Women’s Bible Study Starting Soon !

It’s been a long time since I’ve been around groups of people for anything except medical appointments and tests.  I’ve wanted to get involved in a women’s Bible study at the church I grew up at for a long time, and for whatever reasons, it just hasn’t panned out.  I recently checked the church’s website for Bible studies and found one starting in early January, and left a message with the person who I was directed to in order to register. Understandably, she’s been out for the holidays and the answering machine said she’d be returning calls later this next week.  No problem.  I had been a bit skeptical of getting registered as I’ve had some issues in the past with getting through to anybody.  BUT, someone I knew from my ‘old days’ at the church let me know via FaceBook that I was welcome to come- I could register that night.  I’m so happy !!  🙂

I had attended some services and singles’ groups when I first moved back here in late 2002 and early 2003, after 17 years in Texas, and it all felt so foreign.  It wasn’t the same place I remembered. All ages post-high school were in the singles’ group, and I felt really out of place.  One of the people I’d known before (who is a couple of years older than I am, but we still remembered each other) made an effort to contact me several times for various things involving the singles’ group, which I still greatly appreciate.  At the time, I was working evening hours, and also beginning to have some increased health problems that involve a severe heat intolerance, so I wasn’t able to join in and get to know the new routine.  Things got worse from a health standpoint, and I was pretty much out of luck.  I have been really bummed out, as my childhood through college years at that church left me with wonderful memories and a strong desire to fit in somewhere again.  I’m so glad that I got the ‘OK’ to join this Bible study on Ephesians. I already ordered the book from Amazon so I could check things out, and I’m really looking forward to the group study.  The book looks good !

I’m not a super ‘religious’ person, but my belief in God is strong and has gotten me through some really crazy (and scary) times, whether with chronic health issues, being attacked, or the more recent leukemia.  I consider my relationship with Christ to be the most important one in my life.  I don’t attend regular church services because of the heat intolerance, but still make decisions based on my Christian roots.  With the ice vest I have now, I’m looking forward to being able to at least be involved in some sort of fellowship and study group. I’ve missed that.  I’ve missed having some connection to other people since I’ve been on disability, and am looking forward to meeting new people there as well as seeing any of the people I knew growing up at that church.

I’m a bit nervous about ‘sticking out’.  The ice vest I wear is something that allows me to leave home for a couple of hours at a time (unless I bring the ‘refill’ inserts- but I only do that if I’m leaving town or going to be gone for many hours).  It does look a bit like a white bullet-proof vest- but it’s opened up so many things; without it, the Bible study would be out of the question.  I’ve had to cut my hair almost completely off  (though it’s grown; need another trim) because I literally can’t tolerate the heat of having hair. I already keep my thermostat at home set at about 64 in the winter, and no higher than 72 in the summer.  Outside of those parameters, and I’m in trouble.  When I get ‘in trouble’,  I pass out.  I don’t want to risk that around other people.  It’s a distraction for them, and I get sent to the ER, which I absolutely loathe.  So, I worry about being a pain in the butt for other people if something gets funky.  Because of that, I tend to avoid being around anybody but a very few people who know that I may have to leave in the middle of something.  With the ice vest, I’m anticipating things going well from the heat standpoint.

So, venturing out to join a Bible study means things on many levels.  The spiritual connection (and desire for growth) is obvious.  The social connection is something that I’ve missed so much since I have been on disability (since April 2004); no work has meant no ‘in person’ interaction with anybody on a regular basis.  I do talk to my dad daily, and see him… otherwise, doctors are the people I see the most, and I’m tired of them!  The emotional connection has many components, and includes testing my own anxieties about being away from my temperature-controlled environment, as well as looking kind of ‘off’ (hair, ice vest, my eyebrows never really grew back after the 19 months of chemo- and the weight gain after the whole chemo thing; I got the ‘fat’ chemo- the ‘skinny’ chemo was only the first week).  There’s even a physical aspect to going to a regularly scheduled activity.  I’ll have to get out of my pajamas, and walk around a very large church (it’s not a mega-church like has become popular in many places, but it’s plenty big!!). Walking will be painful, but it will be worth it.  I’ve really missed being involved in something ‘positive’.  I won’t ever be able to work again (and I miss nursing a lot), but if I can get out for a couple of hours each week to see other live human beings for the purpose of spiritual growth and human contact, it will be great !

So, the new year brings with it something specific to look forward to that is new, but also familiar as it’s a church I spent a LOT of time in.  It’s a good beginning.  I don’t believe that God is only found in buildings- but the connection with other people who believe the same things is a strong way to feel more grounded in my faith.  We’re not meant to fly through this life completely on auto-pilot (I tend to be a loner in general, so this is outside of my comfort zone, even though I’m looking forward to it).  With some adaptive equipment and finding a form of fellowship that works for me, I am thankful to be able to join in with the other women at my ‘old’ church.

 

 

Missing Mandy

My schnauzer, Mandy, died 3 days ago.  It feels like she’s been gone for months, yet there are little things that remind me of her so many times during the day- I expect to see her.  She had her little quirks and eerie understanding of what I told her.  I expect to look up and see her on her ‘TV bed’ (large dog pillow under the TV), watching me.  Every time I moved, she looked up. If I left the room and didn’t say “I’m coming back”, she’d follow me.  It was a relationship with a dog unlike others I’ve had.  Each was special and very loved (as I know the next one will be), but Mandy was smart in the way she understood what I said.  When I got up in the morning, she waited to see if I was getting my slippers on before she got up- she knew that if I was still barefoot, I was coming back- but if she saw the slippers hit my feet, she’d walk down her little dog stairs and be up for the day.

When I sneeze, there’s no little head popping up as she immediately got up and left the room. I couldn’t even say the word ‘sneeze’ or she’d leave the room!  But after I sneezed, she’d come back to see if I was still there!  When I was doing her laundry the other day, there was no little nose checking out the dryer. She especially loved the lint trap. I have no idea why- it’s not like she ever saw what I pulled off of that thing.  But she knew the sound of the dryer stopping, and would get up and look at me like “well, are you going to get the lint?”.   When I loaded the dishwasher, there’s no little face watching, or wildly bouncing around as I shut the dishwasher door.

At night, before bed, I’d tell her to ‘go potty’, and she would!  She would walk over to her pads, and pee.  IF she had ‘gone’ recently, she’d still walk over there, but sit down on the carpet and look at me.  I’d go check the pads, and sure enough- there was a ‘fresh’ pee on the pads.  She knew what I was asking her to do- and letting me know it was already done.

When she was a puppy, I took her to work with me (I had a ‘desk job’ as an RN at a  nursing home, doing assessments for care plans).  As she got older, I’d leave her in the kitchen with a baby gate, and when she was really consistent with using the pee pads, I let her have the run of the apartment when I was gone.  The first time I left her ‘loose’, I had some concerns about what she’d do to my realistic vinyl baby doll collection.  They were seated along the bottom shelves of some book cases.  I dreaded coming home to chewed toes.  Instead, I came home to a pile of baby socks by the back door, and a half-grown dog looking very proud of herself for getting about 20 baby socks off of the dolls and having them neatly piled up.  It was like some sort of offering- LOL.

When I moved from Texas to Illinois, Mandy rode in her travel crate for safety. She was always a good car-rider, lying down on the seat and being content to just be along for the ride (until she got where she was going- usually the vet or groomer).  Because I was driving a 17-foot U-haul for more than 1250 miles, she had to be in her crate, so before leaving Texas, I spent a few months incorporating the crate into her playing.  I’d toss her toys or a dog treat into the crate, and get her used to walking into it on her own. I didn’t want to have battles on the road stuffing her back into it after stopping to let her walk around and go potty.  She did well- and would walk right back into the crate after being out of it at a rest stop. BUT, she did not like when I got out to pump gas and she couldn’t see me.  The crying was horrific.  I was convinced that animal welfare people from many counties near where we were could hear her. I had to pop the gas pump into the tank and set it on ‘auto’, then move back to the truck door so she could see me. Instant quiet.  When I had the nerve to go get some breakfast at a truck stop- and leave her for about 15 minutes to get a TO-GO container (I didn’t even stay inside to eat !), I could hear her ‘screaming’ for me from about 20 yards away from the truck.  She was a ‘mama’s girl’.  I miss that.

At night, if she was ready for bed and I wasn’t, she would get up and sit in front of the hallway, and stare at the bedroom door.  Sometimes she’d go to the bedroom and just wait in the dark for me to find her.  She always had access to the bedroom and bed (and her full half of the double bed), but she wouldn’t go to bed without me.

When she got sicker, and would get cold from losing a fair amount of weight, she’d come over to where I was sitting, and shiver.  I’d get her sweater out, and she’d put her head down so I could slip it over her head.  She also knew to pick up her paws to have them put through the little sleeves.  When I’d take it off, she knew to pick her feet up only after I’d get the sleeve pulled down far enough for her to step out of it.   But she knew that the sweater did something to make her feel better- I’m not sure she understood the concept that a sweater equals ‘warmer’, but she knew enough to come over to me when she wanted it- and then go lie back down once I put it on her.

I cry many times a day when I think about her not being here any longer.  She was with me for eleven years and seven months- I got her when she was almost 2 months old. She would have turned twelve at the end of March.  I hope she knew how much I loved her. I hope she knew that she was my equivalent of a child, and I honestly can’t imagine loving an actual kid any more than I loved that dog.  I hope she knew how much I wanted the best for her- and while I hated watching her die in my arms, I would never want her to die alone and scared.

After the initial whimper that began the end, she was alert enough to look at me (and at that point was motionless, just standing on the floor looking at me with a ‘different’ look- sort of a confused inability to move) and know that I picked her up.  She lifted her head a few times before just collapsing on my lap- but knew I’d put her on her comforter (and a disposable bed pad), and let me shift it to get the ‘lumps’ out.  Then she just wilted and her breathing changed to an agonal pattern associated with imminent death.  I kept stroking her back and scratching her ears, and telling her how much I loved her, and how amazing she’d been as my best friend.  I let her know that it was OK to stop fighting (like I’d do as an RN to humans- I doubt Mandy had a clue what that meant, but I had to say those words as my way of letting her go).  I told her that I’d miss her, but knew she’d hung on as long as she could (and she’d done fairly well – it had been a rocky couple of weeks, but she’d been alert, eating- though more picky, and wanted to be near me).

That morning, she’d wanted Swedish meatballs, and her Charlee Bear treats.  It was a ‘normal’ day- until 2:30 p.m. when I heard the whimper.  By 2:45 p.m., she was gone.  My only form of living companionship was gone.  I know that my next dog won’t replace Mandy (just like she hadn’t replaced her predecessor), but that she will steal my heart in her own way.  And yet, Mandy was special.  Maybe it was the amount of time I’m home, and she just got used to my routines- but her understanding of what I’d say was uncanny. Dad could ask her to do the same things, and she’d just stare at him.  She was my baby.

I miss her deeply… and yet I know the only way through this is to move forward and look at how much I’ll love a new puppy.  Mandy will never be gone from my heart, but it is a deep pain knowing she’s not here ‘in person’.   RIP, my sweet little girl.  I hope you know how much you were loved ❤

Mandy- 20113/28/01 - 12/27/12

Mandy- 2011
3/28/01 – 12/27/12

The Death of My Best Friend…Who Waits at The Rainbow Bridge

At 2:45 p.m. today (December 27, 2012), my best friend and amazing dog Mandy died in my arms.  About 15 minutes earlier, she had been lying on her ‘TV bed’ and made a sound that was similar to those she made when she’d faint, but not as loud and only one time (instead of the usual three deep, agonized moans). I immediately went to check on her, and she was semi-conscious.  I picked her up and she began to wake up, ears perky, and  looking at me. But something wasn’t right- normally when she started to wake up, she ‘came to’ quickly and was on her feet and steady. She did go over to her pee pads and peed, but she wouldn’t leave that area- she just kind of froze standing up. So I picked her up and brought her to my recliner, to hold her and see if she’d perk up.  I decided to get her onto her comforter with a disposable underpad beneath it (she has had ‘issues’ with bodily functions after fainting).  By then, she wasn’t able to support herself on the floor, so I laid her on her recliner as I got her situated (yes, the dog had her own recliner).  I picked her up to hold her  on my lap and see what was next.  She again picked her head up, but then essentially collapsed, and began some slow, agonizing breaths that became slower and slower until they stopped altogether.  I checked her heart rate with my stethoscope. There was silence. The entire process took about fifteen minutes as she died in my arms.

I’m extremely thankful that she didn’t have any prolonged suffering; just this morning she was looking at me and wanting her Charlee Bear dog treats (which she got), and eating Swedish meatballs (microwaved and low salt, just for her).  I’m extremely grateful that she was in my arms, and not alone or afraid. She just relaxed into my lap and let go. I told her she’d been an amazing friend and dog, and that I loved her more than I could ever make her understand, and that it was OK to stop fighting the heart failure.  I knew it had been hard for her for a couple of weeks, but she had been so alert and interested in what was going on, and had still been eating (though becoming very picky).  I’m so thankful that she took the reins, and it was fast.  I had agonized with the decision to put her to sleep last week, but unlike my last dog, the signs weren’t  so clear.  Mandy was still invested in life…until she wasn’t.  The end left no questions.

I’d called my dad when I noticed something wasn’t right, and he came over as fast as he could- thinking at best we’d be taking her to the vet to be put to sleep if she was still ‘not right’, or at worst to the animal crematorium.  I also called my birth-mother. She’s been keeping up with the gradual decline. Mandy  was ‘gone’ when dad got here, which was OK, since it gave me a few moments alone with her during that time when everything changes and the order of my world began the process of adapting to the void left behind without her.  I know it’s a process, and that I’ll be a mess on and off for a while.  I’ll miss her for a long time, just as I still miss the one before her, and the one before her.

I can’t explain in human words how much I loved that dog.  There is no ‘dog-language’ to explain how important she was as the one living thing I saw more than anybody else. Being home 24/7 about %98 of the time, she was my sole companion and closest friend.  All I could do was to do all I could do, and I did. I have no regrets about the level of treatment for her congestive heart failure. I have no regrets about letting her lead the way as far as when she was ‘done’ (and she was quite decisive 🙂 ).   I only know that there’s a hole in my heart left by her absence that will be raw for a while.  I know I’ll get another dog, though none of my dogs have ever replaced her predecessor. They just grew in my heart in their own way.

Thanks to the vets and staff at the Mulford Animal Hospital in Rockford, IL.  You have been so caring, and kind.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed- my forever friend, who never let me down and always lifted me up. ❤

Mandy Bluebonnet TumbleweedMar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed
Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012

 

"Mandy

I’m Grumpy Today

I’m not sure what my malfunction is, but I’m sorta grumpy.  I got up way earlier than usual (I’m one of those who is usually up half of the night and then sleeps until noon).  I’ve got a vague headache, but that’s nothing all that new. I have chronic headaches.  Christmas was really good- I got to see (and meet) family, and talked to my biological mom and half-brother on the phone, which is always good.  I got to spend time with family at the Swedish Christmas party since I’ve got the ice vest to wear when I leave home and don’t have as much chance of being overheated because of the dysautonomia. And yet, I’m a major dud this morning.

My 11.75 year old schnauzer with heart failure was so eager to eat some ‘meatloaf’ I made for her yesterday (with controlled sodium), and this morning she won’t touch it. I’m running out of options.  She started refusing the prescription dog food weeks ago, and prior to that had been eating a minimal amount (which wasn’t all that unusual for her- but she managed to keep her weight up). So now I’m trying to figure out other ideas… have been through ground beef/turkey/chicken, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, brown rice, white rice, baby food veggies, cooked carrots (gag), baby food applesauce and oatmeal,  and various combinations of the above.  She normally likes all of those things. Now, I’m lucky if she eats some of her Charlee Bear dog treats- they have minimal sodium, so she can still have them.  If she weren’t still alert and very interested in what is going on, as well as physically mobile and showing no signs of pain, I’d have her put to sleep…but I don’t want to ‘kill’ my best friend if she’s still getting some enjoyment out of life.  It’s a fine line right now, so as long as it’s not blatantly obvious, I’m holding out… but that time is coming.  There’s only so much I can do, and I think I’ve pretty much hit my limits. 😦

I’ve been extremely irritated at comments to news stories on various online sites and publications. So many people are so heartless and cruel.  Or pathologically immature and even psychopathic.  Responding that they’re ‘happy’ about an article where five people were made homeless by a fire that destroyed their home? How do people get that way?  Who dropped them on their head?  Or burned them?  And then there are the other ‘less’ disturbing posts that are just plain nasty and/or cruel.  Or ignorant.  I’m actually very thankful I don’t know those people or have to spend any IRL time with them.  A click of the back button takes them out of my life.

The onslaught of horrible stories that are on the news constantly is also a major bummer. I feel really badly for those folks and what they’re going through, but what good does it do anybody to have it dissected in the media for days to weeks on end?  I’ve been a crime survivor of a high profile case (before the 24/7 media, back in 1987).  It wasn’t helpful to see it on TV for days or see the newspaper coverage over and over.  The people who knew about it, and were my actual friends/family already knew what happened, and face it: most people really don’t want to know about real life horrors that happen to other people.  Or they don’t know what to do with the information, at least to the persons’ face. Behind their back, the chatter won’t stop. If people would have just asked me straight out what happened, or even if I wanted to talk about it would have been much  more helpful than days of media coverage  (without any input from me- I was an object).  I had one ‘different’ neighbor that responded to meeting me with “I never thought I’d meet you ! ”  Really?  Meeting someone who has been raped and beaten was a life goal?  Step away from the strange one !

I’m extremely disgusted with my weight, and have my food diary set up to start on January first. I don’t want to look like this on my 50th birthday next November.  I don’t want to be grotesque and repulsive going into the last third to half of my life. I have to restrict food. I’ve tried the ‘normal’ calorie amounts I’ve been given from the doctor and diabetic dietician, and that doesn’t work…so I’ve got to go lower. I can’t do much exercise because of the issue with passing out when my heart rate goes up or I get overheated, and my knees and spine issues.  So the calories have to go.  A slippery slope for me, so I’ve got to be careful- but I have to DO something beyond what I’ve been doing.  I didn’t look like this before chemo… and I want to lose any remnants of those days.

Losing weight will also save me some time before having to have my left knee replaced (I had the right one done in late 2006, and it was a very unpleasant experience with some complications and ‘dull’ response time by the doc and nurses to a bladder infection). I had to go to a rehab place for the medically defective. It was a good rehab facility- great care, but set up where people stayed in their rooms like a hospital between therapies (no common area), and since I was infective, I was in a private room- not a horrible thing, but friggin’ isolated. It’s not like there was a big risk of someone coming into contact with my pee.   My left knee has unrepaired, and questionably healed ACL and medial meniscus tears, done when I turned over in bed back in 2009- about a week before my closest friend from here in this town died suddenly (following several complications from a KNEE replacement). She’d moved to a different state to be closer to one of her daughters, but we were in contact by phone daily, even when she was in the hospital or rehab.  I was supposed to have the left knee replacement done, but then got leukemia and everything was put on hold to survive that.  Been a weird few years.

I’m frustrated that I don’t feel that people understand why I’m like I am.  I’ve got diagnoses that people haven’t heard of.  I ‘look’ like I’m capable of working, and I miss being a nurse SO much- but too much standing or walking, and the whole heat/heart rate thing = one unconscious middle-aged RN.  I’ve been an RN for nearly 28 years.  I’ve been on disability for 8 years.  But I still keep my license, because I still AM an RN.  I worked hard for that thing.  And I loved working with it…  And those days are done.  When people ask me what I’m doing to get back to work, it hurts- there isn’t anything that can be done by me or anyone else. Some things CAN’T BE FIXED !  SO those perky, blessed-to-be-clueless people need to shut up and go target someone who has some stuff going on that is treatable. I’ve been dealing with much of this since 1996- and worked until 2004- I held out as long as I could.  I fought to keep working.  QUIT asking me if I’m going back to work. NO, I can’t !

I was raised in an evangelical church, and am a born again Christian, without some of the judgmental drama that can go with those two things.  I hate the passive ‘I’ll pray for you’ stuff- prayer is wonderful, and I do it often, but if someone wants to help, some action would be really amazing ! Prayer is about as passive as a person can get and rationalize to themselves that they’re ‘doing’ something– and while I do believe in prayer and that it is a very positive and powerful thing (and pray for people on the news all of the time since I can’t do anything else), it’s not the be-all end-all answer to really being of use to someone.  It’s definitely better than nothing, but it really doesn’t show much in terms of actively supporting and helping someone. Sometimes it’s all people CAN do- and that’s appreciated.  But remember the ‘faith without works is dead’?  I’ve sensed a lot of dead.  I wish I could do more for others, and feel guilty about that.  Not like I know many people around here to be available for… back in the home where my heart is, I could be more useful, even if I’m not that physically ‘able’… I could drive someone to the store, or appointments.  I could water plants when they were gone, or change out cat litter. I couldn’t walk dogs or watch kids… but I’d do what I could.

I’ve contacted my ‘old’ church (from when I grew up and it was an amazingly positive experience) to find out about women’s Bible studies and other things in the past, and have been essentially blown off. I guess I’m not good enough for the ‘elite’ evangelicals anymore. My checkbook may not be deep enough or something.  I’ve tried again, and will hear back after the 31st when the contact person returns. I had really looked forward to going back there when I moved back from Texas.  I found it to be cold and a bit pretentious.  If someone can’t go back to the church they grew up in, where should they go?  Where is the ‘real’ message in that?   It hurt.  There were some really nice ladies (who I’ve known since I was a kid) who invited me to a type of ‘grief’ group, but I don’t want to sit and talk about dead family.  If that works for them, I’m really glad they have somewhere that feels right for their grieving process.  My mom is dead. Sitting in a room with folks who need that type of support doesn’t work for me.  I guess if I want to connect with anybody there, I have to be bummed out.  Not something I’m interested in.  I’m hoping the Bible study that starts on January 9th will work out- otherwise, I’m done trying to get back in to the church I grew up in. It shouldn’t be a ‘project’ just to find somewhere to fit in there.  The singles group wasn’t my bag – I want some ‘study’ group type thing.  🙂

Anyway, that’s a bit of what’s rattling through my head today.  I’m a little less grumpy now.

Gotta Lose This Weight

I’ve carried on about my frustrations with my weight gain following chemotherapy for leukemia (APL).  It’s no secret that I’ve got a history of eating disorders (just about all of them).  I’ve got to admit, I’m nervous about doing much restricting, as I don’t want to trigger that hell of anorexia again. I was told the last time around (1996) that I probably wouldn’t live through another relapse. As it is, some of my medical diagnoses weren’t identified until after that last relapse, and they’ve disabled me.

But I’m getting desperate.  I’ve got some diet journals to start using on January first… I’m not much into New Year’s Resolutions, but I do want to have this weight gone by my 50th birthday in November.  I hope I can lose the weight without losing my mind.  I have severe intolerance to heart rate or heat increases, so exercising isn’t really an option that will be of any major benefit.  I can stretch. That’s about it.   If the dysautonomia wasn’t an issue, the disc and joint disease is.  Sounds like excuses… it’s my life. I used to walk like a maniac, and loved it. I’d love it again if I could take my MP3 and hit the sidewalks.  No dice. I’d end up laid out on the side of the road.

So, I’ve got to cut back on calories considerably.  I have to be diligent. But I can’t go crazy with it.  I really just want to be more healthy- not ‘skinny’.  I don’t know how this is going to work.  But I’ve got to do something.

I Just Want What’s Best For Her…

It’s so hard to know how to read what’s going on with Mandy (my 11.75 year old miniature schnauzer with heart failure).  She’s obviously not feeling well judging by her appetite and resistance to taking her medication (one is chewable, and she usually loves it; the others are pills I put in fruit that she usually snarfs right up). Her breathing isn’t ‘right’, and she’s coughing a little. She’s not peeing as much as she should be- but nothing smells funny or has a dark, concentrated color (she’s paper/pad trained, so it’s easy to assess).  And, she’s alert, getting up whenever I move, and doesn’t seem to be in any discomfort. She hasn’t fainted, and her tongue is pink.  Right now, she’s by the front door grumbling about something.  That’s ‘normal’ for her!

I’ve been down this road before. My last schnauzer had heart failure for the last year of her life, and she did quite well until the last couple of days. The only time she didn’t eat was the last 24-36 hours she was alive, and it was horribly obvious that she wasn’t doing well. I tried the extra doses of the medicine to help her get rid of extra fluid, but it was over. (I’d made a mental list of ‘it’s done’ symptoms to watch for).  It was- thankfully- fairly ‘quick’ at the end. The signs were easier to see.  I got her to the vet, who tried to turn things around, but he called me at work to let me know I need to come quickly. With Mandy, it’s harder.  Regardless, she has to go to the vet tomorrow to get checked out.

My dad and I have a ‘plan’  (God bless him – he’s 80 years old, and such a huge support, and he loves his ‘grand-dogger’). If I think I’m going to have to put Mandy to sleep tomorrow (not thinking that at the moment, but things are going back and forth a lot this weekend), he’ll drive and then take me to the pet crematorium.  If she seems like she’s doing fairly well, and just going to be seen by the vet, I’ll take her myself.  She’s good in the car (and loves car rides until she gets where she always goes- the groomer or the vet).  If something happens quickly tonight, and God forbid, she dies, he’ll take me to the pet crematorium. I’ll be a wreck.  The idea of putting her into a box to go to ‘that place’ breaks my heart.  I know she won’t know the difference at that point, but I will.  She’s been too good of a companion to put into a box for any reason. If there’s any way to keep her just wrapped in a blanket, that would be much better.  Even if it’s just for a 4 mile trip.  Even if it’s just because I can’t stand the idea of her being ‘disregarded’ by being in an ordinary box.

I’ve been through this before. I survived, and got another puppy who stole my heart all over again.  I can’t afford a schnauzer (which has been my favorite dog since I was a little kid), but my dad said he’d be sure I got the puppy I want, since he’s very aware that being on disability and having very little contact with people makes the companionship all that more important.  I’ve got my name on a schnauzer rescue list, and got an e-mail with 3 available, and very adorable, puppies just yesterday.  But, I won’t get another one until Mandy is gone- the stress of a rambunctious puppy probably would be too much for her- she’s never interacted much with other dogs (she hides behind my legs when I take her to the groomer), and gets a bit snooty about them sniffing her back door. She almost seems offended at ‘dog’ behavior :D.  I’m just hoping that Mandy does well enough to indicate she’s still enjoying life for a while to come. I know the outcome of canine heart failure.  I just have to be sure I’m reading her well enough to know when enough is enough.

I know other people love their pets as much as I do.  I think it feels ‘worse’ because I’m alone, and really don’t have contact with any other living thing as much as I do her, since I’m home all of the time. In the last 8.5 years on disability, we’ve been together nearly 24/7 unless I’m in the hospital, at some doctor appointment, or brief trips to the grocery store or pharmacy.  I talk to my dad pretty much every day- which is also really important. But Mandy is my primary source of interaction with anything alive and in ‘person’.  She is also really in tune to my routines, and understands a LOT of what I say (it’s kinda creepy sometimes- LOL).  I’ve never had kids or been married, but I think I can relate to the intense love a parent has for a kid, at least to some degree.  I’d do anything I could for Mandy, and if someone ever tried to harm her, I’d go postal.  And have no regrets.

It’s going to be horribly painful when she no longer has any quality of life.  Once it becomes a struggle for her, or there is any indication of suffering, it’s over.  I won’t put my best friend through anything that prolongs her misery to avoid my grief over losing her.  I know I keep writing about this, but it’s just so hard to think of her being gone.  I don’t mean to sound ‘dismissive’ when I talk about another puppy before Mandy is gone, but it’s how I keep my mind from being totally overwhelmed by grief.  The circle of life and all of that.  Knowing I’d get another puppy (Mandy) after my last dog died really helped me look forward, and not stay stuck in the crying part of acute grieving.  I could find some joy in a new ‘baby’.  I bought toys every payday until Mandy was old enough to come home. She  has an obscene number of stuffed animals now, most of which she ignores, so the new puppy will have a lot to play with as well.

Find Mandy !  She has about 10 times more toys now !!

Find Mandy ! She has about 10 times more toys now !!

As with anything in life, I can’t predict when Mandy will be too sick to ‘make’ her keep going, and I’ll have to let her go.  So, I have to keep myself prepared, and try and make her life the best it can be during the time she has left.  I also have to enjoy all of the time she has left.  Yes, I need to keep being realistic, but also can’t have her half gone while she’s still here!  I know I’ll love another puppy intensely, but right now it’s hard to imagine loving anything as much as I love Mandy. She has been such an important part of my life.  My primary goal is to give as much as I can to her for as long as she’s around. And know when the time comes to give her the final gift of no suffering.

Mandy in her sweater- 2012

Mandy in her sweater- 2012

In the meantime, I’ll probably keep writing.  I’ll keep having times when I’m in tears, and standing in the laundry area of my apartment so nobody can hear me cry when the spin cycle is going.  I’ll be a wreck after she’s gone. And I’ll love every minute I can still see her sweet face looking at me while she’s still here. ❤

Watching, Waiting, Wondering… When?

I was a little on guard last night when Mandy (my 11.75 year old miniature schnauzer) was breathing a little ‘off’.  This morning, I knew things were worse. The rate of her breathing and use of muscles not usually needed to breathe were obvious. Then she didn’t want to eat.  I’d recently switched her over to canned dog food (that she LOVES) since she had been eating so little of the dry stuff (both prescription). Her weight loss was visible, though not in the range of some animal rescue commercial.  She had been doing well on the canned stuff for the last 3 days. Until today.  My baby is getting sicker. She was diagnosed with heart failure about 7 months ago. It was ‘caught’ earlier than my last schnauzer, who died of the same thing a year after she was diagnosed.  Mandy seems to be going downhill more quickly.  I’m not sure she’ll be here at Christmas (in 11 days).

I’ve had great miniature schnauzers since I was a kid.  Mandy is my third, and since I’m on disability (for the last 8 1/2 years), we spend a lot of time together.  She’s picked up on cues that my other dogs didn’t. For instance, when I turn off the TV, she knows it’s time for bed, and gets up from wherever she is in the living room, and goes to the bedroom.  When I get my keys, she knows I’m going to get the mail, and escorts me to the door.  If I get her seatbelt adapter, she knows she’s going to get in the car, and goes to garage door.  She’s been the most in tune to my routines by far of any of the three dogs I’ve had.  While I’ve loved them all, there’s something different about this one. She really has been special. Her comprehension of English (and following through with commands or comments) is kind of weird. If I tell her I’m going to sneeze, she leaves the room.  Then comes back to check things out !  I know everybody thinks their dogs (or kids) are ‘gifted’… of the three I’ve had, Mandy is by far the most communicative.

Greta, my first schnauzer when I was a little kid, was a performer. She loved to jump through a hoop, sit, roll over, etc for a Milkbone dog treat.  She could clear the back of the couch with no running start. But she was also a bit bonkers.  If she got out of the front door, she’d run like the wind until someone (usually me, but could be a neighbor who saw her fly up the street, with me in pursuit) grabbed her- usually when she stopped to pee.  Hannah was a ‘talker’.  If I said ‘bow wow’ or ‘woof’, she’d howl. My mom (demented at the time) loved that!  She’d ask to talk to the dog when I started asking questions she didn’t know the answers to as I assessed where she was mentally. The dog didn’t ask questions- just interacted without expectations in return. She also knew each of her toys by name, and would go get the correct one when told to get one of them.

Now, I’ve got to face the inevitable outcome of heart failure in dogs once again.  I check the color of her tongue (still pink), and monitor how fast and ‘hard’ she’s breathing.  I watch her activity level, and know that when she isn’t getting up on her own that it’s time. Quitting eating is also a late sign- I know that from Hannah.  Any evidence of pain can’t be allowed to take what time she has and make it a cruel existence.  I realize that she could perk up, but I’ve got to mentally prepare myself that she could be gone in a matter of days.  My best friend is dying.

Last week at this time, I thought she was doing pretty well. It’s moving quickly; she had gradually stopped eating the dry food until she’d finally give in because she was so hungry, so I got her the canned stuff- there was no point in making her ‘put up with’ something she no longer liked- or took too much energy to eat.  Now, she’s resisting taking her medication, so I’m having to use applesauce and slip the spoon into her mouth with the pills hidden in each bite, and ‘lubed up’ to slide down more easily.  It’s breaking my heart.  But she’s still alert, and interested in every move I make.  I have been purposely letting her rest, hoping that her breathing will slow down, and she’ll have less stress on her heart.  What I’d love to do is wrap my arms around her and hold her for hours.  But, she’s not a snuggler.

I know she could pass quietly in her sleep, and while I wish for her a gentle journey to the Rainbow Bridge, I also know that I need to be prepared with a mental list of what is ‘enough’.  I held Hannah while she was put to sleep, knowing that she saw me come in and pick her up after a morning at the vet’s to see if anything could be done; I knew when I took her in that it wasn’t good.  I HAD to be there when she died- and for her to see me come back. I couldn’t have her remember that I’d just dropped her off and left her.   And, she had said good-bye that morning by sitting on my leg and putting her head on my shoulder…and just ‘being’ there.  She had also been an amazing companion, as I’ve always been single and don’t have kids, or that many close friends.

I know what to look for with Mandy, and I know it’s getting closer.  I dread waking up to find her lying too still beside me.  And yet, I don’t want her to struggle or suffer in any way.  She has been such an amazing companion that I have to let her go if I see that it’s too hard for her to stay here for even a couple of days.  I can’t make my best friend suffer at all.  I love her too much.

My dad told me just to enjoy the time I have left with Mandy. I’m trying, but being a nurse, I am also constantly assessing her breathing and medication and eating.  She did eat some freeze dried banana chips and peas today…so she’s not completely refusing food. Just the stuff that actually matters.  I’ll get another dog- never to replace one I’ve lost, but because of the years of joy and amazing love they bring.  I just hope she has an idea of just how much I love her.  Anything I have and can offer her seems so inadequate.  I just pray now that I’ll know ‘when’…