This has been a whirlwind week at work and personally. On Tuesday I turned F I F T Y N I N E years old. I don’t really know how to wrap my head around this truth and am one of those people who would like to remain in denial about my advancing age. My heart and brain don’t feel 59 and if it weren’t for my birth certificate and my back, I wouldn’t believe it.

I’d like to continue shopping in Brass Plum and The Limited (except I now mostly shop at socially responsible clothing manufacturing companies, yea Everlane!). See my post how I got to this place. I still like Super Freak, Lionel Richie, Hank Williams Jr, pony tails, and I’d like to think like I did when I was 18. That is, I’ve got forever to do all the things I want to do.

I have adjusted to a lot of things and would say that I am a little bit of an expert on managing change. But my age is not one of them. It’s not because I don’t like the number “59.” There are two things that number represents that I have a hard time reconciling:

1. My aging body – I know. Get over it. We all experience it. This is a fact of life and one must learn to move on. Aging has a way of addressing one’s vain tendencies. And I am moving on, but if I thought a tantrum could put things on hold for just one day, I’d throw one to stall the process.
2. Running out of time – We are all dealt 24 hours in a day. But I’m concerned my TO DO list exceeds the number of hours God has planned for me. I have a condition that causes me a degree of franticness (made up word) that I often have to work through to stabilize and calm my spirit. The best thing I know to do for my condition is to read God’s word. It reminds me that all is well and puts things in perspective. Proverbs 16:2 says, “A man’s heart plans his course, but God directs his steps.”

My birthday fell on a workday where disappointing news about budget cuts and staff were announced. I was grateful for my coworkers and friends who were so sweet and distracted me from my age trauma thoughts. The big question is always, “What are you going to do on your birthday?” My daughter had asked if I would attend a talk about pediatric cancer presented by a dear person in our community at the local research hospital. I wasn’t thrilled to do this, but I wanted to be with my daughter, so I agreed. As the day went on, my tummy was feeling weird, but I wasn’t bed ridden so I was willing to attend. I did ask her once if she was on the fence at all because I would be happy to not go downtown on public transportation after a hard day at work and listen to this important talk. I didn’t lay it out like that to her, but that was my sentiment about it all. Instead I imagined spending a lovely evening with her (and ideally, my son) and watching the Portland Trailblazers in game 2 of the playoff season. But she assured me she very much wanted to go, so I accepted my birthday evening plight. I did take an extra measure of assistance. Right after work when my good friend came by my house, we opened my gifts together and then we decided to pray that Bridgette would change her mind about going.

God knew the plan all along. Instead of the talk downtown, Bridgette and Bradley surprised me by “stopping to grab a coffee” and took me to a family pedicure (Bradley’s first). By my expression you would have thought they bought me a ticket to Italy. I would have been equally happy if the pedicure hadn’t been a surprise, but the relief was an added emotion that erupted into the nail salon. I had to apologize to the patrons for my over the top reaction. They all loved it though.

See the video of my surprise be downloading this link:

Bday 2019 Surprise

Perfect for my work night birthday. A little family pedicure and an evening watching the Blazers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve not created any items for my Joni T business this week, but I took orders and have some I’ll be focused on completing this week. I’ll share them with you, but until then I’ve created a group of photos from the last few months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope you have a great week, finding a happy place in the mix of intention and knowing God is the master planner.

P.S. I know these pics aren’t very good. I know the layout is wonky. But success is in the effort. These are things for that long TO DO list, and if I wait for perfection, I’ll never get anywhere!

First, I must say: Go Portland Trail Blazers; Yea, Tiger Woods!

Today was a great Sunday. I love my church. I love to go to church. But some days I need to not go anywhere, and today was a great day to make that choice. I worked at home while I watched Tiger Woods win his fifth masters and our Trail Blazers beat OKC, which was not a slam dunk! The excitement people had for Tiger Woods (myself included) reminds me of so many things. Among them, that we want to see people do their best. That we cheer for the hard worker. That tenacity pays off. That redemption is possible. That paying your dues makes a difference. I could go on, but I’ve got a word count goal.

I have a file folder called: 300 Words a Day. I learned that from one of the writing books I read last year (Marion Roach Smith or Anne Lamott, I think. Well, maybe 300 words a day was my idea; I don’t remember.). I had a good running start, but I have not forsaken all else to even come close to being in a runner’s race. A writing mentor would be disappointed in me. Maybe that’s why I don’t have one. We’d be arguing over what my real ambitions are, she’d lose faith in me and move on to someone who is more dedicated.

I could be disappointed in me. There are always valid reasons for not pursuing what we say we want, but I don’t think my case is textbook. A divorced woman who must navigate a new life demands extra energy that sometimes even I have difficulty believing. Every person’s journey is unique, and yet there are millions of women who are doing just that, navigating a new journey in all areas of their life. From income, employment, parenting, housing, spiritual fulfillment, dating (it seems fraudulent for me to include that on my list, but I know I’m an anomaly, and I know it’s a big deal for many women), home upkeep, personal fulfillment such as hobbies, volunteering, health and wellness, etc. And if you don’t have family nearby, the amount of energy is doubled, because we are not designed to do this alone. So there, imaginary mentor friend who did not fire me. I am not disappointed in myself.

I would love to tell you about my two huge commitments of the last few months. One was co-facilitating a group at our church called Rooted. The other is, starting a new business. Both have been intense and rewarding. Rooted is a type of bible study that digs deep (Rooted!). It begins with creation, takes us through the fall, salvation, and addresses our stewardship of this earth, our resources, and in bringing others to Christ. We commit to confidentiality and our groups share our personal stories fairly early on. Trust is established which allows us to explore God’s word honestly and with vulnerability, identifying how we fit into his story and how he fits into ours. The study lasts 11 weeks and includes three extra sessions that are dedicated to prayer, volunteering, and the culminating celebration. Our dedication to this study strengthens our purpose with Christ and bonds us with new brothers and sisters.

I’d taken Rooted 2 years ago and since that time I’d wanted the honor of facilitating a group, but I just couldn’t find the time. Winter is the best season for me to do this, as fall is busy with the beginning of the school year, kids’ birthdays and the biggest commitment of all: Bradley’s football every Saturday. With church on Sunday, that doesn’t give me much time. This year was super busy with Bridgette’s wedding, but I prayed about this commitment and really felt God’s blessing on the decision. It was no less than 10 hours a week (as a facilitator), and sometimes more, hence, writing took a back seat.

Last fall I discovered something that I thought could help me with my ongoing endeavor to increase my income. A mom friend whose son played football at our high school and now plays with my son at George Fox introduced me to a little machine called a Silhouette Cameo 3. I was in awe of what she could do. I trolled the Internet for information on what the Cameo could do and talked to a couple of friends. I considered the costs of purchasing the necessary equipment, considered the flexibility it would give me, versus other things I’ve done or considered, I closed my eyes and bam, I have a side hustle (the new term I’ve recently learned).

It’s been a slow process with a steep learning curve, and it’s not over. I’ve had moments that were not my best as I’ve burst out in profanity (and I don’t swear) and cried. But I’ve accessed my vision and a few podcasts that encourage me and persevered. If you’re thinking, “Oh, Joni. Seriously? What happened to dog walking?” I understand (I actually address dog walking a little in this blog). I say that same thing all the time (or my imaginary mentor says it to me). But as I look back over the last several months, I realize I’ve got a lot to share with you and I’m goin’ public, and the store is open for business!

At 58 (yikes, nearly 59), it’s scary to branch out into something brand new. Right before I decided to spend $250 on a heat press via Facebook Marketplace, and then more money on a heat press for coffee mugs, I told my friend that I was anxious. Was I spending this money wisely? Was I going to regret it? But I was also excited. My friend assured me that it probably means I was going in the right direction. Anxious and excited are better than the scary feeling I have when I think about never taking a vacation again, not keeping my home, or cringing every time I look at my unmanicured hands or feet.

If you’re someone who can’t imagine doing something brand new, take this lesson from me:  Every effort counts for something, and bravo to you for any effort you make toward improving your quality of life. God will bless you regardless of your successess or failures.There is no mistake that can’t be redeemed, so there’s no reason not to go for it!

Here are pics from my business efforts.

My new dedicated work space. Over spring break I transformed this family room into a space I will enjoy, set up with my equipment. Next to come is a stand up table my friend is building, so my back can get a break.

A different view of my workspace. That is an autographed picture of Hank Williams Jr. on the wall that I worked very hard to get. 

Mugs I made for my Rooted group.

My friend in Seattle has cancer and loves flamingoes. I thought this was a great way to send her some Valentine’s Day love.

T-shirts I made for my niece and her 6 month old daughter. Inspired by my good friend, Jen.

A great way to celebrate that special occasion. More of these to share with you later. For some reason this photo reminds me of an image on Perry Mason.

I felt like I’d delivered my baby when these finally worked out. It was all worth the effort, I think! I decided not to show the top part with their names, and the cool part is at the bottom anyway.

Yesterday morning gratitude hit me right in the eyes, literally. My contacts weren’t working right. My left eye was either blurry or clear, depending on whether I had my glasses on or off, while my right eye did the same thing, but opposite of the other. I was frustrated as I scrambled and then aborted plans to ride my bike to work, aware that my bike riding days are numbered as the morning temps go down and the promise of winter rain increases. I was also slightly preoccupied with my vanity. This was the first time I would have not only worn glasses to work, but in front of anyone who hadn’t spent the night with me (outside of my kids), which I can count on one or two fingers how many times that has happened in the last 10 years. However, I was reminded that at least I had newish glasses that with the help of modern technology aren’t quite as thick as they once were.

I drove to work switching my eyes shut and open, shut and open, using traffic like a vision board in my doctor’s office. I began to self diagnose my eye problem. Do I have a cataract? Do I have to go into the doctor (another annoying disruption of my perfectly planned day), is this the end of my vision as I know it? I began thanking God for my bad eyes. These bad eyes are great eyes! Cataracts would be bad eyes.

I had a surgery on my eyes before I was five. I remember wearing patches and playing with fuzzy puzzles right after the surgery. I wore glasses until I graduated from high school, when I was in charge of my own life and could purchase contacts. When I read stories from the olden days I’ve wondered if I would have been thrown aside as an inferior product. I wore a back brace when I was a junior in high school due to scoliosis and my eyes are wonky. “Throw her out!” they (who, they is I’m not sure) might have instructed. Given the chance I would have pleaded, “But look, my teeth are good! And if you give me a chance you might find my cooking okay, my home decor talents decent, and if you wait long enough, I’ll make you something with the new Silhouette Cameo 3 I’m going to purchase!” I am a genuinely grateful person for so many things, among them, for being born in 1960 and not 1801 (the truly olden days).

As I listen to the California fire stories and devastation, I am grateful not only for my house, but for the benefits of a healthy and capable body and the privilege to work. Things like the California fires heightens my awareness in times of frustration. Last week I was forced to pull $1300 from my savings for a new water heater. The week before it was $650 for new tires. The list goes on. For a fraction of a second, like when my eyes weren’t working or I was writing checks, I recognize the potential of freaking out, because I have done it before, justified or not. I admit this, knowing I can’t be alone in my reaction to financial fragility. But instead of freaking out, my gratitude is increasing, and I have to believe it comes from the practice I’ve learned: to give God the glory and gratitude for my life.

Over the last 10 years I have had to seek out things for which I’m grateful. It has been a conscious endeavor as the things that I’ve lost cause me still to tear up. The effects are felt every day. But my endeavor to seek out what God has given me has been the difference between joy and depression. I cannot claim the same things many others claim for which they are grateful. Especially during the holidays when the absence of family is pronounced. I cannot take a gratitude pill and make the hurt go away, any more than a person with an amputated leg can bring it back with positive thinking.

But I have learned that I have no right to anything. I have no more right to a home than those in California or in Haiti. I have no more right to happiness than the student at my school who dreads the long weekend because home is not a respite. While Paul was imprisoned he said, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:13

Paul doesn’t say that when we give thanks we are instantly healed and we won’t feel our losses. But he says, “I have learned the secret…”  I believe it was a process for Paul, and it’s been a process for me. As I seek God and it is revealed to me the things for which I can be grateful, I rejoice in the God to whom I owe everything, even when I am sad for what I miss. My heart fills up with celebration of a God that loves me so much that joy overflows in my sadness. It is a peace that surpasses all understanding that God promises us in Philippians 4. It is unexplainable and attainable.

Our creator knows us. While a grateful heart brings us peace and joy, God understands that we have desires. If that were not so, he wouldn’t have instructed us to also make requests: Philippians 4:6 and 7: “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He didn’t ask us to replace requests with thanksgiving. He knows there are missing pieces in our lives. He doesn’t ask us to ignore them, but encourages us to acknowledge what we have, so we are not overwhelmed with what we don’t, and ultimately so we can recognize that it is from him that we receive all things.

So, on this Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for my gratitude.

And by the way, I don’t have cataracts. I just had two contacts in one eye. How ironic. My surgery when I was young was for double vision!

Love to my friends and family. I am so grateful for you,

Joni

 

Part 2 has been delayed because I don’t know what to say about this dog. Part 1 left me at the mercy of an imaginary judge who would put me in the slammer for considering giving this dog up. But maybe I could make an appeal and get a new judge who doesn’t own a Scout and has had some financial catastrophes and doesn’t have the luxury of extra money for dog expenses, or whose money is tight and just wants to go on a cool vacation some day.

Besides, a Part 2 isn’t going to round off this story. I don’t know why I even assigned a “part” to it. I gave you the backstory, so I guess I could fill you in on current day. But at this rate, there could be a hundred parts to this story. After all, Marley and Me was a whole book and then a movie! And I can tell you, this story has no R rated scenes. I remember taking our kids wondering how we ended up in a bedroom in a dog story. But again, they were married. No scenes like that in Winky’s (aka, Bullwinkle’s) story.

I still vacillate between my love for Winky and my commitment to him and if there is a difference and if there is, does it make a difference on how I will move forward with my ownership of him? Will I pay the $1000 for the teeth care that was recommended, or do I follow some people’s advice to let it go. “Dogs have survived without dental care for years!” But for years, we didn’t know that their teeth were cracked and their roots were exposed and that without the dental surgery they could be in pain. As I write this, he’s gnawing on a cow’s ear. In this moment, in spite of the x-rays, he’s not making a good case for himself.

I didn’t set him up this morning to prevent him from peeing on the living room floor while I was at work. It’s a typical scenario. He doesn’t have an accident for a few days. Granted, that’s when I’m in and out of the house throughout the day, or on a day when I’m monitoring him as if he might sneak into my safe and discover a few dollars I have in there.  So on a work morning when I’ve gotten off track and am running late, I get sloppy and forget his bad habits. I begin work at 6:45, so it’s easy to be sloppy if I’m not on my game. I don’t get him into the garage or put up a gate in a designated area. He has full run of the house and I think, “Oh, he’ll be fine. He doesn’t want the money in the safe.” I mean, “He’ll be fine, he’s got the whole outside to pee and poop. He’s got pee pads in the garage and in my bathroom. Surely he’ll use those options before he’ll go on the bamboo hardwood that I installed because he and Rocky had peed on the carpet so bad I had no choice but to replace it, if I ever wanted to invite a guest into my home again.

But surely, he does not use those options that are obvious to us humans. I walk in the door tonight and there’s pee and poop on the floor. At least he’s consistent. It’s right where he always does it, right under the green chair where the planks are beginning to lift (again). Bamboo is pretty, but it’s the softest and least expensive hardwood, thus the most susceptible to damage of a peeing dog, or an outdoor toddler pool, but I have the peeing dog.

In Part 1 I shared that this summer I discovered what a lame owner I have been. I have a million good reasons, but Winky (or my imaginary judge) doesn’t care about a one of them. About a week ago I went to a conference for work. My boss offered to watch Winky. I was relieved yet apprehensive. When I checked in to see how things were going, as a typical educator she said, “He definitely has some sensory processing issues. He reminds me of working with autistic kids who like to be snuggled in and are afraid of loud noises.” Ahhhhhh…. There was none of that description when I picked Winky up that winter day in deep rural Oregon. The emphasis was on his sweetness and that he had papers. Now I’m thinking, “Papers Smapers. Tell me about his sensory processing issues!” When my boss had offered to watch Winky she assured me she would be fine because their family had had dogs with anxiety issues. I decided to ask her the other day, to really get her assessment of Winky, coming from a caretaker of dogs with anxiety, how Winky ranked. She said, “Well, you definitely have a special dog.” I guess I knew that, but now an expert had affirmed it.

So maybe those reasons matter. They contribute to the quality of care I can give to Winky. The whole thing is frustrating. And it’s complicated because Winky is truly the sweetest thing, and when I’m snuggling with him I forget that I’m missing out on the delight of a dog in the normal sense of the experience. My delight in these moments is how soft his fur is, how big and brown his eyes are, and how much he needs and loves me.

I really have tried to work with him this summer. He went with me to the beach and to Lake Billy Chinook.

An almost normal moment.

There he joined about 6 other little dogs. My friend is a dog lover and she brings her little dog and invites her friends to bring theirs. I questioned her before I took that big leap, but she was sure it was worth a try, as in, “How complicated can a dog be?” My friend was right. It was worth the try, but that’s about all it was worth because I was on pins and needles doing my best to manage his emotions (I have no idea what they are) around the other dogs who lolly gagged innocently while Winky protected the space around himself.  It was there that I realized how much Winky had missed out on under my ownership. That must be worth something.

He never socializes with other dogs, so he’s super protective. He’d never been to a body of water that I know of (except for the beach he’d visited the weekend before), he’d never roamed free and been chased by a black lab (which was a result of roaming into the campsite next door), outside of being lost for 48 hours when he ran away, he’d never slept outside in the open. This time it was with me on a couch, looking at the stars, and listening to wildlife all around us (the next day I discovered there was a lizard family hanging out at the couch where I’d just slept. I moved indoors the next night). It was at least a couple of hours before he could calm down enough to sleep. At every noise he jerked his head and he’d hold his nose high, like he was sniffing the stars, but I think he was just sniffing life. It smelled so much different than the house he’s left in every day.

With the two summer excursions, I felt we were on a roll, so I began a concerted effort to walk him daily. But regardless of my persistence, he’s really gotten no better. He seems slightly more excited than he once was. When I call his name with leash in hand I think he does an extra somersault than he did before the summer exposures to the world. Then we walk outside, I with my bologna bait, and still, it’s a painful exercise as he runs out wagging his tail in a doggy skip, then screeches to a halt just past the driveway. Some days I can coax him down the sidewalk to the intersection about 100 feet away (I know feet distance now, thanks to my navigation maps), but some days I’m unsuccessful. As the summer fades into fall, works gets busier, I have more on my plate, and the days get shorter, so does my patience. Those days when he stops as if he’s got glue on his paws, we do an about face and return home, a few steps away. I wish he knew that I’d give anything to walk two miles with him.

Our Golden Retreiver Lucky was a perfect dog, except we couldn’t take him on walks. He’s probably the only Golden Retriever who had leash aggression. We believe he developed an extra protective territorial sense because of the invisible fence we installed in our front yard. This concept was affirmed by a dog trainer. The invisible fence shocked Lucky whenever he went to greet a neighbor walking by. Grrrrr. By the time we figured that out, it seemed too late to fix, or maybe too late for us anyway. Then there was Mindy. We got her from the humane society. She was a medium sized dog that looked like a German Shepherd/Collie mix.  Unless you were a small child, she was great. We learned everyone over about 3 feet was safe. The problem was that Mindy’s hazel eyes and soft pointy ears begged to be caressed and loved, and humans under three feet couldn’t pass up the opportunity. As a result, I walked on eggshells and had to apologize a couple of times to friends after Mindy snapped at their children in response to their cuddles. Finally, one day when some good acquaintances were helping us move and their under three foot son was along for the ride, she drew blood on his hand. In that moment I knew Mindy’s life with us had come to an end, and for a flash, I wondered if mine had too. Walking on eggshells I could do, coming up with money for a disfigured child, I could not. I was fortunate and not only were these good acquaintances giving of their time, they also forgave this dog who bit their child and drew blood.

Finding a home for Mindy was traumatizing to the kids and me. Our emotions were depleted each day as we faced the reality. But also from a practical sense. It is not easy to find a home for a dog who bites small children. Both humane societies in nearby counties wouldn’t take her, nor would the shelters I called. I recall a news story when an anchor woman responded to a dog that had been found in a kennel in the river. It was a tragic scene to the unknowing bystander. She said that there’s always someone who wants to take an animal. Depending on the circumstances, that may not be true and I felt for the unknown person who had just been slandered. I considered putting Mindy down because I didn’t know where to go or what to do. For awhile I considered living with a dog who bites children. A friend’s friend realized my desperation and stepped in and dug deep to find a resource that we could live with. Giving up a part of one’s family is grueling, regardless of the reason. I haven’t even shared the story of the two dogs pre-children, but I will stop with Mindy.

I sometimes feel I’ve gotten the short end of the dog deal, but then I wonder if our dogs think they got the short end of the human deal. It’s kind of like a twisted Marley and Me story, but I don’t live at the beach and I’m not drudging through this with a spouse, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll become an author.

I have no idea if a Part 3 will unfold. I remain at a standstill with Winky. I don’t know if I’ll keep him. There’s never a day when I feel good about letting him go, but there’s also rarely a day I feel like spending the time and money on him that he deserves. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pet his soft fur, he’ll sleep with me in my bed, he’ll continue to hang out in the yard with me while I do yardwork (or I’ll chase him into the yard to keep him from the traffic in the street),

Supervising my back yard work.

I’ll meet his big pleading eyes when he looks up at mine, and continue to tell him, I love you, Winky… and it’s a darn good thing you’re cute.

I think this was Winky’s first time, ever, at the beach!

I was at the beach for three days with this dog, Winky. I inherited him. And it wasn’t the kind of inherited like, “Oh boy, I get the house, the car, and the dog!” He was just part of my family package at some point. Yet, I am solely responsible for acquiring him. We got Winky from a woman in deep rural Oregon about 3 hours from home. When we set out that day right after school, about five years ago, I’d anticipated that we’d be there and back within a couple of hours. This was one of those experiences where I had detached myself from a project, giving Bridgette almost full responsibility to manage the finding of a second dog to keep Rocky, our other long haired miniature dachshund, company. As I geared up to work full time once Bridgette left for college, we all felt an obligation to find a companion for Rocky. No longer would there be one of us coming and going throughout the day. Bradley would be at school and football and I’d be at work. Bridgette did the research, but I had veto power, which I had employed on several candidates. Somehow I neglected a couple of key criteria in the process. One was: let me see the address before I agree to this dog. As a senior in high school, Bridgette didn’t have a firm grasp on Oregon geography, and her idea of our destination was off by a couple of hours. 

The further from home we travelled, my nerves tightened. We had to be home for a 7pm basketball game that Bridgette was committed to and Bradley was also expecting me. My phone battery was dying and my gas tank had me sending up prayers. By the time we arrived at the destination, I calculated about 10 minutes to pick up a new dog and gather all the details. I felt like I was picking up my layaway order from JC Penney.

The dog’s owner sat with Winky on her lap, although when we met him, his name was Lincoln. She assures us we’re getting a great dog, “Even though he lived in a cage in Texas for the first year of his life, exclusively for breeding, he’s really a sweet boy.” This was not a criteria I had considered. I tried to process this information as I considered the amount of time I had just invested to find Winky’s location. I glanced around the home, mindful of the impression I’d had when we’d arrived, working hard to remain neutral and clear headed. When it comes to animals, is that even possible?

If you know me at all, I am sometimes mistaken to be an interrogator. It’s a total misperception of my intentions. I love details and the ins and outs of a story. You can call the characters A and B, and I’m still curious. It took great restraint not to settle into my natural tendencies and ask things like: How did you get him here? How did you find him? How much did he cost? Why did you go to Texas to get a dog? Do you know his parents? Did you have relatives who live in Texas? Does he have an accent? Do you like the Cowboys?

I’m also practical, plus my nerves were on edge, so I proceeded: “So, Lincoln came from Texas?” I said. “How long have you had him?”

“Oh, about a year. I bred him too, but I didn’t keep him in a cage. No way. Now I can’t breed him because of his hair loss issue, but he’s AKC registered. Full long haired miniature dachshund. I have the papers.” My stomach was indicating I was under duress.

Uninterested in papers, I said, “Can we return Lincoln if things don’t work out?” The layaway concept must have been in the recesses of my mind. I don’t know what I was saying. It was unlikely I would return him. The trek alone was an obstacle. I tried not to judge this home, but already I was torn between wanting to get out and save myself from a huge mistake, and rescuing the sweet thing whose eyes I thought were pleading. I thought I heard him whisper, “Take me, please.” The owner replied, “Oh, absolutely, but you’re going to love Lincoln. He never leaves my lap.” I believed her.

On the way home Bridgette and I discussed changing his name… We wanted to free him of his past and distract him from his hair loss issue, whatever that was. It was my friend who named him really. Lincoln became Winky, short for Bullwinkle, to complement Rocky, and they really were a team.

Things have never been easy with Winky, although he was the perfect friend I’d intended for Rocky.

Right away Winky demonstrated anxiety. I brought a woman in who was recommended for some advice. Then about two weeks after we got Winky, he escaped for two days. He hid from everyone, including me, and it was Rocky, with some stealth help from my friend, who lured Winky from the underbrush of his hiding place a couple miles from our home. Winky grew on us and his deficits were overlooked. I had other things to worry about and Rocky was there to help me take care of this strange little guy.

About 2 years ago our beloved Rocky died, or rather, we put him to sleep. It was devastating for us all. He suddenly acquired a back issue that debilitated him. Surgery was a gamble, and gambling is really hard for me. It was our second time having to put a dog to sleep, and I can tell you that the second time was as hard as the first. The first time was with our Golden Retriever, Lucky. By the time his cancer was diagnosed, both vets he’d seen told me it was the end. He’d originally been diagnosed with arthritis so for months we’d been treating that and not the cancer. We had a couple of days to hold him tight before he was put to rest. In both cases I made an appointment to have this done in our home. The clock ticked too fast in the morning, and as the set appointment neared, we watched the second hand and willed time to stop while we stroked our doggies, our heads on each other, our hearts loud in our ears, complete silence except for the sound of emotions we gulped back, and then the door bell that no one wanted to answer.

Rocky was the reason for Winky, and now the reason was gone. He was no longer Rocky’s. Both kids were living away from home, so I had just inherited him. He was mine. I hated the thought then, and I still do, knowing he’s left alone often for 10 hours at a time, and some days more.

His sweetness shines through when I have to remove him from my bed in the morning. Rocky would try to bite me, so I would put on my Ove Gloves. Winky would never consider biting me.

As a result, he sleeps with me, which is my make-up call for leaving him alone, in the garage with just a radio on to keep him company. Sure, during these super hot days, he gets to stay in the house, but I remind him that this is temporary during the hot spell.

This wasn’t the plan. The trip to Cannon Beach illustrated how isolated Winky is, and how lame an owner I’ve been. To top it off, I’m not sure I love him. Yet in a court of law, evidence might prove differently.

The prosecution would ask, “Joni, are you telling me you don’t love this dog?”

The defense: “I object: Instead, ask Joni if she’s committed to the dog. There is a difference.”

Prosecution: Semantics! Love – committed. If she’s committed, she must love him!”

Defense: “Just because Joni searched high and low for that dog when he ran away, and she took her sleeping bag to the site where the dog was and prepared to sleep overnight until he came to her, does not mean she loves this dog. This was for the dog’s sake, not hers.”

I’d be looking at my defense attorney nodding, “Yes! You’ve got it right! I’m just committed. I don’t love him!  Well, I don’t mean to love him. He’s furry and cute and sweet. But he’s attention seeking and awkward, and he has a lot of baggage. He doesn’t like most men, I can’t hang with him and other dogs easily, he’s reluctant to come to me when I arrive home from work, he still pees in the house if I haven’t tactically coordinated the bathroom strategies I’ve put into place, I can’t take him on a walk because he stops every few feet, he shakes on a leash when he hears strange noises, he costs a lot of money, and he’s not socialized. He’s a disaster. How could I love him?”

The judge is now calling a recess. I over hear him on the phone telling his wife to give Scout a kiss for him and asks if she’s picked up the beef bones from the butcher he’d reserved. His face looks red and puffy and wet when he looks up. I’m toast.

I know in my heart that this dog could learn new tricks, if I put time into him. But here’s the thing. I don’t want to!  I don’t want this project. I don’t want it to replace my writing efforts, my ministry efforts, my yard work, my professional skills building, like practicing Excel, or my time with God or reading or time with friends. I’m at a loss. I think the prosecution is going to win and I think I know the judge’s verdict.

To be continued…