Heartbreaker

I sure wasn’t planning on adding a new dog to the household last month.

But I wasn’t planning on losing one either.

Or for that matter, the second one I lost earlier in the summer.

I choose to believe Grandma Greta, my chi-doxie diva, and Mariah, a sweetheart of a corgi, are calm and comfortable this day.

Such sweet seniors they were.

I envision them now young again, playing in fields of green grass and pink wildflowers.

Still I was growing more restless after Greta passed seeing another empty dog bowl.

And another empty bed.

I’m also aware that my lame senior corgi Maggie is now 13.

And my aging Yorkie Tucker, age 9, would never do well as an only dog.

So I thought I would start my research, study up some. Maybe even look at a few dogs.

Just to get an idea or two.

I became enamored with the idea of taking on a big black senior dog with one of those sweet gray muzzles.

I knew they were having trouble finding homes in my town.

Yet I also knew it wasn’t realistic for me. I need to be able to lift a dog myself if necessary. I’m having back issues now lifting my 25 pound corgi Maddie to take her outside or to see the vet.

So I went on line to look at pet adoption websites.

Another black senior chi doxie mix showed up, just like the one I’d just lost.

Amazingly, her name was also Greta. Yet I knew there could never be another Grandma Greta in my heart.

And this one was living close to the Canadian border.

Much farther away than I could ever safely travel in January.

So I continued my research on my lunch hour at the local shelter.

I was charmed by the first dog I saw.

He was a gentle, senior beagle mix. At 12 years old, I wondered if he’d ever find a home.

But he did.

And only an hour after I’d driven back to work.

My research continued the following week when I drove back to the shelter.

This time I met a sweet and stout spaniel, age 9.

Sally, I believe was her name.

I knew Sally was beyond a weight I could manage, but oh the way she looked up at me.

What a beautiful soul.

Did she need me, I wondered?

But I was distracted suddenly by the dog in the next cage.

He was a tiny thing, and a little funny looking with his long spindly legs and hair that spiked up.

But he was kind of a handsome man, too.

His card said he was very shy, and that he’d participated in a program to help him overcome it.

This dog must be the type that cowers in the corner I was thinking.

And as a result, often passed up for adoption.

Yet this happy guy appeared to have graduated with honors.

He marched right up to me to introduce himself when I read his name out loud.

He then met my eyes and and kept the eye contact going as I spoke to him.

I heard the dog had been transported from the south with a group of other chihuahuas.

Former puppy mill pooches, I wondered?

Yet this one before me was only half chihuahua, with the rest of his pedigree still a mystery.

No matter.

His personality wasn’t a mystery at all.

And the little fellow knew exactly what he wanted.

He wanted me!

As I walked out of the shelter with my new buddy, we both stopped to greet the stout senior spaniel.

She, too, was leaving with her new adoptive parents. And she looked up at me again, beaming.

“Hey boy,” I said. “Doesn’t she look happy?”

Then looking back at my own handsome man, I added, “And so are we!”

Christmas story

It was five years ago this week when I drove through a snowstorm to meet Grandma Greta, a soon to be 11 year old chi-doxie mix.

She was signed up for a holiday event with the local rescue group.

I’d noticed her image on the masthead for the group’s website. Those jet black airplane ears taking half of the width of the page definitely caught my attention.

I was about to retire from short term fostering at the time.

My husband Richard’s rapidly declining memory loss had made conducting home visits and attending meet and greets with foster dogs unrealistic.

I’d been thinking instead about becoming a permanent foster of a hard to place black senior dog.

I had no particular interest in 4 pound yippee pocket dogs, but there was something about Greta’s gray muzzle and those big black ears. And also her life story. She’s spent the first 10 years on the road with a trucker who was ill, then a family with young children who terrified her.

After dropping off my husband at his adult day care center, I finally arrived at the busy pet warehouse that chilly Saturday.

I wandered inside, past the line for Santa to the back of the store, where I immediately recognized little Greta.

Instantly, I was smitten. I knew she was going home with me.

Against my better judgement, I decided to bring her over to Santa for a picture. The challenges of my husband’s dementia had been bringing me down and I thought a photo would put me in the holiday spirit.

Greta wasn’t exactly thrilled as I placed her in Santa’s lap. One photo was taken and she jumped on down, slipping and sliding forth on rows of shiny linoleum and underneath ceiling high shelf units.

A store employee and I finally trapped her.

Santa never even got Greta’s list.

But I still bought Greta an extra small snowflake sweater and rawhide, even though I was thinking she probably deserved coal in her stocking.

The first couple of weeks, Greta was very icy towards me. I saw those tiny teeth a few more times than I would have liked.

Yet she seemed to warm up to Richard.

I would place her in his lap each night. Though he no longer spoke more than a few words, Richard would always instinctively stroke her back and Greta would peacefully doze off.

As Greta loved food, I was finally able to bribe my way into her heart as well.

Not long after Greta moved in, it was necessary to transition my husband to a group home. Greta loved it there and would twirl in her 25 cent garage sale tutu for the residents.

And she’d continue to nap in my husband’s lap on visits until he passed away two years ago this Christmas.

Yet afterwards Greta reinvented herself again.

She was now my lap dog.

And she was also my social butterfly. Greta loved to go to dog friendly coffee shops and bookstores. She’d be in her glory on long road trips or even short jaunts to McDonalds. And she was a big fan of pet friendly church services, where she’d always try and steal my communion bread and wine.

Greta also finally found she was no longer afraid of young children in the area, who all believed she was still a puppy at sixteen because of her tiny size

I like to think she was flattered, as she was a little diva after all.

Yesterday, I wrapped up my little diva in her favorite red velveteen blanket from the couch.

And we took a drive in a snowstorm.

This time it was to the vet, as she hadn’t been feeling well.

The vet told me it was time for Greta to move on once again.

Crying some, I agreed. And I let her go.

Afterwards, I bought another red velveteen blanket at the store. And last night, my dogs Tucker, Maddie and I watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on TV, sitting on Greta’s favorite couch.

I dozed off a bit, and awakened later to the sound of a train whistle from the tracks that run by the depot where my husband’s memorial service was held.

I smiled, thinking Greta was helped up to that holiday train and found her way back to my husband’s lap, wherever he may be.

The thought gave me great comfort, and I slept like a baby.

And Grandma Greta, I hope you are as well.

Working through change

A 1:00 a.m. ear shattering shriek jolted me awake. It was coming from the kitchen where chi doxie Grandma Greta had been sleeping in her crate next to her corgi sister Maddie.

I brought Greta outside where she hopped around like a bunny for 30 seconds, ignoring ‘her business’, then demanding to return to the warmth of my tiny kitchen.

She’s been waking in the middle of the night ever since I moved at the end of September.

Maddie’s had issues as well. The normally quiet girl’s been grumbling overnight if she wakes and doesn’t see me.

Even my old terrier Tuck has been furious at being fenced off from the living room in his new home.

The sellers of my house installed white carpeting, perfect for attracting muddy paw prints and wet leaves.

Frustrated with my pack, I complained to the crew this morning over kibble.

“Hey guys, I’ve done well with the change, why can’t you? You’ve fallen in love with your great back yard, so I don’t understand the problem.”

But then I stopped my lecturing.

I thought about how I almost drove back to my old house last night after work.

And how I still have a stack of unpacked boxes I’ve been ignoring.

Yup, change is no dog treat.

Looking over at Grandma Greta, I suddenly remembered her old blue blanket went missing in the move.

She used to pull it over her head with those tiny paws to tune out the world as she slept.

I’ll pick up a new cozy one at the thrift store.

Looking next at Maddie, I remembered my sweet matron was used to sleeping at the foot of my old oversized mattress that I’d just tossed in the move.

She probably misses having me nearby. I’ll pick up an extra dog bed for the bedroom.

I then glanced over at Tuck. He was eyeing his favorite leather couch, just beyond the locked gate in the living room.

“Tuck, carpets, like dogs can always be washed clean. Right?”

He looked back at me.

And I detected a grin.

Taking it as a sign, I’m confident we’re going to be just fine after all.

Greta goes Gospel

Grandma Greta’s had a very busy summer.

Yet she’s managed to faithfully attend each Wednesday night concert at the church in town.

I thought at first it was all about the grilled hot dogs we’ve been sharing.

Or maybe the pail of dog biscuits the ushers have been showering her with.

“Hey, church lady. Ready to go?” I asked my gal last Wednesday after work.

I do think Greta looks like the Dana Carvey ‘prim and proper’ church lady character from Saturday Night Live episodes a few years back. (All she really needs is a string of pearls).

Anyway, Greta immediately responded with that happy nail tapping dance.

As if almost to say, “Well, isn’t that special!”

And it was.

After all, it was acoustic guitar night.

Greta seemed to relish the music and a few inspirational words on hope.

And I know Greta was putting that hope to work by wishing for seconds on vanilla ice cream.

But I’m thinking she deserved it.

This little 16 year old has blossomed at each event, showing more patience than normal with the three year olds who see her as a puppy.

And she’s also shown a gentleness with the older special needs kids who’ve approached her more abrubtly than she’s used to.

Maybe she’s just been absorbing the collective calm in these celebratory nights of reggae, rock, and folk music.

Or perhaps it’s the joy from several of the musicians who have survived transplants, cancer, and other tough battles through the years.

It seems every Wednesday the weather has been a gift.

And it will be again this week for the last concert of the summer, performed by an Emmy award winning gospel group.

I know Greta will be excited, moving and shaking like the rest of the canines in the crowd.

“They’re even having a blessing of the animals,” I told her after the last concert.

“Talk about hope, Greta! I know you’re also really hoping for your very own mustard slathered hot dog next
Wednesday.”

I then thought I saw a smile on my five pound church lady’s face.

And a mumble sounding like, “Isn’t that special!”

Or maybe, it was just her stomach growling in anticipation?