Happy Dance in Destin

We live a quiet life, the dog and I. We take walks in the neighborhood and visit with special friends, we walk in parks, and we walk on trails. We go to Petco to greet people. Locally, we’ve been to Walgreens and SunTrust Bank. She’s welcome in those places. We’ve traveled together and walked on new trails or sidewalks and through hotel lobbies.

Easter weekend, we went to Destin, Florida, where we met her “big brother,” his wife, and their two children. Heidi Deering went shopping with us, ate meals out with us, and even sneaked out on the beach early mornings and late evenings. It’s a pet friendly town, and we walked lots of new trails and sidewalks here and met lots of dogs and dog owners.

But the funny thing—Heidi Deering has never been to a gathering of hundreds of people, except when she was three months old and I took her with me to Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin. I’ll preface this little story with the fact that Heidi Deering loves people! Especially children. She loves to greet people and be around all the activity.

So one night we went to Baytowne Wharf. It’s a little village of quaint shops, boutiques, eateries, galleries, and nightlife, with family games, like a big checkerboard and checkers, a shooting gallery (pretend), and ziplining over the bay. We went at eight in the evening. The little village streets with bulb lights strung across them, were packed with people—families and children and seniors. It was a festival atmosphere with a great vibe, lots of noise, lots of excitement.

We walked through the entrance gates, and Heidi Deering saw all those people. She came to an abrupt stop. Her ears perked. Shock and awe. She hopped to the right. She hopped to the left. She looked at all the people, movement, and fun. And noise and laughter, and children running about. She started to pant. Her tail wagged so hard it was a blur. And then . . . she started happy-bounce-walking, and she looked up at me. And I could read her face.

“Oh my gosh! Look at all this fun! Are you looking? Are you looking? This is fabulous!”

What a sweet face and sweet moment.

She had a ball. And she draws a crowd. People come to her, pet her, hug her, tell her she’s beautiful.

We’ve got to get out more. To where hundreds of people are.

The Day I Called Nine One One

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 Didn’t Just Lose a Dog,

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.

chaeliChaeli Rhodes, December 15, 1998-September 3, 2015

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.

Chaeli, 1998-2015


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.

chaelipetangelChaeli at Pet Angel under the Rainbow Bridge

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.

“I Don’t Think So.”

These boots were made for walking, but come snow, ice, and rain, she’s having nothing to do with it.

My Three Kids

There’s usually one, the yellow one in the middle, who lives with me and sits at my table and cries for my food and sleeps in my bed and claims my living room as hers, the watchpost from where she does her “job” of keeping me alerted to any potential dangers…or actually anyone walking down the sidewalk.

Here, there are three little ones. I visit with the grandtwins, feed them their apple-cinnamon snack, sing to them while they eat, even entertain them with the “Go Meat!” commercial, and the yellow one puts herself right in the middle of it all. She is entitled, she thinks. She is mine and if I have something available, it should be hers, too. She is important, she counts, she is not dog, she is human. She knows it. The little humans know it, too, and they share.


and the livin’ is easy…

An afternoon nap with Mr. Lion in the cool living room — best way to spend a day!

Little Snot

That little snot.

Who does she think she is? Spitting out that cookie on the floor.

OK, so I’ve trained her up with routine. Still…

Regarding cookies, we have certain kinds for certain times of day. She knows what comes when, and she demands that I stay on schedule and do it right and in the proper order. She has food allergies, so I have to be careful what I buy, I have to read the ingredients on the labels, I even bake one variety. Canned venison and potato: let the mashed up food slink out of the can, cut it into five round patties, cut the patties into six little triangles, put on cookie sheet, bake for three hours at 275. Let her lick the remains on the cookie sheet. (It’s her cookie sheet and no one else uses it except the son when he comes home to visit and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.)

So we’re out of venison and potato cookies and they MUST come first. It’s her first treat of the morning, followed by a boy-shaped peanut butter that I break into six little pieces and then a veggie heart that I break in half. That’s the routine. Without the special baked variety, I lay the others on the floor in her standard spot. She looks at them, picks up one, spits it out, walks away.

“You little snot,” I say.

So I drag myself barefooted into the kitchen holding my first cup of coffee in the red cup with a growly face and the words GO AHEAD — MAKE MY DAY! I tie my hair back out of my eyes. I open venison/potato cans, pull the cookie sheet out, spray it with Pam, turn on the oven. I light a candle because that venison stinks like hell when it bakes, and I’d really rather be smelling bacon and toast this time of morning.

For three hours she sits in front of the oven. And waits. When the alarm goes off, she jumps up and watches as I pull the cookies out and  put them in a bowl. She wags her tail as I put the cookie sheet on the floor for her to lick. I leave one cookie on it. She eats it, then licks the sheet clean.

Then, get this, she goes to her standard spot and eats all the rest of the peanut butter and veggie cookie pieces I left out earlier. She is committed to doing this in the proper order. And she holds me accountable.

“You little snot,” I say again. She looks at me and licks her lips.

Joy of Spring

Blue skies, green grass, and the scent of blooming flowers…

Chaeli in the Iris Bed

Chaeli in the Iris Bed

I thought she had outgrown this…

…but no, she’s going with a fury after the plate that had asparagus on it, hoping for one last bite. It’s her favorite food — one of them.

Chaeli in the dishwasher

Chaeli in the dishwasher