Life moves on


Now that several days have passed since our Maggie crossed the Bridge, it is time for us to put the memory of her suffering behind us and try to dwell on the good memories instead. We updated our “memorial” shelf and now need to devote ourselves to the needs of the Shmoo and important humans in our lives.

Moving forward is healthy and also difficult. It is impossible not to look in the Diva’s favorite corners, expecting to see her there, watching us and ready for whatever action comes her way. Shmoo also needs to move forward. He is loving and cuddly, happy to go out on walks and still plays with his toys, but I find him subdued and a bit sad. I know this will pass, but it is clear he misses his “sister” and doesn’t completely understand why she is gone.

The humans have been helped by the kind comments of friends and internet correspondents from around the world. Your thoughts and remembrances of your own beloved pets have been welcome and moving.  Many of our neighbors here in the Possum Kingdom have stopped by to say they miss our Maggie as well. It is nice to know that she had an impact on lives other than our own.

Now that winter vacation is drawing to a close, life here seems to be getting back to normal.  It is a pleasure to see so many houses having work of one kind or another being done, as it makes everything feel vibrant and alive. Whether all this activity has to do with the early spring or just a general feeling of “it’s time to do something,” I don’t know. But it is another reminder that life moves forward and there is always change afoot.

Ciao for now.


The Blessing that Was Maggie

Not even a full day since our dear, Diva Maggie crossed the Rainbow Bridge, but already we must accept that life goes on. Shmoo must be walked, fed, cuddled. And, his presence is probably keeping us whole for now.

But Maggie was something that is so rare in life. In the dog world, we talk about that “special” one; that dog who comes into your life and connects with you in a way that no other has before or will again. That dog is known as your “heart dog.” And, for us, for me, that was Maggie in a nutshell.

From the very first time that I saw an ad in the paper mentioning her name, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was ours and would always be ours. Now, I know that those of you with a logical turn of mind will think me crazy, but I have always felt that our previous dog, the Late, Great, Taffy-Jerome decided that it was his time to go, because he knew that Maggie was there waiting for us and we needed a push to go out to find her. He told us he was ready to go exactly a week before we found Maggie.

When we went to see Maggie that bright, southern California morning in Santa Monica, the connection was immediate and strong. Even the people from the pet rescue group were astonished. But it was clear Maggie had been waiting for us and needed us as much as we needed her.

From the instant she walked in our door, it was clear she was special. There was the look of an old, wise soul in her eyes. I could look at her and know that we were “speaking” with each other. It was not like looking into the eyes of just a dog, but looking into the deep pools of a cognizant, communicating being who just did not have words to explain her thoughts.

Maggie had a hard life before she came to us and our goal was to spoil her rotten. We did that to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, Maggie’s hardships did not end when she came to us. Three years after we adopted her she developed a Mast Cell tumor. Luckily, I had found it early and it was easily excised. But, two years later I felt something disquieting on her side. It took me a while to convince our vet that something was there; because even though she was a good vet, she did not know my girl as I knew her. Finally, it grew large enough and when it was removed our worst fears were confirmed: fibrosarcoma.

Fibrosarcoma is a bad cancer, and most dogs don’t survive more than six months. Maggie’s tumor grew back and the second surgery was carried out at one of L.A.’s premier animal clinics. The surgery was radical: removal of three ribs and a part of her diaphragm. But it was the only way to have even a hope of getting all the nasty little offshoots of the tumor. I won’t even tell you how much it cost, but we took on a debt so large that we nearly ruptured our relationship with my in-laws over it, because they thought we were insane. But, what choice was there? Maggie was our girl and we had to do our best for her.

Amazingly, she not only survived but thrived. When, a few months later we made the move to France, she came through that hard, frightening experience with dignity and gentleness. The minute she arrived in Paris, she walked through CDG airport as if she had been doing it her entire life.

Once we were here in the Possum Kingdom, she opened doors and hearts for us as if she possessed some kind of magical key. And, thinking about it, I suppose she did; once again it was her special spirit and gentleness at work. She came everywhere with us and was always, unfailingly, a lady. Everyone who saw her instinctively knew that she was special and opened up.

Then, last year, those same mysterious forces which had sent us Maggie, sent us Shmoo. We have never wanted to have more than one dog at a time for a variety of reasons. But not only did Shmoo choose us, but Maggie chose Shmoo! Instead of being jealous and guarding her humans from him, she welcomed him, played with him and seemed to blossom with his presence.

Did our special girl know that soon we would be in need of the Shmoo’s healing qualities? We’ll never know; but I like to think that she felt easier in crossing the Bridge, knowing that he was here to help us through the loss.

Ciao for now.


Catching up on the Possum Kingdom

I have been seriously remiss in writing about life here in the Possum Kingdom, and for that I’m sory.  However, there have been good reasons.

First, there is the ongoing drama of Maggie’s illness.  Every visit to the wonderful carers at the Veterinary School in Toulouse burns up half-a-day.  I can never say enough about how amazing those people are.  JM is always saying that if he ever gets ill, he wants THEM to take care of him!

Our last trip was last Wednesday.  I’m afraid the update is not good.  In the two weeks since our previous visit, Maggie’s tumor had grown enormously and has spread to many, many lymph nodes.  We’ve stopped the chemo therapy, because it clearly was doing nothing, and there was no reason to subject her to the toxic effects if there was no hope of improvement.  We are now only giving her cortisone and antibiotics.  The oncologist believes it is only the matter of a few weeks.

However, Maggie does not seem to understand that she is supposed to be ill and is still just plain amazing.  The cortisone has increased her appetite, so she is consuming a decent amount of food, and although she hasn’t gained any weight, she does not appear to be losing any either.  She takes her walks with great enthusiasm and enjoyment and would still chase any cat that got in her way if she were given half a chance.

The cortisone, unfortunately, also makes her quite thirsty, so she needs to pee A LOT.  She also has very little bladder control, so the girl is wearing Pampers Easy Ups, size 6.  These are perfect for the Border Collie butt if you find yourself in need.  I have to say that she looks quite adorable in them, and although I know she doesn’t like wearing them, it is preferable to constantly cleaning pee off the floor.

JM and I are getting up every two to three hours during the night for dog walking.  Shmoo seems to understand that he doesn’t have to go out and just waits patiently by the door without trying to get out as well.  Then, once Maggie is back in and diapered up, we all head back to bed.  Yes, we’re all a bit sleep deprived, but you do what you have to do.

Then, we had a human health scare over the weekend.  My Mom’s blood pressure dropped dangerously low.  Since she has high blood pressure, this was quite scary.  She told me she felt “light-headed,”  well, yeah!  Anyway, I made her stay in bed the whole day and carried her food up to her room.  By the end of the day she was back to normal, but I was still worried.  Best guess is that she messed up on her blood pressure meds, although she denies that possibility.  Anyway, or doc is not overly worried at this point, so I suppose I should just assume that is the case myself.

The elections continue to be the big thing locally.  For a village of a thousand habitants, it’s amazing how much passion this can arouse. We were quite flattered today when our Mayor and his adjoint from the city council came by to ask our opinion on things and see how we felt about the campaign. I know it’s a small thing, but it does show that we are really part of the community and our opinions matter.  That’s the kind of loyalty you can’t buy.  Personally, I hope our current mayor wins as he’s a very honest, good-hearted man.  If anything, he sometimes errs too much on the side of honesty, but that’s not really a bad thing in a politician in today’s world.

Speaking of things local, I have told friend and librarian Noëlle that I probably won’t be able to sub for her this August.  There is just so much to do with Mom here that I don’t see how I can add a month of library duties to my schedule and remain sane.  Of course, the chances are that Maggie will not be with us by then (of course, miracles can happen), but still, there are only so many hours in a day.  Even if Mom is moved over into her own place by then, I’ll still be doing cooking, cleaning, shopping for her and I can’t invent time.  I’m not sure how I feel about not doing the library.  I have gotten to know lots of our summer visitors, so will miss that.  Still, it’s only February, who knows what the coming months will bring.

Ciao for now.


Winter update

Well, I say “winter,” but honestly, it sure doesn’t feel like winter these days.  The weather has been stunning; in fact I think we had days that were less warm last July!

I am pretty sure this is a consequence of global warming, and therefore I shouldn’t be happy about it.  Still, with the extra dog-walking instituted with Maggie’s illness, this is MUCH more pleasant that rain, sleet or snow.

As to Maggie, I’m happy to report that she is holding up to her treatment like the trouper that she is.  I can’t speak as to the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the chemtherapy, but the cortisone works on her almost magically.  Her energy is back, she does her business with no problems on her walks, and most happily, her appetite is back. It’s a joy to see her really tuck into food with enjoyment again.

Our only little problem is that the cortisone does make her need to pee a bit more frequently and she is not always able to control herself, so she does have to wear a diaper in the house. However, this seems a small price to pay for the rest of the benefits that we are seeing. Next week we’re back to the veterinary school for a report and appointment with the oncologist.  We have decided not to change her treatment, because we like things the way they are and don’t want to buy her more time if it is less good time than this.

Life in the Possum Kingdom continues at its usual leisurely pace. Of course the big news around here is the municipal elections, which are coming up in March.  In comparison to a U.S. election, all is relatively laid back.  A few flyers in the mailbox seems to be it for the moment. I’m not sure if we’ll have any town meetings before the big event, but I sure hope so!  I would love to see both sides arguing a bit about their plans.  So far no one seems to have taken up JM’s call to procure a village elephant.

For all of you in less well-favored meteorological areas, I send my sympathies.  As for me, I’m going to go out and enjoy a bit of sun. It seems almost a crime to waste it.

Ciao for now.