Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Dogs in my Life



Since coming down with a bad cold and sinus infection I’ve been moving slower than a two-toed sloth. I was going to say that I probably smell like one too but google says they don’t have body odor. They smell like the algae that grows on their fur. It’s part of their camouflage to smell like the trees they hang out in plus they get to eat the algae they carry around. I love sloths. Under normal circumstances I could catch a sloth and make him cuddle with me when I don’t feel well and I can’t say about Levi. He is by far the least affectionate dog I’ve had in my life. This week I told him if he didn’t let me hug him I'd send him off into the cold world with only his least favorite stuffie to keep him company and I’d cuddle with his favorite. His idea of giving me comfort when I’m sick in bed is to lie on the foot of Don’s side of the bed. Sentry duty style. I like to call Levi my dog, but I think he was Don’s. I was the disciplinarian, Don was the guy Levi went to when I was being the mean mamma teaching him all the ‘no!’ stuff a dog needs to know to live with humans. And they spoke the same language. You could almost see the thought waves going back and forth between them. 

In my bedroom I have one of those family picture frames only mine hold photos of all the dogs that have been in my life starting with a photo of me at eighteen months old sitting next to Blackie who was slightly bigger than me. Although this photo was taken of the two of us sitting outside of a playpen I have others showing us together inside the playpen---Blackie in various sizes, me not so much. We were raised together only she learned how to escape the ‘cage’ before I did. But I’ve been told she’d jump back in if I was crying and if my mom didn't come in a timely fashion, Blackie would bark to help get her attention.

The next photo is of King, a large black and white dog who picked my brother to be his go-to human. They were both energetic and full of mischief. King’s mischief probably got him shot by a farmer out by our cottage because he liked to mix in with the herd of Holsteins at the end of our road. He was a happy dog who loved all two and four legged critters the same. Every chance Mom got for months she would take us out on the country roads looking for King, stopping the farms with photos.

After King we had Scottie the collie who lived with us for over 19 years before we finally had to put her down. My dad would have denied it but Scottie picked him to be his go-to human and with good reason. Scottie was blind since she was two years old and my dad took that dog to the vet 1-2 times a week for the better part of a year prior to that. She’d had a form of canine polio and was in an experimental program through the state veterinary college but Dad would not let them keep her at their facility. He wanted to be the one to decide when she’d had enough. For months, Dad and my brother carried Scottie outside and held her up while she did her business and she lived in our bathroom in between. She did recover but the blindness was a result of all the drugs she’d been given. Scottie was the sweetest dog, a bell trained dog and in the summers at the lake we’d put jingle bells on me or our other dog, Jody, and we became Scottie’s guide dog.

Jody was midnight black, a pure bred Belgian Shepherd, a rescue dog who’d been badly beaten and she hated men. My dad was working nights and Mom wanted a bad-ass dog to protect her while he was gone. By then my brother and I were teens and we understood we couldn’t rough house around her because Jody would rush to protect any female in the room. One time a friend of my brother’s was teasing me, telling me he was going to kiss me goodbye and my brother hollered out, “Don’t do it, she’ll bite you!” As the boy leaned in to put his lips on mine Jody clamped her teeth on his hi-topped tennis shoe. Mom spent a lot of time obedience training Jody and she mellowed over the years and needless to say, Mom was Jody’s go-to human but my dad’s gentleness and patience taught Jody that men are not all evil wife and animal abusers. Mom got another Belgian Shepherd after Jody and my oldest niece is named after that dog. 

The next three dogs in my life were the poodles of my adult life---Sarah, Jason and Cooper. I’ve written extensively about them in my dog’s blog. Don always made a big deal out of their birthdays. He’d get balloons and an ice cream cake and invite all the neighbor’s kids over for a party. It was quite the joke of the neighborhood. I can‘t imagine living without a dog in my life but I do wish Levi didn’t have the stubborn, aloft characteristics of his Schnauzer breed. It has crossed my mind, though, that at this point in my life when I might be “aging out” of me getting another dog after he’s gone that maybe Levi is the perfect transition dog. He gives me a sense of purpose and I love him but he’s not hug-able or affectionate like most dogs. Leaning his body against my leg is his only way of expressing love or sympathy. He’s never licked my tears away like all my other dogs have done and the only reason he’ll get close to me when I’m sick is to steal my used Kleenex. ©

Scottie

King

Jody
 That's Blackie and me in the photo at the top.


23 comments:

  1. Wow, Jean you remembered the names of all those dogs. We had many different dogs in my life but I remembered only one, DUKE a mature boxer. We got him when he was much older. I loved that dog. He was one of family. I could lay my head on Duke while I would watch TV. He was the only dog that we had that would be allowed to roam around the house.
    My family were leaving for the weekend and my dad left Duke in the garage leaving the back door open allowing him to roam out to his job. Only my uncle knew that Duke was there. We arrived home late Sunday and I couldn't wait to see Duke but Duke was just laying on the floor not moving. My dad took him to the vet. Next morning we received a noticed that Duke died during the night because his stomach had plastic inside. We knew that before we had left we cleared out all dangerous material around Duke. Where did he get the plastic? My mom informed me that Duke died, I cried that morning. had a bad day at school and after I came home I didn't want anything to eat. It was like my life had stopped. I know I didn't but to this day I still think about Duke and wonder how he got that plastic. That's my story of the only dog's name to remember.
    I hope that you feel better Jean. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Dogs were a big part of the family growing up and as an adult and they were well represented in the photo albums so it would be hard to forget them or their names. LOL

      Dogs eat some crazy things! I'm sorry your dog story has such a sad ending, but I guess they all do, don't they.

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  2. I love this! Dogs are the best. Blackie sort of looks like my dog in the face....labrador. Come on - What is better than a wiggly butt happy to see you when you get home? I meant my dog, not Rick. :-) Izzy is Rick's dog. I love her, play with her, walk her, feed her, she comes to me when she's sick. But if she is well, it's all about him. But I am not looking forward to the time she leaves us. I think that is going to be the worst part of owning a dog for me.

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    1. It is the worst part of having a dog but it's never stopped me from getting another. I love all your Izzy stories in your blog. They all have such unique personalities. When I get home Levi barks at me until I give her a dental stick because she knows he's supposed to "brush his teeth" Between 3 to 5 o'clock.

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  3. That's cute that you had Blackie as a babysitter. Sounds like a good dog. I would have to think for a while to list the many dogs in my life, all good in my estimation although that wasn't everyone's thoughts. :( My schnauzer, Rough, had a thing for kleenex and the phone book. I wonder if they all do that?

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    1. Every dog I can remember had a thing for Kleenex because, to them, they probably smell good. But phone books? Better than shoes! Levi leaves books alone, thank goodness. He's ruined very few things in his puppyhood but he does have a thing about chewing the arms off his stuffies and I sew them back on.

      When I was writing this I was thinking that my mom was taking quite a chance to leave me in a playpen on the front porch while she was inside doing housewife stuff. I could have been kidnapped! We may have had an older dog watching guard. My parents often got a puppy when their older was around ten so the older one trained the younger one

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  4. Pets do become a big part of the family, that's for sure.

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    1. They teach kids a lot of valuable things about the life cycle and responsibility and they show us who adults really are when we see them interact with pets.

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  5. Oh, the buddies you have had! They each hold a little piece of your heart.

    Our schnauzer was a cuddle bug! So who knows why Levi isn't so much. Spooky (named by our four year old) was an all block miniature schnauzer without his ears cut. He was part of the family for 14 years. It was hard on all three of us when he got too old to enjoy his life.

    Now we have a rescue guy, Bosko, part lab, part boxer, part pit. He's 65 pounds of love and 11 years old. Such a good guy yet he is slowing down as well ...

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  6. I've never had a dog. I was terrified of them as a child, and it took many, many years to get over it. Finally, in Liberia, I had a dog of indeterminate breed. He was medium-sized, and very handsome: black, with a brown tail and legs. He had two brown spots above his eyes (like this), and the Liberians called him, "That dog, him who got four eyes."

    Your stories of sharing your playpen with your dog, and the dog keeping an eye on you, reminded me of Zero, a chimp who lived on the compound in Liberia. Zero had quite a history -- her mother was killed by a hunter, and she was blinded in one eye. But she made herself useful to the tennis players by bringing back balls they hit over the fence, and she babysat one of her owners' toddlers. Whenever the baby would take off in a direction she shouldn't go, that chimp would go right after her and bring her back. What a memory.

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    1. That IS a great memory! Chimps are very smart so it doesn't surprise me about the tennis balls or fetching the baby and bringing her back.

      Cute dog! I'm glad you learned to trust dogs eventually. I feel sorry for people who fear them. Some deserve to be feared but "dog people" learn to judge their body language to know which ones are friendly and which are not. People who fear out of hand, never do.

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  7. As a child, I had a bad experience with a dog. Then the kids were attacked by a dog. A few years ago, I witnessed a large dog attacking, unprovoked, two smaller dogs - he went straight for their throats. So, I'm one of those happy to keep my distance.

    Regular stories in the media about dogs attacking owner, or small children - a few times fatally - haven't helped.

    That said, I very much like a friend's dog. She's very well trained, and I find her adorable! She loves playing footy, and an interesting game at that and is very competitive and absolutely determined not to let a ball through the imaginary net! I love playing footy with her and scoring a few goals when I'm able to outwit her. She definitely has a personality of her own. But, then when I babysat another dog for a friend, I found the same ie animals, large and small, are individuals.

    Now, judge me evil if you will: I found a huge, ugly looking black spider in the bathroom last night. I couldn't bring myself to kill it. But just now when I sprayed the house exterior, I went and sprayed well behind the WC where it scurried to last night.(I do not want to see it in the BATHTUB with me .) ~ Libby

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    1. Libby, if I found a huge, ugly looking black spider in my bathroom I'm move out. LOL My rule: inside the house spiders must die, outside they can live. Knock on wood I haven't seen a spider in a very long time. I have the outside of the house power washed every couple of years and they say that cuts down on the spiders inside. I'm a believer although that's not the reason I have it washed.

      I don't take Levi to the dog park because there are some big dogs there I don't trust. Certain breeds should not be trusted around children and smaller animals, in my opinion. In today's 'lawsuit society' my folks would have been foolish to take on a dog like Jody, but she turned out to be a good dog we could trust.

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  8. What a gorgeous bunch! I remember all my dogs too. I've always been dog crazy. I was horse crazy when younger, but I had to get over that one because they don't fit in a typical house and yard. I love the Shepherd breeds too, but couldn't pick up a large dog if needed.

    Since the mid-nineties I've been smitten with Cairn terriers. Funny, smart, stubborn, and super affectionate. When I lost my first rescue (adopted at 9, lived to 17) I had a hard time finding another so I ended up volunteering for a national Cairn rescue and fostering. I only adopt Cairns 8 and older. Nobody wants the older pups, but Cairns regularly make it to 15, and there's no guarantee on me either, so I figure us oldsters need to stick together. They're wonderful companion dogs.

    When you adopt from a breed rescue, the foster home can tell you exactly what you're getting - ensuring a good match. Not so with a puppy!

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    1. You and I are talking the same language here. I love dog people. I have to be able to pick up a dog, too, so that leaves out the larger dogs. As an adult I found out I was allergic to cats and dogs that shed. So that's why I got the poodles and Levi.

      Love your idea of getting a mid-age dog from a breed rescue. I just checked, Michigan has a Cairn rescue. They remind me of Levi. Do they bark a lot? That's really levi's only bad habit. Hard to find poodles that haven't been inbred too much these days.

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    2. Some bark a lot, but they can be trained not to. My 3 have not been barkers. Cairns are like any other breed in that they're all individuals, and you get to talk to the foster mom so you know all a dog's attributes and drawbacks. Some like chasing rabbits and birds and that's not a trait I enjoy managing, so I wouldn't adopt a dog with a really strong prey drive. Cairns are low shedding too.

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    3. That's Levi. He's got a strong pry instinct. He barks at anything that moves but I can distract him when I remember. Thanks for the info.

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  9. I have like you always had a dog in my life, from "Poochie" my first dog to "Dixie" our current member of the family. Every dog has different personalities and ways that make you truly love them.

    Thank you for the look back on all of your dogs, they are all amazing in their on way.

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    1. People who don't have pets don't understand the individual personality thing. When I looked back at the dogs we've had I realized they say a lot about my mom and dad as well...and I liked what I saw.

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  10. I have loved dogs my entire life and owned one for most of my life. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we did not currently have a dog. After he died, I thought I might be consumed by grief and the quiet in the house without him. Enter Ike, my 8 year old part pit bull rescue dog. He was there to meet me each night after work and when I couldn’t sleep at night, he was next to me and I could place my hand next to him. I can’t imagine how I would have survived the first two years of my new journey without him.

    Now Ike and I are a certified Therapy dog team. We visit hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and prisons. His job is simply to love people which he does with ease. I know pit pulls and pit bull mixes have a terrible reputation. But, imagine the image of Ike,a pit bull mix, being kissed by an inmate as the inmate says good-bye to Ike at the end of his visit. I wish we all were as non-judgemental as our dogs.

    Life is better with a dog, at least for me.

    I loved this post and thought of all the great dogs I have shared my life with. Thanks for reminding me of them.

    Ruth

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    1. Gosh, your rescue dog took you to places I'll bet you never planned on going. What a great story and I'm glad you shared it. Talk about a dog giving you a sense of purpose, Ike and you are a good match.

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  11. What sweet tribute to all your companions....and all their distinct personalities. It seems sad to me, but I know a woman now who adopts "senior" dogs and cares for them until their time is over. She says she feels great giving them the love and attention they need in their waning years -- and she plans to outlive them. Ha (But the vet bills do add up!)

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    1. The vet bills would be awful. The first and last year of a dog's life ads up. The only thing preventing me getting a second dog is the cost. Levi will have a little money following him for his care if I die first so hopefully someone like your friend will adopt him.

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