Friday, February 27, 2009

Bad economy. Good dog.
by Michelle Hiskey
Georgia Online News Service

In a bad economy, everyone says it's time to cut back. Stick to the basics. Don't take risks.

Last week, we got a puppy.

"Are you prepared to take care of this animal for 10 to 15 years?" asked the form from the rescue group.

I checked yes and gulped.

In the next 10 to 15 months, I am not even certain how I'm going to take care of my children.

This breed of decision making makes Suze Orman chew on her chic jacket.

But I don't own a chic jacket. I'm not a rabid dog lover, either.

I'm just someone looking hard at my values during this recession. I'm also looking for value for what I do spend.

For seven years I told my daughters, No dog. Who would take care of it? No one was home much of the day. When work was plentiful, I and my husband were too busy.

Now my job is gone and his is shaky. Our home looks a lot more like the ones we grew up in during the 1970s recession. There's a mom at home (me), making sandwiches and trying to make ends meet.

Finally there's time and space for a dog, and two girls aged 9 and 11 to help with its care. For their sake, shouldn't we save that money?

Save and wait, just as we had done for decades -- only to see so much of that savings go poof.

What we had built our hope on, that one day life would be better if we just worked hard now, was a beautiful nice carpet of dreams suddenly pulled out from under us.

We could see the false security we were really standing on all these years, all the safe choices.

We knew we wanted to go forward more boldly.

Instead of always planning for one day -- as in, "One day we might get a dog" -- why couldn't that one day be now?

This slump is a season to show our kids that how we face change forges our character. We can follow the path or find our own way.

We remember well the dogs we grew up with, back in the 1970s recession. No matter how high the food prices or how long the gas lines, they reminded us of a basic truth: All we really need is food, shelter and love.

And love often means dealing with crap. Sometimes a lot of it. Our daughters are ready for that lesson.

So we began to look for a dog that needed a home and saw, sure enough, there were lots of people shedding theirs -- even expensive purebreds and long-time companions.

Internet advertisements are full of stories of petowners who have lost a job or home or both. Their canine is the next casualty.

"The increase is staggering," Maryann Liotta, a metro Atlanta pet rescue volunteer for seven years, told me.

"There are a lot left on the street, and some owners are begging rescue groups to take their pets in. It's sometimes stressful and depressing because we try to save them all, but probably cannot at this point anyway."

We shopped for an adult medium-sized dog, house trained and not hyper. But, in another important lesson, we didn't end up with what we thought we wanted.

We clicked with a 4-month-old shepherd mix that would have gone to the local pound -- if there had been room. A nonprofit rescue group had her spayed and vaccinated, and when we paid her adoption fee, they pleasantly surprised us with a tax deduction receipt.

Cleo is our 20-pound stimulus package. Oblivious to cutbacks and buyouts and layoffs, she bounded in with the simple agenda of finding what to chew next. She purely adores making us happy. It is not possible to pet and play with her and worry at the same time.

She has big ears, soulful eyes and mixed heritage, like the guy in Washington who's trying to get us out of this jam. His family is getting a rescue dog soon, too.

If he's ever out on a cold morning while the First Dog heeds nature's call, perhaps he'll see what my dog has helped me notice.

There are new flowers that somehow, in winter's gray, bloomed bold yellow.

Here's hoping my puppy doesn't pee on them.

Michelle Hiskey is a freelance writer in Decatur, Ga. She can be reached at   [full bio]

Download art:
Caption: Cleo.
Credit: Michelle Hiskey

Editor's note: Hello, Georgia.

We're all in this together. That's the new mantra, from DC to wherever the money flows, like here. Tom Baxter, one of Georgia's best and best-known political writers, believes that the big change in this country is not a move toward socialism but a new willingness to think differently about who the government should help and who it shouldn't.

Money is also at the heart of our other two stories today. There is legislation percolating around the Capitol that would charge the state's inmates a copay and also for certain medicines. And while it may cost money to care for a new pet, it takes a lot of soul too, especially in this tough economy. We have stories on both.

We genuinely want to hear your thoughts, criticisms, comments, complaints and congratulations. GONSO is an enterprise founded and staffed by more than two dozen leading journalists and media executives in Georgia.

We're providing this content free -- for a limited period.

Newspapers, broadcasters, bloggers and websites are welcome to use our articles -- please credit the writers and the Georgia Online News Service.

Executive editor John Sugg is available at You can also call us at 800-891-3459.

Today's GONSO

All Together Now: 'We' is the New 'They'

by Tom Baxter
In our country, major shifts in public philosophy are announced with big, dumb overstatements – "The era of big government is over" – and then augmented by a battery of much more subtle, cultural-commercial messages that define the change more precisely. So too it is with the New American Groupthink.
Full Story

Georgia Prisons: Department of Collections?

by Maggie Lee
Time in prison is supposed to reform inmates. Tacking on a bill for certain medications or room and board, and the reform might go further. So goes the thinking behind some draft laws winding through the Capitol this session.
Full Story

Bad economy. Good dog.

by Michelle Hiskey
We remember well the dogs we grew up with, back in the 1970s recession. No matter how high the food prices or how long the gas lines, they reminded us of a basic truth: All we really need is food, shelter and love.
Full Story

Tomorrow's Budget
Going Green? Then Spend St. Paddy's Day in Savannah
by Dindy Yokel
'Tis a Pity He's a Money Manager
by Bill Osinski
Some Lions, No Tigers, and a Bit of Oh My!
by Eleanor Ringel Cater
The Fairness Doctrine: GOP shocked by common ground
by Jon Sinton

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