Sunday, November 16, 2008

Finding Nemo

In October of this year I hit a serious patch of blues. Although season-wise, this is my very favorite time of year the change in climate sets off a serious emotional time bombs. One in particular this year was missing Kristi (still). The fall was our favorite time of year to walk through the neighborhood and crunch leaves. My nest had been truly empty for 9 months. I found that taking care of me was not nearly as satisfying as taking care of someone else. There was and is no romance on the horizon and I don’t really want to base my happiness on that anyway. I was outwardly functional but inwardly in danger of becoming permanently unhappy.

I didn’t miss having a pet. I missed Kristi. I didn’t want another pet. I wanted Kristi. In my head I sounded like a petulant child. Even looking at the rescue sites seemed disloyal to her memory. Still, I thought if I could find a dog that needed a home maybe doing a good thing – even half heartedly – would be a step toward recovery. I have to admit that my motivation was totally selfish.

This time around my selection would have to be small – less than 25 pounds due to neighborhood association rules. I had still been cruising the greyhound sites up to this point. I attempted to adopt first one female and then another only to find that applications had already been received and accepted on them. I widened my search to include a male – after all, I had raised a son, why not a male? That’s when I found Nemo.

I don’t know how I got so lucky. I found a loving, eager to please, smart, quirky, charming little dude bundled up in a 3 year old, 10 pound frame. He is a Maltese - rescued by Second Chance Small Dog Rescue in Elkhart. He was in foster care for 6 weeks after having been with a breeder.

He had to learn about stairs, treats, stuffies, sit, shake and bounce balls. He had to learn to endure brushing his coat, brushing his teeth, wiping his face, wiping his feet and negotiating his days with two other dogs at Mom’s place while I was at work. He also had to learn how to ask to potty outside and that I was the pack leader in our little family. He has mastered all of this in the three weeks we’ve lived together. And, oh yes, I’m becoming one of those – he has a sweatshirt for cold mornings in the car.

What started out as a half hearted search for relief has blossomed into a whole hearted love affair. Kristi would have loved him too.

Losing Kristi

Friends, I debated whether or not to add this piece to my postings. I like that most things here are upbeat or irreverent. Still, this one became a labor of love and while it is still an unfinished story I thought I would include it. I wrote this out in May this year. And, I don't think I can tell one story without the other.

I’ve been away for a while. Shortly after I posted my very hopeful New Year’s blog I had to say good-bye to my beautiful greyhound, Kristi.

All of the fears I had ever harbored about this event were played out in those three days in January. I had hoped that when her time came she would slip peacefully into a never ending sleep. That was not to be the case. Instead she endured pain, suffering, confusion and panic the last days of her life. She remained alert, loving and brave throughout. I had no idea that an animal could display and teach grace.

She was born and bred to run, retired from racing and 13 years old. We couldn’t fix her leg, we couldn’t even amputate. The bone was crumbling. She wouldn’t survive the surgery; she would never recover. There were two options. One was to medicate her and mask the pain as much as possible for whatever days remained and the other was to give her my final gift. As the vet administered the injection I held her and my breath. All too quickly her muscles relaxed, her breathing slowed and her eyes unfocused. I could feel her spirit, life and soul slip away. The moment her heart stopped beating mine broke completely.

Months have passed and the loss today is as fresh and heartbreaking as it was that cold January morning. My fear now is that I will grieve so long that the best parts of our time together will be overshadowed. I won’t wash her blanket or put away her picture or try to remove her from my days in any way. I carry her tags with me sometimes so I can hear them as I did when she was with me and wearing them. The vet’s office gave me a clay imprint of her paws. But, the most enduring memory of my beautiful girl is the imprint she left on my soul.