I got a sympathy card in the mail from cousin Gloria, expressing regrets over the loss of my dog Chaeli. She said, “I still laugh at the time you took Chaeli’s medicine.” Yes, me, too. It wasn’t funny then, but it is now.
It was on a Sunday morning, and I was rushing around doing five things at once. I zoomed through the kitchen and threw my hands up in a halt when I saw the dog there. “I need to give you your pill.” She had congestive heart disease and was a five out of a six for years and took a little white pill every morning. I popped open the green Pet Vet bottle, shook one out in my hand . . . and with my mind scattered and racing from thing to thing and not paying attention, I popped it in my mouth and swallowed.
Oops. I realized what I’d done. I tried to cough it up and couldn’t. Oh Lord. I figured I had about twenty minutes to act before I passed out or died or had heart palpitations. I called my doctor — and got layers of “If you want . . . then press ___.” I did not have time for this. So I hung up, then pushed three numbers.
“This is nine one one. What is your emergency?”
“Ummm.” Squeaky, high-pitched voice in a panic. “I took the dog’s heart pill by accident.”
“Calm down, ma’am, and let me get you to poison control.”
A nurse picked up and asked one calm question. “Do you take blood pressure medication?”
“I take a small dose of lisinopril.”
“And what was the dog’s pill?”
It began to click: pril and pril.
“Same family. You should be fine.”
I hung up. The phone rang again and it was emergency dispatch.
“Ma’am, we have to come check you out.”
“No, really, it’s okay. I’m fine.”
“No, we have to come. You can refuse to go to the hospital, but we have to come.”
“Please tell them not to turn on the lights and siren.” I heard the sound in the distance. “Never mind.”
My shoulders sank to knee level, and I paced in embarrassment as the siren wailed closer.
Not one. But two. Two ambulances with loud sirens and lots of red flashing lights parked at the curb. Did I say two? The orange and white ambulance and the big red fire department one. You mention “heart,” and they send the advanced lifesaving team.
I had two EMTs and two paramedics . . . all because I freakishly took the dog’s pill. I let them in and waved to the neighbors that came to see what was going on and spoke to the two little girls from next door who followed the ambulances in on their way home from Sunday School. I got my blood pressure taken, I refused to go to the hospital, they checked me out, and then they left. (Thank you, Williamson County.)
I hid out and held my head low the rest of that week.
And I’m not sure I ever gave the dog her pill that day.
I lost my family.
Yes. I lost my family. My dog was my family. For seven years [since my husband died] she was all I had all day, all night, weeks, months, years. She was the first and only one I saw each morning, and she was the last I touched every night. She was the joy in my life, and she was also the challenge the last year as I had to stay a step ahead and help her have quality in her geriatric days. I am still processing her loss.
Some say, it’s just a dog. Some say, I’ve been there, too. Some truly understand.
She was my people. My blood-family people all live four hours and plus away. She was the one I talked to, and she answered with her eyes. She was the one I cried to. She was the one I laughed with and at. I could read her mind, and she could read mine. She was the one that slept close when it was cold. She was what I looked forward to when I drove into the driveway. She was the reason I had to come home at night.
She was the reason….
As her vet said in a sympathy card, “She was truly a great gal with a perfect personality. I know she will truly be missed in your home.”
And so I thank her doctors, and I thank my faraway blood-family people who call and worry about me, and I thank many kind friends who express such caring and warm feelings, and I thank all my Facebook friends who have had no choice but to indulge me over the past months in my posts on the Geriatric Dog, and I thank everyone for patience as I move on looking for that new reason to come home, because home right now is just a house. It is not a home.
Yesterday, I had to put my sweet spaniel to sleep forever. I talked by phone after-the-deed with the mother of my grandchildren, who expressed her regrets over our loss of Chaeli and then said, “You’re going to grieve, you’re going to write a story about it, and then you’re going to be okay.” Does she have me hanging on the right peg, or what?
This morning, Sweet Madeleine the Outback became a hearse, and together we delivered my Chaeli to Pet Angel (Cedar Hills), a crematory south of Spring Hill. It’s the same facility my vet uses. I’d asked Dr. Butler an occasional question about end times over the past year, because after all, my dog was sixteen. I’d even called the crematory to ask about private arrangements.
I am talking about this because I speak to grief groups, and I do a lot of talking to people who have experienced loss, encouraging them to do what feels right to them, to give it some thought, and to insist on what they need for healing. This includes the pet parts of our families. For me, I did not want to take my Chaeli to be euthanized at Pet Vet and leave her there. I wanted her with me. I wanted to be the one to take her to the crematory. It was important to me and the right thing to do, I felt. You know, you “do” for family.
So when I took Chaeli in to the clinic yesterday morning and learned it was “time” and it really needed to happen this day because she probably wouldn’t make it through the night and the last hours are difficult, I asked Dr. Butler about my need. He is extremely sensitive to death situations, and he was supportive.
I kept Chaeli with me through the day and returned at six o’clock for the final moment, and afterward, the doctor wrapped my dog carefully and carried her to my car. She spent the night with me in my house on her favorite spot, the air conditioning register in the living room. Then, this morning at nine, I loaded her into Madeleine and drove her to the crematory.
I found it empowering to state a need, to go with it even if resistance was met from some (which it was), to do for her what I needed to do for her and me. Sometimes these needs can make a difference in how we heal and go forward.
I truly hope this gives someone the encouragement to carry out a want or need for self and a loved one.
And the stories about Chaeli, well, I could go on and on, but I think my favorite was one time when Nicole was feeding the grandtwin babies. They were in their carriers on the floor, and she was spooning out baby food. Chaeli quickly took note of what was happening and that food was involved, went over and sat down in between the carriers, and waited for her spoonful. It was the cutest thing you ever saw.
And now I’m grieving, I wrote a story, and I hope to be okay. One day.