Chapter 25 – Charlene Falls in Love with Pixie

The night was young and so were Charlene and Jo who were already in the taxi on their way to the “Demure”.

“Let me take care of that smudged mascara, girl, the grunge look is long forgotten in the history of fashion”, Jo was lovingly correcting Charlene’s eye makeup on the backseat of the taxi. 

“Ha-ha, very funny, Jo, first you make me sweat by hurrying me to get into the taxi so that you don’t wait a minute. Next, you want me to look decent because it was your own fault to look messy in the first place!” 

The driver threw quick glances at them: he loved when he had funny customers that aren’t annoying. Most of them were annoying while trying to be funny. 

Very few customers were wrapped in their intimate world to precisely the extent which helped them sense the amount of sharing he appreciated and throw an inside joke or two that kept him amused, as well. It was the fine line of taxi etiquette when the riders understood how to avoid polluting that tiny blurry space of the shared car. These girls were the type of company that made his job more bearable. Weekends were a good moment for the business and this Friday night was his chance to make some money.

 As much as he hated the crowds and the drunken club visitors at 4 am, he loved the stray dogs that kept him company while he was waiting for customers. He often bought pretzels and bagels, eating only one half and giving the other half to whatever dog was around. He already made good friends with some of them, especially with that stray mixed corgi he loved. It had quite a character and wasn’t as timid as some other dogs that simply grabbed the food and rushed away to eat in safety. In contrast, the corgi wasn’t as trusting as the others that frequently got kicked by drunk or drugged party-goers. In fact, he was quite aggressive towards them. The driver knew there was a reason for it and let the dog pull down his guard naturally. 

Shark and the taxi driver were true friends, as much as the corgi could trust another human being before the inhabitation experiment began and after Matias betrayed him.  

“Aw, you were in a rush to get here quickly, that’s so sweet, Char, but that doesn’t do anything for how you lo… What the heck, man, learn how to drive and then get your taxi license!” Jo bumped with her forehead into the front seat, yelling at the poor man who pulled the brakes in a jiffy and got out of the car breathing heavily. 

He wanted to see the result of the thud. 

“What was that? That can’t be good. It can’t be a human! It was too small for a human! Oh God, I hope it isn’t a child, no child would wander alone this late at night, right?” 

The driver prayed for the best as he was walking to the front of the car. The two seconds from his car seat to the front bumper seemed endless. He sighed in relief when he saw the white spitz conscious and licking its paw. There was no blood and no signs of broken bones. Luckily, he was driving slow, so the damage couldn’t have been that devastating. 

“Oh, you poor thing, how did you manage to get in front of the car all of a sudden?”, the driver spoke aloud, communicating with the dog as if it were a person. 

Jo and Charlene got out of the car, too, Jo speechless, and Charlene rushing to get to the dog to see if the white furry ball that was now more grey than white was going to survive. 

And there was Pixie, lying on the ground sideways, leaning her head against the healthy paw, and charmingly looking at Charlene, while reaching with the hurt paw to the girl’s face: she was saying hello. That hello was love at first love for Charlene, for whom one look at the dog’s loving eyes was enough to be instantly bewitched. 

“Ohh, girl, what are you doing wandering on the streets this late at night? Don’t you have someone taking care of you? Where is our owner? Is this huge bone yours? Where did you get it? You shouldn’t be eating everything that’s left on the street, it could be rotten or poisoned”, Charlene took the femur bone that was next to the lying dog and threw it in the nearby trash bin.

“You are homeless, right? I’m so sorry, girl. does it hurt?” Charlene’s eyes welled up in tears as the taxi driver was already preparing the back seat to take the dog to the vet.

“Come on, I have to take her to the vet. There is no visible bone fracture, so I hope she will be fine. I know an open vet clinic, it’s just a few blocks away, I will take her there. Let me find a colleague of mine to take you to the club: sorry about the incident, I have no idea how the dog ended up there!”

“No, no, I’m coming with you! I want to confirm she is fine. I can’t just go out and have fun all night while she is struggling. I want to make sure she will be alright. Let’s go, Jo, we can continue our night of fun later, let’s help the dog now!” Char rushed her friend, who was in-between the disappointment that their carefully planned night may be over and the awareness that they have a wounded dog in dire need of help in front of them.

“She is going to be okay”, Jo comforted Charlene as they sat next to the dog at the back of the car, wrapping Pixie in a blanket the driver pulled from the trunk. 

Charlene took off her trench coat and made a soft pillow for Pixie’s head as they were driving on their way to the vet clinic.

“What’s your name, sir? I have to put a name on the submission form, in case someone comes and looks for her”. James, Phillips’s dad was looking at the driver.

“It’s Stan. Stanley Hutson.”

“Stanley Hudson? Like “The Office” character? I love that show.”

“It’s Hutson, with a “T”. I’m Irish.”

“Okay, sir. The dog will be fine. It’s nothing more than a scratch, it seems. I disinfected the paw and took an X-ray to check her spine. Will you be paying for the dog’s treatment? Since she is not chipped and no owner has been reported, I will give you a discount. The X-ray is one me. But she will have to stay here for at least 48 hours to make other necessary checks, give her vaccines, and wash her. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it alone and I have help coming only during the week”, James said.

“That’s okay, I don’t mind paying for her. As long as she is okay”, the taxi driver had problems making ends meet and wondered if he has money for this at all.

But Charlene jumped in and saved the day: 

“Let us split the bill. We were there, too, so I’d like to help, please.” 

She saw the worried looks on the driver’s face lighten up in a hopeful smile. 

“Sure, thanks, I appreciate that!”

“Some people have so very little and are still so generous. For others, nothing is enough”, she thought in her head, as a few of her co-workers came to mind, including Daniel.

The bill was settled.

Pixie remained silent and happy. Everything was going well. As for this being her first task, what she pulled off was incredibly risky.

Thankfully, she didn’t tell anyone about it, or they would’ve stopped her. She waited for Charlene’s taxi to come from behind the corner and threw the big bone in front of the wheels. The big thud from the bone bumping into the car was followed by a swift screech of the car brakes. Pixie had only seconds to run next to the bone, lie down, and act hurt. She knew that Charlene wouldn’t leave her on the street under the suspicion that she was injured. She did scratch her paw trying to hurry up, but it was nothing: she has seen worse, much worse on the streets.

Featured Image Credit: Lynn Greyling from Pixabay 

Chapter 24 – Daniel Finds Sadness Again

Daniel woke up with a bitter, dry taste in his mouth. The afternoon whiskey was obviously too much. 

“Damn it, how the f*ck did I fall asleep? I can’t possibly go out stinking like this! I’ll have to do another workout session. That will do it! All this rancid odor will evaporate by the time I’m done.” 

Daniel got up from the armchair that stood next to the treadmill and quickly grabbed a bottle of water. He didn’t have time to waste: he wanted to get rid of the acetaldehyde smell that was coming from his mouth and his pores before his Friday night out. 

He knew that terrible smell all too well. It was the smell of his father. Daniel despised it but he couldn’t forget it. Even now, he wasn’t sure if the smell was coming out of his body or if his mind was playing games with him, bringing back the awful memories. 

He didn’t care. He set the machine on level ‘merciless’ and started panting and gasping, angrily staring through the window. That was Daniel’s way of solving problems. Violently, forcefully. He was the least kind to himself and he hardly knew it.  

But tonight, things were not going according to Daniel’s plan. He noticed a big pair of calm brown eyes looking directly at him through the window. The eyes looked sad, almost pitiful. 

Those were the eyes of a basset hound, the only dog that managed to look sad even at his happiest. It was Isaac, who just got back from his evening walk with Pixie after her training. The sensation of warmth he picked up before from the spitz’s company subdued as he sharpened his focus. It was time for work. He will dissect his fondness of Pixie later, once this inhabitation experiment is over.

Daniel had no idea what was happening and why this strange dog with flapping ears was staring at him. The persistent look slowed him down and he wasn’t running on the treadmill incline at his maximum. 

“What do you want? Go away, I can’t run if you stand there!” Daniel yelled at Isaac as he was slowing down almost to a halt. 

The troubled young man has seen that dog previously. He didn’t hate him as much as his other friend, the dirty corgi, but he was annoying enough. 

Isaac just stood there silently, like he was carved in stone. He looked like a statue, but on the inside, he was on fire. He had all his strengths gathered in one incisive, laser-sharp focus: he didn’t want to make a mistake with Daniel. 

It was important to inhabit him before he entered the “Demure”. The night club had a no-dog policy. Even if it were otherwise, he wouldn’t risk mingling with all those drunk, stoned people. It was too loud and too dark. It wasn’t the place for teaching people how to love, as far as the dog’s way was in question. 

For some weird reason, people thought that night clubs are fun places. For another, even less comprehensible reason, they thought nightclubs were the place to find love.

Isaac had to plant the seed at that very moment.

Daniel got irritated, but at first, he decided to ignore the dog. He was too lazy and too busy to go and find something to throw at him. He kept working his miles and contemplating his night plans.

Yet Isaac was determined. 

Daniel had no idea how determined the basset was. Isaac had the biggest heart and the biggest guts combined in one body. With Marshall’s wisdom, he was an invincible inhabitation executor. And he had an all-star support team on whom he relied often. By adding Pixie to the mix, he was even more convinced that tonight’s going to be a victory. His initial hesitation faded in view of the growing confidence. 

Daniel was getting nervous. He couldn’t work out and he couldn’t throw something at the dog, too. Whenever he thought of going to the kitchen to grab an empty box, he felt a sudden painful twitch in his hands and legs. It was as if an invisible force stopped him from becoming violent and kicking the dog out of his sight. 

The dog’s eyes… his sad eyes were mesmerizing. They reminded him of something, of someone: the heartfelt gaze his mom directed towards him when he would come back from school and his dad was out: 

“Hey, sweet boy! You are done with school? Come on over and tell me how it all went today! Did you get an A in history? Ah, you did, didn’t you? Well done, Daniel! But remember mommy loves you, no matter what, don’t you ever forget that!”

How could he forget? She was the only person expressing affection in his family. 

Isaac’s sad eyes reminded him of his mom’s loving eyes on her deathbed. 

He remembered everything and his anger broke into an uncontrollable sadness. He started weeping,  threw his wrecked body into the armchair, and covered his eyes with his palms.

Isaac was sad but he was also pleased. The seed of love was planted. He knew that sadness is a part of life and that love is sometimes sad. He stood patiently below Daniel’s window until the tears cleaned his eyes and his body relieved from the overwhelming feelings of guilt and sadness. The awful acetaldehyde smell was also gone. He didn’t need the workout anymore. 

Daniel sighed surprisingly and wondered what the heck happened. He hadn’t cried in years. He didn’t connect the strange event to the basset.

That was exactly what Isaac’ intended. Daniel’s inhabitation began and he was ready to go out.  

Featured Image Credit: Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Chapter 23 – Charlene Pulls Off a 'Lauren Bacall' for the Big Night

“Will you come to pick me up later? Oh, all right then, I wouldn’t want to abolish your citizen’s rights and freedoms, you are entitled to your drinking liberties! I forgot it’s Friday and that you’ll want to get wasted. Okay, okay, not wasted, you’ll want to get wild”, joked Charlene, teasing Jo, her best friend, called Joan by the people who knew her less but simply Jo by her closest friends. Jo, on the other hand, called Charlene simply Char. Charlene loved that abbreviation.

Instead of driving to the “Demure” that night, they agreed to get a taxi. It made perfect sense to Charlene who was usually the responsible one of the two. But Jo insisting on the taxi was something else: ”I must have had a good influence on her”, a thought passed through Charlene’s head, happy that she won’t have to think about Jo’s safety on her way home or Jo picking up another drunken bozo and letting him drive her home. 

Prim and proper, such reckless behavior was inexcusable for Charlene. But she loved her friend to bits. Jo was a good person, and an even better friend, for that matter. 

“Maybe I should loosen up a little and stop being such a controlling freak”, Charlene thought, as she recalled her mom’s lecturing about good behavior and how much she struggled with trespassing the strict boundaries her mom set when she was a kid. 

Her mom wasn’t physically abusive, but she caused a lot of damage with her cold, pretentious manner while raising Char as a small girl. The little one didn’t know anything better than to always be a good girl. Otherwise, her mother would withdraw and isolate her. 

Ignoring her daughter whenever she didn’t perfectly fit in the frame she had set imagined for her, she often locked  her daughter in her room with the warning:

”Now stay there to think about what you have done. You can’t get out until you apologize!”

The silent treatment was her mom’s usual way as Charlene was growing up, making it the usual escape method from anything that resembled unpleasant feelings. 

As young as four, Charlene often found herself sitting alone in silence in her room, crying, confused and wondering what she did wrong this time. 

Her mom never talked about what happened. She never hugged her or comforted her. Charlene was left alone to make sense of the emotional world around. On her way to becoming an adult, her biggest childhood lesson was that she must work hard to earn someone’s love and respect. She was never good enough, always hard-working and conscientious. 

Her friend Jo was almost the total opposite. And yet they worked well together, especially when going out. 

Charlene loved her Friday nights together with Jo and was looking forward to this one, too. The only murky thought was meeting with Daniel and having to tolerate his abhorrent attitude: he was extremely good looking but too aggressive for Charlene’s taste. 

Despite her lack of appreciation for her colleague’s distasteful ways, she paid special attention to how she looked that evening. 

Charlene did her hair and makeup herself, so she had some more time after work on Fridays to rest and take the best care of her looks. That was not a problem anyway: she was gorgeous, as Jo used to remind her often. 

This evening, she felt like wearing something comfortable. She picked up her wide-legged beige pants, added her favorite champagne-colored silk collarless shirt and the tiny rose-gold-plated necklace that revived the whole ensemble. 

Char wore that shirt often. But this time, she decided to spice things up by curling up her hair into neat loose waves, the Lauren Bacall style. The minuscule amount of glitter on her cheeks and her decolletage complemented the look perfectly. She took a glance in the mirror. For some wonderful reason, she liked the way she looked tonight. It might be too much for the “Demure” but she didn’t care: the rosy glow would look great under the club lights. 

The phone blinked: Jo messaged her to let her know she is on her way. Charlene picked up her purse and her favorite trench coat and locked the door behind her twice. 

She left her apartment with an unusual gut sensation in her gut. It felt like an omen that an important night is in the making.

Featured Image Credit: skeeze from Pixabay

Chihuahua dog watching through a window -stayathome

How to Help Your Dog Thrive through the #StayatHome Policy

Dogs are remarkably resilient animals, surprising us with their fight through incredibly tough circumstances over and over again. But dogs are also social creatures that need the outdoors to thrive. Despite being able to lean on you for social support, staying at home will not be an easy pill to swallow for most of them. 

The outdoors is calling for long walks, countless sniffs, hanging around other canine friends, and, yes, for something as ubiquitous and taken for granted under normal circumstances – going potty. Moreover, when you are “stranded” at home, you may become more anxious and/or depressed as an owner and affect the dog’s wellbeing, as well. 

For now, the full liberty to move around hasn’t been restricted but the #stayathome policy is inevitably changing one of the most wonderful aspects of being a dog owner: freely exploring the neighborhood with your dog as you meet with others who like to share the same experience.  

So, what can you do to make it easier for both of you to go through days, weeks, maybe even months (we don’t know) of not being able to get out as you please?

1. Stay assertive and calm.

Easier said than done, especially if we consider the good old adage: “Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being able to calm down”. 

However, your dog needs your sanity and assertive manner. Therefore, do all that you can to mentally adapt to the new circumstances and accept that your life for now just cannot go on as it used to be. 

Acceptance of human vulnerability and gratitude for the time in solitude help establish a flexible mindset that will serve you well during self-isolation. 

Try not to project fears in the future or make assumptions about what will happen next. Listen to your gut about how to best cope with the situation. Then, think of the practical stuff for your dog.

2.  Create a dog supply list.

Food and medicine top the list, of course. 

Purchase your kibble, get flea, tick, and worms pills from the vet. It is not easy to plan for a different species when we are in times like this, but with a little careful consideration, this time may be the time to bond with your dog like you never did before. 

Think of anything you may need for reshaping your dog’s life from the one with lots of outdoor activity to staying within four walls for long periods. 

Consider point number 3 below as you may need to add dog diapers to your list. 

3. Going potty.

Now we come to something that can be a serious problem for some dog owners. If you live in a house with a small yard, there is an easy solution: you can just open the back door and let your dog do its business at the corner of the yard. 

But what about people who live in apartments and need to go out several times a day for the dog’s potty? 

If  you are unable to go out whenever you like because of restrictions, you might consider doing the following arrangements:

  • Dogs like going potty in an area that they’ve used before. In the worst-case scenario, if you are unable to go outside at all, you need to recreate the experience as close as possible to the real thing. 
  • Behave like you are doing the usual walk. Get your walking shoes and clothes on and grab the leash. 
  • Assign an area in your house that will serve as the potty area – think the hall, under the stairs, the garage, the attic, the toilet, even the corner of a room if nothing else works. 
  • Go back to old times and recollect potty training tips, such as using a dog diaper to mark the area or setting a real grass patch or an artificial dog potty turf. Some of them include a bottom drawer tray that is easy to clean and will help your dog do its thing when inside. 

Be patient, it may not be easy at first, but it will work out after a few days. 

4. At-home physical activity

In line with the “A tired dog is a good dog”, take care to provide enough physical activity now that your dog cannot go for long walks or run in parks. 

One of the best ways to engage anxious stay-at-home dogs, and include children, too, is to organize an at-home agility training or a secret hunt maze. 

  • Use dining room chairs to set a tunnel covered with a tablecloth or linen. 
  • Children love tents and dogs love safety areas: the final goal could be them arriving in the cozy, safe area of an improvised tent
  • Get an old tire or a hula-hoop to use it as a jumping hoop. 
  • Use plastic plates or Tupperware to replace cones for the zig-zag walk. 

Naturally, it would be ideal if you could do this in a yard, but if you can’t, remove all furniture that could pose the risk of the dog (less likely) or kids (more likely) hurting themselves. 

Ropes, duct tape, elastic string, a tape measure, scissors, glue are among the other equipment you will need. 

Get creative – now is the time to recycle unused stuff you hoard in case you need it – great, you need it now, make the most of it.  

5. Go virtually social. 

Most of us would agree that we never have enough of watching dogs and cats being cute, crazy, funny, loving, confused, guilty, nurturing, smart or hardworking on the Internet. Hence, maybe now is the perfect moment to open an Instagram account or a Youtube channel and share more about our precious dog. 

Sharing your coping strategies could help others and build connections you never expected, and even build a business! It has never been easier to do that and hopefully will benefit your life of a grounded dog owner.

Stay strong. The times are tough but your dog will love you nonetheless. Love them back by helping them adapt in return! 

Featured image credit: Image by robo1214 from Pixabay

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Chapter 22 – Phil, the Autistic Boy, and Shark Bond

After Pixie and Isaac vanished from Shark’s sight, he sat for a moment to think about his day and the information he picked up around the “Demure”. 

It looked like they were not going to be the only dogs in the club’s vicinity that night. Duke and his pack were frequent Friday visitors; this Friday was not an exception. 

He noticed Duke and his pack of eight wandering around the Chinese food place earlier that day. It was unusual for such a large pack to form in his neighborhood, but there it was. Duke’s pack was wilder than the average urban dogs and unfriendly to other packs. They didn’t like Isaac and Shark as much, especially since Duke got rejected from Marshall’s mentorship. 

The old pug decided not to take him under his guidance as Duke was reluctant to listen. He was stubborn, but not stubborn in the way Isaac and Shark were, just bullheaded, fighting against everyone else’s will for nothing. He lacked discipline and humility – two critical attributes that were required to get on Marshall’s team. 

Since the rejection, Duke carried resentment towards Marshall, Isaac, and Shark. The basset wasn’t as convinced that Duke is not their friend but Shark was suspicious. 

Maybe it was because of his lost faith in others due to his sad destiny with Matias, who knows? Or maybe he was just overly cautious. Regardless of what was the reason for the mistrust, he was in an alert mode as far as Duke and his pack were around. 

In all that mess, Shark loved the Chinese food place because of one very important reason: Phillip. 

Just as Isaac befriended Daisy, the ice cream girl, Shark had an unusual sympathy for Phillip. Phillip, or Phil, as Shark loved to call him, came to visit his father at least once a week. James, his dad, was a vet whose office was just a few shops away from the Chinese place. Sometimes, when his dad was called for emergencies, Phil stayed over the weekend, keeping him company with the sick animals. It was the most fun Shark, the abandoned corgi, ever had with a human after Matias left him. 

Shark didn’t like hanging around grownups too much – they were loud, always in a hurry, and traitors, just like Matias. It couldn’t escape him that even the dog owners who brought their home dogs to the vet for interventions were like that. 

“How do these dogs manage to stay calm and be so happy?” Shark often wondered seeing his canine friends driving around in cars, being carried in fancy bamboo baskets, and getting spa treatments every two months. 

But Phil, the boy? Phil was something different. He spent most of his time alone and he rarely spoke a word. He was unusually silent for a small boy, but that’s exactly why Shark grew fond of him. 

Shark knew that Phil was special but he didn’t know why not that he needed any explanation. Phil was autistic and, just as much as Shark, he didn’t like spending too much time around people. He preferred to be left alone, minding his own business. 

After having finished his Friday afternoon quest for leftovers around the Chinese place, Shark hopped over to the vet’s office to see if the boy was there. It was Friday, so it was entirely possible that he was. 

He looked through the glass, and much to his delight, noticed Phillip sitting close to the window. He had something in his hands, a weird quadruple bird with eyes in the center, and one other thing with buttons that Phil was currently obsessively investigating. Shark had no idea what that was. 

“Hmm, what sort of bird is this? I haven’t seen anything like it – it has four wings. Are those wings? What’s that sound it is making? Well, it’s not that terrible, it’s quieter than the hair dryer, that’s for sure.” Shark’s thoughts accelerated as he was trying to get to the grip with Phil’s new drone and remote control. 

Suddenly, Phil lifted his eyes and noticed Shark seating by the window. The boy wasn’t scared. He calmly took his drone and his remote and got out. He stared at Shark for ten seconds or so as he was talking to him without words. 

Shark wasn’t afraid of the boy. His mouth was open and his tongue out, he was smiling. The boy walked to the tiny nearby park, which, luckily, was well lit, because it was already getting pretty dark. 

His drone lit up, too. Shark watched what happened with an open mouth. He was curious. Phil pushed a button, the quadruple bird lifted up and started flying, circling around their heads. 

Both the boy and the corgi looked at the drone above for a few minutes until a worried voice yelled from across the street:

“Phil! Phil, what are you doing out there? I told you not to go out on your own, especially after dark!” James, his dad ran over the street in what seemed like only two seconds. 

”Gosh, I have one surgery taking longer than anticipated and you are already doing your own thing!”, continued the vet, calming his voice and gently hugging the boy, touching him cautiously around his shoulders, as the self-awareness struck him, warning him that he might stress the calm boy without any true need. 

“Come on, let’s get inside for now. I need to complete some paperwork: the handover with shift number two is due in five minutes. You know that I am the duty vet this weekend. We have plenty of time to play with the drone tomorrow. And we will have daylight, too. The weather forecast for tomorrow looks fine.” 

Shark ran away further and hid behind the nearby building once he noticed the grownup approaching.

Looking at the clear night sky, James abandoned the green park, throwing one long look at Shark at the end. James’ sad look was clearly saying that he had seen too many stray dogs for whom he could do nothing. 

As he was getting inside to provide care for the dog that would soon wake up on the surgery table, James sighed heavily and closed the door behind him, glad that he brought Phil to safety.       

Featured Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Black and white image of Leonard Seppala holding the real Togo

Watch ‘Togo’, The Movie (2019): It Will Be the Best 2 Hours You’ve Spent During the Coronavirus Crisis

Scrolling hypnotically through my social media feed in search of some common sense in the current panic-ridden world, I came across a friend who shared how his family filled the self-quarantine hours. 

His suggestions weren’t altogether alike the examples of parents who do scavenger hunts and agility games to entertain anxious (read: energy-driven) stay-at-home children. But they were, nonetheless, true jewels: he spent a couple of the lockdown hours watching ‘Wonder’ and ‘Togo’ together with his kids. 

A Precious Movie to Watch Alone or with Family

The first one of his movie suggestions is on my ‘Favorite 100-or-so Movies of All Times’ list and I couldn’t recommend it more as a family movie: kudos for the wonderful heartwarming story starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as parents of the wonder-turned-hero fifth-grader Auggie (played by Jacob Tremblay). ‘Wonder’ will teach you a few lessons and remind you of the powers you don’t think you have. 

That movie, I knew. But ‘Togo’? Nope, it was new to me. Seeing that it has a 92% user rating on Rotten Tomatoes, my curiosity was stirred, especially since I know how merciless the spoiled ketchup fruits can get. (For comparison, ‘Wonder’ has a score of 85%.)

But when I read it pictures the uncommon bond between dogs and humans, I didn’t hesitate for a moment – my curiosity went over the top. I went straight on to watch it that evening. 

Togo Changed Me, and It Might Just Change You, Too

A single movie rarely has that powerful effect to change me, but ‘Togo’ did. If you love dogs, this one will be a treat. For those that you want to discover your truths about the movie without getting any spoiler alerts, this may be a good moment to stop reading this overview. However, I will try to avoid overly disclosure of the facts so that your viewer’s experience doesn’t suffer as a result. 

Regardless of how factual your knowledge gets before you watch it, ‘Togo’ has mesmerizing cinematography and a screen-worthy true story that represents powerful emotions via pictures and story flow I couldn’t possibly elaborate in a text. Therefore, even if you read all the movie reviews and watch all the trailers, you will still enjoy the actual movie show immensely. 

This is a Disney fable so part of the story at the end has been changed. A take on what has happened is told in this video. However, from the comments below, it’s noticeable that what is the true story of Togo remains to be questioned. Since it is a new movie, books are being written and facts gathered from multiple resources as we speak. 

Despite the incongruity in stories, the majority of the facts are indisputable and well represented in ‘Togo’ (2019). One thing is certain – Togo is one remarkable, special dog.

Togo: The Braveheart Husky

For those of you that haven’t heard of it, Togo is the name of the lead sled husky running the most dangerous 261 miles of the 1,085 km or 674 miles long Alaska Serum Run that took place in 1925. A relay of twenty sleds was formed to help the isolated and epidemic-stricken town Nome in Alaska get the diphtheria antitoxin, which would help the sick children overcome the disease. 

Yes, a century ago, people died from the disease. The adverse weather and poor infrastructure blocked any other means of transportation. Dog-ran sleds were the only viable option. Each of the dog teams from the relay ran approximately 30 miles. It was only Togo that mastered an incomparable challenge of running almost ten times more. 

Given the comfort we currently live in, ‘Togo’ is a true eye-opener. Togo’s owner, the Norwegian Leonhard Seppala, breeds working dogs in the Alaska mountains, living in harsh conditions, that, from today’s perspective, look insurmountable. His wife keeps him company while he tries to realize the cherished dream of finding gold, an incentive for many of his kind that moved to Alaska in search of a better life. 

Togo, smaller in size than the others, is at first adored by his wife but not so by Leonhard who thought the Siberian husky is too weak to be a sled dog. Slowly but persistently, Togo manages to grow into his owner’s heart, showing incredible stamina and intelligence. Despite being smaller, he has the heart of the winner, he is a true wolf. 

Why I Recommend Seeing ‘Togo’

Togo will not only win his master’s heart and soul but the hearts of anyone watching this incredible tale of a dog’s loyalty and devotion. The movie is rated as ‘PG, yet it can be a delight for young children with a parent’s support during a few specific scenes. 

Why should you watch it? Here’s why”

  • Enjoy exhilarating photography of Alaska’s ice sceneries and amazing green nature in warmer periods
  • Gain perspective of how spoiled, comfortable, and healthy we are compared to a hundred years ago, i.e. develop gratitude
  • Appreciate dogs even more for how forgiving and loyal they are. (Spoiler alert: get the tissues ready for some real tearjerker moments.)
  • Bond with family or other loved people in your love focusing on what truly matters 
  • Smile at Togo’s escape endeavors – beautiful moments of husky’s devotion and relentless desire for freedom
  • Maintain your sanity intact and forget about the Coronavirus for at least a couple of hours

Dog lovers, you won’t need much persuasion to watch this gem of a true story. Others, after you are done with ‘Togo’, dogs may finally start growing under your skin. You have most probably heard of Balto, the lead dog of the final sled that got his pictures taken by the local newspaper photographer, and whose statue is now placed in NYC Central Park. At the time, he got all the credit.

 

Togo’s skeletal remains have been donated to the Peabody Museum at Yale University by his last owner, Mrs. Elizabeth Ricker of Poland Springs Maine. He may not have been recognized for his heroic success back in 1925 but at least this movie is a partial tribute to his contribution to the lives of dozens of sick children who didn’t face favorable prospects without his bravery. Togo, thank you! 

Featured Image Credit: History 101

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white spitz dog: A Basset Named Isaac: Chapter 21

Chapter 21 – Pixie is Ready

“Are you ready for the last five principles, Pixie?”

“Don’t ask something you already know the answer to, Marshall”! woofed Pixie in her exclamatory way, used whenever someone tried to challenge her dedication to a cause she believed in.

“Woah, take it easy, girl, I know you are serious!”, laughed Marshall panting through his open muzzle. 

“Well, let’s not waste any more time then girl, cause we are more than a little pressed for it!. Here are the five principles – don’t forget that they come last on the list, but there is no preset order of importance for any of them. 

“Principle number eight is: you have to be able to be alone before you love someone else. Not only you have to be alone but you have to feel good about it. Only then you will be able to relate from a space of generosity and not from a sense of lack. Feeling a lack or a void will never be compensated by another person. Sure, a loved one can stir the pot and refresh your energy in unfamiliar ways, but only if you are open to it. 

“To be open, you have to feel whole and willing to share without expectation,  I presume?” asked Pixie.

“Indeed, Pixie, I see you are making connections between the principles already. That’s good, we can speed up our lesson and go straight to principle number nine, which is: love takes practice. It is a process of trial and error where one shows a willingness to learn from their mistakes and take life as it rolls out. You cannot graduate in love or grasp it as a feeling or as an idea. Saying that you love someone and not doing anything to show that you love them is not love. It is a self-absorbed feeling, a projection.”

“A projection? What do you mean?” Pixie’s curiosity was suddenly awakened.

 “Let me use an example. Do you know how you thought Isaac was your enemy? That he hated you? Do you still think that?”

“Well, nope, not really, but what does that have to do with projection?”

“It has. You made conclusions about someone else on the basis of your imagination, beliefs, almost delusions. The story you have crafted in your mind about the basset didn’t give the full picture. It didn’t resemble reality or what Isaac is all about. It was mostly in your head, wasn’t it?”

“True, but I’m not sure I know him that much even now either.” Pixie’s eyes blinked in wonder as she was waiting for her system to digest the new facts.

“You don’t, but your idea about him is less burdened by your own projections and it will even be less so as you connect with him more.”

“If I connect with him more”, Pixie was quick to jump in with a correction.

“Alright, if!” Marshall’s pug eyes widened in a cryptic joyous smile as if he knew something about both of them they had no clue about yet. 

“Apart from being too much in your thoughts and stories you tell about the other person, love takes open eyes, listening skills, and an attitude of curiosity. Observe, rather than judge when you love someone. Love them for they are and do something to show your love. Action, Pixie, action!”

“I know what you mean, action always speaks louder than words. I think that Charlene girl is pretty gullible as far as action is concerned. She gives people too much benefit of the doubt, always believing the best about them., doesn’t she?”

“Hmm, you are partially right. Between choosing to approach people with trust or feat, trust is definitely a much better option. However, blind trust is also full of projections. Rather than seeing the wholeness of a person, which often involves many nasty bits, gullible people protect themselves by projecting beneficial qualities to someone who doesn’t have them. I’d say Charlene does that.”

“How do you know all this Marshall about Daniel and Charlene?”

“We have been following them for a while. Shark was handling Pixie, while Isaac was with Daniel.” 

“I get it, love takes time, practice, and action. What’s principle number ten, then?”

“Principle number ten is: Direct your love towards the world as a whole. Do not objectivize. You cannot maturely love another while hating the rest of the world. That level of exclusivity is unhealthy, it is fake. Don’t get me wrong – you will love intimately only one person. But if you create a bubble around you two only and find fault with the rest of the world, that bubble will burst before it develops its complete color spectrum. Love the sky, love the trees and the mountain, the bird and the rivers, the Earth’s crust, humanity, the universe. Let your heart spread as far as possible, as you get to the grip with the fact that you are only a tiny speck of dust in space and in time. One does become humble in face of eternity. I should know better, I’m a hundred years old!”   

“You’re not old, Marshall”, Isaac stopped being invisible and interfered with the training that was taking the shape of a friendly conversation. He loved listening to Pixie and Marshall in silence.

“That’s right, he’s not old, he is a dirty old bag!” Shark didn’t spare his old mentor from his sardonic jokes, running out of nowhere. “How much more do you need to do, dogs? I am done with my reconnaissance task. Things are boiling down there. Half of the club is already packed. We still have a couple of hours before peak time but don’t become complacent. After all, it’s Friday. Weird, unexpected things happen on Fridays”! concluded Shark puffing while his breath was calming down from the running. That corgi was tireless.  

“We are almost done, boy! We have just two more principles to cover. But since you are already here, why don’t you stay with Isaac and Pixie to repeat some stuff. Going over the same ground before such an important undertaking can’t hurt, can it?”commanded Marshall.

Shark had no right to object, especially after the joke he made. He sat next to Pixie and Isaac, while Marshall went on:

“You need a sense of humility that separates a loving mature person from an omnipotent, egocentric, and narcissistic child. That’s the eleventh principle. And you have to be capable of taking risks and facing pain and disappointment. That’s principle number twelve.” Marshall concluded the list of twelve principles, as the three younger dogs stood pensively in their heads, carried away by the wise words, and contemplating about how best to apply them in that evening’s challenge, for what they didn’t know is that this challenge will take longer, much longer than one night to be rounded in a fashion everyone is pleased about. 

“Isaac, care to walk together to clear our minds before we get into action? I have something to show you”, Pixie looked at Isaac with a hopeful look, surprising him as he was getting ready to go away together with Shark to relax and make last-minute arrangements.

Isaac was focused on Pixie’s sparkling brown eyes more and more, as he blurted out half-abashedly as he realized he was staring:

”Sure, let’s go. I must admit, I’m curious.”

Together, they ventured in the opposite direction of “The Demure”, in what seemed like a calmer, friendlier area to the crowded street that was filling up with cars and people, ready to leave the worries from the past work week on the dance floor, and for the less fortunate, to drown them in alcohol.

A Basset named Isaac - Chapter 20, alcoholic

Chapter 20 – The Night Daniel’s Tears Ran Dry

The night was crawling in. Friday was no joke. It was getting busy. 

Half asleep, Daniel opened his eyes. Heavy with whiskey leftovers, his slumbering consciousness was abruptly woken up by the loud laughter of the first partygoers. 

“Son of a bitch, you can’t just keep it quiet, can you!”, he swore angrily with his half-open eyes as he was stumbling to find his way to the bathroom and take the second shower for that evening. 

The noise outside was the least of his problems. The hangover was not the issue, either. As he opened his eyes, the nightmare came back into his mind.

He couldn’t get rid of it. He just couldn’t and he hated it. Used to usually having his way in life during the day, at night, he suffered.

Dreams were a payback time. 

The nightmare was recurring since he was twelve. The details were often painted in different colors, but the core of the story was nevertheless the same. 

How couldn’t it be – it was a replay of a real event that took place in his family at another time, when his mother Rachel was alive and he had a chance to feel loved, as much as she could love. 

Rachel was not the perfect mother. She was very ill and could hardly take care of her basic needs during her last days. Daniel didn’t have siblings and with both parents alive, he felt alone, so terribly alone. 

Joseph, his father was rarely at home. His friendship with alcohol was in its prime at the moment. Jobless for who knows what time, Joseph was growing violent as hell. His tolerance levels were on the edge. Most of the time, he yelled than speaking like a normal person. His rage was exasperated by his wife’s powerlessness and the paralyzing fear that he would lose it all if she goes away. 

That enraged behavior was occasionally interrupted by his wife’s coughs that reverberated eerily. Her coughs were omens that this family boiling kettle can’t go forever like this. 

Daniel had to do most of the housework himself. Under the burden of so many duties, at school and home, the tears that suffocated him as a small child dried off in the corners of his eyes. 

When his mom let her last breath out and Joseph slapped him across the face with the hand he carried his ring on, Daniel went into survival mode. On the critical night, his shell finally toughened after he cried for one last time. Although he was still a child, he turned into a proper adult . 

He didn’t even notice that blood was running out from the open slit on the cheek. He kept his palm on his face, wondering what just happened, as his mom’s lifeless body laid down spread down on the bed with her chest silent, free from coughs, and her face going grey.

Rachel was dead.

Joseph couldn’t find a better way to deal with the tragedy. He did what he knew best. He poured his anger onto Daniel, shouting in despair as the lights on the neighboring houses started lighting up. It was a poor, but quiet neighborhood and people usually lived in concordance. So much noise was atypical. People were noticing that something weird was happening. 

When Daniel’s sadness finally overtook him, he started weeping. Joseph was raging and his hands had lost all control. It wasn’t the first time that he had hit his son, but it was the worst. Enthralled by his anger and incapable of facing the reality of the situation, Joseph grunted in hopelessness and slammed the door behind them. 

Daniel knew what followed. He would be back in the early morning in his alcoholic entrapment and go straight to bed to sleep for a couple of hours.

Usually, Daniel used these worry-free hours to talk to his mom and get ready for school. But now, he just didn’t know what to do. He stood in the dark silence until the door opened and his neighbor’s face showed up. He was not alone. Two police officers were accompanying him.

The slap across the face and his mom’s death were a constant theme of his nightmares, especially when he had to meet his dad the next day. This evening was no exception.  

Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash

Chapter 19 – “Stop Calling Me, Mom!”

Isaac remained present for the rest of Pixie’s training. He felt that the main event minutia is left in good hands. Shark had control of the situation at “The Demure” while Pixie was deeply involved in Marshall’s wisdom. Things were evolving according to the plan.

* * *

Charlene had a hard day at work. Her last project was two weeks late and the discord on her team wasn’t helpful. 

Sometimes she felt she had to mother her teammates to complete tasks as required. She was used to doing that. 

But last month was hell. She had to cooperate with the project consultancy section on the sixth floor. They weren’t exactly soft players. Nothing was good enough for them, especially for Daniel who was pushing an agenda coming from the top. He was relentless.

“He is a total bully, I know, but he has to do that. It’s his job. And my team could push a little harder, that’s the truth”, she excused his poor behavior finding justifications just as her phone rang. 

It was her mom. Again. For the fourth time today.

“What’s now, mom? I told you I’m in the middle of an important project. You have to stop calling me”, Charlene replied with impatience in her voice.

“Hello, darling. Don’t be so quick to dismiss your poor mother. You know I miss you terribly. Did you read about the maniac in your area? I just heard about it on the news. He attacked three girls and stole two purses. He wanders around in his underwear shorts, that creep. You have to wear a spray, Charlene. Did you manage to ask about the tickets I needed? Ah, yes, I just got an SMS from my mobile provider. They are offering me a new contract for $35 more. I’m not due in three months, why are they calling me now? What should I do?”

“Mom. Mom, hold on, stop talking so much and so fast! I’m exhausted today. Yes, I got you and Betty two tickets, but you’ll have to pay the VIP price. The basic package is no longer available. I don’t know anything about a maniac, that’s not big news anyway, area and my whole city are full of maniacs and thieves, I know how to take care of myself, I’m not a little girl anymore. Please don’t dump your boredom on me, I have enough on my plate already. I can’t think about this stuff right now!”

“Oh, really? You don’t have a minute about your mother? You know, I have the best intentions at heart when I tell you important news like this. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, what am I going to do without you”?

“Cut it out, mom, I’m overwhelmed with work. I’ll have to hang up now. I’ll call you back when I can, don’t call me again today!” 

Charlene pressed the red hanger button with a lump in her throat as her mother continued to talk about how her daughter disrespects her. 

“Oh, mom, will you ever learn? It’s not all about you,” she thought. Tears crept in her eyes as the weight of the work pressure and her attention-seeking mother pulled her down. 

But it was the end of the week and the Friday night out in “The Demure” was coming. She was so looking forward to it. Getting ready and pampered, and dancing her brains away on the podium was relaxing. The rhythmically whirling dance made her forget all about her troubles.

All… except for one. Daniel. He was coming to the club, too. She hated that. She hated that work was following her in her free time. She wanted to be able to breathe with full lungs and not thinking about how some arrogant consultant full of himself was ruining her project and her weekend.

“Maybe he is right,” a thought passed through her mind again as she struggled between anger and self-doubt when thinking about his feedback report. The split in her team cost her her nerves and a desperate amount of fatigue in the last couple of weeks. 

“That egocentric attitude reminds me so much of someone”, she thought, totally unaware that someone was calling her phone again, after just being asked to stop.

Charlene rejected the call. 

A few minutes later, an SMS notification blinked on the screen: 

“Please try again for the basic tickets, darling, you know how Betty has so many expenses after her husband died.”

Charlene sighed, convinced that her work troubles will eventually end. But, her mom? She wasn’t so sure.

A Basset Named Isaac - Chapter 18 boy and girl with puppy n couch

Chapter 18 – Love through the Eyes of Innocence

Pixie felt shame for some of the decisions she made while being the leader of the outers. She knew too well that she was stubborn as hell sometimes and that although it served her handsomely in conflict, it created a lot of trouble when patience was required.

Patience was coming in leaps and bounds from Marshall’s demeanor. Pixie was more honored to be taking part in tonight’s critical endeavor, especially when she observed the sage love with which the lucid pug filled her cup. 

Choosing her to be Isaac’s partner in spreading love to Daniel and Charlene grew in importance in parallel with the respect she felt for Isaac. It was a gentle reverence, a feeling she often felt for tiny humans who knew much more about love than their grown-up custodians. 

“Small people are so innocent”, a thought rushed through her head, surprising herself by saying the words out loud.

“Ah, children, you mean?”, Isaac’s basset ears were still dangling as he ran up next to her to check on the training. 

“Is that what they call them?”

“Yup.”

“Good to know. Tiny humans or children are my favorite kind of people”, Pixie didn’t mind Isaac overhearing the conversation she had with Marshall.

“Children are fluffy bubbles of love that somehow get harder and turn into soap bars as they mature into adults”, compared Marshall.

“Listen to me now, I’ve turned into Shark, pulling jokes at every turn! Where is that dog, Isaac, is he into some mischief again?”

“Nope, don’t worry. Shark is paying a reconnaissance visit to ‘The Demure. He is at his position to sniff around and watch for any weird stuff. I’ve asked him to help us before we are ready for the full frontal. You know how busy it gets on Friday nights. I’ve noticed a few of the other packs in the area. All those food places that stay open late at night lure them in. It can get pretty crowded, sometimes even feisty. Bloodshed is not exactly a rare occurrence. I wouldn’t want to leave anything to chance, that’s why I’m taking all these precaution measures.”

“Well done, my boy! I’m proud of you. You’ve learned to delegate, which means trust. And Shark should better be engaged with something useful instead of picking up fights and secretly feeling sorry for himself and his old life. That’s healthy for him.”

“But let me get back to all that innocence we all love in small people because that’s how we arrive at principle number seven”, continued Marshall.

“Love must possess innocence or it quickly fades away. You have to be able to look at your loved ones with a fresh pair of eyes each moment. Let the fires burn slowly. Treat them like the small miracle they are, just like children wonder in awe at every new experience. Don’t take them for granted. In that sense, dogs and children are very alike. They are more present in life and appreciate each moment as it comes. Have you noticed that? How do children laugh most of the time and grown-ups worry all the time?”

“But so do dogs when they start to spend more time around people”, said Pixie. I’ve seen pups trying to replicate their owner’s behavior, growing anxieties, and having a worried face.”

“We do. But not to the degree humans do. Why do you think they like having us around them? We teach them to be grateful, present and loving without the expectations of tomorrow’s day or something in return. We remind them to get out of their head and go back to their heart. That’s what we are trying to accomplish with Daniel and Charlene, too.”