I dwell in a forest of oak and pine Where deer trails converge to a single line That leads to a spring and a pond beyond. Each night I drift off to peaceful sleep with ease As Nature plays a rustling breeze Through the scrubby brush and the tops of trees. And I awaken each morning to the cardinal’s trill With a lifted heart and a silent thrill In knowing I belong to such beauty and grace As the forest of oak and pine in this place.
I transverse the thoroughfares of working life Amidst a jungle of concrete and steel, where So much energy is wasted in the busy-ness and strife Of productive occupation; And where I am tossed in a roiling sea Of mindless conversation. I armor myself with competency and success To blunt the blows and mute the stress of meaningless proliferation.
And at the end of a long, hard day, I am more than glad to be on my way Home to this forest of solitude and rest That enfolds me in its loving breast And fills my heart with home.
Almost 13 years ago, my sweet Gracie came to live with me.
At the time I was mourning the loss of Winnie, the American Eskimo dog that lived with us for almost 16 years. It was the first time in my adult life that I had been without a dog and I was so lonely.
I had been spending time pouring over rescue group and humane society websites, and I saw a picture of her on Craigslist. She looked perfect to me, so I responded to the listing and the very next day I drove to the North Georgia mountains to meet her.
I’ve always let my animal companions choose me, but she didn’t want anything to do with me. I assessed her current situation…her owner wanted to be rid of her as soon as possible and would sell her to the first person who showed up with his asking price ($100). Even though she didn’t show any interest in me, I knew I would provide her with a good home, so I decided to take her home with me. She was so attached to her current owner and confused when he forced her into my car. As we drove away, she sat in the passenger seat with her back to me and her face pressed against the window. I patted her and told her it would be alright, but my reassurances were unacknowledged. She was scared, confused and devastated.
I wasn’t sure how Gracie would do that first night. She was uncomfortable in the house, with me and she was stressed out and so confused. I didn’t want to disturb Mark’s sleep, so I slept on the couch where I could be near her and keep an eye on her. She finally settled down on the living room floor and I drifted off to sleep. Sometime during the night I woke up, opened my eyes and Gracie was sitting directly in front of me, close, studying my face. I could see the questions in her eyes, “Who are you? Why am I here? Am I safe?” That was the moment I fell in love with her. It took her a little longer to fall in love with me.
Those early days were difficult and heart breaking, but slowly, ever so slowly, she adjusted, started to trust me, became comfortable in her new home. It took quite a few more months for her to get comfortable with Mark.
Once she got comfortable with me, she stuck close to me like velcro. She became my most devoted, loyal, best friend and she loved me unconditionally. She would be laying across the room from me and I would see her steal a quick glance back at me. If she caught me looking back at her, she would raise her head higher and her expression would change to bright alertness. When we would go for walks she would walk ahead of me with her tail high and a confident spring in her step. She was proud to be my girl and I was honored to be graced with her love and confidence all these years.
Over the last year, she slowed down and started showing her age. Her beautiful chocolate coat became mottled with silver on her face, her haunches, her feet. Our daily 3 mile walks became shorter and slower. And her play ended after only 3 runs for the ball.
In June we noticed a change in her appetite. Even after many trips to the vet and despite offering a wide variety of flavorful foods and goodies her appetite continued to diminish. The vet prescribed an anti-depressant in the hopes of stimulating her appetite. We were so hopeful that the drug would jumpstart her appetite but it never did. She choked down the food I cooked for her, often to only throw it up a few minutes later. She got thinner and thinner. She started stumbling around, was restless during the night. When she started having seizures, we decided we had to let her go.
Gracie died on July 27th. I can hardly think of her without my throat tightening, my eyes welling up with tears. Her loss has been overwhelming and ever present. Even now, two months later. I cry most every day. My grief is the only downside of having loved her. I miss her so much.
My other dog Raven misses her too. When Gracie was alive, Raven enjoyed spending time with her. She followed her all around the yard, as Gracie checked her favorite stumps and digging spots. Raven snuggled up to Gracie every night and would often lick her awake in the mornings.
But since she has passed, Raven hasn’t been so keen about going out into the woods to explore their favorite stumps and holes. All of the holes and stumps that were a source of obsession and entertainment have been neglected. When I go to work now I have to lead Raven into the dog pen with a leash and a treat. Last week when I made a quick trip to the grocery, she climbed out of the fence and greeted me as I returned down the driveway.
As we have done with all of the beloved pet companions that we’ve lost, we buried Gracie in the woods on our property in the small pet cemetery we established when our first dog, Muffin, died. The cemetery is where Muffin (American Eskimo), Jubilee (cat), Phoebe (cat), Missy (mixed breed dog), Winnie (American Eskimo), Mama & Handsome (cats) and Milo (rat terrier), several rabbits and now Gracie are buried. In the years the cemetery has existed none of the graves have ever been disturbed until now. Two times Mark has had to shovel soil back over Gracie’s grave, he is sure that Raven has dug at the grave both times. She saw us bury Gracie so she knows that Gracie is there.
Mark finally laid some rocks, wire and logs over Gracie’s grave to discourage any further digging and that seems to be working but Raven still disappears into the woods from time to time to linger at her grave.
Gracie was my special girl – a once in a lifetime kind of dog that can never be replaced. In the first couple of weeks after she died I thought I would wait for the universe to bring me another dog. But now I think Raven really needs a new companion so I’m putting it out there…..I hope to find another young (<= 3 years old) female, blonde or chocolate lab that won’t go crazy around cats…. no dog will ever replace my Gracie, but I have room in my heart and home for another pup.
Rest in peace sweet girl. I sure love and miss that beautiful face and those soulful eyes.
It was touch and go there for a couple of months, but those days are behind us now.
He’s been cancer free for a year and a half, has gained back most of the weight he lost, and he’s a very happy boy. He has adjusted well to not having a lower jaw line (his tongue doesn’t hang out of his mouth as the vet expected) and he enjoys his pureed food – he even has his own blender (the magic bullet had to be replaced since it was not up to the task of twice daily smoothies with a real blender) that is dedicated to the task.
Bert is doing very well and so far he remains cancer free.
I’m still blending his food up to a pea soup texture and I’ve started him on cans of kitten food to help him gain back some of the weight he lost. He really loves the kitten smoothies I blend for him every day and I think he’s already gained a little weight back.
This Sunday is Mothers Day and for the last 30 years, I have been without my mother. For several years after my Mother died, I could barely go near a card store in the month before Mothers Day. If I walked by the card section of a store, my throat would start to close up, my heart would start beating hard as I felt my eyes welling up with tears. I would often have to run out of the store, experiencing some kind of panic attack.
Now, I just avoid card stores and the card aisles of stores most of the time, but the other day, while at Walmart, I cut through the card aisle to get across to the grocery section of the store. I wasn’t thinking about Mothers Day, and there they were….rows of Mothers Day cards. I felt a tug at my heart and an overwhelming flood of grief. Yes, it’s been 30 years, but I’ve never stopped missing her, and I hope I never do, for if I stopped feeling that grief, then I will feel like I have lost her forever.
A few years ago, I participated in a writers’ workshop. Every day, I would receive an email that laid out the topic of the day’s writing. One of the assignments was to write about a day in time I would like to return to and I wrote an essay about my last trip to Jekyll Island with my Mother. The details of the essay are correct. I was pleased with how the essay turned out and I’d like to share it with you in memory of my Mom this Mothers Day. You can read it here (entitled, “A Room With a View”).
After about a month of syringe feeding, we noticed that Bert was licking out the little bit of milk that was left in the breakfast cereal bowls. My cats are discouraged from get on the kitchen counters, but we’ve relaxed lots of rules around here ever since Bert got sick.
I stopped by the pet store the following Monday and spent a lot of time perusing the cat food aisles. All along, Bert has been eager to lick the gravy from any canned cat food we opened for him, leaving the shredded pieces or morsals for his brother Ernie to clean up. I hoped to find a hearty gravy only type of food at the pet store, but only saw gravy packets or “toppers” to pour on top of dry food, these packets are hardly enough to sustain a cat, much less to help a cat gain weight (Bert lost a quarter of his original body weight in the 10 days after surgery).
In the weeks of syringe feeding, I have tried many things to get him eating on his own, laying out a buffet of pungent foods every morning, only to wind up spooning most of the buffet into the garbage that evening. I have ground up his favorite dry food with chicken broth in the food processor, creating a soupy, stinking goo that he was very interested in, but that he would only lick at for a few minutes before walking away and leaving it to go rancid. I have heated his buffet of foods in the microwave, creating a tantalizing aroma which brought him running to see what delights were being placed on his buffet, only to turn away after a few moments of serious sniffing.
And so for 4 weeks I picked him up each morning and each evening, carried him into the basement bathroom, closed the door, dampened a rag (for cleanup), filled the syringe with watered down A/D cat food – amazing stuff, but only available by prescription so costs some $$$ and not readily available – and pushed the syringe into his mouth. Luckily he accepted that mode of feeding and didn’t fight it too much. When I took him to the vet a few weeks ago to have all of his stitches removed, he had only lost .1 of a pound and was holding fairly steady at 9 lbs . . . and there was no sign of the cancer’s return.
Thank goodness for small favors, for in the early days of his recovery – the first days after I brought him home with his greatly altered lower jaw – he didn’t understand that he had to learn a new way of eating and drinking. He would reject the syringe, run away from me, hide under the tables, boxes and doodads that fill the basement. I would grab him and hold him tight while he fought against my embrace, scratching me and eventually getting loose and running to hide again. I changed my tactics somewhat…he HAD to eat, to drink, to get his antibiotics. So I enlisted my husband into the struggle and we’d try holding him tightly wrapped in a towel but that didn’t work so well either. I was stressed out, Bert was stressed out, and hardly any food was being eaten.
At night I dreamed about ways to get food into him and woke up one morning with a new plan. Instead of attempting to restrain him I decided to give him some space. So I stopped trying to force the syringe on him. Instead I brought him into the bathroom, placed him on the toilet seat and offered the syringe to him. Surprisingly, he calmed down, accepted the syringe and when he realized I was feeding him, he got a little greedy. Oh joy! He was eating!
It was messy and slow and discouraging to see the food falling out of what used to be the bottom of his mouth, but I learned to take it slow and easy, tilting the syringe back in the side of his mouth, to place the tip above his tongue so all he had to do was swallow. It worked and his weight stabilized. I suspected he was drinking some water on his own during the day when I was at work, although not from the expensive water fountain that I bought to attract him to drink. I have yet to see either of my cats drinking from it.
Instead he preferred to drink water from the dogs’ water bowl in the kitchen. We would see him standing at the water bowl, lowering his chin into the water.
Over the last month, I’ve made regular trips to the cat food store. I know the aisles intimately. I’ve brought home samples of Sheba Perfect Portions, Fancy Feast Classic Pate, Meow Mix Classic Pate, Delectables Stew Lickable Treat, and I bought a case of the A/D cat food from the vet. With each opening of a can or envelope, there’s been encouraging interest, where he’d eagerly lap up the contents for a few minutes, then lose interest and walk away. It has been discouraging and a week ago I had to resort to syringe feeding him some of the A/D.
Last weekend, I had another idea and went out and bought a small blender (I have a Vitamix blender, but it’s really too large for blending up small meal sized portions of cat food – any success I’d had with Bert eating this stuff was only when something was freshly opened or blended). I bought the Magic Bullet – and it’s working! For the last couple of days, I’ve opened up a can of cat pate, put a teaspoon or 2 of water into it and blended it up in the Magic Bullet. He’s eating it and I’m so pleased. I am hopeful that the Magic Bullet is the silver bullet I have been searching for to get Bert eating on his own again.
Bert still struggles to eat canned & hard food on his own. I’ve had to syringe feed him for a month to keep him from literally starving to death. I fed him with this Hills Prescription diet A/D food. It is a high calorie pate type food that, when mixed with a little bit of liquid, works really well in a syringe.
He eventually figured out how to drink water on his own, but it’s taken him longer to start eating on his own. Some days, he’ll lick up really soft canned, pate textured cat food, but some days he struggles even doing that.
When I took Bert to the vet last Saturday to get his stitches removed, I bought a case of the Hills Prescription Diet food (it is not sold at the store without a prescription) just so I’d have some on hand just in case I have to resort to syringe feeding him again. Today was a syringe feeding kind of day. . . it’s been a discouraging day.
Thanks for dropping by my blog. From now on, this is the place where I’ll be posting pictures, short status updates, stories about Bert & Ernie, Raven & Gracie. I’ll share the books I’m reading, my sewing and crocheting projects, home and garden photos, and other stuff that I find interesting.
I hope you’ll drop by often to see what’s happening, and while you’re here I hope you’ll post some comments. This is my personal web space, the content is written by me, the pictures are originally mine.
If you’d like to add your email address to my mailing list to receive a weekly or monthly synopsis of my status updates via email, click one of the links below and complete the form.
I’m ready for the hummingbirds. I hung a feeder out about 10 days ago and am keeping my eye out for the earliest arrivals. The earliest arrivals to metro Atlanta showed up a few days ago….they will be at my feeders soon!