Friday, June 14, 2013

Dreams of Future Past

Tomorrow marks two months since Cleo had her surgery and I got the dreadful news that the operation didn’t go well at all. I had hoped for another lucky winning hand like we were dealt in Abbie’s case. Were despite the odds my girl that I loved so dearly would pull through. Only this time the cards were stacked against us.

Cleo, Maggie & Zoe Monster

I have to be honest Dr Wise hinted it would be best to put Cleo to sleep. She said that her care would be intensive and that Cleo was not going to get any better. In hindsight I am glad I got these two months to spend with Cleo and to say our good-byes.

Cleo did require almost constant care. I’ve done hospice type care on several fosters before so it wasn’t like this would be new. Besides Cleo was not a foster dog – she was my best long time friend. Over the last few months our bond grew even closer. That’s why I mentioned I thought I had come to terms with losing her. In the end each case of watching something dear to you slip away is unique – Cleo being no different.

Toby, Sydney & Scarlett from 2007 

Sadly over the past three years we have lost fifteen of our senior hounds. Eight have been from my original crew I put together over a decade ago – my bassets Maggie, Zoe, now Cleo, Toby, Sydney, and Samantha, and Beagle and Ban Bam. Each of those losses tore huge holes in my heart. Sometimes I sit at night and wonder how I can continue to suffer such tremendous feeling of loss with each passing. The answer is really simple – life grants you great memories that come with great burdens. I would never trade the memories simply to escape the pain that comes with not being able to build more memories.

Not much changes through the years - - from 2002

I share many of those private moments the hounds and I have had through the years with our friends. I also remind people that despite the hardships I still consider myself very blessed to be able to share my life with the hounds I so deeply love. 

For people who have no clue who I am or how we live to suggest my life is unhappy or I have any bottled up anger in my life they simply are ignorant and clueless. The last thing I do every night is say good night to my beloved hounds.

I don’t do that as a unit – or pack but individually. In most cases the hounds have their own bedtime routine whether it’s crawling up for a quick scratch on the chest before scurrying off to her bed like Abigail or wandering over to my bed for a pat on the head like Dano. Several of the hounds claim their spot in bed – whether its Agnes stealing my pillow or Poe stretched out by my feet.

Rise and shine its a new morning
In the morning I’m the first one up. Our routine then turned into waking each of the hounds and escorting them out for their morning walk. That is pretty much how the whole day goes – whether its our meal time routine, watching the morning news or the two hours I spend in the evening watching TV – the days are focused around those routines.

Its not to say I don’t squeeze in things that need done in between including some me time on the computer or many of my other pastimes I enjoy doing. But we are a large family unit. When one passes, like Cleo and beagle – they are most missed during those daily routines. I find myself remembering how Beagle liked her dish or how I would prepare our queen something special because she was our queen.

Life goes on around here because it is a routine. I may just plow through the paces still thinking about my loss but I do so with a spirit that keeps the other hounds high-spirited. As I think about our losses I am realistic in understanding there will be more. Of the twenty hounds still part of our extended pack only six are under four years old. Only eight are under six years old. Nineteen are between the ages of ten to eighteen years of age.

Our sweet dream Agnes

Dreams are a strange concept. Philosophers talk about reaching for your dreams to find true happiness. I dream of days gone past. Those are the dreams that bring solace to my soul. One thing I’ve come to understand about life is you can’t turn back the page – you can’t stop the clock and all you can do is try and build dreams that give your soul the same comfort as days gone past.

Since we can’t turn back the page to yesterday and we surely can’t bet on tomorrow the only thing that works is too live each day to its fullest with the cards you have to play. Fortunately, I am still surrounded by a pack of happy, loving hounds that manage to keep me more than busy every day. We push through our daily routine looking to build more cherished memories for days to come.       These moments in time are the dreams of future past.

Cleo's Final Journey

Journey to the Heavens

Yesterday I took the dreaded slow trip out to Jackson Lake to lay my sweet girl Cleo to rest. It seems we’ve made this journey far too often. The hounds and I are blessed with some remarkably kind friends. In times of great sadness I lean on my friend Bill who helped set up a small burial plot for several of my precious hounds were they could rest peacefully on his farm. 

While I thought I had prepared myself for her departure during the last two months since we received the dreadful news of her illness that wasn’t the case. Once the finality of losing her set in all the emotions of losing your best friend set in. Cleo was the last survivor who had helped me through the passing of my father in 2001. I brought Cleo along with Maggie and Zoe to dad’s funeral. Afterwards we traveled for four or five months at a wicked pace trying to outrun the demons of despair that had set in. Ultimately this would lead to becoming involved in rescue which not only saved hundreds of hounds but my own sense of purpose as well.

I found Cleo living on a chain in a dirt filled yard in south Florida’s "Cuban Ghetto". Cleo was only a year old and she shared the backyard with an overly energetic pit puppy about the same age. Their chains were separated but the pit puppy was close enough to take a swipe out of her nose. She was petrified.

Cleo's first picture after her bath - she wasn't sure what was going on
I found here answering a classified ad in the morning news. The girl I was with told me I didn’t need a third basset but once I saw that look of fear in her eyes I wasn’t leaving without here. A problem came up when the woman told me in broken english she wanted $100 for Cleo. I told her I only had $60 but wasn’t leaving without her. So, I offered her a deal – pulling out my cell phone I told her "$60 and I won’t call animal control". I never saqw anyone agree so fast. At first I laughed and told my friend she probably didn’t have a green card but later I realized she was probably concerned about the illegal pit bull she had instead.

Learning the rules - there ne no sleeping on the floor

Cleo never spent a day living on a chain ever again. In my heart I know Cleo lived a wonderful life. Not only me but with her adopted siblings Maggie and Zoe. That bond remained even as our family of hounds grew.

For twelve and a half years Cleo gave back a love that was priceless. She had a certain grace that brought smiles to adults and laughter to children. Strangers would ask if they could pet "my dog" and I would simply tell them to ask her? Cleo always obliged. I like to think once you met Cleo - she left a lasting impression that always brought a smile to your face. She was loved by many.

I knew Cleo was closing down in her final hours. I was by her side letting her know what a truly great dog she was and that it was all right to let go. Cleo was fighter. I truly believe she fought on not wanting to disappoint me. Cleo was loyal in her love right up to her last dying breath.

While the tears have slowed and eventually the images and memories will be replaced with smiles but life will never be quite the same around here. For twelve and a half years now I never went to sleep at night without sharing a final lights out "Night Cleo – daddy loves you". It was those words on her passing that started the tears flowing.

In the end I talked to her about going to sleep so she could see Maggie and Zoe again. She is in a more peaceful place now. In times of great grief music and words can play a powerful role in moving one’s mind from sorrow to remembering the good times shared building those priceless memories we cherish till our final breath.

An English songwriter Peter Green wrote a song that always mesmerized feelings deep inside my conscious soul. The song was written in 1969 called Closing My Eyes. It on a old Fleetwood Mac album called "Then Play On".

"Then Play On" is a mindset that reminds me to continue living each day one at a time. That is what life is all about – playing on.

In loving memory of my girl I’ll close with this song as I press on feeding on her smile.

Written by guitarist / vocalist - leader of the Band - Peter Green.

John Mc Vie [bass]
Danny Kirwan [guitar / vocal]
Mick Fleetwood [drum]
Jeremy Spencer [slide guitar / vocal]
Peter Green [guitar / vocal]

Lyrics -

Now it's the same as before
And I'm alone again

With no sorrow for myself
And I'm blaming no one else

And closing my eyes
And seeing you standing there

Now it's the same as before
You've touched me with your love

And though you're in my heart
We're still a world apart
As now I'm back to the time
Where I would search for a dream
But no use to try anymore as before
Someday I'll die, and maybe then I'll be with you

Rest in Peace - Till We Meet

So I'm closing my eyes
To hear the people laugh

For they're all aglow
Not knowing where to go

But is it asking too much
When the question is what to do
With the life I'll have
It seems I know nothing now
Except my love for you
And the strength in my hands
To go on feeding your smile