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 truer when talking about our dogs.

As my fourteen year old lame corgi Maddie continued to struggle earlier this summer, 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, but dismissed the advice right after our conversation.

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

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

I guess it was no surprise that I found myself ‘just stopping by’ a 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 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 of Clarence.

And this little guy 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. He had so much hair on his body that the shelter couldn’t safely guess at the breed buried below it.

This little fellow, named ‘Dirty Harry’ by the loving staff, was cleaned up and had since been shaved down.

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

I’d chosen to leave the dirty part of his name far behind.

Back home Harry quickly got to work befriending Maddie as she rested on her plaid dog bed in the kitchen.

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

Maddie appeared to approve, watching every move.

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

Harry quickly fell in love with his big sister, joining Maddie in her 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 was soon smiling brighter again herself.

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

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

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

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

Earlier in the morning Maddie had also passed on.

I choose to believe Harry, her guide and protector, had flown back to get her.

He was an angel after all.

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

My heart is full again, just at the thought.

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Blessed by an angel

Sometimes an angel comes into your life.

If she visits a second time, I call it a blessing.

I’d adopted a scared little senior chi named Greta about seven years ago. For the first few months, Greta was terrified of me and most everyone else she encountered. My vet even had to muzzle Greta for her visits as Greta’s great fear sometimes transfered to a display of aggression when frightened.

Yet Greta’s heart would melt whenever she heard the voice of a special lady named Patty each time I had to board her.

In fact, Greta would take off in a run and leap up into her arms as soon as Patty entered the room. I began to think of Patty as a ‘chi whisperer.’

Eventually Greta did mellow and we had six wonderful years together before she passed away last year.

I had been thinking that someday I would adopt a senior dog again. Perhaps another chihuahua to keep my young chi-terrier Rex company.

Occasionally I’d research available senior chihuahuas online and had stopped by to meet a couple of them at local shelters. They were all sweet pups, but I was looking for just the right personality to mesh with my household.

I thought I would wait until spring until one rainy Friday night I spotted a special little girl on a local rescue group’s website.

In fact, she was VERY little.

Junie B. Jones’s bio said she was two pounds and a little over six years of age. Must be a error, I thought. I figured the numbers had been transposed and the little girl in the picture was actually 6 pounds in weight and two years old.

Still curious, I decided to drive over to the shelter just to take a look before they closed.

I found Junie B. resting over in a crate by the puppies.

And she sure was tiny.

Weighing in at just 2.9 pounds, Junie B. wasn’t looking too happy and wasn’t eating. Found as a stray in a big city alley, she’d just started meds for kennel cough that morning and was also recovering from several tooth extractions.

Yet I sensed a special sparkle beneath that sad expression as I held her shaking little body for a while.

I decided to put her on hold with a adoption specialist as it was near closing time. I needed to mull this adoption decision through overnight I thought.

I admit I was trying to talk myself out of an adopting later that evening. Junie B. was a little younger and definitely smaller than I was looking for, and with the way she was feeling I couldn’t really be sure of her temperament.

Yet there was that look of love Junie B. had given me as I held her. With much effort she had slowly raised her tiny head up as if to say, “Can you take me home?”

The following afternoon I returned to the shelter to check back on Junie B.

Still unsure of my final decision while walking into the building, I made my way back over by to the puppies where I found Junie B. still resting. She lifted her head again and looked at me straight in the eye.

It seemed as if she was smiling and had recognized me.

Or was I just imagining it, I wondered?

The two of us soon entered a small room to get reacquainted. A shelter volunteer stopped by to answer any additional medical questions I had. Then we both gave Junie B. treats that she happily accepted.

Afterwards, I waited on the busy adoption floor to speak to the next available adoption specialist. I soon found myself becoming a protective mother hen of Junie B. She was attracting a lot of attention from visiting children in the puppy area who were amazed at Junie B.’s tiny size, yet mature age.

I just wanted her to get some more sleep.

Suddenly I saw two female employees cut through the crowd to approach Junie B. The pair looked concerned. One of them opened her crate. A little nervous, I walked on over to see what was happening.

They appeared to be vet technicians checking in on Junie B., and they were trying to figure out why she still wasn’t eating.

“Oh, but she is,” I said as the taller of the two turned my direction. ”Junie B. was just enjoying some treats.”

I immediately recognized the pleasant face before me and remembered the distinctive voice.

It was Patty, the same woman who had cared so lovingly for my first chihuahua Greta at the boarding facility across town, and had now done the same for little Junie B.

Just as I started to reintroduce myself, we were joined by the adoption specialist. Soon all of us were smiling, and more than my eyes were moist as I told Patty how Greta had passed on and that I had put a hold in place on Junie B.

We all knew then and there that the sweet girl before us was going home with very lucky me.

As my new pup and I left, I was thinking what a gift it was that Greta received such great care years ago by one angel of a vet tech.

And I smiled, knowing how blessed I am today that Junie B. received such loving care by that very same vet tech.

Perhaps it’s even a miracle.

A little heartbeat

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“My little dog – a heartbeat at my feet.” – Edith Wharton

A friend asked me when I adopted Rex back in December why this little guy is so special to me.

I think I may have found my answer in the quote above while reading on my porch love seat this morning.

Living with intention has never been one of my strengths, though I’m working on it.

However for Rex, it surely is.

The day I first met Rex I’d only stopped by the shelter to pick up a few pet supplies.

Rex however had other ideas and trotted that 6 pound body over to me to offer his assistance.

He seemed to sense I needed to get my empty heart beating again after some losses in my life.

He seemed to know I needed a younger, active pup to get me exercising for my health.

And Rex has now learned that sometimes in the early morning hours, all I need is to hear is that little heartbeat at my feet.

He’s one very smart boy.

And I’m one very lucky girl.

 

Canine caregivers

While balancing 55 hour work weeks and caretaking responsibilities a few years ago I came to an important realization.

Mom and my husband Richard were both suffering from late stage dementia at the time, and I also had a teen and grandchild at home still needing support.

I was running short on sleep, and even shorter on spirit.

Then one Saturday morning I slid down to the kitchen floor to scratch my corgi Maddie’s belly. In response, she licked my hand and looked up at me with soulful eyes full of love.

Then and there I realized this sweet corgi and the rest of my canine crew were there as my own caretakers.

Specifically caretakers of one very shaky spirit and soul.

I was not alone.

As a result, along with Alzheimer’s non profits, dog related causes have been a yearly recipient of my annual donation dollars.

But this year, those dollars given to the dogs have been less than I’d like due to unpredicted expenses.

I’d been feeling a little guilty, until meeting up with two spirited grade schoolers at a neighborhood festival last weekend.

They both had a love for animals, and a vision.

The first shy brown eyed brunette sat at a table with her father collecting dollars for dogs found roaming in Costa Rica that they’d met on a recent trip. She made brightly colored candle holders out of paint and canning jars to sell for the cause.

I emptied my left pocket and added all the coins I pulled to their bucket.

A few tables down, I met another sweet girl who had a different idea to help out the dogs.

She was busily selling dog toys she and her Girl Scout group assembled to support the pound where I adopted my dog Rex in December.

After asking her to pick out a special toy for my boy, she did so proudly selecting one of deep burgundy and blue that she had made.

I emptied my right pocket this time, knowing these pups needed the donation more than I needed the grilled hot dog I was smelling from the stand behind me.

Driving home, I was happy I’d been able to help the dogs some. Yet I was still a little regretful I couldn’t do more or had the vision to help in a creative way like the two young girls I’d just met.

But then after looking at a newsletter I pulled from my mailbox after pulling into my driveway, I reconsidered.

The rescue group that I’d adopted my chi Grandma Greta from republished a post in it that I’d written in early December right after she passed. I’d talked in the piece about what this old girl meant to my spirit and that of others. https://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/christmas-story/

In the same issue, the group mentioned a total of over 700 dogs that they helped last year.

If even half of those new owners donated only a dollar in honor of a second hand dog, maybe I have helped in more than a minor way.

And also in a creative one.

I thought the same as I also looked back on another post that the local pound republished of mine on Facebook in late December after I adopted my pup Rex. I wrote about what this little guy is doing for my soul and spirit today. https://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/handsome-man/

The pound received over 700 likes on the piece. If even half of those readers donate as well, perhaps I’ve made more of a difference for the dogs than I’d ever realized.

Though arthritis limits what I contribute by hand, perhaps I can continue giving with my words and as many coins as I can muster.

My canine caretakers have given me so much.

I owe it to their legacy to try and do the same.

Magical muses

Life is a series of lessons. And some of my best have been taught by my dogs.

Most recently my handsome man Rex was busy tutoring me while I was teaching him the basic skills of sit, stay, and down.

Just a few months before, Rex had been a painfully shy boy who would cower in the corner of of his cage in fear.

Not a great profile when you’re trying to get adopted.

Still by the time we first met, he’d had enough special coaching to convince me I didn’t need that sleepy southern gentleman snoring away in the next cage in my life.

Instead I needed this transposed spicy young spitfire before me who made great eye contact, kissed my hand, and jumped into my lap.

Watching my once shy guy play tag today with a three year old, while snuggling with the boy’s father, and adorning his mother with loving pecks on the cheek was magical.

And that’s the same magic this young pup’s been creating for me.

It seems I’ve finally learned I’m never too old to change.

Or even to enjoy a little fairy dust in my own life.

“Dogs are the magicians of the universe,” once wrote Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

Oh what smart and lucky creatures they are.

And how blessed are we to have them as part of our lives.

Ode to Mama Maddie

I celebrate all rescue dogs.
And my sweet puppy mill mother.

Who often cared for litters that came.
One right after the other.

But now, retired, she cares for me.
With love still in her eyes.

Today, crawling to kiss my hand.
I thanked her for my surprise.

I learn from her most every day.
As did those pups she taught.

That simple gifts still are the best,
And can’t be easily bought.

I’m grinning now as I gaze at her, and see that winning smile.
Most everyday’s a special treat, I’m so blessed to have her for a while.

Those eyes say it all

I believe my senior girl Maddie’s a lot smarter than I am.

She’s 13 now, so she’s had plenty of years to work on that wisdom.

This morning I bent down to slowly to pick her up and carry her outside. Maddie’s lame now in her back legs.

I found my back ached more than usual from the lifting, as did my shoulder from shoveling heavy snow a few weeks back.

I ‘d also awakened with a cold and fever that seemed to sail in on the breeze overnight.

After gently setting Maddie down on the grass, I went back inside. I soon noticed her watching me through the kitchen windows as I made my coffee, swept the floor, and washed up the breakfast dishes.

She was smiling and never took those big brown eyes off me.

It seemed Maddie was beckoning me to come back outside.

I finally did.

And I found a day once gray had turned a beautiful blue.

It was full of sunshine and twenty five degrees warmer than normal.

And my old girl didn’t want me to miss it.

Maddie’s never let a little discomfort get in her way.

After spending the first four years of her life living on a porch with a questionable breeder in frigid northern Minnesota, she’s come to appreciate simple gifts.

And she still does today.

We spent much of the afternoon relaxing outside. She on her dog bed, and me in a rocking chair until she had another message she was determined to share.

It was spelled D-I-N-N-E-R.

And once again, her eyes said if all.

Somehow they always do.