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?

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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.

The Cat who came for Christmas

“A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.” – St. Francis of Assisi –

Even one sunbeam is a gift from above in mid January and I was particularly grateful they were present early yesterday morning.

Mr. Bojangles, my hospice cat, was warmed by those same sunbeams as he took his last little breath.

My heart was warmed some as well.

It seems Mr. Bojangles decided to leave on his own terms.

He passed away peacefully while the car was warming up so I could drive him to our vet.

However, Mr. Bojangles earlier days had been anything but cozy, and were laced with many shadows. He had originally come to the shelter as part of an animal cruelty case.

Yet his days in my home appeared to be happy ones for him. He fit right in with the household and immediately claimed his special spot on a desk near a window.

It was just perfect for catching a sunbeam or two, as well as a quick catnap.

Mr. Bojangles passed exactly one month after he came to us from the shelter.

Though his time here was brief, I will always remember the sunny days we spent together and smile.

And I am at peace knowing the shadows in his life are finally gone forever.

Beauty blooms in January

“Beauty is so quietly woven through our ordinary days that we hardly notice it. Everywhere there is tenderness, care and kindness there is beauty.”

-John O’Donohue
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Perhaps it was a little crazy to take on a hospice cat over the holidays, or was it?

I was asking that potentially depressing question to a friend earlier this week since my husband passed away in hospice right after Christmas a few years ago.

On this gloomy bitter cold Sunday I’ve been watching Mr. Bojangles curl up on a cozy cat bed right beside me.

And I’ve actually been finding myself smiling.

Mr. Bojangles is holding his head up high, but not quite as high as he did when he first joined me.

Still he does so with grace.

Sure the fellow’s estimated to have only 2-5 months left at this point, but who really knows when our time is up anyway.

Three days ago Mr. Bojangles had stopped eating and didn’t seem to be drinking water. Yet by the next evening, I discovered he was back in the game.

However, it’s clear his appetite isn’t what it once was no matter the type of food given.

I’ve also noticed Mr. Bojangles is moving a bit slower, still every step he takes is deliberate. Though I no longer find him climbing the stairs to join the dogs up in the kitchen for breakfast.

Instead he prefers I join him in his private room and hold him as he tenderly takes in every flake of his tuna meals.

It seems Mr. Bojangles likes this extra one on one time.

I do know that I love providing him the extra attention he deserves along with some extra warm blankets.

Mid January can be especially cruel here in the upper midwest and this week has been no different.

Sub zero temperatures, icy roads with 20 car pile ups, and what looked like the loss of my hospice cat 3 days ago was beginning to play havoc with my soul.

Yet as I smell my beef stew now simmering in the crock pot while watching fresh snowflakes dance out the window to the sounds of that hospice cat still purring softly, I know it still is a beautiful world.

Yes, even in January.

Mr. Bojangles

I spent Christmas Eve four years ago in an empty hospital watching Saturday Night Live reruns with my husband, Richard.

It was always his favorite show.

I held his frail right hand in mine, but found myself smiling.

My husband slept mostly, yet didn’t seem to be in pain.

Richard was in hospice at the time and wasn’t expected to make it until Christmas Day.

Though my mind was sometimes on overtime processing a host of decisions and emotions, I still found something beautiful about my husband’s hospice experience.

You see I often found myself living in the moment as well.

Maybe that’s why I found myself drawn to go back to see a special hospice cat I met last week at a local shelter.

This dear man will be joining me for Christmas Eve, and for the rest of his days.

The happy cat’s name is Mr. Bojangles, and it seems he still likes to dance.

At least for now.

But of course, I’ll still be there even when he doesn’t.

After all, that’s what life’s all about.

Isn’t it?

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.