Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to Adopt a Dog

We adopted Honey Bear Miller from Save A Dog A Day in East Hampton. The process was rather complicated. Here is my latest article on How to Adopt a Dog. (Blog posts with puppy stories will be here soon!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bear's Pet Memorial Garden and Stone Marker

Click here for a post on how to make this garden marker as part of a pet memorial garden. My 13-year old was artistic director for the garden marker and my 11-year-old for the seashell design. My 9-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter helped with both. This was an extremely healing activity for our family. Bear's gentle spirit will always remain with us.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bear Midnight Miller

"Also the animals possess a soul, and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren."
Pope John Paul II

“Bear is going to Puppy Heaven today,” I told my four-year-old daughter on Friday, “She will be able to go play with all our bunnies who are there - Hoppity, Peach, and Lucky.” She seemed to understand. She had watched me change bandages on her bleeding paws and carry her around because she was no longer able to walk, and she knew Bear was old and sick.

Bear, who has been in perfect health all thirteen years of her happy life, had a sudden decline over the past two weeks. Her had stopped eating and breathing was so poor that we knew her time was imminent.

“I can’t stand to see her suffer any more,” my husband said, and so we arranged to have a traveling veterinarian come to our house that evening at 7:30 PM, when we could have the whole family together. Still I hoped for a natural death for my gentle friend.

I carried her outside for some sunshine. At around noon, I went out and blessed her with holy water. “Please Jesus, take her home to be with you. St. Francis of Assissi, please help her.”

Although I had bathed her two days before, her smell was attracting flies, so I brought her in to the kitchen. I cleaned the house, put out freshly cut flowers and lit candles, to make the atmosphere peaceful for that evening.

Two of the children came home at 3:35. I explained to them what we planned to do and why. They were a little upset. At 3:40 I went outside to push my little one on the swings. At 3:45 I heard a yelp and the water bowl crash. I ran inside and saw that she had passed, her head on her paw.

I called the children and when they all met in the kitchen at once, they all started to howl. I tried to hug them all at once, and moved them into the living room. We stayed there for about 20 minutes and then moved outside to the deck. I was surprised that they were able to enjoy a goldfish snack, and actually play a little game with the goldfish crackers.

We had to pick up my older daughter from cross country at the high school. I warned them not to say anything to her until we got home. I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of the school or even in front of my house.

She came out of the school looking very happy. “I had a great day!” she declared.
Her sister and I exchanged looks when she was putting her stuff into the trunk.
We got home and I said we needed to go around back. I wanted to tell her in the back yard before going into the house.

Later she would say that she always knows what is coming when I tell them to sit down. We had gone through this with the bunnies.

“Come here,” I said, as I put my arms around her.

“Is it Bear?”

She looked at the other kids and knew. It was even worse for her. We had gotten Bear as a two-month-old puppy when she was a two-month-old newborn, and we celebrated their birthdays together.

Coming home to no dog was hard. . .

On Sunday morning I dreamt that Bear was playing with Alamo, the golden retriever of my childhood. I woke to the sound of giggling girls. I knew we were going to be okay. I went to Michael’s to purchase a garden stone kit. Together we made a garden stone for Bear, and planted mums around her grave.

"All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful:
the Lord God made them all."
Cecil F. Alexander

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Old Dog

This week brought a new trial to the Miller household. Our black Labrador, Bear, who has been completely healthy for thirteen years, started bleeding from her paws. I originally thought she had broken off her claws and wrapped them up, thinking they would heal on their own. When the bleeding failed to improve, I brought her in to a veterinarian. I was in for a big shock.

Bear hasn’t left home in years, and she was shaking from the time I carried her out to the car to the time I lifted her onto the table.

I started by apologizing that she hadn’t been bathed recently; I hadn’t wanted to aggravate the bleeding and she has been spending her days outside. I also felt the need to explain why her claws hadn’t been trimmed recently. The assistant was very understanding. Again I felt apologetic as I removed her bandaging and she started bleeding all over the table.

“She has tumors in her paws,” the lady vet with the kind eyes told me.

My mind flashed back to my childhood dog, Alamo, a lively golden retriever whose life ended at the age of fourteen after we found tumors on her head. It was the first time I ever saw my dad cry; the second time was when his own father died.

Was she going to tell me to put her down? My eyes filled with tears.

I saw the doctor’s nose redden in response to my own show of emotion. “We can try an antibiotic for ten days,” she explained, “After that the only option would be surgery, which I wouldn’t suggest for a dog her age. Please call me by the end of the week and tell me how she is doing.”

I went home crying. I had to tell the kids what was going on with their beloved pet. As the days go on, they watch as I change her bandages. She doesn’t want to get up, so they have been bringing her food and water. She stopped eating hard dog food, so we bought her canned food. She even turns away from that now, and I have to force her to eat her pills, wrapped within deli meats. It feels odd now that I don’t have to watch the table to make sure she doesn’t jump up and eat my husband’s dinner.

Four days into the ten days of antibiotics prescribed, I wonder if she will improve; if she will pass peacefully; or if I will have to make a decision to euthanize my loyal friend.