Posts Tagged ‘pit bull terrier’

In Memory of Claude

July 1998 – August 17, 2013
Rescued from Hillside, NJ RR bridge – August 1998


Claude-Kitten2He had only 3 places to go. Over the fence and a 100′ drop to the railroad tracks below, into the traffic crossing the railroad bridge, or into my hands. He chose to climb the fence. Thanks to the help of a kind passerby, the tiny feral kitten ended up in my hands. In fact, he ended up squalling loudly while I held him against my left shoulder with one hand and drove the rest of the way to work. It was a day when I normally didn’t come in to work, on a route I never went but for the backed-up traffic that day. I even passed him by, thinking he was a crumpled piece of paper – that’s how tiny he was – before my brain went “KITTEN!” and I backed up for a closer look.

In our Medical Dept., he was assessed at 5 weeks old, too young to get shots and at risk of becoming very ill in the city shelter. So I decided to take care of him until he was old enough to be adopted. He stayed with me in my office during the day and I took him home at night. I’d set him up a huge dog crate with blankets, food, water, litter – everything he needed. He was so tiny I was afraid he’d get lost or trapped somewhere in the house. And he screamed. I shut the door to the room, let him Claude-KittenWithChloe2out, and Claude made a beeline for my pit bull terrier Chloe’s chin and curled up underneath. From that moment on they became inseparable … he found the mom he’d always needed.

My thoughts of putting him up for adoption in the shelter were abandoned in the face of their devotion to each other, and that’s how Claude’s life began – loved by his dog and human moms.

Claude was a healthy and very happy, easygoing guy.  He survived Chloe, who passed away at 15-1/2, as well as his two cat buddies Mewsette and Gypsy Rose who left us in the last year and a half. He was without a doubt the nudgiest animal I’ve ever known, but also beyond Claude-AndChloeaffectionate, cuddly, funny and extremely trusting. He stretched out anywhere on his back, totally vulnerable, knowing he was always safe and loved. And did I mention vocal? We won’t even go there.

Life was sweet for Claude until a little over a week ago when he experienced a mild, seizure-like event. Unfortunately, these progressed rapidly and in number and severity that it became clear there was only one thing to do. I told him where we were going Saturday morning and what would be happening. I bathed us in white light and asked who would meet Claude on the other side. In a heartbeat I saw Chloe … her bunny ears up, eyes bright, and she was dancing from side to side, so eager to see her “baby” once again.

Claude left peacefully in a second to join his mom and left me to reflect on how lucky I, as well as he, was that day when I was sent to work the “back way” and over a railroad bridge where someone needed desperately to be found.

Home will never be the same without you, Claudie.

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Times come in our lives when we are ready to open our hearts and homes to a new animal. But how do we know which is the right one for us? The one that is truly meant to be ours?

A little over 13 years ago, one of my two pit bull terriers passed away from complications of cancer. She had been starved and brutally abused. She’d had a very high prey drive and was dog aggressive, but she thrived in my care, and in time, also did so with my other pit bull terrier, Chloe. Chloe was at the opposite end of the spectrum; she truly loved ALL animals. With Chloe then twelve years old, I wanted her to truly enjoy her golden years with me and without the competition of another dog. But I knew she’d love a cat, and I began my search.

Every day that I was at work in the large city shelter, I took my lunch time to look at the over 200 cats awaiting adoption, asking that I please be shown the cat that was meant for me. That cat wasn’t there. Or at least not yet. Not so coincidental to this story, by the way, was the fact that in the office adjacent to mine, worked a lovely man in his 60’s. He was about 5’4″, and his wife was about 4’11”. They were a petite and adorable couple, totally devoted to each other from the days of their young marriage. I told him how happy it made me to see a couple still so in love. He told me it was bashert, i.e., “meant to be” in Yiddish. What a perfect word, I thought, and how perfectly fitting for them. I, too, was on the lookout for bashert, but on a much smaller scale.

One day in early August, I needed to go into work on my day off. Traffic on my usual route was at a standstill, so I took the back way through the neighboring town. As I drove over the familiar railroad bridge, I passed what looked like a crumpled piece of paper, but intuitively I knew better. I backed up and spotted a 5 week old tuxedo kitten, waiting to be hit by a car or plunge to his death 100 feet below.

I managed to catch the terrified and elusive kitten, brought him to the medical department for a gentle baby bath for fleas, and then to my office. Too young for inoculations, he wouldn’t fare well in a shelter with so many animals, so I decided to foster him until he was stronger – in my office on workdays, otherwise, home with me. He was so tiny, I was afraid he’d got lost or stuck in the house, so I set him up in my bedroom in a large Great Dane crate, complete with bed, blanket, litter and food and water. He screamed bloody murder.

The next evening the same. I closed the bedroom door and let him out. He made a beeline for a comforting spot under my Chloe’s chin. Mom! For two more weeks I followed this routine, everyone suggesting I keep him. My reason for not wanting to do so was that everyone will adopt a kitten; I would take a middle age or senior cat, a bonded pair, a cat with feline leukemia, i.e., a hard-to-place cat. Someone would surely fall in love with him quickly.

Then it happened. I looked at this very verbal little pipsqueak of a kitten, nestled with his new adoring mom, and found myself saying things like, “Now appearing in the Shakespearean production of I Claudipuss ….” or coaxing him with Monsieur Claude, or “Where’s my Cloudy Paws?” You get the picture.

I had asked to be shown the cat that was meant to be mine, and it had nothing to do with what I thought I wanted, but everything to do with who needed me. And so we need to be open to our choices in animals. I do believe every animal that I have had was truly meant to be mine. Perhaps I saved his or her life, perhaps in some other way, she or he saved mine. Animals are our teachers and guides, and may come to us in the most unexpected species, breeds, time and manner. They may be brought to us, or we to them, but we must always listen to our hearts.

Today that teensy feral kitten is a long and lanky 16 pound cat with tuxedo markings, but with all the features of an Oriental breed – short, smooth coat, long face, body and tail, and oh, yes, the (sometimes very annoying) vocalizations. His names today are Claudie the Dog Boy, (for all the dog tricks he happily performs), Mr. Freshy McFresh Face, and just plain Claude or Claudie. But it was those first silly names that were the tip off,  (that and his instant attachment to Chloe), that he was meant to be mine, kitten or no.

It was simply bashert.

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DutchGrowing up in a house with a very anxious mother wasn’t easy. It affected everything and everybody. While I understand as an adult why things were the way they were, it was difficult as a child living with someone who needed to control just about everything. I didn’t consciously know it then, but I longed for someone in the house I could just `be’ with … without intrusion, always accepting, always comforting, and who’d never give up a secret. And my dog became that someone.

When I was 5, my brother 9, our parents decided we were old enough to have a dog, so at Christmas they gave us a beautiful Boxer puppy. I don’t think either of us quite `got’ the concept of having a dog at Christmas when there were still so many other exciting presents to open and play with. But Tinkerbell, as she was named, was not to stay with us very long. Within a few months she developed epilepsy. I don’t remember seeing the seizures my mother described Tink having on the kitchen floor, with blood and foam spewed all over the room, or perhaps I willed myself to forget. But as there were no cures for epilepsy back then, Tinkerbell’s only option was to be returned to spirit. I was so young, and hadn’t become very attached to her yet, I don’t think I really understood what had happened.

Dutch and Me -1Then our parents got another dog. She was sold to them as a Boxer, 6 months old, and I recall my mother being so happy she didn’t drool because her face wasn’t pushed in like other Boxers. There was a reason for that … she wasn’t really a Boxer. At best, she was a Boxer, pit bull terrier mix; my obedience trainer, when he looked at my childhood photos of her, told me that she was pure, and that was how they bred American Pit Bull Terriers back then. It didn’t matter … she quickly became the best friend and confidante I longed for. Her name was Dutchess. Dutchess Von Wiggles was how my mom had `officially’ named her because she had a butt that was constantly in happy motion.

DutchandMe -2Dutch couldn’t sleep with me as she wasn’t allowed on the second floor, so I slept with her downstairs. We watched TV together, me resting my head gently on her side; and we curled up in sleep on the living room floor. She learned all the tricks a dog learns, and loved to go for walks or play outside in the yard. I can honestly say, in a way that only a dog or animal lover would understand, she was everything to me … she was my best friend. I had a human best friend, of course – happily, I always had friends — and I had my big brother to play with and taunt, but Dutchess was different. She was just what I needed – another soul in the house that simply loved me straight out no matter what. And I adored her for that.

DutchandMe-3When I was little, my parents would cover her eyes and ears and I would hide. Then they’d let her go … “Find Jeanne!!” And Dutchess would search every nook and cranny downstairs to see where I was hiding, just bursting into wiggling, wagging joy when she found me. What child doesn’t live for those moments? She made me feel safe in a childhood where feeling emotionally safe wasn’t easy. Dutch was the heart, soul and embodiment of unconditional love. She was both my rock and my wings, my compass and stars; she was my comfort and confidante. She was one little girl’s very best friend.

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