Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Memories of Missy (& Bambi) (Part Three)

Note: Last installment of Missy's life, and yes, there's a might be a sad moment or two. After this, I'll get back to my regular quilty posts. ;)

I left off about living at the new house with lots of land. We also had some neighbors... they were over a mile away as the roads go, but just about .2 miles as the crow flies. Trina raised English Lop Rabbits - she has over 100 of them! She did a lot of shows with them too. She employed my sister Sarah to help work with the rabbits, clean the barn and so on. As a payment, she gave Sarah two rabbits, a male and female. Zaeda was the girl and Bambi was the male, as shown below.

Sarah got to show Bambi and Zaeda quite a bit. She even won several awards, especially for Bambi. Well, she did have an advantage - she was in the under 18 group and not that many young people can afford top notch rabbits. :) She even won two wallhangings for Best of Show and Best of Breed - the neat part is that they're quilted and have a star block in them. I'll have to take pictures of them next time I'm at my parent's.

Bambi was a great rabbit - Sarah used him to "train" me about rabbits. How to hold them, certain things you can do with them and she tried to explain how you can tell the sex differences. :P Sarah even flew to Kansas in 2003 to show Bambi at the annual rabbit convention (I think!). She told me she wanted professional photos of Bambi while she was there, but she had to wait quite a bit in line for her turn. She just held onto Bambi herself and he actually fell asleep in her arms! Just like a baby. :) I think Sarah said quite a few people commented on that. And when Bambi's turn came up for the pictures, Sarah said he "posed" perfectly. Apparently there's a pose that's used when the rabbits are being judged, but often times the rabbits are tensed and pose poorly. Well, Bambi posed great after his relaxing snooze! :)

As long as Bambi was being shown, he continued to live with Trina. He didn't actually move to my parent's house until after I married. So back to our story...

I became officially engaged at the end of 2003. We set a wedding for July 2004. I did spend quite a bit of time between California and Arizona. Missy was getting used to those long visits and just latched herself to Sarah. Slept in Sarah's bed, followed Sarah everywhere and basically replaced me with Sarah. But once I was back home again, she'd latch herself happily back to me.

During that time, Sarah and I started teaching Missy sign language! I know people tell you that you can't teach an old dog new tricks... but we taught 9-year-old Missy signs, with the help of lots of meat. :P She knew sit, "sleep" to lay down, "off" the couch and we were working on stay. Missy couldn't stand to stay if we were out of the room though. She was best at the sit command. Sometimes you had to say her name to get her looking at you though.

In the spring of 2004 the family came to the decision that we were going to have to put Holly down. She was 14 years old then, pretty crippled, unable to control her bowel movements (ongoing for 2 years) and was riddled with tumors. But every time the subject came up about putting Holly down... I'd just burst into tears and couldn't say "ok". Finally it was decided that they'd put Holly down when I went to Arizona for 3 weeks. I could say ok to that. That wasn't as painful. Dad and Sarah took Holly to the vet and the vet told them that he would never put down a healthy dog. But after examing Holly, he explained that the tumors throughout her tummy were causing the uncontrollable BMs. So yes, it was time for her to go. I came back a few weeks later... and it wasn't so bad. I didn't feel like crying and I didn't miss Holly.

Sad to say, we were probably trying to keep the memories of Holly alive by keeping her alive. She wasn't really living anymore and was a constant pain for everybody in the family, especially having to clean up her poop two or three times a day. So nobody really misses her and we felt like we got all the years we wanted with Holly. My biggest worry about putting Holly down was how was Missy going to handle it? I was afraid she'd go beserk or get really depressed because Holly's always been a part of her life, since she was 7 weeks old. Heh, the funny thing is that she acted like Holly was never there in the first place. She never acted lonely over Holly's abscence and was perfectly happy to get twice the amount of human food she would normally get. :)

Then came the day I was leaving my parents house for good. Sarah and I were driving down to the wedding and we were leaving early in the morning. Missy was watching us gather last minute stuff for the wedding, everybody was going in and out of the house, and she wasn't really following anybody or anything. Then just when we were hugging my parents goodbye and about to take off... Missy had snuck in the front passenger seat of my car. I was honestly surprised because I have an SUV and the floor was loaded with junk, so Missy would have had to jump straight up to the seat... I didn't think she had it in her. But nope, there she was, all ready to go to the end of the earth with me. And her timing made me want to cry... she just knew I was leaving for a long time.

I didn't know when the next time I'd see Missy again... she could die before I might see her again. Then in October 2004 we had a chance to meet my parents half-way in southern California. Even though it was for only 2 days, sure! I'd love to see them again. I even managed to get Sarah to come along, I was really looking forward to that. My husband and I arrived a day before my parents did. All we knew is that they were going to be there some time Saturday. Early Saturday afternoon I hear them coming up the stairs... and oh my goodness! They had Missy with them. My eyes did water up then... I was so shocked and thrilled. :) Especially since my mom would never travel with the dogs if she could help it, and this was Missy's longest car trip ever.

Here she is... sure looks happy. I know I was. I do have to thank Sarah for getting Missy there... she played her trump card on Mom - "but what if Missy dies before Leah comes again?" Hey, I'll take it. :) But there were some unexpected changes in Missy. Her face was so much whiter than I remembered. She seemed to have some sort of back problem - wasn't walking as easily and taking the stairs slower. And my family reported that Missy slept a lot more too. Instead of 16 or so hours, it was closer to 20. I think somebody also said that they hadn't seen Missy that active since I left.

Sarah would also take Missy to a local park at home and walk her around. Missy would tire out pretty fast. To indicated when she needed a break, she would step on her leash and not budge. :) One time Sarah took her to a dog park. There were two sections, big dogs and little dogs. Naturally Missy is a big dog, but as soon as Sarah tried to go on the big dog's side, Missy stepped on her leash and refused. Big, scary dogs! No! The owners of the little dogs told Sarah to bring Missy in... it's obvious she's really a big baby. ;)

So I had a nice visit with my family and Missy that October. My husband even gave up his spot in our bed so I could share it with Missy and Sarah. Of course Missy slept right between us, with her head on the pillows. Ahh, just like old times. :) And then they had to go... and take Missy with them. Ohh, I so badly wanted to take her home with me. My husband even wanted to joke to his mom that we had Missy with us (she really doesn't like dogs)... and could Missy live with them? But no, he's a good guy, didn't freak his mom out. :P

We flew up to California for Christmas, got to see Missy again. Oh yes, the rest of the family too. ;) I just remember a lot of rush-rush-rush going on. Last minute Christmas shopping, my parents busy with their plumbing company and quite a few new hires.

My husband would pass time playing his computer game and I caught this picture of Missy at his feet. I can't believe how trusting she was! Her eyeball is like right next to the chair's wheel.

The nice thing is that my husband tolerated Missy pretty well. He's certainly not a dog lover (yes, I knew this before we married) but Missy managed to rank herself pretty high on "likeable" dogs. Of course at night, Missy wanted to sleep with me, but my husband absolutely did not want her on the mattress... so we compromised. She slept next to me on the floor when DH (Dear Husband) was in the room... and would sneak onto the bed when he was gone. How could I scold her for being so sneaky and smart? :)

In the late spring of 2005 my dad emailed me saying that Missy was pretty sick... and they think she got bit by a rattlesnake. She was throwing up a lot and not doing well. But she pulled through, whew.

I didn't see Missy again until June 2005. We went up there for two weeks and I had a great time! My mom and I even made a quilt (that's for another post). By then Bambi was a residence of my parents address and he was regularly invited inside. In fact, Missy and Bambi had the same "favorite" spot, the corner of the couch. Yes, Bambi could easily jump up on couch on his own.

Missy often times would rest her head on the armrest, which gave her view of the kitchen, dinner table, family room and easily hear anybody coming in or out of the house. Great "opportunity" spot for her. :)

Missy and Bambi got along wonderfully. Missy liked to play and lick Bambi, but any time he froze and wouldn't respond, she would let him be. But it was pretty funny watching Missy sniff Bambi and see him hop a few steps away... sniff... hop... sniff... hop. Sometimes he'd even hop towards her.

Bambi didn't like walking on the wood floors though, he would just slip and slide, and sometimes slide on his ears! :P

Missy was always very gentle with Bambi - I think she really could sense how heavy or light play an animal could take from her.

Aww... Bambi didn't want to play anymore. Missy kept on eye on him for while. The funny thing is that she wouldn't disturb Bambi when he was on the couch. She might sniff at him, but she didn't try to get him to move or anything.

Other fun things happened with Missy on that visit. All 4 of us kids, DH, my dad and Missy headed to the beach one afternoon. Missy just had to frolick in the water with us kids... even though it was cloudy and the water was turn-you-numb cold. We gave Missy a hot shower afterwards and I spent 45 minutes blow drying her fur - didn't want her getting sick.

I also brushed Missy about every day I was there. All you had to do was pick up the brush and she'd run to you. If you brushed her long enough, she eventually ended up as a puddle at your feet. Mmm, yeah. "Brush me all day long..."

I did have one big scare when I was there. Sarah comes up to my room and explains that there might be a little problem. She had taken Missy to the vet several months ago and the vet told her that because Missy was never spayed, there was a larger chance of her developing certain cancers. A good sign that the end might be near would be if she started having bloody discharge from her... uh, rear end. Then Sarah proceeded to explain that there was a long streak in the kitchen, and could I help her clean it up? Of course! So I get downstairs and... ew, yeah it's pretty long and bloody. We started to mop it up. And then as I'm near her favorite couch spot, I see a baggy. Why, it's the baggy that held last night's dinner of steak. Wait a minute... "Sarah! It's not Missy, well, it is... it's that she just got into the trash again and dragged the bag from last night's dinner." Oh boy, did we double up laughing so hard! What a huge relief. Missy was just being her usual self, craving human food, getting into the trash and dragging the remains. For once I was so happy it was her bad habit! :)

Ahh yes, two things she just couldn't give up. She put her paws to use, 1) she would open the trash drawer (kinda heavy) and cheerfully help herself to anything that appealed to her. 2) She was able to open the garage fridge door - even better, fresh food! We quickly learned never to put any meats in there. She never did grasp the concept of shutting the fridge either. :P

Towards the end of my visit, Missy started getting sick. She wasn't controlling her bathroom urges so well, and also we were keeping her in the house whenever we left. She threw up quite a few times too. I would clean up after her and tell everybody to make more trips outside with her. She also scared me on my last night there, I was up late sewing on my mom's quilt so I could show her how to bind the quilt before I left. Missy was at the top of the stairs sleeping, obviously waiting for me to go to bed. Usually she would wake up when I come up the stairs, but didn't that time. I got next to her and she still hadn't awoken. I couldn't help myself, I had to make sure she was ok and I shook her awake. Took quite a bit to figure out what was going on, but she was happy to head to bed with me.

I left on July 9th. Emails flew back and forth between me and my parents. Missy was steadily getting worse. She didn't act like she was in pain, but she was shutting down. She stopped going to the bathroom, except once at night. She wouldn't eat unless it was really good food... and then she would just throw it back up within an hour. She even needed somebody to be with her every step of the way when she was outside. But when she was inside, it didn't matter how sick or exhausted she was, so long as there was a human in sight, she was happy. If nobody was around, she'd drag herself around the house until she found somebody. Finally I suggested that they take her to the vet. No, I don't expect any miracles, but perhaps he could give her something to help her eat again. Andrea made an appointment on Wednesday. The soonest they could get in was Friday morning, the 22nd. On Thursday night, about 9:30, Missy died. They called me at 10pm and I cried myself sick for 4 hours straight.

I didn't find out many details until I flew up there in October 2005, but I found out that she died halfway up the stairs, on the landing. Here's an earlier picture of her "snoozing" on the stairs. I guess she didn't want to miss out on any human activities. :)

My Mom and Dad were with her when she died. So I'm really glad she wasn't alone. They put her in the garage and buried her the next day.

Now it gets sadder... I didn't even find out this part for three months. But apparently Sarah had flown to Colorado to see an old friend of hers. She left on Tuesday before Missy died. I think she called everyday to check on Missy and found out on Friday morning that Missy died. She said she was upset that my parents didn't tell her right away. Well, they buried Missy on Friday. Meanwhile our other sister was taking care of Bambi. On Sunday it was a super hot day and Andrea headed to the beach with some friends. Monday morning my mom went to check on Bambi, and she found him dead.

English Lop Rabbits cannot handle hot weather - they do just fine in cold weather, but not hot. Any time Sarah thought it was going to be hot outside, she'd bring Bambi into the house, even though his cage was in the shade and he would have plenty of water. Trina had also lost 15 rabbits that day, despite having an air conditioned barn.

My heart breaks for Sarah. She came back that Monday... expecting to at least have Bambi, but even he was dead. Somebody actually had more pain that I did when Missy died.

So Sarah had to bury Bambi. She picked a spot about 20 feet away from Missy. In the picture below, Missy is buried to the right of the closest tree, and Bambi's buried to the left of the big rock by the smaller tree.

I had the hardest time adjusting myself in my October visit that Missy was really gone. I found myself unconsciously saving dinner scraps for her. Or I'd be looking for her sleeping form to make sure I wouldn't accidently step on her. I even had to remind myself that it was ok to put any food in the outside fridge - Missy wasn't going to get into it!

A few days after Missy died, my brother heard some pawing noise at the garage door and automatically went up to let Missy in. He opened the door and saw a pair of glowing eyes, slammed the door and walked off. He realized later it was a raccoon! :P


Helen in the UK said...

I just love that picture of an upside down Missy - so typical. Sounds like she had a wonderful life full of love. Who could ask for more?

Laura said...

She was a very loved friend, so sorry you have lost her. But the memories last forever. Thanks for sharing Missy with us.

Evelyn aka Starfishy said...

I made it through all 3 posts - what a very well loved dog! My Dad had a golden/lab mix and she was just lovely!!! Believe it or not, she lived to be an incredible 18 years old - very healthy, but as she aged she did sleep more and more. As long as she was near Dad. 2X Dad had to go away and she wouldn't even drink water while he was gone, so after that - he never left her. He even drove all the way from Mass. to Cal. with her so she could go too - without flying!!! Goldens really are a wonderful breed.



Tina said...

I just found your blog, I loved reading about Missy I can tell she was very loved and returned it ten fold...
Hugs Tina