• In which I have the writing bug

    A few months ago, I told Matt that I wanted to write again. 

    I haven't even wanted to write in a while. I don't know why. Maybe it was that real life was so busy and serious that my brain had no space for creativity. Maybe my creative well was dry. Maybe it was something else entirely. 

    While I had this vague urge to write, I had nothing to write about. Obviously - I haven't even had anything to write about. I mean, unless you want to hear the story of how my gag reflex got the better of me while trying to clean the litter boxes.

    Finally, the other day, I had an idea. 

    I don't know where this is going. I want to write out this idea and see where it goes. I don't care if it's never suitable for anyone else to see. At this point, I want to write for my own therapy. 

  • Where the adoptable pets go

    Where the adoptable pets go

    My latest volunteer stint is a morning shift over at the pet store. They're nice enough to house a couple cats for us in hopes of being visible and getting them adopted. So once a week I head over there and take my turn cleaning up after them and loving them up. 

    It's nice and quiet, for the most part, and I love it. 

    This week I have Scamper and Sissy, two very affectionate, chill cats. 

    Every week I tell the kitties that I hope I don't see them the following week, because it'll mean that they have homes. But if they're still here, I'll be back, and happy to see them.

  • Ob-la-dee-ob-la-dah

    I haven't known what to say.

    Life without Mikenna is really quiet. Not in a bad way, necessarily. For years, I spent nights fretting about her, thinking that every upset stomach was bloat, that a broken nail might lead to a paw amputation, that she would surely die while under for a teeth cleaning. Now that I find myself without the target of my frets, that frees up a lot of mental space. (and I sleep consistently pretty well now, which is nice)

    Thankfully, I haven't transferred any of my animal ailment paranoia onto the cats. Yet. I don't know how to say it, because I'm not sure what the difference is in my own brain. But I worry about dogs, and I somehow accept that cats are fleeting balls of destruction and cuddles. I don't think I love Aery and Gwen any less than Mikenna, but there's a definite difference in my brain. It also helps, I suppose, that I reasonably expect the kitties to be around a good 6-7 years on the low end. I mean, yeah, it could be less, but I don't feel like I'm on an ominous death march. I'll try not to think about that too hard, because I like not worrying about the kitties.

    My new "thing" is yoga. The local humane society started offering cat yoga (it's just a regular yoga class with cats in the room), and I thought, THIS IS THE MOST SARAH THING IVE EVER SEEN. So I signed up, and I've loved it, despite the fact that it dawned on me that technically any time I do yoga, it is cat yoga, since at least one of the cats is nearby, or involved.
    I love the way that yoga feels like it's working all the kinks out. It shows me how woefully unflexible I am, and works on that, gradually. Challenges me, but doesn't completely obliterate me. I feel good at the end, and I don't dread doing it.

    My relationship to exercise in general feels different. I didn't realize it, but there was certainly an element of guilt in taking care of myself while Mikenna was around, especially when she was sick. I felt guilty leaving her for the gym at night, and working out at home was always awkward. As soon as I would pop in a dvd, she would hop off the couch and tell me that she needed food. And water. And to go out. And probably to play with me. It was all sweet and makes me laugh to think about it, but when you're trying to do something teh srsly, it gets frustrating. If I did manage to take care of all of her needs before trying to exercise, she'd just decide to join in. Which usually made Aery join in. We've never had big living rooms to begin with, so that was just a recipe for chaos. As much as I loved the exercises in theory, I couldn't really enjoy them with a little herd of paws at my feet.
    But now I've realized that I can legitimately try out all these exercise dvds I've accrued, and I'm delighted.

    We had a tree branch fall on the car almost two weeks ago. There was a nasty wind storm one night, and one of the trees near the car let go of a decent limb, which crashed into the windshield, hood, and headlight. It also broke a mount of some sort on the inside - the name escapes me at the moment. So, we've had no car for the last eleven days, and just got it back today. I'm a little surprised that I'm not still joy riding around town, because sweet, sweet freedom.
    I feel like it's one of those things that you won't understand unless you really get it, but I get so stir crazy sitting at home for lengths of time. It's not that I constantly need to be moving, but I need the option. It's like my brain recalibrates that way.

    So, the ill-timed branch incident came a little over a week after we said goodbye to the Jeep. It was bittersweet, because I really did enjoy the thing when it worked. Problem was, it was falling to pieces faster than we could slap them back together. I am not exaggerating - there was a problem every time I got in the Jeep from November on. We sank more than the value of the car into it over the last year, and then HOURS after we changed the battery, the Jeep quit on me right up the road. Maybe the fuel pump. But there was no way we would be able to drive it to a garage, so we'd have to tow it. ($$$) Then, who really knew what was wrong with it, and the way things were going, it didn't seem too far fetched that if we fixed that issue, something new would pop up very soon. It was enough. Too much mental and wallet stress for very little return at that point. So we're a one car family for now. I think we'd like to pay off the car before we decide to take on another loan, but circumstances could always change.

    Wednesday was the second annual Gwensday. Since we don't know when her birthday is, we celebrate the day we brought her home. This year, we gifted her a really sweet scratching post that she hasn't really looked twice at, and gave her some extra wet food and love. For her part, Sassypants has alternated between hanging out with us and in my closet. I don't mind, as long as she knows she's allowed to come hang with us, and she's happy. I just put a little padded mat in the closet with her - it contains catnip - so it's probably my own fault that she's in there. But she is definitely a cat who needs a space of her own, and I'm happy for her.

    I've been reading a lot. Ten books so far this year - I set my goal for thirty, and I'm reasonably hopeful that I can demolish that. I'm concentrating on the books in my 'to be read' shelf, and finishing up books that I had started and left hanging. It feels good. It's both a physical and mental decluttering. Also, it more or less keeps me from spending more money on books, and a penny saved is ... still a penny saved.

    Recently, I ordered Mikenna's ashes ring. You send them a bit of ashes, and they fuse it into glass and set that in a piece of jewelry. Today the little "kit" came - a prepaid envelope and a small jar. So I had to crack open the little metal urn and fish out half a teaspoon of ashes. I want the ring - I've thought a long time about that - but the whole process feels strange to me. For one, it still seems unfathomable that the little ball of westie energy that licked my face raw on a regular basis is this sandy pile of ash. It then feels weird to go fishing around in, well, her, to get a half a teaspoon of ashes. Like, what am I sending off, here? Is it her little head that used to stare at me on my pillow in the morning? It is the tail that wagged ferociously when we came home? The little paws that would gently dig my arm when I stopped itching her too soon? I mean, the answer is probably all or most of the above, and then some. Conceptually, it's weird to say, alright, here, take some of my dog.
    The last thing that weirds me out is the little teaspoon. I'm looking at this thing, little traces of ash on it. Do, I, uh, burn it? Am I going to think, oh hey, I used this on Mikenna's ashes for the rest of the time this thing exists? And, you know, I tapped out what I could, but it still had ash residue on it. Like, I just take this out to the kitchen, soap it up, and wash Mikenna down the sink?

    It's just all really weird when you think about it too much, which obviously, I have.

    I think I summed it up best when I thought earlier that grief doesn't hit me so often anymore, but when it does, it feels soul rending. I feel like I have lost a part of me that is, sadly, intangible. I haven't lost an arm that I can point to, but the loss is still there and feels weighty. This is why, for the time being, I can't imagine bringing another dog home. It still feels like it would be a sorry attempt at filling the hole, and that's just not possible. No dog will be Mikenna, it would be its own self. Still feeling her loss, I can't commit to taking on another dog, making it a part of me, and feeling this loss again. I mean, at some point, sure. I don't think I can see us spending the rest of our lives without a dog. But right now, it's asking too much.

    All that said, I'm going to go back and play some Zuma while Matt finishes up season 2 of Daredevil.
    Life moves on.

  • Hello Again

    So where'd I leave off with this thing?

    This Friday, it will be eight weeks since Mikenna died. Eventually, I'll get to a point where I forget to count, where I don't glance at the clock on a Friday morning and remember what we were doing at that point. I'm not there yet.

    I am, however, doing a lot better. I had to go to the doctor for medicine refills anyway, so I was honest about how I'd been feeling. Our doctor had me try out another brain pill on top of what I'm already taking, and that has actually worked out well. I have times where I get sad, and that's okay. But the sadness no longer feels omnipresent. I can focus on things and gett hings done, and that's good. I do enjoy functioning, after all.

    The weird thing about this medicine is that it's also an appetite suppressant to a degree. I'm eating, don't get me wrong, but I'm eating a lot less, without a lot of effort. Usually cutting back on food is met with internal angst - I should forego that fourth piece of pizza, but oh man I don't want to. On this medicine, well, two is enough and I'm fine with that. I feel uncomfortably full faster, and I find I don't like that feeling, so I try not to get there. Basically, it's like dieting, but with all of the emotion removed. There are exceptions, but I'm kind of blase' about food. I'll eat whatever, because food needs to happen, but I don't feel like putting a lot of effort into it. Don't get me wrong though, I'll still shake people down for a good pizza. It just has to be a good pizza.

    My friends also started a C25K group (Couch to 5k), and there's a chart with names, and we get stickers for every day we complete. In an unexpected twist, I'm currently ahead of other people. I mean, it's not a competition, but it is running, so the fact that I'm not in last place shocks me on a daily basis. It reminds me of this clip from How I Met Your Mother.

     I'm not saying that running is easy or that I'm enjoying it. Every run, I'm challenged and muttering the entire time. But as far as motivation is concerned, I decided I was going to do the thing and I just haven't stopped. It just feels like a non-negotiable. (Whether it would feel non-negotiable if there weren't stickers involved, I don't know.)

    So, for the reasons above, I've shed some pounds. How much, I don't know, because I haven't stepped on a scale. It feels a little trite to be like, "OH WHOOPS I'M SO AMAZING I JUST ACCIDENTALLY LOST WEIGHT". I'm not trying to lose weight, it's just the result of what's been going on. I'm not saying it's unwelcome, either.

    A friend of mine, who may now be my favorite friend ever, pointed out all the places in my face that look thinner. Hey, I'll take it. I also need to get my hair done. I've been telling myself that if I held out until January, I could go get my hair cut and dyed. Now I'm kind of stalling on making the appointment because I hear we're supposed to get snow at the end of the week, and we all know how that word breaks my brain. (Clearly I was meant to live in the south)

    I've started reading and playing games again. I'm loving the living daylights out of This is Us. Every time I see somethig westie related in the wild, I choose to believe it's Mikenna's way of letting me know that she's with me. The kitties have been exceptionally good. Aeris has been super snuggly, and Gwen has been very present. She doesn't snuggle really, but as I write this, she's curled up next to me. That's all I want. They both seem happy, which is good. I had worried that Aeris would be devastated by losing her sister, which was part of my motivation for bringing Gwen into the fold. While they have a more antagonistic relationship than Koo and Aery, I do think not being alone has helped. I also feel like Aeris understood more about Mikenna being sick than I gave her credit for. About a month or so after Koo died, I noticed Aeris started bolting around the house like a little goofball. It startled me, because she hadn't done it in a while - I thought that was just something she was done with. But when I thought about it, she stopped within the last six months of Koo's life. She's been far more goofy and playful these last several weeks. Dog gone it, I think that cat knew. Whether she stopped because she didn't want to make Koo chase her, or if she was just slowly grieving Koo, I don't pretend to know. But I think she understood something.

    I pulled out my bullet journal yesterday, and one of the things on the last list I had made was "Koo vet Friday" back in June. That sums it up. Life, well, it didn't stop, but it took a sharp detour while we were caring for Koo. Now I'm slowly getting back on the path, but discovering that things aren't the same - I'm not the same - as when I left. Nothing wrong with that. But I feel present again. I feel like I'm back.

  • You are my sunshine

    The last song I ever sang to Koo was "You are my sunshine". Matt pulled up a version with verses - I legitmately didn't know they existed. The first one in particular feels relevant.

    The other night dear, as I lay sleeping
    I dreamed I held you in my arms
    But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken
    So I hung my head and I cried.
    You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
    You make me happy when skies are gray
    You'll never know dear, how much I love you
    Please don't take my sunshine away
    If you need me, I'll be in the corner sobbing. (Half joking)
  • To the end of the line

    To the end of the line

    I brought Koo home yesterday. I've got her in my desk hutch, along with her paw prints. There's a glass door in front of the hutch, because Aery goes through periods of deciding that my desk is an AWESOME place to knock things off of, so I want to keep these things safe from silly kitties.

    It was a relief to bring her home, because now all the crappy stuff is over with. What is left of her physical body is here with us, and it will always be. I don't have to worry about her anymore, whether she needs me, whether she's hungry or lonely or in pain. Don't get me wrong, I would rather have her here. But I would want her here whole, not how she left us. So this is the consolation prize in a way.

    Bleh. I'm not sure I'm writing coherent words here.

    Anyway, I want to express my deepest gratitude to everyone who has been kind to us in one way or another about Koo this last week. I wish to the heavens that I could undo everything, but having so much support and love poured out to us has really meant a lot. More than I can actually express.

    I guess from here, we start picking up the pieces.

  • My sunshine

    My sunshine

    It's so bizarre to me that her body broke down so quickly. She was doing so well up until she absolutely wasn't, and then she crashed so quickly. She gave everything she had and left nothing to spare, that's for sure.

    It's hard. I won't lie. If you ask me how I'm doing, I'll probably give you a soft smile and tell you that I'm okay, in that tone of voice that implies that I'm not a complete wreck but I'm not doing great.

    Hardest right now are mornings and late nights, because Koo was such a dog gone cuddle bug. She'd usually wait until Matt was up for the morning and then come steal his spot. I'd wake up to her next to me, and then either grab her for a snuggle or talk to her until she decided to come give me kisses. Nights are hard because I miss her settling in at my legs, waiting for her to flop comfortably on her side, feeling the gentle breathing and twitching of her sleeping body.

    It's amazing how the loss of one animal can make a house feel so empty.

    But at other times, it's hard to be sad, because of the reminders of how much JOY Mikenna brought everyone. She was such a goofy, intense, devoted girl. Whatever she did, she did with all the gusto in her little body. Want food? Don't just ask, BARK LOUDLY and flip your bowl over.

    She was an amazing companion. I appreciate how the kitties have stepped it up the last few days, keeping us company, and in Gwen's case, being as nutty as possible to make me laugh.

    We're all getting through it together. It's not easy, but when you lose someone you loved intensely, it's not going to be. I find keeping pictures of her around is very comforting. If I can still see her, then she mustn't be too far away.

  • Spectral Canine Sightings on the Rise?

    Spectral Canine Sightings on the Rise?

    Matt wrote this little piece. I liked it so much (ie: it made me cry) that I asked him if I could stick it on here. I like the thought that Mikenna is out there giving joy and love to people.

    Reports of paranormal pooch activity began rolling in during the evening hours of November 11th, 2016.

    "I was sitting on the couch, listening to the transistor radio, when I hear some animal running up and down my hallway," said local sommelier Joanne Whittaker. "I got up to see if I had raccoons or something, but instead there was this little white dog. As soon as she saw me, she stopped and looked up at me, tail wagging. I took a step toward her and she started running up and down the hall again, three or four times, before stopping in front of me. When I reached down to pet her, she started again. We did this three or four times before she just vanished. It was so bizzarre."

    "She seemed like a good dog," said Whittaker.

    A similar story comes from high school teacher Devadas Singh, who reported seeing a small white dog thrashing around on his bed with a chew toy. "It was adorable. And weird. She looked excited to see me, though. Nice dog. Good dog."

    Perhaps the most touching anecdote comes to us from Patricia Simon, owner of Patti's Books and Trinkets:

    This year has been incredibly hard for me. My youngest went away to college, my wife broke both her legs in a trapeze accident, and I've been fighting with my insurance company over a tree that fell on my house. Add to that a workday that was slightly more stressful than normal, followed by coming home to discover that the furnace had stopped working, and I just lost it. I crawled into bed and started bawling.

    Almost immediately, I heard the patter of tiny paws enter my room and felt something hop onto the bed. To put it mildly, I was shocked to see a small ghostly dog making her way toward me. She gently-but-firmly nudged my hands away from my face and started licking my tears. When I tried to roll over, she just climbed on top of me and kept going, her tail wagging furiously. Before long, I couldn't help myself and burst into laughter (and I'm pretty sure some dog tongue got in my mouth). This little dog had come out of nowhere and made it her sole mission to make me smile again!

    When I calmed down, she flopped on her back with her head on my pillow and looked at me. If I started to get choked up again, she gently licked the tip of my nose. Eventually, she burrowed under the covers and I fell asleep with her in my arms. When I woke up the next morning, she was gone.

    What a good dog.

    Dog experts at the Imzy Herald have pored over dozens of accounts and determined that the dog in question was a West Highland White Terrier. If you, or someone you know, has an encounter with this exceptional spirit, please write us a letter or send a telegram!

  • The last night

    I'm laying on the floor of my office. Mikenna is in her crate - her choice. Makes it hard to cuddle with her as I want, but her comfort takes precedence. 

    I know you know. It's not like i haven't posted about it everywhere social media will let me, in between outbursts of tears. Mikenna will die tomorrow. I hate the phrase put to sleep. Makes sleep so ominous. 

    I never wanted to be in this position, of having to choose. But it's not really a choice. There is no doubt that her quality of life has diminished rapidly and permanently. I can't question if we did it too soon. My only hesitation is in whether the vet was right that we bring her home tonight. 

    I looked it up a while back, how to make that choice if you have to. I wanted to prepare myself in advance to make a rational decision. The rule of thumb seemed to be, make a list of ten things they love. When they fall below half of that list, maybe it's time. Looking at her tonight, there's nothing left for her to enjoy. She seems too uncomfortable for cuddles, even. Not necessarily in pain, but not right. 

    Matt and I have done a lot of talking today. We have eleven years of shared Koo memories. Other than my parents, he has known her the longest and best. I'm not sure you could ask for a better dog. Maybe not by the textbook - we never did completely iron out potty training, and she would only sit on command if she really found a reason to. But she has had enough love for a lifetime. If you knew Koo, you couldn't help but love her. She made you. 

    She loved to attack boxes delivered by ups. Friendly to the guy, would viciously maul the box. Patient as a saint as kitten Aeris used her as a jungle gym, or when the neighbor kids got out of hand and smacked her. That made me so mad for her. She loved food. Bananas, pizza crust, french fries, yogurt and eggs were favorites. I was obsessive about only giving her little bits, because I wanted to watch her weight. She tried to stalk squirrels, as if they couldn't see a bright white dog coming. Never did catch one. Was a master at getting on the kitchen table, and took us years to master getting the chairs pushed in just right. Scones, Oreos, danishes and a stick of butter all fell prey to her at one time or another. She would look at you, then her ears would go flat back and she would climb up you and start mauling you with kisses. Whatever made her think it was time for a mauling is beyond me. I've never had a better cuddler, either. 

    Mikenna was a little over a year old when my cat Maggie died. Maggie had been my comfort whenever I cried. I told Koo that she would have to fill that void, and she did in spades. I'm not sure who that will be now. Neither of these cats really seems to care when I'm upset. I guess the legacy of Maggie ends here.

    I told Mikenna that she couldn't leave me until she told me how I'll live without her. She has been such a big part of my life for so long. I make so many decisions on a daily basis based on her. I run to the kitchen and prepare food quickly if she doesn't follow, trying to get back before she barks at me. I set up my computer and office in a Koo friendly way. I've taken many, many naps just because she wanted me to lay on the bed with her. She is so bossy! What do I do if someone isn't in the kitchen flipping her food bowl over because it's empty?

    I don't know. To some extent, I'll be starting a lot of my routines over. When do I go to bed if she's not there to yell at me to go to bed? When do I get up if not for her getting me out of bed to take her out? 

    But staring this in the face, the day I have dreaded forever, I feel okay. Well, let me try that again. I burst out in heaving sobs and little acts of kindness are melting me into crying mush. But I can see that life will go on, even without her. Koo has taught me so much patience, and that it's okay to love unabashedly. She will always be with me, even if her body has given up. 

    It will be hard to lose her. I will mourn her deeply and for a long time, but only because of how deeply i love her. Even in this deepest of pain... I wouldn't trade it away. I would rather love greatly and mourn deeply than to have lived without her. She is the puppy love of my life. I'd have had it no other way. 

    Thank you, Mikenna Oncha, my beloved mighty dog, for thirteen years, one month and six days of love and laughter and stubbornness. You will never be forgotten.