Thursday, December 30, 2010

For the love of Molly

"A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty." ~ John Grogan

December 27th 4:15pm:

I just saw one of the most heartwarming reunions ever. I am sitting in the MSPCA Angell Animal Hospital waiting room. A beautiful Newfoundland was being discharged from the hospital. I got the feeling that he has been here for a while. His family was waiting in the reception area. The double doors opened and the big Newfie (as they are nicknamed) came barreling through the doors and literally into his family’s arms. You could hear then cry with delight as he bounded toward them; there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who witnessed this reunion that they were his and he was theirs.

I am sitting in the waiting area next to them as a anxiously wait for a neurologist to exam my dog and then come talk to me. We already saw a regular doctor and I am exhausted. My dear Molly has had one hell of a time the past several days and to be honest, so have I; thought I had it all pulled together until I saw the Newfie and his family back together and now, I am a mess.

Anyone who has spent even five minutes with me knows how crazy in love I am with my basset hound mix Molly. We have been to hell and back together and I was just commenting to people recently how well she has been lately. She has had quite a year with multiple health issues including surgery for an ear hematoma, a laceration repair, and some hind leg problems. I should have known that this calm in our lives, both with her health and my own, would not last very long.

It has been a nightmarish past five days getting the run around from other incompetent vets and watching her suffer a lot of the time with piercing cries due to the agony she was in. They think she may have intervertebral disk disease based on her symptoms. I am so angry. I kept telling these other vets (including an ER one) that something wasn’t right. I didn’t know what was wrong but I knew something was. She has too high a pain tolerance to be this vocal…she must be hurting so bad. I can’t stand to see her suffer. I know to some people she is just a dog. But imagine having a connection to a living being, any living being, and having to watch their agony; but yet not be able to get them the help they need. It is heartbreaking.

December 27th 8:45am:

I am home. Molly was admitted to the hospital last night. I am devastated. She was seen by the neurologist and he said that they will do an MRI in the morning, but they are certain she has a herniated disk in her spine and it has caused nerve damage. They think she will walk again and have adequate pain control, but she has most likely lost bladder and bowel control for the rest of her life. She is about 9 ½ yrs. old. They did not present this to me as an option verbally, but I have to decide now if I should put her through a painful surgery with a long recovery and possible complications. The option is that I don’t and she is put down because I cannot take her home like this and let her suffer. Am I physically and emotionally able to care for a dog who needs to have her bladder expressed 4 times a day, not to mention managing the fecal incontinence? They say you cannot put a price on a pet but the reality is, I am looking at about $6000 this week in bills and I am on disability. That does not include what it will cost me to manage the incontinence issues as well as the vet bills to deal with bladder complications, medications, etc. They found she has a heart murmur as well which is caused by something called mitral valve prolapse. It has not caused any heart damage and does not require any medications right now but the reality is, I am sure it will be an issue at some point. I can’t even believe I am thinking of putting her down. What is the best thing for Molly? How do I make a decision like this? I feel like I am playing God. I feel like I am being selfish.

December 30th 1:50pm:

Molly is laying quietly in front of me on the rug. She had the surgery. There was more disk material to remove from her spinal cord than they anticipated. She must have been suffering so much. To the amazement of the vet staff and myself, she is not only walking already, but is going to the bathroom on her own as well. To me, it feels like a miracle. They say she is not out of the woods yet and her post surgery recovery will be long but we should know more for sure as the weeks progress. She is amazing.

There was something very powerful emotionally about going into Boston to pick up the dog you thought you might never take home again. It changes things. It made me stronger because now I know when the time does come for Molly to leave me, I will be able to make the right decision for her.

So how did I finally make the decision to do the surgery? I guess it came down to asking myself the important questions. Is she likely to have a good quality of life afterwards? What constitutes a good quality of life for her in particular? Will I be able to take care of her? If I run into a crisis with my own health issues, will I have support? Once I pay the vet bills, can I still pay my own basic bills/medical costs? Because of the positive outcome she has had so far, it is easy to sit back and say I made the right decision but really, there was no right or wrong decision. At the time, it was a no-win situation that I could not predict the outcome of. So I had talked more with the vet, researched her condition (for hours and hours!), and prayed. And in the end, I made the decision I thought was best for the love of Molly…

Friday, December 17, 2010

To My Friend

You know it is never good news when your phone rings twice at 8am in the morning. As I heard Todd’s voice, I knew something bad had happened, but I never would have thought that the news was that you had left us so suddenly. How can that be? I never got to say good bye…I never got to thank you.

I am so sad. Yes, I am sad for my own loss but even more so, I am so sad for Harry, Aaron, and Chris. I am sad for your Twisted Sisters Jen and Mary. I am sad for all the clients you touched through your work as a caregiver. I am sad for our congregation. I am sad that we will not get to sing together at the Cantata this Sunday. You were always giving so much to other people. You are so loved my friend.

You were one of the first people from church to befriend me and welcome me into your home. You and Harry welcomed me into your family and I so enjoyed the cookouts, the dinners out, and watching football in your living room. I enjoyed our chats. Thank you for making me feel welcome.

Thank you for encouraging me to try and sing in the choir. Despite all the difficulties with my breathing and my voice, you encouraged me to sing the best I could, when I could. I will never forget the smile you gave me when you saw how overjoyed I was at choir rehearsal that Sunday night after singing with all of you. You told me that you understood how joyous I felt because that was what singing did for you. It was your legacy. The support and encouragement you gave me was your gift to me so thank you. Every time I sing in church, I will be singing for you as well.

These are all the words I have right now my friend. We will gather together to pray for and support your family. We will gather together to sing in your name. We will gather together to share memories, grieve our loss, and celebrate your life. And until we meet again…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

Well, I tried the blog thing again. I spent well over an hour trying to write some heartfelt piece about Christmas Eve when I was growing up. Then I hit delete because it seemed to lack depth and humor. So instead I am going back to my “list” format since it is easier (I deserve easy once in a while) and well, more fulfilling.

Today, my thoughts have been focused on Christmas but since I have mostly everything done I need to do (except for baking), I have time to write about it instead of getting ready for it. I cannot apologize for this. It is one of the few benefits to being out of the workforce.

• One of the best Christmas gifts I got as a child was an Atari game system. Everyone else had one (including our cousins) and Dennis (my brother) and I wanted one more than anything. Santa brought us one and now looking back, times were tough for Santa so I am not sure how he pulled that one off…maybe it is better not to know how he did….

• I admire the fact that there were years my mother had to work nights on Christmas but yet she and my dad managed to get all of Santa’s presents out before going to work and then stayed up to watch us open them in the morning.

• Christmas has the potential to bring out the worst as well as the best in people. There is nothing like bringing a whole bunch of family dysfunction into one room to really get the party going….

• I hate sending out Christmas cards…it is such a chore because unless I am going to take the time to write a long letter in it and make it more personal, I don’t think anyone is really interested in them. For Easter, Catholics give up something they like during Lent. I have decided Protestants should give something up for Christmas so I am giving up sending Christmas cards this year.

• I love spending Christmas Day at my aunt’s house in Hadley. I cannot imagine having it any other way.

• Nativity scenes are underrated. I love them. We had an awesome one under our tree when we were growing up that my grandfather made. I have no idea where it went though.

• Best Christmas shows ever are The Year Without A Santa Claus and A Christmas Story…does life really get any better than that?

• To all parents out there: Never underestimate the effect you have on your children at Christmastime. My greatest memories of Christmas as a child came from the times spent decorating the tree as a family and the expression on my parent’s faces while they were watching our excitement Christmas morning; the best memories are not of the presents themselves (except for the Atari!)

• Not everyone has a good Christmas season. Many people never have a good one. This is the time of year to remember that and try to make it a little easier on someone else.

• I used to know someone (OK, I was married to him) who hated the holidays and Christmas in particular. I thought about him today and felt nothing but pity and compassion for him. He has never experienced the spirit or the magic of Christmas. That being said, there were MANY Christmases where I had lost my Christmas spirit and magic. I truly got it back last year and am forever grateful for that.

• One of the greatest surprises and joys I have had in the past few months is being involved in a relationship with someone who values and embodies the spirit of Christmas even more than I ever could have imagined.

• If you celebrate Christmas and don’t go to church regularly, try to go this Christmas. You can even try a different church or a different denomination. It is Christ’s birthday after all, not Santa’s. One of the highlights (if not THE highlight) of my weekend will be 11pm service on Christmas Eve. It is truly magical.

• My current biggest pet peeve about Christmas: On Boston Common, there is a decorative lit sign that says “Happy Holidays” and next to it is one that says “Happy Hanukkah”. In the middle of the signs is a CHRISTMAS tree (if anyone says holiday tree, they will get slapped). I mean seriously?? OK, I know this is one of perhaps the most “politically incorrect” views that I have but to hell with it. I respect everyone’s spiritual beliefs and welcome all acknowledgements/signs regarding Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc. but at the end of the day I am a Christian and believe I have the right to freely acknowledge the phrase Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays. So why can there not be a sign that says “Merry Christmas” on Boston Common? Hmmm...

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace." ~Agnes M. Pahro

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Bunch of Disorganized Thoughts

Sooo….I have spent at least two hours in the past two days trying to write a blog entry and I just cannot do it. This has happened before and it ticked me off then too, but I forgot how I got through it (I have problems remembering things and it kinda sucks). I think that maybe part of the problem is I just REALLY want to write so badly, but I am having too many thoughts at once. I try to develop an idea and it’s just a disaster. I decided that tonight, I am just going to write down all those thoughts and stop trying so friggin’ hard. I am not promising it will be worth reading. Chances are, it will not be. But, it works for me…for now at least! Who knows, maybe one of the ideas will someday turn into something worth reading…

• I have turned to Traditional Chinese Medicine to help deal with my autoimmune disorder. I know that will make a good writing piece, but I can’t write about it at the moment…not sure why. I promise, I will work on it because I know it is very important.

• I think that everyone deserves to be loved in a healthy way. Through my own experiences or through the experiences of people I know, there is way too much dysfunction in the world. I also know from recent personal experience how profoundly it can change your life when you are in healthy relationships…we all deserve that.

• I gave up soda about two weeks ago and it is really pathetic (and a strong statement in itself) how much I miss Coke.

• I love my dog. I really do. She has brought such an incredible amount of love and purpose to my life, especially since I have been out of work. I have been worried lately about what life will be like once she is gone. I’m not sure why I am thinking about this lately…

• For once in my life, I feel like I am part of a community thanks to my church and people I have met in my town. I love living here. I never thought I would say that when I moved out here ten years ago. It’s been a gradual thing, but unless I am living on a beach, I have no desire to live anywhere else in New England.

• I am working so hard at getting my health better, it’s exhausting sometimes (OK, many times) but they say anything worth having is hard work…or something like that…I forget.

• I had one of the best days of my entire life this past Saturday.

• Letting go and being yourself can be scary.

• I am 39 years old and actually know what it feels like to truly be in love for the first time in my life. I thought I did before; I was wrong. Love is about feeling content with who you are as a person first but then having the other person bring out the best in you. I am less judgmental, less bitchy, more patient, and more content than I ever thought possible. Love is then seeing the positive impact you have on another person. It is about respect, laughter, compassion, caring, sharing, listening, understanding, friendship, and trust. Love is about being independent and yet never feeling alone or lonely. Love is about building up and not tearing down. Love is about feeling like you have found "home”. Enough said.

• Someday I have to blog about the dog park that I take Molly to because really, it is a soap opera in itself. It keeps me amused though and in all honesty, going there has oftentimes made my out of work situation a lot more tolerable.

• One of the greatest life lessons I have learned is to accept people for who they really are. Period. If who they are does not work for you or is having too much of a negative impact on your life, health, and/or wellbeing, I have one thing to say about that: don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Otherwise, embrace them for who they are and not who you WANT them to be. Critical difference….

• Down comforters and laptops rule.

THE END (I know, you are thinking: Thank God!)