Leaving the DR and Summer of 2012

We have left the Dominican Republic for good. David’s construction of the processing plant was completed in early June and by mid June, our 4 large duffle bags, 2 small suitcases, 4 carry-ons, guitar and dog were on the plane heading for Maine.

Dog, you say? Yes, you may remember me speaking in earlier postings about the 3 beach dogs that I had been feeding. There was Buddy, Poco and Nellie. They are wonderful dogs but were very territorial on the beach in front of our condo building where they hung out.

There was a complaint about the dogs, shortly before I arrived back to Cabarete last April. I understood that it could be very unnerving to be walking your pet on the beach and have three dogs come charging at you. However, with this formal complaint, I actually feared for their lives. A solution had to be figured out to keep the dogs safe and the people happy.

I have a wonderful friend, Louise Poppema, who is a pet psychic. I called her to have a discussion with the dogs. I initially thought that Poco was the leader and that we needed to move her from the beach. Poco was the skittish one who wouldn’t allow anyone to touch her.

I had Louise explain to the dogs about the complaint and how I feared for their lives and if something didn’t change, one of them would have to be removed from the beach. I, also, had her tell Poco that she needed to work with me so that she could stay on the beach.

I did lots of research on the internet about training animals, I called animal behaviorist in the states from the Dominican Republic and purchased clickers for training. One thing I tried in working with Poco, was giving her chicken and gently touching her. She really did try to allow me to touch her. After Louise talked with the dogs, Poco was much better at not charging towards people walking on the beach. She would still bark at them but at a distance. I was so very, very proud of her efforts! At another conversation that I had through Louise, Poco was very excited and pleased to report to Louise that she had been “doing much, much better”!

Of course, I was stressing out with all of this as it was the end of April and we were to leave in June. A solution had to be found and it had to happen soon. Louise suggested that I observe the dogs and that the answer would come to me. All I can say is, God bless Louise…she was such a wonderful, compassionate and jovial person…..she talked me off the “ledge” many a time when I called her.

In observing the dogs, I realized that Poco wasn’t the instigator but Nellie. Nellie was the alpha dog who would lead Poco and Buddy in the run towards people entering their “territory”. I also felt that, of the three, Nellie was the one that I felt could be domesticated. During three separate conversations, Nellie indicated that she wanted very much to live with people and not on the beach. 

David and I decided to take the plunge and commit to finding Nellie a “forever home” in the states. I asked permission from my landlord and the condo management to bring her into my condo to start working to domestic her. I, then, sent emails to all of my family and friends asking if they might be able/interested in adopting Nellie. If they didn’t, maybe they knew of someone who did. I, also, sent a private message to my Maine facebook friends asking the same thing.

With all of that in place, the process began. Nellie was amazing! It was like she understood from the very beginning and adapted at anything new that came her way! Once I brought her in, she never had an accident, she never barked and she slept through the night.

In fact, she slept so deeply that I would have to wake her up in the morning to take her out. I have only taken care of one other dog, who was like this. My experience has been the minute I wake up, the dog would be right there waiting for me to take them outside. In the Dominican Republic, my early morning routine was to wake up around 6:00 AM, get a cup of coffee and go back to bed to read until 7:00. At 7:00, I would turn on the Today show and watch the first half-hour. Then, I would go out to have breakfast at 7:30. All the while, Nellie would be sleeping away on her little bed. At 8:00, I would go and wake Nellie up and tell her that it was time to go out. I would walk her with Buddy and Poco on the beach. Buddy and Poco were always so happy to see Nellie and hopefully, me, too.

Once Nellie was off the beach, Poco and Buddy were much calmer and the territorial behavior was less of an issue. Things were moving smoothly along all that was left was to find Nellie a home. I had no responses to my emails or facebook messages. Desperate to find her a home, I wrote on facebook about Nellie’s story asking all of my friends if they might be able to give her a “forever home” and if they couldn’t to share my comment on their page with their friends. I said that I would deliver her to anyone in the lower 48 states.

Sherry Jensen, a friend of my friend Toril, was touched by Nellie’s story and felt that she was the one to have Nellie. Sherry; her daughter, Megan; her son, Matt; her dog, Petey and the cat (!), Kingston lived near Petosky, MI on Michigan Lake. Over a year and a half ago, Sherry adopted Petey from the local humane society. Petey and another dog, had been rescued from an abusive situation. Petey’s buddy was adopted before Petey was and when Sherry heard his story, she told him that someday she would find him a new buddy or possibly, a girlfriend! A year and a half later, after searching local Humane Societies, she decided that Nellie was the one!!!

Through emails and phone calls, I realized that Sherry would make Nellie a wonderful mom. Although, I had to admit I was a tad skeptical and nervous over the cat! Still, relief flooded me as I now felt that I would be able to bring Nellie back to the states to a wonderful home and not have to leave her at a shelter.

Nellie and I developed a routine in the DR. Dinner was around 5:00 PM on the beach with the other two dogs. After the dogs ate, I would walk them on the beach and then I usually sat with them for an hour. I would sit on the beach with Buddy on one side of me, Nellie on the other and Poco would be content to be close by. When I was ready to go back to the condo, Nellie made it clear that she wanted to stay on the beach. I would leave her, fix my dinner and about an hour later, return to get Nellie. She would trot right behind me up to the condo. As the weeks wore on, she would make her way back to my condo by herself and when I opened the door to go get her, she would be sitting there waiting for me!

As I said earlier, she was a true trooper!! She adapted to anything and everything that I threw at her. It took her just a couple of hours to get used to her kennel. It became her favorite place to hang out, so I would move it between the living room and bedroom each night. Eventually, I started closing the door to get her used to that, which she did without any hesitation.

The flight back to the states went as smoothly as can be expected. I think it was worse on me than it was on her. Due to the size of our plane, she had to spend the night at the kennel in La Guardia airport and fly in the next afternoon to our home in Portland. We were able to see her between our flights and I was able to walk her in the pet walk that they had at the airport. The pet walk was near the bus station and planes were taking off or landing around us. Nellie looked up in wonder…everything was so new and she was just absorbing it.

She arrived safely the next day. When they brought her off the plane, she whined when she saw us. I think that she had had enough of traveling!!! We took her home and introduced her to the grass in our backyard. It was so cute to see her sniff all around and pick her paws up high as she walked. Occasionally, she would look at us as if to say, what is this stuff?

I bought her a therapeutic bed from LL Bean with her name monogrammed on it. She laid on it a few times and then discovered the comforts of my new couch!!!! It became her “safe place” during thunderstorms. Gratefully, I learned about thundershirts and purchased one for her to help her during storms. They work! She was much calmer when the thunder rolled in. I, also, bought her a jacket from LL Bean with her name monogrammed on it as well. She modeled it for me but hasn’t needed to wear it yet. I wish I could see her first time with snow!

One afternoon, David and I took Nellie for a walk in Vaughan’s Wood in Hallowell, Maine. It is a lovely path that follows Vaughan’s stream. There are two beautiful granite bridges that cross the stream. I had Nellie on her leash, but when we crossed over the bridge and came into the field of tall grass, I thought that she would be OK to run in the field. She was so cute hopping around the tall grass. I was taking pictures and wanted just one more of her hopping…..well, that was a mistake. She caught a scent of something and took off with her nose to the ground. Oh my gosh….PANIC!!! David and I were running around like two crazy people yelling for her and whistling. She was gone for a good twenty minutes when she finally “popped” up in front of me, nose still to the ground. I now believe that she has some beagle in her! What a relief to get my hands on her collar!

We had Nellie for two weeks in Maine and the day after David left for his new project in Saudi Arabia,I started the ride to Nellie’s forever home in Petoskey, Michigan. The first day, we drove about 12 hours. I had Nellie’s Bean bed in the back seat, so she was real comfy.

We arrived at 2:00 in the afternoon on the second day. There was a cute sign on the mailbox saying “Petey’s house”. It was so bittersweet. I was glad that Nellie was at her forever home and would not have too many more adjustments to make, but I knew that I would miss her terribly!!!

Sherry came out first to meet Nellie. She was overwhelm with tears of happiness to finally meet her. I was overwhelmed with tear of the realization that this was it…I was going to be leaving her. It was a real cry fest!

The next step was to bring Petey out. He was so very, very excited to meet Nellie…too excited! He was bouncing all over the place trying to get close to Nellie. Sherry had a difficult time holding onto him. Nellie was sneering the whole time, not very welcoming to Petey at all. We worked at calming Petey down and eventually got the two dogs walking side by side.

Next, was to bring them into the house. It worked…thanks to wonderful Petey. He has been most generous and accepting of Nellie. I wish I could say the same about her! She has been such a “queen”. It has all been on her terms, which Petey has patiently accepted. Oh, and the cat, Kingston, tolerated Nellie. Both seemed pretty indifferent towards each other. Which was a huge relief.

I left Nellie on Friday and I am so pleased to report that she is doing fantastic. She and Petey are slowly bonding. She loves Sherry’s home which is so full of love and is surrounded by beautiful woods. Before, on the beach, Nellie wouldn’t do much walking. She would go a certain point and then sit and wait until I returned with Buddy and Poco. Now, Sherry has shared that Nellie walks great distances. It is all good, as I knew it would be.

It was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done but also, one of the most rewarding. I always knew that I would be the messenger but I also knew that I would fall deeply in love with Nellie!

The other two dogs, Buddy and Poco, are still on the beach. David and I left enough food for them to be fed for 8 months. The gardener, who loves them as much as we do, is feeding them daily. We gave him some money to say thank you. He didn’t want to take it, he said that he was just grateful to have food to give them everyday. We also left some extra money for any medical issues that may arise. I check on them frequently and will continue to send money to feed them for as long as they live.

My trip home turned out to be really good. I got to visit with friends that I hadn’t seen for 5, 20 and 30 years! In Michigan, I visited with 5 friends who I had worked with in the Dominican Republic 30 years ago. We shared a wonderful lunch together reminiscing about the good ol’ days!

From MI, I drove to Oakville, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. David and I lived there 5 years ago. At the Holiday Inn, I learned that the receptionist was from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican theme for this trip was just following me! I saw my friends in Oakville and the next day, I drove back to Maine.

My Nellie experience was such a journey. I know that there is a huge lesson in it all and I am patiently waiting for it to be revealed. When I figure it out, I will gladly share it!

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