mortifying. Instead of spending the day embarrassed, I responded to the telling of this story with, “I heard about that! I wonder whose dog that was…” Or more importantly, when we had a bad day, how quickly it could all melt away with a single Maddy story or a cuddle on the couch.IMG_2708

We said goodbye to Maddy today. And on the surface, this all seems silly. There should be no reason for so many emotions or feelings of loss. But anyone who has a pet, especially a dog, knows what’s on paper has nothing to do with the experience of losing a four-legged loved one.

They start to become part of our family, not just because we treat them like royalty, but because they choose to be an active family member. They choose to give love when it is needed most. They choose to be the constant in all situations. They choose us, just as much as we choose them. Maddy was always the one piece of our lives our family could relate on every single day. It’s not in the weakness of the family, but in the strength of the connection that our animals end up being our glue.

Please notice the doormat
Please notice the doormat

Now I can only speak for the last four hours, but I don’t think that glue is conditional. Though it’s physically gone, I don’t believe the it’s power is lost. For all the memories you shared are still there. All the stories that made you laugh, or cry, or both at the same time, will still be told. For all of you experienced giving and getting love in a completely new way. It doesn’t go away.

I think the only way we lose the power of that glue is by pretending it wasn’t as strong as it was. By only allowing ourselves to feel what makes sense on paper, we’re not giving credit where credit is due.

It’s only by recognizing this unique connection that we’re able to grow, and that we’re able to share that love in other ways. 







Secondhand Hounds

From the background on my phone, to my day calendar at work, to collapsing on the ground to be on dog-level at any given opportunity, I do not try to hide my love for dogs. I’m shameless.

Meeting my first Secondhand Hound, little did I know, at the 2014 Minneapolis Pride Festival

To all who I offer to dogsit for (strangers included), I am indeed serious, and clearly need to make business cards to get that message through. I’ve come close to tears talking about dogs I do not know, and tell stories about other’s dogs as if I am a part (or the sole) owner.

When I was little, I would get up close and personal with my Grandma’s small white poodle, Lady. She would bite me on the cheek every time I crossed the line, and I would comfort myself by hugging her and weeping into her fur. That’s unconditional love, people.

At 23 and a bit wiser, I found my way to Secondhand Hounds to get my dog fix through volunteering. A volunteer-run and foster-based shelter, Secondhand Hounds (SHH) finds temporary and permanent homes for dogs and cats that are rescued or brought in from a wide variety of scenarios.

I now start my Friday mornings letting out the animals that are in between fosters, and as a result temporarily staying at the shelter. This means sunrise walks, trying to trick very smart dogs into taking their medicine, rekindling my friendship with cats, and all the cuddling I had been missing. 

Lady, part dalmatian and part pointer. Loves to cuddle and is a pro at eating the treat but spitting out the medicine
Doxie, bulldog of some sort. So sweet! Not the most athletic, our walk ended shortly after this photoshoot 🙂

One morning, this also meant meeting an aggressive dog, who was very territorial of his space. I slowly and confidently introduced myself, and he started to be put at ease. He flinched as I put on his leash, which showed he had been abused prior to SHH. After going outside and giving him breakfast, we sat in his room as I pet him to get him more acclimated to the space. All was going well until we made eye contact, and he lunged at my face.

Unlike my younger self, I knew not to stick around. I quickly left his room, all the while subconsciously narrating to the dog, “I have to go, this is not going well.” In immense pain, I realized the bridge of my nose had been bitten very badly, along with a small bite on my chin.

One week after the accident, other photos of the damage are left out for everyone’s benefit

I didn’t want to share this story too broadly out of fear of how it would reflect on Secondhand Hounds, who were nothing but amazing in responding to the situation. Many people asked me if I would go back to volunteering, or if I still felt the same way about dogs. All of which got the same response, of course.

Truth is, organizations like Secondhand Hounds are why accidents like this do not happen more often. I wasn’t attacked by a dog, rather this is the ripple effect of the abuse this dog has endured. It’s a ripple of someone who I imagine has been given one idea of how to manage anger, what it means to be masculine, and whether mental health should be talked about. 

I was recently reminded of this, when my dress was stolen from the locker room while I was teaching yoga. At first, I was upset and annoyed that I needed to go home for a different outfit to wear to work. However, once I changed and looked in the mirror, I noticed the scar on my nose and was reminded that there can always be more to a story. The new owner of my dress may have needed it more than I did; and either way, I am lucky to have a closet full of other options.

For the pain and fear that I experienced that early morning with this dog, I’m sure that moment of eye contact triggered the frequent feelings of pain and fear he has endured. This scar isn’t a reminder of that morning, it’s a reminder of why organizations like Secondhand Hounds matter. It’s not a reason to avoid dogs, it’s a reason to get involvedIt’s a reason to spread love and compassion whenever possible, because you never know who or what needs it most.