See you at the bridge, little girl.
This is the 18th Serendipity Photo Prompt.
Eighteen in Hebrew is “Chai,” which means life. Every ending contains the seed of a beginning.
Today is our little dog Nan’s date with destiny. We’ve been looking for a way out of this. Trying to find any excuse to make it unnecessary. Make it not true.
Life and death are imperatives. No matter how we parse it, Nan has run out her string. She can’t hear, barely sees, can’t manage the stairs. She has little sense of smell and often isn’t sure who we are — or for that matter, who she is.
All of which accounts for my dour mood.
Simultaneously, Amber, the mini-dachshund, has breast cancer. She isn’t well, isn’t happy, won’t eat. I suspect her final days are approaching too.
One is hard. Two are very hard.
The only good side of all of this is that finally, the family is acting like a family and pulling together. Setting blame aside, now it’s time to do what needs to be done for the good of the creatures we love.
FINDING something POSITIVE AMIDST THE GLooM
It has been a good week for pictures. Garry and I took a lot of pictures in town recently. At the dam, on the Commons.
WHAT ARE THE COMMONS?
The commons is that big green lawn in the middle of most New England towns. Boston’s got a huge one, Uxbridge has a rather small one.
Originally, these green spaces were called commons because they were a common area where everyone could graze sheep.
Yes, all you cowboys. Sheep. Because sheep give wool and wool becomes warm clothing, sweaters, stockings, coats. Even big Pilgrim hats.
Winter in the northeast is a cruel mistress. We need all that wood to make the warm clothing that keeps us from freezing. We thank our friends, the sheep, for their donations. And let them graze on the Commons.
You can write anything about anything, as long as you link a picture to the story. You can link several pictures and more than one story. This is a free writing challenge. Have fun.
Frisbee Wednesday almost snuck completely past me. Where did the week go? We have been in a family crisis whose focus keeps shifting from humans to dogs and back again.
My family, his family, both families … all interwoven with dogs, old, sick, well, young. Without going into details, it has been very difficult for both of us, but especially rough for Garry who shows the pain less, but feels it more.
Meanwhile, the Daily Prompt came up with a suggestion we talk about tattoos. And why not? I’ve got one. It’s even relevant, packed with subtext and meaning. Amidst all the emotional and actual mayhem of life …
I got my tattoo when I was 55. Definitely a late starter. It took me years to figure out what I wanted, then years to find someone I trusted to do it.
A tattoo isn’t a casual thing. Once you’ve got it, it’s got you, too. Unless you go to heroic lengths to rid yourself of it, it’s as much a part of you as … well … your skin.
I’d been vibrating to the phoenix for a long time. Having had my world collapse a few times and arise from its ashes, I figured it fit. I have phoenix earrings, pendants, and pins. What I didn’t have, was a phoenix as part of me. The younger generation were seriously into “body art” and dragooned me. It wasn’t hard to get me to join since I’d been thinking about it anyway.
My husband was amused, but not buying into the event. His skin would remain pristine. No tattoos, no piercings. He got through the Marine Corps unscathed. He wasn’t giving in now. Garry has a will — more accurately — a won’t — of iron.
I knew what I wanted in general, but needed a design. The tattoo guy and I created a design based on a variety of Phoenix patterns he and I found online and in books. Which make it a one-of-a-kind design. When he sketched it on my left calf, I was surprised it was so big. It covers my entire calf. I had something more petite in mind.
Well, in for a penny, in for a pound so. I did it.
When this prompt showed up in this morning’s email, I was delighted. Here is something I could relate to. Then I thought about it.
Taking photographs of the back of one’s left calf is not easy. Not only is the angle difficult, involving significant twisting of your torso into interesting configurations, but unless one is a lot taller than I am, it’s hard to get it in focus — I didn’t, but came close. Software did the rest.
Finally, it came together. My tattoo, in honor of surviving life crises and a brave hope for times to come. A phoenix engulfed in flame.
Phoenix doesn’t have quite enough flames. I always wanted to add more fire. Life got in the way, and now, I never will. My phoenix is happy. Long may he reign.
Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of veterinary care? Squeaky toys? Greenies? Dog food? Grooming?
Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, usually called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France.
PBGVs are not the dog for everyone. Smart, sometime scarily. Natural clowns who will do almost anything to make you laugh. Noisy, nosy, and into everything.
Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home, she wasn’t like any other puppy. Incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else.
Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.
She was sensitive. Probably a born therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, who was sick. She knew where you hurt. The only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine.
She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound. A hunter, born to track, point and carry prey back to a master.
She was the smartest of our dogs, the smartest dog ever. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit.
She knew. We called her Tinker The Thinker because she planned. Remembered. She held grudges. Nonetheless, she was at the bottom of the pack hierarchy.
We thought it was her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding, and other canine criminality.
Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.
When Griffin, our big male Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally.
Tinker’s sensitive heart broke. She became depressed, would not play with humans or dogs. For the next decade, Tinker wouldn’t even look at Griffin. She apparently blamed us, too, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began a Reign of Terror.
Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs. She was three years old when the destruction began.
She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than chewer. She would steal stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys, towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.
Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them.
She would do enormous damage in under a minute. We couldn’t leave the room unless we put everything where Tinker couldn’t get it. She struck quickly. When we went to bed for the night, every item had to be locked away. If she couldn’t get to an electronic item, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs.
For dessert, shoes were yummy. I didn’t own shoes without tooth marks. We called them “Tinkerized.” We had a grading system from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.
During one memorable intermission, Tinker dismembered the remotes. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but did not eat them), then ripped out the innards — in under two minutes.
She didn’t waste time. If she had leisure, she’d also tear out keys and mangle cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.
For her entire life, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.
For the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker ran around. Played tag. Joined the chorus when the pack pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang.
Hounds have beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the best.
Three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down. One day, she collapsed. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a stroke and died too. They were exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that their nearly simultaneous passing was a coincidence.
After the two hounds were gone, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again.
What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a pup. She caused thousands of dollars of damage to electronics, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies — who knows what else?
She paid us back and more. When I was ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How much is that worth? What is the true cost of a lifetime love of a dear friend?
We have an old dog who has reached the end of a long run and I feel terrible about it. She’s not sick, mind you. Just old. Deaf. Rather blind, too. Her rear end is gone. We have been carrying her in and out of the house for months.
A while back, decided, we agreed to give her this summer and then, send her to the bridge.
It is making me miserable. Because she isn’t unhappy or ill, just less and less mobile. I relate to that. Otherwise, she seems pretty happy. Except that Garry has to get up at dawn to carry her outside, then wait and bring her back up. I’m up a few hours later to do it again. This continues all day, every day. When the snow flies, it will be impossible to manage.
Eventually, we get to this point with every pet. I hate it. Never get used to it, never feel okay about it. It is easier if your fur kid is suffering. Then, at least, you feel it was a necessary thing, unavoidable, timely. This just hurts and fills me with dread.
I’m trying to wrap my brain around it, but it’s not going well. It is making me sad and it’s doing the same to Garry.
Our pets get old much too soon.
NOTE: I was going to post this without allowing comments, but finally decided to leave it be. I’m thanking all of you for you kindness and understanding. I hope you’ll understand that I’m not going to say thank you to each of you individually, but I did want to make sure you all know I am very grateful for the sympathy and concern.
When I add up the good and bad in my life, I often wonder how so many things done with such good intentions managed to turn out so poorly.
I’ve done stuff I thought was nice — helpful — only to have it backfire in a particularly horrible way. You know, like the couple you introduced? They got married (yay), but are now in the middle of a hideous divorce (boo). One way or the other, someone (probably everyone) is mad at me. I meant well.
Over all, I did the best I could. I tried to help. Maybe I didn’t succeed. Maybe my kindness turned out to be a massive disservice.
Only my dogs really appreciate me. They want what I can give. They don’t worry about consequences, side effects, or what might go wrong. The want a biscuit. A cuddle. A nice game of tug of war. They never want more than I can give. If I don’t get it right, they always forgive me. Immediately and never hold a grudge.
That’s the thing about dogs. And the problem with people.
What keeps me on the edge, but off the ledge? Dogs. Friends. Writing. A new camera and a good lens. A husband who is always a challenge. A movie that makes me laugh.
Speaking of Garry (were we?), he likes to hang around on ledges. He’s an edgy, ledgy kind of guy.
Me? Not so much. I prefer not to tempt fate. Curiosity keeps me going — and safely off ledges. I want to be around to see whatever is coming next.
Survival is nature’s way of keeping the species going. We survive because. I don’t think we need a reason to follow our instinctive need to be.
As for edginess? “Getting old is not for the faint of heart.” Getting through any day is quite a balancing act.