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

A Summary Of High School

I’ve been thinking about this on and off, and I’m sure there’s more rattling around in my thick skull than I can fit in one ‘basic’ length blog, so I’ll start with the basics !  I went to a school that was, at the time, a school where over %70 of the kids went on to college. (Now it’s a pit, from what I’ve heard). There were many opportunities for advanced placement classes, and because of the number of kids in school, a very long 10-period day to ensure all kids had the chance to get the minimum 5 classes in each day- at least during my first two years- then I think it dropped to 8 periods in a day and I was expected to keep busy in all of them to get ahead. My dad was the principal of that high school. That wasn’t so bad on some levels (ride to school each day, didn’t have to carry my books home on foot, there if I needed lunch money), but on the other hand, I never knew who actually wanted to be my friend, or just wanted to get some message to my dad. I’ve got yearbook signings that tell me to “tell your dad….”.  That was never received well. My suggestion to those folks was to go talk to him themselves.

My freshmen year, a couple of things stand out.  I started that year when I was 13 years old. I was always younger, as my birthday is in November. I was used to that. The second thing that happened that year was the murder of my figure skating coaches’ six children by her husband on January 7, 1978 (Google: Simon Peter Nelson).  I had no way of knowing how to cope, and the overall message of that whole thing was if parents get mad at each other, kids can die.  I’ve never stopped wondering how my coach managed to carry on with life. I saw her a few times after that when she returned to the rink; then she sort of disappeared months later. Word had it that she’d changed her name and moved away.  I could understand her needing to leave, but I was a young teenager, and really felt connected to this coach. She’d call me when I was babysitting one of my ‘regular’ kids to see if I was ok. On the ice, she’d joke around and show me adult attention that my mom wasn’t capable of doing. She was a role model. I missed her deeply. I had absolutely no life skills to help me cope with all of that, and didn’t know where to go for help.

Another part of my freshmen year involved the residual effects of a couple of bad concussions I’d gotten in eighth grade. I’d fallen off of the uneven parallel bars early in the year, and in the spring, during rehearsal for a skating show, I landed hard on the ice…that one was bad. I’d landed directly on my head- no ‘butt’ hitting first, from what I was told. My folks were in Brazil, and I refused to give the people at the rink my grandparents’ phone number (grandma would have been hysterical worrying).  Anyway, I’d begun having some nasty headaches, and what have since been diagnosed as complex partial seizures. But at the time, the testing available didn’t show anything wrong, so I was told to quit complaining. So I just shut up, but still hurt, and I was still having times when I felt spacey.  I felt completely misunderstood. And alone.

My sophomore year was relatively mellow.  I did meet the first guy I dated for any length of time, and had a lot of fun when I was out with him. We spent time on the phone in the evenings, and most of our dates involved doing outdoor sports. He also taught me to drive his Audi Fox in his church parking lot.  We’re still in contact, thanks to reconnecting on FaceBook. My grades that year weren’t too bad.  I had started dabbling with over the counter cold medications to numb the pain from the murders, and my chronic headaches.  If I looked spacey, chances are I was taking very legal, unsuspected drugs. I had also been told  I no longer liked skating…really?  I LOVED skating- but that was the way I was told that lessons were over.  I later found out that my coach and another person at the rink had approached my mom about intensifying training to get into the national competition circuit.  I would have moved into the rink if someone would have allowed it.  Another loss.

Junior year was a train wreck.  I was taking over the counter medications fairly regularly. Babysitting money bought them, and since they were legal, nobody thought to ask about them. Plus, I was known as a ‘good’ kid.  I was still not doing well in dealing with the murders, and then my grandmother died in October. She’d been sick for about nine months, and happened to die when my folks were in Florida looking for a winter condo. My other grandparents were staying with me when I got the call at school  to call my uncle at my grandfather’s house before I left school. That was kind of weird, but I complied, and was given the news over the phone in my dad’s office. The assistant principal (and a friend of dad’s) saw me, and drove me home.  I got on my bike and took off for a while. I just wanted to be away from pretty much everyone. This was the grandma that I’d stayed with for 1-2 weekend nights each month since I was a baby, and most Christmas and Easter vacations when my folks travelled during elementary and junior high school years.  My grades weren’t good after that, and since dad got my report cards before I did, there was no minimizing the damage. I was miserable.

That year, I’d started with 8 full periods of classes because of drivers’ ed (no lunch break- my mom always thought that missing meals wouldn’t kill me).  One of the English teachers who had hall patrol on the hall where my locker was knew I didn’t look good, and did a depression screening. I flunked. She went to my guidance counsellor, who went to dad.   I was allowed to drop physics, since I had to get my drivers’ license, and had my science requirements done.  I got in trouble for complaining to the teacher… I hadn’t approached her. She had approached me.  I knew to keep my mouth shut about how I felt about anything. That had been made very clear.  I didn’t have anything dreadful to say, but  I was told that because of dad’s job, things could be taken out of context, and that could be bad. So, I shut up as best I could. The depression didn’t really go away, but at least having a lunch break helped with the exhaustion, which did help overall.  Since I had to drop physics in order to be able to function that year, the plan to graduate a year early was screwed up. I’d taken US History (gag) during summer school to get it out of the way- now it was just a wasted summer.

Senior ‘year’ was just more time to be served before getting released early for good behavior.  I finally got out of there at the end of that first semester.  A week later, I was sitting in classes at the community college.  They were basically time-killing classes- philosophy and more of the hated US History. I was headed to the University of Illinois in the fall; the credits would transfer.   I also worked part time at a dollhouse and gift store- that was fun.  I’d given up the over the counter medications. They hadn’t done anything for me, and I was too chicken to try the ‘real’ stuff. I was doing better, but not enjoying much.

During the time in high school, I’d been involved in various clubs- creative writing, American Field Services (foreign exchange student sponsors), track for a brief time until I was asked to run during a meet- I was afraid I’d fail, so quit, and I think that’s it.  I was involved in any foreign language trips that were offered (usually to the Milwaukee -Wisconsin- annual ethnic festival…those were fun)…otherwise, my time was spent babysitting, and going to church activities and choir practices.  I did have a few friends from school with whom I did some things outside of school, but most of my ‘social’ friends were from church.

I did NOT want to go to the graduation ceremony, but wasn’t given a choice. I hadn’t been in class for 4 1/2 months, and life had moved on, but I had to go. My dad handed me my diploma, which was sweet, and there were a lot of cheers and clapping during that moment (now, I appreciate that much more than I did then). At the time, I was just glad it was over.  I think that the murders and my grandma’s death probably had a whole lot to do with why I was so NOT amused by high school.  Nobody really gave me a bad time about being the principal’s kid (aside from the message requests, and those were from people who wrote them in my  yearbook, not talking to me face-to-face). The teachers were OK- nobody treated me any differently, which would have been a nightmare.  I’m still in contact with my Algebra and Geometry teacher.  We’ve stayed in contact over the years.

I hear about how high school is supposed to be the best years of someone’s life.  I hated it.  I’m liking each ‘new’ decade much more than the last one. I’m so glad there isn’t some high school equivalent later in life. I’d drop out.  I’m not a social person. I hate the fake interactions.  I much preferred working my butt off as an RN for the 20 years I was able to work.  Doing something for someone who is going through a rotten time is much more fulfilling than anything in high school was. At least in my experience. I’m glad there are folks out there who enjoyed their high school years.  God blessed you 🙂