Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A hard week

It's been a hard week. I mentioned in my last post that our dog was not loving condo life. My son and I have loved the sense of community, kids to play with, friends to have movie nights with and hang out with everyday if we want to. I love not having yard work or the responsibility of home ownership, the cost of lawn care and having to do the pool chemicals myself. And having several other single moms on the street and taking turns watching each others kids. So regarding all that - we've loved it here so far. But our dog has not. And that has been very challenging and stressful for all of us.

At first it seemed ok. When we decided to move here, I had decided that I would make sure to take her every day to the dog park, no matter what. And I did exactly that. Our yard in TN was huge and she could run and chase squirrels and play. I thought when we bought the house here that the tiny yard would be a hard adjustment for her. It probably would have been if not for the dog park and the doggy door. We started going every day to the dog park so she could run and she had zero issues adjusting. She did great. She didn't destroy anything or seemed stressed when we left. No issues at all. The yard was fenced and she had a doggy door but the yard was tiny so she couldn't run or anything. But the dog park made it ok. And I think she really loved the doggy door and being able to go in and out whenever she wanted. Some days she'd go in and out like 50 times. I'd find her out there laying in the sun when I was working. Or chasing lizards. Or barking at squirrels. The dog park was only 5 blocks from our house so that was great too. When we sold the house and were looking to move to a condo, I truly underestimated how much the freedom of a doggy door and fenced yard had been for her. And I didn't even think about all the noises on the other sides of the walls and how that might freak her out. I thought it might at first but thought she'd get used to it. Just like she did with our loud neighbor at the last house who sometimes fired up his boat motor in the side yard. She got used to that pretty quickly. I work from home so I'm not gone that much. Our routine here in the condo was us all piling in the van every morning, dropping M off at school and then me and Elsa swinging by the dog park so she could run and chase squirrels and play while I walked laps with the other dog parents there. It was a routine. I would come home after that and work while she snoozed under my desk in her favorite little spot. I'd let her out for a walk a few times during the day and then I'd load her up in the van and take her with me to go get M from school. When she was home alone, which wasn't all that much, it was usually only for a few hours at the most. At first, she seemed ok when we were gone. But after about a week of living here, we came home to a chewed up bottom step. Our condo is on the 2nd floor so when you come in our private entrance you have a little landing at the bottom and then carpeted steps that go up. At first she was always waiting for us at the bottom of the steps and we had to be really careful cause she would try like crazy to slip out and run off anytime we went in or out. She got out a few times and had herself a little jog before returning back. She wasn't gone long and didn't go far. But I didn't want her to get loose like that for fear of her getting hit by a car or something. After that day she chewed the carpet, it just kept getting worse. I would load her kong up with peanut butter and treats so she'd have something to do. I got her a deer antler to chew on. She looked like she was preoccupied with the kongs when we left after a few weeks and sometimes didn't even come down to the bottom of the stairs to see us off. It looked like maybe she was adjusting. I was hopeful. She was focused on her peanut butter and seemed totally calm. But then we'd only be gone 45 min or so and would come home to chunks taken out of the door frame that you could tell she had been scratching at and my rug shredded or our shoes chewed up or more carpet destroyed. It was getting worse and worse. Even when I was home, she started acting anxious when she would hear noises. We got new neighbors upstairs next to us and they are pretty loud so I noticed an increase in the anxiety once they moved in.

When I first got Elsa, she was crate trained and liked the crate. I don't know what changed but at about 6 months old, she flipped out one day in the crate and completely chewed up the really hard plastic bottom of that thing which I didn't even know was possible and then chewed up the linoleum under that. I was shocked when I came home. The next time we left the house, we only left for like 20 minutes as a test and left her out of the crate. We came home to her lounging on the couch looking all content and we never crated her again. She never chewed anything up or destroyed anything or seemed stressed when we'd leave. Not at that house, not at the house in FL with the small yard, not the entire 3 years we've had her. Until this. After about 8 months in the house in FL, I started leaving the cover off the doggy door and then she had freedom to go in and out even when no one was home. She loved that and never tried to dig out or anything. But she loved that freedom.

Once all this stress and carpet chewing started happening here, I started trying to crate her again. I didn't want her to ingest any of what she was chewing and thought maybe she'd feel safer in the crate although I knew she didn't like it prior. I started out by putting it by my bed and putting her in there just at night. She wouldn't flip out if I was in the room with her but she would whine quite a bit and she would not lay down and relax. If I left the room, she'd panic and start barking and panting and scratching and trying to get out. High anxiety. I put her in there a few hours the first few nights and then did a whole night after that. She was next to my bed where I was sleeping but she did not lay down once the entire night to sleep. She was pretty quiet except for a little bit of whining off and on but was totally tired the next day due to zero sleep. She literally would not lay down in there. I didn't get much sleep either. I had to leave for 45 min that day so I tried crating her. I put a dark sheet over the top to make it den like and came home to it pulled through the crate and shredded. She was barking and panting and had high anxiety being in there. I imagine if I had left longer, I may have come home to a chewed up bottom again like years ago.

I tried something called Rescue Remedy - it's supposed to calm anxiety - you put a few drops on their treats or ears. I tried it both ways - it did nothing. I tried some chewable anxiety stuff prescribed by the vet that was quite expensive - it did nothing whatsoever. Over the course of 3 months, 3 entire steps were completely shredded, the door frame chewed and scratched up with chunks taken out, two rugs shredded, my shoes destroyed, my bedroom carpet chewed up and the sheet in the crate shredded.

I had been in touch with the organization I got her from for the past month or more communicating back and forth about all the things I was trying. It had gotten to the point where I was afraid to leave the house at all for fear of what I'd come home to and for not wanting her to be so stressed out every time we left. But we all know you have to leave the house sometimes and you can't take a dog with you everywhere you go.

Over the week of Christmas, after much prayer and thought about things I had tried or maybe could still try, I had the realization that this was not fair to Elsa and no amount of training was going to take away the noises on the other sides of the walls or the fact that she doesn't have a yard. She is a foxhound whippet mix - that's a hunter dog and a runner dog. She is not a condo dog. And we can't move right now. I made the very sad decision to take her back to TN to the rescue org to have them find her a new home. I should add that she had also lost 4 pounds over these 3 months. When I took her to the vet they let me know that. She was still eating normal so it was clearly stress. I don't want my sweet girl to be so stressed she's losing weight, and panicking whenever we leave. What kind of life is that for her? We love that dog. Mihretu adored her and she adored him. She was so great with him. I'd always find him hugging her or laying his head on her or her snuggling up next to him with her head on his lap. Other than when I was trying to crate her, she slept with me every night. She laid under my desk every day as I worked. She was the best dog. And was definitely happiest at the dog park where she was able to run and hunt and be free.

I thought we were going to drive her to TN this week but as it turned out one of the rescue organizations fosters was actually here in Sarasota and said she could take her for us. What a Godsend that was. That would have been a very long, depressing 12 hour drive. Plus Mihretu woke up Monday morning covered in itchy hives and a sore throat. I looked in there and he had white bumps all over so we headed to the clinic. He had scarlet fever - a strain of strep that can be pretty dangerous. So glad I took him in. He's on meds and has cream for the hives which are still itching off and on even a few days later. So very glad we did not have to drive 12 hours this week.

Yesterday was the day. We met up with the foster lady at 10 am and I gave her all of Elsa's treats and food and flea/tick meds and all her toys and every single thing of hers. They set up her crate in their SUV and put her blanket and pre-loaded kongs with treats and peanut butter that I had brought for her into the crate and then I hugged her tight and we both kissed her goodbye and she went in the crate and on her way to TN. She was licking peanut butter and looked content when we walked away. I sobbed like a baby. Mihretu wasn't sure what to even think of that. He was trying to be funny and just kept saying "you're STILL crying?" I couldn't stop. He hasn't cried but I know he is sad. There may be moments when it hits him and he cries. Last night, he kept saying "oh I just thought I saw Elsa." Or "I miss Elsa" or "it's weird without Elsa" or "I thought that Elsa was under that blanket". We had a sleepover with the neighbor kids here to try and make it a fun night and that helped a little but it's going to be weird and sad for awhile. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw her like 100 times. I went to get up from the table and looked down to make sure I wasn't going to step on her. The door bell rang and it was weird to not have her bark. It feels weird and wrong to not have her here.

That last night she slept with me and I woke up like 20 times to kiss her and pet her and tell her I loved her. I know dogs don't think the same way we do so I know she'll be ok. She will thrive in a home with a yard. She is not a condo dog. I wish I would have known that before we moved to one. I just didn't think it would be a big deal since I'd walk her and take her to the dog park and I work from home. I was wrong. We do really like it here but I certainly don't like that it resulted in this. It's so sad and I already miss her so much. It's going to take awhile to adjust for both of us.

In the meantime, the lady who took her has been so sweet and even sent me photos of her on the car ride and updating me on how she's doing. They made it safely last night to TN and she slept all night in the crate and did fine. It seems like the issue must have been more separation from us than the crate itself. But I don't really know. I'm just glad to hear she's doing well. I know the foster home will treat her well and that they'll find her an amazing permanent home and I'll be so happy to hear that she has a new family with a yard and she's doing well. I know she'll be ok. I know we'll be ok. I just miss her. Man I love that fur baby.

the first time we saw Elsa

Monday, December 12, 2016

The rest of the story

So it's been a few months since I last posted and that post was all about how I felt God was calling me to sell our house in Florida. I was NOT excited about this idea at all initially. I cried. More than once. But whenever I prayed about it, I felt very clearly that the Lord told me to sell it. So I didn't delay. I listed it right away and began getting it ready for photos and showings and all that important but not so fun stuff that involved putting money in for some fixes to things I knew needed fixed and so on. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, the mortgage had increased and my van was having issues and needing repairs left and right and finances were honestly tighter than ever. I prayed and prayed that the house would sell fast and the stress would be minimal. Well guess what? It went under contract after only 2 days of showing it. 2 days!!! Crazy awesome, right? I was so happy. And I got what I had hoped to get from it. Praise the Lord.

Now the next 30+ days were pretty stressful with some drama I won't mention during the selling process, a whole bunch of extra costs involved in repairs I ended up having to do and a delay in closing that meant me having to borrow money from several very awesome and generous sources to get through one more week without those funds. But people helped me and reminded me of how God blesses us with community and how humbling it is when that community comes alongside to hold one another up. I'm so thankful. And the house did finally close and praise the Lord I was able to pay off a ton of debt with the very nice profit I made off that house. So thankful.

The really cool part of the story is the part about finding us a new place to live. I'll try to keep it short but there's a lot of fun little details I don't want to leave out so here goes...

So right after the house went under contract and had passed inspection and we had agreed on repairs and stuff, I started my search for a place for us to move. One day I set up appointments at a bunch of condos in the area and set out to start looking. Several were decent but didn't really jump out at me. One I really, really loved but the price was crazy high. Prices here are high enough but some of these places for rent were insane. I came home discouraged and frustrated.

The next morning I got up early and went in the prayer closet. Through tears, I was asking God to show me and to help us find a place that I would like, that would be a good fit for us and most of all in a price range we could even afford cause I surely didn't want to end up right back in a tight spot after all that. After I finished praying, I hopped on to look again. I was reading listings and hiding ones I didn't like and searching some more. I kept zeroing in on the place where several of our friends live and refreshing the screen to look there. I also hopped on to other sites and cross checked to see if any other ones came up that weren't listed on the other sites. All of a sudden, when I hit refresh, a brand new listing popped up in the condos I was wanting and in the literally EXACT dollar amount I was hoping for but did not think we would find for a 3 bedroom condo. I picked up the phone and called right that moment. The lady who answered started laughing and said "I just posted that less than 2 minutes ago". Come to find out it was a 3 bedroom PLUS a loft. And the price was perfect. And it was in the same condo developments as two different friends of ours and that's where I was hoping to be all along. Especially since we already knew people and I already knew this place has a lot of families with kids and dogs.

So the story gets even crazier. I couldn't get in right away to see it cause the people still lived there. So it was going to be a few days and I was kind of worried someone else would snatch it up. I had come across a scam on craigslist - a place I had looked at the previous week was posted for way cheaper, using the same exact pictures but turns out it wasn't the owner at all. She was shocked when I told her I saw someone was using her pics and details to post on craigslist. When I did a test email to them to see what they said, of course they said someone had just backed out and I coudl be next on the list but had to fill out the online application and pay the deposit first. No way. I bet those people made a lot of money just doing that. Total scam. Anyway so I had just discovered that and didn't want to send any of my info through email or otherwise. But I wanted this leasing manager to know I was serious. I had her send me all the paperwork and was just going to bring it already filled out when I came to look at it. She mentioned she used to work at the main leasing office for these condos but now managed some of the units for individual owners. So I texted my friend Kait to see if she knew of her. Turns out she rents from her too. She totally knew her. She confirmed the email and phone number was indeed her and so I went ahead and sent her my stuff.

Monday I got to go see the place and loved it right away. Still can't believe it was the price it was. Total God thing and I know had I not been online at that exact moment it would have been taken cause it is awesome! This part of the story gets even more awesome - I'm serious!!!!

So I'm talking to the leasing manager and she says "I have to tell you - I wasn't so sure about you when I saw your application and it said you didn't have money in savings and you had debt and all that so I googled your name and I found your blog and read your story about selling your house and know I know the whole story and totally get it. And your faith is really inspiring." I'm standing there with my jaw down like "seriously!!! You read my blog and that cleared it all up and you're ok with renting to me because of that?" Wow, just wow. Talk about a God thing!!!! I'm still in shock about that. Just goes to show you never know who will read stuff you put on the internet - good or bad. Ha ha

Anyway, of course she also ran a credit check and all was good so we got the place. I felt the favor of the Lord over that whole thing and we were able to borrow some funds to get in here and then of course pay it back as soon as the house closed. We got moved in a few days before closing on the other house and other than our dog having a heck of a time adjusting which is a whole other story - we absolutely LOVE the place. And the part I love most is the sense of community. We literally hang out with my friend and her kids like 3 or more times every week. And through her we've met other people including another single mom with a little girl that we adore. And so we all 3 single moms and our kids hang out all the time. Our kids play outside. We take turns having each others kids over. It's something I've only ever dreamed of. I love, love, love it. Hopefully our fur baby will come around too cause she's not loving it just yet.

After all that and getting moved in and paying off debt - my van stranded us again. Actually on moving day - it was a crazy long, tiring day and I had picked m up from aftercare and the dog up from doggy daycare where she went during the day so she wouldn't run off in the move and our van died right there in the doggy place parking lot and we were the last ones there, even the workers had left. My friend from small group came to our rescue and sat with us in their car until the tow truck came which was like 9:20 at night. I think I was so exhausted and overheated because as we were sitting there, all of a sudden, I had to jump out of the car because I knew I was going to throw up. I sure did - like 10 times right there in the lawn of the doggy place on moving day with a dead van and waiting on a tow truck. That day was just crazy. But we got all moved and we got the van towed and I got it fixed the next week (and it wasn't cheap). Of course I found out a few weeks later that it needed another $1800 in repairs. Mind you, this van had stranded us at home twice and out away from home twice in the past 6 months (once in Tampa), was a 2002 with 180k miles and had begun having issue after issue and was literally worth hardly anything if I were to try and sell it. Finding out it needed another $1800 in repairs was the final straw. Thank God I sold the house and paid off all that debt or I would not have been able to get a different vehicle. But I had been obedient to what I felt like He told me today and so I was able to get a different vehicle. I got a used 2010 Dodge Caravan with 97,000 miles on it for a really great price at a place only a few miles away.

All that to say - I am SO glad I sold the house. I literally haven't even missed it. I've actually loved not having to take care of the pool or pay for the lawn to be mowed or worry about stuff breaking. And I LOVE the community we have here. Mihretu is doing amazing and loves it too. He has kids to play with whenever he wants and it's so lovely. And I'm thankful to be free from all that debt and to have been able to get a different vehicle. And that's the story on all that!!! God is good!!!

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...