Saturday, August 22, 2009

It Didn't Start That Way

It didn't start that way.

Penny was Karen's. Karen had seen her born, had put a Sharpie mark on her belly to identify her. Anyone that knows Karen, knows the story, she has told it a million times.


I did not have a lot of happy dog memories in my past. I had a beagle I loved and lost when I was very young and, after that? There were a series of family dogs to whom I was not attached, they weren't mine. When I left home, I never had a dog, thinking of the mess, the care, leaving them alone when you go to work, what do you do when you travel. A thousand good reasons not to have a dog.

When we were first together, Karen didn't bring her dogs because she knew I didn't want to have dogs around. Occasionally, as we had house guests, Penny and Peso would stay for extended periods. Together, they were friendly, but very noisy and messy. I'd grumble and clean up after them, happy to pet and talk to them, but happy when they left.

Then Penny got sick with cancer. I could see Karen's concern and loss, so we took Penny in, because I loved Karen. I promised Karen we would make her well, but with all Karen's worry and concern I knew we had to keep Penny after that. She wanted to be with Penny and take care of her. It was not easy for Justin, who kept Peso, but that's what we did.

It didn't start that way. I can't tell you when it happened.

The days, months and years passed. From, no pets on the bed, we ended up with Penny every night, always on my side, always sleeping against my hairy chest, Karen saying, "With all your hair, you’re her People." Every evening, greeted at the door, tail wagging. Penny's ears would perk up when I said "newspaper" and she would run to the door. I'd walk and she would run up our outside stairs, she would tag all of the appropriate bushes and I would retrieve the paper. Then we would amble down the stairs, get a drink or a cup of coffee and spend time with the paper, reading the news, doing the puzzles, Penny laying on my lap.

The past year, she had slowed down. Instead of running up or down the stairs, we would have to carry her to flat ground. But she would wait expectantly, hop up into our hands when we bent down and we would go on our way. We didn't really notice what we were doing, it wasn't a chore, it was just the way you spent time with Penny.

Weekends were the best, we didn't go anywhere. Instead of late afternoon in the chair, "Daddy" was in his chair in the morning, coffee and paper in hand, Penny on his lap.

She was gone last weekend, at the pet hospital, trying to make her well. To us, a weekend lost.

She spent a tough week in the hospital, we visited every day, held her, hoped and prayed for her. Her eyes would light up and her ears perk straight up when she saw us, she would try and get into my arms and, once there, would rest her head and sleep.

On Thursday, we thought all was well. We had a nice visit with Penny, an hour in my arms, Karen and I telling her we loved her, the doctor saying we might be able to take her home on Saturday. We were still battle-weary from the week, but happy and hopeful, we had dinner nearby at an Elmer's.

On Friday morning, Karen and I drove in together, talking about how we were going to take care of Penny in the coming weeks and whether we could take the trip we planned. At 9 a.m., I received a call from the doctor. I answered happily expecting a positive report. It wasn't.

Things had gone very wrong, Penny was on oxygen and we needed to get their right away.

I rushed out of my office and picked up Karen, she took over driving as I was not doing well. We called Penny's normal veterinarian, Dr. Creech, and asked for advice, asking if she could talk to the doctor treating Penny and give us hope. Dr. Creech has been great for Penny, saved her years ago from cancer and has helped her numerous times. She was sad, but honest with us. I don't remember crying that hard since I have been an adult.

We arrived at the hospital and they asked if we were there for "pick up", I think the tears in our eyes told them we weren't. We had to sit in the waiting room, others sitting around or coming and going with their pets, hurt or sick but still with them. We were going crazy and Karen asked them again if they could get us to Penny. They did.

The little Puppy was laying on a table, with a oxygen mask, our hearts were breaking. She saw us and she leapt into my arms. I had to replace the mask because she couldn't breath without it. They took us to a small room, we sat on a couch with Penny on oxygen, and we sobbed.

Karen opened my shirt and, still holding Penny to my chest, we let her go.

It's Saturday morning, the house is quiet.

My chair is empty.

It didn't start that way, but it's been that way for years and that's how it ended.

I loved Penny and miss her deeply


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