Loving Sam, My Dog. Our Dog.

My dog died. I won’t go into the terrible details. I will tell you, he was a constant, lovable companion. It took awhile for him to get past his Master’s death. This was Scott’s dog. Sam was a Great Pyrenees. We had rescued him from a family who had come on hard times, having lost their home to bankruptcy and were moving into a two family in the city.  I can’t remember if this happened when Scott was in hospice or after he died. Sammy kept running away, looking for Scott. It happened multiple times during the summer of 2011, just when I thought life was stupid and painful and not worth the hassle. This giant, white dog kept doing what I wanted to do. Run away.

The Providence police were wonderful. Our neighbors were wonderful. Everyone who tried to help was wonderful. This dog wanted to bolt, and it may sound easy to keep a one hundred and sixty pound dog inside. Trust me, it is not. If he wanted to get out, he got out. Galloping, really. Like a small Shetland Pony. There was no way I could keep up with him, you needed to be in a car to keep the pace. As irony would have it, keeping up with Sam was that was the very thing I needed to do. Keep up with him. Keep him in focus and active and busy. He had to be loved. Actively. Fully. So I loved him, even more than before.

And it got better. Slowly, without me even realizing it was happening. Sam was there when I was alone. He didn’t mind if I had a red nose from crying, or if I stayed in the same sweatshirt all weekend. His favorite thing was to walk through the house at night, on patrol. He would walk from room to room, pausing long enough to listen for any unfamiliar sounds. I knew no one would mess with us, just my daughter and I alone, husband gone and son away at college. Not with a giant white polar bear sleeping at the front door.

Now he sleeps at a different front door. Back at home with his Master. Thank you Sam. For being there for me, when I didn’t even know what I needed. You knew all about unconditional love and had enough to share with everyone, ten fold. Sleep well, my Bubba.

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Mei-Mei and the Teenage Daughter

Siamese cat

Siamese cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seemed like a good idea. The teenager girl  was wishing for something that could be, “just her own, not anybody elses!”. I get that. Olivia was the little sister, by four years. She had spent the last year having to share or postpone her grief from her dying father. Her fathers’ work had become successful in the public arena. There were openings and screenings and parties to attend. So many questions and comments. A very public way of dealing with a loss too fresh to swallow. So instead, she swallowed her tears and all the melancholy that was building on a daily basis. We all had postponed our grief, and now it was coming back to bite us, at 200 miles per hour. This was a girl whose Dad had gotten sick during Christmas. Her father had almost two feet of his intestines removed, two days after Christmas. He spent New Year’s in Hospital, and she and her brother had been shuffled off to the relatives in New Hampshire, while her father and I reeled and tried to regroup our optimism and momentum. Of course she wanted something of her own. She had lost someone very dear to her. Something I couldn’t replace.

Did I tell you that I am allergic to cats? Found that out the hard way, living in a Parlor floor brownstone apartment in Brooklyn. I had been singing professionally, for about three years, when I developed asthma. Cats and asthma, a bad combination, especially for a singer. We had not had a cat in these parts for over twenty years. However…

My girl wanted a cat. A kitten, more specifically. I walked past a brick building on a hot, late Spring day in Pawtucket. A little A-framed sign stated, rather seductively:

LOOK! KITTENS! LOOK!

Really,cute,soft,adorable!

C’MON IN AND LOOK!

IT DOESN’T HURT TO LOOK!

They were right. How much harm would there be in looking?They were beautiful. Dark grays, Siamese colored, all with blue eyes, the same color as my daughters’. She would love one. Or two. I decided the compromise was one. A blue-eyed Siamese. We could name her Mei-Mei. I think that means “little sister”. How cute!

Mei-Mei came home with me that day. I totally forgot what my original errand was that day, but it didn’t matter. I had a gift for my sleeping daughter. The only time I could hug her these days, was when she was sleeping. Her sadness and anger about her Dad had been safely transferred on me. The land of unconditional love would carry her sorrow, much like all those years I carried her backpack on the way home from school, when the responsibilities of being the excellent student and role model were cast aside for a game of “off the wall”, or for a trip to the ice cream store by the school, filled with little girls in their plaid Catholic school jumpers.

The kitten, whose name is not Mei-Mei, is still with us, four months later. Her name is Ella. Named after the singer who had the blues and sang the blues. Not unlike the mother. The thing that is different now, it being the end of summer, is the daughter and the cat are sleeping in the mother’s bed. I held my breath the night the kitten tip toed into my room and sprung onto my blanket, purring like a small, one cup at a time coffeemaker. A few nights later, the daughter followed, with the excuse of needing to get the kitten. I held my breath that time too, as she settled down on my pink blanket with her Siamese cat. I could hug her and snuggle her without her having to be asleep. I was in heaven. For the first time in a long while, a peace filled sleep.

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