Thursday, November 1, 2007

the last gasps of a window box - white impatients & red petunias

November 1 - hard to believe but I think this happens every year. Fall & winter rush toward you when you haven't had time yet to really get in the groove of summer. It's very windy this morning but warm +11C.

Last November I was in the beginning stages of caring for my ailing senior dog Emma Jane Louise, it was up one day "oh she's fine, look at her go, she's going to be OK" and then two days later she would fail tremendously and I'd be thinking " Oh my God, my dog is dying" and then she'd rally again. November & almost all of December were spent on that roller coaster of emotions going from pure joy because she seemed fine again to heart wrenching grief when she'd have a really bad day. I slept downstairs in the living room by the fire and close to her in case she needed me in the night or by chance if she made some sound that I needed to hear. It felt like I slept with one eye open & my ears listening intently all through the night, it was awful. I felt exhausted, sad & overwhelmed most of the time. I had placed two twin mattresses on the living room floor in front of the fire and made one giant dog bed and we'd all hang out there in the evenings. Em, Winnie, Jake & I having bowls of vanilla ice cream, scrambled eggs & soft toast or whatever tasty treat I could think that would appeal to my sick girl.

The year before, 2005, I spent the same 2 months November & December saying that long hard goodbye to Ernst my sweet tabby cat. He was the very first of my own pets to die. He was 14 and had been hyperthyroid for years and his little organs were just worn out. He declined fairly rapidly and steadily through the Christmas season and I said goodbye on New Years Eve ... and I probably waited longer than I should have ... it's just SO difficult to decide when is the right time.

Ernst's death and sickness taught me so much, and very much helped make Em's decline easier (she was nearly 16, which, for a golden retriever is quite remarkable and I know inside I felt once we had passed 14 that we were living on borrowed time and secretly I had been preparing myself). I remember thinking soon after Ernst was gone ... how it felt like he'd become my little spiritual adviser. Reminding me that the moment is what's important in life, to make sure that I had no regrets as far as my family of animals are concerned. It's hard, sometimes, when you live with a houseful of animals to pay attention to everyone, you worry that someone's being neglected a bit. I would never again walk by them, as they lie in their beds looking up at me, without stopping to pat them and tell them how much I love them. From then on, throughout the day, when someone would arrive at my desk to say hello, I would stop what ever I was doing, speak to them and hug them. I want my family of cats & dogs to feel secure, loved, never bored or lonely, well exercised & well fed. When Em died I had no regrets ... just that awful sense that this can't really be happening, combined with a strange twist of guilt inducing relief, relief that the question has finally been answered. And, when that time comes again ... I want to feel secure that they have lived the best lives that I could possibly give them ... because knowing that ... is and will be very comforting.

I didn't mean to write a sad post this morning, but I guess I needed to have a cry. I have been feeling, these last few days, that tears have been piling up inside just waiting for an opportunity to spill out. Writing this post gave them that chance. I am hoping that this year November & December will be light, easy, breezy & mildly festive - that I'll continue to be very busy with lots of design work, that I'll make tins of home made goodies as gifts for friends and tins of assorted home made dog cookies for all our morning walk canine pals, that I'll string my Charlie Brown's Christmas lights and sing carols to myself while puttering around and most of all ... that this November & December will be happy times in the brick house at 29 Black Street.

Jake & Emma Jane Louise

Ernst (Ernie)


  1. Oh, Susan .... I am sitting here weeping right along with you. I know how it feels to have aging animals and to have to make "the" decision.
    It still haunts me that I had to make the decision and do the deed all on the same rushed weekend when I had to also move my Mom out of our home of 35 years ... life sometimes can toss you a horrible curve.

    You are so concerned with your furry babies and I love that about you even if I hardly know you ...

    I already find myself fervently hoping for a lovely festive season for you all. I want to hear about all the little fun things you guys are doing over there... I want to imagine the warm, spicy aroma of cookies wafting through the kitchen, .... snowflakes softly falling outside.... now, I am going to have a darn good cry too.

    But, honestly, tx for this post... we all need a good "eye wash" (as my Mom used to call it) once in a while

  2. I too have gone through the "roller coaster of emotions" you describe. For a while, I thought I would never be allowed to get off.

    My world was knocked sideways and trampled in 2004 with the death of my brother and also my young wild-child cat Peridot. Than while still struggling get back on track, 2005 decided to kick my world hard a few times more for good measure. My buddy and beloved companion Barkis left my world and truly broke my heart. Not long after my Dad suffered a massive, stoke. Finally, this year I allowed myself believe that calm and normal were back, however this was not to be when very suddenly my young (not yet 2) dog Holly died.

    During this time I kept relating to the words in the song ‘Get Me Through December‘. It is sad however some how it gave me strength and cause for hope. I’ve linked to this post if you wish to read the words of the song.

    So, like you I stop throughout the day for the gentle greetings, tail wags, and happy purrs. I no longer gauge my days by the number of ‘important’ tasks completed yet, by the number of furry creatures that enjoy being in my presence.

  3. Dear Vee & Paula,

    My wonderful blog I sit another morning with tears & my coffee. Thank you both for leaving such thoughtful comments and Oh dear Paula how much sadness can one person lose a brother (I can't imagine) and to lose young animals...all so sad and seemingly so unfair.

    Thankfully both Em & Ernst had reached ripe old age. Although I do remember thinking at the time, however comforting it is/was that they did live long lives, they're still gone and you just are never prepared for how much you miss them ... for how much you just can't believe that they are gone ... and how is it possible that life just keeps moving along.

    Thank you for the link Paula and I will read those lyrics and am sure will have another long eye wash :-) (as Vee calls it). It's very comforting to know that I have new friends who are beginning to know me & my wonderful family of cats & dogs. And that I have this blog which is beoming this amazing record of my life with them.

    Here's to a happy December!


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