Carolyn's will offered no surprises. She had left the dogs to her three friends, and each of the three of us had numerous concurring independent conversations with her about her wishes. [I would encourage all of you, Dear Readers, whether you have one dog or ten, whether you are twenty years old or seventy, to clearly spell out your wishes for your dog(s) in your will. TODAY. It makes one less thing for people who are grieving to deal with, and it is the last gift you can give your dogs.] I told the other two friends of the miracle home that had materialized for Early, and they agreed: it was perfect.
Friend One would be driving from western Pennsylvania to the National in Atlanta on Saturday and could take Early along. Susan (Early's angel) would arrive in Atlanta on Sunday. Friend One would leave Atlanta on Tuesday, and I would arrive. Susan and Early would go home on Tuesday. Early would get to meet Susan's other two whippets in the neutral territory of the Atlanta hotel. If for any reason things didn't work, Earl could go back with Friend One or with me. I had then the privilege of calling Susan and telling her all systems were go. We cried. Then I called my dear friend Rhonda, who loved Carolyn, knew Early, and knows Susan. My left ear is still ringing from her squeals of delight. "OH it's PERFECT!!!" she cried. "Susan is PERFECT!!! Oh I'm SOOOO HAPPY!!!! It's PERFECT!!!!"
I went to bed happy that night. I wanted to tell Greg and Carolyn that it was all coming together. That their sweet dogs were all going to be in the right place. That they would be pleased.
On Saturday morning (this is important for later) Comcast email went down. I put a note on my Facebook page that I couldn't get any Comcast email, and I heard from friends from Massachusetts to I don't know where on Facebook that their Comcast email wasn't working either.
A week or so before all of this, I had been out working at a Kennel Club Show and Go (or at some board meeting downtown or something... I can't remember, but I was gone for a couple of hours). Bill was home with the dogs. Giacomino had lost his footing right in front of Bill's eyes and had fallen out in the grass. And he couldn't get up. Poor Bill was beyond distraught. He gently lifted him, but Beans' four legs just didn't work. Bill carried him into the house and covered him up on his bed in the kitchen and sat by him. He knew that when I got home, we would have to make that awful phone call. I walked in, saw Bill's ashen face, and knew something was terribly wrong.
Only Giacomino didn't know, and when he saw me he jumped - okay, wobbled - onto his feet and said, "Hi! You're home!" Bill nearly fainted with relief. My Very Old Dog - who would have been fifteen on April 17th - had spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the spinal column in his neck made his legs numb. With this last fall, things worsened dramatically. He couldn't tell if his front feet were right-side-up or knuckled down. We tried some steroids, which maybe helped a little. Not really. But he was eating and happy, and could still enjoy his walk around the block, albeit with much more help from me.
So, where the plans stood, this year I would only go to the National for the day of the Board and General Membership meetings. Usually I set up a booth to sell my collars and book, enter all the dogs and am gone for nine days. But if I drove Tuesday, did the meetings on Wednesday, and drove home on Thursday, Bill would only have to worry over Beans for two nights. I entered Swede William, whose class would be on Wednesday afternoon, since I would be there anyway. I would meet saintly Friend One in Lexington on the way home to collect Easy and Spice. (It wouldn't have been fair to Bill, or Easy and Spice, to bring them into this house and then have me leave for the National.)
Saturday morning (the same Saturday that my email was down) the phone rang. Or maybe it was Friday night. I didn't recognize the number. The grandmotherly voice on the other end asked in a Midwestern accent if I were Patience. Yes, I am. Then the voice told me that she was sorry, but my sister Martha had undergone emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction last night, only when they opened her up they found massive ovarian cancer everywhere. The tumors were too large and involved to remove, so they had done an iliostomy to relieve the obstruction, left the tumors, and Martha was in the ICU in Toledo.
I can't even remember my end of the conversation. I couldn't talk to Martha because she was still on a ventilator. I needed to get to my friend's house as I was dog sitting. I felt dizzy. It was a beautiful day. I went to Heather's house and walked Emmett and Edgar. Heather lives in a gorgeous old neighborhood, and I'm not sure I had brushed my teeth. I needed a new plan. I couldn't make my brain work. I had just studied in my RN review course that the brain processes emotions and events while you sleep. It prioritizes and compartmentalizes stuff during REM sleep. I would sleep on it and try for a plan Sunday morning.
I was at Heather's from around 11:30 to 4:30, when the next shift of dog sitters arrived. When I got home, though Giacomino had been safe and quiet, he couldn't stand without help. He was tired, because he had worried while I was out. A horrible, burning realization crept into my gut, and bile spilled up into my throat. I had to go to Atlanta and to Toledo. I would be gone for a lot longer than five hours or two days.
I looked at my darling Very Old Dog and felt that my world was closing in on us.
Oh, God. Oh, God, no.
4 hours ago