This is my first attempt at reblogging . . . a word my computer wants to change to “reflagging” . . . but this quote is spot on today and I wanted to share.
When 24-year-old Evie answers an online ad to become a dog trainer, she doesn’t know exactly why. She’s never had a pet and has little experience with dogs. But before she even clicks on the ad, “suddenly I felt that I stood in the doorway of a crowded, noisy room, picking up the sound of a whisper no one else seemed to hear.”
That is key to The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney (Mariner Books, 2014) — learning how to listen in a new way.
The training program is at a mountaintop sanctuary for stray and rescued dogs, and Evie is the lone trainee. There are no classes. There are no instructors. There are only stern innkeeper Mrs. Auberchon, Giant George (a young man with no apparent history or actual age), the older women who run the sanctuary, and a handful of dogs who — accompanied by mysteriously placed case history notes — introduce themselves to Evie, one by one.
Hank is a Lab/pit bull mix left anonymously at a shelter, deemed unadoptable due to aggression. Josie, a small white dog, lived in the lap of luxury until the new baby came along. Her hearing loss was determined to be the result of a recent blow, or several. Tasha is pure Rottweiler; before arriving at the Sanctuary, she was pushed out of a car at a stop sign, adopted twice and returned both times, and barely escaped being adopted by dogfighters.
The dogs, of course, aren’t the only ones with troubled pasts. Evie knows she requires just as much training and re-socializing as her canine charges. Mrs. Auberchon is a lone wolf and determined to remain so. What they have in common is an uncanny knack for communicating with the dogs. Evie “messages” them. Mrs. Auberchon reads to them.
Some aspects of the novel were puzzling. It’s hard to believe such an unstructured dog training program could exist for very long. The sanctuary staffers barely communicate with Evie and show little warmth or welcome. The canine characters, however, were very genuine, as dogs tend to be.
This story is a reminder that there are no bad dogs, as Barbara Woodhouse famously said in her 1982 book. There are dogs with severe limitations, and sadly, we humans are sometimes ill equipped to respond. My rescue dog, a German shepherd-golden retriever-collie mix, joined the household at about two years old, which in dog years is plenty of time to develop life-altering fears and bad habits. Like pulling at the leash and lunging at other dogs, sometimes injuring the human holding the leash who is trying to restrain her or, at the very least, hold on. Or launching herself toward moving bicycles because they frighten her so badly that attacking them seems to be her only option. After three training classes, there is improvement, but unfortunately not enough for walking her to be safe. However, she has a home, and who knows what learning opportunities may unfold?
Finding peace with doing what we can do for abandoned and abused animals, even when that seems woefully inadequate, is humbling. It reminds us to not give up on ourselves. After studying dog breeds and dog training and reading countless case histories, she writes a case note for herself in the form of a haiku:
Came in as a stray.
Is not completely hopeless.
Please allow to stay.
This is the Indianapolis Star building, which until a few weeks ago stood at 307 N. Pennsylvania St. The newspaper called it home for some 100 years before moving to what used to be a department store at Circle Centre mall downtown. For a relative snippet of time, I called it home, too.
My dad, Tom Crowe, worked there from 1960 to 1990, as an ad salesman, advertising director, and finally as vice president and general manager. Long before Take Our Daughters to Work Day was a thing, Dad was taking me with him to “the plant” with the rich, sharp smell of newsprint and ink and the inky footprints in the first-floor hallway. I peered over the desks of God knows how many poor souls trying to get their work done as I followed Dad around the building. He almost always whistled. The place reminded me of a Chutes and Ladders game, with ramps, steps, and corridors going off every which way. That’s what happens when you morph two or three old buildings into one.
The mailroom was the best, because you could watch and hear the presses running. The stories the people on the second floor had written — wrapped around the ads the people on the third floor had sold — were all coming out on those big sheets of paper rattling through the machinery. The finished, folded papers that came out on the conveyor belt would then go into homes all over the city. People read the paper. They talked about what was in it. Printed words mattered.
Many drawings and homework assignments were completed at the small conference table in the office Dad moved into after being promoted to general manager. It was off the New York Street entrance — just out of the frame in this photo. There were no windows, and while the daylight addict in me hated that, I never felt anxious or claustrophobic in there. Decades later, during an energy healing session, I was asked to picture myself in a place where I felt absolutely safe and at home. I went not to a beach, shady grove, or cozy fireside, but to Dad’s office, puzzling through social studies or perhaps just reading the comics in that day’s paper while he worked.
We were a large, often dysfunctional extended family. Charlie Simmons, one of Dad’s coworkers in the advertising department, sat with Mom and me through several of Dad’s heart surgeries. Other employees confided in Dad about their battles with depression or alcoholism, or their confusion over decisions their own children had made. We went to one another’s weddings and funerals, watched the fireworks together at the Fourth Estate employee park every Fourth of July, and knew at least something about what was going on in one another’s lives.
When I went to work in the business office during the summer as a college student, Don Bates in personnel — a sideline photographer who had taken my baby pictures — took the photo for my ID badge. “No bearskin rug this time,” he said, grinning as he clicked the shutter.
I could not have asked for a more educational, and fun, introduction to the working world. Wednesdays in the cashiers’ office were hectic, as all the circulation district managers brought in their checks, cash, and money orders. Frazzled after totaling everything up and balancing on one such day, we got into a rubber band fight. Without even trying, I managed to loop one over a sprinkler head. About 15 years later, when I stopped by for a visit, I happened to look up and that same rubber band still hung there.
At the News during another break, I got to practice the copyediting and headline writing skills that would become a large part of my career. Bo Connor at the Star helped me get my first full-time journalism job at The Republic in Columbus, Ind.
Dad passed away in 1994, just four years after retiring. The first phone calls I received that day — after Mom, telling me the news — came from 307 N. Penn.
A few years later, the News closed down. Then the Star was sold to Gannett. Then came the move to Circle Centre and the sale of the building. Then came the demolition.
Nothing stays the same, and really, nothing should. Not all change is for the better, and often more change is needed because of it. If we are smart, we learn. Dad, who kept a brick from the old Detroit Times building in his office, would be the first to tell me it’s OK to let go of what was and make room for what will be.
What can we pull from the past and retrofit to work for us now? That’s a question we in print media are going to have to figure out. Most days, I think it comes down to caring about what we do and why, and caring for one another in the process. That’s probably a gross oversimplification, but it’s a place to start.
In the meantime, after we make our next deadline, I just may fire off another rubber band.