In an effort to get out of a writing slump… I’m going to start and do Heather King’s Tuesday Just Write exercise. You can find out about it here at her site, The Extraordinary Ordinary.
In May my son’s beloved dog Lucy died. She died of natural causes in my arms. It was sad, sad. We’d dreaded the day for a couple of years because Lucy had a very strong connection to our son. Our now 15-year-old son, Gage, has suffered a lot in his young life including kidney and liver disease resulting in a kidney transplant after dialysis at the age of eight. His life has included multiple procedures, surgeries and trauma. He’d been a sickly little boy who nearly slept everyday after school until dinner because he had no energy.
We only had Lucy for eight years of her fourteen. We’re part of that small group of people who adopted an older dog from the Humane Society. We weren’t able to find a smaller dog that we could connect with so a volunteer shyly talked about an older seemingly un-adoptable dog. She said the dog had been there several months, was sweet as could be, played catch, was housebroken and not at all aggressive.
Too good to be true, right?
No. Lucy was the perfect dog for us. We all really loved her instantly. So even though she was bigger than our ideal dog, she was the ideal dog for us at a time we really needed her. We’d started our search for a dog when we knew our son, Gage, would be facing kidney transplant and because he was getting sicker and sicker quickly. I’d reasoned, quite assuredly, that Gage should have a dog because every boy should experience the love of a dog. Especially a boy facing a chronic illness and life-saving surgery.
The volunteer said family after family walked by our Lucy while she lingered at the shelter. Families with kids wanted a dog longer than the 5-7 years she would probably live. I can’t tell you why that didn’t matter to us other than she was the perfect dog at the perfect time. No training. Mellow. Gage connected with her instantly. Done.
We were so sad to lose Lucy , but I am extra sensitive about it because Lucy is a time marker for me. She came to us as we were adjusting to a very different life and she made the transition easier. It was within a month from bringing her home that she welcomed our son after surgery to place a catheter into a chest to save his life with dialysis. She is responsible for helping us all cope with a new life, most especially Gage. Lucy hung onto him as he slipped into a dark depression. Lucy is and will always be the dog that helped save a boy.
So a couple of weeks ago Gage mentioned he might be ready to look for another (senior) dog (in honor of Lucy) and so I did what any dog lover would do… I immediately searched the Internet with the words Senior Dog Atlanta Rescue and found my way to this face and this video on YouTube. Maggie. Ten years old. Feisty. Adorable. Smart.
I know. Can you stand it?
I knew our son was uncomfortable but he said he was ready to meet another dog so I quickly made an appointment to see her. A couple of days later he said he changed his mind. I figured we wouldn’t move forward to meeting Maggie or with any dog adoption. When discussing this thought with my sister, Pat, she quickly said, “You know it isn’t always about him. It’s okay if you get a dog that is yours, it doesn’t have to be his or the family’s dog.” Until she said those words I didn’t consider moving forward to meeting and possibly adopting Maggie.
I was stunned I hadn’t thought of it first. I am a pretty good advocate for myself (I mean I JUST wrote a post about self-care!) but I’m guessing like most parents of kids with special needs, I am pretty sensitive to making sure issues involving emotions with my kids are a high priority. It didn’t occur to me that I could get a dog, just for me. Self-care wise, I’m really good at making sure I see friends, do things with friends, by myself, with my husband and I have a lot of hobbies and volunteer interests but it didn’t occur I could get a dog for my mental health.
It’s been a rough year, this 2014, and I will not miss it when it’s gone. I’ve had a lot of issues that have been challenging for me personally including (but certainly not limited to) the death of my sister Terry, and the loss of our dog Lucy. I pushed my family to meet Maggie with me that Friday a few weeks ago, but I knew walking in Maggie would be mine. Adopting Maggie, turned out to be just what I needed. Maggie had been with this rescue group previously, adopted out for eight years and returned to the same group, who clearly loves her. They’d had her 10 months this go around, and Maggie’s last round with any rescue group or foster home. They circled us leaving because they were so happy for her. What they didn’t understand is they should have been happy for me.
Maggie is the ultimate stalker. As she follows me around, the tap, tap of her nails on the hardwood floors, she’s a constant reminder to me that it’s okay to put my needs first sometimes. I like to think I learn my lessons well. Thanks, Pat.
Turns out it’s not all about the kids, all the time.
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