Learning To Love Lexi

Lexi – photo by author

After our family dog, Callie, died from cancer of the spleen from one moment to the next, I was heartbroken. We all were. This happened shortly after her           tenth birthday party, a tradition in our home, mocked by the boys but revered by the girls. This year, being her BIG birthday, even the boys made an appearance and I was so happy. I even bought the number 10 candles and put them in her special mushy dog food that we gave her once a year as a treat. Little did we know it would be her last birthday and that she would die shortly thereafter. My son took me aside after she died and said quietly “Really glad you had that birthday party, Mom, it was a good party.” Of course, I burst into tears but was grateful.

Of the four of us and our neighbors, I was the most emotional; I’m always the most emotional. I couldn’t walk around our small, cozy house without crying. It was too quiet in the house, no one followed me or greeted me at the door, no one loved me like Callie did and I missed her desperately. I grieved intensely  for a while and then decided I was the type of person who needed a dog. Against the lectures of my family, I started visiting animal shelters on my own, with my husband and with my friend, Sarah.

After months of visiting, holding, petting, I hadn’t found the right dog for us. I had been told to adopt an older animal (and next time I really will) but at this point I didn’t want to miss a minute of a puppy’s young life. I looked at older dogs but not seriously. I was happy just being near dogs and puppies until one day, my thirtieth trip to an animal shelter but the second trip to the North Shore Animal League, my friend Sarah and I walked in and my eyes met the sleepy eyes of a rust colored puppy, curled up in a circle, sleeping. I had just met MY dog. We fell in love. I asked to see her, this “German Shepard Mix” and soon I was led to an inside room and she was in my lap, all kisses and hugs and sleepy sweetness. When another woman asked me if I was taking that dog, I immediately said “Yes, this was MY dog” and so she became mine. My friend Sarah and I filled out the papers, (I tell the dog that she has two mommies) and I called my husband and said “Honey, it’s a girl!”

I named her Lexi (were both names from my favorite show Grey’s Anatomy?) and I sat in the back seat, Lexi sleeping in my lap, while Sarah drove us home ever so carefully to avoid the huge pot holes in the road. I did not substitute Lexi for Callie, it was a different love, a new love, a love I had to grow into and an important lesson to learn. There are no two loves alike in this world. You can love equally but not exactly alike. This applies to every type of love there is, it’s a huge life lesson.

I admit, I had forgotten what having a puppy was like, after all, I was ten years older now and that makes a big difference. I think my puppy years are behind me and while I know I will always be a “dog person” I can see adopting an older dog in the future. But, what was most different were their personalities, Callie was a lap dog, a fearful dog, terrified of being in cars, scared of people, perhaps abused before she came to us. She liked nothing better than to stay at home in her comfort zone, yet she was perfectly attuned to my feelings. Lexi, wild thing, crazy dog, likes nothing better than to hop in the back seat and go for a ride, has the strength of a bull, loves to play, jump and go places and hasn’t shown a lot of tenderness (yet.) She’s fun and playful and but when I fell on the ground once, she didn’t leave me, I even saw concern in her eyes and gratitude in mine. Once she’s through her puppy phase I’m hoping she will settle down and be a really great dog. Actually, I’m counting on it.

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Plinky: Are You A CAT, DOG or Other Person?

  • Cat Lady? Not This Chick!
  • Meet Lexi
  • WOOF!!!
    I am totally, completely, officially and enthusiastically a DOG person. I had a cat when I was growing up and I did love her however I became very allergic to cats. Besides, cats are too aloof and independent for me. I got my first dog (from an animal shelter) ten years ago and I loved her with all my heart. She was everything you could want in a dog and more: affectionate, beautiful, sweet, gave unconditional love, a lap dog and truly my best friend. She was a dog with a soul. She sensed my emotions and when my dad passed away she would always be near me, licking up my tears.
    When Callie, died abruptly from cancer of the spleen exactly ten years later I was heartbroken. I never thought I would get over it, she was the best, most beautiful dog ever, her black and white tail was like a long paint brush always sweeping from left to right.
    I didn’t like my life without a dog so I started going to animal shelters a couple of months after she died. Against my husband’s better judgment to get an older dog, I fell in love with a tiny, brown short-haired puppy. As soon as I saw her I knew I had to adopt her. I named her Lexi. She is barely 6 months old now and she is a completely different dog but I love her so much. Lexi is playful and more daring and while she is not as affectionate as my first dog was, when she wags her little upright tale, and stands at the window when I leave, I know she loves me too.

Simple. Sweet. Joy.

Happy Day

It’s been a long time since I’ve had good news so when I got some today, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. It took a moment to process, I think I was in shock. It took thirty seconds to register, settle in and then feeling came back to my body. Dusty old joy  spread through my body in seconds, like warm, milk chocolate melting in your mouth.   I had been subconsciously waiting for another bad thing to happen since I had known nothing else in a very long time. I had prepared myself for more bad news; after all when you have had month after month of bad news every single time without a break, that is what you expect.

Today, there was a new ripple in the water, the new crescent of wave turning over in my mind. The ocean, my image, of all that is good and strong, minus the sharks that are taking bites out of innocent swimmers. Yesterday, just yesterday I was at the veterinarian’s office with my dog, Callie. I found a lump and told the vet that I was not going to leave until he found it, because I couldn’t find it again. My dog was also itching and scratching everywhere like crazy. The veterinarian finally found it and I was with my dog as the doctor pulled out the incredibly long syringe and plunged it into the back of my dog. “If it were any other place, I wouldn’t even biopsy it but since it’s right on the lymph node I want to be safe…..” I nodded weakly. I admit, first I turned around so I wouldn’t have to look at the long needle but then I swung back sharply and held my dog’s paws and looked into her scared eyes. I wanted to be there for her so I kissed her on the neck and held her still.

The doctor told me to call Wednesday or Thursday, Thursday to play it safe but today, a mere one day after the procedure there was a message from the receptionist that said my dog did NOT have cancer. I played the message and then I called the office, just to be sure, really sure. I thanked them about thirty times and I was so grateful that they had called. I hung up and I was silent. Then, I whooped for joy, hugged my sleeping dog and cried. I cried with happiness, a feeling that has been lost to me for such a long time. I understand that I will know sadness again, of course I will, but today I felt happiness, sweet happiness, in the purest form. Thank you. I appreciate it more now, but you probably know that already.

Dog Lovers Unite!

an old man

Image by adm via Flickr

My sweet dog, Callie, is lying at the foot of the bed sleeping peacefully. She is nine years old yet she acts like a puppy, an older puppy. The other day when I took her for a walk a neighbor said “wow, he’s really gotten old, huh?” I am not a violent person but at that moment I wanted to club him. I was personally offended and wish I had responded with something like “well you look ancient too” but I was too shocked to answer. I told my daughter the story, she considers our dog “her baby” and she immediately hated the man for the same reason. Would I tell this person that he has aged considerably or that his son is a weed-smoking, drunken, troubled and nasty teenager?” Of course I wouldn’t(not that it isn’t tempting now.)

Of course, I know, my dog’s fur has changed from black to gray and white near her chin and adorable cheeks and she can’t jump as high in the snow as she used to jump. It’s called life, getting older, soon old man, you will not be able to walk as easily as you do now. Ever think of that? Perhaps you will need a little help in the future with a cane or a walker, I wouldn’t point that out to you, how dare you point that out to my dog? That’s just plain bad manners.

Older dogs are special, they bring their own kind of wisdom and charm. But, in the back of my mind I do worry about the future. When I found out that I was pregnant with my second child I really worried as all first moms do, if I would be able to love my second child as much as my first-born? ‘The answer: ABSOLUTELY. I recently asked a friend, a fellow dog lover (and ballerina) if the same thing happens when your first dog, um….you know..gets older or sick and…dies can you love another dog the same way? “Oh yes” she said enthusiastically, “of course you do.”

My dog sighs happily beside me, my arm is around her soft fur, whispering to her softly. I love this dog so much that while her whiskers may be white, she will always be the 6 week old puppy that climbed into my lap, and never left. I will have that memory forever, and I will always love you, no matter what.

Birthday Sunshine

 

Red rose

Image via Wikipedia

 

Today is my 54th birthday and while I have never been ashamed of my age it’s still new to my lips and tongue. It also means I have to change the Hibernationnow home page because there it says I’m 53.  I had no expectations for today, even though I dearly love birthdays. This year, however,  with so much on my mind, with so many questions left unanswered, so much uncertainty: unemployment, health issues, etc. I woke up not with excitement but with a small, soft smile.  I slept until 9:20 am, went downstairs for a giant birthday bear hug from my husband and an extra-strong cup of coffee.

I got morning birthday calls from my mother and my sister which is a family tradition but I still thought of the annual red rose that my father used to give me every year on my birthday when he was alive.  For once, I did not need a “sign” or a “message” from him because even though he died 8 years ago, I knew that I was still in his heart and he in mine. Maybe being a year older brought me some much needed wisdom.

I went out to lunch with my friend Sarah at our favorite diner and we laughed and shared stories and commiserated about colleges for our seniors. Before we left she handed me my gift, a gift that I would have picked out for myself (and almost did). A beautiful silver star fish on a chain that made me gasp with happiness and surprise. It was a piece of the beach and the ocean that I dearly love, now wrapped around my neck.

I took my dog, Callie, for a birthday walk, just my sweet canine girl and me. We walked under the gorgeous sunshine,  the red and yellow leaves blazing on the trees. The air was warm and smelled like pumpkins and I relished the 75 degree weather birthday treat. When my kids and husband came home there were hugs and kisses, gifts and happy voices, mine being the happiest of all. I opened presents from my son, my daughter and my husband and cards and well wishes from so many friends. I felt truly blessed; I am truly blessed.

The day ended with a surprise delivery of flowers from an old, lost friend, and dinner consisting of  filet mignon, a chopped salad and pumpkin spice cake with ginger mousse for dessert. Even though I am 54 I  was happy and excited that the waitress brought it over singing “Happy Birthday” with a candle  to blow out and a wish to keep in my heart.