New Normal

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Its always informative to watch the dogs who remain, following the death of an old dog. The dogs I have now have shared all of their lives with Minco, and I guess I expected more confusion or sense of loss.

It hasn’t happened.

My dogs haven’t missed a beat.

They walk by Minco’s crate without a second glance. They zoom around the yard just like always. Domino, now deaf, used to express alarm when Minco left the room, now his alarm/anxiety is less predictable.

While I am still coming to terms with the lack of a huge physical presence, the dogs know their roles and keep on keeping on – it may be that the bond was much stronger between me and Minco than it was between him and the other dogs, or maybe they know something I don’t quite get yet.

I do feel his presence with me each day, and I know he would be here physically if he could. If ever there was a dog who would find his way back home, it is Minco. I don’t know when or how, but I suspect that another dog will come into my life who will elicit the same kind of trust, the same sense of strength, the same watchfulness. I know it won’t *be* Minco, but I know my heart will heal.

Someday.

Loss of a guardian

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MincoStandI had to say goodbye to Minco yesterday. The tumor on his ankle had become too painful to manage, and his other rear leg could not have supported his weight for much longer.

He was not quite 12 1/2 – so I suppose I should count myself lucky for having had so much time with him, and having learned so much from him. He taught me a lot about ear infections and how to avoid poultry and flaxseed, how to manage resource guarding and an independent thinker.

I had given up trying to teach him to sit, he was simply not interested. But he was watching as I worked with my English Shepherd, and he saw that she was getting REWARDED for sitting down! He kept coming over to try to get in on the treats (without doing the work) and in exasperation I told him to “plant that butt!” And he did. And he got his reward. And he had a perfect sit from then on, the only problem was that I had to repeat that original instruction. We did finally winnow it down to just “plant.”
Minco overcame the loss of vision in one eye, a multitude of urinary crystals, a tumor in his spleen and then Babesiosis a couple of years later. His back end never completely regained strength after the Babesiosis, and he stopped jumping onto the bed about 8 months ago. But he never tired of letting me know if I was moving a half-step slow when it was time to eat. I have never heard a dog scold as effectively as he did. But he also stopped putting his from paws on my shoulders to look me square in the eye to tell me really important stuff.

He was always looking out for me – if I was outside too long he would come get me, or he would watch from the doorway to make sure I didn’t get in trouble. He would always elicit gasps when we walked into the vet’s office, with people exclaiming not over his size, but telling each other, and me, what a beautiful dog he was.
Although he wasn’t a National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network dog, Carleen and the group provided a lot of support and patience once I figured out his likely heritage. Thank you for the knowledge you shared. I hope that I have helped pass some of that knowledge along to others who have found themselves in possession of these marvelous dogs.
RIP sweet Minco. I will see your beautiful cheetah run in my dreams.

Fur therapy

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I’ve gotten back to being more hands-on with the dogs the past couple of weeks.

I hadn’t been ignoring them, but I hadn’t been as relaxed and close with them, either.

I could blame it on the cold and wearing gloves and being all bundled up while they played in the snow, but that wasn’t it. I could claim fatigue or being too busy and a half a dozen other things – none of which would be accurate.

I realized as I was brushing dogs the other day that the last time I had done that calmly and peacefully was while I was trying to convince my Pyr that it was okay for her to quit struggling to take care of me. I spent what seemed like several lifetimes gently massaging her shoulders, running my hands through her thinning fur, drinking in the smell and the feel of her coat, absorbing every moment’s memory knowing that there would be no more moments to treasure with her.

I hadn’t realized how much that tactile exercise was intertwined with my grief.

My other dogs still got hugs and scratches and belly rubs – but it was different. I was holding back, afraid of diluting the memories, or maybe of moving on.

It’s almost spring, and bits of green are starting to struggle through the dirt and dead vegetation. I guess I am ready for renewal. too. Brushing the dogs out in the yard, sending fur flying all directions, getting back in the habit of those quiet massages.

Life happens.

Persephone – Joan Fremo

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I never had the privilege of meeting Joan Fremo, though I recall one brief email exchange.  She was a remarkable dog rescuer, who touched many lives, both people and dogs. I had to search a long time to find a copy of this story, the related story of  A Thousand Miles to Freedom I fear may be lost forever. Joan saw some of the worst cruelty man could inflict on dogs, but she was always ready to make one more call, send one more email if it could help another dog.

I hope you have tissue handy.

Persephone has crossed the Bridge
© Joan C. Fremo

Sep 24, 2002

(Posted to Suite101.com, http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/dog_rescue/95309)

Persephone is gone…

I am a rescuer.
I am made of steel.
I have stopped at the side of the road for an injured animal, and plunged my bare hands into gaping wounds to try to staunch the flow of blood.

I am a rescuer.
I am made of steel.
I have been held at gunpoint while I begged for the life of a chained dog, a dog the owner believed was his property and that he could abuse in any manner he thought fit.

I am a rescuer.
I am made of steel.
My heart is hard, and holds no forgiveness for these two legged monsters masquerading as human beings, these monsters who inflict suffering on the innocents of our planet–be they children or animals. I hold a broken and damaged animal in my arms, and hope these monsters will suffer the fate they have subjected these innocents to—that they find themselves in hell, chained without food and water, that they know no kindness.

I am a rescuer.
I am made of porcelain.
My heart shatters into fragile shards as I hold this gentle soul while she gasps her last breath. My tears fall on her soft muzzle as I kiss her goodbye.

Persephone is gone…

Persephone was just a puppy. In her too short life she had endured so much suffering—She, and the two dogs rescued with her, Donnan and Courage, had lost almost all their fur. Their skin was burnt black from chemicals; mange and the blistering Summer sun in Arkansas. They had been starved, their limbs withered and weakened by malnutrition, and their joints were painfully swollen. Their eyes were puffy and oozing from being sprayed with weed killer. Rescued from Hell, these three traveled over 1000 to find safety and love.

One month. That was all the time Persephone had. One month to learn that hands don’t hurt, that food bowls are meant to be filled, that fresh water is plentiful. One month to learn to play, to learn to trust, to love and be loved. One month to heal the wounds, the skin lesions and infections. One month to savor special meals, to gain weight, to grow fur—to grow beautiful and confident.

One month could not undo the damage her previous life had caused. One month is too short a time… One month is all we had.

Persphone was doing so well, that I never entertained the thought she would not continue to do so. She had gained weight, her skin has softened, and she had grown a downy soft fur that covered her formerly burnt skin. Of these 3 sweet Rescues from AR, Persephone seemed to be the strongest…

Wednesday evening, though she didn’t eat her full portion, she was still bouncing and happy. When I awoke on Thursday she was in distress. She was lethargic, would not eat, didn’t want to go out, and acted like her hind legs were stiff.

I called the vet’s office, and we there, waiting before the vets arrived. Persephone was seen by the first available vet, Dr. Langbourne.

Of the things I was concerned about, and asked the vet, were blockage; tick borne illnesses, (the three had been covered in ticks when they were first picked up); mushroom poisoning, (though I religiously search my yard every morning); and toxicity from the weed killer they were sprayed with.

Thursday’s visit consisted of exam and x-rays. The x-rays showed gas at either end of the intestinal track, but no blockage. Persephone was given a long acting antibiotic, a blood test, and we were sent home with instructions to return first thing the next morning for a barium enema.

On Friday, her films showed no blockage. Her liver enzymes and kidney functions were within normal range. Her white blood cell count was slightly elevated, but this could also be from the staph infection, (the small pustules under the skin).

In addition to the medicines for her stomach, we also started her on doxicycline in case this was a tick borne disease, and we waited for the results of the titers test. $500 in two days, still mounting, and we still didn’t know the cause of her discomfort.

When I picked her up Friday, I was accompanied by Courage. On the trip home from the vets, Courage lay with his head and one paw across Persephone–worried and quiet–as she was so still.

Persephone was not eating, barely drinking, and on Saturday I began subcutaneous fluids. There had been no change, she lay as still as death. She would raise her head to drink a little, but would not eat. I sat with her, gave her a bit of broth, and held her.

I held her, professing my love. I was afraid to sleep, afraid I’d lose her. Courage and I lay close to her on her blanket—he with a paw thrown over her, me with my arm cradling her head and stroking the soft new downy fur. We returned to the vet’s on the Monday morning.

Her blood test was dismal, showing both liver and kidney involvement. But her x-rays… Her lungs were completely obscured from view by the cloudy white of fluid or massive infection in her lungs. She was laboring to breathe; her liver and spleen were enlarged. As I looked at the x-rays, my heart dropped. Hopes dashed, tears sprang to my eyes as Dr. Paula and I made the decision to release her from her suffering.

I kissed her nose, her muzzle, and her soft ears. I told her how much she was loved, and how many people had sent Angels to guide her and keep her. I tell her of my Magnus waiting for her at the Bridge.

My tears fell on her soft fur, she gasped, and she was gone.

I am a rescuer. I am made of porcelain. My heart is shattered. My sweet little Angel is gone. No forever family, no home of her own.

Persephone is gone…

I come home, and attempt to explain to Donnan and Courage—survivors of Hell—that Persephone has gone to the Bridge. That she is safe, and happy… Exhausted, I seek my bed to finally rest from the last several days of round the clock vigil when suddenly my home is filled with a mournful dirge. All 9 Rescues in residence have thrown back their heads, eerily lifting their voices in plaintive song to the heavens. For several minutes their grief is given voice, and my tears flow.

Persephone is gone…

I have asked that she be cremated, and her ashes returned to me. I will not regret the expenses of the last few days. I hope there will be help for her vet bill, but if not… I will find a way. Take out a loan, beg–something.

I am a rescuer. I am made of stern stuff.
My heart will heal with each animal rescued, the glue that mends my heart is the pictures from adopters, their stories, and their love for their adopted Rescues.

Persephone is gone, but she knew love. When the time comes, I wonder if I will recognize her at the Bridge. She will have a lovely coat of long white fur. She won’t be naked, will she?

R.I.P. 9/23/02

Please light a candle for this sweet furchild and remember her in your hearts. Please visit 1000 Miles to Safety (sadly, I am unable to find a link to this report. I remember reading it several years ago and being tempted to violence against those who would be so cruel to these innocent souls. I will keep looking).

Persephone, journeyed to the Rainbow Bridge 9/23/02.
Running with the Angels