The Lull in Posts Over the Past Year

It’s certainly not for lack of material.  Or being too busy (well, having a new puppy has been interesting over this last 11+ months).  In many ways, it’s because I have too much rattling around in my brain, and trying to figure out what to write about (in a coherent fashion) has been more of a problem.

The last year has been wild.  In January of 2013, I was grieving the loss of my beloved Mandy- the miniature schnauzer I’d had since the summer of 2001.  She was my heart, my life, and my only consistent companion.  I knew the day would come, but it’s never easy.   I was really alone for a couple of months, and it hurt.  As in ‘boohoo’ type crying on and off for weeks.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012 This was her last photo… ever.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed
Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012
This was her last photo… ever.

Then, I got my new miniature schnauzer puppy at the end of February.  She was a day short of 9 weeks old when I brought her home.  She wouldn’t get near me in her crate on the car seat until about 2 hours into the 2.5 hour drive home from where she was born (longest drive I’ve made in over 10 years, and my left knee still hurts).  Then she scooted to the wire door, and at least was close enough to see… she was so cute !  And the games began !!  She was  a crazy little thing, after being seen as the ‘shy, reserved little girl’ in the litter of three pups, two of which were males.   She got over that in a hurry !!  Just NUTS !!  But not a mean bone in her- she was just active, and always on the go.  It took quite a while for her to listen to my commands- which wasn’t about ‘dominating’ her, but making sure she was safe.  I had to get a shock collar, which broke my heart- but the little zap (about the same as when you rub your socks together on the carpet and touch someone, or something) was enough to catch her attention.  Now, I just have to ask her if she needs her collar. 😮

Shelby in one  of her toy bins :)  About 9 weeks old.

Shelby in one of her toy bins 🙂 About 9 weeks old.

Just a happy puppy kind of day !   Shelby- 4 months.  Silly girl !!

Just a happy puppy kind of day ! Shelby- 4 months.
Silly girl !!

Growing up !  About 10 months old in this photo…

Growing up ! About 9 months old in this photo…

Now, she is still active, and very much a young dog, but is such a sweetheart, and really understands a lot of what I tell her.  “Stay” needs some work, but otherwise, she knows the difference between the types of her toys, different rooms, and when she is NOT supposed to bark or whine at someone outside – I mean seriously, the mailman doesn’t require daily announcing !

My biological mom visited a couple of times, and it’s always great to see her 🙂   I’ve thought more and more about ‘biological bonds’ and how that never is severed by adoption- if anything it’s more intense.  Having my biological mom in my life has been such an amazing gift.  That’s something for a few blog posts.  My biological paternal uncle also visited- the first time I’ve met someone from my biological dad’s side of the family.  That was great !   I honestly enjoy both of them (as well as others I’ve met through my biological family tree- that is more like a group of trees).  Neat, really nice people.

This summer, my cousin was diagnosed with cancer.  It’s a tough kind of cancer, and she hasn’t  ever been really sick before, which makes all of the procedures, sensations, and inability to just do what she sets her mind out to do that much more difficult.   She has had so many side effects and complications- it’s been so hard for her (as it would be for anybody).  Since I’m the family ‘go-to’ for deciphering medical information, we talked and e-mailed a lot.  We still do.  I’m glad to be of some use to her (and other family members who know I’ve been an RN for nearly 29 years, even if I’m now disabled- which has increased my knowledge about a  lot of the little things with my own personal medical journey- it helps me find some ‘good’ in the bad I’ve been through).  She is SO strong mentally, and has such an amazing support system with friends and co-workers.  I told her how in awe I am, since the people around here (co-workers) dropped me like a hot rock when I had to leave work in 2004.  She is blessed with an employer who still sees what she can do, and co-workers who are really there for her.  It’s amazing how well she’s doing in such a truly lousy situation.

Last (early) summer, I started on a weight-loss plan, and did lose 35 pounds that have stayed off- but I had to stop the Nutrisystem products for the artificial sweeteners.  I had about 3 solid months of migraines… no days off. I might have some time during the day when my head didn’t hurt, but there were no days with no head pain (I’m never free of muscle pain, and that’s been for the last 19 years).  SO, I had to give in and start taking daily pain meds along with some ‘as needed’ migraine meds.  I’ve been avoiding regularly scheduled pain meds for years.  But, my quality of life is going down the tubes.  With the pain meds, I’m now able to do more around the apartment in short spurts, which has been good- though I’m in no way able to do ‘normal’ amounts of housework.

The dysautonomia is also getting considerably worse- so any activity has become incredibly painful and leads to problems with my heat intolerance, blood pressure and heart rate.  The chemo I was on for leukemia from early 2010 through the latter parts of 2011  is known to cause peripheral neuropathy (as are many types of chemo)- so with an already existent neuropathy, it makes sense that it doesn’t do it any favors.  The heat intolerance is much worse, and even though the ice vest helps considerably, I have the air conditioner on when it’s  less than 20 degrees outside because I’m over-heated inside, if I do any sort of activity that causes my internal thermostat to go whacky.  It’s miserable.

My thighs have begun to shrink.  As in visibly smaller, and not in the good way from weight loss, but in an abnormal way.  SO I had to have an EMG (electromyelogram).  That showed more neuropathy.  I was sent to physical therapy (PT) for exercises- which will be an ongoing thing to avoid ending up needing a walker (at best) or wheelchair (at worst) for just getting around my apartment.  That is scary.  Since last spring (or maybe before then- the time gets away from me), a childhood friend of mine has been volunteering to help me get my apartment straightened out and drag stuff off to the thrift store at one of the churches here.  That has been SUCH incredible help.  She will also go to the grocery store if I need something picked up, and we’ve made a sort of contingency plan if I can’t do much at the store  at all, where I ride the scooter and she pushes a cart.  My guess is that we’d spend a fair amount of time laughing with that arrangement, but it’s so nice to know she’s around.   Another junior/senior high school friend has also moved back to this area recently, and has also offered to help out – so I really do feel blessed to have two people (and my dad) who I trust, that are willing to help me out.   There are days when I feel like that’s the only way I’m going to be able to live outside of some type of facility- and having no longterm care insurance, I would have to go to some state run ‘pit’.

Last week, I went to the store for my monthly fresh food/dairy stuff.  I had my ice vest on, and when I got home, I was still in trouble.  I had to drag out my ‘arsenal’ of thigh squeezes, leaning over the counter, etc. to keep from passing out.  I am so thankful for days when nothing is so bad as to need some sort of quick ‘first aid’ maneuvers to stay conscious.  Or headaches that are bad enough to land me in bed.  Or muscle pain that causes me to be essentially immobile.   I’m getting more and more thankful for days that other people would consider to be very boring- but keep me from having to contact one of my doctors.

The first week and a half of January is rough every year because of two very painful anniversaries… the January 7, 1978 murders of my figure skating coach’s six children (by her husband)- and wondering how she has been all of these years. I miss her, even now.   And, the January 10, 1987  six-hour rape I went through by the uncle of a baby I took care of up to six days a week for about 6 months (back when 6 months of my life was a much bigger portion of my overall existence).

I’m not sure anybody ever ‘gets over’ things like either of those.  While I wasn’t physically hurt by the murders, it was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever been through, and at age 14, I was miserably unprepared for how to ‘get through’ something so horrific. I knew the older girl a bit from the rink- which made it all hit so much closer to home.  She was a year younger than I was… and it was all so impossible to understand.  I was 23 at the time of the rape- and while I managed to keep myself alive, it was also something beyond my level of coping skills emotionally.  There isn’t a year that has gone by, or even a day or week since either of those events that I haven’t thought about the overall impact they have had in my life- and wondering how my skating coach has been.  Every few years, I have to deal with parole protest letters for the guy who raped me.  I’ve written other blogs about both of those.

So, I’ve had plenty to write about.  But sometimes, it’s just too much to try and put thought to writing.  Many things are rattling around in my thick skull… and writing about them does help me.  I feel ‘heard’ – even if the majority of things I write about won’t be seen by people I know- it still helps that ‘someone’ out there will have seen what I have to say.   Thank you for stopping by to ‘hear’ me.

*Ann, if you are out there… please comment.  I see a lot of people who look up information about that day.  If you are one of them – or know how she is… please let me know 🙂

 

 

Mandy Meltdowns

My sweet miniature schnauzer Mandy died seven weeks ago yesterday, on December 27th, 2012.  She was my sole companion for all of the years on disability, and absolute joy for the 11.75 years I had her with me.  Most of my human friends are in Texas, and I’ve been pretty much isolated since going on disability in April 2004. But Mandy was always here. We were with each other pretty much 24/7.  The bond was different than with other dogs I’ve had (though I loved them intensely, as well).  She knew my patterns and understood what I told her with an almost creepy accuracy.  My dad commented about that often.  He could tell her to do something, and she stared at him… if I said something, she knew what I wanted her to do and did it.  I miss her little quirks SO much.

The last few days have been really hard for some reason.  I’ve been sobbing when I think about how she just went limp on my lap after a few minutes of altered breathing and periodic looks of confusion. She knew that something wasn’t right. She stopped in her tracks after peeing on her pee pads (this was after she whimpered and had some type of ‘spell’ that was similar to other episodes during her nine months with congestive heart failure).  She actually had the ‘presence of mind’ to go to her pee pads after an episode that was to end her life in the next 15 minutes.  That ‘look’ made me feel that she was confused about what was happening, and so I picked up that sweet dog, and got her situated on her comforter, with a pee pad underneath, and got her onto my lap as I leaned back in my recliner. She had some ‘leakage’ issues when she’d have those spells. I knew that if she was dying, she’d have no control- even though she’d had that brief moment of clarity to run to her pee pads.   She knew something wasn’t right, but she also knew that I was holding her, and wasn’t leaving her to be confused on her own.

That last ‘episode’ was different from others. She’d whimpered and cried when she fainted before, and while that sound was horrific to listen to, she’d snap out of it and become alert fairly quickly. This was different. She woke up, but never seemed to become ‘clear’.  So, I knew that this was going to be the end- whether she died naturally in my arms, or if it went into some prolonged situation that could only be dealt with humanely at the vet’s office. Regardless, I knew I was watching my dog’s final moments.  This was my sole companion.  She was with me every single day during some really lousy stuff, and there was no judgement (about the disability issues) and only love and companionship (during the chemo for leukemia).  My best friend was dying in my arms.

When she had that ‘agonal’ breathing (deep, but very slow, and associated with the dying process), I saw the color of her tongue change.  It became pale.  She was no longer looking at me, but I talked to her and thanked her for being the amazing friend that she had been.  I told her how much I loved her.  But I also told her that it was OK to go.  She’d been through enough.  That’s what I used to do with human patients when I was working as a nurse, and while I’m sure Mandy didn’t understand those words, I had to say them.  I had to let her go.

The previous two weeks had been long and hard, and indicative that things were changing, but she’d been alert, and interested in what was going on.  Even that last morning, she was very eager to get Swedish meatballs for breakfast (she’d become very picky during that last 2 weeks).  But at the very end, I knew I had to say goodbye…to the single being that was with me every single day for nearly 12 years, and the only being that was with me after I ended  up home all day every day on disability.  I have regular phone contact with my dad, but my dog was always by my side.  All other contacts with humans at that point were either medical appointments, pharmacy and grocery clerks once a month, the vet, visits with my dad every couple of weeks or so,   and  package delivery people.  There was also the brief contact with family on Christmas Eve.  That was literally my only contact with people in person…. but Mandy was always there.

When she went limp on my lap, I knew she was gone.  No more struggling. No need to take her to the vet, wondering if she knew what was happening.  And feeling like I was ‘killing’ her (even though I believe in euthanasia for the sake of the dog).  No more of the agonal (or difficult) breathing. No more wondering when enough was enough. No more of the up and down roller coaster of watching her have hard periods of time when she seemed to be going downhill very quickly, but then have her bounce back, and being alert and curious the whole time.

She went naturally. She died in my arms. She knew I was with her.  She didn’t have to endure the stress of a car ride to the vet (it had become difficult for her because the excitement of being in the car made her breathing more labored).  And she would get SO cold, from the marked weight loss of that final few weeks.

 I wanted more time with her.  It was 2:45p.m. when she took her last breath, and the crematory closed at 4:00… I’d called them around 3:00 p.m., and they were waiting. Dad was on his way to drive me over there.  But I just wanted to hold her for a while longer.  She was my only friend that I had contact with other than online.  She was my life.  And she was gone… I just wanted a few more minutes.  Handing her over to the pet crematory staff (who were VERY compassionate and handled her very gently) was horrendous.  Shifting her from my arms to his was agonizing.  She was obviously lifeless, and yet it felt like I was giving part of my life away to death.

I can’t get these last minutes out of my head. I do still remember her quirky, funny times, but losing her hurts like salt in an open wound, in my heart. I knew the end result of canine heart failure, and I knew those last two weeks were winding down to the end… but it also felt like part of me went with her.  Having such little contact with other people (because of the disability and physical limitations) made my relationship with Mandy so different.  And she was special (as I know all pet owners feel about their babies 😉 ). Her understanding of what I told her was eerie and made her like having ‘someone’ here.  Before becoming disabled, my other dogs were amazing parts of my life- and I loved them deeply…yet I had contact with people at school and/or work during their lives.  Maybe I became too dependent on Mandy.  I don’t know.  I just know that this time was different.

I’m going to get another schnauzer; I’ve got a breeder in mind, and am awaiting news that their mama schnauzer is pregnant.  It’s really hard to wait, but I really like the breeder and photo of one of their past puppies.  In the meantime, I’m getting things ready for having a puppy again.  And, I go through ‘Mandy Meltdowns’ – more so the last few days.  Each day, something reminds me of what is missing.  Then I replay those last minutes, then weeks, in my head- and dissolve into tears.  I’ve lost two other schnauzers over the period of time from when I was a kid, through my late 30s… and this is different.  Yes, I missed those dogs a lot, but things got better over time; I’ve never forgotten them or their individual personalities (one was nuts, the other smart and social 🙂 ).  It seems like I’m stuck, even though I’m looking forward to the new puppy.

I just miss my sweet buddy.  She made my life so much better.

Mandy at 11 years old, 2012

Mandy at 11 years old, 2012

Mandy at 8 weeks old- summer 2001

Mandy at 8 weeks old- summer 2001

Mandy's final resting place. She is with her 'big sisters' and will be buried with me one day.  I still can't get rid of her pillow bed.

Mandy’s final resting place. She is with her ‘big sisters’ and will be buried with me one day.
I still can’t get rid of her pillow bed.