Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fall to Pieces: That's Just What I Did by Margo Hoornstra


"I don't want another dog."

New empty nesters, and with our beloved German Shepherd Jennifer having passed at seventeen, I wasn't interested in being tied down. Except, my husband wouldn't give it up.

"Okay. Okay." I agreed at last. "But only if one finds you. I don't want to go the puppy route another time."

Never again will I underestimate his networking abilities. In just a few short weeks, he made sure that 'one found him'.

"It's us or they're going to put her down."

What's the proper response to that?

We got Heidi when she was two. "She's a good dog," the vet said. "She's too much for me to handle," said the lady who was letting her go.

It turned out both of them were right. Heidi certainly did have issues.  Aside from being very, very timid, her right shoulder was out of joint, but you wouldn't know it to watch her run. X-rays showed the leg had healed that way and didn't seem to bother her. She'd been abused from birth, as near as we could tell. For the next seven years, we tried to make it up to her. From the very first, my husband had to use the treat system to teach her how to fetch. It was something she'd never experienced. Once she caught on though, fetch became her favorite game.

Despite her rocky beginning, she was a gentle and loving soul. From the very beginning, she followed me everywhere. Trusted me from day one. Somehow, I always found that amazing.

Then something was going on with her eyes. Pannus, we were told, a disease unique to the breed. We used the eye drops the vet gave us on a daily basis, but still Heidi pretty much went blind. Perpetual antibiotics came next for some teeth issues. "If she was a human, she'd be in assisted living." That's what we were told at her next yearly vet appointment. "Keep her comfortable as best you can."

"Okay. We will."

We did too. For the next couple of years.

Finally, it was becoming a matter of time, as they say. She'd have good days and not so good days.

"We need to do something," my husband said.

"I can't yet," was my stock reply.

After all, she trusted me, and I vowed to never betray her. As it turns out I did. We were out of town when she died. Thankfully, my son was with her, but I wasn't.

My husband swears Heidi's in a much better place now. Running and jumping and playing. Having a good time. Which made me wonder, did I do enough for her, or too much? Did I keep her going for her sake or mine?



My daughter-in-law sent me the following as we were driving home from vacation to bury Heidi in the back yard. That's the point when I, well, fell to pieces.

So this is where we part, My Friend. And you'll run on, around the bend. Gone from sight, but not from mind, new pleasures there you'll surely find. I will go on; I'll find the strength. Life measures quality, not its length. One long embrace before you leave. Share one last look before I grieve. There are others, that much is true. But they be they, and they aren't you. And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought. Will remember you well all you've taught. Your place I'll hold, you will be missed. The fur I stroked, the nose I kissed. And as you journey to your final rest. Take with you this...I loved you best.

Take care, Heidi. You did so much more for us than we ever did for you.

MJK

31 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

Made me cry! Heidi was beautiful. Loved the poem.

Margo Hoornstra said...

She was a good girl and, as you say, beautiful! Thanks, Jannine.

Kristen Brockmeyer said...

I couldn't even get all the way through that poem. I'm at work, and receptionists can't cry - it's in the rules! Hugs, and my sincerest sympathies on your loss.

Diane Burton said...

Margo, what a tribute. Very difficult to read. Hugs.

Betsy Ashton said...

Impossible to read without crying, Margo. For anyone who has loved a furry, our responsibility is to care for them. You did. Maybe you asked her to stay a bit longer. Maybe she knew you couldn't take her to the vet one last time. We can't know, but we realize how much you meant to each other. Cold nose nudges to you.

Maris said...

Well, that brought tears to my eyes. It's been almost a year since I said goodbye to Zuri, but I'm still not ready for another dog. I do wonder if I asked him to stay too long, but damn, I miss him.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Kristen. Sorry I made you cry at work.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thank you, Diane. Despite it all, she was a good dog.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Betsy. Thanks. If I was wrong, I'm sure she forgave me for it.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Oh I hear you, Maris. It is so hard to let them go. Not at all hard to love them.

Nancy Gideon said...

You can tell the character of a person by how they treat their pets. Fur family has always been part of my life. I feel for your loss Margo!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Nancy. It was very hard to let her go. She was the one with the character.

MJ Schiller said...

It makes me so sad to think of her, or any dog, being abused. I just don't understand how people can do that to another of God's creatures. I'm so glad she found a home with you and got to feel what it is like to be loved.

Alicia Dean said...

Very moving tribute. I'm sure Heidi stayed around as long as she needed to, for you both. Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt post.

Margo Hoornstra said...

MJ. I hope we showed her love. I can't imagine why someone would do that either. That's why her capacity to love and trust us really did amaze me every single day.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Alicia. I like to think Heidi was sort of in charge of that. That she passed when she needed to.

Annette said...

Well said, Margo. There is no purer love than that of a dog.

All the best, Annette

Melissa Keir said...

I'm sorry for your loss. I can understand the pain. I grew up with pets from my earliest days. My first dog was a white German Shepard named Heidi. She got ran over by a car when I was two. It appears I was playing too close to the road and she did what she did best, protect me. <3

Liz Flaherty said...

A great story and a loving daughter-in-law.

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Margo - You were a wonderful "mom" to Heidi. I'm sure she felt very blessed (in her doggie way) to have found you and your family. :-) What a lovely post.

Christine DePetrillo said...

GSDs are the best dogs on the planet! I'm sure Heidi felt so loved and lucky to be a part of your family. Your poem moved me to go give my GSD a big hug and a kiss. Thanks for sharing.

Susan Coryell said...

Margo: Our last dog was a miniature schnauzer and I was her person. She loved summer vacation from my teaching but developed a psycho-type "illness" every fall so I would stay home with her. MISS her so much! thanks for the post!

Judy Ann Davis said...

Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing. For anyone who has had a pet, you certainly wrap up all the feelings of love and loss. Well said.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Melissa. Thank you. Your Heidi did exactly what she needed to. Aren't dogs just great?

Margo Hoornstra said...

Liz. It was nice to have our family with us, and with Heidi. And, yes, my daughter in law is very loving.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Annette. Dogs certainly are special. In my opinion, Heidi was exceptional.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Leah. Thank you. One can only hope.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Chris. That's what I keep asking me kids to do, hug their dogs for me.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Susan. The things we do for them. And all worth it.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Judy. She taught me a lot.

VK Lynch-Doran said...

well gee, you and the old girl brought me to tears. As you know, I don't do crying.
much luck and love
kathy