Some Memories Don’t Fade by Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC
Tonight I was going through my Google Photos account, taking the images and downloading them onto the much easier to manage and cheaper backup drive. Every so often, I would see a “medium icon” that looked unusual, and if there was no good description of what it was, I would open it up.
At one point, I opened up on a video I had shot just a month before Brian and I were expecting to have our wedding. It was of Bo, my uncle-in-law’s Italian Greyhound that had ended up with us after Jim got cancer. It began with me softly cooing trying to get Bo – elderly and blind – to consider waking up and joining the rest of us for lunch. As the video played, Bo finally awoke.
Bo woke up a lot like I did and still do. One minute you are peaceful, asleep, and slowly you hear voices and noises. You might feel the warmth of the blankets surrounding arthritic joints, the soft humming of a loved one nearby. But you don’t move – it is almost like you are paralyzed until your aged brain slowly connects that yes, this is a new day and you are waking up.
An eye opens, and peeks out from the soft blankets, and even though Bo couldn’t see, he could tell if there was a warm sunbeam striking his face just like I often could. In the video, just as happens in real life even for me today, there is that one shining moment of peace, security, comfort, and ease.
Then we move, and human or dog, the frozen swollen joints scream out in pain. I would often cry as I reached for those all important morning pills that would relieve the pain.
Bo would assume he had been attacked, and would bounce up, snapping at the air, crying out not just in pain, but in frustration at not being able to see and subdue whoever disturbed his rest. My job was to get those all important pain meds into his mouth as quickly as I could, while also calming him down and reminding him that yes, Mommy was there, and it was going to be ok. Once that happened, Bo became a happy peaceful “puppy” and enjoyed life in our cabin near the lake, walks with Booker and Brian, cuddling with me, and often he was so quiet people would forget he was there.
As the video played, and Bo got each long skinny leg to unhinge and move comfortably, he of course started to snuggle against me, and give out little happy yips as his ears spoke a language all their own.
What broke me and brought me to tears tonight ?
Watching Booker, my chihuahua-dachshund medical comfort dog. At the first sound of Bo’s “cranky voice” perking his own ears, Booker jumped up from under his blanket, anxiously running in back of the laptop and in front, desperately trying to find his bedmate and buddy. As Bo on the video started to happy yip and wag his ears, Booker moved around the PC, tail up and wagging, his own ears up, an excited look in his eyes when he finally looked AT the screen and saw his old friend.
Like most hospice dogs, Bo had his good and his bad days. I had shot the video because for almost a week Bo had been acting very strangely, waking up snapping to find his attacker with more than a “grumpy morning” voice, and I was going to take it to the vet to show her. Also, during the day, he would be peacefully resting – often at my feet by the sewing machine – and suddenly would bolt straight up, cock his head toward one side of our house, and begin anxiously trying to get to the door, to outside, tail wagging, eyes shining, ears at full “Daddy’s HERE!”” attention. He would begin barking and barking, just like he always had when Jim had been gone and came home. I took video of that too.
It was breaking my heart, as by that time my uncle was losing his battle with cancer and was miles away, and Brian and I were both mystified as to why he was suddenly acting so strangely.
The Vet could only offer the suggestion that something that Bo associated with his Daddy was occurring somewhere near our cabin, and that when Daddy consistently didn’t show up, it was causing the poor animal to grieve his lifelong companion even more. She theorized that in the mornings, poor Bo woke up to discover that Daddy – who he was SURE was around, wasn’t there next to him, and was lashing out in frustration.
Eventually, we discovered that an uncaring and often intoxicated man in the neighborhood had purchased a little kid’s toy that made a police siren noise…just the kind of toy we used to use to play fetch with Bo. The ingrate had discovered that Bo started barking up a storm every time he hit the siren button on the toy, and with both Brian and I being hearing impaired, we had no idea the poor dog was literally being tortured by this selfish neighbor who drank his beer after beer and got lots of laughs at making poor Bo jump up and bark so much you could sometimes hear his voice go hoarse.
During this, Jim died from the cancer that had separated the two best friends. He had at the beginning “liked” when I put up photos of Bo, but never took us up on our offer to bring him for a visit. My relatives said it was so hard to let Bo go in the first place that Jim couldn’t bear the idea of seeing him only to have him leave again. We respected his wishes.
We knew that if we called Animal Control to speak to the man, he wouldn’t change. In fact, when we did talk to the officer, the sad news was that more than likely the person would simply torture the dog even more.
We called Italian Greyhound Rescue after that conversation at the police department, and both Brian and I cried our eyes out as we packed up Bo’s things. The volunteers from Italian Greyhound Rescue were so compassionate, and so caring. We could never thank them enough for letting us have the time we needed for final photos and cuddles.
Booker was miserable for weeks, and became horribly anxious if a day passed that he did not see his other canine friend, Tucker. As time went by however, with lots of treats and attention, we thought he was fine.
Tonight, I saw that all the drama caused by the simple fact certain people just would not let Brian life his life as he wanted, with me as his wife, has more than just us human victims struggling still to make sense of the needless, cruel, and hateful things that were done to all of us.
I turned the volume off the video, and closed it down, tears cascading down my face as Booker stared at the black screen then at me and back again.
I hugged him, and whispered into his fur that it was okay, that Bo had gone to a new home, but Booker would stay right here with Mommy. He licked at my hand and then my face, and finally heaved a large sigh and laid his head on my arm, staring at the black laptop screen.
There are no words to describe how hard it is to watch the old wounds ripped open on an innocent victim of the malice and cruelty that surrounded our lives that horrible span between the Valentine’s Day 2013 when Brian proudly put that beautiful ring on my finger, and the day I broke down around midnight this past October and wrote to one of his functional family members that I couldn’t take it anymore, I was too sick, Brian was too sick, and I begged him to please come help him so I might have a chance of getting well. That is another, larger story…Brian and Brenda, Sittin’ In A Tree…. *sigh*.
Booker and Bo, Tucker and the other dogs that all played together have suffered. The neighbor who was such a loner, but who would light up when he came to visit and got Booker’s “loves” has suffered. Brian, I, and most of all my stepson Jamie have suffered. And the list goes on.
Tonight, I sat down and whipped up a graphic of Bo, peacefully sleeping, and let my neuropathy filled fingers scream silently in pain so I could work out the emotional rawness of realizing that even now, even so many months later, little dogs like Booker are still hurting from the things done to Brian and I.
When I finished, I decided that I was sick and tired of bearing the memories alone. That perhaps in the sad tale of both what happened to Bo that summer, and what happened to Booker tonight, someone might learn to think twice about teasing an animal for fun, or someone might take a moment to hug their dog, no longer a playful puppy, but an old, arthritic, slower companion.
If just one person reads this and treats animals better, or gives that older dog a little extra “loves”, then I think Booker would agree we will have created something positive out of our sad episode.
If you agree, please “like” or forward…