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Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

Today, I said goodbye to my dog companion of 12 years. What can I say… she was the best dog. I know, a lot of people feel they have the best dog, and I think they do. She was the best dog for our family. So gentle with my kids, so loving, so trusting, so delightful.

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Our brand new dog – 2006

When we first got her, my husband was on the night-shift and though I’d gotten a kitten – my daughter quickly took him as her own. So, I said I wanted a dog. We went online and saw a picture of her – legs out in front of her, mouth hanging open happily… she looked like a dog that wasn’t in jail, but was simply on a trip. I went in and didn’t immediately recognize her… while all the other dogs were barking, whining, pacing, and pawing… she sat right down by the gate of her kennel – her back to me, and tossed her head over her shoulder to look at me. ‘Pet me.’ That was love at first sight.

We brought her home on Valentine’s Day, consequently, one day before she was to be put to sleep… one day before my birthday. I call that kismet. The people that had adopted her as a puppy had returned her at 11 months old saying she has seizures. She’d been at the pound for six days – they kill on the seventh. I was ready to buy whatever medicines she might need. I told her she’d never go back there. She had a forever home.

This old girl and I… walks together, hikes together, disc golf together. Nary a seizure in sight. She loved going places with us, loved just being in the same room with us if we weren’t on the go… truly, and completely, a dog that fit exactly our predilections for some days exercise, some days cake. She was always game… unless water was involved. Though she was part lab, water was a no-go.

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Pepsi’s Final Visit to “The Hill.” 4/21/2017

We knew she was getting up there in age – little aches and pains, slow to get up with arthritic hips. We gave her glucosamine (which seemed to help a lot) and tried to be certain she got out at least to smell the roses. On her final wellness exam six months ago, I asked the doctor when I would know. He said, “With a dog like this… it will be when she just can’t get up anymore.”

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Pepsi and Pixel – the cat who loved her, too – 2016.

True to his prognosis… it just got harder and harder for her. She would trip on her own feet, she took a couple falls that splayed her legs out in all directions, and eventually – we were having to lift her back end to help her get up. When she started refusing food – and being a lab mix, well… she’d eaten crayons before and left rainbow poop in the yard – we knew the end was coming. We plied her with everything from cheap Gravy Train to expensive dehydrated turkey – rib bones with meat on them to chicken backs fresh from the butcher… eventually, she turned up her nose at it all. We knew.

I took her on a walk and we sat in the grass and she looked at me. My dog and I had shared many looks, but this one was different. I could see it on her face, in her eyes, that she loved me but was so very tired. I know there are people who consider it anthropomorphism – but anyone who has ever had a dog and shared a bond with it knows. There is nothing like seeing into the soul of a dog. Your kindred spirit. That look, two days ago, was the one that let me know I – personally – had to start letting go.

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Pepsi’s Final Sponge Bath

Our Pepsi got to lay out in the grass. She got copious cuddles. She got a sponge bath, a mani-pedi, brushing galore. Kisses, hugs… the whole nine yards of all the love we could give her, and she drank it up.

Today, I could see it on her face. ‘I’m ready.’ She was just so tired, so achy. We got her in the car, picked up our teens, and headed to the vet. She loved going there, too, so this trip was not at all a stress for her. As soon as the doctor saw her, he said, “She definitely looks beat. I support this decision 100 percent.” He liked her, too. Pepsi was a champ at getting the vet’s office to hand out half a bowl of treats. These guys would love on her and let her clean their faces. She definitely had a way of making dog people glow.

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Pepsi gets ready to go on a hike in 2008.

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They made the injection as I sat behind her. She grew drowsy and looked around for me for a split second. I told her I was right behind her… and her head dropped back into my arms. That is how I said goodbye to my most special girl. I told her we’d keep a look out for her and in that moment, in an ending that would make the best of Hollywood movies, she passed away in peace.

We’d been warned she might take an involuntary breath. Warned she might release her bowels. Warned about all those ugly things that death can be. But none of that happened. She dropped her head in my arms and took her last breath. To see her get to transition so gently, so dignified… I was privileged to be her human mom and companion.

I bawled simply because I’d been holding it in to let her pass without worry. This girl was so in tune with me that often, when I’d cry, she’d whimper. Her final days had me happy in her presence. Then, once she’d left behind her shell, I just wept. My husband was there, as were my teens – all of the people she’d loved for her life and loved her back.

It took me about 40 minutes to be ready to leave. The thing was, as I told my husband, I felt like she was still there. Not her body, but her spirit. Right in the room with us. As we drove home, I still felt her presence. Even as I sit here, she’s with me.

I can’t tell anyone how to make this decision or when, but I know for our old girl – we did it all right… all the way from start to finish. Knowing when to say goodbye before she was blind, deaf, completely lame, or using the bathroom where she lay… she still had all her dignity in tact, and – from one actor to my dog actor – died like a beautiful swooning diva. She always was a silly girl.

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“Silly Dog” She’d lay like this and wiggle around. If she did it in front of the couch, she’d shoot herself across the floor by kicking off. Then she’d wag her tail and out would loll that tongue!

I told her as she lay there in my arms to come back to us. I know right now I’m not ready for another dog, and I don’t think her spirit is quite ready to be a new one… but I am a firm believer that nothing ever ends and we’re always coming back again. I do believe that when I’m ready, she will be too, and all that will remain is for the two of us to simply find one another all over again.

Pepsi Rainbow

Our daily message board for today.

 

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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Experiences, Musings, Spirituality

 

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Experiences: Project Share

This past Veteran’s Day, a friend of mine decided to have a birthday celebration.  She asked her friends to join her at the local kitchen, Project Share, which serves meals to the homeless and low-income in Albuquerque.  I and my two children (both 12) decided to not only celebrate her birthday, but honor veterans in the spirit of giving.  The experience was unforgettable.

Project Share, Christmas Eve 2012.

Project Share, Christmas Eve 2012.

Project Share was started in 1984 by a chef who fed a homeless man.  They have grown now to serve nearly 750 meals a week, 6 days a week, with local chefs donating their time to cook meals.  To add to that, they have a small room where they give toiletries, diapers, bedding, clothes – whatever they happen to have on hand… and that’s where our adventure begins.

We pull up to a very nondescript blue building, beside which is “Hope’s Half Acre,” a garden for the chefs to use.  Inside, our very frazzled (but gracious) host led us to their back room.  A local hotel had just dropped off pillows, towels, washcloths, sheets, pillow cases, and light blankets and it was our task to make a bed packet.  My friend and my children began casing the pillows, then loading the pillow case with all the aforementioned items to make a sack of bedding.  These are given free of charge to any person who asks.  While they made packets, the birthday girl and I made packets of diapers, 10 to a pack, thanks to the donation of a local store who dropped off a large box in each size.

I can’t begin to accurately express what begins to dawn on you when you realize that people come to this placeHispanic Marketing and Public Relations Website so much for diapers, they were out.  As we were making packs, we have a young man come in and ask for some for his soon-to-be-born child.  Children and infants happen to be some of the most overlooked in the homeless population – but that they make up nearly a quarter of homeless people is staggering.   Here in Albuquerque, kids under 5 account for nearly 18% of the homeless population.  That doesn’t count the many children who have a home, but don’t know when they’ll be eating their next meal.

We also gave out toiletries to the people who came in and asked – little things like trial size shampoo, razors, a bar of soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, lotion, and Chapstick.  Seeing the gratitude, the relief, the joy on the faces of the people that came in and could ask for those small creature comforts and necessities was so far beyond words.   It was a reminder of humanity – compassion and caring, helping and loving your fellow man.

We closed up the “shop” and went out to get ready to serve dinner.  I had talked to my kids beforehand with a simple single sentence: Just treat them as you would any other person.  Neither myself nor my children had ever worked directly with the homeless and less fortunate.  My soul was utterly unprepared for the reality that faced me as they walked in to take a tray from my hands. 

I greeted them with a smile and eye contact and garnered the courage to treat them as I would anyone else.  “How are you today?”  The answers I received back were just mind blowing and incredible.  One man told me how he had been jumped the day before and had his bags stolen.  That he’d lost everything – his pillow, his blankets, his jacket, his toiletries.  I asked him if he was okay for the night, and he nodded.  “I worked hard to get some stuff back, so I’m good for tonight.”  Several people stopped to look at me, stunned that someone was bothering to ask them anything at all.  They smiled big, said they were doing the best they could, and asked me how I was.  Others told me how nice it was to see a kind, smiling face.  While so many responded with kindness, with joy, with relief – one woman sticks in my heart.  She had a large bruise on the side of her very stoic face.  When I looked at her and asked her how she was, she couldn’t talk.  She nodded and the pain… I don’t think we can call ourselves human and not be touched by someone in such deep pain.  I reached out and rubbed her shoulder and she walked on, wiping the tears from her eyes.

Most of the people we served that night were jovial and in pretty good spirits, meeting up with friends they hadn’t seen around in a while, catching up with buddies they knew.  The food, they said, was great (and it smelled fantastic, I can attest).  They came back for seconds, they stocked up on cookies after all was said and done, and I watched them leave with a chorus of “Thank you’s” and “God Bless you’s.”

I have been moved so deeply, as were my kids, but I’m not looking for a pat on the back.  I’m writing this because I am hoping that seeing our experience will motivate others to do this for the less fortunate in their neighborhoods.  Even if you can’t donate your time, knowing what small things you can give – razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair brushes, Chapstick, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap, towels, washcloths, blankets – all those things we tend to take for granted, all of those things mean so much and are so necessary to someone who hasn’t the means to buy them.  Not to mention clothes.  I am ashamed to admit that even though I donated to Goodwill, I never thought about the people who don’t have the money to go to Goodwill.  There are people so at the bottom right now that they need clothes, and since it’s getting cold, they need them now more than ever.

I will absolutely be doing this again in the future.  My kids are excited to do it again as well.  I don’t take my life for granted – I am comfortable, my needs are met – but there are many others who do not have that luxury… at least not right now.  This experience was a lesson for me and my kids, not only to learn more about the people who in such dire straits, but to learn about ourselves and our capacity for compassion – something inside each and every one of us.

To find places in your area that will gladly take your donations or your donation of time, please visit: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/  This site lists food pantries as well as shelters.

To learn more about Project Share, please visit: http://psabq.org/

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Nicole has written three novels, a feature-length script, and many short stories and short film scripts. Her debut novel, “Carla’s Rivet” is scheduled for release on March 1st, 2014.  Her short story, “Millsburg,” is available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.  Please visit http://nicoleagramlich.com for more information.

 

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Experiences

 

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dogs

 

 

“Dogs are our link to paradise.  They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent.  To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”  ~Milan Kundera

Dogs in Paradise

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Quotes

 

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