Animal lovers, tune in to the latest episode of The Story of My Pet podcast to hear from our special guest, Amanda Sue Creasey! Amanda is a speculative fiction author, high school English teacher, outdoor writer, and dog-walking enthusiast, who has lived with animals since she was born. Hear about her journey, from the pug Bundle to her two rescue dogs, Nacho and Soda, and the heartwarming story of how they found her.
To learn more about Amanda, check out her website and Instagram account links below.
The organization we discussed during this episode was Richmond SPCA in Richmond, VA. Learn more about them at the links below.
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The Story of My Pet Podcast
Episode 27: The many adventures of rescue dogs.
Host: Julie Marty-Pearson
Guest: Amanda Sue Creasey
Hello. Hello, my friends and fellow animal lovers. Welcome to another episode of the story of my pet podcast. I'm your host, as always, Julie Marty Pearson. And I'm happy to welcome another new guest, amanda Creasey.
I just realized and asked how to say your name. Well, you got it right. Okay, good. Hi, Amanda. Thank you for being here.
Thank you for having me. I've been looking forward to this. Yes, me too. Okay, so I'm going to tell you a little bit more about Amanda. She is married with dogs.
I love that she's been compelled to write since she could hold a pencil. That's amazing. And she has something like 40 completed journals and diaries. That's amazing. You are a speculative fiction author, and her debut novel is coming out next year in 2023.
She's also a high school English teacher and the outdoor writer for Cooperative Living magazine. That sounds exciting. She has undergraduate degrees in German and English and secondary education, allowing her to be a teacher from Michigan State University and a graduate degree in creative writing. That's amazing. She's had work up here in three of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
That's great. I love those books. Me too. So when she isn't writing, she's hiking, walking, and stand up paddle boarding with her dogs. I can't wait to hear how you do that, because I see that and I think, how in the world do you dogs, too?
I would love to talk about that. Yes. So she's a member of several writing and poetry societies, and she currently resides in Chester, Virginia with her husband and two rescue dogs, nacho and Soda. Those are amazing names. Chihuahua terrier.
Litter mates who rule the house. Yeah, chihuahua terriers. I can imagine them ruling the house. We are the bosses. They are the bosses.
Hello again, Amanda. Thank you for being here. I can't wait to hear all the different things. But let's start with your love of animals. Did you grow up with animals?
How did that get started? I did. My parents actually had a pug named Bundle before I was even born. So I have had animals since the day I got here, basically. Bundle was a very good dog.
He was good with me and my three siblings. We were very upset when he passed away, which happened when I was in, like, middle elementary school, maybe fourth grade when he passed away. We had some other animals as well. We had some horses, and throughout my elementary years, we had a total of six horses that came and went over the years. Then we had a couple of barn cats, and we actually kept goldfish in the horse troughs, the water trough, because the goldfish helps keep the water clean.
That's cool. I've never heard that before. Yeah. And every once in a while, you have to dump the trough and completely clean the water. And so we'd dump the trough and we'd be scrambling around, picking up the goldfish and putting them in a bowl, and then they'd go back in the trough after the troughs were cleaned and refilled.
That's amazing. Did you guys live did you have land where your horses living with you or were they at a stable nearby? So at that time we were living in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and first we did not have land. We boarded them a couple of different places. But ultimately, actually, right before Bundle passed away, my parents bought six acres and built a house on it.
And then the horses were able to be with us on our property. That's amazing. I've heard that Cheyenne is just beautiful. Yes. I haven't been back now for, let's see, we went back for our honeymoon in 2007, so I haven't been back now in quite some time, but I went back a few times as a kid after we moved away, and it was beautiful.
It's beautiful, yeah. So then after childhood, when did you start getting pets of your own as an adult? So while I was in college, we had some cats, and then when I was on my own, when I met my husband, he had a beagle whose name was Sadie, and she was about six months old when we started dating, and she was terrified of everyone, including me. And I remember the first time I went over to my husband's house, actually, after our first date, she was so scared. I thought, oh, no, this guy is not going to like me anymore because his dog doesn't like me.
And I've never had an animal not like me before. So I was like, what is wrong? But she and I ended up forming quite a bond. And then after my husband and I got married, we had just Sadie for about a year. And then during my second year teaching, my husband went up to New York to visit his brother who was living there at the time, and our sister in law, who is actually also our vet now, she had worked at a vet's office up there, and they had brought in this, like, malnourished, sickly but adorable whippet that had been found running around in the woods.
And the law there, at least at the time, was that when the dog catcher caught an animal that wasn't fixed, they would have to bring it to whatever best office was available, get the surgery done, and then they could take it into the shelter. They actually brought Jack in just to get him fixed. And my sister in law, I was like, I can't give him back to you, I'll find him a home. And when my husband went up there, he just fell in love with Jack. So he came back from New York with a second dog and then we had that's amazing.
So what are whippets like? That's not a dog I hear a lot of time. What kind of personality does Jack have? Yeah. Jack and Sandy both actually passed away in 2019.
And that was really hard. It's hard. Your first pet as an adult that you have to say goodbye to is much different thing than saying goodbye to a pet when it's your parents choice, I think. Absolutely. Yeah.
So that was hard. But he was just the goofiest dog. He was extremely intelligent. And we did a whole bunch of training courses together. We did agility classes together.
We did. AKC canine. Good citizen classes together. Oh, yeah. We walked a lot.
Jack and Sadie were very high energy, so we would walk typically roughly three or 4 miles per day in addition to the training and the agility. One of the cutest and most unique things about Jack is that it's called the submissive grin. It's like a smile that they do. And we tried to teach him to do it on command, but he never would. He only did it when he was happy or when he was being mischievous.
He would get a little smirk, actually. I know the listeners won't be able to see this, but that's really cute. Like, it is a full on and he was missing a tooth, so it was like a pirate smile. How cute. What a cutie.
Wow. So losing them both in the same year, that must have been really hard. It was incredibly hard. And it was actually. Sadie passed away almost two months to the day from Jack.
He passed away April 16, 2019. And then she followed him on June 15 of 2019. And it was very hard. I've heard a lot of your guests talk about this as well. I still cry about it sometimes.
It's never something that totally goes away, but I still very much feel like they are here, if not in the physical form. And my husband and I both say we feel like Jack and Sadie gave us the Little, which are our current dogs, because everything there just fell into place miraculously. And they just it seemed like even as puppies, we adopted them when they were about six months old. They just knew everything that Jack and Sadie knew. And there was so little effort involved.
It was incredible. That's amazing. I love hearing stories like that because so many times I think our animals find us. But I do believe what you're saying is sometimes the animals we've lost help us find the animals that are next, that we need, that need us, whatever it is. Yeah.
And the Littles have been perfect for us. And it's funny because they're tiny, hence the nickname. I mean, not to weigh like, £10 and Soda weighs like, £8. And they do all the same adventures that Jack and Sadie did with me, and they're excited about it and I didn't have to teach them how to do any of it. Well.
Every day they amaze me and, like, I just can't believe that these are our dogs. And that they just came to us this way, and it was like they came fully assembled, batteries included, ready to roll. That's amazing. That does not happen often, especially dogs. No.
And people will say, like, how did you teach them to do that? And I'm like, you know what? I didn't like, I'd love to take the credit, but I didn't teach them to do this. They just, like, did it. Yeah.
That's so amazing. So how did Nacho and Soda come into your life? So when Jack and Sadie were with us, I volunteered at a local animal shelter called Richmond Animal League. And I kind of did it in their honor because Jack was the first rescue dog we had had. And I was so in love with Jack, and it just made me realize that there were so many dogs and cats in shelters that could be someone's jack and I wanted to make those dogs lives as comfortable and loving as possible while they were in the shelter looking for their families.
So I volunteered there, and after about five years, it just became a lot, and it was a long drive to get there, and so I stopped volunteering there and just kind of invested all my energy into Jack and Sadie. Well, when Jack passed away and we didn't know Sadie would follow him as quickly as she did, but we knew that her time would not be far off. She was 14. She had cancer. And so we said, you know what?
We need to start volunteering somewhere again. And Jack and I had done all of our agility courses at the Richmond SPCA, so I said, let's volunteer at the SPCA. I'll feel like that's honoring Jack because it gave us so much and enriched our bond so much. So we went to our orientation there. And this was May actually, I think it was like May 21.
I remember that. And they take you on a tour of the entire facility when you're volunteering there because you could be working in any corner of the facility, wherever they need you. So one room that we saw was the room where dogs were kept prior to being available for adoption. Maybe they had heartworms, maybe they had just been fixed, maybe whatever different things, they couldn't be they weren't available to the public yet. And Soda was in a little corner kennel, and we had stopped at her kennel because the tour guide was kind of telling us some things.
And she was teeny tiny then. I bet she weighed four and a half pounds. And she looked at us and made eye contact with both of us. And she still does this thing with her head that's like it's like she's beckoning you. She kind of goes, Come here, come here.
And she kept doing that to us. Neither of us knew the other one saw it. And we were both kind of, like, trying not to see her, like, we didn't feel like we were in a position. So we walked around the corner. She followed, and she kept doing that, and that was that.
There was a dog in the kennel next to her who I noticed that was out, like he was drugged from some surgery. And I couldn't see his head. I could only see his body, and I had noticed him for whatever reason. And we went home to Sadie and didn't talk about it, really. And then about three weeks later, my husband said, have you thought any more about that little brown dog?
And I was like, oh, my God, I think about that dog every day. Every day I think about that dog. And he was like, well, maybe we should, like, inquire about her, because we learned at our orientation that you got first pick of animals if you volunteered there. So I was like, okay, I'll email. I'll ask what her temperament is, like, if she'd be good with Sadie, because this is Sadie's house first type of thing.
I emailed and inquired, and they responded back like, well, Soda has a couple other potential adopters already in line for her, so we'll keep you on the list, but just know that she's probably already spoken for. And we were like, okay, that's that. Well, Sadie passed away on June 15, and something like that was a Saturday, and I think the next Tuesday. So, like, three or four days later, the shelter called and said, soda is available for adoption, and you are next in line to meet her. Do you want to meet her?
And I was really conflicted because I did, of course, want to meet her. But we had just lost both our dogs a couple of days before that, and I felt a little bit like I would be betraying Jack and Sadie by getting a new dog so soon. Because my husband and I had even discussed the potential of maybe not getting dogs again for a while, maybe just fostering, because it's been so hard to lose them. Could we handle that again and whatnot? So I told my husband, I said, the shelter says we can meet Soda.
What do you think we should do? And he says, I think we should do it. So made an appointment for that Friday. And my house at that point was petless, which it had never been. And that was really it was really sad.
Like, it was really hard for me to come home, and there was no one there to greet me, and there was no one to walk, and there was no one to feed. And it was like, what am I doing with my life? What do I do now? It was so desolate.
It becomes such a part of our routine that it's like, you realize how much time you spend with them, but also how much of your life is oriented to brown the things you get to do with them. Yes, so much. And everything I did just felt less fulfilling without them there. And so that morning, that Friday morning we were going to meet her. That evening I was still feeling like, is this the right thing?
Am I ready? I'm certainly not healed. And so I took a walk. My dogs are here actually, so I need to spell this. I took a K that morning and I walked the same route that had Mercedes last walk.
So the day that we put her down, we took her on one final walk. So I went for that walk and about halfway around that particular loop, I was thinking about Jack and Sadie, thinking about Soda. And I looked down and there was a sock at my feet. And I had been finding socks ever since Jack passed away. And Jack used to steal my socks from me and I'd have to go find them in the yard or find them in the driveway or find them in wherever he had deposited them.
And so every time I found a sock after that, I was like, this is Jack. He's like dropping this off. He's telling me he's here and he's good. And so between on her route to find that stock and then I looked up and saw blue heron, which for a whole nother reason is meaningful to me. I thought, okay, this is Jack and Sadie telling me, giving me permission, like, yes, go meet this dog.
You have our blessing. So we went and met Soda and of course she was adorable. And Tommy, who is still the adoption counselor at the shelter, I don't know, maybe he's been promoted. But he still works at a shelter, right? He said she has a brother, do you want to meet him too?
And I knew immediately that it was the other dog I had seen. It had to be, I just knew it was. And we said, yeah, sure. And when Tommy left to go get her brother, I said to my husband, I said, I know the dog this is going to be. And they brought in Nacho, who at the time was named Scotch.
And we had to change one of their names. We didn't want people to think we were luscious. When he brought Nacho in, the reaction the two had to each other was so just so excited and relieved that they were back together. That we were like, oh yes, we will take them both. There's no question.
There's no consideration here. And they let us take them on a sleepover, sort of like a doggy test drive. But of course it was pretty clear pretty early that they were not coming back to the shelter. And the next morning we got up and went and signed all the paperwork and they've been with us ever since. That's amazing.
So they are from the same litter? They are. So they were actually brought we haven't done any DNA testing. But to the best of our knowledge and the shelter's knowledge, they are they were owner surrenders at a county shelter in Isle of White, which is a country county between here and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Okay, so they were brought into the county shelter and then they were transferred to the Richmond SPCA, which is a NoKill shelter.
And then we saw them at the SPCA and the owner that surrendered them had provided information to the county shelter that they were litter mates and that the owner could no longer take care of them because the owner was having health issues. And that's really all we know of the story. Right? And sometimes that's all there is. Sometimes they know even less, especially if they're found out on their own somewhere.
But I love it when I hear littermates get to stay together because that doesn't always happen because you want adopters no matter what. But littermates often have such an important bond. And I love it when dogs, cats, whatever it is, gets to be adopted in pairs because they always have each other. Yes. And you know, we had Sadie on her own for close to two years.
And after we got Jack, we said we can never just have one dog again. It just always needs to be two. Because we saw how much confidence Sadie gained by having Jack around and how much she came out of her shell with him. And then of course, the littles like, they are never apart. The only time they've been apart is when they had their surgery at the shelter.
They were separated because she kept trying to clean his wounds. Yes, I mean, they are she grooms them every day, but they are two peas in a pod. They complement each other very well. That's amazing. So how quickly did you guys start taking them on adventures with you?
Pretty much immediately. We travel a lot and I do a lot of hiking and paddleboarding and walking. We have a lot of kids in the family, so we kind of just threw them into our lives. I mean, like the day after we adopted them, we were having a bonfire in the backyard, so like a bazillion people came over, so they were part of that. And it was summer break, so I was going on a lot of road trips to visit family in Florida and Michigan and friends in Pennsylvania.
And they went on all those trips. And because it was summer, we immediately were paddle boarding and they just they just hit the ground running, didn't miss a beat. That's so amazing. They were ready to go. They were ready for their new life.
They were. That August, we took them back to the SPCA for like basic puppy training. Just to learn, like sit, stay, the basics. And yes, they were just, like I said, fully assembled, batteries included. That's great.
So you adopted them in 2019? Yeah, june of 2019. It was the summer solstice. Oh, how funny. I know someone else that adopted a dog right the day before that.
And they did the same thing. They didn't listen to the rescue, they just brought her right into the life. And she was like, OK, let's go. Yes. I mean, it helped too, that they were puppies, because what else?
And their lives have been so tumultuous. Like this owner, that shelter, this shelter. It was like there was consistency, at least. Same house every night, same humans every day, except for when we were traveling, but at least then it was the same humans. And yeah, I had even said before we adopted them, like, I will never have puppies.
I don't want to potty train. I'll always adopt like a mature dog, but and even potty training with them, and they're little dogs, I think they had maybe two accidents before they pretty much had it figured out. That's great. They were like, okay, we're here, we're ready, let's do this. Yeah, let's roll.
And I'm sure them having each other made the transition easier too. Even though they were starting a regular, they were never alone after that because they were with you guys are with each other. So that's amazing. Yes. I would say the only difficulty they had was crate training.
And it's interesting that you mentioned them being together because I had always read and heard that cocreating was a bad idea. So we created them separately, but they were like, right next to each other. They could see each other, they could even like, nestle up beside each other with the little bars in between and that we have a doggie cam and we would check it and they would just be screaming and crying and howling and putting their paws through the bars at each other. Oh, my God, melodramatic so sad. And so my husband was like, I really think we need to cocreate them.
And he like, took a crate that opened on the side and a crate that opened on the front and he put them together in like an L shape and he just zip tied the one door open. So there's one way in and one way out. But they can each be in their own bed, in their own crate, or they can go in between the crates and snuggle together if they want. And as soon as he did that, problem, problem solved. Like, they just wanted to be together, you know?
And I think some animals just want that constant touch. They want to feel them, especially if they've been in the litter. I know that the two kittens, the two cats I currently have were both lone kittens, so they don't really cuddle with each other. Yeah, they're also very picky about when they want to cuddle with us. I need my space.
I've always had my face. Yeah. And so sometimes, you know how being in a litter or not or all of those things can affect it. But then also, I've also found that another cat I had, that what we found solo, he was my lap cat. If I was sitting down, he was on me.
He didn't care if I had a book or a laptop or anything, he was on me. And so, you know, I think that just goes to show you animals have their own unique personality and their own needs and wants, and they're going to live their best life when you guys pay attention to that and give them what they need, right? And speaking of that, we actually don't create them anymore unless we're traveling somewhere unfamiliar. And it was because they started telling us that they didn't need it anymore. We initially created them because like natural chewed cords and we were terrified that we'd be gone.
Like he'd electrocute himself or something. And just they were so little they could get stuck behind furniture. And so we were creating them for safety reasons. And after six months to a year, when it was time to put them in their crate to go to work or something, they would start just rolling over on our bed like, no, no, you can leave us here now. And so we tried it a couple of times and yes, they were right.
They were ready. They're perfectly fine. That's amazing. So you guys travel with them a lot? Do they love meeting new people?
Typically they're scared at first. We worked really hard to socialize them, and then they were really young when COVID hit because we adopted them mid 2019 and then early 2020. And so it depends on the person. It's really funny. Some people, they love right away.
Some people, they're scared of it first. Some people, they're scared for a little bit and then they're like, oh, actually you're fine. So it's unpredictable. Strange. Children they don't typically enjoy, that really scares them.
They will bark and then they will run away and hide. But the children, they know they love. A lot of times when we travel, we are traveling to see people we know. At this point, most of the people, the Littles, know them and they're like really excited when they get here. They're like, yeah, we get to go to auntie's house, or whatever it is.
Exactly. But of course, people always do want to approach them because they're so tiny and cute, right? They're like, oh, pet you. Yes, of course. And it's usually the little kids because they're small dogs and small humans.
And I'm like, I always have to be like, you can try, but you know, they're probably going to be scared. Sit down, just sit down and hold me out and the whole thing. But that's great. Excuse me. So as a writer, do you write about your animals at all?
Or you're writing kind of separate? I do. I write things, of course that aren't about them. But a lot of things I write are about them. Actually, when Jack jack and Sadie were still with us, a piece about them was one of the pieces that made it into a Chicken Soup for the Soul book.
And before they passed, I scheduled several book signings and readings as fundraisers for the Richmond SPCA, richmond Animal League, and some other organizations. And so Jack passed away on April 16, and the first reading was April 26 at the SPCA. So that was an incredibly emotional event. It was my first ever book signing, my first ever reading. It was about Jack, and he had only passed a week and a half prior, and it was at the place where we had done so much training.
So that was beautiful. But that was very hard. But I felt like I did it because it was a way to honor him. And then we raised some money for the shelter that way, so I felt like I was giving back in honor of him. Sadie came to that reading and stood up with me when I read, and that was precious.
Yes. That's amazing. Yeah. So then another story of theirs, actually the story of Jack leaving me socks, made it into a Chicken Soup book after they had both passed. And so that was really important to me, too.
And I had some readings for that one. I don't think I've gotten through any of the readings of either of those stories without crying at some point when I'm trying to read it, because it just all comes back. But I do. My uncle and I wrote a song, actually, about Sadie and Jack after they passed, and I've written several poems about them. And even in the manuscript that is due to hopefully be born and book form next year, my dogs are not in it, but there is a dog that features in it pretty prominently.
That's great. I'm sure that that helped, even though it was difficult. I'm sure all of that helps you processing the grief and being able to share their stories and feel like they're still alive through the stories that you're telling. Yes, definitely. And actually gosh, a year after they passed, I was still really struggling.
The cancer experience was so traumatic in so many ways. I was listening to your episode with Her Name is Going to Escape me. But her cats were Marlin and Brody and Shelley Williams. Yes. And her two episodes really, like, really touched me because everything she said was just so true to the experience that I had had as well.
But, you know, the little perfectly healthy puppies, and every time anything happened, my immediate neurological response was like, oh, my God, they're dying. Everything felt like an emergency. And so actually, after about a year of that, my best friend and my husband said, you need to get some help. This is not healthy. So I got in with a therapist and.
I only scored a few points away from PTSD on the scale, so I wasn't officially diagnosed with that. But that was a struggle. What they actually ended up saying was I was dealing with traumatic grief that they came up with. And what was funny was all the homework assignments a lot, and I shouldn't say all, but many of the homework assignments that the therapist gave me, I would be like, Well, I did that already. I should be like, I want you to write a letter to them.
And I'd be like, I did that already. I want you to write about the grief. I'm like she's like, I want you to write from the day it happened until it ended. I'm like, I did that already. It's published.
Like, you can go over. I'd already done just naturally, I'd already done all the things that you are always told to do to heal. I just needed some other coping mechanisms to realize that everything was fine. Right? Yeah.
You had processed losing them. But it sounds the grief of going through the medical experience and treatment and all of that was what was really traumatic for you. And it's totally understandable when you lose a pet, in whatever way it is, that experience shapes you and how you're going to be with other pets, current, future, whatever it is. And I know personally, my Jack, he was my first adult pet, my first cat, and he had had kidney disease. He had been on special diet.
He'd done all the things. So I knew the anticipatory grief was there. But then one morning I woke up and he had had a blood clot moved from his lungs to his head, and I had never experienced anything like that. So that aspect of it was very traumatic for me. And I know I have to work through that, so I am overreactive.
Like, why are you coughing? Why are you doing that? Why do you look like that? Yes. So I think that's an important thing for people to hear, whether it's a human you're taking care of or a pet, aspects of caregiving and medical treatment and all of those things can really impact your reactions and experiences moving forward.
And so I think it's great that you were able to get support for that and be able to work through that aspect. So you weren't transferring that trauma onto your new baby. Right? Because that's exactly what I was doing. And everyone but me could see it.
The grief I was in a healthy place with, I think I coped with the grief alone in a healthy way. It was the after effects of dealing with the medical experience and the sort of dying process that was really difficult. Yeah. So did both of them have cancer? Yes.
Wow. Yeah. Different. Totally different forms of cancer. Jack's was a prostate cancer, which is very rare in a fixed male dog.
That's what happened. And Sadie's I don't even know what it was called, but she had a tumor that was visible and it burst. Okay. Yeah. That's so hard.
And no matter what it is, but even more so when it's something as traumatic as cancer, it's so hard to deal with it because they can't tell us. Right. It's something I was talking about. I was reading a post. Someone has been struggling with knowing when it's the right time to have them cross the rainbow bridge, be put to sleep, because you can't ask them those questions.
And a lot of times I refer back to my own experience with people like my dad. He had always told us he didn't want to be in a place, he wanted to be at home, he didn't want to be hooked up, all those things. So he had told us well before, so we knew when it was happening, what he wanted. While animals can never tell us that, they can never say, hey, someday I don't want this, I do want that. And so we can really beat ourselves up about that process because we don't know.
But in the end, there is no right. It's whatever feels right for you. Yeah. And it's hard. It's really hard, because you do question yourself, was it the right time?
What if I could have had another month or another year? But I think a big consideration people should consider for themselves and their pet is quality of life. It's not all about the time. Jack was going to have to have Catheters put in for the rest of his life, probably daily. And then that was a terribly uncomfortable, painful experience for him.
Sadie once that tumor burst, it was just going to be an open wound indefinitely. Right. And so those things, it was hard because we were lucky. Jack and Sadie were very active and very healthy until the last day or so of their time. And so at that time, I was like, this is so sad.
They have so much life left. They can still walk 4 miles. This is awful. It's only this one ailment, but that's the lucky you can be. There was no long term suffering.
There was no time going, oh, I wish we could take walks together still. I wish it was just they had a really high quality of life until the very last couple of days. And that was a blessing. Absolutely. And I think that's part of our grief process, too, is finding the blessings and being grateful, not just for the time you had, but hoping, knowing they didn't suffer.
And they got to be so active and sounds like they had amazing lives, so they really got to live their lives to the fullest with you guys. Yeah. It's funny, because now some of the things I take the little I look at the little's lives and I look at Jack and Sadie's lives, and I feel like, man, Jack and sadie, you taught me how to be a good dog mom. And, like, I could have done so much better by you if I done what I knew. Now I do get that, too.
I'm fostering the letter of kittens now that I'm bottle feeding, and I'm like, oh, my gosh, why didn't I do this when I was bottle feeding? But that's just the process of life. We learn and we grow, and sometimes it's just we have access to different things as time changes and all of that. But no matter what, we are the best pet parents we can be at the time that we have them. And I'm sure they would both say the same thing about you.
That's true. I had friends when Jack and Sadie were still with us who said, like, man, when I die, I want to come back as one of your dogs. Yeah. And you're like, well, get in line. Best compliment I've ever gotten.
Yeah. I think that's so important, because I know for me personally, as a woman without human kids, my kids are my kids, and sometimes that gets kind of pushed aside. Like, it's not important. But it is. I mean, we devote our lives to them.
They're with us every day, all day long. There's so many things we have to do for them. They give us so much, but we're still caring for them. So I totally understand someone saying that to you is like, oh, I am a good mom. Yeah, it's funny that you say that, too, because I was talking to a couple of friends a few weeks ago.
We had gone on a seven mile hike, and the Littles had come with us. And then we went to a tea shop and a coffee shop and an ice cream shop, and I put the Littles in their little stroller, and they came to, and we were sitting at the ice cream shop. The littles were pulled up to the table, sitting in their stroller, and we were all eating our ice cream and talking about children, pets and things like that. And I said, I'm pretty sure if someone hooked some electrodes up to my brain and then hooked electrodes up to a lot of moms who had, like, human children and showed us pictures of our kids and our dogs, I'm like, I am quite confident that the same parts of my brain would light up as it would light up in the mother, like, human mother's brain. When I saw my dogs.
Yes, I think that's so true. It's something I like to say for moms or moms, too. It may look differently, and that's something I'm such a I try to be so proactive about for women, is that moms come in all shapes and sizes. I don't have human kids, but I'm an auntie to a lot of biological and non biological kids, and I'm a firm mom, and I'm a foster mom. And, yes, it all looks different.
But that maternal role, that maternal process is the same. And so I totally agree. I think our brains light up in a lot of the same ways. Yeah. No, I think I have never wanted human children.
I love children. I'm a teacher. I have lots of nieces and nephews, and I love kids. But I knew that I was not cut out to be a mother to a child. And I think I definitely get my mothering fix from being a dog mom.
Absolutely. I am the same way. Even with these foster kids, I'm like, man, this is why I was never a human mom. Right. Sometimes I think, oh, my gosh, sometimes being a dog mom is so fulfilling and so challenging.
Like, I am not emotionally stable enough to be like, the parent of a human. That is way too much responsibility for me. Right. I mean, all the mom roles that have a huge responsibility, but it is such a different thing. We do things for our animals that human moms don't have to worry about, but they do things, and I'm like, nope, that's your job, not mine.
Right. Also, like, when you're fostering kittens or taking care of dogs or horses or whatever animal, they don't have to grow up and be productive citizens that can take care of themselves. Whereas if you're raising a human child, there's just so much more weight on society that you are successful in your role. Right? Yes.
So in that way, we give our props to the human mom because you guys are doing the hard work. I just got to get these kittens to learn how to eat from a bowl and litter box. I have a friend, she was a running buddy of mine years ago. She had three or four children, and she said, yeah, my husband and I call our dogs our good children. Yeah, they're the good kids.
But let me tell you, when these six kittens are screaming, I think maybe a human child would have been easier. Yeah, I'm sure. I can imagine that that is quite a challenge and responsibility. But it's also they grow so much faster than human kids. Sure.
In six weeks, they're ready to be on their own. So there's the good and the bad of all of it. But I think it's so important. The point that you're making is the maternal role that we take on with our animals. Whether we have human kids or not, that's such an important part of our life, and we get to give back to that animal.
We get to change their whole world and give them an amazing life, and then what we learn from them, we're able to give to animals in the future. And so it is such a strong bond. And that is what also makes the grief so hard, losing a pet. That grief is real. It's just as real as any other type of grief.
And like you said, your dogs were such a part of your daily lives, your schedule, every activities, traveling. So when you lose that, it's a huge thing to process and realize how to move on from that. But it sounds like your amazing dog sent you two new amazing dogs. Yes, I think they did. My husband says the same thing.
Yes, and I think that's such a powerful thing is to realize people need to open themselves up to those signs, like you said. You think Jack was still leaving socks for you? I love that. I found one the other day. Oh, how funny.
Yeah, I love them regularly. Yeah. So as a teacher, do you talk about your dogs when you're teaching or teaching kids to write and things like that? Yes, I do, actually. We have these big promethean boards where they're basically like big, huge screens that are replacing our whiteboards, and you can have, like, a background picture on it.
And mine is a little running towards me through the woods, so all the kids know what my dogs look like, and occasionally pictures of them will make it into, like, a Google slide presentation and, like, the sample grammar sentence will be about what they did that day and things like that. The students are well aware of the dogs. And actually, you know what, the outdoors writing I do for Cooperative Living, they come with me on almost all of those adventures. They're like my little cowriters'and. So sometimes they're in the photographs that are in the articles, and I have some of those up on the wall in the classroom, so they'll be like, oh, those are your dogs in that article, and you wrote that article.
Yeah. That's great to let the kids see that. Yes. You can write about what you love and what you're passionate about and share it with other people. Yeah.
So how did you get involved with writing for Cooperative Living? So I'm a member of the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, which is a statewide group for nature journalists, outdoor writers, nature and wildlife photographers, et cetera, and I'm on the board for them. And I guess about two years ago, Cooperative Living magazine, who sponsors a youth writing contest that we do, reached out to the board and said, hey, we're looking for a new outdoors writer. Could you kind of put the word out to your members? And we did.
And then I was also like, well, I want that job. So I applied for it too. And I didn't really think I'd get it because a lot of outdoors writing is about hunting and fishing and angling, and those are not activities that I participate in. So I was like, I want to write about paddleboarding and hiking and, like, elk tours, and I want to write about paddleboarding with dogs and all these crazy things that I was like, they're going to look at this application and be like, okay, crazy. No, but instead they called and they were like, all of your ideas were so unique.
You're exactly what we need. And I was like, oh, well, great. Sounds good, let's go. And so, yeah, I started writing, I do about an article for them every other month. The column is called explore more.
And the dogs have been with me on almost the one adventure they didn't go on and they actually came on the trip. They just couldn't come on the adventure because it was bird watching. They might interrupt. Yes, they do love to chase the bird. So they had to stay at the airbnb while we went and did the bird watching.
But a lot of the other stuff that has involved like hiking or scenic places or different adventures, paddleboarding, things like that, they have been part of. Well, it sounds like you brought a unique perspective to the magazine, but also an important one because I see so many people now doing those hiking and paddleboarding with their dogs. Even a few people I see do it with cats. Right. It's amazing.
Yeah, my cats would not go for it, but that's great. You have to know your animals for sure. Absolutely. Although I do say ours are totally indoor, but when my husband's out gardening, they're allowed out and they love to explore and smell and see things. And now our neighbors behind us have chickens, so one of our cats goes right to the fence and she was watching them forever, like kitty cat.
Is that what is new in the neighborhood? Yes, I think, and especially with COVID being able to go outdoors and to do things like that when we couldn't really do other things. And then we realized we want to bring our pets with us and more of us got pets during that time. And so it sounds like what you're talking about is stuff that so many people want to learn about and be able to do themselves. Yeah, it's been a lot of fun.
Not this year, but in the last year's magazine, we did a whole spread about paddleboarding or kayaking or any of those paddle sports with your dogs. And that was a lot of fun. I went to a whole bunch of different places and took the dogs and paddleboarded and then did a write up on how to train your dog, how to paddleboard, what hazards you need to look for, and what these different locations across the state are good and bad for if you're taking your dog paddling. And that article took probably a good six months worth of research just because I had to get to all those places and do all of the paddling. Right, but gosh, it was fun.
That sounds amazing and but I think that's important too, because you see someone paddling with the dog and you think, oh, I'll just put the dog on there. There are a lot of safety things that people need to do so. That's really important. Yes, they should have a PSD just like you do. That should stay on them.
Our dogs actually also have they're called sunshirts. We get them from a company called Gold Paw, and they have SPF I think it's SPF 50 in them, and it helps keep them cool and also helps prevent them from getting sunburned. And they wear those under their PFDs. And of course, you have to bring water with you for your pet. You also always want to check the water quality because unfortunately, these harmful algal blooms, which are like, terrifying me with climate change and things, they're becoming more common.
So you need to find forces in your area where you can monitor water quality or at least learn how to recognize a hub so that if you go somewhere that's not monitored, you can kind of tell if you should or shouldn't even approach the water there. That's huge, because I have to say, I would never even thought of that. You just think, well, if I'm paddleboarding there, it's fine for them to be and so that's a huge thing, too. You have to keep them protected in so many different ways. Yes, and I'm such a doggy helicopter mom.
So back in May, I went with a few friends and the dogs on a paddling adventure that I was writing about for the magazine. And I checked all that. I checked online for all the sources of the water quality. I even called the group that was taking us and said, like, hey, do people around there let their dogs in the water? Do they swim?
Have your dogs been in the water? What has the weather been like recently? Because, you know, if it's rained recently, you shouldn't get in the water. Or if it's been really, really hot with no rain for a while, they shouldn't get in all these different things. I did like my reconnaissance until I felt like, okay, this is safe.
But just general rules of thumb are running water is almost always safer than still water. Typically, habs can happen in saltwater, brackish water or fresh water. So unfortunately, there's nothing there that can help, you know, if there's one there or not. But they're common. Their blooms are common after a big thunderstorm because a lot of times that will dump a lot of extra nutrients into the water, allowing the algae to bloom.
And also, if it hasn't rained a lot and the water has been very, very warm, that can trigger one as well. You can recognize them sometimes by smell. A lot of times. Also, they'll look like a film on the water, like, it will almost look like paint or oil has filled on the water. And there are some things that look terrifying.
They're not harmful at all. Like duckweed can look really scary, but it's just duckweed nothing. If you want to swim in duckweed, you can. I don't know why you want to, but it won't hurt. Right, but also just to always bring water with you so your dog doesn't drink whatever water is there.
They drink the water and rinse them off when you're done or have wipes that you can wipe them off with. But I'm always very nervous about I'm nervous about snakes and habs. Those are my two things that scare me with the dogs. Those seem like very realistic things to be afraid of, I have to say. I'm a full spectrum animal lover.
But the one thing I've always told my husband, no snakes. Just know I can look at them. But nope, that's it. We have six tarantulas currently living in our house, so I have to say no to snakes. I don't know why.
The difference is, I can imagine out in the wild, that's even more important, right? Yeah. I'm not afraid of snakes for me, I don't need a pet snake, but I'm fine with them. My husband is terrified. And my one big fear, since my dogs are so small, that's I always worry about now, venomous snakes aren't that common here and there are only three, but I still worry in the warmer months.
Right? Yeah. Where I live in central California, there are several areas in Bakersfield on the outer skirts where it's out towards canyon areas and lakes. And I have dogs at several places out in there and I have to be looking for snakes. Yes.
One house has had several rattlesnakes. They also have and we've had them at our house, too. But skunks and possums and rabbits, all the wildlife, all the things, but the snakes are the ones for dogs. So actually, dogs in our area have to have snake bite that help them in case they get bitten. So, yeah, I think no matter where you are, there are safety concerns and like you said, you have to be aware of where you're taking them, the water and the animals, all those things, so that you're protecting them but also protecting yourself.
Yeah, definitely. One thing that I do, because we do so many water adventures and we hike so much and I always bring their water with them. But you never know, your dog could scoop down before you know it and be drinking out of a puddle. But we got them the oh, God, left, whatever. I don't know.
We call it we just call it leftover. But it's a virus they can get or a bacteria or something they can get from other mammals that have it that have drunk dirty water. And all the vets listening will be like, she has it all wrong. But that's my layman's understanding of it. It's not a required vaccination here in Virginia, but our vet recommended that we get it because of all the outdoor adventuring that we do.
And of course, the Lymes vaccine we also have because we're out and about in the woods so much yes, I know that's. Really. Especially hiking and everything that animals need to Lyme disease ticks, that's such a huge important thing. And you have to be aware of it because if you have, especially a larger dog or a very furry dog, ticks are easy to miss. I had a golden retriever growing up, and I remember we had to check her because she had so much hair.
We really had to comb through it to get to her skin because every once in a while she'd get one. We don't know from where, but she would, and we'd have to get that off of her right away. Yeah. When we first adopted Jack, he had some it wasn't Lyme's disease. If it was some kind of tickborne, some kind of mystery tickborne disease, it took him a good year to fully recover from it, but I've always been very aware of that because of his beginnings with us and all the vet visits and all the medicines and things.
Yeah. Like we said earlier, our pets teach us, so then we can be more proactive with future pets. Exactly. I'm sure that has helped you a lot with the littles yeah, you mentioned them briefly, but I just want to go back to make sure everyone heard that the organization one of the ones you've spoken about and where you got the Little is Richmond SPCA. And they are no kill animal shelter rescue in the Richmond, Virginia area.
And I will be linking their Facebook page and other contact in the show notes for people to learn more about them. Thank you so much. Well, Amy. Amy Joe. It's okay.
That actually happens to me somewhat regularly. That was so random. Okay. So amanda. Hello.
Amanda. Thank you so much for being here. I'm so glad we finally connected and got to meet each other virtually. It was great hearing your tales of your amazing pets, all the dogs. You've had such inspiring stories about how you loved and lost and learned and were able to turn that grief into new amazing animals in your life and to share adventures with them and others.
I think that's just really amazing. Thank you. Yes, it's a good I tell people it's a lifestyle. Having dogs is a lifestyle. Having cats, absolutely.
Having both is a whole nother lifestyle. Yes. But we love all of them. Everybody gets to pick what kind of pet works for them and share what you learn from them and how amazing they can be to have in your life. Yeah.
Okay, listeners, thanks again for joining us. And we will be back soon with another episode.