Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Animals”

A Wish That Sticks Like Peanut Butter To The Roof Of Your Mouth


I know, this is probably the oddest title I have ever put on a post.  And I will be able to explain without the need of a flowchart.

I was watching the movie, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” starring Zach Gottsagen, Dakota Johnson, and Shia Labeouf.  It is a story about a young man with Down Syndrome, (Gottsagen an actor living with Down Syndrome) who has one wish, to wrestle professionally.  It is an inspirational movie, but that is not the purpose of this post.

There are other appearances in the movie by famous faces, two of which, are professional wrestlers in real life.  And not just wrestlers, but athletes that I grew up watching.  At this time, clearly these wrestlers are long past their prime in not just the movie, but real life.

And so, off on a search through Amazon and Netflix, I have been scouting as many documentaries as I can, about the many pro wrestlers I grew up watching, to see the many stories of “whatever happened to?”  One documentary led to another.  And then I stumbled across one that was not only my favorite pro wrestler, but would end up providing me with yet another role model of what I want to be remembered for, just like him, a father.

His name was Jim Hellwig.  But to his fans…

we knew him as, The Ultimate Warrior.

“WWE:  Ultimate Warrior – Always Believe” is the cliche documentary, before he became a wrestler, discovering wrestling, becoming his character, and coming around full circle in his career after struggling.

I liked many pro wrestlers, but there was just something about the Warrior, his energy, enthusiasm, and always a positive attitude, rivaling Hulk Hogan at times.

He would come running into the ring, and immediately release a ton of energy going from corner to corner, flexing his muscles, shaking the ring ropes, and just when you thought he should be exhausted, he still had a match to complete.  He was the ultimate good guy.  And then the ultimate and inevitable happened, facing the ultimate good guy had to face the incredible good guy, Hulk Hogan, leaving many torn who they would cheer for.  I liked Hogan at the time, but I definitely cheered the loudest for the Ultimate Warrior.

As time went on, as often happens, the Warrior fell out with the WWF.  In the documentary a lot of that time is covered, but the focus is on the reunion of the Warrior and the WWF, because Hellwig is finally being inducted into the WWF Wrestling Hall Of Fame.

This is the most touching part of the documentary, because it allows us to focus on what would be realized as the most important part of his life, not wrestling and fame, but his wife and his two young daughters.  In fact, instead of having female models escort him out when announced during the ceremony like the other wrestlers, he was escorted out by his two daughters.

This is where the “peanut butter” gets stuck.  You hear Hellwig proclaim how important his daughters are to him.  And you also hear from the daughters, everything their father means to them.

Tragically, or as fate would have it,  Hellwig passed away from a cardiac episode, the day after being inducted into the WWF Wrestling Hall Of Fame.  As someone who faced his own imminent cardiac event, no one is aware of how quickly something can be taken away from you, and that you have no control when it happens, than me.

The ultimate father left behind two young daughters.

During this documentary, I found myself reflecting on my health and my relationships with my daughters.  Out of the six health incidents I have had, my daughters have personally witnessed three of them.  And as I struggle with the uncertainties from my cancer treatments over thirty years ago, this suddenness weighs heavily on my mind.  And then, there is a divorce that has left us living a huge distance apart.

As I heard Hellwig’s daughters talk about all of the things that they will always remember about their father, and not just the wrestling, I wondered, have I left as important an impression on both of my daughters, that they would remember me positively.

My daughters know me for being a “voice” for those who do not have one, whether it is health related, bullying, or any other advocacy need.  They know me for being a loyal friend.  There is no doubt that they know I am willing to fight for anything, especially my health.  I believe I have set enough of a moral example for them, of how they should want to be treated and respected, and likewise returned.  My daughters will have lots of fun memories, and I know will be able to proclaim their father was a great cook.  They will be proud of the things that I have written, and will always remember how my voice sounded in song.

But the most important thing I want my daughters to be able to say, reflects on my childhood, and that is, my daughters will always be able to say, regardless of the distance between us, I never gave up on them.  I did everything I could to see them and talk to them.  I stayed involved in their lives, including their education.  I cannot say that about the relationship between my late father and I.  And the same situation applies for many other parents, fathers and mothers, who have made the decision to walk away for whatever reason.  But my daughters will never know that feeling.  I am always a part of their lives.

I will be there when they graduate High School, and likely some form of continuing education.  Should they get married, I will be the one walking them down the aisle.  I look forward to holding my own grandchildren some day.

Yes, I grew up in a “broken” home, divorced parents.  I had no role model for a father figure, other than the parents of some of my closest friends.  But every now and then, I witness something that lets me know, that I must be doing something right, because I can recognize it.

And that is what this documentary did for me, help me to see, that I have been, and am doing things right, as best as I can.  Most importantly, living and doing as if there might not be a tomorrow.

Whether as the Ultimate Warrior character or as Jim Hellwig the father, he was known for some of his most wise thoughts.

“You must show no mercy…nor have any belief whatsoever in how others judge you…for your greatness will silence them all.”

“The most awesome thing I will ever do, is be your father.”

Like I said, the character of the Ultimate Warrior was my favorite, but he was such an inspiration and example of what a father should be, and how one should be remembered.  I want my daughters to be able to reflect on me similarly, but without the face paint and bulging muscles.

Finally, though not having to do with the Ultimate Warrior, but as I was going through these wrestling documentaries, it was during “The Resurrection of Jake The Snake”, another wrestler, and played a wrestling role in the “Peanut Butter Falcon,” that former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, who played a pivotal return in Jake “the Snake” Robert’s recovery efforts, DDP spoke profoundly the following quotes that I want to share, and well, this post was perfect to include them on:

“The power you give yourself, by believing in you.”  And, “never underestimate the power you give someone by believing in them.”

See Mom?  Pro Wrestling ain’t all bad.  Sometimes some good comes out of it.

You Were Always There For Me


Well, this story was not supposed to take this long to come out, but as the organization that was supposed to publish it, got delayed because of Covid19, I have decided not to wait any longer.

So, this is a project that I do every year.  It is a short story piece that I write and submit for publishing.  This year I had decided to write about experiences with my late fur friend, but from his point of view.  I hope you enjoy it.

I want to thank fellow long term cancer survivor and author Lara Vaughan Lazenby for her help with this story.

 

You Were Always There For Me

Hi there.  My name is Pollo, pronounced like the cologne, but spelled like Spanish chicken.  I do not know why I was given that name.  But hearing it has always made me happy, and I heard my name a lot.

Paul always seemed to know what I liked, and what was best for me.  In fact, I knew I could always count on Paul.  There was this one time he took me swimming, because I really liked the water.  I was a really good swimmer too!  I think I had fun because all I remember of that day is one moment I was splashing away, and the next, I was running from this other person wearing a white coat, towards Paul.  His eyes were leaking.  I did not understand this.

Fortunately, I would remember everything else as I got older.  Like this one time, Paul went out the front door, but did not come back in, for six lights and darks.  This was unusual, because Paul never went anywhere without me.  We were buddies.  When he finally came home, I was so happy.  And I let him know it too.  My tail wagged so hard and fast, it knocked everything over within reach.

But there was something odd about Paul.  He did not seem like himself.  He actually smelled kind of funny.  I have never experienced that smell before – not from the house, the car, outside – very unusual.

Paul was happy to see me too, though he could have been a bit more excited.  Something was different about him.  When he would feel better, we could get back to normal and play.  In the meantime, I just sat beside him, stared up at him, with my head on his knee.  He had always taken care of me.  It was my turn to take care of him.

Another situation would happen again, only this time, strange men came into our house, woke us up, and then took Paul away on a bed with wheels.  It would be days before I would see him again, and he came home with that same odor.  I did not like that smell.

I could not understand why this kept happening to him.  We liked to play and have fun.  I missed that.  From what I could comprehend, Paul was sick a long time ago, and these events that kept happening to him were because of that.  The important thing… he kept coming back home.

And it was a good thing.  Because I found myself needing attention too.  Being a golden retriever, I loved to eat… everything.  This one time, I found this thing in the ground.  It was so yummy, but soon after, my head started feeling funny.  Then my stomach.  Paul had to take me back to those people with the white coats again.  And just like Paul, I came home.  Every time.  You see, I kept on doing it.  They were so yummy.

We both got older, although I feel like I got older more quickly.  Of course, my backyard habit did not help every time I ate those things.  Paul and I hung around the house a lot more than we used to.  I guess we each had our own reason.  I was happy to just sit next to him, or on him, and have him scratch my ears.  I really loved that.

We kept taking turns going away.  Paul seemed to do it a lot more, but he always came home to me.  He needed me.  He could depend on me.  And I could depend on him.

There came a time when things got really quiet in our house.  It was also more dark inside the house and outside.  Paul turned on lights making it brighter for him, but the funny thing was, it did not get brighter for me.  I could not get up the stairs anymore, so Paul made sure I had a comfy place to sleep downstairs not just occasionally, but all the time!  He always took great care of me.

One morning, Paul came downstairs right on time to let me outside.  He caught me by surprise, but I knew it was him.  I could feel it.  I stood up, stretched.  He opened up the door.  But I did not move.  I could not.  Just then, I felt myself being lifted… but in such a way that I felt as if I was being tightly hugged.  I could not see him, hear him, or smell him.  But I knew it was Paul.  We always took care of each other.  He always knew what to do.  I liked when he hugged me so tight.  But all I wanted to do now, was run again.  Now I can.  Paul made sure of that, just like he promised.

Adopt! Don’t Shop!


It is perhaps the best slogan/advertisement.  Easy enough to remember.  Just three words, “adopt, don’t shop.”

I got triggered this morning, because of all ads to appear on my news feed, is the advertisement for a new pet store that is opening today.  In general, I am not opposed to pet stores, just those that sell dogs and cats.  And this is one that does sell those cute and cuddly kittens and puppies.  It is also a chain of stores.

I am not sharing a snapshot of the advertisement because I do not want to draw attention to their disgusting business.  But I noticed something when I responded to the ad, with an angry emoji, and an explanation of why pet stores that sell pets really should not be in business, a sentiment echoed by others on that same ad.  Later in the day, the comments and ability to “like” or dislike the ad were turned off and the negative comments were removed.  And then, more ads for the same store came across my feed, and before I could respond on those, as any advocate would do, the ability to comment was also turned off.  So far I count at least six attempts for them to try and get some positive exposure.  But as I mentioned, this is a chain store, and that means that people who had negative experiences will share those negative experiences in any perspective new locations.

Instead of just facing on the criticism, the most frequent complaint, selling puppy mill puppies, their first line of defense is “deny, deny, deny.”

Semantics is defined by Websters as the “language used to have a desired effect.”  In other words, pet stores deny that they buy from puppy mills.  And technically they would be correct.  Except they have a middle man called a broker.  This broker goes from puppy mill to puppy mill, then sells those cute and cuddly puppies to the pet stores.  Semantics.

How can I prove this?  Simple, I went through the experience.

This was Pollo, an eight week old Golden Retriever.  OMG he was so cute and cuddly.  I really had no business going into the pet store in the first place.  I was leaving on a week long trip in two weeks.  Really bad timing.  But he was sooooo cute.  I had to have him.

Pet stores know what they are doing.  They know we cannot resist puppies.  Why do you think people avoid walking into animal shelters, because they know there is a good chance they will walk out with a rescue, because we have hearts and empathy.  But to be able to get a puppy and start from the beginning?  They are just so cute!

And then, if you are unfortunate, you find out there is an ugly truth behind where he came from.

Pollo loved the water.  At around the age of six months, he experienced an episode that I ended up carrying his limp body into the vet hospital.  I never did find out what happened to him, but he did recover.  To help the vet, I figured it would be helpful if I got the health history of his parents and I approached the pet store for his vet records.  That is when I ran into an unbelievable roadblock and in the end, discovered that Pollo came from a puppy mill in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area.

This is not a photo of the exact Amish farm that Pollo came from, but it is very similar to the image of where he came from.  I know this, because of my efforts of involving the USDA, the Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture and Dog Warden, journalists and more.  As we got close to the truth, circumstances got bizarre in that evidence of any puppy activity had been relocated, we would later discover to another family member, a common tactic to avoid regulation and discovery of these awful conditions.  All because the pet store fought me on some simple and basic information.  The pet store, Pollo, and I all ended up on People’s Court over this very issue.  Needless to say, they lost.

Other than that one fateful day, I enjoyed nearly fifteen years with my best friend, known affectionately as “the Happy Golden,” a nickname because of his non-stop wagging tail and always giving the appearance of him smiling.  My fur family member went to the Rainbow Bridge nearly seven years ago, breaking my heart, but not my resolve.  I am unable to have another dog yet, emotionally.  But I will still advocate for awareness of the need to adopt the many pets that are abandoned, lost, or even rescued.

It has been a long time since I got involved in this effort, the last time happened when that same pet store opened a new location where I was living previously.  But as this new pet store is opening today, with lots of fun and excitement, and get this, $500 off the price of a new puppy.  THIS IS DISGUSTING!!!!

The puppy mill industry is a billion dollar industry for the Amish and other groups.  And the more puppies you buy, the longer they are all just too willing to meet the demand.  Remember the picture above.  I have seen situations way worse, and it is only because of pet stores selling their merchandise.  Stop buying puppies from pet stores, and the demand stops.  It is that simple.

There are all kinds of ways to adopt pets, even puppies if that is a requirement.  There are animal shelters, humane societies, and even breed specific organizations.  There are so many ways to adopt a wonderful fur friend who has been abandoned or lost, unable to be found by its owner.

But the demand needs to end for puppies from puppy mills, and that starts with stop buying dogs and cats from pet stores.

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