I was Just a Kid

Waiting in the lobby, Lady Di makes herself at home

Waiting in the lobby, Lady Di makes herself at home

Yesterday was an amazing day.  I went to the Orlando Executive Airport to pick up two Alabama dogs, Amelia and Bennett’s Boots.  I was also asked to be interviewed for a documentary Tales In Flight.

Bennett's Boots

Bennett’s Boots

When I heard there was going to be a film crew, I immediately panicked, and asked my friend Irma to drive me there.  I was too embarrassed to let anyone see my van, which is rusted out and has missing parts!  Okay, so maybe my hideous van was a great excuse to bring a friend with me to keep my calm!  It worked!  Sarah White-Buxbaum also joined us, and what a blessing!

Once on the tarmac I was very comfortable-not nervous one bit.  Before the operation began, I re-introduced Jeff to my Lady Di.  Lady Di was the first dog Jeff ever flew to us, back in September of 2009.  He remembered her, and I’d like to believe she remembered him.

"I remember you!"

“I remember you!”

The number of dogs and puppies that poured out of Jeff Bennett’s plane was unbelievable.  As I watched rescuers receive dozens of puppies, I didn’t envy them.  Nor was I ashamed that only two dogs on this flight were TDL.  I’ve accepted the fact that our rescue is about quality not quantity.  If we want our dogs in foster homes, we refuse to board them, and we don’t have an actual shelter, our numbers will always remain small.

When Shaggy’s crate was carried out of Jeff’s plane, he was scared.  He turned and hid his head into the crate, and we gave him time to come out on his own.  Eventually, he did, and hid his face under my arm!  Shaggy was Jeff’s 2,000th save, and I informed Jeff that his new name would be Bennett’s Boots.

Amelia

Amelia

It took a while before Amelia was uncovered.  Jeff lifted her out of the crate, soaked in urine, and handed her to me laughing.  Poor thing was terrified.  We got the dogs into Irma’s car, left the tarmac and gave them some time to walk around and find their legs!  Then it was interview time.  I met with Director, Michael Samstag and Producer Josh Gildrie and they explained what was going to happen.

one more goodbye

one more goodbye

But before the interview started, Jeff said one more goodbye to Lady Di!

I thought that I would sit down with other TDLers, and an interviewer – but that’s not what happened.  Instead, I sat in a chair and  had a camera film me so close I had hoped that the lens  had a wrinkle filter.  I was completely alone, no one to my left, no one to my right, only a camera straight ahead, and my interviewer was not going to share the screen with me. UGH!

With Lady Di by my side, I tried to relax, but half-way through the interview, she fell asleep at my feet.  I realized as I was answering questions, that I’m a writer, and it’s very difficult for me to answer questions, and express my opinions verbally.  I was nervous and tense just like most of the dogs we rescue!

I hadn’t felt this way since I entered into my 3rd grade classroom, the new kid, in the middle of a school year.  I opened the door, felt dozens of little eyes staring at me, petrified I wanted to be invisible.

The interviewThe interview took place in the airport’s lobby, where electronic sliding glass doors continued to open and close as people went about their business.  I would answer a question, and the doors would shwoosh, and producer Josh Gildrie would ask me to say it again!  Many times, I forgot the question, or had no idea what I had just said!  I could never answer a question the same way twice!  This was not easy for me!

When the question was asked, why did I start to rescue, and where did my love for dogs come from, instead of answering by telling the story of my Reckless, I went off on a bunny trail to when I was about eight years-old – my first dog, Nelson.  Before I knew it, I was sharing stories about my life as a child, and how we moved often, and how many animals I had to leave behind.  I talked about the sadness coming home to an empty house.  I was asked about Lady Di, and because Nelson was also a collie, I explained when she was brought to me, it brought back so many childhood memories of my Nelson, and without warning, I was flooded with memories, and I began to tear up during the interview.  Trying very hard to be professional, and push my emotions aside, I knew I had stumbled onto something that I was not prepared to fully address.

Since Lady Di was fast asleep, and starting to snore, at the request of director, Michael Samstag, we woke Bennett’s Boots up, and brought him on the set.  I scooted over and gave the chair one tap… I didn’t have to ask him twice… and he was in my lap for the rest of the interview.  Having a dog to hold and rub on made me relax and not feel so self-conscious.

All in all, I think I fumbled through most of my interview.

When I returned home, there was a lot of work to be done.  All of my dogs had to be cared for, Claire Bear needed her Tofu and Lentils, and my new dogs needed to be introduced to their new temporary  home.  Too tired to cook for my own family, and too exhausted to go out to eat, we got pizza!

My Nelson

My Nelson

I called Sarah White later that evening, and was able to share and process my unexpected melt down.

While I have mentioned Nelson in passing to friends, I never truly shared his story with anyone.  I actually named one of our rescued collies, Nelson, two years ago, but I still never really shared his story in detail.  Maybe it was too painful for me to share?

One of the first dogs I remember as a child was a purebred Collie named Lord Nelson of Baltimore III.  I don’t know where my Mom bought him from, but we got him as a puppy.  He was the most gorgeous puppy I had ever seen.  It didn’t take long before he was HUGE!  He was kind, gentle, noble, loving and easy to train.  He was my brother’s dog, however, once my brother left our nest to go into the Air Force, I made him my dog!  I remember laying on the floor and kissing his long nose and hearing his tail thump!  He loved the snow and he loved to run!

I remembered that warm feeling coming home from school to my Nelson.  I didn’t have many friends, moving around a lot prevents lasting relationships!  I only had one brother who was eight years older than me, and big brothers really don’t “play” with little brat sisters!  My parents worked and were always busy, but none of that mattered, I had my dog.  I guess my relationship with Nelson is very much like my daughter Sarah’s relationship with her China.  It’s tight!

I don’t know why I was surprised when my parents announced that we were moving again, this time back to Florida.  I never dreamed that Nelson wasn’t coming with us, but he wasn’t.  It wasn’t until just a few days before we were leaving that my Mom told me Nelson was going to Canada to live with my cousin, Victor.  But that wasn’t true.  Victor couldn’t have a dog, so Nelson was going to live with Victor’s Grandfather.  I didn’t know these people, but I was assured that Nelson would be loved and well cared for, and he was.

Despite my parents’ assurance, I protested but it had no effect.  I sat in the back seat with my arms crossed, pouting, crying, leaving my home, and knowing I would never see my dog again.

Just a few short years later, we got the news that Nelson had died of cancer, he was only five years-old.  I remember feeling angry that I couldn’t be there with him when he died.  I wondered if he knew that I didn’t want him to leave me.  I wondered if he knew how many nights I cried for him.  If he was in heaven now, surely he knew how I felt.

But how could I be with him when he died?  I was in Florida, Nelson was in Canada, and I was just a kid.  I must have been around 13 years old when I realized that I had never been given the pleasure or the honor to have a pet until it died of old age.  All of my animals were either left behind, or given away.  I tried not to grieve over the loss of Nelson, after all, he wasn’t my dog anymore.  But something happened yesterday, during that interview, and I cried.

Maybe this experience makes me a better person with regard to feeling empathy for owners who have to surrender their dogs to us.  Maybe because I have felt their anguish, their pain, I do not judge them, instead I assure them that their dog will have a good life, as was the case with Mic.  When Carol came to adopt Mic, I called Mic’s former owner, and gave him the good news.

I was just a kid

I was just a kid

Maybe Nelson is really the reason why I love dogs, and why I love to rescue.  Maybe after all of these years I’ve been working to right the wrongs.

This morning, I used a step-ladder to get into my closet, and I climbed up to where I keep very old photo albums.  I found it.  The album dates back to 1970, and it only contained a few of his photos.

I have finally given myself permission to grieve over his loss today.  Yes, life goes on, but I always missed him.  He wasn’t given up by me, yet I had to surrender him.  I protested, I begged, I pleaded, I got angry, but there was nothing I could do, because I was just a kid.

 

See all of the photos taken during this transport on Facebook.

 

Email us for more information: TheDogLiberator@gmail.com







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