Tag Archives: Rosa

Snow Dog

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I could rarely tell when my younger daughter, Kate, was not feeling well. She didn’t slow down for anything. Not for quiet time or bed time or a fever. I’m ashamed to admit there were at least a couple times when I sent her out the door in the morning, only to have the school nurse phone to tell me she was sick.

My oldest daughter, Jen, was a different story. With the slightest bit of a virus, she’d get a round, red spot on each cheek, would otherwise be frighteningly pale, and was down. No interest in play time or meal time or anything. Her ailments were probably no worse than Kate’s, but her behavior always elicited more of a reaction. It was scary.

My little dog, Rosa Parks, is a lot like Jen, in that when she doesn’t feel good, it is instantly noticeable. Her tail goes down. Her ears droop. She gets very snippy. It’s so different from her usual behavior, that it gets my attention right away.

It happened a few weeks ago. Rosa Parks did not feel well.

I called the vet for advice. He was unreachable… on the mainland, having a medical procedure of his own. I left him a voice mail anyway.

I observed her through the day. I telephoned the veterinary hospital on the mainland. Of course they couldn’t diagnose, but they listened sympathetically. Rosa Parks was not improving.

I had to make a decision, before it got so late in the day that I had no options.

I called my boss and arranged for my shift to be covered by someone else.

Called the airport and scheduled a flight.

Phoned Aunt Katie to give her an update, and arrange to use her mainland vehicle.

Contacted the vet hospital to let them know to expect us.

I threw a few necessities together, gathered up my little dog and headed out.

We flew off the island at three PM.

Blood work, x-rays and a thorough examination, two prescriptions and a lecture, and we barely made it back to the airport in time for our 4:30 PM flight home. Had we missed the plane, I’d have had to add the cost of dinner and a motel room to the already quickly mounting expenses.

I could make a credit card commercial!

Missing one shift at work: $50.00…

Round trip flight to the mainland: $100.00…

Veterinary bill: $350.00…

Knowing my little dog will survive…PRICELESS!

It turned out that she had a pancreatic infection, and would most likely have been fine until our own veterinarian got back to the island…but she looked so sick! For the peace of mind, it was worth it.

However, the veterinarian we saw did bring up another problem.

My own veterinarian has mentioned Rosa’s weight  and said that I’m a bit too free with the treats where the little dog is concerned. We have explored medical reasons for her plumpness. He has, though, always been understanding and kind.

The young mainland doctor was a tad more direct.

It brought out a side of my own personality I was unaware of until then.

“I can’t believe she’s not even two years old,” he said, “she is carrying way too much weight!”

“She has thyroid problems,” I explained.

He looked at me as if that were no explanation at all.

“For a chihuahua, she’s really quite big-boned,” I said, “I think she may have a bit of mixed blood.”

One skeptical eyebrow raised.

“She’s really all muscle,” I said, “or at least more muscle than fat!”

His expression told me he was unimpressed.

“Look, I give her precisely the amount of dog food recommended for a dog her size!”

“If that amount of food is keeping her at this size, she’s getting too much food, no matter WHAT is recommended!”

Well, okay.

So, we talked about cutting her food in half, banishing treats, weighing her weekly…and I really did listen, and have taken it to heart.

Still, on my way out, I told the nurse, “I understand that she’s carrying a bit of extra weight, and she does, I know, look a little waddle-ish in here…but if you could just see her in the wild!

Yes, I really said that.

I thought about it today, though, and it wasn’t as outlandish a statement as it seemed at the time.

Today, with ten inches of new snow, my old dog, Clover, faced with a wall of the “white stuff” when I opened the door, was not going out until I got out there to shovel a path. Not so, Rosa Parks. She plowed right out in snow deeper than she was! When Doug came around with his plow truck to clear my driveway, I had to run out in my bathrobe to grab Rosa Parks. She gave me a look that seemed to say “What, you’re just going to let him move our snow??”, and she kept right on barking. By the time I got back in the house with her, I was covered in snow balls to my waist! She was undaunted. We took two long walks today. My camera – needing new batteries – wasn’t fast enough to snap her in action. She really is a sight to behold.

In her element, that is. My chihuahua…in the wild!

Low Points

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In the vast terrain that is Memory of my life so far, there are gentle slopes and curves, a few sharp turns, more peaks than I probably deserve…and four deep trenches.

I can name them.

1) When I was eleven or twelve years old, my baby sister, Darla, died. She was not quite two months old. I can picture how she was in life, her sweet cheeks and fluff of hair and Cupid’s bow mouth. I can see her, still, in the small casket, in the white baptismal dress each one of us wore before her. I remember how we clutched at each other in sadness and in fear, at her death. Fear at seeing our strong parents crumbling in their grief. Fear of our own newly realized mortality.

2) After fourteen years of marriage, I divorced my husband. I never planned for that turn of events. I didn’t see that as even the remotest possibility, going in. We had planned to grow old together.  In my Catholic family, I was the first to use that option. Divorce changes everything. It alters your past memories and future plans. It ruins holiday traditions. It changes the whole world’s opinion of you and the way your own children perceive you. It forced me to re-think the person I was, and the person I would become.

3) When my youngest daughter was fourteen and a half years old, she chose to go live with her father. It didn’t go well, or certainly not as I would have liked. I couldn’t make her come back and the courts wouldn’t force it, so I watched from a distance with great sadness and regret.

4) In the summer of 2011, my sister, Sheila, died – without warning – less than two weeks before cancer took my mother’s life.

These are the low points of my life, the trenches in my memory.

I’ve had other losses, other break-ups, other heartache…but none have shaped my life the way these have. None can pull me back in the way these can.

It happened just yesterday.

I was writing about my little dog.

I’d been running through it in my mind.

There was the walk in fresh snow, when we came upon the tracks of a coyote who had passed by. Both dogs – Clover first, then Rosa Parks – dipped their nose into each paw print, then, nose-to-nose, looked into each others eyes. “This is serious!”, I imagined was the message that passed between them.

I was going to write about the idea that Rosa Parks is about the size and weight of a year-old baby. That the heat from her body, when she curls up to sleep in the bend of my knees or around my feet, makes me question my resolve to spend the rest of my life alone. I didn’t realize how much I was missing the warmth of another living thing, until I got her.

I was going to tell how snarly Rosa is, how protective of her space when I go to get into bed. In the morning, though, with tiny baby noises, she crawls up to give me little nudges, to show me her belly and to let me scratch her ears.

I started to write it, but wandered, and before I knew it, the story was about my tragedy more than it was about my little dog.

I don’t live my life in grief. I’m quite happy most days. I certainly don’t plan to introduce my loss into everything I write.

Yesterday, I just strayed too close to the edge.

Rosa Parks

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No,  not this one.

Though December 1st marked the anniversary  of the day, in 1955, when this fine lady kept her seat on the bus, which led to her arrest, which sparked a bus strike, which got all kinds of wheels turning and changed our world for the better, forever…

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…this is the Rosa Parks whose story I am telling today.

My little dog, who has stolen my heart.

I met her first nearly two years ago, when my daughter, Jen, her son, Patrick, and I took a road trip to South Carolina to visit my daughter, Kate, and her family.

Kate’s house was teeming with little dogs!

In a nutshell, the story goes like this:

Kate met a woman at work who stated that as soon as she finished with her appointment, she was taking her dog to be put down (PUT DOWN!) because it was supposed to be a long-haired “tea-cup” chihuahua, and was, instead, a full sized, long-haired chihuahua. Kate was appalled, walked out to meet the dog, and went home with him that day. They changed his name from “Neo” to Neil Diamond, and he became a happy member of their family.

Weeks – or perhaps months – later, when the police raided a crack house in the city, they found – chained in the backyard, skinny as a rail – a standard, short-haired chihuahua. Being familiar with Neil’s story, they contacted Kate to see if she’d be interested in taking in this dog, as well. She was. They named her Olive.

Then, before Kate had time to get the new addition to the vet, Olive and Neil got together and started a family.

When Jen and I got there in March for our visit, there were five little puppies running around: Archie Bunker, Audrie Hepburn, Blackie Chan, Rosa Parks and Theodore Roosevelt.

By the time our visit was done, Jen had fallen in love with and adopted two of the puppies. The unlikely combination of Rosa Parks and Archie Bunker came back to Michigan with us.

Jen, Patrick and the puppies went back to their life in Lake Odessa; I went  back to my simple life on Beaver Island.

Then, the world fell apart.

My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Three months was her projected life-span. Spring and early Summer were a gray fog, punctuated by bad news, lots of reminiscing and stories, one lovely, joyous wedding…and visits home. My sister, Sheila,  moved into the family home to take care of Mom. My daughter, Kate, came  north for a visit; My sister, Nita, and her daughter flew in from Texas. My nephew, Bob, drove his motorcycle from South Carolina. I made several visits from Beaver Island down to the thumb area of Michigan where my mother and most of my siblings lived.

It got worse. On August 2nd, Sheila died in her sleep.

We gathered together from all areas in tears and sadness to say good-bye to our sister, and to care for our mother at the end of her life.

The plan we threw together at that time was that I would come down and stay for the duration, and that everyone else would continue to help as they had been.

When Jen arrived at the family home shortly after I got there, she had Rosa Parks with her. It turns out, the puppies were not allowed in her apartment, under her lease.  She had to get rid of them, or find a new place to live. Her ex-husband had agreed to take Archie. Rosa still needed a home.

There were very few things, that summer, that were within my control. There were plenty of changes I would have made, if I could. This, among the turmoil and sadness that defined my life at that time, was a problem I could fix.

“I’ll take her,” I said.

Rosa moved into Mom’s house with me.

I chose to sleep on the sofa that Sheila had died on. The fact that it was her last resting place gave me small comfort. Mainly I chose it, as she had, for it’s proximity to Mom’s bed, so that I would hear her if she woke in the night. Because Rosa was not yet house-trained, she slept on the sofa with me.

When I got up in the night to give Mom her medicine, I’d then take Rosa out for a bit of fresh air.

In the morning, after a cup of coffee and relief of my station by a brother or sister or two, I’d take Rosa for a walk.

Across Hunt Road to the Lake Shore Drive, and down that road, around the hills and curves until it came back up to Hunt Road, then a short walk home. The residents came out of their houses as I went by, with Rosa running full tilt ahead of me on her leash. Sometimes they offered sympathy for our loss, or asked after my mother, or threw out a remembrance of my father, or my brother, David, both gone now.  Mostly, they’d comment about the little dog, running me to exhaustion at the end of the leash. “Who’s walking who?”, they’d ask, and I’d say, “I think it’s pretty obvious!” in response. Once, a group of children came to the edge of their yard to greet us. “Can we pet your dog?” they asked. “Of course,” I told them. “She loves children. Her name is Rosa Parks.” As they nuzzled her and accepted her puppy kisses, the biggest girl announced to her smaller companions, “Oh, she was named after one of the presidents of the United States!”

Whether it was her puppy messes to be cleaned up or her pathetic whimpering when she was tethered outside, Rosa offered distraction when it was most needed. By the time Mom passed away, Rosa Parks was a part of my family.

Rosa came back to Beaver Island with me. She won the heart of my old dog, Clover, and reminded her about dog-play. In exchange, Clover taught her the finer points of chasing squirrels and chipmunks.

Because there are too many predators for her to go outside alone, and because she still  needs to go out in the night, Rosa has re-introduced me to the night sky.

She is quite the character. Rosa Parks makes me laugh every day. Because she’s not quite two years old, my life is a bit too slow for her. She insists that I will adapt to her pace, rather than the other way around. If I sit too long in one place, whether at the computer, the drawing table or with a book, she will leap at me repeatedly until she convinces me to play. Knowing she won’t give up, it doesn’t take much convincing. In writing this little piece today, I stopped once to take the dogs for our two-mile walk, twice to go out to the back yard with them and once more just to run the perimeter of the yard, to burn off excess energy.

Rosa Parks is sleeping now.

She came to me in a time of sadness. In a hundred ways, she has brought joy to my life. I didn’t choose her, but what a great gift!