Wednesday, March 24, 2021

So Much Life To Share

 Hello dear readers. 

I haven't posted anything in a while but I have to get back to it. This month Reckless Dreams hit the shelves and as the first book in a brand new series, Stories from the Dream Realm, I had lots of plans for it's release. Not in the least a set of Tuesday Teasers that were going to be posted her. 

However life was a bitch. Earlier this year my 15 year old dog, Shader, started going down hill. A lot of my work was pushed to the side as I took care of her and tried to improve her health and quality of life. I hate that term "quality of life". The moment our vet changed her meds and used that term something in me started breaking. 

You see, Shader was more than just a 15 year old dog. She was family. She was there when I moved in with my husband and when my daughter was brought home from the hospital a year later. She was there on camping trips and when my daughter took her first step and promptly fell on her second. Shader was there when I got my first acceptance letter. She was there for everything.

I know this isn't a blog about a dog, but I'm going to share the story of Shader.

It was 2005 and I had just moved back to South Carolina from New England. My boyfriend decided we should have a dog. I already had a cat and a rat, but a dog added sounded nice. I'm an animal person after all. So off we went to the sad little animal shelter on Poor Farm. The place was under funded and honestly doing the best they could. 

We walked around and saw all the dogs. Even offered to walk some of the friendlier ones. Then we heard the rumbling from the back corner. We made our way over and saw as no less than seven brown puppies came charging from the back of the kennel up to a fresh bowl of food. It was a touching site, but these were young puppies and a sign pointed out they were still on hold before they could be adopted. 

Thinking we'd seen them all we were about to walk away when this little gray and black one came stumbling in from behind. She climbed over all her litter mates and nose dived straight into the tray of food. She then proceeded to stretch out over the food and eat everything in front of her. The other puppies nudged her away, but this little pup was able to protect a few mouthfuls of kibble. My boyfriend laughed and said, "That's the one!" 

I knew it too. 

We paid an adoption "holding" fee and waited a week before the puppy could be adopted. Her brothers and sisters were adopted quickly too. No pup left behind! The only thing the shelter could tell us about her was that the litter were under the porch puppies and had some cattle dog in them. Our sweet puppy would also be called a mutt. 

The puppy came home and like most shelter dogs she was of course scared after the entire ordeal. We just didn't realize how scared. The puppy spent a lot of time huddled at the end of the hallway. I had to go and pick her up and put in on the mattress which had to be moved to the floor for her comfort. This let her sleep with us and over the course of weeks she felt safer.

Boots had to be removed when we got home. She was terrified of them. Later we found out live music scared her too. 

Over those first few weeks we struggled to find a name for her. Finally one of us came up with her being a summa dog. Some of this and some of that. Because of her coloring it changed into a shade of this and a shade of that. That was how the name Shader came into being. She answered to it instantly.

Time began to fly. Shader was a happy and growing pup. We noticed her back hips weren't quite right and were told she had hip dysphagia and that she would grow out of it but it would cause problems when she got older. 

Time kept flying and my boyfriend and I called things off. He went back to New England and I stayed in South Carolina with Shader. At just under two she was full grown and very happy, even with a yellow streak. Living by yourself can get lonely and Shader helped keep that at bay. It was also scary. 

It was a few months after my ex had left and I was on my own at home with just Shader and my grumpy cat. Things hadn't been going well for a family member and I'd cut him off. I don't even remember what he came crashing through the front door demanding, but I do know he had me back into a corner, fists pulled back ready to beat me to a pulp before I could blink. 

Then I heard a growl. Standing between me and this family member was Shader. Her tail was tucked between her legs but she was baring her teeth at the man and growling so loud it drowned out everything else. Step by step she backed him away from me. The conflict ended and the man left. I collapsed on the floor, hugging my whining Shader. 

That family member didn't come around me much after that and never stepped foot back into my home when I was living alone. 

Time flew and Shader was two when we moved in with my now husband. He had a dachshund named Missy. This little ten pound pup got along okay with my 60 pound Shader. She was a little thief and very territorial but she played with Shader and even tried to romance her a time or time. 

I became a wife with Shader stealing half the bed and Missy still sleeping curled up to my husband. That summer we found out we were expecting and I hugged Shader as I cried because I was so scared. Sadly Missy didn't make it to the birth of our daughter. She died of an illness just a few months before. 

Shader had an instant "grandmama" feeling with our little bundle. She was protective but also gave us looks when the baby would cry that clearly stated "take care of her and make the noise stop." If our daughter was sleeping in her swing or seat and I had to step into the next room I'd say "Shader, watch Louie." Shader would push herself up and huff as she walked over and stared down at the baby. 

When Lou started solids Shader and our other pup, Demon, would circle her highchair cleaning the mess. When Lou started walking Shader or Demon were always close by to offer her a hand hold. When Lou started playing tea party Shader was an honored guest. Shader was even painted pink with yogurt once.

By the time we all moved into our current home in 2013 Shader was eight years old and was already starting to slow down a little. She still loved to play, but she didn't enjoy camping anymore. Her last camping trip was my daughter's first back in 2016. 

Slowly over the years Shader couldn't get up on the bed anymore and then the couch. We put a ramp up over the steps so she could make it in and out of the house easier. Every now and then she'd still bow down, butt in the air and play with me, but she didn't play with the other dogs much anymore. In 2019 we had a growth removed from her shoulder. It was the size of a soft ball and she was under for over an hour. We were scared her heart might not take it and she might not wake up. 

Shader did wake up and when I went to pick her up she drug me out of the vet's office with the strength of a bull. It became more clear after that how hard it was for her to get around. We started talking about leg braces or maybe even a doggy wheelchair. I moved things around to make it easier for her to get around without bumping into things. 

She was put on meds to help manage the pain and arthritis in her hips. Shader spent almost two years getting a nightly slimjim treat stuffed with her pills. Then it started. Even with the meds she wasn't able to get up on her own anymore. She needed help. That was last summer. 

Shader's meds were changed a few times, but her condition kept degrading. At 15 years old it was expected, but that didn't make it easy. Finally at the beginning of this year she was put on "quality of life" meds and we were told the vet was there for us and Shader whatever we needed. 

By the end of February it became clear that Shader's quality of life was eroding quickly. She couldn't walk on her own at all by this point. I carried her into the vet's office with the help of a few nurses and had to hear the worst things I've ever heard. "I think its time."

That was my daughter's birthday. We waited before telling her and that weekend we spoiled Shader. We gave her treats and she got her own plate at diner. Popcorn chicken, hot dogs, hamburger steak with gravy french fries. She got whatever she wanted, because that next Monday I carried her into the vet's office and said good bye for the last time. 

I carried her into my life night after night moving her to my bed when she was a puppy and I carried her out of my life over 15 years later. She would have turned 16 this month. 

Shader was more than just a dog. She was family and her story needed telling.

Peace and Love