Monday, October 14, 2013

Dear Finnegan...

It's been 10 days since I said goodbye to your sweet face.  10 horrid days of unbearable silence in this house.  Little boy, I tried to do everything I could for you. As soon as I saw your little legs weakening, I took you to the vet.  Dr. Metzler said it was a treatable condition and I had to decide whether to treat you or let you go.  I decided to treat, but in the end you deteriorated so fast, 16 days.  So fast.

When you looked at me with those big brown eyes upon my return home on Friday, Oct. 4th, I knew what you were telling me.  Yes, you are a dog and I am a human, but those cords of unconditional love allow for the most meaningful communication.  That look said it all and my heart broke into a million little pieces.

I think about that day in 2004, when I went to the Humane Society and found you.  You were a matted, flea infested, stinking thing they named Pancho.  Really?  You didn't look like no stinking Pancho, but there you were, a stray, needing to be neutered and facing heartworm treatment.  There was something in that face of your, those big brown eyes that reached in and grabbed me by the heart.

Kimberly and I loaded you into her vehicle and took you straight to Petco to have you dipped and shaved.  I got you home and you decided that trying to mark your territory.  I nipped that quickly and off you went to to start the treatment for heartworms.  The vet said keep you quiet, but you wouldn't sit still.

I found out the hard way that you didn't like storms.  I still have the shredded carpet to prove it.  I didn't know that either, at the time.  You didn't like your crate, but even though you were housebroken you did have accidents in the house, much to my dismay.

Oh my goodness you were a difficult dog, but so darn cute.  Watching you run to the back yard was really a joy.  That little docked tail wiggling and those long ear flopping in the breeze.  Watching you sticking your head out the window as we rode around, those ears in the wind.  You never wanted to stay in the backseat.  You would stand on the console and rest your head on my shoulder.

I miss your little food hog ways.  The way you were always tangling around my feet while I was cooking dinner or washing dishes as if I would toss you a crumb.  Oh wait, I would.  Do you remember filching the toast right off my breakfast plate?  Or figuring out how to open your food container and eating 14 cups of food one day?  You were a stuffed sausage when I got home.  I made a call to the vet who said to watch you for diarrhea and puking - great!  And you silly dog, you still wanted your evening meal.

I miss your begging face as I am eating pizza, well eating anything.  I don't have a reminder to feed Mollie now.  You were better than a clock. Every evening around 7:30 you started bouncing around.  All I had to say was, "ready to eat".  You'd hop and bounce and spin in frantic circles as though you hadn't been fed in days.

In spite of all that you were my baby boy.  My stupid dog.  You were never a lap dog, but you enjoyed being close.  You followed me everywhere.  I couldn't pee without you sitting in the door waiting for me.  You just have no idea how much you are missed.

Do you remember the day I got you home from the vet, freshly shorn and vaccinated and you jumped out of my vehicle while I was driving down the road?  Thank goodness, I had your leash on.  All I heard was a thump, I looked over and you were gone.  I got the car to the side of the road and slowly pulled the leash up and there you were, dangling from the other end.  Once I got you in the car, you were just all grins and giggles (yes I know a dog doesn't really grin or giggle), as though you accomplished some great feat.  Sure you scraped up the bottom of your paws and bled all over the passenger seat...lovely.

Finnegan, nothing with you was easy.  From day one you were a challenge, but regardless, you were my bud.  Always there for me in the evening when I got home.  You made life less lonely.  You also made me laugh.  There wasn't a person who walked into this house that you didn't hug in your special boy way.  Actually, there was one, the only one and he...well that's a post for another day, but how you reacted to him, that's how I knew he was special.

But sweet Finn, like him, you are gone.  I was with you every moment of that journey.  I cried my heart out and when I thought there were no more tears they just kept coming.  As we sat here at home and I loved on you, Mollie nudging you and licking my tears and you staring up at me, I poured my heart out to you.  Feeling so guilty but knowing I was doing what was best for you.  Knowing didn't make it any easier.

When we got to the vet's office, I almost walked back out.  How could I do this to you?  But how could I let you suffer one more night?  I signed the papers and the tech came in.  He said his heart broke when he saw your name on the board.  He has always been sweet.  He asked me the hard questions about your remains and if I wanted a paw print.  There I was holding you on my lap talking about what would happen to you.  

Dr. Hageny came in and I asked her to help me be very sure that what I was expecting in your recovery with the meds was possible, but as I had feared over the last week, no medicine would magically return the strength to you muscles.  I couldn't continue to pick you up and carry you around and it just wasn't fair to you not being able to walk or sit or run.

So she gave you a sedative and said it would take about 15 minutes.  Within 3 minutes, your little head was lolling around, but you were looking at me with glazed eyes and I just talked to you.  My insides mush, my heart aching, and your little heart beating as I rubbed your tummy.  We waited.

Dr. H and Anthony (the vet tech) came in.  It was time.  So I talked to you, rubbed your silky ears and told you I loved you and I would miss you and that you were a good boy.  I watched her give you the medicine that would slow your heart to a stop.  Such a pretty pink color, yet such a deadly thing.  She was halfway though injecting you, and I knew you were gone.  She finished the injection and listened to your heart slowly stop beating.  There was no last inhale of breath, no sudden movement.  You were simply gone.  I howled, if that is what you would call it...that guttural escape of sound that a wounded animal makes. 

They let me have as much time as I wanted with you. I stood there scratching your chin, rubbing your belly, playing with your floppy ears.  You were cute even in death with your pink tongue tip sticking out.  Finn, you are missed.  I know I will get through this, as will Mollie.  She misses her crate buddy.  She's been crying the last few nights and I know she realizes you are gone.  I miss all your sounds, your snoring, your noxious toots.  I miss you curling up by my feet.  I miss your barks and all your annoying quirks.  But most of all, I miss that sweet, soulful face.  You will be remembered my Finny Winny, Stupid Dog, OMG Finnegan!!!, Finners, Finn Finn.

The Kindness of Strangers

Over the last few weeks, I have been the recipient of random acts of caring from perfect strangers.  By coincidence or divine intervention, these individuals who do not know me have been there to offer comfort in moments of heartache.

Maybe in those moments God knew I needed a gentle touch to remind me that He is present in my life and even though I don't understand why things are the way they are, He has a plan that is greater than I can imagine.

It started a few Sundays ago, I was falling asleep to one of my stations on iHeart radio when the song "Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail)" came on.  I couldn't stop the tears streaming down my face that night nor can I stop them when I hear the song.   Subsequent to that night, we started a sermon series at church...Greater Than.  God is Greater Than My ________.  You can fill in the blank.  "Oceans" has been something of a theme song for this series, so I have heard it a few times over the last few weeks.

I was standing during the worship portion of service when the band played a  song, the name escapes me, which started tears sliding down my face.  I have the ability to cry silently in church, so I quietly brushed aside the tears while talking to God in my head.  The song ends and I'm a sniffling mess when I hear the first bars of Oceans, the haunting violin.  I take a deep breath and try to remember to exhale.  

And the tears come, a flood trying to sweep me fast I cannot wipe them away.  I let them fall.  That's when I felt two hands rest on my shoulders with a gentle tug backwards...a complete stranger whispering, "do you want to go sit in the cafe and talk.  You can tell me what's wrong. Let's get a coffee."  She held me there for the duration of the song letting me cry and offering the gift of her heart and understanding.  When we finally sat down, I thanked her and said there really wasn't anything to talk about.

Don't get me wrong, I could talk, but does it really matter to a stranger that my heart has been wounded, my dog was sick, I'm on the verge of losing my job, I'm stressed out. It's been a crappy year and I know others have it worse, but this is my hell that I'm living.  Turns out she is a Stephen's Minister.  This is what they are trained to do, to listen to those who are hurting and need an ear to bend and a hand to hold.  Being an Stephen's Minister is something I have thought about for year, and here was a one offering me a sympathetic moment.

There was also a lady who accompanied her to church, an older woman with a heart just as sweet.  She wrote me a kind note and spoke with me after service.  It did my heart good that day, just to feel God, through those women, wrap me up in His arms.

Flash forward a couple of weeks.  I was having dinner with my bestie at a local Chili's.  It was literally 24 hours since I had to put my sweet Finnegan to sleep after a rough 16 days.  My heart still aching and I was avoiding home and Mollie and the unbearable silence.

We get seated and our waiter, Joshuah, arrived.  The first thought I have is, "Really Lord, you have to seat me in a section with a waiter who reminds me of someone who has crushed me?"  Yes, that was literally my first thought.  He was as sweet as he could be.  I like engaging people and not everyone can be a successfully engaging waiter/waitress, but Joshuah was.  He answered our questions, took our orders and moved off to get our drinks.

His return with the libations was accompanied with a British accent, which made me giggle as it was so preposterous.  As he dropped off the drinks, I said, "oh we are British now" and a humorous conversation of sorts was started.  I asked him if he could do Australian and he broke off a bit of that before strolling off to take care of his other tables.  We had witty repartee all evening with him even though each time I saw him my heart gave hurtful thump.

The evening was ending when he brought our tickets.  After he dropped them, I was talking about my boy and started crying again.  I couldn't help it, and still can't because I miss that annoying little dog.  Tears streaming down my face, when Joshuah came by to pick up the checks.  It took him half a heartbeat to look at me, asking if I was okay.  When I shook my head no, he said, "do you mind if I give you a hug?"  I said no and before I could say another word, I was wrapped up in a tight hug from a stranger.  My face buried in his polo shirt, with the smell of man and food assailing my senses.

He said, "I know I don't know you or what's wrong and you don't have to share if you don't want to..."  and hugged me a little tighter.  I told him that I had to put my boy to sleep the night before.  He immediately responded that he'd been through the same thing last week with his best friend.  I broke the hug and shortly after that he walked off, returning with a napkin.  Handing it to me, he said, "I don't know you but I love you."

Here is this guy who doesn't know me other than I'm his customer and he's offered a healing hug and kindness in a moment that I needed it.  Yes, there was some angst on my part due to his resemblance to someone, but in that moment, it didn't matter.  There, in the middle of a Saturday evening meal rush, there was a gentle soul offering a sweetly tender gesture to a complete stranger.

My heart still hurts, my job is still in jeopardy and my sweet boy is gone.  But in two very poignant moments, God used strangers to wrap me in His arms and for that I am grateful.  It reminds me that He is there when the oceans overwhelm and my feel fail.