Archive for April, 2014

IN MEMORY OF HONEY

DSCN0758My sweet mini-poodle died peacefully the early morning of April 8th, cuddled next to me in bed. I’m so grateful she wasn’t alone in her last moments. Honey was my beloved companion for 12 years, but her diabetes, diagnosed a year ago, was worsening. I know losing a dog may seem trivial to some, but Honey was part of my family. And how often does one get to be the leader of a pack, as she’d decided I was — even one with only two members?

Last time I’d looked at the clock it was 3 AM. She was making distressed mewling sounds off and on, but I petted, soothed and sang lullabies till she finally fell asleep. Morning seemed so far off — the vet had told me to bring her in early. When I woke at 7 AM she didn’t move. Most days she was awake and alert, watching me patiently, waiting for me to open my eyes. Her loving heart had stopped beating.

I gently wrapped Honey in her plaid blanket, drove to Greenbier Vet, then weeped as Dr. Boles wrapped her arms around me.  Mary Ann, a woman there with her cat,  saw my distress and hugged me, too.  Then I dried my eyes and went to Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast. Didn’t want to go home alone yet. Even enjoyed a jelly donut with my coffee — relieved to be so calm and collected.

But opening the April 8th New York Times I cried again reading David Brooks’s   column: “What Suffering Does” — ordeals reveal our true selves and deepen our  capacity for empathy  —  and Jane Brody’s “Well” essay: “My Life as a Dog Owner” — her  Havanese puppy Max has brightened her life after some lonely years as a widow.  Both could have been written for me that day.

Honey wouldn’t eat anything the day before.  I couldn’t tempt her with favorite foods —  even turkey bacon, a former treat — so couldn’t give her insulin. That evening she let me hold her close like a baby for over and hour, resting her head on my shoulder. She usually squirmed out of my arms in a few minutes, prefering to sit on my lap or next to me on the sofa, nuzzling me, often licking my hand.

I knew it wasn’t fair to let her go on this way — we’d had a reprieve since January after her appetite returned.  Honey also had urinary problems and was wearing doggie diapers  — pink ones for my ladylike pet — she was upset after peeing accidents. And she had increasing trouble walking. When I took her out in the mornings, she’d wobble on her back legs, often sitting down. But she still took her time, sniffing and exploring till she found a suitable spot, even in snow. “Poor little chicken,” I’d say as I carried her inside.

Sometimes she’d be more agile for a time.  Sunday, two days before, was a warm spring day, and we took a long drive in the beginning to green countryside, ending up at our favorite Bynum Run Park where we walked a while, then sat together on a bench watching geese and ducks paddling on the pond, kids fishing, people and dogs enjoying the sunshine.

I’ve been feeling less sad than I thought I’d be these past ten days — seeing her so sick, I was getting ready to let her go, mourning in advance. I was afraid I’d become depressed again without her —  hadn’t had a serious episode in all the time she we were together, only a few brief down times.  And, somehow, her spirit still seems close.

After my husband died twenty years ago I felt his presence for a while, too.  He’d been enduring cancer treatments for over a year and was gaunt and emaciated at the end. This strong, loving man never complained, never gave up hope.  My son and I hurt seeing him suffer — and during his long illness finally became resigned to  his leaving us.

The day after Honey died, I went to the Harford County Humane Society and filled out an application for a small dog — one that will fit in Honey’s airplane carrier bag and sit cosily in her car seat. She was a compatible travel companion when we flew to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and, most memorably,  Ireland — and on many car trips to pet-friendly Bed and Breakfasts where we both made friends.

I’ve also searched the Internet and found some appealing mini-poodle rescues — one named Scruffy, a two-year-old black and white male who’s in a foster home till ready for adoption. Another, Flower, a one-year-old white female with pelvic injuries that need to heal. No hurry, though. There was only one Honey. I need more time.

I’m so glad I live near  my wonderful son, daughter-in-law and grandson — with another baby coming in July. My grandson didn’t notice Honey wasn’t with me when I came to mind him yesterday. He was always excited to see her, delighted as he touched her soft hair. Later, I asked him: “Where’s Gramma’s doggie?” He looked up surprised, then began to look all around the room, so I quickly said: “Doggie went bye-bye.” Looking thoughtful, he repeated “Doggie byebye,” and went back to playing with his toy cars.

Dr. Boles, always kind and caring,  and Bethany who made her even prettier at Bon Bon Groomer, wrote comforting notes, and friends and neighbors sent sympathy cards I’ve arranged around the little box holding Honey’s ashes, her name on a bronze placque. My neighbor Monty — always cheerfully patient with her multiple maladies — brought me a peace lily “to be named Honey,” she said.  It’s thriving on the spot  where Honey sat when I worked at the computer. Monty cherishes her spunky little dog Sparky.

I usually wear a silver Celtic cross, but for now am wearing a gold heart locket that had belonged to my mother. It’s long held a wisp of my son’s baby hair, and after Honey’s last animal hospital stay, I added one of her faded apricot curls, asking my son if he’d mind his DNA being mixed with hers. “Of course not,” he said, laughing. After all, she was his foster sister.

Today is Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the Cross. Easter Sunday is only two days away, a joyful Feast with a tinge of sorrow for me. My husband died on a Holy Saturday evening. We hope to be reunited with those who’ve gone before us. My Honey was surely an angel in a dog’s body, so I like to think she’s back with God, and we’ll be together again when I come home.

But until then, I’ll miss her dear face, her joyfully wagging tail, her big heart in her warm little body.

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LOST AND FOUND . . . AGAIN

Here’s the rest of what happened… Back at LaQuinta Honey greeted me happily, I took her for a walk, then gave her dinner. And though I knew the keys weren’t in my bag, I compulsively went through it again. In a small side compartment I discovered a single ignition key I didn’t remember having or putting there. Providence!

So I took a taxi to the station and retrieved the car. I’d planned to visit my friend Eleanor the next day at her new assisted living home in Malverne, but feeling tired, drove back to Maryland in the morning. On the way, I called my neighbor Charlotte who had a key to my apartment, and Honey and I came happily home.

I’d reported the lost keys to the Long Island Railroad, and now called The Irish Rep. Yes, they’d found them under my seat, easily identifiable with an attached ceramic cross. They’d put them in the mail. Two weeks later, no keys, I called again and threatened to withdraw my offer of an Irish soda bread on my next visit. They arrived in three days.

The holidays were lovely. The calm before the storm. Christmas morning with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson. The sled, snowsuit, boots, hat and gloves I gave him were perfect gifts this snowy, chilly winter. On January 1st I invited neighbors to toast the New Year, and the next Saturday family and friends came for brunch to celebrate the season.

Honey was quieter than usual that day, staying under the table or in the space between the sofa and patio door. She wouldn’t eat anything, and I couldn’t give her insulin. Later, she retched, spitting up foamy stuff. The vet was closed for the weekend. I prayed Honey would be hungry in the morning.

No improvement. Honey frighteningly lethargic. Early Sunday I took her back to the Animal Emergency Hospital where last April she’d been diagnosed and treated for diabetes. Another week of fluid and insulin drips, then food and injections, and home at last for two good days — then two days of refusing food again.

Dr. Boles, our wonderful new vet, told me Honey would soon be suffering. Before she said anything else, I tearfully told her I knew it was time to say goodbye to my angel. My son and I would come to her office at 4 PM on January 15th. About 2 PM that afternoon, my son called from work to tell me he’d seen something on the Internet that could help. “Try to get some meat drippings into Honey’s mouth,” he said.

At first I protested, said I’d given up hope — but I just happened to be simmering two lean pork chops in a covered pan. Extracted some juice and squirted it through the side of her jaw — she licked her lips and ate a good portion of meat and whole wheat noodles. Gave her insulin. Crisis averted. Appointment cancelled. A few days later Bethany at Bon Bon on Main Street groomed her beautifully — and she emerged with pink ribbons in her hair, her lively self again.

Nothing stays serene for long in our lives. On the early evening of Saturday, January 18th, one of the coldest nights we’d had, I opened my patio door to retrieve a package I’d left outside — and in bounded a big, brown dog I took to be a boxer, while Honey sprinted to another room.

I was more surprised than frightened — the animal was clean and handsome. But I was relieved when he promptly obeyed Sit and Paw like a gentleman, earning treats eaten gently from my hand. Obviously someone’s trained, beloved pet. I knocked on a few neighbors’ doors to ask for advice and help — and soon about a dozen excited people from the building were in the hallway and my apartment.

Then I called the Sheriff’s office and learned they weren’t allowed to get involved unless I’d been harmed! But an officer soon showed up to observe the situation. The dog had no collar, and Donna, whose daughter Dominique minds Honey sometimes, suggested I take him to the animal hospital where they could see if he had an ID chip. One by one, the neighbors left, and the officer offered to help me get the dog into my car, attaching Honey’s pink leash.

The big guy whimpered and cried all the way, breaking my heart a little, but was welcomed by the caring staff, who assured me they’d take good care of him, and if not claimed by Tuesday, would turn him over to the Harford County Humane Society. There was no chip. They said later they’d all fallen in love with him.

Two days later, January 20th, Martin Luther King Day, my neighbor, Joan, told me she’d seen a sign on a nearby lamppost: “Lost Dog: Male, Friendly, 60-70 pounds, Boxer, Pit Bull, Lab Mix.” I called the number, spoke to Bryan, who said he was minding him for a friend whose house had burned, and didn’t know how he’d gotten out.

I asked Bryan to stop by my home after he collected Rocky — I might have named him Champ — so I could take a picture of him with Honey. He never showed up. He didn’t thank me. He didn’t return the pink leash. It takes all kinds.

Joan commented: “Eileen, you should write a book.” I think that’s what I may be doing.

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