Respect

In writing this, I am speaking entirely for myself.

As a disabled woman, I don’t need or set out to be inspiring. However, what I do expect, is respect. Respect for me as a human. Respect for me as a woman. And respect for me as a disabled person that I am doing my best I can with the hand I’ve been dealt.

Disability is hard. No one chooses a life with illness. Illness or injury hit unexpectedly. They disrupt everything. Your work or schooling. Your family life. Your friendships. It screws with your ability to do basic human things, like shower, or prepare and eat a meal for yourself.

This post started bubbling in my head after an MP raised the idea of demerit points being issued for illegally using access/disabled parking spaces. There’s already a fairly hefty fine (around $340Au, I believe.), but that seems to be not often applied, and not enough of a deterrent to the “oh I’ll only be a minute” crowd.There’s hundreds of reason why someone needs a disabled parking permit (a blue badge in the U.K.). The obvious ones are wheelchair users. You need space to get in and out of a car when you use a wheelchair. But the same can be said of someone with a disabled child, who might not need a wheelchair, but does need help getting into and out of the car. I saw an example of this just last week. I smiled at both the child and his mother. She let out a visible sigh of relief, obviously used to being berated or abused for using the disabled space. Another example is a person with Lupus, who needs to spend as little time in the sun as possible. And when in a “flare” period, chances are that person has used every ounce of energy they have just to make themselves presentable, and drive to the shop. If they had to walk the length of the car park, chances are, they couldn’t. Or if they did manage it, they’d not be able to complete their shopping trip. Arthritis patients are another example, they may look ok on the surface, but inside, the pain may be tearing them apart

There’s hundreds of reason why people need a disabled parking permit (a blue badge in the U.K.). The obvious ones are wheelchair users. You need space to get in and out of a car when you use a wheelchair. But the same can be said of someone with a disabled child, who might not need a wheelchair, but does need help getting into and out of the car. I saw an example of this just last week. I smiled at both the child and his mother. She let out a visible sigh of relief, obviously used to being berated or abused for using the disabled space. Another example is a person with Lupus, who needs to spend as little time in the sun as possible. And when in a “flare” period, chances are that person has used every ounce of energy they have just to make themselves presentable, and drive to the shop. If they had to walk the length of the car park, chances are, they couldn’t. Or if they did manage it, they’d not be able to complete their shopping trip.

I have M.E./C.F.S., or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a neuroimmune disease which leaves me mostly housebound, struggling to do basic human tasks, such as bathe, and cook, then eat my meal. I do what is referred to as pacing. I pace everything I do. It borders on military precision the way I pace. But even with all that pacing, I’m often still completely wiped out before I even get out of the house. But I’ve missed out on so much over the last 24 or so years, that I push myself to have some fun. I don’t think I’d still be here, mostly with a smile, if I didn’t have those few and far between fun times to keep me going. I’m often shaking from the effort of staying upright, but having a couple of hours with my friends, who are closer than close, is medicine for the soul. That sounds a bit woo woo for my more practical mind, but it’s the simplest way to put it.

This is me, another face of invisible illness. Looks are deceiving.

This is me, another face of invisible illness. Looks are deceiving.

After over two decades of illness, late last year I applied for, and was granted a disabled parking permit. It felt like another blow to my already fragile independence. I knew that because I “don’t look sick”, abuse was not just likely, but inevitable. I don’t go far driving myself, as it’s just too much effort for me. I’m hesitant to use that disabled permit when I’m on my own as the stress caused by the sort of abuse goody two shoes polite police bark out is too much for me. Mostly, it’s been used when my Mum is with me and driving. But even that hasn’t stopped a couple of busy body arseholes butting in. I have four stickers on my car, front and rear windscreens, and both rear side windows, stating look at the permit not the driver, and that not all disabilities are visible.

There’s been a suggestion of having the permit holders name and/or on the permit, but I’m not sure I like that idea, as I don’t particularly want to be able to be found on social media or through phone books etc. Which, given there are some really creepy people out there, is possible.

What I think we need a great education campaign about who is eligible for, and the process of, obtaining a disabled parking permit. About the 70% plus of disabled people who DO NOT use any sort of aid, ie wheelchair or walking stick. About how many invisible disabilities there are.

Disabled people have enough shit to cope with, without busybody wankers butting in. If there’s a permit on that window, shut up. Do not assume because it’s a young person that they’re illegally using their parents or grandparents permit.

It comes back to what I asked recently, how would you like that sort of thing done to you. I’m guessing 99% of people would hate the disrespect dished out. Don’t do the job of parking inspectors. Yes, there are pricks who park illegally in disabled bays, but it’s not up to the public to police that. Yes, it is a right royal pain in the arse when there’s someone illegally parked in those spaces, but don’t assume that everyone parked in those bays who “looks fine” is parked illegally.

It all comes back to respect. Please respect others. If that’s a visibly disabled person in a wheelchair, don’t assume they’re deaf, or intellectually challenged too, they’re probably not! If a cancer patient is wearing a wig, and has a bit of war paint (makeup) on, you’re probably not going to be immediately aware they’re being turned inside out by the treatment they’re undergoing. Respect others. Respect is, in my humble opinion, a really simple thing. No one likes to be treated poorly, or abused, especially for something they have absolutely no control over.

Please, be good to each other.

Jac

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Bonnie: 1 year on

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While Australia and New Zealand pause today to mark the centenary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli, I will also be taking a moment to remember my girl Bonnie. A year ago today, I had to make the gut wrenching decision to have her put to sleep. She was in agony, not even methadone was easing her suffering. She was in organ failure, and at an estimated age of 15, she was very frail, and simply put, dying. It was sudden, with little time to prepare ourselves for the loss about to be suffered.

I know it will seem ridiculous to some for me to be writing about the loss of a dog on a day set aside to remember the thousands lost in that battle. Perhaps it is. But that dear little dog was the sunshine of my often very dim life.

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RAINBOW BRIDGE

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress their beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Author unknown…

Would you really like this said or done to you?

I’m pissed off. I’ve had two friends bullied over their battles with M.E. this week, and that makes me really angry. These are positive, funny, kind women, who are trying, like I am, to navigate life with an incurable illness, that people who claim to love you (and, not uncommonly, complete strangers) feel is ok to instruct you on. Take a moment to consider perhaps, if you were suddenly struck with an illness that leaves you feeling like you’ve got the worst flu of your life, have a hangover to end all hangovers, and have run a marathon every day for a year, how you’d cope. Oh, and feel like that every day, with no end, often with little or no consideration of how ill you actually are. Now, have a think about how you’d feel if someone claiming to be well intentioned starts harassing you about your illness. And insisting they’re the wronged party when you call them out on their shit. Or that person telling you you’re overreacting. Nup, you wouldn’t like it much would you. You wouldn’t tell a cancer patient to “just get out more” or to “want something more”. You wouldn’t dream of it. Nor would you dish out treatment or management advice to them, or to someone who has say M.S. (Once called hysterical paralysis, a particularly misogynistic label, due to it affecting more women than men.), or Lupus, or Rheumatoid Arthritis. You wouldn’t tell a paraplegic they just need to want to walk more! You wouldn’t do those things because people with those illnesses or disabilities already have a battery of doctors running every conceivable test, prodding, poking, etc etc, and pumping them full of all sorts of medication in the hopes of finding a balance that works for that patient.

Chronic illness is so beyond hard. Way harder than anyone ever comprehends. Until they’re facing it themselves. It changes lives so much, that often, the patients often aren’t even sure who they are anymore in the grand scheme of things. Lives are irrevocably altered. But somehow, many of us do our best to find the little things that make us smile. Our lives are definitely NOT what we wanted, and hoped and dreamed, but for the simple fact that it keeps us going, we keep tiny shreds of hope. Hope that we can have a lunch with dear friends, or a few hours out every so often. We know those things are going to knock us about for days, or weeks, but we hope that we have enough fun, and laughter to keep us going until we can do those things next. My own doctor told me to keep doing the things I love, and that make me happy. Even if that means careful rest and pacing beforehand, and rest for as long as needed after.

Chronic illness is hard enough to deal with day in and day out, without unknowing, unthinking, and often outright stupid people making us feel like it’s our fault, or we’re too sensitive, or we’re not doing enough, or that we’re outright faking, when just surviving is all we can do some days. No one chooses this life. No one would. It’s not all oh I wish I could stay in bed all day. Or you’re so lucky you don’t have to work. To those I say yeah and fuck you. I wasn’t destined for this existence. I can’t call it a life. And nor were my friends. Lots of friends whom I’ve never met in person, but who have provided unfailing support.

Chronic illness is also loss. And trying to cope with that loss every single day.

So next time you open your mouth to a chronically ill person, pause for a moment and think about how you’d feel, fighting a battle every day, against your own body, which is attacking itself in all sorts of ways, just pause and ask yourself, is this how I’d want someone to speak to me if I had to walk the path of chronic illness?

About Me

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Cuddles with my Poppy dog!

So it’s pretty obvious I’m not a prolific blogger. But it’s not for want of things to say. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve got a lot say and a hell of a lot of opinions. I’m just not sure where to start. So, expanding on a post I was tagged in on Instagram a few months back, “20 facts about me”, I’m starting with a 50 facts about me post. Here goes.

  1. I have no idea what my natural hair colour is anymore. I’ve been colouring it in various forms since my early to mid teens. I’ve had rinses, semis, permanents, highlights, and am currently back on semi permanent colours. My hairdresser found my first grey hair when I was 14. And it’s safe to say, in the nearly two decades since, that one grey has brought a hell of a lot of mates to the party. And not being prepared to go quietly into being grey haired, I have to have my regrowth done about every four weeks. Monotonous stuff.
  2. I have a good grip on terra firma. Which is a nice way of saying I have big feet. I’m a 10-11 in Australian sizing. But, I’m also above average height, at about 5′ 7″, so my tootsies don’t look out of proportion. Thankfully.
  3. WHile we’re on things feety, I LOVE shoes. They don’t have to be expensive. In fact most of mine are at the lowest end of the footwear price scale. I especially love boots. But being in Australia, we don’t have a long boot wearing season. More’s the shame!
  4. I was bullied very badly at school, which has left an awful lot of emotional scars. As a result, I react very poorly to anyone being mistreated. I don’t hold back in telling people to pull heir heads in any more. Too many nasty people in this world.
  5. I love animals. Most especially dogs. I’ve been guardian to three wonderful little dogs in my lifetime (see previous posts “Poppy” and “Bonnie”). Barring reptiles, I love almost all animals. For my birthday in 2012, I did an animal encounter at Adelaide Zoo, getting to go into the enclosure with, and feeding the Ring Tailed Lemur Troupe we have here. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. And I was privileged to do it while the Zoos oldest Lemur, Hoss, believed to have been the oldest Lemur in captivity anywhere, was still alive. He had gone a lovely reddish shade, and although the he had slowed right down, and was being treated for age related arthritis, he was still very much enjoying the fruit treats my group fed them. I’d like to do another animal experience for my birthday this year. The hardest part will be choosing which animal!
    Elderly Lemur Hoss. A true gent.

    Elderly Lemur Hoss. A true gent.

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  6. I started learning to horse ride when I was 4. Not unusually for little girls, I was horse mad. And pony rides just didn’t cut it. So I was enrolled at a riding school, and continued on until I was about 7, I think. At the time, I had to stop, it was thought that the horses were causing asthma. But, nearly two decades later, it was discovered that I was not in fact allergic to the horses, but the Sheoaks that grew wild around the riding school.
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    Here on Goldie! Great little Welsh Mountain Pony.

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    And here on Thunder. Also a Welsh Mountain Pony. He was my first riding school pony.

  7. I love sport. Although I can no longer compete, I still get itch feet watching certain sports. my favourites were tennis and swimming. But I think, given more opportunity, I’d have really enjoyed softball. I loved pretty much any sport I had a go at though. Except volleyball, which even as a kid, made my wrists and hands hurt badly, and korfball, again because the ball made my hands and arms hurt. I wasn’t a big fan of running, but that too was due to pain.
  8. I learned to play piano for age 8 to 11, when illness forced me to start cutting extra curricular pursuits to maintain my school work. I also tried my hand at violin, but, as per my body’s quirks, I had endless issues with the resin used on the bow. I do miss piano, but not violin. But that’s probably down to my teachers. Awesome piano teacher, wanker violin teacher.
  9. The reason I can no longer play sport or music is I have battled ME (Myalgic Encephalomyalitis, or more dubiously Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) for over half my life. Sometimes that battle is a big brave roaring one. Sometimes it’s a quiet, just get through each day, hour or even each minute at a time. In the early years, I pushed to keep up, with school and with socialising. It was a mistake. I ended up bedbound at times, and continue to be mostly housebound. It’s a big case of if I knew then what I know now. But, such is life. The thing I find amongst the most difficult, beyond the loss this disease causes, is the reactions of others. Where I try to take the lead of others who are dealing with illness, be it acute or chronic, I seem to be in the minority. It seems to have been more difficult for other to get their heads around the fact I’ve tried everything, and seen I don’t know how many doctors. It is what it is. Acceptance does not mean defeat. It means I need to accept things as they are in order to cope with it myself. My close friends have been second to none in their support. As has my mum. But that is not the case with everyone. I have what I call my mask, the face I put on to deal with the not so kind and unhelpful people in my life. My friends (and my mum) see beyond that mask, they know by looking past the makeup that hides how sick I look, when I’m struggling. Having an acquired chronic illness is not how anyone plans their life. I had bigger plans than all those unhelpful and disbelieving people will ever know. No one questions a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis anymore, but did you know it was once called “Hysteric Paralysis”? Simply because doctors couldn’t explain it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be screwed without my doctors, but there’s a large bracket of them that are only book smart, and can’t see beyond the ends of their noses.
  10. And, as if all that’s not enough to deal with, in 2013, I was given a tentative diagnosis of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type. It’s an hereditary connective tissues disorder. There’s no treatment. It’s a management situation. Because of it, my joints are prone to dislocation with little or no trauma. I’ve dislocated more joints than I can count. But the scary thing is, I’m on the lower end of the affected scale. There’s others with far more severe manifestations.
  11. Following one from that, I still have dreams. Some of them haven’t changed since early childhood, some have altered to better fit my reduced stamina. I’m going to do a post of my bucket list next, so that will cover some of my dreams.
  12. I am a prolific dreamer. Like actual dreams. My sleep cycles are wonky thanks to the ME, and so I dream, a lot. Some are awesome, some not so much dreams as violent, horrible, scary nightmares. I occasionally sleepwalk still too. I actually fell while sleepwalking this summer just gone, and had some very ouchie bruises from it.
  13. I’m a decent cook. Put a recipe in front of me and chances are I’ll be able to do it justice. I do have a stool in the kitchen these days to make cooking less taxing. I have all manner of kitchen gadgets to make cooking easier too.
  14. I love kids. I’ve got young cousins, and my friends kids to keep me on my toes. Most notable of those on the toes moments being when then cousin Master Three was listening in with great gusto, and overheard me use the word psychopath. “What’s a psychopaff?” he asked. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit! I got out of it well, but the looks on my mother, and his mother faces were quite priceless. Lesson learned.
  15. I’m left handed. I was completely ambidextrous until I was 6/7yrs old. But a particularly unpleasant teacher insisted I choose a hand. Then spent the rest of the year telling me off for poor handwriting. For starters, have you ever seen a 6yr olds hand writing? Mine was no different to the rest of the class. He was a jerk. He’s still a jerk from what I hear.
  16. I’m allergic to cockroaches. Among other things. But they’re my weirdest thing. Not all that uncommon according to my doctors.
  17. I don’t have a favourite colour, as such. I do love vibrant, bold colours though.
  18. I’ve worn glasses since 1991, and contact lenses (somewhat sporadically) since 2000.
  19. My favourite show in my youth was The X Files. I’m not the I’ve seen every episode 167 times fan. More than I’ve seen it lots, I own it all on dvd, and I still love sinking back into that universe kinda gal. And just this week, the news all TXF fans have been hanging out for, a revival! I am, naturally, delighted.
  20. My favourite movies as a kid were the Goonies and Playing Beattie Bow. Scary thought they’re now 28 and 30yrs old.
  21. I still think of some childhood playmates as “my little boys”, despite the fact they both have a good six inches height on me!IMAG0163
  22. The first concert I went to was Billy Joel at Memorial Drive (better known for tennis) in 1991. It was the start of a big, very serious love of live music.
  23. The first album I bought was New Kids On The Block in 1990. I finally saw them live in 2011! Totes worth the wait!
  24. I’ve tried to keep a diary a few times, but suck at it. Always feel like a bit of a git writing shit I wouldn’t want anyone else to ever read. Rather a what’s the point feeling for me. All power to those who do keep diaries, but it’s not for me.
  25. I played with Barbies, and I’m not damaged about how women should look. It was always about the clothes for me, not the boobs and tiny waist.
  26. I still have a teddy I got for my second Christmas when I was 15months old.
  27. My weight has been an ongoing battle since childhood, courtesy of a serious reaction to steroids, in any form. My self image takes a big hit when I have to deal with the yoyo-ing numbers on the scales.
  28. As a consequence of my weight battles, my wardrobe is bigger than I’d like. But rather than having to re-buy the basics every time I gain or lose weight, I store the too big or too small items for when they’ll be needed again.
  29. I hate fresh coriander. HATE. Dried I can tolerate, but fresh is foul.
  30. I tried milk thistle when I was about four. Why call something milk thistle when it tastes so bloody bad? Gross!
  31. I enjoy gardening, but it’s something I have do in small, and very careful lots.
  32. I broke my collarbone trying to get a better vantage point at an outdoor music event. Broke in two places. And dislocated the shoulder and had a separated AC joint. And I got up and ran. Ever wanna challenge how tough I am, remember that.
  33. I’ve had three major orthopaedic surgeries. With the second, I had what my surgeon said was very technically termed “mean pain.” I’m normally pretty polite and will keep it to myself when people queue jump,etc, however, give a person enough pain, and you get “mean pain”. The moral of the story is, do not cut in a coffee queues when someone ahead of you is still wearing a sling!
  34. I rode in the car carrying two Crows duel premiership players in their ticker tape parade in 1998. I have photos of legs!
  35. I have supported the Adelaide Crows since 1991, and have been a member since 1999.
  36. I live with chronic pain. I don’t like to talk about it as a lot of people view it as whinging or attention seeking. But, for the record, when I do talk about the pain (or my other health related things), it’s never about attention seeking. It’s because I’ve suffered in silence longer than I can cope with and I need to say I’m not coping right now but don’t have the words. I don’t remember what it’s like not to have pain. And pain changes you. At least in how you handle situations. Sometimes it’s just that something or somewhere is too loud or too bright and my head is spinning with it all. It is never about wanting attention. Unless you consider vomiting on you from the pain attention seeking!
  37. One of my favourite things to do is spend time with my friends. I might not have a big circle, but I have a strong circle. Some are a second family to me. I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like, but I make the most of what I can manage.
  38. I’ve been researching my family tree for about 15yrs. With a lot of gaps filled by distant relatives I’ve located along the way, and a huge amount of trawling through records, digitised newspapers, war records, and all manner of resources, parts of the tree are huge! Much bigger than any of my maternal line knew. I’m proud of what I’ve found. The people in the tree aren’t just names and dates on pages, they are part of me. They form part of who I am. Our genes determine more of who we are than most are prepared to recognise.

    My Gran's family, her parents and nine siblings, Christmas 1996, taken at "The Farm", near Hawker, South Australia.

    My Gran’s family, her parents and nine siblings, Christmas 1996, taken at “The Farm”, near Hawker, South Australia.

  39. I wanted to be a doctor growing up. And a vet before that. But. I’m dreadfully allergic to cat, rabbits, and so,e dogs. And I cry at animals in pain. More so than people. I’d have made a terrible vet. Had I been able to become a doctor, I’d have been the fifth generation through my paternal family to do medicine, or something in that field. My Grandmother was a doctor, qualifying in the late 1930’s, not an easy time to be a woman in general and most defintiely not an easy time to be a woman doctor. She took over her fathers practice in the town where she grew up, and saw all manner of illnesses, injuries, accident, and crimes. But, aside from my health preventing me from fulfilling my dreams, I discovered something of a phobia in my teens.
  40. Blood. I’m really bad with it. When I have my first orthopaedic surgery on my knee when I was 15, I had a drain to keep the knee from filling with fluid. When I discovered this drain, I threw up. I can’t even watch blood being taken now. Last year, I held a tray for a nurse taking blood from my Mum. I made the mistake of looking at the vials of blood in the tray. I’m assuming I turned my usual shade of grey, as the nurse asked ME if I was ok! I toughed it out when mum had the drain removed from her knee after her knee replacement, but I was heavily caffeinated at the time! I can suck it up and cope for short periods, but let’s hope I never need to hold a wound closed or anying!
  41. I bit my nails til I was 15. Braces solved that habit.
  42. I had braces from 15 til 19. Every time my orthodontist got my teeth to move over to where they belong, months of painful moving, they’d move back within a few weeks. Every. Single. Time. They’ve stayed straight, but they’re defintiely not as he intended.
  43. I had my wisdom teeth removed when I was 21. Here’s a tip, don’t say anything remotely like profylactic to a drugged up 21yr old, because whatever they mean will it be what you think of. I was warned of swelling. Likely to reach it’s peak in 2-4days. Always a bit of an overachiever, my swelling peaked in about four HOURS! I bore a striking resemblance to John Goodman, large jowls. And then came the bruising. I didn’t leave the house for 12 days. And even then I didn’t look so hot! I am extremely grateful that it’s something that only has to be done once. The bottom two were impacted, grown into the jawbone. One of the most painful places to have hacked at apparently. I didn’t get the profylactic antibiotics, and yup, I ended up with a lovely infection.
  44. I broke my nose in 2007. I have a neighbour who has some rather serious mental health issues, and 2am, middle of winter, he had something along the lines of a psychotic break. I bolted for the phone, in the dark, missed the doorway, got the door frame, one broken nose, a decent black eye, lots of very shiny stars were seen, and one hell of a concussion. Lesson learned, don’t use technology, watch tv, read etc when you’re concussed. I had post concussion syndrome, which took a long time to ease up.
  45. I rarely start a book and don’t finish it. Some I devour, others I drag through, but I try to finish most.
  46. My favourtie book is “To Kill A Mockingbird”. No surprise, it’s a classic for a reason, and it’s message resonates today as much as when it was written 55yrs ago.
  47. I believe in marriage equality. I want to see my gay friends allowed to stand up and publicly declare their love and commitment, if that’s what they want.
  48. I’m not religious, but I respect others rights to believe what they do. Just don’t stuff it down my throat.
  49. I don’t know if I will ever have good body confidence. It’s rather a fake my body confidence until I make it.
  50. I would love to study anthropology. Still the science nerd at heart, I’d love to be working in a museum. Always learning. Despite everything, I still have dreams. Lots of dreams. Probably even more than your average joe.

So, there you have it. That’s just a little bit about me.

Poppy

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I’d like to introduce you to Poppy. She’s a 7yr old Jack Russell girl who I adopted on November 7th.

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Poppy, former Angie.

 

It’s taken us over six months to feel ready to welcome another little dog into our home. But a couple of weeks ago I started making enquiries about some little dogs I’d seen online at a local rescue centre. The first little one I asked about had been adopted just that afternoon. And the second had several meet and greets lined up with potential new homes. The third, Angie, had also gone out on a trial period just that afternoon. That was all ok, as I told them, we were happy to wait for a little dog that fit our terribly specific criteria of small breed and short haired! We comforted ourselves with the thought that at least they all had homes to go to, or would have a home to go to soon.

That Friday morning, I received a message from the rescue centre that Angie’s trial hadn’t worked out, and asking would we be interested in meeting her. I burst into tears, as, in her pictures, she seemed a dear little dog. Bearing a striking resemblance to my departed girl Bonnie, I wondered for about half a second if it might be too strange having another one so similar. The thought was promtly banished, and an hour or so later, we were walking in the door of the “adoption centre”.

Led through to the open area with a couple of boisterous puppies, some kittens in cat runs, several cats free ranging and against the far wall, in a little crate type dog cage, was Angie, and Toby, one of the other dogs I’d made enquiries about. It felt like Sophie’s choice (my mum’s own words, and my thoughts!). We’d briefly discussed if they were both available, which would we take, as we can only manage one. I loved the look of both of them, but Toby, being mostly Chihuahua, would be at risk of getting under the small gap under our gates. Angie on the other hand, being of the Jack Russell type persuassion, was unlikely to be able to squeeze under the gap. (Bonnie had, even at her skinniest never gone close to fitting under the gap.) The decision was made, albeit it feeling dreadfully guilty about leaving one behind. A problem I always knew I’d face, because, loving animals as I do, I hate the thought of any of them not having loving, and importantly, safe, homes.

I will admit, I welled up when I first spotted Angie. She and Toby were huddled in the corner of the cage, obviously uncertain of what was going on. Typical to the Chi type, Toby started the shakes. More guilts from me for not being able to adopt the pair of them. I know I can’t save them all, but still, I’m only human, and I have a lot of love to give little furry ones.

Angie bounded out of the cage to meet us, but was a bit timid and more keen to follow the rescue worker. After a short time, offering upturned palm as a gentle greeting to her, Angie decided she quite liked me. We let her run around our feet while we talked through a few things with the staff. Angie’s previous trial had fallen through when she displayed “fear aggression”. Meaning, she growled or snarled when she was frightened. We explained the Bonnie had been somewhat “special needs” as some have termed it, with some post traumatic stress type issues (yep, animals get that too), along with some other small dog type issues, including dental trouble. It was clear to them that we’ve had a lot of time with little dogs.

I filled out the questionnaire the adoption centre uses to check suitability of owners. No problems. The staff thought, with my life being as quiet and as mostly house bound as it is, we could offer Angie a good, quiet home, where she could be allowed to get used to her surroundings without any fear.

The forms were completed, the fees paid, and Angie exited the building with us, carried by me! She looked a little uncertain, but not too much. In the car she promptly buried her head in under my arm, showing more signs of uncertainty. She remained that way on the short drive home. Until, when we pulled into our driveway, the little tan and white head popped up and the ears pricked up. She knew this was our place.

As we left the adoption centre.

As we left the adoption centre.

There was some real fear about going in the car.

There was some real fear about going in the car.

Her first moments were spent exploring the yard, and dealing with a slightly nervous tummy. I can’t blame her. It must be strange, if not outright scary for them.

She trotted inside without any hesitation, and then followed be around while I located the water bowl (pink with silver paw print outlines), and dinner bowls. Then, without being asked, she hopped up on the sofa without any second thoughts. Smiles all around here.

She hopped up on the sofa and cuddled like she'd always been here.

She hopped up on the sofa and cuddled like she’d always been here.

We talked about keeping her name as Angie, but, knowing that pets do well with a new name, not least of which is due to it breaking any sad, or bad, past associations with the old name. We threw around a few names. We’d been making a short list for a while. But, Poppy seemed to suit this little monkey perfectly. The name, aside from being perfect for our little girl, also fits with the November anniversary of Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day here in Australia, (also known as Poppy Day elsewhere in the world, I believe.) Poppies are everywhere in November. For obvious reasons. And, having had all three of my little dogs (all girls, through fate, not design), have either been born or adopted in November. Poppy’s adoption date is November 7th, Bonnie’s was November 8th, and Suzy, my first girl, was born on November 25th. Poppy seemed to be the best, and only name for our little adoptee.

As soon as Poppy had had her first feed, she was very comfortable with us, and settle in for a big snooze next to me on the sofa.

Over the next 48hrs, Poppy very firmly adopted me as hers. To the point where I don’t think I adopted her, I think she very definitely adopted me. No risk of a trial fail here!

By the end of her second full day here, Poppy was happily climbing all over me, and going to sleep on my belly. A very confident (in the right hands, clearly), little girl. She sleeps very happily on the vacant side of my bed. Vacant no longer!

Her "frog dog" pose!

Her “frog dog” pose!

Poppy has met some of her extended family. She loves the adults, but is still a bit unsure about the little family members. My four year old cousin and she initially got along well, but loud noises and sudden movements scared Poppy, and she did growl at him. I think slow introductions with constant supervision will work in time. She’s not by nature an aggressive dog, but any dog will show some aggression if scared. It’s something we’ll need to work on, but it’s the only hiccup we’ve had so far.

It’s two and a half weeks since she came home, and she’s just the most delightful little dog. True terrier in nature, proving to be a terrific little watchdog, but not a compulsive barker. The first meeting with Madge the cat from next door wasn’t exactly a hit, on either side, a short chase and a bit of a bark saw Madge bolting for home, and Poppy bouncing and huffing like she thought it was a game. I tried to tell her off for chasing the cat, but she’s a dog, and it was really funny.

We love cuddles!

We love cuddles!

Right now, she’s curled up next to me as I type. Rescuing an animal, be it dog, cat, lizard, horse, donkey, bird, rabbit, or any of the other weird and wonderful types the rescue centres have, is one of the most rewarding, heart warming, uplifting experiences an animal lover can have. I urge you, when you’ve made a decision to adopt a pet, please, visit shelters, the RSPCA, Animal Welfare League, here in Adelaide, Paws and Claws inc. where Poppy was adopted from, SA Dog Rescue, and a number of others. If you can’t adopt a pet, consider having a look through your old towels, blankets, bedding etc, as the rescue organisations always need that stuff. Food and monetary donations will always be accepted by these places. There’s lots around. There’s a lot of breed specific rescue organisations around the place too. Make contact with them and find out how you can help. It’s coming up to Christmas, and the shelters will see in influx of surrendered and abandoned pets in the next couple of months, be they unwanted gifts, or whatever.

The rescue centres often have people grumble about the adoption fees. But their animals are vet and health checked, vaccinated, microchipped, flea and worm treated. If you’re not happy about paying the adoption fee, then please don’t have a pet at all, as there’s ongoing costs with vet fees, registration, food and so on. It’s all part of being a responsible animal guardian.

Animals have a humanity and compassion often lacking in people. They feel sadness and heartache much as we do. They also feel happiness and love, as much, if not more than we do. Or perhaps it’s just in a more pure way.

Poppy has lifted my heart up from the loneliness and sorrow of losing Bonnie. She’s company when I’m too sick to get out of bed and a ray of sunshine on those bed bound days. It was love at first sight. Hearts joining together in a true friendship.

Judgement…

Everywhere I look today people are judging. Peaches Geldof’s death and subsequent inquest into it have been in the news again in the last couple of days. I’ve tried not to read too much about it, beside a news report from a somewhat more reputable news outlet. I’m not weighing into the rights and wrongs. What I will say is there’s two little boys who will have a life of wondering what their mum was like. Because, no matter how much someone tells you about a person, if you never knew them, or were too young to remember them, you always wonder. I speak with a little experience there, as both my Grandfather’s died long before I was born.

What I will write about is addiction. I’m not an addict. I don’t seem to have whatever it is in my psyche that makes me go mad for substances, be they legal or otherwise. I’ve never had any interest in trying illicit substances. I have the occasional drink, but it’s so infrequent that when I asked my doctor what I should write on a form if the least often option was monthly or not at all, she said to tick not at all! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a glass of wine or cider from time to time, but more than a glass or two and I seem to feel like I’ve had way more than I have, and I pay for it badly the next day. Having said all that, I have seen a number of addicts fairly close up. Alcohol is the main offender, but smoking is a close second. And, sadly, I have seen a recovering drug addict dealing with the fallout from that too. I saw a former friend change after using Ice just once. Then she continued to use and and become more and more erratic.

Both sides of my family have addicts. Again, either alcohol or smoking. Both have caused major issues where I’m concerned. A close family member is a serious alcoholic. It’s difficult to have a normal conversation with him at any time now, but after about mid afternoon, I try not to answer his calls, as it really is too much for me to deal with. I know there are reasons why people turn to drugs and alcohol. Often, there’s a history of abuse of trauma, and they find that the drink makes them feel better, or maybe the drugs numb the pain. That’s speculation on my part. But I know in the case of this family member, there was abuse as a child, and the heavy drinking is a result of that. He has only admitted this once. At the same time he said he sometimes has dreams and nightmares of the abuse. He is often also very violent, usually when he’s been drinking, but not always. Rage and impulse control are a big issue. But that’s a chicken or the egg question. I think he was like that prior to starting drinking, but the drink worsens it.

I’ve watched other close family members try, and fail to stop smoking. Try and fail over and over. What it came down to was being in a good headspace, and really wanting too. But even then, some traces of the desire to smoke linger.

There is some element of choice in quitting any addiction. Robert Downey Jnr talked about it when he finally got clean. But how many times did he try (often albeit court ordered) and wind up with yet another mug shot?

Drug and alcohol addictions take their toll on the addicts bodies. Every part of the body is affected. In alcoholics, it’s often the liver that packs up, and often with few symptoms until there’s a significant amount of damage. Alcohol dementia is another scary long term affect of heavy drinking.

I knew a recovering drug addict. Not what you’d expect. Or maybe it’s not that surprising. Their former life had been as a busy professional. A registered nurse. Working in a small hospital, not huge pressure, things went well. When a transfer to a large hospital happened, something went wrong. Whether it dragged up already existing issues, or whether there was a trauma there, I don’t know. But their life spiraled out of control. Crystal Meth was the bastard. Injected. This person was eighteen months clean when they fell ill with what they thought was flu. I knew it sounded like more than flu. Their body, although clean, had been damaged and weakened by the drugs, and four days later, was dead. The paramedics did everything they possibly could. They were visibly distressed by what they were dealing with. I note here, paramedics see it all, and their professionalism, care, and the attempts four of them made to save this person will stay with me until my last breath.

The coroner in the Peaches Geldof case, Roger Hatch, noted that she had tried to get clean. “Someone who stops or ceases to use heroin then resumes is less able to tolerate the levels they previously had.”

The fastest growing group of drug users in Australia in recent years has been slightly older, professional people, perhaps with a slightly larger disposable income. Sometimes they’re parents of young kids. But whether they have children or not, there will be people in their lives who are hurting due to their addiction, even if it’s just seeing the damage the user or addict is doing to themselves.

People with addictions rarely kick them on their first try. Often it’s years and years and multiple attempts.

Addictions don’t only hurt the addict, they hurt everyone close to them. In the case of children old enough to have experienced a parents addiction to drugs or alcohol, they will often be emotionally scarred by what they’ve experienced.

What I’m trying to say is, addictions are complex. And there’s lots of reasons why people try drugs or drink to excess regularly. It’s too easy to say “just don’t try the drugs in the first place” or “you can’t get addicted after just one hit or one drink”. That’s not true. It’s been believed for a lot of years that it only takes one taste for some people to be hooked.

I’m grateful that with so many other things I have to deal with, I don’t have an addiction adding to it.

Addictions can be overcome. But it’s a long and painful road. It’s not something that can be done alone. Judging people doesn’t help anyone. If anything, it will only alienate the judger from the judgee. I feel the need to quote, or at least paraphrase the Big Yin himself, and former addict, Billy Connolly “walk a mile in their shoes. If you don’t like it, you’re a mile away and you have the guys shoes!”

No one likes being judged. And no one knows what’s going on in anyone else’s heads. Try to be understanding. We’re all fighting some sort of battle. Some are just having a much bigger fight than others.

Alcoholics Anonymous Australia aa.org.au   Phone our national helpline number 1300 22 22 22* and your call will be routed to your nearest local AA office or contact

Narcotics Anonymous Australia na.org.au

Quitline Australia http://www.quitnow.gov.au/  13 78 48

Lifeline Australia https://www.lifeline.org.au/

Bonnie

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So, for my first blog, I feel like it should be about something that’s really important to me. I’ve spent a long time trying to think of things to write that aren’t utter piffle! But, when my best friend, furkid and constant companion Bonnie died recently, I realised that that’s what I should write about. Or at least post about. Her. And what a profound effect she had on my life, and in a somewhat biased opinion, the effect she had on everyone who knew her.

To really explain how Bonnie came into my life, I have to go back to before she arrived. My first dog, Suzy, a bossy, confident, happy, cheeky little soul. We got her when I was four years old, and she was very much the cheeky dog of a cheeky child. She was my security blanket when things were bad, and continued in that role for sixteen lovely years. At just two weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday, we knew her time had some. She was still happy, but she wasn’t well. I cried for weeks. I didn’t think I ever wanted another dog. I couldn’t face the thought of going through that grief again. But, as happens, time dulls the pain.

Around the time of my 21st birthday, my best friend tried to suss out if perhaps I was ready for another dog. But felt it wasn’t. Then, two months after my birthday, and just three days shy of a year since Suzy had left us, I saw an ad for the Hahndorf Interim Animal shelter. They only mentioned big dogs in the ad, and I felt that a big dog was too much to care for. I wasn’t physically well enough to manage a big animal. So I rang them. They asked me to hang on while they checked to see if one little girl was ready to be rehomed. They told me they had a little girl, Jack Russell Terrier cross with…well they weren’t really sure, but probably a mini Fox Terrier. She was very shy and timid and would need someone home a lot. The perfect dog for me. I told them due to illness, I was home almost all the time. They were delighted. I said I would be there as soon as they opened for adoption hours the following day!

My best friend drove my mum and I up into the hills to the lovely town of Hahndorf. We waited while the went into the building to bring out the little girl they called Jolie. When they brought her out, I cried. She was so thin and scared looking. Her ears were as long as her poor little face, and those big soft brown eyes. They handed her to me, and with tears streaming down my face, I knew it was love. This was my girl. She still had some stitches from the surgeries she’d had (neutering and she’d had to have dew claws on her back feet removed). They didn’t really know her background, but indicated that there’d been some abuse. Even more confirmation for me that this innocent little dog was the one for me. She would need lots of time and understanding for us to gain her trust. We thought.

As we walked her to the car, away from the shelter that had saved her life, she did her first dance. She never just walked anywhere. There was always a spring in her step. Even when she was mopey, she still had a dancey walk. Our first clue to the personality that would be the lights of our lives for over a decade.

I had already chosen a name, with the thought that if it didn’t suit her, I could change it to something else. I didn’t know then, but it was the best thing I could do for her. When animals are rehomed, a change of name can help them distance themselves from any past traumas. But I didn’t learn that until years later. So, Jolie became Bonnie, and climbed happily onto my lap for the car ride home.

We stopped at my best friends home on our way home. So Bonnie could meet her new doggy friends Daisy B, a mini Foxy cross Foxy, and Jack, a Jack Russell cross. Bonnie and Daisy B hit it off immediately. Not so much with Jack. But Daisy put him in his place quick smart!

Then it was off to her new home. As we neared home, a little over a kilometer away, Bonnie sat up, pricked her ears and sniffed the air. She could tell by the smells, that this was our neighbourhood! We pulled into out driveway, closed the gate and let her check her new surroundings. She took a couple of moments to sniff around, and do what she had to do outside. Then followed me to the door. As she crossed the threshold, she danced again. A skipping, happy, bouncy little dance. She knew this was her home, and she felt safe.

Her first evening, she found a pile of dirty washing, waiting to be done, and parked herself happily in it. I think she was getting used to out scents and smells by burying herself in the washing. And, trying to make herself as little of a nuisance as possible.

iphone 010

Helping me on facebook!

On her desexing certificate, it stated her weight at time of surgery was 3.6 kilograms. I still can’t begin to imagine how skinny she must have been. She was up to 4kg when she came home with me. She filled out well with regular healthy sized portions! Being a fair part Jack Russell Terrier, it wasn’t hard to fatten her up. Even her dear little snout filled out a bit.

She started out only wanting raw chicken wings to eat. That was ok, we were prepared to go with what she liked. And she quickly learned that she could eat what she wanted and come back to find more if she wanted.

On her first night with us, she clung to my mum. Clearly deciding that she was the mama and was the one to stick with. I think she quickly viewed me as her equal and something of her baby, as she continued to mother me for the rest of her life.

On her second full day with us, she decided that she wanted to eat in the safety of her bed, and carted her chicken wing up the stairs, and proceeded to demolish it in her basket! Not that she slept much in the basket, but it was there if she chose it. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. This skinny little girl, with great big ears, racing up the stairs, with a chicken wing flapping out of the corner of her mouth! This became something of a habit, until we cut her some slack and just took the food up to her!

On her third full day with us, I had to go to hospital to have my wisdom teeth removed. I looked a sight with all the swelling that was instant rather than the few days they warned us of. I was home in a few hours, and nurse Bonnie took up residence by my bed. Mum put her basket right by me, since Bon was refusing to move. There she stayed for days. She had to be carried down the stairs to go outside, as she flat refused to leave me. I could almost see the thought bubble “she’s been at the vet, I have to make sure she’s ok. She rescued me!” She was fed in my room too, while I battled through the fat head feeling that comes with dental surgery. By a week post op, she had learned how to get up on my bed, and was safely tucked in with me.

She continued to grow and learn. She wasn’t in the least bit house broken when she arrived, but, with positive reinforcement, lots of gentle coaxing, very regular trips outside, and endless praise when she did do her business outside, we had very few accidents inside, and she was house trained within a few weeks.

Her first Christmas with us was funny. My uncle and aunty were hosts, and my cousins two dogs were present, so Bonnie was a part of it all too. Ruby, the eldest family canine, was a tall girl, part Kelpie part Golden Retriever. She was old and arthritic, but very much still enjoying being with her pack. Daisy O (to distinguish from Daisy B), was a bitsa. No vet was able to pin down just what she might have been. But she was like a blonde version of the dog Alfred, in the English series Heartbeat. With much the same odour at times. Ruby and Daisy O were also both pound puppies. Ruby showed no real sign of her previous life. But Daisy O had some real issues with children, particularly boys. We all believed that she’d likely been abused by kids in some way. Her fears included plastic bags too. So I hate to think what might have been done to her. The three girls sorted out the pecking order very quickly. Bonnie being very much the placid girl, she just rolled with it. Ruby established that she was top dog, and Daisy O fell somewhere in between. During the Christmas feast, I peaked out the back door to see how the girls were getting along. I wish I had a photo of what I found. Ruby, the tallest, was right up at the back door, as she could see in without having to stretch. A few feet back sat Daisy O, similar height to Ruby, but knowing her place in the pecking order, gave Rubes her space. And, about four metres back from the door say my Bon. She had placed herself way back so that she could see everyone! It was one of the sweetest dog scenes I’ve ever seen.

Daisy

Daisy

Ruby

Ruby

That night, when we jangled the keys when we were ready to leave, and Bonnie danced with excitement. Poor old Ruby thought this was a bit show offy and gave a short, sharp bark at her. Bonnie was completely unbothered by this, and I swear, if Ruby could have rolled her eyes, she would have. As would happen often throughout her life, my aunty watched Bon dance, the first time she’d seen the performance. Watching Bon skip and hop about, with one front paw waving in the air, her expression turned to one of concern.  “Have you hurt your paw little?” She asked Bon, and us. “It’s how she dances” we assured her. But she would ask that each time Bon did her dance for a long time.

Over the next year, Bonnie blossomed, and really came out of her shell. The tail that had remained firmly tucked into her behind finally popped up, with a cute little curl, and rarely stopped wagging. Every step she took was with a dance in her step. She loved life, and it became a given that she would go almost anywhere we went. She wasn’t just accepted by family and friends, she was loved.

One of the cutest things she learned, very early on, was kisses. First half a dozen times, she was quite taken aback by the puckering up and air kissing her. But, when she had her light bulb moment, and realised that kisses were a good thing, and was just another way to show love, she didn’t just tolerate them, but came to demand and expect them. When doing little air kisses (not all that keen on dog slobber!), she’d often catch me too quickly, and slap a lick anywhere between my chin and nose! She always looked so pleased with herself over these moments.

In 2006, (on the day of Steve Irwin’s memorial service), Bonnie had to have a small operation to remove some (benign) lumps and have her teeth cleaned. When we went to collect her, she was still so groggy from the anaesthetic. And to her horror, and shame, she’d have a little accident whilst drugged, and had had to be bathed by the vet nurses. Her eyes really looked like cartoons, and it’s almost impossible to describe how she looked, and do it justice. And, as happens with people after a dental procedure, her mouth was numb and so her lips and tongue were sitting in a comical pose. Poor baby. When she saw me, her eyes opened as far as her drugged system would allow, and she proved once again, she had absolutely no need for speech, she could convey her feelings more thoroughly than if she had spoken. During her teeth clean, the vet, Jess, had found several of Bon’s front teeth to be very loose, and had made the decision to remove them to prevent any trauma a lost tooth may cause. We were relieved, but shattered for Bon’s beautiful smile! Her teeth had been so tiny and even, like a little bitty piano keyboard! We’d called it her piano mouth. She was left with only one top from tooth, and two lower front (fangs and molars all intact), which really did look sad and funny all that the same time. Jess warned us that she’d likely just sleep for the rest of the day, but if she did eat, it would probably come back, all normal and nothing to worry about. In true Bonnie form, she dozed, on a pile of rugs, on the sofa of course, and around evening dinner time, she popped her head up to ask for a feed. Finely diced chicken was her dinner, and it was demolished in her usual hasty time, and she promptly when straight back to sleep. No sick puppy. She liked her food too much to miss a meal too often, even after surgery!

When my baby cousin was born in 2010, we didn’t see him smile until he was two months old, and it was at Bonnie. H had slept most of the time we’d spent with him, and when he was awake, he was rather solemnly summing us up. But, this night, we were holding Bonnie up over his pusher to let her get a look at him, as she’d had a look on her face like we were all quite mad talking into an odd looking shopping trolley (the stroller!). She was a bit mystified by him even after seeing him, but little H opened his eyes wide, and grinned the biggest grin you’ve ever seen from such a tiny baby! It was the start of a beautiful friendship between the two. He learned quickly to be gentle with her, and really just wanted to pat her as soon as he was big enough. Much to (some) people’s horror, when he was 2, he picked her up and put her on the sofa! No complaints from Bon. She was confident he had no intention of hurting her. One of the most touching moments between the two was when he was told to be gentle with her, he very slowly and carefully put his head down on her back to give her a sort of cuddle. A trick A, H’s little sister learned, and repeated often. H and A adored Bonnie, and she them.

Bonnie and children was something we often wondered about from her very first days with us. She was always very interested in strollers. We’ll never know why that was, or if it was just that with her canine sense of smell, and her mummy instinct made her interested in any baby, human or otherwise.

When she met my best friends son D, the friendship was again, immediate. I cemented the friendship for them by giving D some liver treats to feed her. And, when I wrote in a book for D to take home with him, he looked and asked where Bonnie’s name was. I added Bonnie to the “Love from” part of the note. The love of children and animals is something special.

Our neighbours had a cat, Milly, when Bonnie first came to us. Milly was very unsure of Bonnie, as she remembered what a little ratbag Suzy had been. Suzy’s interactions with cats bordered on manic episodes. But not Bon. We long suspected she’d spent more time with cats than dogs, as she was very cat like in some of her behaviours. After Milly, came Madge. A funny, almost entirely black cat, save for a small white smudge just off centre on her chest. From Bonnie and Madge’s first meeting, they became best of friends. Madge would wait for hours for Bon to emerge. They would go so far as to touch noses when greeting each other. Although, not every time. Sometimes Bon would be in a funny mood, and would get excited and bounce at Madge, who was completely confused by this bouncing business. In the evenings, Madge’s mum would call and call her. Clearly not being listened to. I eventually worked out that if I let Bon outside around the time Madge was supposed to go home, Madge would only need to be called once. She would wait to say goodnight to Bon. You wouldn’t believe it without seeing it. But, it happened for around two years. Regularly.

When I had the first of two shoulder reconstructions, she insisted on placing herself between me and the edge of the bed. A little problematic, as I had no hope of moving her one handed! 5.5kg of pure determination is a whole lot of dog! Bless her little heart. She was my nurse again. I would have to call for help. She even gave mum a big dose of talk to the paw while I was in hospital each time. Very miffed that 1) I had been left somewhere she didn’t understand, and then 2) that I came home, again stinking like a people vet!

pinning me down post op.

pinning me down post op.

Last year, I changed Bon’s food, to a home cooked dog stew, or sorts. She’d always suffered from contact allergies, and by keeping her off lawn, we could keep them to a minimum. But, she continued to itch, so with some homework, and thought, and the help of a home cook for your dog book by a vet, I started cooking Bonnie’s dinner. Chicken, beef, rice, and a range of veg, usually green beans, broccoli or carrot, or a combination of any of the three. From the first serve, she lapped it up. And, almost immediately, her itches eased. Anything with grains seemed to be the problem. Not an uncommon allergy. My hilarious little fuss pot didn’t like her special dinner so much when it had been frozen, so I cooked a fresh batch every 6/7 days.

With her new diet, came an even happier and bouncier Bonnie. We thought she was as confident and happy as she would ever be, until the new food. Everything about her every movement said she felt great. We couldn’t believe that she was 13! She Started learning new tricks, of sorts. When she wanted to be picked up, she would jump as one of us leaned forward to get her, forcing us to catch her (most times) mid air! She seemed to think it was a game, and loved it now end. Her hearing faded, and her vision, seriously hampered by cataracts didn’t slow her at all. Another pick me up trick was biting the rug on the seat of the sofa and yanking it, hard! And, just six weeks or so ago, she learned to bang on the front door when she was ready to come in, or more than ready, as given she almost never barked, it was not uncommon for her to be forgotten, and left outside for a period of time.

In the almost eleven and a half years we were blessed to have Bonnie with us, she barked a total of maybe a dozen times. But, with her failing hearing, she became a little more vocal about some things. When she was left alone downstairs, even for a very short time, she only a few months ago, started to throw the most shocking tantrums. Howling and shrieking for all she was worth. The first time I heard this racket, I panicked and thought she must have injured herself somehow. To my amusement, having raced down the stairs (no mean feat with a very wonky body), I found her standing in the middle of the living room, angrily barking at the sofa! I think she was a cross about being on the floor as she was about being left alone. A creature of comfort to say the least.

What should be really uncomfortable, was her favourite way to snooze.

What should be really uncomfortable, was her favourite way to snooze.

On Easter Sunday, we went out for a few hours, leaving Bonnie in her usual miffed, but fine, state. Four hours later, when we returned home, she looked as though she’d had a fall, and hurt her back. Something that had happened a few times in recent years, with her trying to jump up onto furniture, but forgetting she wasn’t able to jump that high any longer. We didn’t immediately hit the panic button. She seemed to be in pain, but happy to just sit with us. The following day she was still off her dinner, but didn’t appear to be in too much pain, so knowing her hatred of the vet, decided to see how she went over the following 24hrs. One the Tuesday, she seemed to improve a little, and ate, a bit of steak from our dinner no less! Begged for more. A good sign. We thought. Wednesday, she was quite, and very unsteady on her feet. We decided if she continued that way, we’d get her to a vet. She had what seemed to be generalised pain late Wednesday night, but it passed, and she slept comfortably through the night. Thursday, she was very weak, and just wanted to lay on my mum all day. I rubbed some honey on her gums, too try and boost her energy a bit. We took her to the vet. The honey kicked in and Bonnie found her voice, and told us exactly how much she still remembered, and hated the vets! For 15 minutes she put on this performance. Then, exhausted, she collapsed into a sulk on mum’s lap. Louise, the vet who examined her, was wonderful. We explained about her fear of vets, and her early issues and our suspicions of her abuse prior to coming to us. Other than some dehydration, Louise couldn’t find too much wrong. Teeth (that were left) very clean and in good shape, a very minor heart murmur (lowest on the scale) which was terrific for a “geriatric” dog. All the same, she admitted her to their hospital, for rehydration, and to run some blood tests.

I rang to see how she was an hour or so later. She was sleeping, as she had been when we left her. Her first blood tests showed some electrolyte imbalances, and an elevated kidney reading. Which could have been due to several factors, and we needed to wait for the big screen the following morning. Neither of us slept too well that night. I think I had about an hour, just before dawn. Each time I rang to see how she was, she was sleeping comfortably.

Mid morning on the 25th of April, the blood tests still weren’t back. It was a public holiday, Anzac Day. The lab was probably not going to return the tests til the next day, but Will, the vet that took over Bonnie’s treatment that morning, was going to keep checking in case they came in. Shortly after lunch time, I called and asked could we come in and see her. Of course was the answer, but it was tempered with the vet will have a chat with you when you come in. We were taken straight through to see Bon, and found her crying, desperately. Will explained that she was now on methadone, as her pain levels had increased during the morning, likely relating to her now being fully hydrated and her cognitive function really registering the pain. Abdominal was as much as he’d venture. But with no real cause still to be found, they really didn’t know exactly which treatment she needed. He took her from the cage she was in and I held her, while she continued to wail. Mum took a turn at holding her too. I said to the vet that I didn’t know if I could, knowing she was on something like methadone and still in this much pain, allow her to suffer. He took us through to a private room to have some time with Bonnie, and have a think about what we needed to do. We sat, crying, taking turns at holding Bonnie, trying to comfort her. Nothing worked. Until I did what we called the jigsaw proof. My nose fitted right between her eyes, and perfectly up over her forehead. It was only then she seemed to really understand that it was us, me particularly. Her crying eased, but didn’t stop. We took about 90 minutes to come to the decision I think we both knew was the only thing we could do. I asked the vet to come back in, and we asked did he think that euthanasia was an option for her, given how sick she had become in just a few hours (even though she’d been sick during the days leading up to that day, it was a dramatic change in her from the 24th to the 25th). He said he thought it was an appropriate and humane decision. So, we took a few more minutes, so say our last goodbyes. Will explained how it worked. It was very peaceful for her.

We brought her home to bury her. It’s odd, I have no qualms or second thoughts about cremating people, but I couldn’t stand the thought of doing that to Bonnie. So, she’s buried next to my Suzy. It’s funny, because in life, I don’t think they would have got along too well, both very much enjoying their status as only dogs. But, now they’ve both crossed over Rainbow Bridge, I think it’s only fitting they’re together.

Before we buried her, I spent more time just holding her. Trying to burn every last second of time with her into my memory. Her baby soft skin. The funny little swirls in her fur. The long hair on the bottoms of her paws. Her funny pearly sheen. Her satiny ears. Even the way her head often smelled of cheesy corn chips!

As we wrapped her in the sheet to bury her in, our decision was confirmed as the correct one. After death, the body usually lets go of it’s normally continent things. It was clear she’d had a very large intestinal hemorrhage. When we spoke to the vet some days afterwards, and told them that, they weren’t surprised. Her final blood tests had showed severe liver failure, which causes a failure to clot, plus kidney failure, and sepsis. No cause, apart from age. It just sometimes happens in old dogs. It can happen very quickly, and there’s little to be done, besides make them comfortable. I have to say, that’s still of little comfort to me just yet.

The day after Bonnie died, I went outside to get a few breaths of fresh air. And was brought to floods of tears by little Madge. Sitting by Bonnie’s grave, her head hung in a way I’d never seen her do before. She was clearly wondering what had happened. Then, in a completely unprecedented action, Madge looked at me. Made eye contact. She’d never done it before. Any eye contact at all usually sent Madge scurrying away. But not this day. She just sat, and held the look. I believe she was asking me what happened. I’d always wondered if those ‘pet lays on masters grave” stories were made up. But after seeing Madge just sitting by Bon’s grave, in a fairly open spot, so not one of Madge’s preferred spots, I believe she was sitting with her friend. When I told Madge’s mum what had happened, and of Madge and the grave, she told me the night Bonnie got really sick, Madge yowled and wailed all night. Something she’d never done before. And, the day Bonnie died, she was very clingy and subdued. I believe animals know and understand things way beyond our comprehension. Madge is back to not looking us in the eye. I hope when another dog takes up residence here, that he or she and Madge can be friends too.

I don’t think any words, or picture or videos will ever fully capture just how precious Bonnie was. My beautiful friend Brenda wrote the most wonderful poem for Bonnie. And I plan to print it and frame it one day soon. Her words, as only a poet can, capture the pain of losing a most beloved friend.

I will adopt again. And I will take on another adult dog, as they tend to be harder to rehome and cute fluffy puppies. And, for health reasons, I don’t have the energy to cope with a puppy’s energy! I feel so very strongly about adopting from animal shelters, rather than buying from pet shops, unless those pet shops are part of adoption programs run by shelters. But, before I am ready to love another little ball of wonderful, I need time to grieve for Bonnie. She was the most special little girl. Kind, loving, gentle, protective, and nurturing. I know everyone thinks their animals are the most special, but Bonnie really was. There wasn’t a person who met her who didn’t adore her.

It’s a month today since Bonnie left us. I still expect to hear her ears flapping in the morning, and to be greeted by her dancing delight as I walk through the front door. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how empty a house feels without a special little dog.

She liked to have darkness to really sleep.

She liked to have darkness to really sleep.

Just checking!

Just checking!

True love

True love

worlds longest tongue

worlds longest tongue

another messy nest!

another messy nest!

keeping me company.

keeping me company.

kisses

kisses

She loved her Princess tee!

She loved her Princess tee!

cute little behind!

cute little behind!

very relaxed.

very relaxed.

IMG_0006

treats! Licking the yoghurt container!

treats! Licking the yoghurt container!

She loved sunbaking, much to my displeasure!

She loved sunbaking! The messier the spot, the better.