Sunday, February 17, 2013


We had just closed on our house in October 2002.  We signed the papers, got the keys and did a drive-by and walk through of our new home.  It was a typical October day, cool and rainy, but we had a mission.  Our next stop was at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.  We now had a fenced in yard and by golly we were getting a dog.

We walked through once, and saw an australian shepherd/german shepherd mix, she was an older female, very mellow, too mellow almost.   Then we walked through again, and saw a new dog.  A medium female dog, almost without thinking I took her card, went to a volunteer and demanded to see this dog in a room.  Yes demanded!

This dog, whose name was Sugar, had been returned to the ARL from her recent adoption.  The card indicated that she took too much time and attention.  Well, that suited me just fine, I had lots of time and attention to give.  As soon as we all got into a room, I sat down and she immediately came over and and put her head in my lap.  I was in love.  I told my husband "we are adopting her", I didn't ask I told!!  She was a little less than a year old, and had the softest ears and fur.  It was love at first sight for all of us.

When we took her home, our two cats, Zachary and Crooked Foot, looked down from the stair landing and their faces were of pure disgust, they couldn't believe we brought home a dog!!

The next day we moved into our new home, and I had the patio door open and was setting up the kitchen, when Katie (we HAD to rename her!) came running in with this skinny stick in her mouth.  I asked her what did she have?  She just sat down and wagged her tail, then presently the stick began to wag ITS tail.  She had a frozen snake.  From that moment on, I knew we were going to absolute buddies.

She loved expensive leather, embroidery scissor sheaths, Brighton eyeglass cases and even a 250.00 Brighton purse.  My girl had good taste.

She began slowing down last year, and since she and I both have arthritis, it was just fine, we walked perfectly together.  She was always up for a  new project in the garden, happy to sit by and supervise.  She was a ready assistant in the kitchen, up and checking on things whenever the timer dinged.  She believed those crinkly plastic bags from the store always had a toy in them for her, and they usually did.  She was good about giving equal time to all her toys, sometimes she would be tossing around a toy we hadn't seen in months, it had been buried at the bottom of her toy basket.  Her toy basket was a large willow laundry basket, overflowing with toys.

When our cats died, Katie was sad, although she did relish being an only child for a little while.  Then Zeek came to live with us, and just in time.  Katie had a little problem with separation anxiety, not as bad as some, but she got lonely when we were gone.  Luckily, Zeek worshiped the ground Katie walked on and thought she was the greatest thing since catnip.  He loved his sister, and when he got older, he became quite protective of her when they were out together in the yard.  He did not like any adult or dog to come near her.  And we would watch along with the neighbors at how he would puff up, growl and stalk them until they were far away from his Katie.  The first few years of his life were all about his sister Katie.  We just fed him, and cleaned his box, Katie was his real owner.

On Katie's annual appointment last year, we discovered she had a heart murmer and we kept a closer eye on her in case that started to get worse.  She tired a bit more easily, and didn't play chase with the cat anymore, but we thought it was just arthritis and her heart.

Tuesday night, she started having hard time breathing, and she developed a weird cough.  We kept an eye on her, and made her as comfortable as we could, and I called the vet the next morning.  They were busy busy but could squeeze me in at 4pm.  We called back and asked if we could bring her in sooner, Dr, Holly is a sweetheart and told us to bring her in right away.

When we dropped her off, we fully expected to pick her up in a few hours, pay a huge bill, and have a happy, comfortable dog.  Little did we know what the next few hours would bring to us.

Dr. Holly was having trouble easing her breathing, medication wasn't working as well or as fast as she wanted, so she took many more x-rays and discovered the problem.  Katie had a large tumor on her liver, and several tumors in her right lung.  I asked later if the tumor on her liver had caused her pain and Dr. Holly assured me that when she palped it, that Katie didn't seem to mind or be in discomfort.

There wasn't a choice left to us, we could have done an ultrasound, but she would not have lived to make the appointment.  Her oxygen level was falling, and soon her organs would fail.  We would have to make that ultimate decision.

When we went back to the vet's office, and had Katie with us in a treatment room, the first thing we said when she walked in was that she didn't even look sick.  Then as a little time went by, 30 minutes or so, I could see that her breathing was getting more labored, and she had an almost frantic look, as if she just couldn't get enough air.  I watched my mother suffer and die that way, and there was no way if it was in my power that I was going to let Katie suffer like that.

We made the decision to let her go, and all of us, including Dr. Holly, sat on the floor with her.  Mark cradled her and I held her head so she could see me, and Dr. Holly gave her the shot.  We held her and told her we loved her and that she would be okay.  The last thing she saw was my face, the last thing she heard was my voice telling her I loved her.  The last thing she felt was our hands and arms holding and petting her.

So our house is very quiet, and Zeek finally realized today, that Katie wasn't coming home.  He is a bit mopey, we all are a bit mopey, and tend to burst into tears.  Its funny, neither one of us wants to upset the other, so we do alot of sniffling and deep breaths to stop the tears, then we hold each other and sob like babies.  Mark loved his little girl.  He was so upset, he threw away the ice cream.  I don't think we will be eating ice cream at home for awhile.  He loved sharing his ice cream with Katie.

Mark stayed home from work on Valentine's day, that is the day we brought her ashes home.  We put her with Mom, Gracie, Zachary and Crooked Foot, she isn't alone.  We haven't put anything of hers away yet, except her food bowl.  We just don't have the heart to fold up her blanket and put away her toys.  I think for a little while, we want to pretend she is still  here with us, and is just being very very quiet.

I know we will adopt another rescue dog, I have been praying the same prayer I did when Zeek came to us. I know the right dog will find us, hopefully soon.   The cat doesn't think he can quite fill in for Katie, he is getting a little tired of constantly being picked up and covered with kisses, now even more than before Katie left us.

One saving grace, my best friend Gayle talked me into taking a tai chi instructor course with her next month in Wichita, KS.  It will be good to see my friend, and take the course.  All of my instructors have encouraged me to do this, and it will be fun to do so with Gayle.  Its been a long time since we were partners in crime.  Its a good project to keep me occupied for the next few weeks.  I think that was her intention.

So, here's to grieving and healing, endings and beginnings, and hopefully a new companion for the cat...and me.


CallieK said...

So sorry for the loss of Katie. I lost my Casey cat of 20 years last year and we still miss her.

Merry said...

Thanks CallieK, they become so much a part of our lives don't they?

Kristina said...

So sorry for your loss. They are so much a part of our lives.

Kim J said...

Such a beautiful story and I'm sorry for the loss of your wonderful friend. I commend you for putting her feelings/needs ahead of your own. The last gift you gave her was amazing...a beautiful and unselfish gift. My Dad would have commended you. My Dad so loved animals and liked them more than most people. He always treated them with love and respect. He was a farmer but he should have been a

Merry said...

Thanks Kristina and Kim.