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    Triptych of Bingo, My Guardian Angel

    story about a dog

    Triptych of Bingo, My Guardian Angel

    By Grace Sullivan

    I can’t remember the house we got her from.

    Nor can I remember the lady that gave her to us. I can’t even remember what the other dog that was chasing her around a coffee table when we walked in looked like. However, I do distinctly remember that my dad told my mother and I he wanted a big, mostly grown male who could fetch the newspaper. My dad realized when we came back with her that neither of us had been listening.

    I was three years old, quite unobservant, and all I wanted in life to make me happy was a dog.

    Basically, these were simpler times. My mom had done some research for pet adoption after her old dog, Austin, died from cancer when I was two. I only remember that mutt through home videos of him fetching a ball and bringing it back gently to my baby seat. I don’t even think I asked for another dog; our big house just felt empty to my mother without a dog’s footsteps.

    There was a couple on Facebook that posted they had found two stray dogs that they couldn’t keep and needed a home.

    My mom drove me over there, probably so that she could avoid having to let me sift through twenty or so dogs at an animal shelter. A good decision on her part. Now I only had two girl puppies to choose from and surprisingly, I didn’t take very long. The door opened to their house, the couple greeted us, and they brought us into the living room. As I mentioned before, there were two of them, the one with slightly darker fur chasing the other one around a small coffee table. Neither of them bothered to look up, even as my mom and I walked over and sat down on the other side of the couch. Neither of them seemed to get bored from running around a coffee table over and over again either. My mom told me to look at them, maybe pet them once they calmed down.

    I was allowed to choose which one we took home. 

    I took a good look at both of them. The one doing the chasing had reddish fur, slightly longer legs than the other, a little bit skinnier. She reminded me of a spice. Cinnamon, specifically. I took my attention to the other one. She seemed a bit more nervous than her “sister”, but she still looked as if she was having fun. Her fur was only a couple shades lighter, but for some reason, I associated her with a pale sweetness, with sugar or cream.

    “I want the vanilla one!”

    I said in the middle of my mom’s conversation about adoption prices. Looking back, this made absolutely no sense for me to say. First of all, I was referring to the lighter dog, but vanilla extract is a dark substance. I guess my child brain was imagining the ice cream. Secondly, the dog wasn’t even a light color. It was still a ginger-brown at the time. Only by the time she was around ten would she really start to look like a “vanilla” dog. “Which one is that?” My mom had to ask, glancing between the two in confusion. I pointed to the one I meant and her attention was drawn to me. The puppy licked my pointed finger and jumped up on the couch next to me. My mom and I were equally delighted.

    “Well, what do you want to name her?”

    I could have said Vanilla, but that sounded more like middle name material to me. So I gave our new dog to only dog’s name I knew.

    “Bingo. She will be Bingo Vanilla Sullivan.”

    Little did my three-year-old self know I would have to correct just about everyone that Bingo was a girl for the rest of my life. All because the children’s rhyme said “his name-o.” But it didn’t matter to me then. I spent the rest of the time cooing over Bingo and constantly reaffirming her that she would, in fact, be going home with us. She just sat across from me and pantsed with no understanding of my words. I loved her already.

    Bingo was about four years old by now.

    And she was officially the most important thing to me in the world. So important that I even got offended when my parents told me I was more important to them than our family dog. I immediately greeted her with hugs and kisses every day after school, and sometimes I would even just lay beside her on our living room carpet and scratch her belly as she licked my face like I was her baby kitten. As soon as we brought her home, we realized she thought she was a cat, and as I spoiled her rotten, she was led to believe she was also a queen. I didn’t mind and I even let her have her own little throne: our ottoman.

    My best friend, Alex, came over one day before we had to go to karate.

    Alex happened to be the other most important thing to me at the time. I was only seven, but I was already experiencing the feeling of anxiousness a teenager gets when their crush comes over for the first time. We arrived back from school and Alex wanted to go on the trampoline in my backyard. Bingo sat outside on the porch, watching closely as we climbed through the net. We did all the activities one usually does when on a trampoline: jumped, bounced, flipped, rolled. At one point, we started wrestling, aka the most romantic thing you can do with your crush at age seven. I shrieked and giggled out of excitement, and we kept at it for about ten minutes before we had to go inside to get ready.

    What I had failed to notice during our ultra-romantic wrestling match was Bingo watching intently from the porch. She had gotten very concerned that someone was attacking her kitten and hadn’t known how to stop it until we got off the trampoline. As soon as Alex hit the ground, Bingo ran across the yard and jumped on top of Alex so that she could bite him on the finger. My dad ran out and held her back before she could do any worse, although it seemed like she just wanted to give him a warning.

    “Ow! Bad dog!”

    Alex yelped, holding his finger where teeth marks were barely visible. My dad took us inside to let Alex get cleaned up and scolded Bingo on the way in. “Grace, you need to keep that dog away from me!” Alex exclaimed as my mom led him to sink to rinse the wound with water.
    Never before had I been genuinely angry at Alex, but him scolding my dog was enough to do it. I found it sweet that Bingo had protected me, even though there was nothing to be protected from, and the fact that Alex thought he had the right to get upset about a mere nip had me bristling. Secretly, while my mom put on a bandaid, I walked back outside to where Bingo was being punished and knelt down beside her.

    “It’s okay, girl. I know you didn’t mean to hurt my crush.

    You thought he was attacking me. I still love you.” I planted a kiss on her cheek and rubbed the warm spot between the napes of her forehead. She licked my hand and I could’ve sworn the corners of her mouth turned up.
    Alex, on the other hand, I didn’t speak to for the next three days, until he promised he would never insult my dog again.

    We drove Bingo back from the shelter mostly in silence, the exceptions being my dad’s sniffles and my mom turning around from the passenger seat to smile at Bingo in hopes of a tail wag.

    Her tail didn’t move. The only thing that did was her big, brown eyes, gazing up glumly from her thin blanket. I rubbed her head in the backseat, carefully pushing her body when she sat up, encouraging her to lay back down. I got out my phone to take photos when I realized this was her last day. Putting the phone close up to her snout, I made sure to replicate a photo I had taken of her years ago at our old house, back when she was healthy. Later, when I compared the two, I would see how her nose had cracked and dried over time, and how the edges of the fur were completely white now.

    My dad carried her down our driveway, her legs too frail to walk down herself. It was strange seeing Bingo like this. For most of her life, she had been able to keep a puppy’s level of energy. Now, just as we all realized her life was nearing its end, did she become an old woman. My dad slowly set her down on her dog bed, facing the big windows overlooking our den. The natural light reflected onto her glazed eyes and it already felt like I was looking at a dead dog.

    We stayed surrounding her and petting her until the night came.

    My mom had gotten up earlier to make us some dinner, but my dad and I stayed put. My dad sat on the couch, watching me scratch Bingo’s belly, much more carefully than I had in her earlier years. I could feel her ribs protruding from her stomach, the way her body now felt like it was just a thin layer of skin wrapped over bones. From the corner of my eye, I noticed my dad was crying. Slow, silent tears that he was trying to force a way through rapid blinking and coos at Bingo. All I could do was sit on the couch next to him and put a hand on his shoulder, the other one rubbing Bingo’s head. During the night, my parents went back to their bedroom, but I had asked to stay in the den with Bingo.

    Part of me was terrified if we all left, she would pass before the morning.

    So I used a blanket from off the couch and I laid down next to her. I scratched her stomach, but her tongue had become gross over the last few weeks of sickness. So instead, I put my nose to hers: a dog’s kiss. I couldn’t believe how cracked it was. I rubbed the side of her face, right in the spot that resembled a lion’s mane, trying to memorize the texture of her fur. Telling her how she had been a good girl, I talked to her through the night.

    Thanking her for biting Alex that one time even though he hadn’t been hurting me. Apologizing to her for giving her a name that made half the people we knew thought she was a boy. She laid across from me, blinking as a sign of listening, her body’s subtle movements up and down the only indication she still breathed. She wasn’t smiling back like she used to, and I couldn’t stop tears from reaching my eyes. But Bingo nuzzled her head closer toward me as a tear fell and tried to lick it off my face as she had always done when I was younger. “Thank you, sweet girl,” I whispered. I smiled even though she didn’t and finally, I fell asleep.

    To our collective relief, Bingo was still breathing when we all woke up.

    We spent more hours huddled around the dog bed before the vet came, some of our family friends stopping in to visit Bingo and say goodbye. In the afternoon, the vet arrived and I attempted to make myself as composed as possible. She was a nice woman. She didn’t talk too much about the process of putting Bingo down until it was necessary, instead keeping her tone conversational and remarking on how sweet Bingo seemed.
    “Yeah, she’s been our guardian angel, especially for Grace,” my mom said to the vet. I wasn’t paying too much attention to their conversation; my gaze was focused completely on Bingo. A part of me worried I would never see her again, that dogs don’t go to heaven or maybe that heaven wasn’t real at all. But if any dog were to go to heaven, I would think it would be her.

    Finally, the time came and the vet started explaining how this would go.

    We were free to leave the room she said, but none of us wanted to. I could tell all of us felt like Bingo shouldn’t go without us by her side. I doubt she even remembered a time we weren’t by her side when she was just a little puppy chasing her sister around a coffee table. The vet brought out the shot that would put her down, promising us it wouldn’t hurt her. I buried my head into her anyway; I didn’t want to see the shot go into her frail body, no matter if it hurt or not. Bingo was shaking. I started speaking to her in an effort to calm us both down. “It’s ok baby, it’s alright, you can go,” I said, my voice barely a whisper so that no one else could hear it but her. “I love you, it’s ok, I love you, it’s ok, I love you, it’s ok..”
    The shot had been injected. Bingo didn’t stop breathing yet. “Oh my god, she’s still holding on,” the vet said. “She really doesn’t want to leave you guys.”

    Another wave of tears arrived as I realized we should have expected this.

    Bingo had always been stubborn. The vet refilled the shot to do another injection. Bingo was too sick to stay alive. We could all tell it was painful for her to hold on. “Bingo, it’s alright, I promise.” My tears landed on her cold forehead as the vet put in the last injection. “I love you, baby, it’s ok. You can go, I’ll be ok.”

    Her breath came to a stop.

    Her frail body wasn’t moving anymore. I kept my face buried in hers as she finally let go.

  • Animals, TRENDING

    Passion in Action: My Birmingham Zoo Volunteer Experience by Marie Harris

    Recently I had the privilege of attending the Young Women’s Empowerment Conference, a day long event whose name speaks for itself. The day was full of influential women and unifying activities, and around noon, attendees broke out for a “booth” session, where organizations throughout the community discussed their work and how we as young women could contribute to their causes. One booth present this year was the Birmingham Zoo, and I excitedly joined Kirsten Smith, the zoo’s Volunteer Coordinator and one of my personal inspirations, to distribute information (and origami elephants) on the myriad avenues of service the zoo offers. Kirsten wanted me to give a “volunteer’s perspective” on why someone should consider volunteering at the zoo, but as I stood there, I realized just how hard it was to fully recount how invaluable volunteering with the zoo has been for me.

    In my personal experience, I have been trained for pachyderm area, Giraffe Feeding Station, ReptileCrew, and interacting with visitors on the Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) spectrum. I’ve listened to lectures from UAB professors, joined meetings with the Alabama Paleontological Society, and supervised volunteers for zoo special events. I’ve made lifelong friends from schools I didn’t even know existed, gained countless mentors, and spilled entire trays of baked beans during Teacher Night. A science project I conducted in the zoo’s butterfly garden placed first at the Alabama Junior Academy of Science and later received honorable mention at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. I was even honored with the Community Service Award at YWEC 2016 through recommendation from the zoo’s Volunteer Manager Alonia Diaz.
    And, I must admit, all of that sounds super cool! I would be lying, however, if I said that these were the greatest things I’ve gained from volunteering at the zoo. Truthfully, the greatest impact the zoo has made on me is that it has granted me an unparalleled sense of self confidence. It is for that reason that I strongly encourage young people like you (yes, you!) to apply to volunteer at the Birmingham Zoo.

    When I first applied to volunteer, I was an awkward and generally unsociable sophomore in high school. In retrospect, I had no idea what I anticipated for that summer, other than it was something new to try. My first assignment was CampCrew, where I assisted with the children in the zoo’s summer camps. From that, my next assignment was biofacts, which are mini-presentations where you utilize given artifacts (essentially conversation starters) relating to a selected animal to “interpret” to visitors passing through the exhibit. This latter task proved very challenging, as engaging with others was not my forte. In all situations, however, I intentionally forced myself to persevere, and soon engaging and speaking with others felt very natural for me. To this day, you can’t get me to shut up!

    At the end of the summer, Alonia planned a Volunteer Appreciation Party for all of the teen volunteers. It was at this party, which I of course arrived late to, that I was presented with a certificate signifying my promotion to Zoofari Teen. Zoofari Teen is the highest promotion a teen volunteer can receive and typically takes three years to achieve. I was thus beyond shocked and even more so honored that I was able to reach this level with only a summer’s worth of experience. Knowing that the staff at the zoo had so much faith in my competency as to allow me to receive this promotion granted me so much confidence, and since then, I have channelled this confidence in everything I do, enabling me to embark on ventures I would have never imagined myself attempting. I am therefore forever grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at the Birmingham Zoo, and I wholeheartedly advocate for others to apply as a volunteer so they too can experience the empowerment which I have hereby encountered.
    Though there are many reasons you should consider volunteering here, from service hours to free zoo admission, the Birmingham Zoo is incredible because of the people that comprise it. By volunteering at the zoo, you will get the opportunity to join a family of people who maintain a common passion and appreciation for the natural world and who share a mutual commitment to inspiring and investing this love in others. So break out of your shell, and apply to be a volunteer at the Birmingham Zoo today!

    Applications for the Birmingham Zoo’s Teen Volunteer program are due April 8, 2017 and can be accessed at www.birminghamzoo.com. For more information regarding the volunteer programs at the Birmingham Zoo, contact Alonia Diaz at [email protected]

  • Animals, Articles, TRENDING

    14-Year-Old Girl Invents AWESOME Device to Help Her Dog Deal with Loneliness

    Brooke Martin is only 14 years old, but she managed to invent something that might just change the way you and your dog interact when you leave the house. Her creation, iCPooch, was inspired by her shelter dog, Kayla, who suffered from canine separation anxiety when Brooke wasn’t around.
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    To help her best friend, Brooke created an internet-enabled device that let her video chat with her dog and even give her a treat … no matter where she was! iCPooch is an absolutely brilliant idea for owners who spend time away from home, whether they’re at work, school, out with friends, or just on the road a lot. With iCPooch, you just need use your iphone or tablet to call your dog through the device and interact with it.

    Watch the video and learn more about this wonderful new way to stay in touch with your pooch when you’re not home!

  • Animals, Articles, Sheroes

    SHero: Rachel Mohd

    Rachel Mohd is an animal rights activist that definitely falls into the category of Shero. She is an 18-year-old local to Birmingham who started Animal Allies, a club that works on animal activism. I had the pleasure of interviewing her. Read on to see what she had to say!

    Question: How did you get interested in animal rights?
    Answer: I have always been passionate about animal rights. I think once I started volunteering at my local human society, my love for animals finally had an outlet. Seeing animals gain the confidence they needed in order to be adopted after training them for a few weeks really opened my eyes and made me want others to see what they were capable of.

    Q: When did you decide you wanted to start Animal Allies?
    A: I have always wanted to start Animal Allies, I just didn’t know how. One of my teachers told me that I should’ve started a club at my high school promoting animal allies, but it was too late because applications were due long ago. I thought that was a great idea and still wanted to do it, so I contacted the teen advisory board at the Homewood Public Library and told them my idea and then Animal Allies was born.

    Q:What all does Animal Allies do?
    A: Animal Allies do different things each meeting. We have had guest speakers come in and educate the community on what it takes to own a pet and the importance spaying and neutering. We have also had staff from my local humane society, The Greater Birmingham Humane Society, come in and teach us about how to become volunteers. We were asked to make posters for The Cats and Dogs Foundation to be displayed at Birmingham’s Do Dah Day. We have had vegetarian pot lucks, watched educational films on animal rights, made posters that promoted animal rights to hang around town, made totes with animal rights slogans, and we have even had therapy animals come in.

    Q: Are there plans to expand Animal Allies?
    A: There are plans to expand Animal Allies. We have started to make flyers to put up around town so more people can hear about our club and what we do. We want to continue putting our name out and gaining new members.

    Q: Do you think animal rights are an issue everyone should get involved with? If so, why?
    A: I believe that animal rights are an issue and everyone should be work towards being a voice for the animals. I have always believed that we should support animal rights because animals can’t do it themselves. If we don’t stick up for the animals, no one else will. It is important to understand that you don’t have to do anything big in order to support animal rights. Meatless Mondays, volunteering at your local humane society, adopting instead of shopping for a pet, and even just educating those close to you are all ways anyone can help support animals.

    Q: Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start their own sort of organization?
    A: Have passion for what you are do and there is no way you won’t succeed! Many people believe that you have to have certain traits in order to create something, but it’s important to realize that if you have already thought about creating your own organization, you have what it takes!

    Q: What’s your favorite animal?
    A: My favorite animal would have to be a dog!

    Thank you so much to Rachel Mohd for doing this interview!

    (Written by Megan Flint.)

  • Animals, Confidence

    To the Girls Who Could Change the World

    When you sit and contemplate about this, it’s all of us. Changing the world isn’t about changing everyone or everyone knowing you and if they don’t they live under rocks. Changing the world could be us changing our city, changing our school, our families, the one person no one likes, or even just yourself. Not everyone has someone that will smile at them everyday and not need a reason to do it. People look for something someone can like about them, but to change the world we’ll need a new perspective won’t we? We’ll need to say, “I’m looking for something i don’t like about them.” Which I’ll add is hard to do when you don’t even know the person. When all you do is pass them in the hall and hear your friends all talking about them, laughing at them, for what?

    Maybe for their shoes, they’re not in style. They wear a black beanie, the same one everyday, laughing because the think they don’t wash it. We laugh and let out friends laugh at such stupid things. But what we don’t know or even notice how they might be poor in money they have a rich spirit, a rich personality that no one can simply buy. These are the things people cant change themselves into. People change and tweak themselves like we are a phone homepage, how everything could be placed differently. Or regrouped and renamed we change ourselves to fit a portrait that’s not even real, we’re trying to fit a mold that no one fits in, its a mold that’s not even real. That’s why you changing yourself to be YOU is the best change you can make!

  • Animals, Writing

    Camp NaNoWriMo

    (Image credit to wintersmagicstock on DeviantArt.)

    Summer is here, and with the freedom it brings sometimes comes boredom or a feeling of being lost, because you have no idea what to do. School isn’t in session and maybe you have a job or maybe you don’t, but there’s not a daily commitment for a lot of teenagers in the summer.

    If this is you, I have a suggestion. Camp NaNoWriMo is a website based writing challenge. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and the usual challenge runs in November. The basic challenge there is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. That’s right, you can’t write any of it in October, and you have to try to finish by 11:59 pm November 30th. The prize is just a certificate saying that you won, and some discounts on related software, but it’s an incredibly difficult challenge, so many people are happy with the feeling of accomplishment that winning NaNoWriMo brings.

    Camp NaNoWriMo is similar to the November challenge, but not the same. It runs in April and July every year. For Camp, you get to pick your own word count goal. You also can do any genre, including nonfiction or scripts. Technically, that’s out of bounds for NaNoWriMo territory, though they let people do it anyway as “NaNo rebels.”

    In addition to those things, you can be in a “cabin.” These cabins are also based online. You can choose people to be put into a cabin with, or you can pick requirements for your desired cabin mates, like wanting them to be people who are writing a similar genre to you or close to you in age. You can also choose to have random cabin mates picked for you, or opt out of the cabin entirely. Cabins are there so you can make friends, and so that you and your buddies can encourage each other when the going gets tough, because it does during these challenges.

    Writing a novel in a month might sound easy to those who have not attempted it, but rest assured, it is difficult. Sometimes writers don’t feel like writing, or they don’t have inspiration at the moment. That’s usually fine, but taking a day or two off during a monthly challenge can put you behind. That’s what’s great about Camp, though. For a while, you can adjust your word count goal. Also, if you set your goal to be less than 50,000 words, it’s almost like a trial run of the full-fledged NaNoWriMo challenge.

    I encourage everyone to try out Camp, because it truly is fun. They welcome everyone over at Camp NaNoWriMo. Give it a shot and see what you can come up with in July. Shoot for the moon or maybe a more modest goal, but whatever you come up with, be proud of it. After all, it is your own creation, and that should be treasured.

    What are you waiting for? Head over to campnanowrimo.org/ and sign up now. Happy writing!

    Written by Megan Flint.