Bitter Sweet Memories

I thought I was getting better; healing from the loss of my sweet Obi. Each day seems a little easier. There are still small, sad reminders. My evening routine of giving my Obi food and water has been replaced with watering Obi’s tree…the tree we planted in his memory. But oh how I wish I was tending to him and not a tree. With his illness he would often get up at night to go out. I still wake up at 3 am, expecting him to be there and ready to go out.  There are countless other triggers that bring on sadness, but I am slowly learning to deal with them while replacing the sadness with good memories.

Then something so sweet, so beautiful takes place that the hurt is unleashed once again and the tears flow freely. Yesterday was one such day. I came home from work, no longer feeling the urge to cry when Obi doesn’t greet me at the door, as my daughter’s cat, has so lovingly volunteered to fill that void. She has been so loving and sweet, but I still feel the sadness.  I found the mail on the counter as I normally do, and what appeared to be two cards were on top. First I open a beautiful card from one of my best friends, Lori. She actually took the time to buy and send it while on her family vacation.  I could feel the tears building in my eyes, but I was still alright and touched by her thoughtfulness. I love you Lori. Thank you.

Then I opened the other card. This one was from my vet and his staff. Such beautiful words were written by everyone in the office, and because we frequented the vet so often these last few months, I knew they were sincere. They had gotten to know me pretty well, and they loved my Obi. I couldn’t hold back the tears and started to cry, and once again I relived his final moments in my head. But then I noticed something on the card. A paw print. At first it seemed like it was a part of the card and I didn’t think much of it. Then I noticed how it wasn’t centered, it was imperfect and smudged, and there was a small smudge from ink elsewhere on the card. Could it be? It is! IT’S MY OBI’S PAW PRINT! Now I was crying hard. Paws once so large for such a cute little puppy, but we were blessed that he would ultimately fill them.  Once he even sliced one of his paws open, our first of a few major vet visits.  So many times I heard those paws dancing through the house out of pure happiness. So many nights I lay in bed massaging those paws, sometimes tickling him and he would pull away. So many happy memories. Now so many tears. Such a beautiful gesture from the most caring veterinary clinic I have ever been to. It’s not my baby, and it cannot replace him, but I will treasure this card for eternity, for it bears a part of him that I will never see or touch again. Such a precious memento.

I will always love you Obi. 💕🐾

The Pain Lingers…

Grieving is a tremendously hard process.  I know the stages of grief – I took many psychology classes.  But does that help a person through it?  Nope.  I also know bringing the subject up again and again will only spark beautiful comments from people who care, and those comments will bring me to a waterfall of tears once again.  But still, I write.  I have to write.  I have found that writing is my therapy.  It’s my way to say, “Hey I Love You”.  It’s my way to say I’m hurting more than I ever dreamed.  It’s my way to keep from breaking down, even though I will anyway.  But it is what I feel I have to do for me.  My baby.  My pup.  My love.  My Obi is gone.

As if the trip to the vet yesterday wasn’t hard enough, the pain continues.

First it was arriving home.  Before even getting out of the car, I had to take his dog bowl (the one that held all those ice cubes just hours before) and his leash out of the car with me.  One of the girls already had his collar.  Just the act of picking it up off the floor sent me into another round of tears.  I sat in the heat of the car for a while, not feeling the temperature at all.  But it’s what came next that was even harder.

Whenever I would walk in the door, my baby would be right there to greet me with his “dancing feet”, claws tapping on the floor, spinning circles.  The biggest sign of affection one could ever experience.  As he got sicker and sicker, his “dancing feet” quieted down, but he never failed to greet me at the door.  If I managed to sneak in without him knowing, it would only be a matter of seconds before he would come running down the stairs in anything but a graceful manner.  He was simply the most loving, most adorable creature I have ever had in my life.  And yesterday…yesterday I walked in that door to silence.  I now believe that the most heartbreaking sound anyone could ever hear is complete silence.

When I learned of his illness, I made myself a promise that I would plant a tree in his honor when he left us.  So we went out and bought a tree.  When I returned home, there was that dreadful silence yet again.  I tried to be productive, so I went into the office and sat on the floor to take a measurement of a picture frame I was working on, but it only reminded me that he would normally follow me and be laying on the floor beside me.  I just rolled over onto my back and lay there sobbing yet again.  Can a person ever run out of tears?

Everything I did the rest of the day reminded me of him.  Why do I feel like I am obsessing?  The tears would dry up for a little while.  Then something would spark them all over again.  I was almost relieved when it was time for bed.  I was exhausted.  I needed to sleep.  But sleep would be difficult.  My love was no longer in bed with me.  The weight of him at my feet was gone.  I didn’t have to shift my legs around his body to get comfortable.  There was only emptiness.

I slept for a little while, and I vaguely remember dreaming of him.  Oh how I wish I could remember that dream.  Instead what I remember are the dreams that took place in the hours that followed. Hours of on-again, off-again sleep.  These dreams were filled with animals of all sorts, but none of them were him.  I would pet an animal here or there, and I would say, but it’s not Obi.  Where is Obi?  And I kept looking for him in those dreams.  But he was gone.

Three a.m. came.  It was very normal for Obi to wake me around 3 a.m. to go outside.  I still woke up.  I lay there in the silence.  Eventually I think I slept.  Unfortunately I was met with more restless dreams.  I almost looked forward to morning.  But the morning held its own challenges. You see, my morning routine for years has been to wake up, let Obi out, feed him and then have some coffee.  More recently it included actually cooking breakfast for my baby.  Today was drastically different.  My alarm went off, and again I just lay there.  I didn’t have to get out of bed for 30 more minutes.  I didn’t have to go downstairs to care for any other living soul.  The only thing that would require me to get up would be to make myself some coffee.  So I did.

As I made my coffee, Virginia’s kitty, Baya, stood by the back door.  She knew Obi’s routine.  In her brief few months with us, she learned it and she joined us each morning.  Today she sat at the back door.  Waiting?  I don’t know, so I picked her up and took her outside for a minute.  And just for a moment, a very brief moment, I could imagine Obi standing there beside us looking out across the yard.  I wanted to say, come on Obi when I turned to go back inside.  I think I just may have. Maybe he was there beside me.  I hope so.

Now it’s back to work.  A slight distraction from the reality that is heartbreaking.  But only slight.  For I can’t help but reflect on some of the other times I have written about him here.  Funny times, silly times, even gross times.  But all gloriously wonderful times I would take back in a heartbeat (even the gross ones) just to have him by my side.

I am sure one day I will have another pup.  I can only hope and pray he/she will be as wonderful as my Obi was.  They will have some big paws to fill, but I don’t think they will ever be able to fill this hole in my heart.  There is only one Obi, and he waits for me on the other side. Only then will my heart be complete once again.

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Things My Dog Has Eaten

I have a big, goofy, lovable, 100 lb. doberman. He is nothing like people imagine when they are presented with the word DOBERMAN.  Actually, anyone, that knows anything about this breed of dog, would know that those stories just aren’t true.  How did they get a bad name?  Namely movies, but it could be because they do have one trait, the fact that they will lay down their life for their “family”, that may help give this negative image of this breed.

Anyway, one little problem with my doberman….he does get a little anxious when we leave him alone.  When he was a puppy, he would chew everything up (like a typical puppy), so we were smart about it and kept him in a kennel when we weren’t home.  Over time he outgrew that, and we were able to retire the kennel.  He did great for about a year.  Then it started back up.  A piece of paper here, a piece of paper there.  Until, one day my husband noticed a trend.  If the last person to leave the house for the day walked out without saying anything to the dog, nothing would get torn up.  If the dog was talked to (doesn’t everyone say goodbye to their dogs like they are family members?), then he would tear something up.  It seemed saying anything was code for “we are leaving you forever….go to town”, whereas not saying goodbye was more like “running outside for a minute, but will be right back in”.  So we stopped talking to the dog before leaving, and kept everything picked up out of his reach.  It was working.  And then it wasn’t.  He started venturing upstairs to the kids territory.  Goodbye books.

So in an effort to keep from bringing the monstrous kennel back into our living space (remember, he’s a BIG dog), we put a baby gate up on the stairs to keep him downstairs, and started keeping everything picked up downstairs….namely paper.  Again, that was working (for a while).  Then last night we discovered another glitch in the plan.  After being good for nine hours while everyone was at school and work, I had to leave again to take my kids to gymnastics.  We were gone for one hour and 30 minutes.  I guess he hates when we leave a second time after doing his nine hour stretch.  We came home to a shredded text book.  My daughter swore it was in her backpack and it was zipped up.  Oh, is he now venturing into trying to find things?  He also chewed up a brush that was “put up high”.  I watched Virginia put it up.  So now he is putting effort into his revenge.  Sadly, I guess this means this is the end of his free-reign in the house.

So far…things my dogs has eaten include (over the course of his life, not just recently, and in no particular order):

  1. Tubes of Toothpaste (2)
  2. Toothbrushes
  3. A loaf of bread
  4. Several toys – I don’t even recall what they were
  5. Numerous, numerous, numerous receipts
  6. Hairbrushes (2)
  7. Grapes (yes they are poisonous to dogs)
  8. Dog Beds (3)
  9. Several towels (used in the kennel to replace the dog beds)
  10. Boxes of Tissues (several)
  11. A Pillow
  12. A Pair of Shoes – they were uncomfortable, so I forgave that one
  13. A digital thermometer
  14. CD’s
  15. A notebook – actually several
  16. My daughter’s homework – yes this really does happen
  17. A Leather-Bound Alice in Wonderland Book
  18. Carpet (yes, wall-to-wall carpet) – that was expensive to replace, since we had to buy it for the whole room
  19. A cable remote – luckily the cable company replaced it for free
  20. A Cell Phone – $50 to replace…only because of the insurance
  21. A Bose Stereo Remote – $88 to replace
  22. A Social Studies Text Book – $50 to replace
  23. My Prozac – I bet that one made him feel good….maybe I should get him his own prescription and he won’t have so much separation anxiety.

I think that just about sums it up.  Yep, I truly love my dog, but it’s time to bring the freaking kennel back in.

    

Jack

We used to have a puppy named Jack. For some reason I feel compelled to write about him today, even though as I write this I can feel all the sad emotions coming back.

Jack was a lovable doberman puppy that we received free from a friend who got him from an acquaintance. This acquaintance was supposedly a breeder, who was leaving the country so he had to give this four or five-month-old puppy up. We received Jack not knowing his exact age, either because my friend didn’t ask specific enough questions or because the breeder wasn’t a very good breeder. I am going with the latter. Why? Because we were told Jack was neutered, had all his shots and was dewormed. When we got poor, frightened little Jack, not only did we find out he wasn’t neutered or dewormed (and probably didn’t have all his shots), but he was afraid of people. Not a good sign. A well loved puppy should be playful and love people. He also did not look very healthy.

We cared for Jack and fell in love with him. He remained people shy, but my girls could lay on him and do whatever they wanted to dear lovable Jack and he would let them. He loved them back. Dobermans have been mislabeled as viscous dogs due to inaccurate portrayals in film and TV. In fact, Virginia was so obsessed with Jack that she read book after book on Dobermans and we learned the true loyal, faithful, tolerant nature that these magnificent creatures have for “their pack” (us). They are true “Family” dogs. They would lay down their life for their family. Perhaps this is where their bad reputation stems from.

We had a little over a wonderful year with Jack. However, we did notice that as he lay in bed with my husband and I at night that he would let out tiny, little whimpers.

The last week in March, 2008, Jack started throwing up. He couldn’t keep down any food or water. On April 1, 2008, my husband took Jack to the vet. After x-rays, we were told he had a blockage and they had to operate. My husband had to take an exam, and I had to work, so we left Jack at the vet. Sometime around mid-morning I received a phone call from the vet. Jack did not have a blockage at all. When they opened him up, they discovered that what appeared on the x-rays as a blockage were really cancerous lesions that ran throughout his intestines. Most likely pancreatic cancer, we were told. Like cancer in children, it is rare for a puppy to have it, but it can still happen. As tears welled in my eyes and I tried to maintain my composure sitting in my office, I listened as the vet told me that they could not, in good conscience, bring him out of anesthesia and let him live what they feel would be a very painful, and still relatively short life. They asked for permission to put him down. Facing this question, I realized just how much Jack meant to me. I couldn’t make that choice without speaking with my husband first. I asked them to hold on until we could get there. I left message after message for my husband to call me. He finally finished his exam and called, and I had him pick me up immediately.

We drove as quickly as we could to the vet’s office – as a person may if they were rushing to the ER for a loved one. We were rushing for a loved one. When we got to the vet’s office, there lay my sweet adorable puppy on the operating table. The vet offered to show us the lesions. I could not look, but for peace of mind, my husband did. He agreed – they were too bad for any operation. We had to let him go. At that moment, I cried like I’ve never cried before. This was the hardest day of my life. But it was about to get harder. I had to go home and tell my two young children that the dog they loved so dearly wasn’t coming home from the vet.

At this point, Virginia and Klara didn’t even know that Jack needed an operation. They only knew he went to the vet because he kept throwing up. We picked them up from school without saying anything. When we got home, we were immediately confronted with their curiosity on Jack’s whereabouts. As we broke the news, I watched as Virginia’s world caved in around her. Klara understood, and did cry, but in a somber tone, she said “April Fool”. It was April Fool’s Day – how ironic. Sadly, she knew it wasn’t an April fool. “Baby, I wish it were an April Fool,” I said as we all cried together.

It was a hard day for all of us, but the hardest on Virginia, whose tears went well into the night. But, as the saying goes, life goes on. We participated in regular little rituals…..every time we went out to a restaurant that offered the kids balloons, they would take the balloon outside and release it up to Heaven for Jack. We slowly were able to let Jack go. The biggest healing moment came the following following school year, when Virginia had the opportunity to publish a book in the 3rd Grade. In her book she wrote about Jack and his final days. Great, I was destined to relive one of the hardest moments of my life forever, immortalized through a book. But she used a wonderfully creative outlet to finally let go of her pain.

We miss you Jack.

My Obi

Dogs are filthy, disgusting animals.    So why do humans keep them around?

About a week ago, I came home from work to an unwelcoming aroma that penetrated through the walls, through the garage and out into the driveway.  I knew that smell instantly and dreaded going into the house. My beloved 95 lb. puppy…yes he is only two so technically still a puppy…was sick.  Because he is a puppy, we keep him in a large kennel in our kitchen while we aren’t home.  If we didn’t, we would come home to the aftermath of his playtime adventures alone.  Usually this equates to bits of paper that may have once been something important, like a bill or a library book.  One time it was my husband’s cell phone.  Another time it was a stereo remote that cost $80 to replace.  And unfortunately one time it was a nice hole in the family room carpet.  We learned after several expensive losses that our big baby needed the security of a little home when he is alone.  Welcome the kennel.

Wanting to be good “parents”, and feeling guilty for the time we leave him alone , we shared a little of our steak dinner with him.  His delicate system is still like that of a puppy and does not usually do so well with our rich diet, but it had been a while since he had been “sick”, so it seemed that perhaps his little tummy was toughening up.  Enter steak. So now I have to enter the house the day after his delicious meal, knowing full well that the steak was a bad idea.  The kids refused to go in.  Daddy was working late.  It was all up to me.  I held my breath as I walked up the stairs and into the house.  There he stood, almost as if on tippy toe, if that were possible.  Whining, “please help me, please let me out out.”  But I was not prepared for what lay before me.  He tried so hard to keep the filth away from himself.  So hard, that it seems he has learned the talent of projectile diarrhea.  Yes, diarrhea lay three feet away from the kennel.  It was on the floor.  It was on the walls.  It was on my curtains.  As far as the smell was concerned, it was everywhere.

He wanted out of his kennel as badly as I wanted it all to disappear.  I had to grab a hold of him and usher him out the door to keep him from tracking more of this disgusting film through the house.  The kennel had to leave the house as well.  It sits right next to the back door, but when put together, it will not fit through the back door.  I had to get it out the front door.  Did I mention my puppy weighs 95 lbs.?  That’s a large kennel.  I needed help.  It was going to cost me money — even a 10-year-old has a price.  I put on rubber gloves, giving Virginia the “clean side”.  Was there a clean side?  Hmmm, I really don’t know.  We did manage to get the kennel out the front door.  Virginia then proceeded to hose it down while I went back in to tackle the kitchen.

God only knows how long “it” lay on the floor and the walls, because under the gooey, watery, slimy yuck, there was a dried layer.  Of course this couldn’t be easy.  I had to clean up the mushy stuff.  Then I had to scrub the hard stuff. Then I had to mop.  Then I had to mop again.  Repeat same on the walls.  Curtains had to come down.  Dry clean only?!  Go figure.  Kitchen cleaning accomplished.  Wait, I think I need to mop a third time, after all, God only knows how many invisible germs are still there.  Oh, but I have to clean the dog first.  Then I can tackle the kitchen again.

The dog was traumatized with the hose.  That wasn’t good enough.  I could still see it.  I could still smell it.  He needed a bath.  Could I think at the time to wash the dog with shampoo and the works outside?  Of course not!  Instead, with two little helpers, he was escorted to the bathroom.  Now how do you get a stinky, poo-covered, 95 lb. dog to voluntarily get into the tub?  Still I am so exhausted I can’t think of the obvious, which I can so clearly see in hindsight…bribe him with food.  No, at the time, someone had to pick him up to get him in the tub.  I’m the only one big enough.  Uuuggghh.  I don’t want to touch THAT.  Eeeeewwww.  Once he was in the tub, the rest was smooth sailing.  Unfortunately, his face stinks.  I can’t use shampoo on a dog’s face!  So I scrubbed his face with a washcloth.  Still smells.  Scrubbed again.  Still smells.  Scrubbed a third time.  Still smells.  Maybe it’s just my imagination.  Mission complete I guess.  Time to give him some Imodium AD and let him relax.

Oh now the bathroom is trashed.  Dog hair is coating the tub, clogging the drain, and all over the floor.  Did I mention I just walked in the door from work?  I’m tired and hungry.  I wasn’t planning on cleaning my entire house this evening.  Oh, and we did walk through the living room to the front door and to the bathroom.  Guess I’d better run a quick mop over that floor as well.

Two hours after I walked in the door.  The house is clean.  The dog is clean.  His face still smells, so I scrub it one last time.  Now it doesn’t smell any longer.  I can relax.  Then guess who walks through the door — my dear loving spouse, and he has BEER!  BUT wait…I DON’T DRINK BEER!  Thanks to my little text messages keeping him up to date, he knew what terrible endeavor I had before me, and he came home with beer.  Where’s my drink?  You don’t drink he tells me?  WHAATTT?!  Since when?  I love a good margarita; and if I didn’t drink, tonight would have been a great time to start!

Like I said, dogs are disgusting and filthy.  But I love my dog.  If I didn’t, I don’t think I could have been able to make it through the horrendous ordeal I just tackled.  Who else gives me unconditional love; listens to me without complaining or telling me I’m an idiot.  Who is there for me when I need to snuggle, or when the bed is cold at night when my hubby is working late?  My goofy, smart, gentle and oh so lovable dog.  My Obi.