Champ The Weather Dog or How I Paid $264 for a Deep Breath

Champ in Alabama


I love my dog.

I know. I know. Lots of people love their dogs. Lots of people love all animals. It isn’t like this sets me apart from anyone. Except that I don’t have a reputation for being a “dog person” because I don’t tend to get all excited when I encounter strange dogs. And that’s because I’ve had some ugly experiences with other folks’ dogs.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not anti-dog or heartless. I get teary eyed when a friend loses a pet and I’m dismayed by animal cruelty of any kind. I just don’t tend to run up to greet every furbaby that crosses my path.

So, it kind of surprised some folks when I started talking about getting a dog last summer. Call it timing. Call it craziness. I wanted a dog for the first time in about 20 years. I really wanted a dog. So, I called my dear friend, Ona, who has been working in animal rescue for about as long as I’ve been raising kids.

Ona knows my crew. Her advice was to adopt an adult dog. She had a long list of really good reasons — some of them I’d thought of myself. They have a predictable temperament. They are typically housebroken.  They’re usually fixed (critical with overpopulation). But the most compelling reason is that they are harder for rescue groups to place into forever homes.

Champ's Ad

"Collies are the most beautiful dogs!"

Always one to be part of the solution, I took Ona’s advice and started searching Petfinder for adult dogs we thought might be a good fit for us. I started looking for medium-sized short hair doggies — thinking I wanted a dog large enough to go on long walks with us, but small enough and — um — low maintenance enough to live in our home without requiring a complete remodel.

I started sending Ned Andrew links to dogs that I thought were potential housemates. He would look and comment and not get particularly excited. He was sort of unsure about this commitment. We do have four kids, full-time jobs and he does a lot of those daily tasks that running a household requires. But after several weeks of discussions, he sort of casually mentioned that he’d always liked Collies — that they were the most beautiful dogs.

Within 20 minutes, I’d culled the entire offering of Collies in the southeastern US and sent a few links to Ned. “No, hon,” Ned would say, “not that kind of Collie. A ‘Lassie’ Collie.” Okay — 5 clicks later, I had a list of Rough Collies. If you aren’t familiar with Collie types, let’s just say that by “Rough” they mean “incredibly furry and likely to shed a large cat each day.” Undaunted (but a little incredulous — seriously? You’re okay with 11″ fur on every surface? Ooookay.) I started reading the stories posted on Petfinder. And then I found Champ’s listing. I read his story — that he was a 5 year old sweetie whose family had been transferred overseas and couldn’t take him with them.

Already in tears, I sent the link to Ned who immediately asked what would be involved to adopt this boy. I contacted the folks in Alabama. Emails and an application and phone calls and more emails flew back and forth over the next couple of days as we first found out more about Champ, then expressed interest, passed inspection, and arranged to meet him that week.

Champ & The Little Kids

Champ meets the Little Kids in Alabama

Champ’s family was eerily similar to ours — with kids the same ages and adults with shared interests — and we instantly connected. We spent an hour or so talking with Champ’s family about him and their panic and then sadness as they realized the impossibility of his going overseas. He was 2 inches too long to fly in a standard pet crate. He would have to be shipped — at a cost of over $6,000 — with no guarantee that he’d make it alive. They just couldn’t risk his being hurt or killed — at any price — and had put the sale of their home and everything else on the back burner as they frantically searched for a new family for Champ.

We walked to our car, chatting away about how gorgeous, calm, loving, and wonderful Champ was. It was our intention to be thoughtful about our choice and to go back to Tennessee and talk it over before making a decision. But as we continued our walk down the street toward our car, I started feeling a little panicky. That was *my* dog back there and I didn’t want him going to another family. But I squashed that thought.

Until we got into the car and I started to drive away. I made it all of a block before I pulled into a culdesac and took a poll. Did we want Champ as part of our family? Yes. Yes. Yes. YES! I pulled out my checkbook and wrote out a check while Ned called the rescue folks to tell them that we were coming back to place a hold on Champ. That is, if we’d passed inspection. We were told that the family was so hoping we’d want Champ because they wanted him to be with us.

Champ stayed with his Alabama family for a few more weeks, and as the transfer date drew closer, they drove him up to Tennessee to stay. It was a bittersweet day as we welcomed Champ to our home while knowing how hard it was on this family. They clearly loved their dog.

Champ Guards the Landing

Where's Champ? In the way!

Fast forward a year.

I love this dog. But you know that. He sits at my feet as I work and follows me from room to room throughout the day. He guards the house — announcing the arrivals of everyone from the UPS guy to neighbors to Ned as he pulls in from his day downtown — and the kitchen appliances as we cook dinner. We joke that the only answer to the question, “Where’s Champ?” is “In the way.” Because he’s always right where you’re planning to go next.

I sweep up daily piles of soft, Collie fur and cook him homemade food to mix in with his dry doggie kibble. He’s not particularly fond of dog food, but he does love broccoli and burger! We take long walks twice a day — often as a family — and he’s introduced us to just about everyone in our neighborhood.

His previous family warned us that people love Champ and will stop their cars to pet him — and they do. They also warned us that he would be up pacing and panting with every thunderstorm — and he is. We lovingly call him “Champ the Weather Dog” because he can predict a thunderstorm 45 minutes before we get any signs of one. This means we’ve spent many, many stormy nights hanging out in my studio and many, many mornings after napping on the sofa.

Champ Relaxed

Being on duty is exhausting!

Champ’s kept me company this past year as I lost my Grandmommy Wandi, struggled with the decision to homeschool B, and dealt with those daily realities that having four kiddos introduces to our calendars. He’s very nearly my best friend.

So, you can imagine my panic — sheer panic — when we found him non-responsive on Wednesday morning. The faithful guy who tracks my every step wouldn’t open his eyes or lift his head. We determined that he was breathing, but barely. After loads of coaxing and a fair amount of worry, he finally responded and then got up. We took him for his walk and he was slow, but seemed okay. We got home and he took a nap. When I was readying for an appointment, I noticed he wasn’t following me and went to check on him. He was completely out and, again, non-responsive. I could not rouse this dog. I called for help from Ned, the neighbors, and contacted the vet. I planned to carry him — all 80 pounds of him — to the car. Just as I went to lift him, he opened his eyes. I was able to coax him down the stairs and outside.

Once at the vet’s office, he was awake but very, very slow. She examined him, took bloods, and we waited for the results. Everything looked fine. He was incredibly groggy — spreading out flat on the floor even in the ordinarily-fascinating exam room — but we had no explanation.


Wherever we go, he goes!

We did have a $264 vet bill, but — please, don’t tell Ned — I would have paid double that to know that Champ would be okay.

I took my first deep breath of the day.

He has continued to improve and seems about 80% himself today. The vet called to check on him and is just as confused as we are about what caused him to be so — well — so out of it. Hopefully it was just “one of those things” and it will never, ever happen again.

Because, man, I love this dog.


She’s So Cool…

Yeah, I know. I am mystifyingly cool.

No kidding.

I can do grad school, homeschool, raise two kids, balance a checkbook, date real men, drive a car, stay at goal weight, and elliptical train for an entire hour without passing out.

Then, I start my heady yeah-I-just-ran-to-nowhere-for-an-entire-hour-without-passing-out walk back to the locker room only to get my headphone cord tangled up with my towel and my sweatshirt and manage to bang my Zen into my nose and draw blood.

And then one of those real men has to tell me that I have blood running down my face, ’cause I am too cool to notice it all on my own.

Now, you know just how impressive I really am.

Oh, and the run-just-prior-to-my-public-humiliation is in the books (126/200) along with another one (run not humiliation) this weekend (127/200) plus an amazing, leaf-crunching (I love fall!!), 5-mile hike (128/200).

I. Am. So. Cool. Don’t you wish you could be like me?

Stop laughing. It isn’t funny.


Dig down deep…

I started that project. The big one. The one I have been dreading for about 5 years and officially procrastinating since Thanksgiving. No. I didn’t start a new exercise/diet/teeth whitening campaign. Are you ready for it?

I started cleaning out the garage.

See, my wasband (bless his heart*) is a pathological pack rat. He keeps everything. You know all those plastic cups that get dropped at ball games? Well, he takes them home. Hundreds of them. He goes through trash piles. He lives for garage sales. He accepts anyone’s toss offs. He. Collects. Everything.

Over the years he managed to completely fill up our two car garage, our crawl space, and our attic with his “collections.” And, you know, I didn’t really get worked up about it—really—until he moved out and left it all here!!

So we started that back and forth thing. When are you going to get this stuff? Later. Well, can I just box it up and bring it to you? Nope—I don’t want anyone to mess with my stuff.

Now, I know why.

Cleaning out the garage is like an archeological dig. Here is the layer from the car sales and NASCAR epoch. If you dig a little deeper you will discover the insurance sales and football era. Further still and you hit the financial analyst and baseball period.

It is sort of like opening a tomb. It feels like I am encroaching on sacred ground. Only instead of golden statues and dazzling emeralds, I am discovering ketchup bottles and broken glass.

As I shovel (sometimes literally) through all of this stuff, I can’t help but feel like I am mining the remnants of our relationship. There is a lot of garbage in there that makes it really hard to find the lovely parts. Perhaps, given time and lots of trash bags** I will be able to find a couple of nuggets to remind me of the pieces of our marriage that worked well. It is sweet to have a touchstone or two, but the rest has to go.

*As a southern woman, by invoking the phrase “bless his heart” I am officially declaring that I am not bashing him, but merely pointing out some odd quirk and that you should in no way take my comments as catty or ::gasp:: gossip.

** Not to worry all you pack rats out there, the bags are going to my wasband’s storage unit… not to the dump. I am determined to get this stuff out of my space, but it is his issue to deal with what ultimately happens to it all.

So Close…

I am finally out of the 150’s with a morning scale reading of 149.5 lbs. Yep. I am a half pound away from my goal weight! Yeehaw! It feels amazing and surreal to be this close to a goal that seemed so far away when I started the MegaChallenge back in June. Let’s see what this does to the car:

I am also less than 24 hours away from seeing the judge to finalize my divorce. Yikes! I am sort of in shock – numb and disbelief are the feelings of the day – but at the same time I realize that what we are doing makes sense. Of course, no one walks down the aisle in 40 yards of organza with the hopes that they will end up divorced some 10 years, 4 months, and 6 days later (but who’s counting?). I said those vows believing that we’d be a couple until death. Luckily neither of us resorted to murder to keep that vow. Though, I am sure we were both tempted a time or two.

Hint: You know your marriage is over when your spouse is 4 hours late getting home and you start thinking of ways to spend the insurance money rather that calling hospitals. It is never a good sign when you are disappointed that they showed up alive. I never wished my wasband dead. And I actually still care a lot about him. So, don’t worry that I have come completely unhinged. I’m just sayin’.

Move The Car…

Yeah, I have hit 151 pounds. Which means that I only have 2 pounds to go to reach goal. The fact that I am losing anyting at all is due to my continued awareness and restriction of my food intake and has nothing to do with fitness. I am about to change that, though. Yes. Believe it. I am off to the gym (75/200). But first let’s move the car.

Given Everything Going On…

The fact that I can move the car seems somehow of very little import. Well, except for the fact that it makes my son happy. Oh, and it means I am only 3 pounds from goal. And, yes, it is a sign that I am still taking care of myself as I struggle through this period of my life. So, maybe it isn’t such a tiny deal after all. So, let’s see where a half-pound loss puts the car.

Yup. I weight 152 pounds. Never mind that it took me 3 days to lose 3 pounds and then 3 weeks to lose another half pound. Never mind that I was hoping to hit goal by Halloween. Well, if I can lose 3 pounds in 3 days, I could still, theoretically, hit goal by then – but I ain’t countin’ on it. As Jules pointed out, I am very close to goal, have an optimal BMI and look and feel pretty great about where I am.

I do think I will aim a little lower than 149 lbs, though. Probably another 10 pounds lower. That puts me at 10 pounds over my college weight. I know there was a study about adult weight gain that said that 11 pounds of gain over the course of your adult life is the upper limit. I am taking that seriously. I will say that at 129, I was rain-thin and really don’t want to get that small. So, 149 is good but 139 will be my next target. I figure then that the 4 pound fluctuations I do through the month will still keep me under 145. 145 will be my “OMG I should probably run an extra mile” number.

All of this babbling to avoid the real topic of my thoughts. The appointment with the attorney went fine. We have everything nailed down but one last number. You know the number. Yeah, that would be the child support. My wasband is self-employed, and as such is hard to pin down when it comes to income. But, I am officially not going to worry about it. I am perfectly capable of taking care of my children. If we can’t come to an agreement, the courts will make a decision. It is not within my control. So, I am not going to spend energy attempting to control something that I cannot.

Having said that, I am off to do the things I can control. Namely, taking care of my kids, eating properly, getting some form of exercise, and doing my homework for Marketing. Eight months from now I will have my Bachelor’s. The timing of this split will not derail my dreams. So there.

Whodda Thunk…

That divorce would the be secret to rapid weight loss? Okay, maybe it isn’t. Maybe I am finally letting go of those pounds my body was holding on to during the stuck-at-159 stretch. Regardless, I have dropped 3 pounds this week and can’t claim to have exercised other than taking a long walk (69/200) yesterday.

As this morning’s scale visit revealed a 152.5, it is time to move the car, again.

I feel like I am driving without brakes. Great if you are trying to move a little graphic ticker car representing your weight loss. Bad if you are trying to coast through the mountains of doubt that come with a major life change.


Now the weight is flying off and I am really at a loss to explain it. But I will happily take it. I have less than 5 pounds to go to reach goal weight. Let’s see where weighing 153.5 pounds puts the car.

In other news, I am poised to lose 180 pounds in one fell swoop. It looks like I have added a new wrinkle to the MegaChallenge: being a healthy single mom. I am terrified and relieved and sad and nervous and hopeful and a little nostalgic. Sigh.

Popping In…

I feel like I am neglecting the real purpose of this blog – doing the 200 workouts – but I really haven’t been getting to the gym at all. I am losing weight, though. Go figure. I saw 154 and 154.5 on the scales this morning. Just to be on the safe side I will count the higher number for now. Let’s see what that does to the car…

I am pretty excited about the 22.8 BMI. It seems somewhat surreal to be so close to my goal. Don’t pinch me, though. I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to pain.

My life is doing its typical messy explosion thing. Breathing seems to be the only thing I am able to accomplish with any regularity. Ever have one of those days (years)?

Later That Same Day…

Yeah, I like to get on the scale. Today my double checking actually paid off. Yes. There is a weight update. 155.5 lbs. Don’t hate me because I am skinny. Just concentrate on the car…

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