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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Just this side of Heaven...

It was just me and one employee in those early years at the clinic.  I was the after hours care person for all the boarding and hospitalized animals.  The benefit to me being the hired hand was that I got to know the animals so much better when I was the one cleaning their cages, letting them outside, and giving them fresh food and water.  Now that the clinic is busier, I sometimes miss those days.  And on the days when my employees step up front from the kennel area after caring for the animals, wiping the sweat from their brow, I don't miss it quite as much...
In those early days, along came a sweet little white and tan fluffy dog named Addie.  Her family had just moved to the area, and brought her to me while they went away.  She was prone to seizures so often we would set her up in a large wire kennel in my office, away from the noise of the kennel area.  We often called it the "suite" as it was warmer, quieter, and she had a lot of room in that large kennel.  We shared many conversations while I sat at my desk and she would cock her head side to side as I spoke. 

One weekend I was at the clinic taking care of the animals. I had one dog in the yard, and only one left to let outside.  It was Miss Addie.  As I stood a the front desk I looked outside.  The sky was getting quite ominous so I set aside what I was doing to bring the other dog inside, and to let Addie go outside.  I guess the downside of being in the "suite" was that I let her outside last. 

I brought Addie to the door, and let her out into our large fenced in yard to go pottie, exercise, and sniff out all the other events that may have occured in the yard since her last visit out.  We have squirrels, and birds visiting.  The neighbors' dogs visit and try to mark their territory on the fence.  We have even had a visit from a mink that took up shop beneath my shed, but he only stayed for a few days.  We named him Abraham.

I made my way back to the front desk to complete my task, when I heard IT.  IT was the roof being pelted by HUGE raindrops!  I thought of poor little Addie in the back yard and ran to the back door!  I opened it and stuck my head out, "ADDIE?!  ADDIE?!"  but she didn't come to the door!  "ADDIE?!  ADDIE?!"  Still no Addie.  I stepped out and looked around the corner of the building to view the main yard.  Why was she not coming in?  The raindrops were huge and almost painful!  I was practically swimming as I tried to breathe the air!  I could not see Addie anywhere in the yard!  She couldn't have gotten out of the fencing, could she?  There is no conceivable way a dog of her size could get through or under the fence or gate?!  Continuing with my calls, "ADDIE?!  ADDIE?!  COME ON BABY!", which had to be screamed to be heard above the noise the rain was making, I made my way through the yard being careful to avoid the doggie landmines left by the previous yard patrollers. 

I walked all through the yard until I noticed that tucked back behind the shed, trying to find shelter beneath the soffit of the main building was little white Addie.  No longer white due to the mud on her feet and belly, and certainly not fluffy as her coat was soaked with rain!

I ran in there and grabbed her into my arms, my feet now covered in mud.  I ran across the yard, back to the door, careful not to slip in what was rapidly becoming a muddy river in the yard, and also mindful of those landmines again.  I know you are wanting me to say I slipped and landed in a landmine, but I am just too graceful for that.  (those of you who know me are really laughing right now...)

I get her inside, and walk up to the front office with her still in my arms so I could grab a nice dry towel to dry off both of us.  As I close the door behind me to the front office, I turn to see Addie's Dad, standing there waiting to pick up his dog.  His formerly white dog.  His formerly fluffy dog.  We both started laughing, but Addie did not see anything amusing about the situation. 

This memorable event took place in 2003,when my clinic was new and Addie was much younger. 

Today, I saw Addie again...but it was for the last time.  In the last few months her body began to fail.  Her stature was small.  Her bones were frail.  Her muscles were weak.  Her eyes were no longer playful.  Medications and fluids kept her quality of life going for a while, but as always happens, the time came for the family to make the decision to give Addie the gift of crossing the Rainbow Bridge.

The rainbow bridge legend states:

"Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... "
Author unknown...

I am so proud to have been a part of Addie's life.  I admit, I don't get to know all my patients now the way I did when we started caring for Addie.  I am grateful for that chance, but I am pained by her loss.  I hope soon the memories of Addie can bring smiles to her family's face instead of tears, but having traveled this road myself, I know it may take a while.

I do worry however, that when it is my time to go, that the number of animalsI have loved is so great in number that there will be a four footed stampede running to me!  I won't be fearful of the mass, and I know my arms will be strong enough to embrace them all!  I can only hope that bridge is strong enough for all of us to cross together!

My deepest sympathies go out to Addie's family.  You know who you are...

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Worms, Sponge Bob, Green Goblin and what makes them funny!

We had a children's sermon at church and both my kids went off like a shot when all the kids in church were invited up to the altar to sit and listen to the youth counselor present her story.  The first thing she asked was "What is sinning?"  And to THAT my 3 year old raises his hands, high and proud!  I am shocked because he is not as much a talker as he is a doer.  It takes forever for him to decide what he wants for breakfast, milk or juice, each morning!

If called upon, I was expecting him to just sit there and say, "UUUMMMM, I dunno" then blush bright red like his sister used to do.  I am not sure why they always raised their hands in circumstances like these.  Perhaps they raise their hands to be part of the crowd that is raising their hands, or they want to be chosen by the teacher because it shows them they are important?  Well, out of Connor's mouth comes, "Being like the Green Goblin".  For those of you who don't know who the Green Goblin is, he is Spiderman's arch enemy!  The teacher laughed and said, "Yes, I guess sinning is similar to being like the Green Goblin" as the rest of the church laughed along.

A few days later, I was sitting down and the kids had Sponge Bob on television.  I admit it, there are a few times watching SpongeBob when I did laugh, but it really is not a show I would choose to watch. 

Connor says, " I like Sponge Bob.  Do you like Sponge Bob, Mommy?" 
I responded, "No Connor, I really don't care for Sponge Bob." 
He replies, "Why Mommy?"  with a sorrowful sound in his voice. 
"I just don't think he is that funny, Connor." 
He perks up, points at the tv, and says, "Yes he is, just look at him!"  To which, I laughed at the response, and he laughed at Sponge Bob contorting himself into another mess.

And now for the veterinarian tale...

Miranda was around 4 or 5 at the time, and I had a fever so I was staying home sick from work.  When she came upstairs to kiss me goodbye, she asked me why I was staying home.  I told her that Mommy was sick today and was staying home so she could feel better for tomorrow. 

"What made you sick, Mommy?"
"Germs made me sick, Miranda."
So she goes off to daycare, and the next day I find out that when Miranda got to Kim's she told Kim that her Mommy was sick.
Kim's concerned response was, "What's wrong with her, Miranda?"
Miranda's response, "She has worms."

According to Kim, much later in the day, around 4 pm, Miranda suddenly stopped what she was doing, pondered for a moment, then she got a look of revelation on her little face.  She looked up at Kim and said, "Not worms, germs."

I suspect that not many five year olds except the offspring of veterinarians, know much about my daughter knows about worms and germs, and THANK GOODNESS she set the record straight.  I would shudder to think that Kim or anyone else would think that I had a bad case of WORMS!

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox each time it is published, all you need to do is go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Important: Open Soon

I can remember standing in the garage, watching, making sure I did not get too close.  I have always been an animal lover...  I am not sure if it was born in me, or if my older sister brainwashed me from a young age.  ( I have recently found my children's books from my childhood and about 95% of them were about animals... I would put money on the fact that she bought most of them!) 

Earlier in the year, my sister had a plan.  Bon Bon and Fluffy, our newest cats,  were going to get "fixed" this summer but not by our regular vet.  We adopted them from our neighbors who did not fix them.  They were littermates, and had been allowed to mate once...sigh.  One of their babies, Oreo, became one of my favorite cats of all time.

My cousins, Frank and  Linda, and their kids, Kim and Scott, were going to come home to visit, I don't think Nick was born yet...sorry buddy.  They lived in Pennsylvania at the time and were coming home to Rhode Island.  I remember going on a road trip to Pennsylvania to visit them with my Aunt Dot and Uncle Roger and my other cousins when I was young.  During the drive, we "kids" resided in the bed of the pick up truck, covered with a topper of course, that had a mattress in there for our comfort.  I remember they lived in a small duplex farm house...divided down the middle.  There were a bunch of kittens running around, playing on the porch.  To this day, every time I see a white kitten with a grey "tiara" of fur on the dome of its head, I think of this trip.  There were several of these "princess" kittens, as I call them, running around the farm.  I pleaded with my Mother, "Please can we take one home?!  Please?!" and the answer was a simple and straight forward, "No".  There were lots of chickens, and each morning I would hear the rooster crow.  I had never heard that sound before, and loved it.  Those who woke to it each morning were much less impressed by the rude early awakening. Kim and I would go out, usually with my little cousin Scott tagging along behind us, checking the hen's nests for eggs.  The farm had a magnificent smell of hay, and the sounds of all those animals...  oh, I just couldn't think of a more amazing way to live!  I wish I had a camera back then...

But now it was summer.  I was standing in the garage of my Aunt and Uncle, watching my cousin, Frank, spay my cat.  Frank was closer to my sister's age.  His daughter, Kim, was just a few years younger than I and we were pretty close back then.  I don't recall exactly how old I was, but I will guess perhaps ten years old.  As I watched, I recall thinking that there was no blood.  Why was there no blood?  Shouldn't a cat bleed when you remove it's parts???  Kim wanting to play finally distracted me and off I went.  I found out years later, that my older sister saw me out there that day watching Frank spay my cat.  She told my Mom, "She's watching!  Without vomiting or passing out!  She's going to be a vet!"

Well, I did want to be a vet.  I loved animals.  But early in high school I never thought I could handle the blood and guts part of it.  EEEWWWW!  So I toyed with the idea of becoming an English Teacher, a Journalist, or owning a pet store...  But by the time college came around, the old passion became new.  I figured, why not try to become a vet.  What's the worst thing that could happen?   So I declared a major in biology and pressed on.  Much to my amazement, and I think also to my Mom's amazement, I did quite well.  Perhaps this would work for me?  I was fortunate to have friends in college with good study skills, so I learned from the best.

My counselors told me how hard it would be to get into veterinary school.  My sister had contacts at another school that told her that I would never get into vet school from such a small undergraduate school.  Everywhere I turned, it seemed people were trying to tell me to accept defeat, before I got the chance to play.  I considered transferring to a "better" school, but chose not to since I would lose an entire year of credits.  That would be like flushing a year of tuition down the ...   I just busted my butt, and continued to try.  All this time, in the back of my head, I had an "in" cousin was a vet!

I cannot count the number of times I told friends, classmates, teachers, veterinarians, etc. that my cousin was a horse veterinarian in Pennsylvania, then Maryland.  Perhaps I thought that made him famous.  I presented his name expecting at some point that someone would say they knew him.  As I got into vet school, and met people from Penn or MD, of course the hope that they may have heard of him increased, still, no one really knew him.  But I did.  So I had an "in".

I come from a state that does not have a veterinary school, making your chance of getting into vet school extremely difficult, almost miniscule.  Most schools hold about 5% of their seats, for out-of-state students, and with 50 states out there, those odds are not good. The rest of the seats go to state residents, tax payers.  So to be afforded the opportunity to become a veterinarian was an honor.  It was an achievement.  It was reserved for the Top Guns of animal lovers.

I remember working for the first time as a receptionist in a veterinarians office.  The doctor came in to the office, and started searching through some papers next to where I was sitting.  I shot out of my chair and offered it to him as though I was a Private and he was a Colonel in the Army.  He laughed, we talked, and he and I were close from that moment on. 

My cousin, Frank, worked with horses.  That I knew.  I don't know much more about what he did, what he thought,what his passions were about veterinary medicine or anything else.  I couldn't even tell you how many times I have seen him since that time in the garage, but it wasn't very many.  They moved on to Maryland, and although his daughter, Kim, was one of my best friends growing up during the summers on Doire Road, we grew do so many friends and family members.  I have only recently found Kim on facebook, and had a few brief interactions with her such as sharing photos of our kids.  I am not sure if Scott remembers me, he was so young.  I am sure Nick has little idea of who I am and will ask Kim, "Do I know her?".

When I got accepted into veterinary school, I recall someone saying that Frank sent his congratulations.  I wish I could remember who told me.  But I smiled big.  Now I was "in"!

Today I got an email from my sister with a heading stating, "Important: Open Soon".  I of course opened it right away.  It read, "Frank passed away last night... he went to someone’s farm to check a horse and died in their barn.  They assume he had a heart attack".

I lost my cousin, no matter how distant all of us are now.  I lost my "colleague", my "in".   And this might sound odd, but hearing that another veterinarian passed away while performing their job, makes my own life seem that much more delicate, more fragile.  But that is not what disturbs me the most. 

Both of my parents are gone.  I know the pain that his children are feeling.  I know the feeling of shock, disbelief, wanting to turn back time, asking God for just one more moment.  I can remember thinking frantically, there has got to be something I can do to fix this, I just have not thought of it yet...think hard, think fast...while my brain whirled in a frenzy of thought.  But there was nothing I could do then, and there is nothing I can do now for them.

I know that nothing I say or do will take the pain away.  But perhaps knowing that despite our distance in the past years, that he was a great inspiration for me will give them just one more thing to love about him.  And perhaps these words will let them know how fondly I am thinking of them during this difficult time.

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox each time it is published, all you need to do is go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!)