Thursday, October 16, 2008

Heart Attack

No where else on Earth could I write the following and not be involuntarily committed to an inpatient Psych unit. Oh how I appreciate you, dear readers!

I can tell you that I spent a two week, most-expenses-paid trip in Italy, Italy for heaven's sake, feeling like my heart was being attacked.

OK, before even you get out the straight jacket for me, let me explain. That two week trip was the longest I had gone without hugging a dog and/or horse for forty-four years. If you count my first ever pets, my parakeet Birdie, and my cats Stripy and Blackie, (does this explain why my dogs now have names like Giacomino?) then it was the longest I had been without animal companionship in fifty years. I am fifty-four years old.

To see photos of the beautiful places we visited, and some beyond delightful plein-air drawings by my talented husband, check out his blog! (He'll enjoy the visitors, too!!!) We stayed a week in Tuscany, the glory of which has been the subject of great art and literature. We saw David in Florence, the Tower in Pisa, the Piazza in Siena, and vista after beautiful vista from our home base of Fonterutoli. (Font-uh-ROO-tuh-lee). There was a road, with its original stones, into this village built by the Romans in 900 A.D. (Bill has photos on his blog.)

We went to Rome and saw the sights. And we went to a wonderful village in the province of Puglia (POOO-lee-uh) where Bill's grandparents were born and raised. Twenty-one Renzullis met there for a family reunion. There were no other tourists (in fact at first the locals thought we were there to evangelize them! HA!) and the beauty of that place will stay with me for my life. Such was the magic in that town, that my heart felt the least attacked there. We could look out of our hotel window, see the 300 mile wide valley where most of the wheat for all of that Italian bread and pasta is grown, and far off in the distance see the Adriatic.

the view from our window

But through it all, I felt like I couldn't quite fill my lungs. As though I had been amputated. Not like I had lost a limb; rather, I was the limb, lying useless and severed. Disembodied.

Because of the immense generosity of my neice, Molly, I didn't have to worry about the health and safety of the dogs. They know her well, and adore her, and I trust her as I would no one else. I did worry that I had placed a terrible responsibility on her, and I overemphasized that I was leaving her with very fragile old dogs, whose every day was, at best, iffy, whether I was home or not. In my defense, it didn't help that we had very little Internet access during the whole stay. I went to a pay-and-show-your-passport place in the nearest town, and learned that Maria, who will be 14 in February, had been vomiting and had stayed at my vet's for the afternoon getting IV's.

There's not enough air in this country. Why can't I breathe?

Luciano had given Molly a black eye. His special self was jumping up to kiss her while she was bending down. Whippet heads are hard. Oh boy. Hang in there, Molly. Bill's daughter let me send some messages from her blackberry, but nothing came back.

No news is always good news. Molly was visiting with friends after the dogs went to bed. The computer wasn't cooperating with her and kept 'poofing' her messages. Had Maria died and no one would tell me? What good would it do to ruin my vacation? What, Bill? Oh yes, that is a gorgeous view. What the heck is wrong with the air? No matter what I do, my lungs feel empty. I'm drowning here.

I sent a blackberry message to my dear friends and neighbors, Lee and Dee. Is Molly all right? Were the dogs all right? Please! Were Molly and the dogs all right? Yes, they replied. Molly and the dogs were just fine. Maria was back to barking and begging, and she was eating well.

OK. I should be able to breathe now. Why do my arms feel leaden? So empty and useless.

In Rome for two days, if I sat on the bottom of the marble steps in the hallway, the WiFi worked. Molly was doing fine, the routine was less scary, and Maria continued to eat and be merry. They were all enjoying Molly's head-counting "biscuit meetings" immensely, and Giacomino was sleeping all the time.

There is something wrong with my heart. It squeezes too tight when it pumps. Or it doesn't fit in my chest anymore. Maybe some of it is missing, and it's rattling around in a too-big pocket.
Bill's grandparents' home town

No Internet in the whole town of Castelnuova. But such was the power of seeing Bill walk the streets where his grandparents had played as children, of seeing the town with his own eyes, which he had heard about all his life, my heart seemed to fit better again.
And I would be home soon.
The dizzying hour and a half bus ride rocking and zigzagging down the mountain into Foggia sped by. And the packed train, sardines for three and a half hours to Rome, was fast and pleasant. I felt a little giddy.
We got up at 5 AM to get to the airport. Rome to Milano, then Milano to Chicago, then O'Hare to Amy's house, then the seven hour drive home. Just over 25 hours of traveling. Molly wanted to get the dogs up and witness the whippet joy, but I just wanted their lives to return to normal. It was nearly midnight, and they were in bed. I went upstairs.
Giacomino was waiting at the baby gate at the top of the stairs. He was wagging, and his ears were standing straight up, but his eyes were confused. No so with Bill's Delia, whose soft-crate zipper has been broken for years. Her Bill was home! She danced and sparkled. Her Bill was home! I went into our bedroom and put all of me that would fit into each crate and kissed each dear occupant.
"I'm home," I whispered.
I know, from doing whippet rescue, that a whippet starts to bond to a new human after about a week to ten days, and by three to four weeks they are part of that human's heart forever. I had been gone for fifteen days. And I saw the confusion in their eyes.
I'm home.
For the first two days, Giacomino stayed asleep, and when he was awake, he had a blank stare, like he had gone someplace inside himself and couldn't see out. Maria had another episode of vomiting and we went back to the vet. Her blood work and belly xrays were great! I went on an errand, and returned to the chaos of Excessive Greeting Disorder. Molly, ever astute, said, "That must be music to your ears." Oh, yes. We said a sad, grateful goodbye to Molly and she went back to her own dogs, whom she missed as much as I did mine.
And now that I've been home for six days, Giacomino's eyes are no longer blank. Maria is barking more, though she's not back to her mouth of the south status, and Delia is Bill's extra appendage.
I am a foolish old woman. I have no problem with that. As I type, I am surrounded by eight somnolent dogs. My heart fits in my chest and I can breathe. I am who I am.
I'm home.
Hug your hounds


  1. Oh Patience. You are a braver woman than I. I could not have left my dogs for that long.

    But there is news! My mother is starting her own Whippet Waggle and is adopting another rescue whippet! Pics as soon as I have them!

  2. Oh fair lady,
    You are not crazy in a stretch of the imagination. (I see ITA'd people on a daily basis.) This is one of the reasons I would rather stay home than go anywhere paid for or not. In fact I would rather spend time with my dogs and cats than the majority of humans that I know. Going to visit my children is as much of a vacation as I can handle. Grammie AKA Marilyn

  3. I know, I know. I may not have nine to love, but my heart stays busy with what I have. And separation is not easy, even for the three days I take every few weeks to visit my 93 year old aunt. Fortunately, Rich is content to take the dog(s) with us or go by himself, but I do kind of miss those trips to the UK every summer. Just think of all the terriers I could meet.

    aka Muzzer

  4. Patience
    WE undewstand. You feel town in two, and nothing no mattew how wondewful is complete. I'm so happy that you got to see all that beauty though and on your return all youw dear whippets wewe all right.
    Hug and kiss them fow us too pleez
    smoochie kisses
    Asta and Mommi

  5. You are not crazy. The people who don't feel this way are the ones who should be on the floor where Grammie works :)

  6. Hi Patience

    (Its Bens Mum I'm stealing the commenting rights for this one)

    14 years ago when we got married was the one and only time that we have taken a trip without our pets. Back then we had Ben Snr who passed to the bridge 2 years ago. We had no kids, no other pets, just Ben.. he was our world, the cement in our family, my confidant and best friend, my everything.
    Being me, someone who hates attention and fuss, we decided to travel to canada to visit with my sister and have a low key wedding with a minimum of guests. We spent four weeks there in all and that was the longest 4 weeks of my life!! Yes we had a beautiful wedding, yes I married the love of my life, yes we were in a beautiful country, yes i got to spend time with my niece who I hadn't set eyes on since she was six weeks old and my sister who had emigrated out of my life five years before BUT.. My boy, My joy, was not there! He was home with my parents, who I knew would be treating him like royalty.. but still.. they were not ME.. did they know just what spot on his ears he liked to be rubbed?? Did they know that he could NOT poop if he even thought you were looking! did they know that he liked the radio on a certain channel.. did their hearts beat in time with his?? Of course not.. he was MY heart dog, my baby, and being seperated from him aged me ten years. I will never forget the journey home, delay after delay, missed planes, baggage delays and then when we finally hit the home stretch FOG like I have never seen before that forced the car to crawl the 100 miles home. Then Mum and Dads words.. you must be exhausted, get some sleep, we will bring Ben home tomorrow... and my screeching reply.. BRING ME MY BABY HOME NOW GODDAMMIT!

    I never left that boy again, apart from the three days I was hospitalised when my eldest daughter was born.. and again the joy of becoming a Mother was tainted with the seperation anxiety at not being with my boy.

    Will I feel the same about the new Ben in my life? I would imagine so.. but I don't plan on testing the theory and leaving him anytime soon!

    Patience, you write with such depth.. i could feel every emotion as if i was experiencing it. I KNOW how arriving home feels.. and aint it just great?

    Sue xxx

  7. Dear P-I am right there with you! (and sounds like our other blog-phytes are as well!) I took Phan to Va. to visit Granda Jeanne-don't eve like to go to WORK without them! SO looking forward to retirement when we can be together EVERYDAY ALL DAY!

  8. Patience, Looks like you had a really good time. I am sure the Whippets missed you when you were away. A few years ago, when jie jie need to go to Oz to complete 1 semester as part of her course requirement to complete her degree. She was only there for 2 weeks and she call back to talk to me every day. When I see her again, I stay by her side 24/7. That is the only time when she was away from me for so long.

    My daddy and mummy also stop going for tours. The bad thing is that cause them to decide not to have anymore dogs after me.


  9. Mom totally understands, Patience! She misses out on so many fun trips to stay home with us because she just can't stand to leave us! What a mom we've got!
    Italy is just beautiful!

    Love ya lots,
    Maggie and Mitch

  10. Our person feels the same way as you Aunt Patience. She doesn't want to go on trips without us. She says she wouldn't enjoy the adventure at all without us to share it with.

  11. Welcome Home! I have missed your posts.

  12. I too have no particular interest in traveling, because I can't take my dogs. But if anyone tries to tell you that you're missing out on the enjoyment of seeing new places, just think of it this way -- you are SO lucky to be so happy with your life at home that you don't want to leave it!


  13. They say love is a form of madness, and it is true, but isn't it the best thing in the world? You are just lucky enough to have yours multiplied by 10!!
    You made Bill very, very, happy going to Italy for him, and he will never forget the sacrifice you made....

  14. I'm so hormonal right now with the pregnancy that reading your blog makes me cry.

    I remember leaving my two for two weeks when I got married. It was torture...and they were young and healthy. I can't imagine how it was for you with your nine.


  15. I am so glad you had a beautiful trip and had someone to care for your waggle. When my ma ape is gone she calls three times a day to check on me plus e-mails. But I don't miss her one bit. Nope. Not at all. Ahem.

    I am glad you are back with your family. :)

    wally t.

    ps. If my ma ape was gone for 15 days I would cry like a baby.

    But she would be worse!

  16. So glad to read that you had a nice trip. I can so relate, though.......I can hardly leave my just kills me! Kai gets so stressed when I'm gone and he doesn't eat, he gets's awful. Most people don't understand. But you certainly understand the worry!

  17. lump in throat! so glad you are back where you can breathe!

  18. i have always wanted to go to italy.

    and i always miss the dogs when we travel. (but i almost always find a dog to hug along the way.)

  19. Home is where your heart is and it beats inside the hearts of all your waggle! I am sure you are so glad to be back and I am sure I am going to be equally wonky in the noodle when I go to Europe in a few weeks.

  20. Patience,

    Right now, I am eight hours away from our hairy ones and won't see them for another four days. How does the absence of a warm hairy body feel? You captured it perfectly (minus the hair of course, and nine times, not two times).

    I loved Bill's photos and have missed you (my fault, since I've not blogged much for a varfiety of reasons -- none as spectacular as a trip to Italy to see the same breathtaking view that Bill's grandparents must have seen!).

    Let's hope we can all get through this week without losing our minds from the anxiety of the unknown!!

    Lots of love,

    Joan (with permission from the Barkalots)


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