Thursday, February 23, 2017

When we Have to say Goodbye to our Beloved Pets

The year was 2002, a cold winter morning, just days away from a New Year. I sat on the floor enjoying the warmth of a fire, while our beloved collie lay beside me. She had earned her rest.

Princess would be turning 13 in a few days, but time was running out. The last couple of years had brought a steady stream of health problems. Now, no longer able to control her bodily functions, we knew the end was painfully near.

In the stillness, I heard my husband’s truck in the driveway. Princess’s ears perked up, but she didn’t move. Used to, she would’ve been standing at the door to greet her master, tail wagging, face smiling. But that was before her health failed.

In a minute, Stan appeared in the doorway. “How are my girls?” he asked cheerfully, stooping down to stroke her head. I’ve never known anyone to love a dog more than he loved this one. The feeling was mutual. Princess gazed into his face, and attempted to wag her tail.

Silently, he stroked her gray muzzle, then looked at me with a sad smile. It was a knowing look, filled with a dozen years of sweet memories.


She was six-weeks-old when Stan picked her out of a litter of pure-bred collie puppies and brought her home to our daughter, who was almost four at the time. 

I wasn’t thrilled. Puppies need lots of attention. They can also wreak havoc. I wanted none of it. But since the deed was done, I stepped outside to greet the newcomer and there they stood—a frisky pup and a little girl—staring curiously at each other.

Suddenly, Anna zoomed around the yard like a rocket. “C’mon,” she entreated the pup. “Come get me!”

The pup obeyed with fresh enthusiasm. From all appearances, it was love at first sight.

We named her Princess. With a gentle spirit and chocolate eyes, she stole my heart in no time.









When she wasn’t with Stan, her favorite person, Princess could be found  trailing behind Anna like a shadow. Whatever Anna wanted to do, Princess went along agreeably. Sometimes that meant walking beside a tricycle to the mailbox umpteen times. Sometimes it meant listening to “John-Jacob-Jingleheimer-Schmidt” from a cassette-tape player for hours on end. They were a tight little pair, and, through the years, that bond never wavered.













Princess and I shared our own bond, as well. During the seasons when I wasn't employed outside the home, I was a “night writer.” At 2 AM, when inspiration struck, I’d tip-toe into my office, fire up the computer. Soon I’d hear a swish beside me, and feel a furry head pushing against my leg—Princess. We had a ritual. I’d rub her head, bend down and kiss her nose, then she’d plop behind my chair and sleep until I was done. I like to think my writing improved with her behind me.

Life can take unexpected turns, and pets have a way of keeping us balanced. They help us cope. They listen, and they love us unconditionally. In their own way, they comfort us when we feel helpless and alone.

Without a doubt, Princess added a special dimension to our family gatherings, and she never met a stranger.




There was a certain spark in the neighborhood whenever Princess was outside. Children came in waves, just to rub her head. 

One afternoon, I came home to find the back gate open and Princess gone. Panicked, I cruised the streets and found her in a cul-de-sac, two streets over, being adored by a circle of children. It took all of my coaxing abilities to get her in the car for the ride home, and as I drove away, the kids stood in a sad little row and waved goodbye.

One thing Princess loved: chasing squirrels. But they always got away. Two things she hated: cats and the UPS truck. When either were in the neighborhood, she made it clear that wanted a piece of them.

But there was one exception to her fierceness; she was terrified of vacuum cleaners. For that reason, my floors were never as clean as they should have been.


When we first noticed that she struggled to get up, we talked to the vet. A regimen of medication was started and it helped for a long while, but as the years passed, other problems arose. She pushed bravely through them all, but, in time, we knew she couldn’t go on.

And so, on a cool fall morning, Stan did the unthinkable. He dug a grave in the backyard. The sight of it there was shocking, but he said he wanted her to be buried at home and preparing the spot ahead of time would help him prepare for what was coming.

He covered the big hole with a blue tarp and told our daughter—16 by then—what he’d done.

Upon hearing the news, she burst into tears.

In retrospect, preparing the grave ahead of time was a good idea. Sometimes it’s better to take baby steps toward the inevitable; it makes acceptance a little easier. Many evenings I spotted Stan sitting out beside the blue tarp, just staring into space. I knew he was dying on the inside.

Christmas came and Princess worsened noticeably. Just a few days into 2003, we knew it was time. Her eyes begged us for relief. 

The night before it was to be done, we gathered on the floor with our faithful friend and thanked her for all she’d meant to our family, for her faithfulness, for having softened the blows life had dealt us. For simply having been. Here is a page from my scrapbook of the same night. We are smiling on the outside, but our hearts were breaking.



The next day, Stan loaded our beloved friend into the SUV. As we drove slowly through the misty gray morning, I held her close and sobbed. Our dear friend and companion had given us more than we could have ever hoped for. I couldn’t imagine life without her.

At the clinic, it was over quickly. Princess looked the same, only peaceful now. Gathering her up in a sheet, Stan carried her out for one final ride home.

After lowering her body into the ground, we held each other for a long time, thinking of how lucky we’d been. Princess loved us unconditionally. She was obedient, loyal, and brave. She earned her stars in her own backyard. Saying goodbye hurt something awful, yet not having known her would have been a greater loss. 

Before taking the shovel, Stan knelt down and wrapped an old American flag around her still body. It seemed a fitting farewell, for she was a very good soldier. 






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A version of this story first appeared in The Beaumont Enterprise. All rights reserved.




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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Walk Through the Park ~ Finding Spring

Yesterday, under a soft blue sky, I carried my granddaughter down to the arboretum not far from where we live. 


It was 83-degrees in my little woods, with a slight wind, a perfect day for a walk among nature, making memories. 




There wasn't much color to see, but in a few weeks, these grounds will be ablaze with every shade of the rainbow.


Scattered throughout the park are large wind-chimes, hanging from trees, making music fit for strolling. 


At one place, we stopped to listen and, when I glanced up, there was spring in the making. If you look closely, you’ll see at least three little bees at work, earning the phrase, “busy as bees.” Delightful pink buds have already made their appearance, but our “winters” here are unpredictable. We may yet get another cold snap. For now, all is well.





For those in deep winter country, take heart. Spring is coming, and nothing can stop it.


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Friday, February 3, 2017

When Furniture Speaks ~ What I did with the Sewing Machine

For years, I enjoyed having my grandmother’s Singer sewing machine in my guest bedroom, ready to use on a moment’s notice. 

I'm not a seamstress by any stretch, but it came in handy through the years and even pushed me out of my comfort zone a few times.


Grandmother bought the machine in 1945 and handed it down to my mother many moons later. I love this picture of the two of them in 1948, a few months before my mother married.


I still remember the day Mother told me she had bought a new machine and asked if I would like to have the Singer. I nearly cried the day it arrived, and the sight of it there in front of the window in my guest bedroom brought a certain pleasure to each day that followed.

But when my guest room became a man cave in 2015, the sewing machine had to go. My mother offered to babysit it until further notice, but I couldn’t bear to be without it, so, in the meantime, it sat in the foyer, cabinet folded, lonely and unused, collecting dust.

That all changed a few months ago when I came to a sudden decision. While sitting in bed one evening, it occurred to me that the solution was right in front of me. 


My dressing table, in all frankness, was never used, so I decided to let my daughter take it and put the sewing machine in its place. A sewing machine in my bedroom was not the ideal scenario, perhaps, but the decision was made and that was that. Done deal.



Since I made the switch, I have been delighted with the change and have used the old Singer many times. 





Not for anything big, but for a dozen little things.





Without a doubt, I will continue using the Singer for as long as it keeps running. I’m even thinking I might try and resurrect my dress-making abilities, despite how limited they are. The last dress I made, by the hardest and with a lot of help from my mother, was when my daughter was in elementary school, if that tells you anything.


I don’t know about you, but there are pieces of furniture that bring me comfort, that speak to my spirit and evoke stories of yesterday, stories of those who came before me. My grandmother's old Singer sewing machine does precisely that.


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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

When Trash Becomes Treasure ~ A Magnificent Beach of Glass

This beach in Russia is amazing and gives new meaning to the Scripture in Ecclesiastes that says: "He has made everything beautiful in its time." 

What once was a dumping ground for alcohol bottles has been transformed by the waves into this remarkable colored-glass beach. Take a look at the pics, and read the story here, if you have time. You won't believe it. I wish I could see it in person.











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