Autumns come and go.
Though gone a while, we’ll still smile.
This one’s bittersweet.
“…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.
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.
“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.
Grief is a funny thing.
Or maybe not.
You think you’ve got proper protection then something bites you in the backyard.
Just like a big old mosquito.
I was outside playing with the dogs tonight when I got stung.
There laying on the freshly cut grass before me was my loving corgi Maddie. My girl’s close to 14 now and she was looking lethargic with her head down on the ground.
One of Maddie’s backlegs is lame, and now the second seems to be slowing down as well.
I joined her on my stomach anyway right next to her, and started snapping pictures.
But that usual magical spark was missing in Maddie’s eyes which was bringing me down even lower.
My girl’s expression reminded me of the words my paternal grandmother shared with me in her eighties. “It’s hell getting old,” Grandma would often say before she passed from Alzheimer’s a few years later.
I stopped and thought for a moment about about those I’ve lost in in my life, particularly in the last 3 or 4 years.
There once was a mother, one husband, and three sweet senior dogs.
Mom, my spouse Richard, and even one of the dogs had dementia. And yet they all managed to keep happy in spite of their illnesses.
Perhaps even happier than my late corgi Mariah and chi-doxie Greta who held on to their cognitive skills till the day each of them passed on.
I began to scratch Maddie’s soft belly for a while to calm her and to calm me.
Suddenly a mourning dove began to croon on the weathered fence post behind us, but it wasn’t a sad song at all.
Then a monarch darted and danced right past Maddie’s black nose demanding her attention before taking off for the barbecue next door.
Soon I saw joy and dignity return to Maddie’s face.
And I felt a growing smile on mine as my camera hooked just the shot I was looking for.
It’s definitely a keeper.