My little lieutenant

Over the years we’ve both shared the loss of two immediate family members, two corgis, a senior chihuahua, one cairn terrier and a hospice cat.

My boy Tuck’s definitely not a kid, but his exact age is unknown.

Thirteen maybe?

Perhaps older.

Tuck was found 11 years ago as a stray traveling country lanes in Missouri,
not too far from a puppy mill.

The pads on his little feet were worn down from his life on the road.

“Probably dumped because he was no longer useful as a breeding dog,” my kindly vet had speculated back then, shaking his head

I’m seeing more gray hairs now framing Tuck’s face with eyes increasingly cloudy as he sits next to me this morning.

Just where he’s chosen to be.

After all, Tuck’s always been my loyal little lieutenant.

He’s also been my anchor in an often stormy sea the last decade.

They’ll likely be a sunset before too long when I’ll have to lift that anchor and finally set Tucker free.

But in the meantime, I’ll be celebrating this courageous and constant companion and the great comfort he’s always given me.

It seems this senior pup finally found his purpose.

How lucky am I?

Cuddling with a corgi

The night after my corgi Maddie passed away, I stopped by a big patio adoption event just to cuddle with the one corgi who was scheduled to attend.

I scratched the sweet dog’s soft ears.

And rubbed her roly poly belly.

Then I gave her one big hug.

I got my corgi fix.

I know it definitely helped with the grief.

I was thinking again about Maddie this week when I came across another very special event.

This time it was a dog event only involving corgis.

Come “pet a corgi and take a picture,” a Facebook post beckoned.

It was a fundraiser for a rescue group I know well.

As my friend and I walked briskly today towards the brewery where the event was being held, we were surprised to see a long line going all the way down the block.

Then suddenly we saw excited corgis and enthusiastic owners everywhere.

Some corgis were in tutus, others in bow ties and bright t-shirts.

One or two were even neatly tucked into back packs.

Inside the brewery there was a party room in back where I was told more than 50 corgis were already assembled and available for pets, paw shakes and photos.

Once inside, my friend and I skipped the packed party room and hung out in front where other corgis ‘on stand by’ were mingling with the crowd along with the occasional Boston terrier, bull dog, or bichon who mistakenly stumbled in.

I was thinking that maybe we just love our corgis like crazy in the midwest, or maybe we know how to warm ourselves up on a cold winter’s day.

But what I do know is if all dogs go to heaven, my girl Maddie was looking down at me this afternoon and definitely smiling.

I know that I was for sure.

Sweet Passage: Part 2

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
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Clarence, a kindly guardian angel shared those words in the classic 1946 movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.”

And I’ve often found the words ring even more true when talking about our dogs.

As my fourteen year old lame corgi Maddie continued to struggle last summer with various health issues, I was already feeling an all too familiar void coming my way.

While lamenting with a fellow corgi owner strolling by with his own corgi pup, I was advised to adopt another dog before Maddie passed on “to help ease the pain.”

He was speaking from his own experience.

“Thanks for the suggestion,” I said dismissing the advice right after our conversation.

After all, I still had a couple of four legged friends back at home.

Yet I knew the hole in my heart was growing as Maddie’s days continued to shrink.

I suppose it was no surprise that I found myself stopping by a small rural shelter one afternoon while driving out in the country.

I’d been visiting a nearby cemetery where my parents and brother were buried, and was feeling a little blue.

As I first entered the shelter, I immediately spotted a white, five pound dog dancing with joy as he first saw me.

The silver wispy curls shining like a halo on his head reminded me some of Clarence the angel.

And this little fellow was clearly a senior as well.

Estimated to be about ten years old, the dog was a dirty, matted mess when he’d first arrived at the shelter. He had so much hair on his body that the staff could only guess at the breed hidden below.

This former stray was gifted the name Dirty Harry, cleaned up, and had since been shaved down.

A half hour after my arrival a smiling Harry and a smiling me walked together out of the shelter after completing the adoption paperwork.

But I chose to leave the dirty part of his name far behind.

Once back in my home, Harry quickly got to work befriending Maddie as she rested on her cozy plaid dog bed in the kitchen.

Harry would share his sweet smiles and dancing acumen in spontaneous recitals of joy right next to the stove.

Maddie appeared to approve of her new friend, watching every move.

She once loved to dance herself on her short hind legs years prior to her lameness.

Harry seemed to fall in love quickly with his new big sister, joining Maddie in her pet stroller on our trips to the farmer’s market and for outdoor band concerts down by the lake.

And also on that comfy dog bed.

Maddie soon was smiling brighter again herself.

Yet just two months and a day after Harry’s adoption, the music suddenly stopped.

Harry left us while sleeping on my shoulder, just like he did every night.

My vet suspected Harry was much older than ten and detected a heart murmur, though it was still unclear why Harry had died that evening.

But one day a week later it became clear to me.

Earlier that morning Maddie had passed on as well.

I like to think Harry, her new friend and protector, had come back to get her.

He was a special angel after all.

This little guardian and guide granted Maddie the wings to finally move on to a more beautiful place where she could kick up her heels and run free once more.

Yet my heart remains full, just at the thought.

Sweet Passage: Part One

“…So their work is mostly us, their families. They stay close, pay close attention, watch over us, and are always available to us.”

Book author Jon Katz wrote those words in a post last week about smaller dogs.

I smiled as I read it, and I also cried some as well.

My 14 year old corgi Maddie had just passed away last Monday.

It seemed I’d become Maddie’s purpose over the years after a brief stint as a breeder dog.

And she handled her role with grace, love and compassion always.

I often felt she’d become my own unique caregiver over the last decade as I dealt with the loss of both my parents and husband from Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

She’d calm my constant rage with the cruel disease by simply offering her belly for scratching or even a soft ear that would just listen.

Sometimes it was a just a big, wet button nose to kiss.

Maddie’s whole face wore joy so well, even in her final months.

She radiated happiness in her pet stroller as we’d navigate around the lake in the sunshine.

And Maddie looked even happier as we’d stop at the nearby bakery for free sugary smells and fresh samples.

Yet she was also very content just keeping an eye on me from her cozy dog bed in the kitchen in her final days.

After all, she still saw it as her job till the end.

Those big round eyes were so full of soul, yet often they were mixed with just a little mischief.

No wonder everyone loved Maddie, both man and beast.

The morning after Maddie passed, my Chi pup Rex was blue and refused to eat for the first time.

And my Yorkie Tucker, hid under the bed.

He’s never done that before either.

Yet this week we all seem to be moving on.

I know Maddie’s in a good place. And as I told the rest of the canine clan this morning, “Don’t worry, she’s still watching over us.”

I like to think they agreed as we looked up at the sky while walking out the door into the beautiful day before us.