A few weeks ago, I took Bert to the vet because I was concerned about how thin he had become. He was still eating his pureed food, but he wasn’t maintaining his weight.
The vet examined him and told me his kidneys were failing. “There’s nothing short of a kidney transplant that will keep him alive. It’s just a matter of time…”
I suspected as much but the news still made me incredibly sad. At the time Bert was still able to get around okay, he still enjoyed sitting outside on the porch, nestling in one of the dog beds, and he still intimidated the girls. By all accounts he was still fine…at least HE thought so.
I brought him home and did my best to keep him comfortable and eating. Things went along as usual until last week. On Tuesday he needed some help getting around and I figured he was living his last few days.
Things turned very bad overnight and on Wednesday morning he died. I was with him at the time he passed and up until his final last stretch he was aware and alert. I am so thankful he died at home, surrounded by the things that brought him joy. And I am so glad I was there gently patting him as my remarkable boy – the boy who wandered into my yard 15 years ago, the boy who survived cancer of his mouth 5 years ago, the boy who came to dominate and hold his own amongst my two 80 pound dogs – passed over.
I don’t know what happens after death, but I sure hope to see Bert along with all my other beloved animal companions again some day.
2) By Calling into the Meeting: If you aren’t comfortable using a computer or smartphone to participate in the meeting or if you don’t have a good internet connection, you can call into the meeting by calling one of the numbers below from your phone:
You will need to enter the Meeting ID and Password shown above when prompted to do so:
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Any one of the the numbers listed above should work, so if the first number you try doesn’t get you through to the meeting, try using the other number.
I’ve been thinking of my friends over the last several months.
2020 turned out to be such a strange and awful year, didn’t it? Mark and I are blessed that we are both healthy and employed. We’ve been working from home since March when the pandemic shut everything down. Other than trips to Publix or to The Home Depot, we’ve hardly left the house. I’ve only tanked up my car three times since March.
But we are doing well and thankfully we haven’t lost anyone to this dreadful disease.
I’m hopeful for 2021. I’m glad to finally see a vaccination on the horizon although it isn’t clear when enough people will be immunized to stop the spread, and I have no sense of when we might be able to resume any semblance of “normal” life.
This past holiday season was so poignant for me. My father died a year ago on December 20th, and his ashes await dispersal at his preferred location in Alaska. This time last year, I was thinking about making a trip to Alaska in the summer to honor him in his final wishes. But now, I don’t know when I will feel ready to make that long flight.
We’ve adapted to staying home fairly well, although I do regret the last meal I had out in a restaurant before we stopped going out – a quick unsatisfying dinner at the International House of Pancakes. If I’d known that would be my last time eating out for a long while, I think I would have chosen a better restaurant! In support of the local restaurants around D’ville, we are ordering out for pickup with mixed results.
Even so, I got emotional around Thanksgiving when I thought of not singing the Messiah or the Christmas concert with my beloved Douglas County Chamber Singers. To counteract my sadness and disappointment, I bought a couple of CDs, one is of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chamber Choir, conducted by Robert Shaw back in the 80s, singing the complete oratorio of the Messiah. I was fortunate to have attended a performance of the Messiah back in the 80s when Robert Shaw was still there conducting it and have loved the Messiah ever since. The other CD is a fine musical score of the Nutcracker – I saw the Nutcracker for the first time when my 5th grade teacher took me and a few other students to see the ballet in Anchorage, AK (where I lived at the time). These are two holiday traditions I’ve loved for many years and listening to these CDs over the holiday season took the edge off my sadness a little. But even now as I write this post, I am weeping. I’m thankful for what I have, but I’m still so sad for what’s been lost this year.
As I turn my thoughts toward the new year I hold so much hope in my heart. There are now immunizations being rolled out against this terrible scourge. I believe the new administration will prioritize, organize, and expedite the logistics around getting the population immunized. I know it will take a great deal of effort and time to repair the damage left behind but I am hopeful.
I’m hopeful that I’ll be singing with the choir during the 2021 Christmas season.
Perhaps, this time next year I’ll be planning a trip to Alaska to tend to my Father’s ashes.
I hope you are doing well and I look forward to seeing you in person sometime this year. Please take care of yourselves and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I’d love to know how you are doing.
I dwell in a forest of oak and pine Where deer trails converge to a single line That leads to a spring and a pond beyond. Each night I drift off to peaceful sleep with ease As Nature plays a rustling breeze Through the scrubby brush and the tops of trees. And I awaken each morning to the cardinal’s trill With a lifted heart and a silent thrill In knowing I belong to such beauty and grace As the forest of oak and pine in this place.
I transverse the thoroughfares of working life Amidst a jungle of concrete and steel, where So much energy is wasted in the busy-ness and strife Of productive occupation; And where I am tossed in a roiling sea Of mindless conversation. I armor myself with competency and success To blunt the blows and mute the stress of meaningless proliferation.
And at the end of a long, hard day, I am more than glad to be on my way Home to this forest of solitude and rest That enfolds me in its loving breast And fills my heart with home.
Almost 13 years ago, my sweet Gracie came to live with me.
At the time I was mourning the loss of Winnie, the American Eskimo dog that lived with us for almost 16 years. It was the first time in my adult life that I had been without a dog and I was so lonely.
I had been spending time pouring over rescue group and humane society websites, and I saw a picture of her on Craigslist. She looked perfect to me, so I responded to the listing and the very next day I drove to the North Georgia mountains to meet her.
I’ve always let my animal companions choose me, but she didn’t want anything to do with me. I assessed her current situation…her owner wanted to be rid of her as soon as possible and would sell her to the first person who showed up with his asking price ($100). Even though she didn’t show any interest in me, I knew I would provide her with a good home, so I decided to take her home with me. She was so attached to her current owner and confused when he forced her into my car. As we drove away, she sat in the passenger seat with her back to me and her face pressed against the window. I patted her and told her it would be alright, but my reassurances were unacknowledged. She was scared, confused and devastated.
I wasn’t sure how Gracie would do that first night. She was uncomfortable in the house, with me and she was stressed out and so confused. I didn’t want to disturb Mark’s sleep, so I slept on the couch where I could be near her and keep an eye on her. She finally settled down on the living room floor and I drifted off to sleep. Sometime during the night I woke up, opened my eyes and Gracie was sitting directly in front of me, close, studying my face. I could see the questions in her eyes, “Who are you? Why am I here? Am I safe?” That was the moment I fell in love with her. It took her a little longer to fall in love with me.
Those early days were difficult and heart breaking, but slowly, ever so slowly, she adjusted, started to trust me, became comfortable in her new home. It took quite a few more months for her to get comfortable with Mark.
Once she got comfortable with me, she stuck close to me like velcro. She became my most devoted, loyal, best friend and she loved me unconditionally. She would be laying across the room from me and I would see her steal a quick glance back at me. If she caught me looking back at her, she would raise her head higher and her expression would change to bright alertness. When we would go for walks she would walk ahead of me with her tail high and a confident spring in her step. She was proud to be my girl and I was honored to be graced with her love and confidence all these years.
Over the last year, she slowed down and started showing her age. Her beautiful chocolate coat became mottled with silver on her face, her haunches, her feet. Our daily 3 mile walks became shorter and slower. And her play ended after only 3 runs for the ball.
In June we noticed a change in her appetite. Even after many trips to the vet and despite offering a wide variety of flavorful foods and goodies her appetite continued to diminish. The vet prescribed an anti-depressant in the hopes of stimulating her appetite. We were so hopeful that the drug would jumpstart her appetite but it never did. She choked down the food I cooked for her, often to only throw it up a few minutes later. She got thinner and thinner. She started stumbling around, was restless during the night. When she started having seizures, we decided we had to let her go.
Gracie died on July 27th. I can hardly think of her without my throat tightening, my eyes welling up with tears. Her loss has been overwhelming and ever present. Even now, two months later. I cry most every day. My grief is the only downside of having loved her. I miss her so much.
My other dog Raven misses her too. When Gracie was alive, Raven enjoyed spending time with her. She followed her all around the yard, as Gracie checked her favorite stumps and digging spots. Raven snuggled up to Gracie every night and would often lick her awake in the mornings.
But since she has passed, Raven hasn’t been so keen about going out into the woods to explore their favorite stumps and holes. All of the holes and stumps that were a source of obsession and entertainment have been neglected. When I go to work now I have to lead Raven into the dog pen with a leash and a treat. Last week when I made a quick trip to the grocery, she climbed out of the fence and greeted me as I returned down the driveway.
As we have done with all of the beloved pet companions that we’ve lost, we buried Gracie in the woods on our property in the small pet cemetery we established when our first dog, Muffin, died. The cemetery is where Muffin (American Eskimo), Jubilee (cat), Phoebe (cat), Missy (mixed breed dog), Winnie (American Eskimo), Mama & Handsome (cats) and Milo (rat terrier), several rabbits and now Gracie are buried. In the years the cemetery has existed none of the graves have ever been disturbed until now. Two times Mark has had to shovel soil back over Gracie’s grave, he is sure that Raven has dug at the grave both times. She saw us bury Gracie so she knows that Gracie is there.
Mark finally laid some rocks, wire and logs over Gracie’s grave to discourage any further digging and that seems to be working but Raven still disappears into the woods from time to time to linger at her grave.
Gracie was my special girl – a once in a lifetime kind of dog that can never be replaced. In the first couple of weeks after she died I thought I would wait for the universe to bring me another dog. But now I think Raven really needs a new companion so I’m putting it out there…..I hope to find another young (<= 3 years old) female, blonde or chocolate lab that won’t go crazy around cats…. no dog will ever replace my Gracie, but I have room in my heart and home for another pup.
Rest in peace sweet girl. I sure love and miss that beautiful face and those soulful eyes.
At our last meeting I learned that Phyllis Schiwal died in April. Phyllis joined the NeedleNerds about a year and a half ago. She was a nice addition to the group and we’ll miss seeing her. You can read her obituary here.
It was touch and go there for a couple of months, but those days are behind us now.
He’s been cancer free for a year and a half, has gained back most of the weight he lost, and he’s a very happy boy. He has adjusted well to not having a lower jaw line (his tongue doesn’t hang out of his mouth as the vet expected) and he enjoys his pureed food – he even has his own blender (the magic bullet had to be replaced since it was not up to the task of twice daily smoothies with a real blender) that is dedicated to the task.
The summer heat continues, but spiders spin their intricate webs, hummingbirds urgently swarm porch feeders, soon they depart on their perilous southern journey, reds and oranges appear in the underbrush. The shortening days signal the change that is coming, and the spider lilies are blooming again.