12-18-09 Reach out and touch

Reach out and touch

Has Christmas snuck up on you this year? I’m told it’s a sign of aging when the months go by so fast you can’t keep up. It’s been an emotional year. I’ve attended more funerals than ever, and lost so many dear ones to me I’m still in shock. Maybe that is why Christmas is so hard for me to get into the spirit of this year. I’ve never been good at sending Christmas cards, if you get a Christmas e-mail from me, consider yourself lucky!
Last night I started having dreams of clients that have moved away, and then I received a nice Christmas card today from one who moved to Texas. I think of them whenever I see a Yorkie, and they think of me whenever they get their dogs groomed.
This must be a “sign” to get back in touch with those we’ve lost touch with. Of course that is going to be one of my resolutions this year. I’m thankful for the “facebook” website and being able to see what everyone is up to on there. If they don’t have a computer, well then it’s going to be a little bit harder for me. I am bad about writing letters, sending cards and returning phone calls. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I’m easily distracted and time runs away from me faster than I can keep up, and by the time I look at the clock, it’s too late to return calls. Okay, so I’ll call it what it is. I don’t MAKE time to do those things. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to break. Unfortunately, I have a lot of bad habits I want to break.
I know I’m not alone, lots of people want to make their lives a little less chaotic and hectic, and change is usually a good thing. This year has been very hard on so many people and their pets. The number of pets coming into shelters and rescue is steadily rising and it’s harder than ever to find good homes for the pets that need one. People have lost jobs and homes and the family pet usually gets the brunt of it.
So if you are among the fortunate, and you have a secure job or income, and your home isn’t in jeopardy, consider adopting an older pet this year. Puppies are wonderful of course, but everyone wants puppies and kittens and once they are grown, nobody seems to want them. No pet will love you like a rescued pet. I speak from experience. Every rescued animal I’ve ever had has been the best behaved, easiest to deal with pet. Once they are mature, you don’t have the usual puppy issues of chewing up your stuff, or potty training. A pet that has been in a reputable rescue has been in foster care and they can tell you all about their temperament and quirks. Most rescues, the vet work has already been done so you won’t have the expenses of spaying and neutering, vaccinations and heartworm testing. The best Christmas gift you can give is the gift of a loving secure home to an animal in need, and there are so many in need!
If you can’t make room at your Inn, consider helping a neighbor or relative with their pet. Offer to walk their dog for them, run to the grocery store or feed store for pet food, and check up on them. Elderly folks rarely have a lot of family and friends to look in on them. Be a Christmas angel to them and reach out and offer your help. Little things mean so much. Go on and be brave, knock on their door and ask them if you can run an errand for them or help them out in any way. They will appreciate that someone cared enough to ask, and the feeling you will get from truly giving of yourself is amazing.

12-7-09 Life and Loss

Life and Loss

Just when I thought life couldn’t throw me any more curves, it does. My cat Dixie passed away, thankfully in the loving arms of her vet Dr. Cathy Alinovi on Thanksgiving Day. It was unexpected, and a huge shock to me. I hadn’t planned on her dying, I fully expected her to rally and come home. We still don’t know exactly what the cause was, she was in renal failure but she didn’t seem to be having any real trouble with it. I figured I’d have at least a couple more years. She was only 10.
Of all the pets I’ve lost, this one seems to have hit me the hardest. Maybe it’s because of all the build up of stress, or just that it was such a shock but I really took it hard. I’m still in a funk and can’t seem to get myself back on track. This is also the first pet I have had an individual cremation for. I’ve always either buried my pets or had a group cremation at the vet for them, but I couldn’t seem to do either of those, so I opted for an individual cremation.
I didn’t know what to expect, since I haven’t had any experience with it before, so I called on some friends of mine who have been there and had it done, and got their opinions. I was glad they were able to ease my mind a bit, and convince me that it’s normal to feel the way I do. They explained to me how they had several little boxes and urns around their own home of pets they’ve lost before. Funny, I guess I hadn’t really noticed it before.
I had a lot of silly questions, for instance in my house what “if” one of the other pets would knock off the box of ashes? What then? Do you sweep it up; toss it out with the dirt you swept up with it? I could see all sorts of horrible scenarios happening. Well I found out the ashes are sealed up in a bag inside the box, so that alleviated some anxiety.
I’ve always thought that when you sprinkle someone’s ashes in their favorite spots, it was a sweet and memorable gesture, the problem is Dixie’s favorite spot was my lap. That didn’t sound like such a good idea. I guess if you grow up unaccustomed to cremation, you tend to let your imagination get out of hand.
So what’s the first step? Well for me, since I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with her, I called up Bob Maus who was kind enough to walk me through the process, and in fact, is gracious enough to handle pet cremations through Hippensteel funeral home in Lafayette. He went to the vet, picked up Dixie for me, and took her into Hippensteel’s for me. He also goes back and returns her ashes to me. They come in a beautiful carved wooden box. Bob went over and above for me as well, and at my request clipped a little fur for me to keep. I would’ve clipped it myself, but he was kind enough to know that I really didn’t want to see her that way as my last memory, and he offered to do it for me.
I learned there is cremation jewelry too, little necklaces and trinkets to keep a smidgen of hair or ashes in for lasting “close to the heart” memories, to help you heal. I learned that there are all sorts of memorial things you can do with ashes, for instance there are places that can turn ashes into diamonds! Yes, it’s expensive, but wow what a neat lasting memorial that would be. There are artists that will incorporate ashes into paint and paint a memorial for you. There are artists that will incorporate ashes into clay and make pots out of them. It may sound kind of strange to some people, but I can see why that makes sense, and can bring peace, from ashes to art. Not such a bad idea. Of course I had to order a memorial stone from Nathan Maus, who has a wonderful line of pet memorial markers he can make for a very reasonable price.
I’ve drawn a picture of her; made a “you tube” video of her photos, ordered a wooden cut out painting of her, and cried my eyes out almost daily since Thanksgiving. Then I felt guilty I didn’t do that much for the other pets I’ve lost. I loved them too! I think when you lose a pet unexpectedly it hits your harder. When they are older or sick, your mind has more time to process it. You will still grieve, but it seems like when you aren’t expecting it, you are really thrown for a loop. The kids had a hard time with it, simply because they didn’t get to say goodbye.
I also know that the grief process is different for everyone, and we all deal with it in our own time and ways. While some people hardly act affected when their pet dies, others fall apart and into a deep lasting depression, completely unable to function. Then they feel guilty that they are so deeply mourning a pet and didn’t mourn the humans in their life so badly. I think that’s because pets are like children to us, they depend on us, don’t talk back to us, and give us unconditional love. They don’t hurt our feelings like humans do; they just want to be there in your presence. When we hurt, they don’t tell us to just “get over it”, they come up to us, concerned, they lay with us and give us the sad, understanding eyes when we are full of sorrow and a little kiss to make it all better. I think that is what I’ll miss most about Dixie, she was my little lap magnet, if I sat down she was on my lap, as if to say, finally you’ve slowed down and rested, let me keep you here a while.
I’m not in the market to replace her; I have plenty of critters to deal with now as it is. But there will be a deep hole in my heart just for her, and with all the billions of cats in the world, there was only one Dixie, and for that I’m grateful I’ve shared the last 6 years with her.