Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We're Home/Thank You/Figuring Things Out - part 2

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.


  1. reading this, and knowing, at least in part, the outcome is still emotionally draining. We can only echo "Oh no, oh God, please no."

    gussie and muzzer

  2. You are so right! Here in Portugal a lot of dogs whose owners died end up abandonned or in kennels where they end up killing them because the family (when there´s a family) don´t want or can´t take care of them. Poor doggies....imagine living 10 or plus years with someone and one day loose everything - your home and your friends. :(

  3. Through tears, we say to you, "We'll be here - as a vague and unfamiliar support - for you." We care. And we thank you for sharing. It gives us a clearer idea of what it is that just might - through thoughts and prayers - make you feel better.

    Jake and Fergi

  4. I really feel the "oh no"s.. even if my brain know this happened a while ago..

    Big hugs,

  5. What a painful tale & thank you for the important message of having a plan for your beloved pet(s). Many hugs..

  6. Patience,

    If you wrote this as a novel, we would think you were making it up. How many curve balls? How many new twists and turns in the labyrinth?

    Sadly we know the outcome, as Gussie says --


    Joan and Jack and Jake and Just Harry

  7. Count me in the crowd of friends sending prayers of love and comfort your way. This is a shocking tale and I appreciate you sharing with us.

  8. I'm still screaming about the perfect home you found for Early....

    I am also glad you are back with your newly reorgannized pack.

    Hugs P...you are very very special! r

  9. Oh no......You really have to wonder about karma..when one thing happens everything happens......it is a cruel thing... lvoe A+A+PL2

  10. Oh no is right, bless your heart, you have been hit with it all at once. Good thoughts and Bullie hugs coming to you from TN

    Angie & all the TN Bull Terrors

  11. we don't know how you got through this time. our mom would not be able to handle it...

    you are right about making a will...


  12. Wow, my heart is wrenched. Big hugs and kisses from me and Maisie.

  13. Martha and P-DoggyApril 14, 2009 at 5:53 PM

    Dearest P..what do they say,it never rains but it pours (and not just in California!) Didn't know you had a sister Martha..makes me feel a tighter tie! Glad you are home safe and sound.Whippet kisses from NYS

  14. Francarrich from WWApril 14, 2009 at 6:41 PM

    I read it on WW, I think I know where Early has gone, at just the right time for Susan too, I think!

    As for dear, Very Old Dog, maybe it was all for the best for him, that that horrid decision was forced upon you, because sometimes we might have left it a little too late & you would have hated it if that choice had to be made by Bill without you being there. This way your beloved Giacomino had you beside him to the last moment & you will have fond memories of him but also room in your heart & your life for Easy & Spice, who, like you, are missing somebody they loved.

    Hard, so very hard for you with all that you have been through just recently & now your Sister so ill too, please know that we are thinking of you all.

    Carol, Banjo & Aida

  15. Georgie and GordyApril 14, 2009 at 8:15 PM

    Oh my goodness, what a tough month you have had. Count us in as friends who are thinking of you and offering comfort. If it were possible to send hugs through the internet, you'd get a bunch of human hugs and many poodle kisses from us.

  16. oh patience, i am so so sorry you have had all this trauma in your life. my thoughts and prayers continue to be with you and your family. i know we have never met or spoken but i truly will be praying for you.

  17. P, you give me waaaay too much credit. I'm so honored and blessed that ya'll thought of me. I'm the recipient of the caring and love that Carolyn and Greg poured into a little white and red dog. The fit in our family is so good... it's almost like Early was always here :)
    Hugs, Susan

  18. oh we know how this ends up and we are so feeling the emotions involved right now. argh.

  19. Hi I came over from Ina's suggestion. Oh this topic is heading home for me. I have a senior (90 yr old) neighbor that I had to take to the hospital yesterday she had a stroke. At home is her 3 yr old collie and a 5 yr old Shih Tzu. These 2 dogs are inseparable. It breaks my heart to know their future when this woman can no longer take care of them or she passes away. She has made it know to her nieces and I think maybe even in her will to put the dogs down. My hands are tied, because the woman lives alone, only family are 2 nieces that live out of town. I can only hope this all hear say and not in her will AND that a vet will not put down 2 healthy young dogs down. I'm glad your friend had good homes lined up for her dogs.

    With our 14 yr old rescue Lakeland terrier we have it set up that if something happens to us my mom would take her.


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