the friends

All That Cremains

We placed Maxy gently into the back of my Escape. The hub gave me a long hug, kissed me goodbye and headed to work.

I took Maxy for one last ride.

I chose the scenic route, winding through the quiet, tree-lined streets.

I drove remembering all the mornings he went with me to drive my daughter to school and all the afternoons he rode along to pick her up. It was our Monday through Friday routine – drop her at school by 8:30 a.m., go for our morning walk, pick her up again at 3.

I thought about how excited he used to get when we drove him to the dog park – he knew a mile away where we were going and he would spin and cry – louder and louder as we approached the park – unable to contain his excitement.

But this morning he was silent.

My eyes held wells of tears as I pulled up to Faithful Companions.

A gentle man named Jon offered me a seat at a conference table. He needed to take some information.  Name, address, phone number, how long have you had Max?…

“Fifteen years,” stuck in my throat. I reached across the table for a kleenex.

Paperwork completed, I backed my car into a bay.

Together we lifted Maxy into a white cardboard casket that sat upon a metal cart. Jon wheeled the cart into the family witness room while I re-parked my car.

The large room had a comfortable seating area in one corner.

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There was a coffee and water station along one wall and an oven on another.

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I said a final goodbye to my good friend and then watched as Jon closed the lid, wheeled the casket to the open oven door and slid it in.

He adjusted some nobs on the control panel and then asked if I wanted to push the button.

I shook my head, “no.”

The temperature was at 1625 degrees.

“It must remain between 1600 and 1700 degrees at all times,” he later said, “we turn it down to closer to 1600 when a family chooses to witness, otherwise the casket will ignite as soon as it is slid in.”

“How long does the process take?,” I had asked back when we were still in the conference room.

“A little over an hour.  You can wait in the room the whole time, or you can leave after you see me slide him in and then come back.”

The least I could do was wait.

Abide with him one last time.

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So there I sat in the warm room, staring at the oven door.

After about twenty minutes Jon came in to stir the contents. “Do you want to leave the room?,” he asked.

“No, but I’m not going to look.”

Oven door closed again he came and sat on the adjacent sofa and answered my many questions.

“We’re about 85% there,” he said, as he stepped back out of the room.

When he came back to stir a second time he asked me if I wanted to look. I did, since there were only bone fragments and “sparkles” left to see.

“The sparkles,” Jon explained, “are tiny pieces of non-bone.”

He closed the oven door again and left again.  When he returned a few minutes later the sparkles had ceased.

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Nothing but bone and the red glow of hot concrete.

He swept the bones into the bin below and then offered me a look – varying sizes of small fragments.

“Some people want to take them like this,” he said, “but I don’t know why.”

He took them into another room to spread them out, let them cool a little and then grind them into powder.

I waited in the reception area so the oven could be used for someone else’s friend.

Faithful Companions cremated 71 pets yesterday. 73 in one day is their record.  So they need to keep all their ovens operating all day. Every day.  8 am until midnight.

Especially since they promise to return the “ashes” within 24 hours.

Which is exactly what they did when they brought Bebe’s ashes to my door a year ago. Remember? They had picked her up directly from the emergency animal hospital.

But since Maxy died at home, I wanted to drive him there myself.

And stay with him.

It wasn’t long before Jon called me into another conference room. He was carrying a gift bag which contained several thoughtful items.  From the bag he removed a small wooden box engraved with “Maxy” on the lid.

He opened it and pulled out a burlap bag.  Inside the burlap bag was the plastic bag containing Maxy’s ground bones.  He removed it and placed it in my hands.

“They’re still warm,” I said.

“A little bit,” he replied.

They felt good.

Karley, the kind office manager with whom I had corresponded via e-mail in anticipation of this day, gave me a hug goodbye.

Her dog, Sam, who seems like a really good boy, greeted me when I arrived and then rolled over to offer me his belly.

I put the gift bag containing the box of cremains on the passenger seat, took the pleasant, scenic route home and cried.

I have parent packets to assemble for an upcoming presentation, but I think I’ll just sit here awhile with Dixie and Lambchop, listen to the birds chirp

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and rest my sad soul.

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Maximus Aurelius Rodriguez
March 7, 2003 – May 8, 2018
Good, good boy.

 

 

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the friends

I’m here for you.

Do you actually only love someone when you love them more than yourself?

I look up from Ann Voskamp’s question on page 140 of The Broken Way and I see Maxy sleeping peacefully on the family room floor.

I’ve been so tired.

Tired of living like a shut-in, as most caregivers do. Tired of changing diapers and wiping piddle trails off the floors. Tired of hoisting a 46 pound bag of bones to feet he can’t find, feet attached to legs that collapse under him, or that never unfold at all.

“Help me out, buddy” I say.

He collapses to the floor again.

“Come on, Maxy,” I say impatiently, “you can manage to find your feet when dinner is ready.  Help me out here!”

“Sorry Bud, I know you’re old and I’m trying to help you, but I’m old, too, so you try and help me.”

Maxy is my 15 year old hound dog, who likely has degenerative myelopathy – the canine version of ALS. His hind legs have grown increasingly weaker over the last year or so and we can expect that as the disease progresses his upper body and breathing muscles will be affected, too.

“When he gets to the point where he can’t stand at all,” the hub said a few months ago, “we’ll have to put him down. Otherwise he’ll have to pee and poop laying on his side and he wouldn’t want that.”

Not a minute before, I thought in reply. Not a minute before.

But now I think about the people who take control of their lives, who would have put him down long before they stopped inviting people over because their blanket-covered family room floor smells like pee; people who would be out chasing their dreams, doing their thing.

I think about me who spends an hour each morning and again each evening preparing ketogenic meals, doling out medications, supplements and chemo to my beagle as I check them off a legal-sized spreadsheet. Me, who spends the hours in between doing laundry and wiping Maxy pee off the kitchen floor.

Sometimes I wish he would hurry up and go.  Sometimes I ask God to hurry up and take him. Peacefully. While he’s sleeping comfortably, with the sleepy background sounds of his family gently cradling him.

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He’s awake now, head up, looking around, looking out the doorwall.  He looks bright, alert, like he’s enjoying the peace and quiet of the afternoon.  There is no way I can schedule his death.  Not while he still looks content. Not while he’s still so enthusiastic about his meals.

Do you actually only love someone when you love them more than yourself?

“I’ll take care of you for as long as it takes,” I whisper.

He looks at me as though he knows my thoughts.

Do I love Maxy more than I love myself?

Or is it that I love being the me who will take care of him more than I would love being a me who wouldn’t?

“Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus said, “that he lay down his life for his friends.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Food

An-ti-ci-pa-a-tion is Making Me Bake…. It’s keeping me ba-a-a-a-a-king…..

I did what I always end up doing while waiting for a four-legged loved one to recover from anesthesia, I made cookies. To keep my mind off the fact that it’s been eight hours and still no word.

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I dropped my Maximus Aurelius Rodriguez at the vet at 7 a.m. for a dental and now that it’s 3, I’m getting a little worried about my geriatric friend.

So I hit the sanctuary and baked.

Here’s what to do if you’re a little worried, too.

In a small bowl whisk together:

75 grams (5/8 c.) all-purpose flour
30 grams (1/4 c.) coconut flour
30 grams (1/4 c.) hazelnut flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
a pinch of cinnamon

In a larger bowl cream together:

5 oz. organic grass fed butter, softened
1/4 c. granulated sugar
3/8 c. date sugar (or brown)

Mix in:

1 organic free range egg
1/2 t. vanilla

Now slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Then stir in:

a whole bunch of callebaut semi-sweet chocolate chips, as many as you like.

Drop them by spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Flatten them.

Bake at 350 degrees in a convection oven or at 375 degrees in a conventional oven for 10 – 12 minutes.

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Light, tender, nutty and somewhat healthy.

They’ll get you through.

#anticipate

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faith, the friends

Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

If you know anything about Dixie, you know that she was diagnosed with colon cancer in February.

If you don’t know anything about her, it’s time to catch up:

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

We’re Not Just Whistling Dixie

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

Big Love & Fruit that Lasts

Stuck in the Kitchen Again…

McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

When I last wrote about my friend, I was cooking like her life depended on it.

And wondering whether she would be incontinent forever.

But then the blessings began to flow on two creatures here below.

On a little beagle and me.

Dixie is now pooping like a champ – well, almost like a champ. And that is a huge blessing right there.

But there’s more.

Wednesday morning I took her for the 4th of 6 chemo treatments – each 3 weeks apart.  As per the protocol, her oncologist did an ultrasound and some chest x-rays prior to the treatment to make sure the treatments have been working.  If not, he’d switch to something else.

The ultrasound results?

There is no sign of recurrence in her bowels or lymph nodes – lymph nodes are all of normal size.

The doc said a radiologist would look at her chest x-rays to confirm but he saw nothing obvious on them.

So he proceeded with injection number four.

And then yesterday his assistant called with the radiologist’s findings:

Her lungs are completely clear!

Good food, exercise and chemo are keeping the cancer at bay.

And Love. Lots of Love.

Love is healing her.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow…

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Stopping to smell the roses after this morning’s happy walk.

She’ll get the final two injections and then she’ll be monitored from there.

Hopefully for many happy, healthy years to come…

#grateful #hopeful

 

 

 

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life

Stuck in the Kitchen Again…

We just returned home from Dixie’s check up with the surgeon.

The good news is her incision is healing well and the sutures in her rectum are still intact.

One more week and she can ditch the cone.

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I don’t like it when people call it the “cone of shame.” There’s nothing shameful about recovering from surgery.  There’s something bad-you-know-what about it. It’s an “I’m a tough little cookie” cone of honor.

We went to see the surgeon today because, as you know, she has been having so much trouble going and we were concerned. He did a rectal exam and said the diameter of the portion that he sutured together is only half the diameter of the rest of her bowel, so she is straining (really hard) to push a large stool through a much smaller opening. He put her on a stool softener which seems strange because what little has been coming out has been plenty soft. But the stool on the other side of the sutures isn’t soft at all.

So we are relieved to know that she is healing and her ability to go should improve. I’ve been so worried.

The sad news is that the biopsy report confirms adenocarcinoma.

Fortunately the margins were clean and it wasn’t in her spleen but it has spread to her lymph nodes and omentum. Which means it’s in her bloodstream.

I’ll be meeting with the oncologist next week to discuss chemo, etc.

We didn’t use the same hospital that we used for Bebe, so this will be a different oncologist. Depending on what he says, I might try chemo this time. We’ll see.

The surgeon said her prognosis, based on limited data, is 8 months.

So that’s where we are – sad but also aware that God can do anything.

Once she recovers completely and can get back to her routine we will feed her really delicious, nutritious food, build up her immune system so she can fight this devil off, take her for lots of walks and have lots of fun – even go to the beach when it gets warmer.

And try chemo if it doesn’t put a damper on her quality of life.

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Would love it if you would keep this sweet little heart in your prayers.

In the meantime, we’ll be hanging out in the kitchen again today.

I’ll be ruminating on all the heartbreak cancer has brought to my life these last two years.

Dixie will be ruminating gastric acid.

#ruminate

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the friends

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One day you’re living in Hintzville, going for a warm, sunny walk and a week later you’re under the knife.

Last post I told you what I know about Dixie’s history. What I didn’t tell you is that she has had varying amounts of blood in her stool since the day we adopted her. Every stool, every day.

Finally, after multiple trips to the vet and two rounds of blood and stool tests to rule out parasites and infections, we were referred to a specialist for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound revealed a mass in her colon. And an enlarged lymph node. And a small spot on her spleen.

So at 8:00 this morning I dropped her off at the hospital for a colonoscopy – to give the internal medicine specialist and the surgeon a look at what they’re dealing with from the inside.

While she’s still under anesthesia she’ll go directly into surgery.  To remove the mass and resection her bowel.   And, if she hasn’t been under too long at that point, the surgeon will remove the lymph node and her spleen, too.

Just got a call from the hospital. They are about to begin.  It will be about two hours. The surgeon will call when he’s finished.

I hung up the phone, got on my knees and asked God to fill the operating room. I asked Him to give the specialist and the surgeon insight and knowledge and skill beyond what they have. I asked Him to give the surgeon creativity in approaching the mass – since it is partially behind her pubis and difficult to access.  I’m praying he’ll get clean margins without having to split her pelvis.

I’m praying the mass is not malignant.  I’m praying it isn’t any kind of cancer at all.  It’s possible that it’s a stricture. I sure hope so.

I’m praying for no complications.

I’m praying that the resection will not come apart one day and dump feces into her abdomen.

I’m praying she will heal quickly and live another happy, healthy five years.  At least.

If it is a malignant cancer, the surgeon said worst case scenario she’ll have  3-4 months, best case she’ll have 1-2 years.

I’m praying it isn’t cancer.

I’m praying I don’t have to muster the strength, beg God for the strength, to walk another friend down this road again so soon.

I’ve already fallen in love with Dixie.

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And I’m still missing Bebe.

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And Lucy.

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I told you last week that Dixie had been bounced around a lot this last year after her “mom” moved into a nursing home.  And that made it really heartbreaking to leave her this morning.

So I’m asking God to hold her close, to whisper in her soft, floppy little beagle ear that she hasn’t been abandoned.  That she is deeply loved and she will be going home to Hintzville.

Just got a call from the surgeon.  The colonoscopy showed that it is a mass, not a stricture.

Dixie’s being prepped for surgery and he’s heading into the OR.

Praying he gets it all.

Praying it’s benign.

Praying she heals well.

Praying, praying, praying.

And feeling sick.

 

 

 

 

 

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