Friday, November 5, 2010

Bittersweet memories

I did either a really stupid thing or a good thing yesterday. I took my grandson to the local animal shelter, and met a new dog. I went with the intention of meeting a little terrier, but wound up taking home a little red dog, with a plumed tail, and expressive ears. She's tiny, only 12 pounds, and althougb she knows several commands such as "sit" and 'stay", she isn't housebroken. Today she was outside on the patio for over six hours, and as soon as I came home, she came inside, peed in the kitchen, then went upstairs and pooped in the bedroom, and peed on the stairs. I don't know if I have the energy and time to housebreak a dog. I'm not sure I have the energy and spirit to bond and love another dog.

I thought I was getting used to not having Buster around. Except he was. When I came into the house at night, I could feel his spirit coming to meet me, tail wagging. I could imagine his nose under the garage door, sniffing to see who was there. I imagine him lsying on the rug, stretched out sleeping, with his big eyes closed. I wish there was some way to transfer my mental images into video or even still pictures so I would never forget the look on his face as he walked away with the vet tech and how he let me hold him as he died. I never want to forget wrapping him up in his blanket, or how his fur felt between my fingers.

There are fourteen years of memories to catalog. The way he used to tear around my bed on his little baby legs, and fall asleep almost instantly. The night when he was 14 months, and got hit by a car, and we were terrified he would die, and how hard it was to get him to the vet, because he was in such pain. The ugly scar down his leg, and how, ever after, his right leg toed in just a bit, and how he had that little bump under his skin where the head of the steel pin protruded from his shoulder.

He loved living in Las Vegas. He loved going over to the school a couple of blocks away, and when I let him off the leash, he would run and run. But he would come back when I called, no matter how far away he was. We walked all over our neighborhood, in summer heat and winter cold. He never seemed to mind any of it.

I hugged him and sobbed the night my dad died. The day I came home from work so sick I literally passed out for 10 hours, he climbed up on the bed and lay across my body, keeping me warm and protecting me. I remember when Sarah would visit, and how she laughed at how he would back up to a bush, and poop, so that the poop fell into the bushes. And the time we let him eat our leftover mexican food, and how he pleaded with Sarah to get up and take him out, then promptly puked and pooped like there was no tomorrow.

Buster spent so much of his time alone in those early years. Moving in with Mom must have seemed like heaven to him, even though he had to learn to spend the day outside, instead of inside. He escaped over and over again, through the hedge, through carelessly opened gates, under the garage door. One weekend, Mom and I left him in the garage while we went to Reno. We secured the door with a six inch long, 1/2 thick bolt. He managed to jump up against the door until the bolt worked itself up in it's ring, and let the door open just enough to let a skinny but determined dog out. We came home late Sunday night, and realized immediately he was gone. Just as I started to get back in the car and look for him he came trotting up the sidewalk. We found out later from the mailman that he was out almost the entire time we were gone, because he would not let the mailman near the house for two days. Obviously he stayed around the house, probably sleeping on the porch or by the lemon tree.

He made Mom crazy with his peeing. She covered things with plastic, put potted plants on stools and crates to raise them up above his pee level. She protected the tires of her car with cardboard, and put boards up against the plants she couldn't move. She swore at him many times, and yet on the nights I had to work late she would take him a treat, to make up for me being late. She came down to Target one night when I was working because she had inadvertently let him out, and she has spent an hour looking for him before coming for me. I took off from work, and followed her home. By the time I was driving up the hill to our house, I could see him in my headlights. He was trotting up the shoulder of the road, heading for home, happy as a clam.

I'll never forget the sight of him, laying on the patio in the sun, eyes blinking closed as he enjoyed the sun and fresh air. Or the possums he killed, and was so proud of. The summer evenings Mom and I would sit on the step of the little trailer with a glass of wine, admiring the fresh mown lawn, and Buster would bring a ball to Mom and try to get her to throw it for him. Over and over, she would hand it to me, and I would throw it, and he would run across the lawn, skid to a stop under the apple tree or rose bushes, and bring it Mom. During the days when I was gone to work, Mom would let him off his chain while she was outside, and he would follow her around the yard, "guarding" her. He loved to go out to the very end of the sidewalk in the back, and lay there, sleeping in the sun.

I don't think he understood when Mom died. Or maybe he did, since she died at home. Maybe he could smell the death, or maybe he just realized she wasn't there anymore. But he let me cry and cry night after night, occasionally licking my face with a gentle tongue. When we had to move, he accepted the trailer, and the confinement, without complaint. We even got to the point where we enjoyed the walks along the perimeter, with the pine trees and grasses and the chance to run off leash in the dog run. How many times did I cuss him out as he dragged me up the stairs as he bounded up to the gate? How many times did I cuss at him for his incessant back and forth, back and forth from the bedroom to the living room and back, nails clicking on the linoleum, as you waited for me to take you for a walk. I'll never forget how I would come driving down the access road to the trailer, and his sweet face would pop between the slats of the patio door cover, as if he had some internal alarm (or really good hearing) that told him I was almost home.I'd just as soon forget the days that awful summer when I would come home and find a nasty, stinking mess in the living room, courtesy of his IBS. I never could get mad at him, but boy, the awfulness of cleaning and cleaning that carpet in the horrid hot tin box. I was so so happy when I bought the condo, and I could give him a place to live out his last years in comfort. How ironic that we only had 11 months, and the summer wasn't even very hot after all. But we made some wonderful memories in our little house. Walks in the morning past the school, up to the corner, then back down along the sidewalk where he would sniff and pee on every little bush. He loved that carpet of ivy in the yard of that house on the corner. Sometimes we would walk the other way, past office building. In the dark of a winter morning or late summer night, the street lights made the street glow orange, and reminded me vaguely of Las Vegas.

We discovered the hidden path that runs behind the second set of condos, but not until almost his last months. Our usual evening walk was up the sidewalks to the back gate, out and around to the school, along the fence line, peeing on every weed he found. He made friends with stray kids, set the neighborhood dogs to barking, and just enjoyed life.

It took him a while to figure out how not to slip at the foot of the stairs, when he would come bounding down the carpeted steps and hit the slick wood floor. I worried that with his age, he would hurt a hip, but he seemed to learn. Either that, or he was just quickly getting old and tired, and going up and down stairs quickly wasn't an option.

I laughed and I cried when I got my new bed. It was so high he had trouble getting up on it. Several times, he misjudged his leap, and wound up sliding back down to the floor. I considered getting him stairs or a bench, but he learned, and still slept on my bed until he was simply too sick and frail.

I used to cuss and swear at him, and to my eternal regret, smack him on the snout, for barking like a lunatic when I got home. How could I know that with months, he would stop barking altogether, one of the side effects of his cancer I presume. I would have given anything to hear his big deep bark one more time.

All this past summer, we battled his incessant licking and chewing. He had big raw spots on his forelegs, and licked the hair off his hind legs. I used ointments and sprays and bandages and tape, trying to get him to stop. Oddly enough, it was the licking that led me to discover his cancer. He had a patch of ugly, crusty skin at the base of his tail, so I bought some oatmeal shampoo and one evening gave him a bath on the patio. I sprayed him over and over with the hose, and he ran around the patio, shaking off the water. I finally got a couple of old towels and rubbed him dry and that's when I noticed the lump in his cheek. It was small, and hard. I thought it might be an abscessed tooth. I think that moment on the patio was the defining moment of the last few months. I think I knew then it wasn't a tooth, because he let me rub it without pain. My conscious mind didn't know it, but the rest of me did. Even through three trips to the doctor, I knew. When the doctor called to tell me it was cancer, I knew.

From the day I brought him home from the vet, life changed. I started doing research, and changed his diet, added fish oil to his food, stopped being impatient with his frequent stops to sniff and pee and wander. Our walks took longer, but I wanted him to have the best time he could. I spent a lot of time (but not nearly enough) down on the floor, hugging him and telling him how much I loved him and how glad I was to have shared my life with him. I brushed him gently. I bought some air dry clay and made an impression of his big paw. I started gathering pictures together, and searched and searched until I found the one photo of him with Joe, when he was just a little brown wolfish puppy.

The blanket he was buried in used to belong to my son Joe. Buster inherited it when Joe moved out, and I used to put it on the bed for him to sleep on. At Mom's house, it topped a pile of pillows and pads in the garage. In the trailer, it was on a corner of my bed. And in the new house, it covered the new pillow I bought him to sleep on downstairs, to cushion his old joints from the hard floor. He slept on it for about 9 months. For some reason, after he got sick he stopped sleeping on his pillow. I don't know if it was coincedental but I washed the blanket and the pillow cover around the same time he went to the doctor. I felt bad, because he took to sleeping on the rug in the living room and I tried to entice him back onto his pillow by moving it to different spots. But I only saw him sleep on it a couple more times, just before he died. He seemed to like the cool floor, and once, when I was busy working on the patio, he went into the garage and curled up on the cool cement floor.

On the morning he died, knowing he wouldn't be coming home, I cut a piece out of the blanket. I wanted to used it in a memory box. I'm glad I did. The box has pictures of Buster, his paw print, his collar, and a tuft of his fur. It hangs on my bedroom wall where I can see it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

The last week or so of Buster's life, I had taken his collar off, because he was losing weight, and it seemed too big and heavy for him, even though it was a lightweight collar, originally meant for a much smaller dog. It was kind of a sissy collar, black with white dog bones on it. When he was younger, I would put a harness on him for our walks, since he would literally choke himself pulling against the collar, and it was too easy for him to just stop and back up, and pull right out of the collar. But after we moved into the new house he seemed to slow down, and I gave up the harness, and just hooked his leash to his collar. But as I said, in the last week or so, it just seemed too heavy, so I took it off, and just put it on him when we went out for walks.

He stopped waking me up at 5am to go out, and often would still be asleep when I got up. Some days I could shower and get dressed before he woke up. Other days, he would wake up, and come lay in front of the shower door while I was in it, then lay by the bathroom while I got ready to go. He never refused a walk, and would wag his tail right up to the end, but I could tell it was taking more of a toll on him. But he was always eager to go. Even his last morning, when he was bleeding all over the place, he wagged his tail as I put on his collar and leash, and trotted out to the car, and let me lift him up into the back seat.

By the time we got to the vet, he was noticibly weak and disoriented. I think he was bleeding in his mouth, and was weak from blood loss. I think he knew what was happening, and was relieved. On the drive up, my son petted him, and Buster laid his big head on my son's arm, as if to say goodbye. I'm so glad my son was able to be there with me, because he loved that big dog, too.

There are so many memories I still haven't listed, but I'll save them for another time. I love you, sweet doggie. I know you're still here in my house, and in my heart forever.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


My sweet beautiful puppy died today. I say puppy, but he was actually over 14 years old. He was diagnosed with bone cancer back in September, and the vet said he might have as much as a year. Unfortunately, we weren't that lucky. I've known for a week or so that I was going to have to let him go, but it wasn't a decision I wanted to make. I procastinated, but finally called a local vet and set up an appointment. She was going to come to the house tomorrow. Last night, it was raining, and Buster and I took a long walk in the cool night air. We came home, I rubbed him dry with a couple of towels, and his coat was so soft and clean. He had a dinner of half a pound of raw hamburger, and we went upstairs to bed. He slept by my bed all night.

I woke up this morning, and he wasn't there. I got up to go downstairs, thinking he needed to go outside and go potty. When I got downstairs, there was blood all over the floor. Buster was bleeding from his mouth. I grabbed a paper towel and tried to wipe his mouth. I took time to put on a pot of coffee, and then went to get the mop. It was very quickly evident that this wasn't going to stop, and the end had come. After calling my son to alert him, I dressed, covered the back seat of the car with blankets, and put on Buster's collar and leash for the last time. He gave me no fuss getting into the car. After picking up my son, we drove to the nearest 24 hour emergency vet. Buster walked in, I handed him over to a tech, and he walked down the hall. As he walked away, he looked back over his shoulder at me, and I reassured him that I'd be right there. He turned and went willingly.

A few minutes later, my son and I were in the exam room when the tech brought him back, with a catheter in his leg. We spread his blanket on the floor, and I sat on it, and cradled him in my arms, with his head resting on my chest. He sat there quietly, no struggling or anxiety. The vet injected something in the catheter, and he almost immediately went limp. I held him for a minute or two, and then my son and I wrapped him in his blanket and carried him back out to the car.

We drove to my son's house and took Buster out of the car and laid him in the back of an old pickup truck. My son went to talk to his father in law about where to dig the grave, and I stood there patting the blanket bundle. I unwrapped his head, and stood there rubbing my fingers in the thick ruff around his neck. He was still warm, incredibly. I tucked his favorite stuffed squirrel between his front legs, then wrapped him back up.

My son and I walked up into the orchard and selected a spot for him. I went inside to visit with my grandkids and daughter in law while the two men dug the grave. The soil was wet and heavy with clay, but eventually the hole was deep enough, and my son laid Buster to rest, curled up as if asleep.

I adopted Buster when he was an 8 week old puppy. He had been born in a shed in a field, and had some kind of black, sticky substance coating his flanks and head. Bathing didn't remove it, so I spent his first night at home carefully cutting the tar from his hair with a pair of embroidery scissors. He never fussed or tried to get away.

As a puppy, he would play with my son, and run in circles chasing a towel or sock until he was so exhausted he would collapse into sleep in the wink of an eye. He loved to chase a red laser pointer, and never did figure out it wasn't alive.

Buster traveled with me when I moved to Las Vegas, and was my constant companion. The night my father died, I cried into Buster's fur for hours, and he licked my face over and over again, with a curiously human look of sympathy in his eyes.

When we moved into Mom's house after Dad was gone, I thought he'd be thrilled to have a huge yard to run around in. Instead, he took every chance he could to escape. The tall hedge that bordered the propery never deterred him. He could climb four feet of chicken wire, wiggle through four feet of hedge, drop three feet to the neighbor's yard, and be halfway down the street the minute my back was turned. Sometimes, he escaped when I was right there watching him, but too far away to get to him and catch him before he got out. Eventually, we were forced to put him on a 30 foot tie-out during the day.

At night he would come in the house, trot down the hall to my room, and hop up on the bed as if it were his, not mine.

We moved out of the house with the big yard after Mom died, and into a rental trailer with no yard. Tem months later, we moved again, into a house with a tiny yard and a big garage. We got to know every dog in the neighborhood on our morning and evening walks.

Over the years, he lost his hearing, and no longer barked at the mailman or fireworks. Cold weather made his legs ache, especially the right leg, with the steel pin, souvenir of a run-in with a car when he was 14 months old. He developed stomach problems, and I began to cook his food for him, instead of buying canned.

His last months were hard. He loved the new diet of fresh meat, pasta, pumpkin and eggs. But he was getting unsteady on his feet, and every once in a while when eating, he would yelp, and run out of the room. But he never complained. When he could no longer jump onto the bed to sleep with me, he started sleeping right beside the bed, so close I could reach down and rub his head if I wanted. On our walks, instead of pulling me down the sidewalk, he walked sedately beside me, stopping often to turn his head and locate me again since the tumor in his face had blinded him in one eye.

I'll never forget how calm he was at the end, and how trusting he was, letting me hold him and whisper "I love you, sweet dog" even as he died.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I want my Mommy

I really really need my Mom right now. Things just seem so...pointless? Hopeless? Buster is so listless, it breaks my heart. He isn't eating. The last thing he ate was my leftover eggs and sausage yesterday. And he hasn't pooped since at least Thursday. I think he's gonna leave me soon. I love that old dog, and my life will have one more big hole in it when he's gone. I wish if he has to go that he would just go to sleep and not wake up. I can't bear having to call the vet and make that final decision. How can I repay all his love and devotion for 14 years by killing him? Even if it is the best thing for him, to save him from a painful death? I love him so much.

It's just been a shitty day. The pumpkins in the park thing with Sarah and Scott was a bust. Hot, crowded, Sarah her usual overbearing self. Charlie was a champ, but I didn't get to hang with him like I hoped. He was too busy with Mom. As he should be. But on the way home, I was going to stop at the library in Morgan Hill, and after I got off the freeway, I went my usual route, which of course took me right past our old house. The family there now was having a garage sale. Mom would have been spinning in her grave if she had one. The lemon tree was neglected, the parkways full of weeds. The apple tree hasn't started dropping leaves yet, though. Naturally, I started to cry big sobs, missing Mom and Dad, and wishing I could just walk up and walk into the garage and onto the patio. I want my old life back!!! I want my Mommy!!!
My heart actually aches. I mean, physically aches. Will this pain ever end? Probably not til I end it. Too much loss, too much pain, too much for me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dear Mom and Dad

Hey, guys
It's one of those great fall evenings that really make me miss you. Football on TV, cold wind blowing the clouds across the sky, dinner of baked beans and cornbread. I wish somehow you could communicate with me, and tell me why my sister hates me so much. I wonder if anyone understands even one tenth of the pain I'm feeling because I wasn't invited to Matt's wedding, and I can't even get Cassondra to allow me to see the wedding pictures.

I'm not a bad person,am I, Mom? Dad? What horrible thing did I do to deserve this? In spite of Susan's pettiness, lies, and selfishness, I still love her, and miss having her to talk to. Why, Mom? Why? I wish I believed in prayer. I've asked God for help, but just like every other prayer, he's ignoring me.

Mom, please find a way to comfort me. I need to feel your love and concern. I miss you so much.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pepperoni Pizza

Pepporoni pizza is sort of a metaphor for all that's wrong in my life. I don't like pepperoni. I eat it only as a last resort. Given my choice, I would never order a pepperoni pizza. I have made my tastes clear many times over the years. Whenever my family gets together for pizza, I always order something different. Either ham and pineapple or a combination. I've been pretty clear on the subject.

So, last night, my daughter and her husband order pizza for dinner, before I took my grandson home to my house for the night. Pepperoni. Naturally. Never even asked me what I like or want. And then my daughter took the pepperoni OFF my grandsons pizza and put it on mine!

Does no one listen? Does no one give a damn?

The county fair is this weekend. My daughter and son in law and grandson are going today. So, my daughter suggested my grandson spend the night, and they would pick him up on the way to the fair. Fine. But Mommy wanted to say good night to him before he left, so we had to stay at his house til Mommy got home at 6pm. Then we had to wait while daddy went to get the pizza. We didn't leave his house til almost 7pm. I hadn't left a light on at home, and my poor dog, who's dying of cancer, was alone in a dark house, with no dinner. Not to mention the fact that it was close to 8pm by the time we got home. I was exhausted, to say the least. But do they care?

Some people can't see beyond their own lives. They say they care about others, but they really don't. They do what's necessary to make their lives better and ignore the needs of others.

Last night, for instance, my daughter in law called because my son had to work this morning unexpectedly, she was already working, and grampa was out of town. Could I watch their three kids for the morning? She knew I had my other grandson, and that his parents were coming down to go to the fair. Didn't matter. Plus, my oldest grandson is completely covered in hives, courtesy of some unknown allergin, probably hay or a bug bite or the snowcone he had at the fair.

So she drops the kids off, and daddy doesn't pick them up til after 12 oclock. Dear daughter and son in law have already picked up grandson. Very surprised to see their nephews and niece. Upset over hives. Dressed grandson and booked it out of here in record time. Said they were meeting other daughter in law at the fair, so sorry they couldn't hang out a bit longer. Right. Gave me the impression it was somehow my fault for not telling them about grandkids last minute visit. Of course, they didn't tell me they made plans to meet other DIL either.

I'm just so tired of it all. I hate pepperoni. Maybe I should have a t-shirt made?

Friday, September 24, 2010

What If

Here's a hypothetical question for all my non-existant readers. If I drove home one Friday evening from work, put down the garage door behind me, and just sat there with the engine running, how long do you think it would take someone to find me? My guess would be not til Monday morning, when I didn't show up to babysit Charlie.

I really have thought about doing that. There are nights when I make a wish as I go to bed that I will somehow just die in my sleep, and not have to wake up to another day of pain. It all seems so pointless.

I do try. I try to find things to interest me, to keep me engaged in life. I want to write my book, but so many days with Charlie there just isn't time to sit and write. He demands so much attention. And when I get home at night, I'm too tired to think of plot lines and dialogue.

Maybe once he starts preschool and I have a few extra hours to myself in the morning? We'll see. If I make it that long.

My nephew is getting married Saturday, and I won't be there. I expect my brothers will be. I'd like to think my absence will be glaring, and there will be uncomfortable questions asked of my sister, but I know that's not the case. If anyone does notice I'm not there, I'm sure Sue will find some lie to tell. She's so good at lying.

I hate her, really. I mean, I love my sister, but I hate her. She's been mean spirited and vengeful, and she's made my nephews choose sides, something I never asked my kids to do.

But right now I don't like anyone except my grandkids. My own children annoy me, and my in-law kids...they're just as bad, or worse. Thoughtless, careless, self-centered, clueless as to how much pain they cause me, and even if they did know, they wouldn't care, or would try and talk me out of it. I'm so absoluely fucking sick of having to hide or lie about how much pain I'm in, just to keep from upsetting them or getting a lecture about how I shouldn't let other people bother me so much.

I know, I know. I'm rambling. I'm done. I'm so tired of trying to be all things to all people. I just want to crawl in a hole and die. seriously.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The best revenge...

It was Ivana Trump, I believe, who said the best revenge is living well. I thought about that this morning. I still have almost daily bouts of depression and tears, wondering why I'm such a worthless person, why no one really loves me (except the grandbabies, of course). All I want is for my family to get along, and be friends. That includes my siblings, and my kids and in-laws. I know I am far from perfect, but I wish they could see how precious family is. I know I said some harsh things about my own family after Mom died, but I was in the very early stages of grief at that point. I still think they were insensitive and greedy and just plain cruel, but they are my siblings. I do miss talking to them. And missing Matt's wedding still hurts. I wish they could understand that you can't turn back time. The year we've lost is gone forever.

But there's nothing I can do about it. I've tried, heaven knows I've tried. I probably will never hear what Matt and Cassondra did with the wedding present I sent. Keep it? Return it? Toss it in the garbage??? Whatever. I made the effort.

I sent my sister an email last week. That's going to be the last time I try to contact any of them. If they hate me so much, so be it. When I'm rich and famous, they'll be sorry.