Operation Unapologetic Moxie

This weekend I’m really excited about a project I’m working on, and I’m hesitant to tell anyone about it until its  finished, but I then I figured that in telling people, it’d keep me motivated and hold me accountable.  So….OPERATION UNAPOLOGETIC MOXIE!!

Not Moxie my dog, featured here, looking as pretty as ever.  Unapologetic Moxie, my new website, will be at www.unapologeticmoxie.com, when it’s done–hopefully next week. So hooray!  My very first domain name.  How fantastic. 

The main purpose of the site is to host “The Chronicles” and display my writing samples, the pictures I take and maybe an “All things Heather” page, which I think I’ll work on tonight.  I don’t have anything to sell and the only thing I’m an expert on is all things random, belligerent and inappropriate, so  I’m sure the site initially seems narcissistic and shallow to a lot of people, which I get, but that’s not the purpose.  The purpose is a push on my part to actually create a ME brand so that I don’t have to work for other people for the rest of my life and instead I can be a slave to myself, my pencils and blank sheets of paper.  I want to finish this book I’ve been working on.  And this time I’m serious.

So, I didn’t intend for this post to be an explanation of my new site.  I instead just wanted to explain the name of the site, Unapologetic Moxie.  I was explaining it to a friend the other day and in doing so, I realized people might think I’m obsessed with my dog, which yes, is a true story–but not the case here. 

In the spring of 2008, I decided I wanted a dog of my own and started a search for the perfect companion.  I don’t do puppy stores and we work too much and socialize too much to be fair to a puppy, so we decided on a shelter hunt.  We looked for a while, looking for shibas and chows and then in the end, another Australian Cattle dog, figuring it would really be the only breed of dog that Dante wouldn’t eat in one bite (he’s really out of control, that one).  And so then we saw a picture of her and I knew she was probably the one.  I went to the HART dog show near Dulles and found her almost instantly.  She was beyond shy and petrified, making no eye contact and sitting in one spot, shaking and refusing to leave Nancy, the woman who had been taking care of her for two months while they looked for a home for her.   

We introduced her to Dante, which is a frightening experience in itself, as there is always an 89% chance that he might lunge straight for a neck, or at the very least give a good face chomp.  (he’s really so sweet, though.)  Neither of them seemed to care about the other.  Nancy encouraged me to walk her, get to know her, see if she took to me.  She didn’t.  She didn’t want anything to do with anyone but Nancy.  Nancy walked away, Moxie cried and watched her, ultimately ripping out of her own leash to run off and chase her.  I was unhappy and jealous and started to pout.  Why didn’t she LIKE ME LIKE THAT?  I was irrational, having just met her, but I’ve never had that bond and I wanted it.  While we waited and stalked my new best friend, the HART people told me this little dog’s story. 

She came to them after being found in an alley, I think in West Virginia.  She had a shattered pelvis, broken in three places, couldn’t walk and they thought she had either been kicked by cattle or hit by a car.  Upon bringing Mox in for x-rays, the vet found that Moxie had a stillborn baby in her, which would explain why she was so sad, why she hoarded toys, why she was so territorial, even when in pain.  She didn’t understand that her baby was gone, maybe because it was still inside her.  She was on bed rest for six weeks in a foster home, where she had a few unexplained seizures and did her best to play with the other dogs.  “We’re not sure if anyone will ever take her,” they told me.  “People don’t typically take dogs with seizure problems and her hips won’t ever be as good as new.  People like dogs that can run, and Moxie won’t ever be able to run like other dogs.”  A looked at her and felt so sad for her.  She was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen and I didn’t care if she couldn’t run fast–neither could I and people like me.  I would take her home when she was ready and we’d be new friends.

  And so I stayed there, for about four hours, trying to walk her, just sitting with her, and petting her, saying her name, which at the time was Mitzi, which wasn’t very fitting, considering that name I think is typically just reserved for blue haired, card playing old women who smoke unfiltered menthols, wear bangle bracelets and smack gum while wearing lipstick named “Cotton Candy.”  She wasn’t a Mitzi.  At the start of hour five, the volunteers came over to me and asked me if I’d like to take her home, at first for a trial, but then for longer, if the dogs got along and if I didn’t find her to be much trouble.  And so we bought her a big girl bed and a leash and she sat in the front with me, shaking the whole way back to Old Town. 

The first two months were terrible for her.  In her first weeks, I was sure we’d have to bring her back.  She stood alone in a corner for days straight, crying and shaking, just staring and refusing to be touched.  She didn’t come, she didn’t sleep, didn’t eat.  She just stood, shook and looked so sad.  I tried hugging her and she’d snap and growl and turn away from me.  One night, after a long night of cocktails, I pulled her up on the couch with me and tried to cuddle with her under a blanket.  She bit me in the face, made my cheek bleed, making me cry like a drunk girl and she hopped off the couch.  She hated me.  I told Chris if she bit me on the face again, she’d have to go back.  I like this face and she apparently didn’t and that was just not going to work out for us. 

Then we went on vacation to Costa Rica, leaving the dogs with friends.  We came back to find that Moxie had hurt herself while we were gone, they weren’t sure how, but she couldn’t walk, was crying in pain and no one knew what to do.  I brought her to the emergency vet and was told an hour later that Moxie had shattered a disc in her back, and without back surgery, she’d have to be put down, as she’d never be able to walk again and the pain would be too much for a dog so small and so young.  I felt like I had been knocked down again and was devastated. 

I had just named her Moxie before we left for vacation and I named her Moxie for a reason (finally connecting this story to my website, i know).  My dad had died six months before I found Moxie, and in a sense, she was a replacement.  She was something I could love and take care of, she would stay and never leave me and I would be the same things to her in return.  This probably sounds insane, now reading it, as this is the first time I’ve sat down to write this in full….But that was my truth for the time being.  I was lost without my father.  I was angry and resentful and helpless and scared and not much mattered to me at the time, but this new dog mattered to me and I felt happy when I saw her, something I hadn’t felt for a few months.   I looked up names for her in books and on websites and nothing seemed to fit.  She seemed like a Foxie or a Roxie, but neither was quite right and then it hit me. 

Growing up, my father used to tell us something (a lot of things, actually, but just this one thing for the purpose of this story) that stuck with me, and after he died, I couldn’t get it out of my head.  He told my sister and me over and over again, “The Smiths have moxie, girls.  Remember that.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you different or take it away from you.   We have moxie and we stick together, because we’re Smiths.”  It never meant anything to me when he said it when I was young.  But after he died, it meant far too much to me, but by then, it was too late. 

Moxie: The ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage. Pep. Vigor.

She would be Moxie.

By this point, there was no way I could let her die too, knowing this one wasn’t my fault, but not caring all the same.  She would have her back surgery and she would come home and she would be my Moxie and we would be just fine.  And so she did.  The shelter ended up paying the $5k for her surgery and two days later, I went to visit her at the hospital.  She was in a room by herself, bundled up in a baby’s blanket, an IV in her arm and her back shaved and sewn up tight.  She saw me and perked up, the very first signs she even knew who I was or cared, and I was happy.  I sat with her for an hour, hugging her and talking to her and crying, because I was seriously losing my mind over this little dog that was now the center of my world.  I couldn’t go back for the rest of the week.  It was too painful to see her so sad and so helpless.  I was the first one there, though, to greet her when they let her come home. 

She wasn’t using her back legs when they released her, and they warned me she might never walk again–a complication of the back surgery.  I was sure she would.  I walked her to the car, her back legs being held up in a sling, telling her it’d be ok…we’d fix her up and she’d be good as new.  And we did.  I walked her every day in that sling and kept her in her cage as long as I could, but by then, she was beyond affectionate.  I was her new favorite person.  She felt safe with me and I had helped fix her and now it was me she ran to (hobbled) and it was me she couldn’t stand to be more than two inches from and she kissed my face all the time, usually as she planted herself on my chest, not caring that she blocked the tv or made it tough to breathe.  I didn’t complain, though.  She was exactly what I had hoped for and I was just happy to have her home.

She doesn’t run in a straight line–her hips swing from side to side and she trots, like she isn’t sure which animal she is.  She backs up at top speed, also not in a straight line, probably because her hips are crooked still, which I tell her every day makes her special. 🙂  She is pushy about cuddling with me on the couch at night and she hops in place when she’s excited.  She snorts like a pig when she’s happy and when scared, she drops to the floor and curls up like an armadillo.  She follows me everywhere, and I can’t complain, really, because I’d be sad if she didn’t.  I love, love, LOVE her.

And so that is Moxie…her story and my reasons for the “Moxie” part in the website name. 

And Unapologetic?  Well, that’s just who I am.  Life is too short to strive for perfection.  Besides, the perfect are never happy.  Instead, I want an utterly chaotic, colorful, brilliantly imperfect life.  That is something I can be proud of. 

And so there you have it….Operation Unapologetic Moxie.   Coming soon!