Saturday, March 23, 2013

The P 51 Airplane

While this may not be political, it will certainly stir the patriotic soul in all of us:

The P-51 Mustang is still rated number one by the military channel on TV, ahead of all the fantastic jet fighters we have now. It changed the face of WWII in Europe in that it could stay with the bombers all the way to Germany and back. It could out-climb, out-turn and was faster than the German fighters of that era.

Old Aviators and Old Airplanes....

This is a good little story about a vivid memory of a P-51 and its pilot, by a fellow who was 12 years old in Canada in 1967.

It was to take to the air. They said it had flown in during the night from some U.S. Airport, the pilot had been tired.

I marveled at the size of the plane dwarfing the Pipers and Canucks tied down by her. It was much larger than in the movies. She glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by.

The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, and then stepped into the pilot's lounge. He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the century. His flight jacket was checked, creased and worn - it smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its shoulders. He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid of arrogance. He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal (Expo-67, Air Show) then walked across the tarmac.

After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check the pilot returned to the flight lounge to ask if anyone would be available to stand by with fire extinguishers while he "flashed the old bird up, just to be safe."

Though only 12 at the time I was allowed to stand by with an extinguisher after brief instruction on its use -- "If you see a fire, point, then pull this lever!" I later became a firefighter, but that's another story. The air around the exhaust manifolds shimmered like a mirror from fuel fumes as the huge prop started to rotate. One manifold, then another, and yet another barked -- I stepped back with the others. In moments the Packard-built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar, blue flames knifed from her manifolds. I looked at the others' faces, there was no concern. I lowered the bell of my extinguisher. One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge. We did.

Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his pre flight run-up.
He'd taxied to the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds; we raced from the lounge to the second story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the P-51 as she started down the runway. We could not. There we stood, eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the field, much louder than before, like a furious hell spawn set loose---something mighty this way was coming. "Listen to that thing!" said the controller.

In seconds the Mustang burst into our line of sight. Its tail was already off and it was moving faster than anything I'd ever seen by that point on 19. Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic; we clasped our ears as the Mustang climbed hellish fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the dog-day haze.

We stood for a few moments in stunned silence trying to digest what we'd just seen. The radio controller rushed by me to the radio. Kingston tower calling Mustang?" He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment.

The radio crackled, "Go ahead Kingston."

"Roger Mustang. Kingston tower would like to advise the circuit is clear for a low level pass." I stood in shock because the controller had, more or less, just asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air show!

The controller looked at us. "What?" He asked. "I can't let that guy go without asking. I couldn't forgive myself!"

The radio crackled once again, Kingston, do I have permission for a low level pass, east to west, across the field?"

"Roger Mustang, the circuit is clear for an east to west pass."

"Roger, Kingston, I'm coming out of 3000 feet, stand by."

We rushed back onto the second-story deck, eyes fixed toward the eastern haze. The sound was subtle at first, a high-pitched whine, a muffled screech, a distant scream.

Moments later the P-51 burst through the haze. Her airframe straining against positive Gs and gravity, wing tips spilling contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic as the burnished bird blasted across the eastern margin of the field shredding and tearing the air.

At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood she passed with the old American pilot saluting. Imagine. A salute! I felt like laughing, I felt like crying, she glistened, she screamed, the building shook, my heart pounded.

Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out
Of sight into the broken clouds and indelibly into my memory. I've never
wanted to be an American more than on that day. It was a time when many
nations in the world looked to America as their big brother, a steady
and even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water
with grace and style; not unlike the pilot who'd just flown into my memory.

He was proud, not arrogant, humble, not a braggart, old and honest,
Projecting an aura of America at its best. That America will return one day, I know it will. Until that time, I'll just send off this story; call it a
Reciprocal salute, to the old American pilot who wove a memory for a young Canadian that's lasted a lifetime.

(Forward to your Aviator Friends, and anyone who would enjoy a patriotic


*"Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Anyone Who Threatens It"*


*An American*

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Life With Anais Nin 2006 - 2013

It was late September in 2006. My mother was in the final stages of a 2 ½ year battle with cancer. I sat down next to her on her bed. I have to admit that I didn’t see it coming. Her 6 ½ year old Boston Terrier, Anais Nin (also known as her 4th child, me being her 3rd) had been offered to a distant relative far away on the East Coast, Portland Maine to be exact. But my mom was concerned that little Anais Nin would never survive the cross country trip to her new home once she passed away. So, there she was asking me if I would take care of Anais Nin after she was gone. Like I said, I never saw it coming, but didn’t even flinch before telling her that we would of course take care of Anais Nin, she would be in good hands and well cared for. 

As much as I love animals, at the time I had a strict no pet policy in our family. I had barely been married a year and was still settling into a new life with my new wife and 2 step-children, Mikaela 11 and Whitney 14.

They were all clear on the rule, and why. I have been through the loss of a beloved pet and never wanted to experience that sort of pain again. Like losing a cherished family member, letting go of a family pet is gut wrenching. I avoided this at all costs. Plus, I was never a big fan of the constant attention and maintenance they require. And forget vacations, what to do with the dog, and all the other logistical challenges that comes with a family pet. Callous? Maybe, but I was just being practical. Why invite all that pain and suffering and extra work and responsibility?

But I now had Mikaela. As a young child, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, without hesitation her reply – a dog. She was and is a dog lover, and happened to be sitting there on the bed when my mother asked if we would take care of Anais. She didn’t just look at me. She also looked over at Mikaela, who could barely contain her joy at the good news. Bad circumstances, but good news to an 11 year old little girl that asked almost daily for a dog to have as her constant companion. Someone she could love and cuddle to her precious little heart’s content. No way could I say no.

So that is how we ended up with Anais. All 25 pounds of her. All of her seemingly ridiculous behaviors that caused me a great deal of eye-rolling at first. You see, I watched my mom raise this little creature from the day she brought her home in June of 2000, barely 6 weeks old. I saw how pampered and spoiled she was. I saw her treated better than I ever was as a child, and I was considered a bit of a “momma’s boy” as a little boy. I watched her sit at the dinner table, drink out of my mom’s glass and eat off of her spoon or fork. I rolled my eyes as I watched my mom bend over and wipe her little bottom with toilet paper after she came in from outside, then empty her water dish, fill it with fresh ice cubes and water – the only way she would drink water. I watched her cook special food, comprised of rice and chicken mostly, and feed her 6 little meals a day to help her with her weight and her unbelievably noxious foofs.

I had no illusions about what we were inheriting. But I also knew she would have a constant and loving companion in Mikaela. I have pictures of Mikaela and Anais on the ride home from Eastern WA to Seattle, Anais laying on a pillow on Mikaela’s lap, Mikaela with a beaming smile. She was so happy to have Anais, and we were all happy that they had each other. Especially after watching my mom fade away from us, barely getting to know my new family. Anais became a constant reminder of my mother, and that was a good thing. 

I recall three things that occurred in the first few days of her arrival in our home. First, I swore I would never stoop so low as to attend to the back end of a dog! And then I sat and watched as she came in from going potty outside one day, sat down right in front of me and began to spin around on her bottom in complete defiance of me. Round 1, Anais 1, Rick 0. From that day on I gladly attended to her bottom after she had been outside doing her business. You see, being a rather stout Boston Terrier she was not able to take care of such matters herself. Something I always thought kind of funny when she was with my mom. Now, not so much.

The second thing I recall is Anais learning to adapt to a new home environment. She had been transplanted from a fairly small, single level home of maybe 1,300 square feet, to a three level, split level 3,000+ square foot home. There were just too many doors and too many levels, and we would regularly find her standing in front of a door, any door, closet door, bedroom door, back door, office door, hoping for someone to let her out to go potty. It took her about 2 weeks to figure out exactly which door on which level was the correct door to stand by when she needed to go out. But, if we ever saw her standing facing a door, any door, we knew what it meant.

And third was how after about 2 or 3 days she had to be lifted from level to level. Her rear legs were just not strengthened to constantly be climbing up and down stairs. So, after a couple days she was too sore to make the climb. After a couple days of this, her legs strengthened and she bounded up and down the stairs with ease. But that first couple times we found her sitting at the bottom of a flight of stairs just looking up and hoping we would figure it out, well, it didn’t take long to figure out what was going on and we were more than happy to help her up and down the stairs until she developed the rear leg strength to do it on her own.

Poor little thing, and the busy-ness of a 4 person family compared to the rather low key life with my mom who had retired a couple years before she was first diagnosed with cancer. Anais Nin loved to just be near her. Whenever I would visit her at her house, whether she was sitting at her computer, where she spent a lot of time, at the kitchen table or in the living room watching tv or reading, there Anais would be right at her feet, or if she were on a sofa Anais would be up lying next to her. Laying there full of contentment just to be around her human.

She had now been thrust into a world where people were coming and going off and on all day. The kids were off to school, my wife was splitting her time between the local community college and her art studio that was at the bottom level of our home. I was busy chasing my career at a company about 20 minutes away. But because my wife was home a lot we all felt that Anais was not alone for long periods of time, and that was comforting.

I would often joke about how she had been enrolled in what I called “doggy boot-camp” when she came to live with us. For as much as we all loved her, especially Mikaela, there was just no way anyone on this planet could spoil her in the oh-so-special way that only my mom could. So, compared to her reality of the previous 6 ½ years, let’s just say she had some adjusting to do. And for this I apologized to her regularly. I would bend over, pet her on the head and say “sorry Anais” because only she and I knew exactly what I was talking about. And yes, I was truly sorry. She was my mother’s dog and I wanted so badly to treat her with all of the love and compassion I felt for the mom I was still learning how to live without. The same kind of love and compassion that she had loved both me and Anais with.

Thus became our life with Anais, what we did, she did. Over the years I took a lot of pictures as family members, extended family members, & friends came and went from our home and shared our life with us. There Anais would be, right in the middle of it. Not being rambunctious or obnoxious, just laying there, near one of her humans, content to just share time and space with us. As I always said, “Anais is a people person.” You see, she was never a big fan of other animals, she just had no use for them and had spent hardly any time around them as a young dog. She wanted to be where the people were, always. If a dog were around she might spend a minute or two checking it out, but it wouldn’t take long and she would be back at the feet of or by the side of one of her humans. 

One particular event highlights her strong preference for humans over other animals. We were planning a short family trip that required us to travel by car for 8 or 9 hours and then pile into a crowded hotel room for 3 days or so. We decided to take Anais to a doggy hotel where she could be saved the stress of travel and all of the other issues that would arise as a result of her being away from home in an unfamiliar and changing environment – something she was not very good at, but more on that in a minute.

We all felt okay about leaving her, although with reservation. We had never left her alone like that and there was something about it that just didn’t feel right. But, we rationalized, people do this all the time, so it must be okay, right? So, we check her in, say our goodbye’s and watch the nice pet lady take her back to where she will be staying. There was a large open doggy space behind solid glass walls just at the front of the hotel check in area. We watched the nice pet lady take Anais into this open space where other dogs were excitedly frolicking about, all getting acquainted with one another with the usual joyfulness you can expect from a dog. Anais walks in, about 10 dogs descend upon her and begin the sniffing. She attempts to move away from this attention, is visibly unhappy about it and now has a trail of dogs sniffing behind her. 

After a quick circle of the room she heads straight back toward her new human and gets up on two legs as if to say “GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” My constant guilt from never being able to live up to how my mom treated her was at an all time high right about now. We all nearly cried walking out of there saying goodbye to her again. When she spotted us on the other side of the glass watching her encounter with her new friends, she ran over and jumped up onto the glass at us with the same fearful get me outta-here look. My heart sank, we walked out of there without her, barely. We almost cancelled our vacation over that and as much as we enjoyed the trip were happy and relieved to have her back with us upon our return a few days later.

As all pet owners can testify to, our Anais was as unique as any. She always had breathing problems due to her pushed in face. As a result we had to be very careful about her environment. She couldn’t tolerate much above 72 or 73 degrees, and after only a few minutes would be panting, gasping and breathing with great difficulty. So we were always on alert with this issue. We almost lost her in 2009 after a routine trip to the vet, a glimpse of the grief that lay ahead of us. She had to spend the night in a pet hospital on oxygen, at a cost of over $1,200. I price I would have paid times ten on that day to keep her alive. She was also very high strung and didn’t handle change or commotion well. She was a very docile little creature, did not care to venture beyond the visible horizon. Wasn’t interested in chasing cars or roaming the neighborhood. No, her primary joy in life was being next to whatever of her humans happened to be near her at that particular moment. And that never required leaving the house. And she was okay with that. 

We would often take her with us on short trips to visit family, but that had to be closely monitored. The car had to be the right temperature, the house we visited had to be the right temperature and we had to be sure to not let her get too worked up if there was a lot of activity where we were visiting.

Here is an example of how we learned the hard – and potentially catastrophic – way to be very mindful of her environment and the temperature. It was our trial run with Anais. After a weekend trip to visit my mother we took Anais with us home for the week since we knew we would be returning the following weekend. My mom’s house was about 4 ½ - 5 hours away, so it was a long drive. It was a hot Eastern WA day, in fact we were experiencing record heat. We had traveled about 50 miles to the Tri-Cities and decided to stop in and get some ice cream from the local ice cream shop where my 17 year old nephew worked. I told my wife I would go in and get us the ice cream and she said she would take Anais over to the grassy area just outside the store to let her go potty.

Well, it took me about 12 minutes to get the ice cream and Kara had sat out in the 109 degree heat with Anais waiting for me. By the time we got her in the car she was hacking and wheezing pretty good. We were new to all this so didn’t realize at the time what was happening. But we did recognize that she was over heated so I quickly turned on the car and cranked up the A/C. But it would take several minutes to get the temperature down to where Anais would be comfortable again. She began hacking up white flem. Not just a little, and not just once or twice. The stuff was flying all over the back seat. I’d never seen anything like it! Kara and I were extremely concerned at this point.

We hadn’t had her but an hour and nearly killed her, how were we going to take care of her! Much less spoil her as my mom had. Luckily after about 15 minutes Anais settled down and settled into a long sleep, exhausted from the ordeal we had just inadvertently subjected her to. From that moment on, for the remainder of her precious little life, we were much, much more tuned into how Anais was doing anytime the temperature started to climb. And, even though we had just had our house built, with many nice amenities, A/C wasn’t one of them. Seattle rarely gets warm enough to need it, so at the time – before Anais – it didn’t seem like a necessary expense. I have pictures of Anais lying on the cool tile floor of one of our bathrooms, Mikaela lying next to her to keep her company, on those rare days when the temperature climbed and we had little way to keep the house cool. 

We were all committed to making Anais happy, that’s just the way it was. For Mikaela it came natural. Anais got to sleep with her every night. That one small thing gave me immeasurable comfort, knowing my mom was smiling down on the two of them, as Anais and Mikaela lay cuddled up together in her bed each night.

As much as Anais loved the slowness of laying next to her human and passing away the hours lazily each day, she also had spurts of rambunctiousness. It was the cutest thing to watch. She would get excited, raise her back end up and crouch down on her front legs, let out a yelp or two and then tear off uncontrollably, inevitably bouncing off of walls and furniture as she sped around burning off her enthusiasm. I figured that was her way of wagging her tail to let you know she was happy, since she didn’t have a tail. It was the cutest thing you ever saw, she’d crouch, yelp at you, speed around, crouch and yelp at you a little more. This display would usually last barely a minute or two and then she’d be content to curl up next to someone for a good long nap. But it was her way of loving us, of showing us how she felt. And it was absolutely precious.

Then there was the thing with the squeaky toys. I learned early on from my mom to never give her a cloth chewy toy with a squeaky in it. One squeak and Anais would go ballistic and rip the poor little stuffed whatever-it-was to shreds until it would squeak no more, then she’d walk away never wanting to play with it again. She was amazingly ferocious with these little toys. Rabbits, pigs, cows, bones, you name it, she mutilated it, pieces spread all around. It would be a merciless death for the chew toy.

But, she had an all time favorite chew toy. A yellow football shaped squeaky that gave her endless hours of enjoyment. But she had a particularly endearing ritual that she would repeat over and over for most of her time with us. She would pick her little yellow up with her mouth, pointed ends protruding out of each side of her clinched mouth. She would become very secretive and protective as she went off in search of the perfect place to “bury” her precious toy. This ritual would sometimes go on for 10 or 15 minutes. You never knew when you were going to sit down and hear a squeak, or pull the covers back on the bed and see it tucked just barely visible under the pillows, or find it at the bottom of a laundry basket. It was a special ritual that we all enjoyed watching and never tired of finding her precious little toy in places we least expected. It would always bring a smile.

And one of her favorite places to sleep was on a nice soft pile of freshly washed and dried clothes, nice and warm right out of the dryer, laying folded neatly in a laundry basket. Well, she also didn’t mind a laundry basket of unwashed clothes either. But the clean ones were her favorite and if anyone ever forgot and left a basket on the floor, they could be sure to return only to find it turned over, clothes spread all over and Anais lying peacefully in the middle of the whole mess. She was priceless.

And then there was her love of the sunny spot. Even though she would overheat easily, she could always be found lying contently on the floor under the bright sunny spot beaming in from a window. She would spot the bright shape on the floor, meander over to it and plop down and settle in for a nice long nap. Some time would pass, the sunny spot would shift one way or the other, she would wake up, sensing the change and ramble over to the new sunny spot to continue her nap. I have many pictures of her napping under a window, beaming sunlight all around her.

This was a particularly endearing habit of hers to me. You see, I spent several years in the Seattle gray complaining to anyone that would listen about how completely ridiculous it was that the sun never shined! My official definition of a “nice” day was one in which 1-the sun was shining from sunrise, all day and through to sunset, and 2-the temperature reached or exceeded 80 degrees. By this definition Seattle gets maybe 4 or 5 “nice” days each year. I found it comforting that Anais and I shared the same appreciation for bright sunny days.

In fact that was a major consideration when my wife and I decided to pack up our lives and move to Dallas Texas in 2009. A move that required my wife to drive a 26 foot moving truck by herself, with her niece driving a 20 foot moving truck behind her, for 7 days with a fish and Anais on board. Yes, there were concerns about Anais, but she miraculously survived the trip, spending the entire time on the road in the front seat of the moving truck with my wife. I was very impressed with both of them to say the least. I had been unable to fly back to Seattle once I found work in Texas, so had put my wife in the difficult position of loading and transporting without my help.

However, as life sometimes goes, things happen that are not always for the better. And halfway through Anais’s 12th year, in the summer of 2012, her family of the last 6 years broke apart. She’d already had to get used to spending more time alone when my wife was forced to go back to work full time in 2010. I felt the sadness of knowing she was spending more and more time alone, knowing what a people person she was. Again, more apologies. I was truly sorry but life circumstances forced us into the life we were now living. More work away from home and less time at home providing a full house for her to be part of. Sure, it was there at night and on weekends, but the days had to be long for her.

The divorce would only compound this. She was now stuck with only me. No Mikaela to cuddle up each night with her and pull her up onto her lap any time she happened to be sitting down for more than 5 minutes. While I did leave my bedroom door open for her to come and go at night, I rarely had her on my lap – sorry mom, I did my best, but it just wasn’t the same without Mikaela, her love overflowing for Anais. Mine, there but not the same.

However I was determined to do as much for Anais as I could, knowing that she was getting on in years. My routine was always the same during the week. I would leave the house by 7:00 or 7:30 each morning, but not before petting Anais and telling her that I was sorry, seriously, out loud apologies every day. I was sorry she was about to spend her entire day in an empty house. My grief over this was real. Most of the time she would follow me all the way to the laundry room door, I would open it, turn around and pet her, say I’m sorry walk through it and close it behind me, looking at her as she looked up at me with what can only be described as visible sadness. This broke my heart a little every day. As she got near the end she stopped following me to the laundry room door. Only breaking my heart further, knowing she was sad and lonely and there was nothing I could do about it. Sometimes life sucks.

But, life is what it is and that is that, so I lived with this daily grief. I would rush straight home from work each night though, hurrying to get into the house to relieve Anais from her sadness and loneliness. This routine was the same every night as well. I would open the laundry room door, already talking to her, telling her I was home. I always knew where to find her, so would turn left and take the few steps needed and into what had been Mikaela’s bedroom. There she would be almost always right by the doorway.

You see she would always sleep in a doorway or behind a door, knowing that whoever eventually walked through it would wake her. She didn’t want to miss a minute of time to be around her humans. And she never forgot that that particular doorway had been to Mikaela’s room. So it is there she waited, every day, month after month after month for Mikalea to come home. Again, more sadness.

So, she would wake up, stretch her aging bones and follow me. I would be talking with her the whole time, asking her how she’s doing, if she’s ready for dinner. She would get excited as we made our way toward my bedroom so I could change out of my work clothes. As I walked into my bedroom, she would run in behind me, pass me up and jump up onto the bed. I would make my way over to the lounge chair that sits parallel barely a foot at one point next to the bed. That got her closest to me and she would stand at the edge of the bed, pressing forward to get as close as possible, almost falling off the edge, as I sat down and took off my shoes, petting her with one hand, unlacing and removing my shoes with the other. Still talking to her, I would get up and make my way for the closet. She would get into her crouch position, yelp a time or two, run around on the bed and express to me her natural excitement. No matter what kind of day I’d had this would always lift my spirits. She was such a joy and had such wonderful energy. Like a dog, she just loved to be near the people she loved.

Once changed I would exit the closet and make my way for the kitchen. She would leap off of the bed like a gazelle and bolt toward the kitchen, her little pitter-patter of footsteps on the tile in the hallway echoing in the empty house. First thing, empty her water bowl, fill it with fresh ice and water and set it down for her. Surely it had been many hours since she had sipped water since the ice cubes I’d left for her in the morning had long since melted. As she stopped to get a drink I would make my way back into the laundry room where I kept her food – and treats. She loved her treats. I would try to slow down a little, giving her a chance to get a few gulps of water in, knowing as soon as I headed for the laundry room she would not be able to contain herself and follow me in, knowing treats were not far behind. And she did not like to miss anything, as if to be inspecting my every move to be sure I didn’t forget the treats.

In the morning I gave her one kind of treat with her breakfast, and then in the evening I would give her another. I would fill her food dish with dog food and top it off with her favorite treat. She would eat the treat and some of the food, but by that time I would be fixing my own dinner and she was always sure to find a spot between her human and the counter top, prime positioning in the event anything should happen to fall off of it. It would barely hit the ground, sometimes bouncing off of her to get there, and she would scarf it up. 

I would make a quick meal, and sit on the sofa to eat. It wouldn’t be long before she would be sitting right there, watching, waiting, knowing that the last bite was always hers. And she absolutely knew that. She would watch your plate and if you picked up the last bite of food and motioned toward your mouth, she would look at you in a manner that I cannot describe, but you knew that she believed that to be her bite of food and any actions should be immediately aborted and the food returned to its proper place, in her food bowl.

The rest of the night she would take up her usual position, anywhere I was, right at my feet. At my desk, she would be there. Wherever I went, even the bathroom, she would follow. She just loved to be close to her humans, no matter what, when or where. I am not a very inactive person so am always coming and going, getting up, moving here or there. Anais loyally and unflinchingly would follow. She was always by my side when I was at home. If I moved, she moved, like a shadow. Even if I just stood up, if she were lying down, she too would stand up and await further instructions.

Then, the first week of February 2013 audit season started. That first week I wouldn’t get home until after 7 sometimes 8 in the evening. My sadness over Anais’s loneliness only intensified. I didn’t notice it right away, but after a few days I did realize that she hadn’t been eating her dog food, only her treats that I left with her breakfast and dinner meals. A week passed and I still didn’t realize there may be a problem. I thought she was just being finicky and didn’t even realize that an entire week with hardly any food could have terrible consequences. More guilt and sadness.

About halfway into the second week of audit season, still getting home increasingly late, I did realize there may be a problem. So, I called the vet and made an appointment to take her in to be looked at. I knew she was getting near the average age that Boston Terriers live to – 12 or 13 years, but figured that she might have worms or something. Surely it was something that could be fixed. I noticed her bones were starting to show more along her back end, and her stomach area seemed bloated.

Sunday arrives and it is time to take her to the vet. All the usual anxiety and stress are happening as a result of having to take her into an unfamiliar environment that will cause her significant stress and anxiety and might cause her to overheat if it’s too warm. I’m so focused on protecting her from all of those things that I don’t really realize what is happening right in front of me. Anais has become very lethargic, walking very slowly out to the car. Not her usual excited trot. Up into the car we go, I blast the fan trying to keep her cool and hang onto her as she sits up in the front seat looking out the window. On this trip she is particularly observant of what is happening in the world we are passing through, looking out the window at things as they pass by. I think nothing of it. We arrive at the pet store.

I unload Anais and we begin to walk toward the door. The parking lot is busy so I am not real close to the front door. I worry about the sun, the temperature, her having to walk so far, getting over heated. I am anxious and worried. But, this day would be different, Anais is walking slower than I have ever seen her walk. I am stopping repeatedly and waiting for her to catch up. I just am not realizing what is happening. 

We have to wait at least 10 minutes to be taken back into the exam room. This causes me more stress, the clock is ticking and I am cautiously watching for signs that Anais is getting over heated. She is not, in fact, she is very calm and not getting worked up at all. Even with the dogs passing by, the other humans passing by. She can barely muster a glance, docile and still. Even still, I’m not realizing it.

In the room I explain to the nurse the stress of the time due to her sensitivity so we must be expedient in getting through this. Anais is sniffing around the room, slow and steady, not getting excited. The doctor walks in and I explain what I have been seeing in her over the last couple weeks. She looks her over, feels around a bit and says we should probably do an x-ray to be sure, but that she has Congestive Heart Failure. In an instant my fragile little world is shattered. SHE IS DYING! I immediately realize I am out of time with Anais, anything and everything that I thought about what lay ahead is gone. There is only here and now and I am going to lose her. The reality I have been ignoring and denying the last couple weeks rocks me to the core. 

The doctor says we can try out some medicine that sometimes helps, but her heart is old and tired and wearing out. That cannot be reversed. Her chest area is filling up with fluid, that is why she looks bloated, and she probably isn’t eating because she feels full from the built up fluid. Nothing even close to what I was thinking. She takes her for the x-ray and confirms her condition.

We finish the exam, collect the medicine and make our way out. The doctor asked that we come back the next weekend for a follow up to see how she is doing. This gives me brief and fleeting hope, there will be a next week, Anais will still be with us. But, as we are walking out of the store, Anais is going very slowly, as if wanting to smell every little smell and soak up every little moment and sight. By the time we reach the front door I realize Anais is probably seeing the inside of this store for the last time. The intense sadness I have been trying to ignore is beginning to rise with each step she takes. The reality of her condition is becoming painfully aware to me. We slowly make our way across the parking lot, taking all the time she needs now not at all concerned about all the other issues that blinded me from what was really happening right under my nose. She can take all the time she needs. Up into the car we go, her in the front seat, looking out the window, soaking it all up as if she knows it is her last glimpse of the outside world. Back at home I am barely in the garage with her, making my way for the laundry room door and into the house when I can no longer contain the grief that is now screaming to escape my body. The sobbing starts, we are in the house, I get her collar off and make my way for the living room. I sit on the sofa, sobbing, Anais looking at me, watching me. I look at her, knowing I will be saying goodbye soon, choking on my tears. 

And so began the end of my time with Anais, our time with Anais. It is Sunday afternoon, February 10th, 2013 and Anais is getting worse with each passing hour. She is lifeless and moving very slowly when she does get up for anything. I am as close to her as possible, wanting to soak up every second I can with her. Minute by minute the day passes.

I move all the little stair steps that have been created for her to get up onto my bed and up onto the sofa. I move the sofa cushions onto the floor, and that is where I spend the next 2 days, not leaving her as she fades toward the end. I am hoping for a miracle with the medicine, but nothing is changing and she is fading fast.

Monday morning I call work and let them know I will not be in, Anais is not well and I need to stay near her for now. I also need to determine if it is time to put her down or continue to hope for a miracle, looking at her with excruciating intensity to find any sign of life that can keep me from having to make that horrible call. The day passes, I don’t leave her side, sobbing on and off all day at what I am going through and what I am about to go through.

Tuesday arrives, I call work, I will not be making it in. I agonize through the morning, watching her struggle with every move. I am feeling like I need to make the call, but can’t bring myself to do it. I have the phone in my hand at about 1:00pm, I know what I must do. But I just can’t do it. I put the phone down, get up and go into my bedroom, sit on the lounge chair next to my bed and bury my head on the mattress, saying I can’t do it, I just can’t do it. I am sobbing. Anais slowly makes her way to me and sits down next to me. She arches her head back as if pointing to the sky and slowly grumbles that sort of half growl, half bark at me. She’s trying to tell me something, she knows, I know, I have to make the call. I get up, go get the phone and call the vet.

I arrange to have her come by and do it at the house. I can’t even begin to comprehend taking Anais in to have this done. I call a friend and explain my predicament. He asks if I would like his company. I am the most independent, self-reliant person you will ever meet. But on this day I accept his offer. I spend the rest of the day soaking up every moment with Anais, lying on the floor by her side, trying to comfort her in her final hours. Around 4 I let her outside for the last time. She finds a spot in the grass and sits for about 20 minutes, just soaking it all in. I know, she knows, this is hell.

My friend shows up, Anais is lying on the kitchen floor. I bring one of her little blankets over for her to lay on, she gets up and moves over onto it. She is ready. The vet arrives, I lay next to Anais Nin, looking into her tired old eyes, petting her, loving on her as best I can. The first shot goes in, I am just a few inches from her face, choking on my tears as she begins to fade, her eyes partially close.

We wait a few minutes, her heart still beating, but she is no longer conscious, the second shot goes in. We are all sobbing now. I am petting Anais and feel her take her last breath, I feel her last heartbeat. I spend about 20 minutes saying goodbye, honoring her, petting her, trying to physically let go of her. I am finally able to pull my hand away. I get up as my friend begins to wrap Anais up in her blanket, snuggled up with just her head exposed. I tell him I have to turn away. I cannot watch as he lifts her lifeless body up and takes it out to the doctor’s car.

They go out to the car and are there for several minutes. I experience a silence I have not heard in over 6 years. Anais is no longer in the house. I never realized until that moment just how much of a presence she was, all day, every day, for all of us that were lucky enough to have her in our lives. The silence is deafening to me. 

I spend the next couple days going through almost 7 years of photos, pulling out all with Anais. I see her constant presence in our lives. I see how much she gave to all of us. I see picture after picture of her on Mikaela’s lap, Mikaela smiling, Anais looking content. I feel so much love for her. I think to myself, this is why I have always had a strict no pet policy. This is going to take a while to get over.

God bless little Anais Nin and all the joy she brought to our family over the years. She will be missed but I rest in the peace and comfort of knowing that she is now back with her mother, my mother, at her side, at her feet, where she belongs. Content, happy and loved both in this world and in the next.