Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Grief

Time to Grieve

Cats 001 A friend shared this quote from Alban's magazine, Congregations:

"We must support those who are grieving and give them sufficient time to grieve. To shortchange grief is to rush people to a false sense of acceptance which diminishes their ability to accept the reality and finality of the loss and blocks their capacity to attach anew."

We have two cats, Puss Puss and Baby, both 15 years old, just like LP. (Yes, I am living with three 15-year-old girls now.)
 
Baby, once a mighty mouse huntress, is The Cat Who Lives Upstairs, and who resents anyone else's demands on my time and space. She had a lot to put up with when Sam started sleeping with us, even though I have a ridiculously large bed for one person. Sam took up as much space as he could, and I did not mind a bit. Every night I would lie there with my hand placed gently on the closest part of him, aware of his breathing and his restlessness and for some time each night, his peaceful rest. Baby would circle my head, warily, eventually finding a place to land, away from Sam. But on the last few nights of his life, she got as close to him as she could. Now she is downstairs far more than she has been in years, and I'm not sure she's pleased about it.

Cats 003 Puss Puss is our Cat Who Patrols the Neighborhood. She also has exhibited grief for other pets in our family who died. I remember after Pepper, the best big kitten ever, was hit by a car in 1998, Puss Puss went into a decline. When Molly left us, Puss Puss seemed to be physically sick, but the vet could find nothing wrong. And this week she is grieving again, seems depressed, and shows little interest in going outside. She's spending the day curled up in a corner of the couch, though this evening she's made a move to use my Kindle as a pillow.

We're all like this: unsettled, unhappy, uncertain. I turn down the street and sigh for Sam. At 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. I want to fix his dinner. Even in my office, new though it is, I'm wistful thinking of the days he was lying on the floor next to me. 

I'm taking my time with it.

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Grrrls, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Walking

5 by 30

We're looking for new routines here. After 8-and-a-half years, life without a dog or two is very quiet and very strange. I've been waking up early, coming home at lunchtime, walking morning and afternoon, letting furry paws out and back in at the latest possible hour…that's all gone. 

I remember that in the early years, I stressed about fitting in enough activity time for the dogs around my work schedule and parental responsibilities. I may possibly have groused about having to get up early every single day to try and prevent accidents or disasters. But now, of course, I only want to do all those things. 

While revhoney was here visiting last week, we talked about exercise, and I acknowledged that I loved being out with Sam and will miss the walks through our favorite parks and the neighborhood. He was a fantastic dog, on leash and off. Being in the fresh air (even in the winter) was good for my brain chemistry. 

"How can we get you walking?" she asked.

Good question. 

Just last week I clicked on a link at an RA blog, leading to My RA Fit Kit. Amazingly, my RA has been pretty manageable despite the extreme stress of the past six weeks. I took the exercise survey and got advice that was actually unsurprising, because it echoed the advice given my my primary care doctor when I first started to take better care of myself, pre-RA, in 2007. I should be aiming for 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise. That's 5 30-minute walks, which is about the length which my knee and the joints in my feet and ankles will tolerate. The rest of me would like to walk longer, but I have to listen to the joints.

RA is improved by exercise, but not by overuse.

Keens LP and I talked, and we agreed that we both needed that walk in the afternoon. So today, even though it was brisk, we put on our sneakers and took off for Walk #1. I had to guess what would make a half-hour walk. It's been a while since Sam took one of those, because even before he had cancer, he had iffy elbows beginning this time last year. 

It was also good for us to get back in our neighborhood and walk, to reclaim our space and not let it be lost to grief.

So we took off on a familiar route, and we walked and talked, and when we got home, having moved faster without a dog then I could do with him, it had been 27 minutes. 

I'll be scheming a way to make it take a little bit longer. But that's a good start.

(The strength training? We'll see about that.)

Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Children, Family

Thankful

It's pretty sad around here without Sam. 

(This is a ginormous understatement, you might even say a Bernese Mountain Dog-sized understatement.)

People have been very, very kind, in blog comments and Facebook and Twitter responses and via email and in person. The choir at church gave LP and me a copy of Cynthia Rylant's "Dog Heaven," inscribed with dear, loving thoughts. 

So in the midst of this grief, I want to name some things for which I'm thankful:

  • Community
  • Hugs
  • Friends in the neighborhood
  • Friends far away
  • Friends from far away who have gotten themselves into the neighborhood
  • Friends' Dogs
  • Dog Friends
  • Photos by people who know how to take them
  • Photos by us, even the ones taken with cell phones
  • Two 15-year-old cats who still need our attention
  • One 15-year-old girl 
  • Two young men whose love was palpable even from afar
  • Memories that make me smile

Yesterday I saw a friend's two dogs wrassling, as we used to call it, and I remembered Molly and Sam lying on the rug, showing each other their great big dog teeth, or spinning each other in a circle, their mouths on opposite ends of a big stick. I remember Sam getting between Molly and various attractive Chows, her favorite breed by far. He had a mission, to keep her out of trouble!

I'm thankful to have lived with these blessed dogs, to be blessed by them.