Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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A Boy and His Dog

Taffy

This is the blog I have been thinking about the last six months. And I’ve been dreading it. Our beloved Taffy died on Sunday, March 15, 2020. After all the struggles to make a decision, she died naturally, on her own terms in our living room. We were all around her as she took her last breath.

Everyone agrees. She was a really sweet, special dog. She was my shadow. I was not her mommy. She was mine. It was clear that her purpose was to watch over me and she never let me forget it.

While my heart hurts every day as I deal with the enormous void that has been left, the worst pain comes from the one I am the mommy to. My 17-year-old son. His loss is the hardest for me to accept.

Dave, Taffy

I can’t really say they grew up together. David was seven when we got her. Taffy was between one and three but no one knows for sure. But I look at this picture which was taken right after we got her. He looks so very little. A young boy, thrilled to have a dog. He had lost his grandma, but he had not known the bitterness yet of losing his father. Or of the five cats in a row that he would lose.

David, Taffy

As he got older, the thrill of walking the dog lost its luster as it does for most kids who promise to help with all the extra responsibilities that come with a pet. But he loved her, and Taffy was always very protective of her. Anyone that wrestled with him got an earful from her.

Then came the tragedy that would alter our family forever. Tim designed his headstone. I would bring Taffy here often to walk. The paths were pretty and she liked to roam around. David didn’t accompany us very often. I couldn’t blame him. Frankly, I’m not much of a cemetery person myself.

Christmas- Darcy, Taffy, Dave, Louie

We stuck together though. Taffy was always part of our Christmas photo. The cat would sadly change often, but Taffy was our steady. She was part of our family, no matter what.

Darcy, Taffy, Dave- Christmas card shot

David was absorbed in hockey and was ten-years-old now. His life experiences had aged him far beyond his chronological years. To me, he still looks so young here. Too young to have weathered so much.

Dave, Taffy

Taffy would do things for David that she wouldn’t do for anyone else. The cats were always like that too. He is fun and charismatic with them and they respond to him.

Dave, Taffy

See what I mean?

Dave, Taffy

I never knew what they talked about at times like this, but I imagine you and I would chuckle at their conversations.

Herbie, Dave, Taffy

Clearly, that chair in front of our window holds a lot of memories.

Dave, Taffy

And then those smart aleck times. This was Mother’s Day when I told him the only thing I wanted was for him to take a walk with Taffy and me. He literally took Taffy for a walk. Taffy doesn’t look like she minded one bit. She was in her favorite place. And she was with her favorite peeps.

Christmas photo- Tim, Darcy, Taffy, Herbie, David

And the last Christmas photo we will have together. We will always be a hockey family, but we will no longer have our girl with us. Our steady protector for over ten years.

Watching him grieve over her on our living room was beyond what I could bear as his mother. We knew that it was about our beloved Taffy, but it was also so much more. Whether he knows it or not, I know it is true. Loss after loss. After loss.

I lost my dad when I was 51. He lost his when he was eight. I never saw anyone take their dying breath until I watched my mom pass when I was 40. He watched Taffy die in that manner at age 17. In between, he bravely held his cat while she was euthanized. I just don’t what it is in his head and heart. I don’t imagine he will ever tell me, at least not for a decade or two.

So goodbye my loving, faithful companion. The one who has never left my side, especially during some of the loneliest moments of my life. You will be missed beyond words. But mostly, thank you for loving my boy.

Taffy


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The Time is Drawing Near

Taffy

Back in September, we thought we were losing our beloved Taffy. She is still here and it is almost February. It has been one of the most emotional and difficult endings I have had to make decisions about.

Obviously, you can’t talk to an animal which is the hardest part for me to deal with. I can’t ask her the questions I ask humans. What gives your life meaning? How long do you want to stay? I’ve never been in a place where Medically Assisted Death is an option for people, but euthanasia has always been an option for animals

Taffy

Our house is divided and it has been since September. I am afraid of waiting too long. The rest of the house is afraid of her death too soon. I took some of my family in December to the vet with me. He was surprised Taffy was still here. After examining her, he understood why our house was in conflict. Her symptoms are confusing and true to the Thiel trait, they are also unusual. He said he has no problem offering his opinion when asked but in our case, he is stumped.

“If you decide today is the day, I totally support you. If you decide this is not the time, I totally support you.”

It actually helped me to know I wasn’t missing something. I’ve never had such a hard time knowing when. People love to say, “You will know when it’s time” but I simply don’t think that applies in this case.

I went to see the vet again last week. He noticed a definite decline from six weeks earlier. She now has something wrong in her colon. We could do dozens of tests, spend a ton of money, but he is 98% sure it would only be information. He is almost certain we wouldn’t discover something that could actually be fixed. I decided not to pursue tests, mostly because why would I put her through all that?

Taffy

He did articulate things that made sense to me. She doesn’t seem to be suffering. However, she doesn’t feel well. And she never does. She struggles with her breathing and basically feels crummy. This is where the inability to talk is tough. Some would say as long as they weren’t suffering, they would want to stay alive. (And by the way, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that at all.) But others would say if they are going to feel crummy for the rest of their lives and only get worse, they would prefer to be done. I think that describes my dad. It would also describe me.

I still lean towards soon because I can barely stand to look at her when she is having a hard time. I can’t wrap around waiting until she is actually suffering. I’m not even sure what the difference is. My family continues to feel like she would want to be here. Are they in denial? Or are they right?

I hate this.

I had a friend who is a huge dog person and knows quite a bit come and spend some time here when she offered to do so. At first, she said that if she is still willing to take walks (even if slow) that should be the benchmark. After spending more time watching her, she changed her mind. She said if Taffy was hers, it would be time. One of her questions is, would we be stealing something good from her down the road if she wasn’t here? It is doubtful. We would however, spare her from feeling worse.

I think it will be soon, but the decision isn’t quite made yet. Say some prayers for all of us. She’s been my shadow for 11 years so this is hard. My family has bonded with her just as long. And all of us have had more loss in our lives than we thoughts we could endure.

Dave, Taffy


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Taffy

Our girl

Taffy is our border collie mixed with I-don’t-know-what. We rescued her so we also aren’t sure how old she is. Our best guess is about 12. I know she has been our family member 10 years.

I remember we got her on a Saturday. Tim had a wallpapering job that day. He had been a “no” for 8 years or so. No dogs. Absolutely not. Then that particular Saturday, he said, “I suppose you should have a dog or else you might get a different husband.”

He was barely in his car when I grabbed seven-year-old Frankie and told him we had to strike when the iron was hot. At the animal rescue, there were 3 families that wanted her. We were the lucky ones.

Over the years, she also had to bond with our other furry friends.

Taffy, Herbie

In 2015, we acquired Herbie and Matilda. Herbie clearly has always thought Taffy was her best friend. Taffy just found him particularly annoying. Taffy would lay on the floor and Herbie would want to spoon. She figured out quickly that Taffy wasn’t a fan so she would lay slightly away from her. Then he would stretch over and over until she had crept next to him. In about 30 seconds Taffy would move and the process would start all over again. But one of their favorite things was to hang out at the door and bask in the sun.

Matilda, Herbie, Taffy

Besides not cuddling with Herbie, Taffy was also not a fan of playing games and would do her best to stop it.

Taffy

Anyhow, my next couple blogs will probably be about her as well so I hope you are a dog lover.

Why now? Ms. Taffy is on steroids. We are all too familiar with those in our family. She has a degenerative spine. It also appears that she may have a cancerous tumor on her spleen. (The tumor is not a maybe, the cancer is most likely.) Yesterday I found myself thinking that perhaps we are wrong because she seems like her old self. Then I caught myself. Remember what the vet said about our cat Oreo. Remember what Hospice said about Tim. Steroids only provide comfort. Don’t let yourself be fooled. Your loved one is dying.

We are all doing our best to enjoy her company every day. We spoil her every moment we can. She deserves it!

Taffy


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GAME OVER

I think I’m officially done. Except I don’t really know what that means. At first, I thought of just crying, “UNCLE!” but that doesn’t seem to cut it. So the phrase that comes to mind is simply, “GAME OVER.”

For the last decade, I have lived my life like I always have. I put people and their feelings first. I suffer discomfort for the sake of others or in order to accomplish some higher goal. I have invested a lot of myself into my neighborhood. I started the block party several years ago and make an effort to have phone numbers and invite people over regularly. Good to have a great relationship with your neighbors, right?

When Frankie was in infant, my neighbor had a St. Bernard. Huge breed, but also an extremely gentle breed. Usually. However, this one decided he didn’t like us. My neighbor asked me for sleepers that Frankie had slept in. She wanted her dog to get used to Frankie’s scent. That way the dog would be less likely to eat my baby for a snack. As a new mom, I can tell you I thought that was pretty screwed up, but I gave her the pajamas and prayed nothing would happen.

Eventually that dog died and then there more. You are only supposed to have two dogs per property, but my neighbor had four at one point. Did I turn them in? Of course not. I wanted a good relationship with them. One time, one of the dogs bit our handy man. Did I turn them in? No, of course not. Then we decided we had to put a fence up. We asked their opinion about the style because we wanted them to be happy with it too. We were sensitive to the fact that they would have to look at it too. The Home Depot people thought I was nuts. But hey, we want a good relationship with our neighbors, right?

The fence went up but I still couldn’t do my yard work without that dog sticking his vicious jaws through the slats as he was trying to attack me. I finally risked the relationship and asked the family to do something. They added chicken wire over the fence so the dog could no longer have access to my hands. It still scared the crap out of me because it clearly had only one mission and that was to hurt us, but hey, the relationship with my neighbors was more important, right?

Then my daughter got married. We had the rehearsal dinner in our backyard. The same dog bit the maid of honor because she was talking and had rested her hand on the top of the fence. Did I turn them in? Of course not. Who is really the idiot here? Me. I’m the one at the fault. Fascinating that when I called to let my neighbor know what happened, she started yelling at me. She said she had put the wire up and there was no way she was putting the dog down. I calmly (of course) told her she needed to take a deep breath. Her dog bit. I never asked her to put the dog down, nor was I yelling at her. I just thought she should know the dog had bitten again.

Then they got a German Shepherd. Didn’t take long for that dog to just eat right thru the fence. Then they had to put up another chain link fence. Then the dog started to attempt to jump over the fence and was in danger of doing so. They had to add yet another layer of fence. Now that dog is even muzzled. But hey, as long as I don’t hurt their feelings, I can put up with anything, right?

They have had five dogs since I’ve lived here. Three of them have been vicious. No one can believe what I put up with when they come over. It’s impossible to describe if you don’t see it yourself. It’s not just like an annoying dog barking. They lunge at the fence and growl and bark and make you shake. And I just look at people at say, “But we like our neighbors and I want to keep it that way.” When you leave your dogs outside 24 hours a day, when you don’t walk them or socialize them, they become like wild animals. Savage.

Monday was November 2 and it would have been Tim’s 54th birthday. I texted with a couple of the kids in the morning and I thought it seemed like it might be a bearable day. That is, until about 10 AM when Colin came bursting in the house screaming my name over and over.

Same dog that has bitten twice on my property, same dog that I found out has bitten the neighbor on the other side three times, brutally murdered our beloved cat Matilda.

Matilda

Matilda

She was barely a year old and she was beautiful. She was an extremely gentle kitty. And she made the hideous mistake of walking home near those dogs. Poor Colin. He heard the screams. He ran over to their yard, trying desperately to get his kitty from the mouth of the dog. When my neighbor finally heard it, he came out and got the dog to drop her. That was when Colin came in the house screaming. We rushed her to the hospital. They tried CPR, but it was too late. Did you know that when intestines are punctured there is a putrid smell? We couldn’t bear it.

All I can say is, our household has been suffering the last week. The closest way to describe it is like suffering from PTSD. The kids have decided the only way those people could possibly understand what we are feeling, is for them to be forced to watch their precious dog be eaten before their eyes. They need to hear the screams. They need to smell the aftermath. And then every day afterward, they need to hear and see the killer whenever they dare to walk outside their home.

Because that is what it is like for us here. There is no peace. There is no escaping it. Those three dogs are outside and they still bark and still lunge at us.

I don’t give one flying fuck that our cat was in their yard. I don’t care that our cat was an indoor/outdoor cat. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS. IT WAS NOT OUR FAULT. THERE IS NO EXCUSE.

Even the dog warden said that being territorial is what is normal. Killing is not. Dogs know the difference between a wild squirrel or rabbit. They DO NOT KILL DOMESTICATED ANIMALS.

I will tolerate nothing less than that dog being gone. Terminated or moved off the property. Even as I’m writing this, my dog Taffy is pacing around the house and barking because those dogs are outside going nuts at our fence.

Game over. I’m not the bigger person. There are no cheeks left to turn. THIS IS NOT WHAT HAPPENS, THIS IS NOT HOW DOGS ACT, and THESE ARE NOT DOG LOVERS. Bullshit.

No more neighborhood parties. No more bigger picture. My kids are going through hell. I am going through hell. This is MY fault for not turning them in dozens of times. I will never make the same mistake again. This is not just, “Oh that poor family, they’ve gone through so much.” We didn’t just lose yet another pet. She was brutally murdered. We are victims of a violent crime. And the stupid system protects them, not the victims.

We can’t use pepper spray because if it injures the dogs, we are liable. Yet their dogs can KILL our pet, and nothing is done. In what world does that make sense? Oh yeah, in America.

Game over. I am officially going reclusive. I can’t invest anymore. I can’t try anymore. I can’t risk anymore. I will just keep to myself and be like most people. They won’t get involved or stand up for us because no one wants to ruffle feathers. And hey, Matilda wandered in their yard so that makes it all ok.

BULLSHIT. Vicious dogs don’t belong in friendly neighborhoods. When a toddler or child gets their arm or head chewed off, then everyone on this street should be held responsible for allowing this dog to be here.

As my kids say- and I have to agree with them- anyone that makes these kinds of statements:
“Dogs will be dogs”
“Cats are too curious”
“I’m sure they feel bad”
“Just let it go”
“Cats shouldn’t be outdoors”
“Oh, this is a shame”

My kids say all of these people that don’t get it, need to watch something special to them die. This was not unfortunate circumstances. This was negligence, wrong priorities, insensitivity. Completely unnecessary. And my kids and I have had enough.

GAME OVER.


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Memories

Last night, we had a friend over and Frankie allowed me to get out a dvd of his dance recital when he was three. He was the only boy in his group and he totally stole the show. He doesn’t usually let me watch it so I jumped at his agreement. We laughed and laughed and he kept having me rewind it.

Of course, it was also past his bedtime, but he kept getting me with his manipulative comment of “But Mom, we hardly ever get family time together.” Smartie pants.

We got another dvd. This one he was about 8-16 months old. We had a riot. I forgot that even back then he did an awful lot of performing. He squealed almost continually and Frankie finally asked “How did you guys ever get any sleep?” My dad was getting more quiet the crazier we got. I figured he was annoyed that it was getting so late.

But then it hit me.

I’m sure he was annoyed at the time, but it was also an evening that was BITTER SWEET to the nth degree. In living color, there was my mom, my husband, and our kitty Oreo, all still living and breathing. Wow, how fast life can drastically change.

We lost mom about six years ago. I can’t even believe it was that long ago. She was crazy, like me, and encouraged Frankie’s craziness. She would get such a kick out of him now.

A couple of particularly poignant moments that took my breath away. The first one was on Frankie’s first birthday. There sat Oreo on the chair with Tim standing next to him. It was a shot of the two of them. Who would have ever dreamed than in seven years, they would both pass away within a couple of months of each other? Both from cancer. Weird. Sad.

The second, was of Tim crawling around our living room floor on all fours. Frankie was sprawled on his back, flat as a pancake, giggling at the fun ride. Then he would slip off and scramble clumsily to get back on. Tim looked into the camera and said “This footage is for 15 years from now. When Frankie is a teenager, he can look back at this and remember how much his Dad loved him.” I looked at my friend. She looked at me. And I swallowed hard.

Overall, it was a great night of memories and laughter. Sweet. Very, very sweet. Laced with a background of bitter. Ah, such is life, right?