I’ve been gone too long. While this blog was to record my travels through this stage of my life, my life had too much happening to have time to record it. Physical ailments, family trips, old house demanding attention, family events, daughter leaving for Russia, bad plumbing, excitement of a new washer and dryer after twenty years. But what kept me away from the computer the most in the last couple of months was my dog Millie. In December I knew something was wrong, but her doctor and I couldn’t pinpoint it, and tests came back negative. She remained her sweet, zen-like presence in our house, but her step was slower and she no longer was the first one to her food bowl. We could see our other dog, Skyler, making a bid for top dog as Millie slowed down – hip checks as they went out the door, staring at her as she worked longer on her food bowl (waiting to rush in to finish anything left), sometimes racing up to our room at night to plant herself on Millie’s dog bed – the one that was closest to me.
At the beginning of this month the cancer finally showed up. Through the surgery, the blood transfusions, the indignity of having her beautiful fur shaved in unattractive ways to clear the space for catheters she remained impossibly good-natured. Her last neighborhood walk was on a cold and rainy March day, but she didn’t mind. She never minded the weather because being out in the world gave her such joy. To the end, when her Mom was puréeing gruel made from tripe and beef broth and squirting it down her throat with a turkey baster to deliver medicine, Miss Millie never complained. She made the smallest vocalization of pain when Brad and I carefully moved her from her dog bed to a sturdy rug so we could carry her out to the car for that last trip to the vet. Spring was coming and she could sense it as she rode on that carpet across the front lawn. She lifted her head to take in the lovely warm morning, her eyes – just momentarily – as bright as they had always been.
Below is a piece I wrote this same month in 2009 when doctors and pain and death were beyond imagining. I just hope that I can channel Millie’s unmitigated enthusiasm for the world as I continue to travel through my own life without her.
It’s almost spring.
Mom still acts like it’s winter. She takes forever to put on all those clothes, and then just races me around the block, complaining about the rain and cold wind while hardly giving me any time to check out all the smells left since the last time I came by. She thinks it’s winter, but I know different. I know the sun is higher in the sky. I’ve already been snacking on the small piles of rabbit droppings left in the yard. Pretty soon I’ll have rabbits to chase morning to night. They’re so stupid. I always see them before they see me. When I barge out my back door breaking land speed records, they start racing around the yard in crazy circles and it’s really easy to corner them because they never are smart enough to go out the same hole in the fence they came in. If Mom ever cuts down those bushes in back, she’ll find my mass bunny grave. She should be happy about that since those critters eat her crocuses down to the soil line every spring. I’m just doing my part to help her garden. And I also really can’t wait for the bird eggs to hatch. I heard the starlings chattering up a storm overhead this week. They never learn. They’re busy building a home up on the second floor where the gutter meets the downspout at the back corner of the house. That’s my favorite treat. All I have to do during April is lie absolutely still under the burning bush along the fence and wait for one of those babies to make its first solo flight off the back end of the nest instead of the front, and lunch will land at my feet in no time. Mom tries to watch out for all the baby birdies and bunnies, but I’m much more patient than she is. I just silently bide my time.
Wait – what’s that in her hand? Woo hoo, it’s my long line! I know where I’m going when she has that. It’s time for the park. We haven’t been in ever so long because of the snow and mud. She won’t go if it’s wet or icy. Last time she rushed me through and wouldn’t let me stop and eat the goose poop treats that blanket the hill by the lagoon. I like to chase the geese sitting on the hill. I wish Mom would let me off the leash so I could really take a run at them, but she knows that once I’m free I’ll just keep going. I have to follow my nose wherever it takes me. My nose really likes this time of year at the park. We go through the meadow and I can smell the moles waking up underground. They’re busy digging and they’re everywhere. She never lets me follow them; she never lets me sniff a mole trail for more than two minutes. If she weren’t at the other end of the line, I’d find a nice mole road of soft dirt and start digging. They’re only inches below the surface, I know it. What a great mid-morning snack they’d make. I just love spring. Mom takes me farther and farther on walks, and we get to leave the sidewalks to explore the woods. Soon there will be new grass shoots to eat in mass quantities until I barf. And I sniff all the little bits of tree branches littering the ground because they smell like the squirrels who are chewing on them as they make their nests. Once God made a squirrel fall straight down from the sky right at my feet. Mom was faster than I was and she jerked me back before I could have any fun with it. It ran away. But it’s spring now, so I always walk with my eyes looking up into the trees, hoping that God will give me another chance. There is just so much to look forward to at this time of the year.
I’ll be writing regularly again, so if you like what you see direct your friends this way and add your comments below. Tell me about your pets and your own travels.