Corduroy is one of my all-time favorite stories. The sweet tale of a green overall-clad department store bear — overlooked by most shoppers due to his missing button and general shopworn appearance — who eventually finds a loving home with an open-minded girl, has warmed my heart through countless readings many moons ago to my (now fully-grown) daughters.
Last week, to my delight, I discovered my very own, real-life Corduroy.
I was shopping for a picture frame and waiting in what was quite a long purchase line (holiday returns, I suppose) when I spotted a tiny stuffed bear, not 4 inches tall, tucked randomly amidst the store’s impulse-buy section of candies, chocolates and other confections that borders the aisles of the check-out line.
I carefully nudged away a box of caramels and a bag of cinnamon-glazed almonds, unburying the child’s toy from the sugary stack and revealing a glimpse of green. Could it be, could it really be? Yes! Oh, yes — it was, it really, really was — an honest to goodness Corduroy!
Giddy, I scooped up the bear. My now twenty-something daughters may have outgrown their stuffed animal collection phases, but I immediately knew the perfect someone to give this tiny bear to — our dog, Ivy. You see, Ivy, who joyfully destroys large fluff-filled toys in seconds, absolutely cherishes small ones, pinching them gently and nurturingly, sleeping with her head delicately rested atop them, and gleefully carrying them to and fro.
Not uncharacteristically, what was now declared “Ivy’s Corduroy,” was missing its tags. When I reached the front of the line, I asked the cashier if he knew how much the bear cost. He said he hadn’t seen any others in the store and had no idea where it came from but volunteered to call his manager for assistance if I would like. Completely invested, my heart set on presenting Corduroy to Ivy, I appreciatively said yes, yes, yes!
Sure enough, the manager was stumped too. She said perhaps Corduroy originally came in a children’s gift box set, one with a storybook and maybe a CD of sing-along-songs. She said she’d let me take the misplaced toy home for a measly $3.50, a made-up price she got from scanning a pack of bubblegum. She acted as though I was doing her a favor, taking what was deemed damaged goods off her hands.
Fittingly, the unwanted bear with his tattered overalls found a perfect home with Ivy, who, as a Pit Bull, understands all too well how it feels to be rejected, overlooked and deemed unworthy of love simply on the basis of one’s appearance.
Blogs, Bears and Belonging
Speaking of finding the right home, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce a blog written by Lance Fields to casa KOTAW.
Well acquainted with my love of Pit Bulls and my passion for remedying the unjust reputation thrust upon them, Lance shared with me an incredibly moving story he had written as a tribute to his Pit Bull, Baby, whom Lance credits with transforming his life.
Lance generously told me that I could use or share his story in any way I saw fit in the future, if I wished to do so. For about a couple weeks now, I’ve been holding onto Lance’s story, wanting to give his gem a platform on which to sparkle. I couldn’t think of a more welcoming home than KOTAW, a company whose name and philosophy was inspired by the love story of two angel dogs and a brand whose ambassador is none other than Ivy, the red nose pit girl.
So here it is, the story Ivy and I are so happy and proud to present, of a man who, over a decade ago, found in the form of a bull rather than a bear, his very own Corduroy.
Written by Lance Fields
This is the tale of a rescue.
The summer of 1995 I was working in a “sweat shop” in New Orleans, where I had a window in front of my workstation which allowed me to see that the outside world did continue to exist. It was a tedious job, one that I desperately needed at the time and was grateful to have.
One day as I was toiling away I happened to look out the window at just the right moment and see across the street a dog being walked. There is an animal shelter on Magazine Street, right in the middle of the city and they were always taking their charges for a stroll. This particular dog caught my eye and I watched as he hesitantly made his way down the street with his caretaker. He was very nervous and timid and I felt as though I understood what he might be experiencing, while I sat in my chair doing production work often thinking to myself, ‘is this all there is for me?’
He reminded me of Petey from the Lil’ Rascals, minus the circle around his eye. He was a stocky Pit Bull of no particular countenance, at least as far as I could tell or for all I knew about the breed, which was next to nothing. Other than the ‘fact’ they were purportedly vicious and had killer instincts and have jaws that lock, etc… All the typical rigmarole that is associated with the breed.
I decided at that moment that I was going to inquire about this dog and find out what was his story.
The next morning I left my home early and went first to the shelter to ask about this dog. The response I got was overwhelming to say the least, the staff was jubilant that someone was actually asking about this Pit Bull, who they had dubbed ‘Baby’. They asked me all sorts of questions, typical I suppose, to make sure that I was interested in a pet and not some dog fighting maniac. I passed the initial screening.
They brought him out from his kennel and he was wide eyed and very tense and all the commotion just added to his angst. He was not friendly, he was not playful, he was not much of anything except a dog, in form. I wasn’t sure what to make of him in close proximity so I observed him while he looked at me and the staff began telling me his back story.
They received a call that an elderly woman in the Lower Ninth Ward had an injured Pit Bull in her laundry room and could they please come and pick him up right away. She had been trying for two weeks to get him out from under her house and to come inside. He had been shot in the leg and the wound was festering in the heat of a New Orleans summer.
The staff went to retrieve him and surprisingly to them he got into the crate with no hassle at all and they transported him to the vet immediately. His front right leg was swollen to three times its normal size, the bones a shattered mess, his face was scared and his ears had been trimmed with what they suspected were scissors.
He spent the next few weeks recovering, fully.
After the initial meeting, I went on to work and spent the day thinking.
Thinking about this dog and his story and the perceptions of Pit Bulls that I had and so many others have and would I be willing to risk a body part to try and re-hab this dog that had suffered so much at the hands of thoughtless individuals.
I went home that night and discussed this with my now Ex Partner, David.
We agreed to give him a chance.
I began by meeting Baby at the shelter each morning, during my lunch break, and after work to take him for walks. Letting him get used to the idea of me. David would often accompany us and after about two weeks and a noticeable level of relaxation, we decided it was time to try bringing him home.
We brought him into the house and he wandered around and sniffed here and there and we followed behind him observing. We had already purchased the pet supplies, water and food bowls, a dog bed, a collar and leash and a couple of chew toys.
He settled in nicely after his initial survey of the house and took to his bed as if it had been his all along. He seemed to feel that this was a good place for him and as he lay in his bed, he looked at us in a noncommittal way as if to say, ‘what are looking at?’
Over the next few weeks he got more and more comfortable, still very timid but willing to be petted and settling in nicely. I had to teach him to play and run and just have fun, something that I thought came naturally to animals, dogs in particular. He had been so mistreated that just getting him to understand that a ball was for chasing and playing fetch was a real challenge. With time he got the idea and he would get so excited to go to the levee on Bayou St. John and just romp around. There were a few times that he would get so worked up playing ball and he would come galloping back with the ball and forget to stop in time and knock me square on my ass.
Unless of course he knew what he was doing and that was just his way of expressing exuberance. It was a lot of fun and a great workout and we just have so many great memories of running around and learning to trust each other.
We took him to visit the shelter quite often and he was always happy to see the people there and they were thrilled with his progress and he would grin this crazy grin and stomp around like he owned the place.
A big change for sure.
One time when we took him for a visit he made his way around the shelter and suddenly we couldn’t find him. We started looking everywhere and thought perhaps he had slipped out the front door when someone had opened it to leave. I ran outside while others were looking around the various rooms, I looked up and down Magazine street, he was nowhere in sight. I ran back inside and they said they had found him sitting in front of one of the kennels looking at the Boxer inside. Tilly was her name and she was quite taken with Baby and he with her. We decided he needed a buddy and so we took them for a walk together and they got along great. After thinking this over for a couple of days we agreed to give her a chance to come and live with us also.
They got along very nicely, with only one or two scraps here and there, nothing major, and finally settled into a routine that would serve them well over the years. They were companions and somehow realized that things were going to be okay for them now. Lots of walks along the Bayou, trips out to the country to my sisters house, a warm safe place to sleep, food, water and lots of love. They responded beautifully and added something so wonderful to our lives.
There are a lot of little stories that I could add to all this to instill the feelings that I have about this dog. How he became such a huge part of my life, how he protected me, comforted me, sat with me and was more present than anything I had experienced in my life. Sooner or later I will add small stories about the adventures of Baby and Tilly. For now though this will hopefully suffice.
Most of what I am trying to convey in this blog is that Pit Bulls are much maligned and due to their extreme physicality and unwavering devotion they do indeed make for a formidable foe when trained to be so. It is not naturally occurring in them however and any animal, or human for that matter, that is harmed and forced to be vicious will do what it needs to survive.
Even after all Baby had been through, he forgave humans and became undoubtedly one of the best friends I have ever had.
Sadly after almost 11 years with us he passed away. It was a quiet passing and he had his head on my lap as he slowly left a life that had started out so brutally and ended very peacefully. He died the day after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and it helped me then and still helps me today to think that this sweet, gentle creature that changed my life in so many ways, had quite possibly gone that day so that he could go help all the stranded animals that needed his help, those trapped in attics and in flooded houses for days after the storm. Alone and scared and hopeful.
At least, that is what I think.
BACK ON THE CLOCK
Everything that you say and do on social media is an opportunity to grow your voice and let your personal brand shine through. One of my happiest personal branding achievements is that my digital tribe has become cognizant of my passion for Pit Bulls through my posting photos of Ivy and sharing stories and little anecdotes about her adventures. My social media circles appreciate my efforts to repair the image of pits, my hope to mend their reputation the way Lisa patched-up sweet Corduroy’s tattered overall strap.
For example, when personal branding coach Jill Celeste shared an online photo album called “20 Ecstatic Shelter Dogs On Their Way Home For The First Time,” she specifically tagged me in her Google+ post, writing that she was reminded of me because so many of the featured happy rescue pups were Pit Bulls.
Elated, I re-shared Jill’s post and thanked her, expressing my delight that she saw pits and immediately thought of me.
Jill responded with a sentiment I hold as well, saying “Just goes to show you — personal branding isn’t all about professional interests! It’s equally important to show the ‘personal’ stuff that is near and dear to your heart.”
Successful social media marketing is all about connecting and engaging with people in order to develop genuine, meaningful relationships. In order to do so, you must be open, honest and enthusiastic about sharing your interests and passions. This doesn’t mean that you have to divulge all of your deepest, darkest secrets — please don’t — nor does it mean that you should flood your social platforms with preachy messages about all of the causes you support.
The things you choose to share can be serious and significant, but they don’t have to be. You can build meaningful relationships with people by first bonding over little things — maybe you have a mutual love of anything pumpkin flavored or perhaps you both find polka dots and bows impossible to resist.
Your personal brand is a complex, multi-faceted culmination of, to borrow from Dr. Seuss, all the you-ness that is you. Big or small, emotionally-charged or frivolous-fun, embrace it all! Be open, share your heart with others and you’ll find monumental success on social media. And, if you’re lucky, really, really lucky, you might just find a friend.
Lance, my friend, thank you so much for sharing your story about Baby.
Please share your thoughts on personal branding through social media. How do your personal brand and social media strategy work together?