Thursday, July 7, 2016

Working with animals and children

"And you of tender years can't know the fears that your elders grew by
And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die."

It started with the dog. Not the black dog this time, although he might have been black if his hair had grown back in.

No, this was a dog taken in by the rescue group that we got Biscotti from, Long Way Home Adoptables in College Station.

As far as I know, it's mostly an online operation, where animals are fostered in private homes until they are adopted. It is affiliated with a sanctuary for those animals deemed unadoptable for medical or behavioral reasons. But there is no shelter that you can visit. We found Biscotti on Petfinder, filled out a lengthy application, paid a hefty fee, went to check him out and brought him home.

He's a piece of work but that's another post.

I follow LWHA on Facebook and from time to time April, the director and driving force behind the rescue, posts pictures and stories about animals they have taken in. Some are healthy and just need forever homes. Some have special needs requiring medical attention before the animal will be ready for adoption.

King was an extreme case of the latter. He was a severe neglect medical case, thought to be a 5-year-old German Shepard, but it was hard to tell because of the state he was in. He was emaciated, had demodex mange and sarcoptic mange, open skin lesions, severe ear and eye infections, hookworms, roundworms, heartworms and various wounds and other signs of abuse. He did not want to lie down because of the pressure on his unpadded bones. When you looked at the pictures, you had to wonder, how is this dog alive.

In spite of all that, he was gentle and affectionate. My heart went out to him, along with tens of thousands of other hearts. For a day and a half, under the treatment of a vet, King seemed to make some progress. He was put on pain meds, his ailments began to be addressed, he was given IV fluids and was able to keep down some food and there was much reason for hope.

Donations poured in. I sent a case of premium high nutrient canned puppy food from the LWHA Amazon wish list. A few others did the same.

Medical fosters stepped up and I looked forward to seeing King get well and become a healthy, happy and beloved dog. But on July 1, King started having seisures. Tests disclosed a mass in his pancreas or liver and the decision was made to do the humane thing. Here's what April said.
I'm honored he gave us the gift of two happy days, so I will return that gift in the best way I can. We will allow him to be relieved of this sadness and pain. To ask him to keep fighting would be cruel. Thank you, King, for allowing us to be in your life.
It got to me. I know there are cruelty cases like this all the time, but for some reason every now and then one comes along that touches me more deeply. Neil couldn't understand why I felt so sad. I tried to explain that I'd gotten invested in this dog, and I don't mean the case of food I sent. I know some other dog will appreciate that.

Neil told me I shouldn't let this dog's death upset me. It's always so helpful when someone tells you your feelings are invalid. Not. Still, I understood what he meant. There are dogs abused every day and you can read stories about them on social media all the livelong day and if you are going to let each one distress you, then you are going to spend your life in distress, which won't do a damn thing to help those dogs.

I've never been much good at not feeling my feelings, so I've learned to sit with them, allow myself to feel them, and in time they fade and become background noise. Neil, being of the male species, doesn't understand that. He thinks everything has to be fixed, so he can't just listen and support, he has to tell me what to do. Sometimes that just makes it worse, sometimes he displaces the object of my disaffection.

So the dog set the tone for the weekend. Neil worked all day Friday and part of Saturday, Sunday, and even Monday, a national holiday. I'd have been more upset if I didn't know that this is temporary now. In a matter of months he will be retired and the working weekends issue will be dead in the water.

I stayed busy. I made beads, I sold beads, I finished two necklaces and made three tree bells - strands of odds-and-ends beads with bells on the ends to hang in our tress. We cooked at home for a change, chicken and tacos and steaks for just the two of us. Chris has moved to Lake Charles where he'll be starting a masters program and living with Laurie and Luke. My kids were doing their things in Keller and Austin, or so I thought.

On Monday afternoon I had some Instagram notifications on my phone. One was from Chelsea, a photo taken at the park in Jersey Village, "posted 2 days ago." The caption was this. "Visited the park near the house where I grew up!"

Saturday. She was in town on Saturday.

Don't ask me to explain why but I felt very upset. I posted a comment, "you were in town?" Then I deleted it. I told Neil about it. He said he'd be cheesed if one of his kids was in town and didn't mention it. Not cheesed if they told him that they were in town and had plans and wouldn't have time to see him. Just cheesed if they didn't tell him at all and he found out.

I wasn't cheesed. I was just sad.

I called Chelsea and left a short voice mail, saying nothing about it, because I don't think she listens to her voice mail. Then I sent her a text, asking about her being in town. She texted back after a few minutes, saying that she and her boyfriend had come in to see her dad "just for one day" and gone right back to Austin because she had a rehearsal. She said they were at a barbecue and asked if she could call me later. I said, "sure."

That was about 4 pm. I wondered if maybe her dad wasn't well. He's had a quadruple bypass and gone several rounds with bladder cancer in the past. Somehow that didn't quite jive with the smiling photo that she'd posted.

I slid silently down the rabbit hole. Tears welled and spilled and kept coming. I've been missing my children so much. Nothing requires them to miss me. What can I say, I felt hurt. Right or wrong, my feelings are what they are. I stopped crying long enough to make dinner and eat dinner and watch some tube with Neil. At 9 pm when she hadn't called, I called her cell phone. The one I pay for. I didn't have to leave a message. I knew she'd see that she had a missed call.

She did call back shortly thereafter. They were still at the barbeque, it had just gotten dark enough for the fireworks to start, they couldn't really see them, so she'd stepped outside to call me. I tried to have a normal conversation. I knew that laying on a guilt trip would not be a good strategy. I knew it would be unfair to lay my hurt and loneliness at her doorstep. I'm responsible for my own life and happiness, right?

So we had a strained conversation. Chelsea's story was that she and Rob had offered to help replace flooring when her dad's house flooded back in March. They never did and then she felt guilty when Jon sent them pictures of the new floors. Also, her 10-year high school reunion is coming up, she'd decided to go, then realized she had a conflict and couldn't. So she thought it would be nice to get together with some of her high school friends. Which they did.

She said it was a quick trip, I asked if they just came in for the day. She said they got in late Friday and left early Sunday, so it was just one full day. Twisting the knife. Two nights. I said, aiming for brightly, you know I'm always happy to drive up and go out for lunch with you. She said something like, oh, that's nice. We chatted a little more. If she detected that I sounded flat or dull or like I'd been crying, she didn't mention it.

I cried some more after we hung up. I thought about the price you pay for being divorced, how you have to share time with your children with your ex. I thought about my relationship with my own mom, and how I'd never really forgiven her for the ways she'd failed me when I was growing up. I thought about the ways that Chelsea feels like I failed her when she was growing up, at least I think she does.

I was a divorced single mom from the time she was 9 years old. I suffered a loss and battled clinical depression for about a year when she was 13 years old. I juggled working and parenting and dating. I know she felt like I left her alone too much, especially after her sister left for college. Did I do my best? Does anyone, ever? I could have done better. I could have done worse.

It's water under the bridge now.

I'm putting it back into perspective. I'm keeping busy, distracting myself, not dwelling on it. We have plans to see Chelsea in Austin later this month.

Although there is a part of me that is thinking about how vigorously I guard my little nest egg so I will have a legacy to leave my kids. I wouldn't say I'm deprived, but I could be a lot more self-indulgent if I thought more about myself and less about my offspring.

But it has to be a two-way street. And right now the traffic seems to be stalled on one of those streets.

So maybe I'll finally get that new iPad I've been wanting but resisting, because my old one still works.

Hell, maybe I'll even get those outrageously expensive Fluevogs I've been drooling over.

Even if I never wear them.

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye

Teach your children well
Their father's hell did slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you'll know by

Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you

And you (Can you hear?) of tender years (And do you care?)
Can't know the fears (And can you see?) that your elders grew by (We must be free)
And so, please help (To teach your children) them with your youth (What you believe in)
They seek the truth (Make a world) before they can die (That we can live in)

Teach your parents well
Their children's hell will slowly go by
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you'll know by

Don't you ever ask them why
If they told you, you would cry
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you

(Graham Nash)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz