About Me


 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott


I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

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The Pitbull and the Provision

"Beneath our clothes, beneath our reputations, our pretensions,

beneath our religion or lack of it,

we are all vulnerable to the storm without and to the storm within,

and if ever we are to find true shelter,

it is with the recognition of our tragic nakedness and need for true shelter

that we have to start."

-Frederick Buechner, Telling The Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale


We inherited my Aunt's Lhasa Apso when I was eight.  All I remember is the name she came with, Abby; her color, white; her bark, yappy; and the day she got run over by a car.

I was ten when my Dad took me to the local high school one weekend to learn how to ride a two-wheeler. Other than a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, my favorite kind of car, we were the only people in the parking lot.

I had to pee mid-lesson, so we ran across the bus access road between the parking lot and the doors to the school.  Somehow at the exact moment we ran, Abby followed, the yellow Volkswagen beetle drove past, and Abby got caught under the back wheel.  

The memories come in flashes, like flipping through photographs.  

I remember sitting in the back of our white Bonnevile station wagon, holding her in my lap, willing her to stay alive.  She made the most awful sounds, a fast wheeze and moan while her eyes stared straight ahead, wide and unblinking, and her tiny body heaved with the effort of her breath.  

I remember my parents walking out of the vet's office and telling me they had to put Abby down. That it would cost more than $1000 to fix her, and even then, she might have internal injuries the doctors couldn't see, and still die the next day.

I remember asking for a dog on the top of my Christmast list every year after that until I went to college.  

Instead, we had rabbit and cats.

Sweet rabbits, nice cats. Rabbits that lived outside in chicken wire cages with wooden doors. Rabbits that I sang to, and fed kitchen scraps that we called crunchings and munchings, a sweet naming from the book The Book of Three. A cat named Bagheera that I adopted in college and kept illegally in my dorm room until I got a place off campus.  A cat named Judah that I rescued from a shelter in Daytona Beach, Florida while working for a summer stock theatre company.

But no dog.


When I met my husband, I also met Buddy, his red lab adopted as a pup from Arkansas three months after Michael's momma died from cancer.  Buddy was five years old when I became part of his life.

I remember thinking Buddy's manners said a lot about Michael. I'd just finished dating a guy whose tiny yappy dog ate underwear, and who only responded to baby talk.

Buddy was the perfect companion. Obedient, loyal, affectionate but not needy, full of comfort and peace.

When I married Michael, Buddy demoted from sleeping in the bed to sleeping next to the bed, and with each subsequent child we birthed, he fell a little lower down the totem pole. But still, he was so good. He posted watch next to the babys' cribs.  He let them crawl on him and use his belly for a floor pillow.  He stood by their carseats on road trips with his head in their laps while they slept.


Buddy was twelve when he died in our house fire.  Michael found his body by the front door. He had died trying to get a breath of clean air from the tiny slit between the door jamb and the floor.  

There were many terrible things to find when we walked through our burnt house, but the worst was seeing the signs of Buddy's fear.  He had pooped in the bedroom, something he'd never done all the years we had him. His scratches pockmarked the floor, and clumps of his fur stuck to the walls.

I woke up many nights in tears thinking of the panic of his last moments on earth, thinking of him waiting for us to come save him, to break open a window, to kick down the front door and rescue him.  

But we never showed up.  

He wouldn't have known why.  


Michael buried Buddy on a rainy, muddy night a few hours before I went into labor with Phoenix.  I don't know what that was like for him, to say goodbye to his truest companion for the last twelve years, and then, a few hours later, to deliver his fourth-born child with his own hands on the floor of our bedroom in temporary housing.  

He didn't want to get a dog anytime soon, so we moved to Colorado without pets, and other than a few weeks when we fostered a guinea pig whose greatest contribution was small pellets of poop, we've been a pet free household.


Some of our closest neighbor friends foster pups through a local foster agency, and about ten months ago, a litter of six came through.  

I asked, like I always do, if we could consider adopting a puppy.

Our kids are all potty-trained, the boys are old enough to walk a dog and feed him, brush him, help train him. I will read books on how to train a dog, I promised.  

Michael agreed that if I read Family Dog, we could try out some puppies at our home, and so it went that we adopted a rescue pup.


After very little deliberation, we named him Chewbacca because I have three boys, ages 9,8, and 4, and a husband whose vintage Star Wars figures lie waiting in a huge plastic tub in our shed until the day the children are deemed worthy to play with them.

His momma was a Brindle, but Chewie looks mostly Rhodesian Ridgeback, with maybe some Black Mouth Cur and Pitbull in him, and he barks like a Hound.

I wanted him from his family of six because he was the most relational, and the second smartest.  

He's a lap dog.

He rolls onto the floor in a second, belly up, for a little scratchin.  He pursues love without restraint.

In dog owner speak, this means if I open the front screen door and he's right behind me and sees a dog, chances are he will run out, across the street in blind delight, ready to make a new best friend.

This is a scary thing of course- and we're very careful to not let him escape for fear his need for love, and his joy for life, will get him killed.


One afternoon last October, I opened the front door to grab something out of my car, and called Chewie to walk the fifteen feet to my driveway with me. He obeyed, and as I let him out, I turned around and saw a dog on leash with his owner, coming towards us from across the street.

Chewie started to run.

I called for him to stop. He hesitated. I heard the man across the street say in preparation, "He's kind of new to this; we'll see how it goes," at the same time Chewie starting running again, and I took off after him.

Chewie ran up to the dog, and the second he got close enough to give him a friendly sniff, the Pitbull bit Chewie in the face.  

Chewie screamed for his life, the most awful, high-pitched, feral sound I've ever heard.

Screeching and yelping, locked face to face with the Pit, Chewie dug his nails into the ground and tried to pull away. The owner grabbed the Pit and tried pulling him back.  I threw my hands in between their mouths to pry open the Pit's jaws. I got bit; not badly, but enough to bleed.  Enough to realize I was absolutely helpless to do anything to stop this fight. 

I vaguely registered the owner, a guy in his twenties and at least 200 lbs. of mass and muscle, pinning the Pit to the ground, trying to choke him out, to get his hands around the dog's face.  He looked bewildered, almost quizzical. He kept muttering, "this isn't supposed to happen. This isn't suppposed to happen," quietly, like a little boy asking for his mother's forgiveness.

I'd retreated to the sidewalk bordering my neighbor's lawn where the fight was taking place, alternately screaming for help, and cowering in the grass, certain I was watching my puppy die a horrific death.

Out of my periphery, I saw my neighbor, a kind man with the longest white hair, hair like Garth from Wayne's World, run out of his house and across the street and jump into the fray.  He tried to help the owner tackle the Pit, and then, as if by magic, people started arriving from all over.

Cars pulled over on the side of the road, two more neighbors ran out of their houses.  My friend who owns two dogs and lives right next to us, ran over with a bucket of water.

By this time there were five to six men trying to pull the dogs apart.  Two men on Chewie's side held him suspended in the air by the back legs, while the rest, grouped on the Pit's side, did the same.

It was a human and dog tug of war with Chewie at the center, squealing with an abject fear that never stopped.

The other dog was silent.

I had no idea what to do.  My husband had left to pick up the boys from a friend's house, and my five and four year old were in my house, supposedly napping, but the front door was open.  I couldn't pry open the jaws of a Pit on lockdown; I wasn't strong enough to wrestle him down; it didn't even occur to me to call police because it was happening so fast and I'd run out of the house without a cell phone anyway; and the idea of a weapon never crossed my mind.  

Someone asked, "Whose dog is this? Is the owner here?"

In the midst of the chaos, all the people continuing to jump out of their cars and run, shouting instructions at each other, gathering to help, I was a lone figure on the outskirts, a girl really, in running pants and sneakers and a hoodie, crouched in the grass like a loser.  

"I am," I said.  Ashamed at my inactivity.  My shitty helpless waiting for the inevitable.  

My neighbor with the water bucket made eye contact with the owner, a silent yes passed bewteen them, and she heaved the water onto both dogs' faces.  She might as well have spit on them. 

But that gave someone an idea, and out of the crowd of fifteen or so, someone yelled, "Find a hose." 

Then, like a fire brigade, people ran to another house, found a hose, pulled it across the lawn, and turned the water on full blast. They hosed the Pitbull full in the face until he couldn't breathe and broke his hold, and Chewie sprinted to my front door.  

I ran after him, crouched next to him, held him- he was shivering everywhere, sopping wet, ears back. I snotted and cried and shook.  I noticed more blood. I didn't know if it was his, or mine, or both.  Half the black of his nose had turned white, he had a slit coming up from his right nostril, his mouth was frothed and bloody.  

I looked up, and my eyes met a sea of compassionate faces.

My two neighbors across the street, the ones whose yard was used for the attack, were leaning in, offering to take my children so I could recover.

My good friend Kristin who lived three doors down rubbed my back and crooned.  

My neighbor with the water bucket handed me a towel, and started bandaging my hands.  

Her husband showed up with a brand new bag of dog bones for Chewie, and a note that said, "From Rocky to Chewie. These are the best bones ever."  He explained that they bought the bones before Rocky died, just a few weeks ago, and that it was only right for Chewie to have them.  I knew they were both still broken-hearted with loss.

A stranger approached, "I talked to the owner. He's actually not the owner.  It's a foster Pitbull. His friends are doing the fostering, but they had some domestic dispute, and so he stepped in to help foster the foster dog. He had no idea. The dog's been living with another dog and he'd never seen any signs of aggression.  He said the Pit got his rabies shots. I'm so sorry, ma'm. I will make sure that dog pays for this."  

Then the owner/not owner appeared.

Bashful, sheepish, he asked if there was anything he could do; he offered to pay for medical bills.  Chewie's hackles stood on edge and he growled deep and low, eyes fixed on the man.  

And then my husband pulled up in the driveway to the sight of his wife sobbing on the stoop, his dog sopping wet, and a menagerie of neighbors standing around.  I had to try and explain this, put it into words, make it real, which only released a huge gush of tears and I went mute.

The Pitbull walker stepped in to explain what happened from his perspective.

That his Pit was a foster, that the dog broke the gentle leader around his mouth to attack Chewie, that he was so sorry, that there was no prior history of violence. He offered his phone number and walked away, and someone called Animal Control.


By the time the white windowless van pulled up in front of my house, I had calmed down enough to start making sense of things.

Chewie wasn't dead.

It could have been so much worse. The Pit could have gotten his throat, or his eyes.  

What seemed like a hundred strangers had risked their own safety to help us out.  I know this feeling.  I recognize this goodness.  

This is what people were like after our house fire.  Limitless in their care.  Overwhelmingly generous in the face of our helplessness.

But I also hate this feeling. 

I hate the weakness, being forced to bear witness to something beyond my control.  

I want one without the other.

I want the experiential knowing that we need each other, that we are inextricably linked, that we survive because of strangers and friends who show up with buckets of water and bandages and bags of dog bones, who jump into the fray without a thought for personal cost. 

I want this proof that humans are good-hearted, selfless creatures whose best qualities come out in the face of threat or loss.  I want this heaven on earth experience of being on the receiving end of unconditional love.

I do not want my house to burn down. I do not want my dog to get attacked by a Pitbull.  I do not want to have to watch and pray and do nothing but take it.  


Animal Control started by asking if there were any human injuries.  I showed her my hands and she took pictures.  Then she asked for my statement, and I realized I was the one on trial, not the Pitbull.

I was the one at fault because my dog was off leash and invaded the other dog's personal space.  My dog received a bite report.  My dog had to be confined for ten days, which would have been in a contained facility if the other dog's owner decided to press charges.  As it stood, Chewie couldn't leave the yard, couldn't be off leash if he was in the yard, and at all other times had to be kenneled.  

I gave her my statement, told her I understood it was my fault, but would there be any repercussions at all for the other dog?  We're talking a fostered, non-neutered Pitbull being walked by a relative stranger of hefty bulk who could not control him in a neighborhood full of children.  


"He didn't do anything wrong," she replied.  

I asked her, "What if it had been one of my kids who went up to pet the dog?"

"You would be hard pressed to press charges," she replied.  "You'd have to prove there was a prior history of violence that the owner knew about and chose not to disclose.  Dogs are allowed to defend their territory, so it would be your child's fault for approaching a dog on a leash without asking the owner."  

I mentioned that in Denver, it's illegal to own a Pitbull.  She mentioned that she owned a fostered Pitbull, among her other dogs.  

I get it.  But this wasn't someone's fault, it was an accident.

I thought, I assumed, that after going through something so tough, I would be met with compassion and advocation.  That Chewie would be vindicated.  Instead, he was victimized, and then blamed.

Double victimized.


During the interrogation, Chewie huddled under the coffee table, his safe place since he was a pup. At any sound, his body tensed, hackles shot up, and he growled. He was jumpy, nervous, wouldn't come when called. If a dog walked by the window, he barked.  If he saw a man, he freaked out.  

I hate this.  

I hate that one second I had a dog who was innocent and trusting, assuming the best of the world, running up to greet life with full confidence he would be greeted in return.  And the next second, life took a bite out of his face, and stole his innocence.

I want to jump on the blame train, but if I do that, where does it stop?  Maybe it's my fault for adopting a rescue?  Maybe I didn't train him enough?  Is it my fault for not scanning the neighborhood before I let Chewie out the front door?  My fault for not calling the police the second the attack happened?

Is it the dog's fault for being a Pitbull? Is it the foster family's fault for not neutering him?  How about the dog walker's fault for helping his friends out and walking their dog in a new neighborhood?  

What if my husband hadn't gone to pick up my boys? He would have been there to help. Is it his fault? My fault for letting the boys go play at a friends' house so they had to be picked up later?  

The train careens faster into the nonsensical and circumspect. 

It runs off the rails and still never stops. 


The truth is, we inhabit a world where Pitbulls bite you in the face, and people show up to rescue.  

I am connected by the fabric of my humanity to all living things, the Pitbull and the benevolent stranger. 

I can't choose one without getting the other. 


Chewie's attack can feel like a shitty draw of the cards; I can see it as victimization and false accusation.

What are the odds of that dog at that time in this neighborhood walking by exactly when I get a yen to retrieve something from my car and decide to call my dog to walk fifteen feet with me to my driveway?

What are the odds that my older boys would be gone so they didn't have to witness the attack, and that my two youngers, who ended up not being asleep that whole time, never came out of their room?  That Chewie would be bitten in the face instead of the neck?  That so many neighbors would be home to come help?  

Because I am linked to my neighbors and my neighborhood and all living things, including a foster Pitbull, my dog was attacked.

Because I am linked to my neighbors and my neighborhood and all living things, including a foster Pitbull, my dog was saved.


You say yes to all, or yes to nothing. 

This is the tragedy of humanity, and this is its glory.  

Undeserved suffering. Unmerited blessing.

Senseless tragedy. Senseless provision.  


Start here.

With this truth.

If you say yes to life, you say yes to the Pitbull and the Provision.



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