Shrinking world

Papa and Chewy on the beach at Hammond Bay, Lake Huron, Michigan. 2010.

My world feels a whole lot smaller today as my family mourns the loss of my grandfather, my Papa, Jack.  Him gone too soon and me feeling unprepared, the sorrow is deep and overwhelming.  While he lived a long life it was not long enough and, adding to the pain of loss, he left this world just one month after we said goodbye to Chewy.  And, of all of our pets, Papa loved Chewy the most, I think.  He and she were old souls and enjoyed each other’s peaceful presence.

In the midst of great sadness, I find myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude.  My Papa loved me and cared for me just as a devoted father would have.  He laughed with me, spoiled me, taught me, and was proud of me.  In his final moments on this earth, I whispered many things to him including “thank you” over and over again because it felt right.  He was a great man, a challenging man, a strong and noble man.  When my grandma, my Bama, died just over two years ago, he was a lost and hurting man.  And, now, I hope that he is no longer lost, no longer hurting, and feeling only love.

A friend sent me a perfect poem by Maya Angelou yesterday and it says what, at this moment in time, I am unable to.  So I share it with all of you and send another “thank you” out to my grandpa…I love you and hope that Bama’s embrace has soothed you.  Please give our Choo Choo some good ear scratches for us.

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of
dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

― Maya Angelou, When Great Trees Fall

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One day

Chewy

It doesn’t get any easier to say goodbye to a beloved pet even after you’ve said goodbye to so many before.  Today my heart is heavy with loss and sorrow as I look around our home and see one less sweet face looking back at me.  Last night, Kyle and I said goodbye to our sweet Chewy.  One of the best dogs I have ever known, Chewy was sweet to the core and so brave in the face of ravaging arthritis, vestibular issues, and aging in general.  She was a gentle creature, living a long life of nearly 17 years on this planet but not long enough for those of us who loved her so deeply.

Please don't let the camera steal my soul, Daddy.

Always afraid of camera flashes, Chewy especially hated the holidays. Here she’s climbing into Kyle’s lap for protection.

Chewy was Kyle’s baby from the start.  He adopted her just over 15 years ago from the Michigan Humane Society and they were constant companions throughout his late 20’s, his entire 30’s, and now into his 40’s.  I can’t help but recognize how lucky they were to have found each other and to have been together for so long.  My personal sense of loss is deepened when I think about how empty I would feel at the close of a 15 year life together.  I know he’s feeling it and I am filled with love and respect for him knowing the pain he is experiencing in his heart and soul.  It’s not easy.  Even when you know that you’re making the most difficult and loving decision you’ll ever have the privilege and authority to make.

Each time I become overwhelmed with emotion, I try to catch myself and think of a memory with Chewy…our Choo Choo.  Chewy has been ‘my’ dog too for seven years this month.  Nearly as long as I had my first baby, Mya, in my life.  I remember the first time I met Chewy on my first visit to Kyle’s cute little bachelor pad of a house.  She had the longest and softest fur I think I’d ever felt.  And she shed…the entire time I pet her, she shed and shed and shed.  There were tumbleweeds of Chewy fur all over the house.  But she was so sweet and gentle and friendly.  She loved the attention and I adored her.

A year and a half later, on Mother’s Day 2010, Chewy would be there by my side in the days after I let go of Mya and wandered an empty feeling house picking up Mya’s toys and putting them away.  I did that a couple of times and suddenly realized that it was not Mya who had brought all of her toys out and that it was Chewy recreating the scene of a life lived with Mya.  A dog’s dog to the core, Chewy had fallen instantly in love with Mya and, I realized in that moment of picking up toys, was deeply grieving the loss of her best friend and sister.  I looked at Chewy in a new way that day and knew that I had found yet another soul mate with which I would share my life.

Chewy came along for the ride with us on our year-long Texas adventure, welcomed Anya into our family with zeal, and journeyed back to Michigan with us in 2011 and, eventually, settled into life in our suburban home.  The seven of us have lived a relatively quiet and peaceful life together for over five years and, now, our world is rocked without her here.  Anya is distraught and worried, whining periodically and looking for Chewy.  Lily and Lucy are quiet and curious about the change.  And, Zoey…well, I think she’s a little shell-shocked too.  She has always preferred to be close to Chewy whether on the floor cuddling next to her or simply being in their crates near each other.  This morning, I think, Zoey realized that Chewy was not in her crate below and started to cry.  Then, when I let her out, she made her way to a spot that Chewy often curled up on the floor and proceeded to roll around and rub her face in that spot.

So, I am here trying to “act normal” amidst tears; washing the dog bed covers, blankets, and Zoey’s pants because laundry is a normal thing in our home with five…now four…fur-kids.  Even as I sit here and type, all four of them are nearby watching…watching to make sure that I am normal and that life will go on.  I know – we know – that life will go on.  And we will cling to these sweet little faces to help us move forward.

I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination but I have faith in one thing beyond this life: the Rainbow Bridge.  I find a little peace and a lot of hope in knowing that I will one day be reunited with all of my fur-babies and that, in the meantime, they are running and playing free of pain and discomfort.  I told Chewy last night to go wait with Mya…that one day her daddy and I would be there to pick them up and we would be together again.  One day.

Chewy in the grass

Living the dream.

It’s been awhile and I am working on getting back in the saddle; trying to come up with news about our fur-family that may be of interest or helpful in your own day-to-day pet parenting.  I can’t help but say that sometimes, when everything is just okay, it’s really pretty good.  Zoey almost 8 years old, Chewy is probably close to 17, Anya celebrated her 5th birthday in December, and Lily and Lucy are looking down the road at their 9th.  Knocking on wood, everyone is healthy, happy, and living the good life.  We are looking forward to some new experiences this summer since purchasing a new (to us) boat at the end of the 2014 season.  While we’re not sure yet if the cats will hang out on it or not, we know that Anya will be joining us on at least a few boating adventures.  Husky aboard!  

Relaxation is the name of the game for Lucy.Relaxation is the name of the game for Lucy.

Anya models her very own life jacket.Anya models her very own life jacket.

Anya steps up to the job of First Mate.Anya happily steps up to the job of First Mate.

Stay tuned, I am committed to updating Zoey’s Purrspective a bit more often in 2015 and, at the recommendation of a new blogger friend, may even explore inviting Zoey-approved pet experts to share words of wisdom!

 

Ordinary life?

It seems to be the way of the world these days.  Time just flies by and you’re left to wonder “where did it go?”  I think of blogging often – usually during my commute to and from work each day – and recently considered how sometimes life is just simply being lived and everything is okay or some form of relatively okay or even good.  Balanced.  And it struck me, while I was on this train of thought, that I often write about the challenges and troubles associated with having a house full-o-pets, particularly a paraplegic cat.  Even though I learn a lot during those times and I am reminded of how deep my love runs for my babies, it’s important – perhaps critical – to share with all of you that even with all of this going on in our little world (home), life can simply be lived and enjoyed.  Even with a paraplegic cat and geriatric dog!  Life can be normal.  Whatever that means for each of us.  For our family it means waking up, going through our morning routine, going to work, scheduling appointments, making decisions, coming home, eating dinner and going through our evening routine, laying on the couch and watching TV, checking email, working out, doing laundry and yard work and running errands.  We just live.  And our pets – my babies – live it all with us and together we endure the “normal” and “abnormal” moments of this life.

So, if you’re wondering if there will ever be balance, if you’ll ever get to live a “ordinary life” with all the special needs around you, I am here to tell you that it can be done.  Maybe you don’t have a special needs or handicap pet in your life right now.  But, one day, you might just cross paths with one and you’ll be faced with an opportunity and a decision.  Please remember that all the work is worth it.  And you too can live an ordinary life in the midst of not-so-ordinary circumstances.

ordinary lifeAn ordinary day for Zoey can still be special, perhaps perfect.  Here she gets a few licks of vanilla ice cream that was shared between all the dogs and cats.

Problem solved…?

Zoey seems to be back to normal after her second bout of constipation in January.  I was (and may still be) obsessed with her bowel movements; the frequency, consistency, and overall volume.  At her follow-up visit in February, the doctors were unable to palpate any stool in her colon/intestines and determined that we didn’t need to do any additional diagnostics.  Thus, no megacolon.  Now that the laxatone is part of our daily routine I think we’ve got this constipation thing managed.

All around, good – scratch that – great news.

However, it’s occurred to me recently that all of my babies are getting older.  And with age comes ailments and general deterioration.  Zoey’s paralysis and unique needs will most likely mean that she (we) will experience a variety of different issues as she gets older.  In January, the doctor was able to see on her x-rays that Zoey’s spine is showing signs of age – which is typical – and that was a reminder that my littlest baby, while still little, is getting older.  So, while I am glad to say that we’re past the constipation issue right now, I am aware that other things can and will pop up over time.

I do all that I can to prevent my babies from experiencing illness, infection, and discomfort.  I remind them all the time that their “only job is to stay healthy.”  It doesn’t mean they are going to listen.  But, I am hopeful.

Purring in the sunshine.Purring in the sunshine.  Zoey will turn seven in April.