Dogs, grief and gratitude


sarah-greyOur year ended on a sad note as we said goodbye to our sweet old girl, Sarah. She was our coffee-loving, bean crunching girl. We got her in 1999, the same year we bought our house. Howie and I both grew up with dogs and loved them, but as renters we’d not been able to own one the first seven years we were married. So, with the new house came the decision to add a dog to our family.

The girls We found her by way of a classified ad offering her puppies. When we got to the house, Sarah greeted us enthusiastically, wagging her tail and rolling over for belly rubs. Her pups were four months old and still nursing her in addition to eating puppy food. Unlike their mother, however, they were shy and fearful. We asked if they were trying to find a home for Sarah and they said yes.

Her owners said she was born in 1997 or 1998, offspring of one of their beagles (which they raised for hunting) and a chow. The beagle genes were readily apparent, but the chow didn’t contribute much. If her daddy even was a chow.

She had a strong prey drive and a busy beagle nose. She was fine with our indoor cats, but woe to any animals she encountered outside! I think the only animal to ever stand her down was an opossum who turned to face her. Suddenly Sarah had other pressing business.

What she really lived for was squirrels. If she saw one, she’d chase it to a tree and sit at the tree’s base, staring up, as long as you’d let her. If you clicked your tongue in a vague mimicry of a squirrel, she’d perk up, whine and go to the nearest window to look for one. She never tired of this! She knew squirrels lived in trees, so when we’d go by trees while out driving, she would get very excited. Yes, she was just a little obsessed with them. 🙂

Cheeky squirrelWe even had one particularly cheeky squirrel who would come right up to the front window and tease her. At times, they’d be staring each other down, nose-to-nose, with only a double-paned window between them. She also loved to watch the fish in our pond. And she was very interested in the large pleco fish in our aquarium.

sarah-bw-patio-naps-1-wBut she was also the most obedient dog we’d ever had — and no thanks to us! From the day we brought her home, she stayed right by us and came when called. She routinely dashed out the back door and made a circle through the neighbor’s yard when we let her out (scouting for squirrels), but she came right back when we called her. We wished we could take credit for her manners!

She was our constant companion in the garden, our “moley dog” who burrowed beneath the covers every night, and our fearless watchdog. Actually, the only person she guarded us against was the mailman; she really hated the mail carriers and pitched a fit whenever one would come and dare to drop mail through the slot in our front door.

Sarah had her fifteen minutes of fame in this video:

She won second place in the contest. My photos of her and our other dogs were also pictured on Innova Pet’s line of Karma organic dog food promotional materials. That story is here.

Sarah had some sort of episode overnight and on the morning of December 28, she appeared to have had a stroke. Her head was cocked to one side and her eyes darted rapidly back and forth (nystagmus). She could not stand and walk, but stumbled as she tried to balance. From what I looked up, strokes are rare in dogs and she most likely had canine vestibular syndrome (also called peripheral vestibular syndrome), a common ailment of the inner ear and one which she might have recovered from.

Sarah woofs for her bean However, we had to look at the hard facts. She was fourteen years old and had recurring problems with her hind legs. No one in our household is physically capable of bending and carrying a 35-pound dog multiple times a day; considering the dizziness made her so she could barely stand, let alone walk, she would have to be carried outside to go potty. Dogs with this condition can take weeks to recover, and often must be given anti-nauseal drugs because the vertigo makes them sick to their stomachs (imagine being severely seasick all the time).

We couldn’t see putting our old girl through all of this. Our vet said it could also have been caused by a brain tumor. Given the many visible lumps and bumps all over our old girl, it well could have been a tumor causing the symptoms. It could also have been a stroke, though unlikely. Our vet advised that we’d likely be prolonging the inevitable if we tried waiting it out. So, with hearts brimming with sadness, we made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Sarah begs for her beanHopefully it will be many years before we have to face this heartache again. Those of you who have loved a pet deeply know how we feel, know that those who dismiss such grief with “it’s just a dog” don’t get it. Losing a pet is so painful, but they joy they bring to our lives fills me with gratefulness.

Our vet sent us a lovely sympathy card, one which our brindle girl Stella sniffed out of the pile of mail as soon as it hit the floor. She then tried to open for us. Having come from the vet’s office, the paper must be redolent with all kinds of interesting smells. We’re so glad we have our remaining girls to make us laugh!

This is a picture story that illustrates one such gift of laughter from Sarah:

Bachman and Bou

I’m enjoying some Fireside Blend at Caribou this afternoon. With me is a Richard Bachman Stephen King book, Blaze: A Novel. I haven’t even cracked it open to read more yet, though; I keep seeing people I know and figure I can read a book any time, but some friends I rarely get to see. Not only that, there are always new friends waiting to be made. So many of our friends were made right here while sitting in these very chairs.

Anyone feeling blue should consider finding a nearby coffee shop. You never know who you’ll meet and befriend. Coffee may be pricier at a good coffee shop, but it’s still much cheaper than a therapist! A good coffee shop is like Cheers (wasn’t that a great show?)…Just without the drunks. 😉


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Too chipper for our own good?

For all the customers who tell us we’re just way too cheerful for such an early hour…What do you think of this new depressive drug recently approved by the FDA? Play the video in full-screen mode so you can read the fine print!

Would you rather we speak in monotones and avoid eye contact, then sigh heavily when you tell us what you’d like to drink? 😉  Yeah, didn’t think so.

By the way, a friendly note to customers at coffee shops everywhere: Please, if you need more room for cream, just tell an employee so s/he can pour off a bit of the coffee into the sink. Please, don’t just dump and inch’s worth of coffee into the trash receptacle. Have you ever had to empty trash and had the bag tear? Imagine that plus a host of liquids splashing onto your legs and feet. It didn’t happen today, but I’ve had it happen in the past and it’s not fun.

And to the ladies who don’t feel comfortable sitting down on the toilet seat? I totally understand that, believe me. I’ve been known to teeter above the bowl myself. But when you’re done, would you “please be neat and wipe the seat”? It’s common courtesy, ladies Why make someone else do that?

Other than those two issues, I had a pretty good day today!  😉

It keeps things fresh

Last week, I worked one of my shifts with a coworker named David. That afternoon, he answered a phone call just as the drive-thru tone beeped in our headsets. I was looking at him when I answered the drive-thru call, and what came out of my mouth was, “Hi, David, err, uh, welcome to Caribou!”, all running together as I realized what I had said.

The customer sounded upbeat and cheerful and I thought he missed what I said. Some customers don’t really listen to the welcome, but just wait until the pause that tells them it’s time to order. No biggie. When he got up to the window, he was laughing. Uh, oh. Might as well come clean, especially since he was genuinely laughing and didn’t seem to harbor any ill feelings.

I laughed, too, and told him about the phone ringing and my momentary lapse in thought. The best part was when he handed me his credit card. “The thing is, my name actually is David. Here, see?”

He added, “I thought, ‘How the hell did she know it was me? How does she know me? Do I know her?'”! We were both laughing hysterically by that point. It was just classic.

Good times, there!

Birthdays at Bou

I had a great day at work today, with many of my favorite customers popping in during my afternoon shift. We also had a birthday girl come through the drive-thru. She pulled up to the window and handed me her coupon and photo ID (to prove it was her birthday). I smiled and wished her a happy birthday and rang up her free drink order.

One of the things Caribou Coffee does online for its registered members is e-mail a coupon for a free drink on the member’s birthday. I know how a frou-frou drink can be the perfect little indulgence for celebration, so I always try to make the visit extra fun for the birthday boy or girl.

“Hey, David — let’s sing ‘Happy birthday’ to this lady. C’mon!”

Would you believe he declined? What am I going to do with this fella? (You know I love you, David!) I mused, “should I sing it in my best lounge club voice, or do it straight up?”.

When her drink was ready, I brought it to the window and said, “You have to have a song today!” and sang her happy birthday song. I hadn’t gotten her name. NOTE TO SELF: Make a point to remember the name from the photo ID. What to do? I improvised:

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday, dear addict
Happy birthday to you

Her face split into a wide smile and she laughed. Her eyes sparkled. And you know what? It made MY day to see that.

I love this job so much. 🙂 Whereas I’ve not had energy and felt joyful at past jobs, I am consistently upbeat at this job. Being around people, seeing my customers and laughing with them, energizes me in a way no other job has. I’m also thankful for how all my coworkers pitch in to cover in the areas I still can’t handle with my shoulder. There is plenty I am able to do now, so even though I’m still on light duty, I’m no longer feeling like such a third wheel. The muscle memory is being forged once again, so everything doesn’t feel like it’s my first week all over again.

Yes, I am still having some bad pain in my shoulder, but I’m getting back into the swing of things in spite of it. If I have to take some pain medication to get through the bad times and to help me sleep, so be it. At least I’m back on the schedule at work, I’m scrapbooking again, and am out doing things I enjoy. That’s more than many people have, and I’m thankful for it.