Tag Archives: dogs

Worthy of Words

SammyI retreated to bed early last night. My body and thoughts were consumed by muscle aches and chills. I worried more about writing this post than I did staying up to watch election results; one outcome I could control, the other I couldn’t. With the thought I could post a “Wordless Wednesday” post, I made my decision.  I needed rest and my body demanded it, so I kissed my husband, daughter, and our old Beagle, Sammy, good night before I crawled under the covers with a heating pad.

Our 13 year old Beagle cocked his head and watched me as I made my way out of the room. Concern and confusion filled his eyes. He always senses when something is off, be it physical or emotional, with any of his humans, and last night something was “off” in both arenas for me. Physically, I think exhaustion was taking its toll. Emotionally, I was worried. Yes, the early election returns were worrying me but more so, I was worried about him, our Sammy, who I knew would face surgery in the morning.

His surgery is both routine, and not routine. He is having some teeth pulled today. Fairly routine in a senior dog. He’s also having a tumor removed. Not so routine, in my world. As an old dog, he developed 2 “fatty tumors” on his chest about 2 years ago. Cells were extracted and the results were as expected; nothing to worry about. Then, last month, I took Sammy in for his “Senior Screen” where they ran blood tests, did X-rays, and various other checks to screen for any developing or existing health problems. I asked for a needle biopsy on the latest “fatty tumor” that had developed on his side and grown faster than the previous tumors. The results showed fatty cells in addition to abnormal cells and we were advised to have it removed for a full biopsy. My heart sank, but there were other health concerns that needed to be addressed first. A round of antibiotics for a suspected UTI, a follow-up test and cultures cleared, and we were back on the road to today.

His eyes were filled with both hope and doubt when I picked him up to place him in the car today. His body frail with severe arthritis but his spirit still young, he forgets his limitations often and struggles against the aid to get up and down from locations higher than the Aerobed we leave set up for him in the living room. I settled him into the front seat so I could secure him in place with his leash. Before backing out of the driveway, I flashed back to the day we brought him home. This morning, we would return to the place our journey began, our vet’s office where 8 years ago his first family decided he was an inconvenience and they didn’t want him anymore, where 8 years ago, he chose us, really chose my girls, and my girls chose him.

We were only casually looking for a dog at that point. Our vet had a family who had a Mastiff they couldn’t keep. “Were we interested,” they asked.

Now, a brief history with our vet might clarify their request. We had already adopted 2 cats from our vet.  They joined our menagerie of rescued animals including 2 other cats, 2 rabbits, 2 guinea pigs, a snake, an Egyptian uromastyx, and a few rats, a newt, and a skink that we did purchase. We often joke our vet knew we were suckers when I paid $25. for a tumor removal on a rat that cost $2.99. Animals, I’ve always believed, offer some of the best lessons in responsibility and compassion and, being a homeschooling family, we had the necessary time to dedicate to all the members of our zoo.

Well, long story short, the Mastiff fell through and we met Sammy by chance on a visit. It was love at first sight. He licked and snuggled with my girls the moment they sat down. Sure, he liked me and my husband, but he LOVED them immediately and despite my doubts (I was always a big dog person, having grown up with German Shepherds), he quickly became an integral part of our family. We often joke that Sammy is the Beagle that never looked in the mirror. He rarely barks or howls like a typical Beagle, making it easy to share a home with him. He is incredibly patient and loving to all the household members, including the rabbits (while they were alive) and bonded closely with one of them. He has been a patient (most of the time) mentor to the Guide Dogs for the Blind puppies we raise. And, he beats the suction of our Dyson vacuum cleaner every time! (OK, in that respect, he is all Beagle.)

As I’ve taught my girls, when we open our homes to bring in animals, be it a $3. rat or a high dollar designer dog, we make a commitment to care for and love them. We promise to meet not just their basic physical needs, but their emotional needs and to offer them the best physical care we can afford, and if you can’t afford the expensive unexpected vet bills, maybe it isn’t the right time for a pet. Today’s bill will be expensive. I know that. I knew it going in. However, 8 years ago, I made a promise to a spry Beagle with a heart ready to love me and trust me, and when I looked into those big brown eyes this morning, I knew I was keeping my promise.

It’s Wordless Wednesday, but the love I feel for that old man Beagle of ours is worthy of words on this 5th day of NaBloPoMo.

A warm welcome.

As a “stay-at-home mom”, I had the privilege of watching my small children transform into something foreign every Monday through Friday around 4:30. Like werewolves in the full-moon light, their little voices would rise above the sounds of the TV, music or the incessant chirps of an electronic toy left discarded on the floor. Long before they used a clock to direct their days, my darling angels would mysteriously begin their ascent into the “witching hour”, as I called it; that last hour of the day before my husband would return from work. I both cursed and blessed that hour.

During the “witching hour”, my girls would jump, and giggle, and scream, and run in circles.  To peek through my window, you would swear I had loaded them up with sugar before telling them that Christmas, Easter, their birthdays, and the 4th of July were all being celebrated that night. Somehow, the girls “knew” daddy would be home soon, and they  ramped up to welcome him home. Santa couldn’t generate the excitement my husband could when he pulled his car into the driveway. It was a part of my daily routine and one I never tired of–though some days, I came close.

Somewhere along the journey, the grand “WELCOME HOME, DADDY!” was replaced by a casual, “Oh, hey, Dad.” Life with teens is certainly different. Honestly, the change was so gradual it had gone unnoticed by me. When caught up with the busyness of preparing dinner, or helping with homework, or chatting on the phone, I, too, can forget to stop long enough to truly welcome my husband or children when they return home.

One afternoon a few weeks back, I found myself growing impatient with our lovable, rescued beagle, Sammy. It was the start of the longest hour of the day.  He’s an “older gentleman” now, having turned 10 this past Thanksgiving, and we say he’s the beagle who has never looked in the mirror. Though he is HIGHLY food motivated, he (thankfully) doesn’t bark just to hear himself bark like many of his beagle friends. (Having his humans home during the day helps, I’m sure.) Living with Sam is much like living with a perpetual toddler. And, though no longer a puppy, no one could convince him or me he’s not when the “witching hour” begins.

In the hour before my husband’s predictable return, Sam is up and down off the couch. He runs to the front door, peeks out the side window, runs to me or one of the girls, then runs back into the living room. His ears perk with every passing car, waiting to hear the familiar sound of “Daddy’s” Honda. Somehow, he senses when my husband turns the corner and rushes for the door. Upon the sound of the car door closing, Sammy begins whimpering until the front door is opened. Before the door is fully opened, he charges out to greet my husband, leaping up to say, “WELCOME HOME, DADDY!”

There is something wonderful about being greeted home with a warm, excited welcome. If out shopping for a day, my still small children would welcome me home with the same excitement they greeted my husband with. And, truthfully, it felt good knowing I had been missed.  Perhaps, it is the ability to understand lapsed time that ends the grand homecomings. Perhaps, it is a teen’s unpredictable moods. It may be nothing more than  busy schedules that end the joyful reunions at the end of the day. Even though their “witching hours” ended several years ago, my husband and I both know our kids love and miss us when we’re apart, just as we love and miss them when they are gone.

Though the gestures are lost, the feelings are not. Except for Sam. Faithful, reliable Sam, who still greets each of us with excitement and joy whether apart for 20 minutes or 2 weeks. I’ve sometimes wondered if it’s because he was abandoned by his first family at the age of 4. Maybe, even after 6 years together, he’s still grateful to have us as his “forever family.” I’ve also wondered if he has any idea how much his joyful welcomes warm my heart and conjure memories of my daughters’ toddler years. Our little beagle reminds me that we should always welcome each other home with enthusiasm.  I never thought I would own a beagle. (I’m more of a “big dog” kind of gal.) But, coming home to a dog like Sam who expresses his love with enthusiasm and joy every day, has offered me so much more than a just warm “welcome home.”

How do you say “Welcome home” to the ones you love?

Our Sammy Beagle. He not only welcomes us home with enthusiasm, he judges our family bocce ball games.
And, because one cute dog is never enough, I share a picture of my sister's welcoming committee.