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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

If You Spell DOG Backwards

     Some of us are just animal people. When I was young I would always surround myself them. I actually wanted to be a vet. I remember in second grade we had to make a figure of ourselves grown up. Mine had big brown eyes, long brown hair in a ponytail, wore a white coat and as holding a rabbit. I loved all animals. Still do (...even spiders that make my skin crawl if they get too close), but especially dogs. As a child, if there was a dog present I was on the floor holding it, or cuddling it or kissing it. If I could've be surrounded by dogs all the time I would have been in my glory. They really are amazing creatures. They are social animals like humans, and although our ways of communicating are slightly different, our social rules and family/pack hierarchy are very similar. That's the scientific reason we have created this symbiotic mutualistic relationship. We care for them and they offer some sort of service to us. (i.e. we put them to work.) But do you think that's all it is? A mutualistic relationship where we each receive some sort of benefit? On paper it makes sense. But if you have ever had a relationship with a dog, you know its so much more profound than that. They are our companions in life. They are capable of true unconditional love, the likes of which many people never experience from another human. They are loyal, nonjudgmental, protective, helpful and compassionate. I actually believe that our dogs are sent to us by God. They choose us, find us and then they walk beside us through the challenges of our lives. And when we have learned the lessons we needed them to help us through, they leave us. When they leave us, our lives change. Not just because they are gone, I mean that our lives change in monumental ways. It's usually at that time when we meet our next animal companion sent to escort us through the next phase of our life's journey.
     When I was about 6, our family dog (Buffy) died. A few weeks after my 7th birthday, we went to get a new puppy. My parents found this woman who bred dogs in her home. There were two puppies left. A white one and a black one. They were not litter mates. The white pup's mother was there, but the black one's wasn't. My parents asked us which dog we wanted. I answered immediately, "The black one." I didn't want to take the white one from his mother. We named him Velvet because that's how soft he was. I know, it's a terrible name, but I was 7. Anyway, Velvet was an amazing dog. He was our family dog, but he was sent to me. We had this connection that was almost telepathic. We anticipated each other's needs. I went through a really tough time in high school. I was quite depressed and involved in an emotionally abusive relationship. I would cry and cry and cry. (I remember at one point I would mark on the calendar the days I was happy!) I would sit on my bed with my Velvet. He would lick the tears off my cheeks, curl up in my arms and somehow I got through it. 19 years later, he was a shadow of his former self. He was blind, incontinent, nearly deaf, and just a bag of bones. My parents wouldn't put him down without my ok. And I just couldn't do it. One morning, just weeks before my wedding I woke up and he was on the floor by my bed crying in pain. I called in my dad and said, "It's time." It just so happened that the week before, my sister's family had moved in temporarily while their new house was being built. We were all there. Everyone came up to say goodbye to him. I held him in my arms in my bed and when it was just the two of us left, he closed his eyes, his body shook and I felt his soul leave his body. And he was gone. My life was about to change for ever.
     As soon as Mr. Jones and I were married, I started itching for a dog. He told me he wanted to wait a little bit.We decided that we wanted to rescue a dog. Without telling me, he went to a vet to see two dogs that had been rescued and who were in need of new homes. When he got there, they told him that they couldn't show him one of them, but the other was still available. When they brought this giant 11 month old black lab into the room, she took one look at Mr. J., got up on her hind legs, wrapped her legs around his shoulders and licked his face. As if to say, "You're finally here, I've been waiting for you!" Mia was our first baby. We weren't planning on having children right away, but as I said, when God sends you an new animal, it means your life is about to change. 3 months later I was shocked to find out I was pregnant, and her job was to give us a crash course in parenting. Mia had medical problems from the get-go. Aside from being a training challenge (a very passively dominant female), she had 13 skin allergies (that we know about- she probably had  more undiagnosed). We tried food trials, allergy testing/desensitization, medication after medication. Mia was a lot of work. But she was our baby. And speaking of babies, she was always gentle and loving with our girls. We knew that with all her meds, her life would be shortened, but I wasn't prepared last week when Mr. J started drawing my attention to how sick she really was. She wasn't herself anymore. The poor thing just scratched day and night. She had become incontinent, lethargic, excessively thirsty and sometimes exhibited labored breathing. She was not finishing her food, and the doctor's opinion was that her kidney's were failing. So we made the appointment. At 4:30 today we walked her into her vet. Dr. H had been with her from the beginning. He was as devastated as we were. She was ready. She looked at Mr. J. nuzzled him, and then she turned and kissed my face. Then she got comfortable on the floor and fell into a trance-like state as we sat next to her and caressed her tormented body. I prayed quietly over her as "Amazing Grace" played over and over in my head and a snippet from Fontine's death scene in Les Miserables when Val Jean sings, "Be at peace. Be at peace evermore." The room felt swollen with spirits and lights kept turning off on their own. When Dr. H came in, she stood up, walked over to him and put her head into his lap. She looked up at him with her big beautiful eyes and I swear I heard "Thank you," in my head. He got her up on the table and she seemed a bit nervous all of a sudden. He gave her a sedative. I whispered to her, "I love you." I felt so at peace and serene. I knew she was going home to God. I prayed that she would find her way into His arms. When she was gone, the doctor left us with her to say goodbye. I felt like she was letting us go so we could move on to the next phase of our lives. (The chapter after cancer.) We did everything we could to prepare our 6 year old for the inevitable. She handled it well, I think. She cried in our arms. We held her and told her that everything she was feeling was normal and that it's good to cry. 
     I can't help but see the parallel that my animal loving angel will be 7 in a couple of weeks. We plan to get another dog, of course. None of us can imagine a life without one of God's special messengers. Not sure what breed...don't really care actually. I just know that when the time is right, he/she will find us, and we'll know. And our lives will change. And that's okay because we'll have our new family member to ease us through it. You know what they say about dogs don't you....if you spell DOG backwards...... ;-)
     As always I'm sending love and light out to all of you in cyberspace. I hope you will hold your companion animals a little closer tonight. My house will be a little quieter than usual, but I won't be surprised if the lights start flickering or if I see a black blur in the corner of my eye dart across the room. I don't believe my Mia's gone. She's waiting for us on "the other side." And when we meet again, I fully expect her to stand up and wrap her paws around our necks and plant big wet kisses all over us....that is, if she can get past my Velvet!
Rest In Peace My Mia-Bella
9-12-02     6-28-11

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