Monday, April 20, 2009

Time heals all wounds

Patricia Smiley here...

For the past several years, I’ve been in mourning.

For PJ, Dottie, and Tigger-boo the Wonder cat.

My Noble Three were near the same age, so they all grew old and died within a short time of each another. The cumulative loss sent me into a funk. I vowed I would never have another pet. Loosing them was just too painful.

Tigger was the last to go. He died unexpectedly while I was on a book tour, and I have never forgiven myself for not being there with him.

Recently, my friend Brigitta lost her treasured cat Tyrone. A couple of weeks after he passed, she went to an adoption agency and came home with two siblings she named the Shmelnick brothers. I didn’t think anyone could ever replace Tyrone, but those boys rock.

I’ve thought about getting another dog or cat but I tell myself it wouldn’t be fair. I’m gone a lot and can’t bear the thought of leaving them alone. I did make an attempt to adopt an adult Westie whose owner didn’t want him anymore (Hard to imagine, isn't it?). I got my beloved PJ that way, but this time it didn’t work out so I gave up.

On Saturday I went to a luncheon. The hostess had a new puppy that looked like this.

She is a six-month-old Norwich terrier like Cracknor Cause Celebre AKA “Coco,” the Norwich the world fell in love with after she won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show a few years ago.

Who can resist a puppy? I took her for a walk and let her kiss my face. I told myself that was enough. I’d be like an eccentric aunt who breezed in for an afternoon of play and then jetted off to Monte Carlo to party on my yacht. But I wondered if maybe I wanted more. Bringing a pet into my life is a huge commitment but maybe—just maybe—I’m ready to take the plunge.

Norwich Terriers on Parade

Happy Monday!


  1. Oh, Patty, what a lovely post - and I know how much you still miss your three lovely pets.

    As you know, my beloved 15-year old dog, Sally, passed away in September of last year. I went into a tailspin for several months, and did not know how depressed I'd become until I began to come out of the tunnel in January. In November, though I did not want a new dog at all, we adopted a black lab mix, Maya. My husband just could not bear being without a dog. I was lukewarm at best. Maya is not a Sally, and came with load of "issues" - she had been abused, kept in a confined space for most of her life, and had had at least one litter already even though she was barely 15 months old. So we have an adult puppy in the house.

    But Maya sits under my desk while I'm writing for hours without making a sound, and follows me around the house. I am warming to her, though I consider her "John's dog."

    Years ago I lost a much-loved Great Dane just months after his partner-in-crime and best friend (the cat) died. I thought I would never have another dog or cat again, that I could not go through the grief again. But I did, and I had many wonderful years with my Sal. So, it is worth taking the leap. They will not live forever, but the world is a better place when they're with us (even with nibbled slippers, torn socks, a chewed up pair of brand new Merrell clogs ... oh, and that was Maya in the first week).

  2. I totally understand how you feel, Patty. I still think about my old cat Thisbe, who was 20 when she died. I didn't want another cat, but I had a seven year old who did. We now have two five year old fat cats named Hemingway and Eloise. While I enjoy them, I don't have the same connection I did with Thisbe. When I met my husband, I told him I'd had Thisbe longer than any man, and he took that as a challenge. I'm glad he did, but I wish Thisbe could have stuck around a little longer.

  3. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Our J. As a puppy, Dottie terrorized the belts hanging from the closet and anything else leather she could get her teeth on. She ripped open numerous stuffed animals and pulled out the stuffing until Bear, which still sits as a shrine to her in my bedroom along with her collar and tags. PJ also had emotional issues that went with him to Heaven. With all that, they were the best dogs ever.

  4. Karen, maybe we connect to our pets in different ways depending on what we are going through at the time. Twenty years together is a lot of shared life experiences.

    Tigger was not a friendly cat. Contrary to what cat haters believe, he would not go near one of them nor would he approach strangers. He was a one girl cat--mine. That's why I felt I let him down when he died.

  5. This is exactly what all blogs should be.

    You should feel proud, Patricia.

  6. Verne Thomas4/20/2009 7:51 AM

    I know what your talking about. I had me a sheep named Sweetcakes that I still miss.

  7. Bless you for this.

  8. Thank you Laura, Verne, and Rowena! There's a wonderful children's book a friend gave me after PJ died. It's called DOG HEAVEN, written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant. It's uplifting but it still makes me cry every time I read it.

  9. Great post, Patty.

    I still miss Felix, The Best Cat Ever, who died in 1996. He was such a good friend.

    Interestingly, since I've been an adult, all my cats have come to me - I haven't had a choice in the matter. Felix was a gift; then there was Squeak, who literally just arrived on the doorstep one day.

    More recently I inherited Sam and Missy, a mother and son pair of Himalayans who are affectionate and fluffy and sweet and very high-maintenance. Love 'em, but the fur - good heavens.

    You know best, of course, but I hope you take the plunge - there's no better friend than a pet.

  10. When I was 7 my parents got divorced. My Dad moved from Topeka where we lived to Chicago, so we didn't get to see him very often. Before he left, he got me a cholocate lab named Brownie. (I know, not a very original name. But I was only 7!)

    Brownie was my best friend the whole time when I was growing up. He got me through some really tough times. When I went away to college he was still a really active, vibrant dog, but the next couple yyears were tough on him.

    He passed in March of my junior year, just one week before his 14th birthday. I rushed home, but I didn't make it there in time. That really hurt. It took me a long time to forgive myself for not being there to hold him when he went to heaven.

    The Lord smiled His brightest smile on the day He created dogs. Thank you for leading me on this little trip down memory lane.

  11. Alice Sweetzer4/20/2009 9:00 AM

    I have read this wonderful blog for a long time but never commented due to a fear of public that I've had since early childhood when my father pushed me up in front of our church congregation to sing Old Rugged Cross and I wet my pants.

    But Patty, your post today made me force myself to overcome my fear and comment to say how incredibly sad it made me, but how much I admire you for sharing with all of us.

    I lost my childhood pooch Chisme seven years ago and I still have not been able to bring myself to buy another dog. Then last summer our cat Pickles got out of the apartment and we have not seen her since.

    I pray that is okay, and has found a good home. But my tears are covering my blouse right now as I type this.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this. It is so comforting to know even famous people like you go through the same tragedies we normal people go through.

    I love all your books and maybe now I will even be able to comment sometimes! Sorry if this is a dumb comment. It's my first one.

  12. I once read that people who are pet lovers are the bravest souls on earth. We give our hearts to these wonderful creatures knowing that we will lose them and suffer the horrific pain. I, too, lost a beloved dog, Lacey, and swore that I would never get another. It was just too painful. However, my heart actually ached when I would see a puppy or a dog with it's owner. A friend surprised me with a puppy (generally not a good idea) and I could feel the huge whole in my heart healing. Nothing like puppy-breath to make one whole again. :-)

  13. Rae, your cats come to you because they are very very smart. Bless you for adopting them.

    Oh Susan, I so identify with your experience. We all want to be with our friends to ease their passing, but sometimes it's just not possible.

    Alice, thank you thank you for finally joining us and I promise we won't make you sing The Old Rugged Cross!!! You're among friends here.

  14. Anon, ah puppy breath. The best.

  15. I don't want to give my name for fear of being teased by my friends who also read this blog. But I am a six-foot-four truck driver who weighs almost 250 pounds, and I am sitting here in a FLYING J stop balling my eyes out at your post.

    My two dogs were named Merv and Griffin, and they were with me for eleven wonderful years. My life was destroyed fourteen months ago when I accidently backed my rig over them.

    I almost got fired because I had to take off three months from work. I was just too depressed. I was almost suicidal. Not only had I lost them, but it was my own fault.

    Your post Patty gives me hope and reminds me of the good times. The times when my life wasn't garbage. Maybe it is time for my to get another pet. Maybe not a dog this time, but something.

    Thank you for this Patty. And also for your great books!

  16. Anon, I'm misty-eyed reading your comment. I think it's time you stopped blaming yourself. Merv and Griffin loved you and would want you to be happy.

  17. Great post, Patty. GREAT post.

    Time does heal all wounds.

    And I would dare to call this post "Time" because it is healing my wounds.

    And the world IS a better place when they're in it.

  18. Thanks, Tim. Sometimes if seems as if we will never recover from the loss of a loved one, but we must and we our own time.

  19. Very moving.

    I'm just starting to notice that my rescue dog, Nikki, is showing her age. (No idea what that might be).

    Doesn't hop off the sofa to greet me in the morning. Can't jump over the yard fence any more.
    Stopped chasing deer.

    I spend more time with her than anyone else. Okay, the cat, too. The dog is under my desk, the cat on top sticking her paw in my water glass.

    Then the cat hops down, and they play a hide-and-seek game where the cat punches the dog in the nose, and the dog barks. And I could spend all day watching them, which is a helluva lot easier than writing.

    Can't quite figure out why....but the love of animals makes us more human.

  20. Karla Allbright4/20/2009 9:55 AM

    As Paul said, such a moving piece.

    My husband and I lost our cat a few years ago. It had been with us our entire marriage. Mrs. Krumpcake as she was known was even in our wedding. Here is a link to a photo from our wedding with Mrs. Krumpcake:

    It is from my husband's dumb blog which he started after we divorced. I have always felt that Mrs. Krumpcake's death was the reason we broke up. Neither of us ever got over it.

    And I still have not. Though I have recently purchased a turtle and parrot and some fish, nothing will replace that kitty lying across my bare ankles late at night as I worked on my briefs.

    I feel your pain, Patty, and applaud you for posting.

  21. Karla Allbright4/20/2009 9:59 AM

    I guess I should have mentioned; that's my husband holding Mrs. Krumpcake in the photo, but the gorgeous woman is NOT me!!! Ha ha, I wish.

  22. Yes, I spent a lot of time being entertained by my pets. It's much easier than doing most anything else.

    Karla, love the name Mrs. Krumcake.

  23. Oh, Patty. I love the pictures and the memories. You might be ready to fall in love again soon.

    My own most recent rescue dog, Cisco, was diagnosed with cancer three weeks ago. We've started chemo and he seems to be responding beautifully. I know we can' eradicate it, but we can give him a painfree and happy life for a little while longer.

  24. louise so sad about cisco. I'm sure you're still in mourning for Angus. You're a saint.

  25. Patty-

    I'm a rescue veteran and a vet tech student and I can tell you this-you'll get another pet when and if you're ready.

    For anyone who has lost a pet, I suggest the website for the Rainbow Bridge. It can be very therapeutic and if you wish you can leave a message dedicated to your pet.

  26. We lost our 16-year-old dog, Boomer, last year. That left us with a 9-year-old dog named Duncan and Zoe the Cat, age 11.

    When Boomer died, my wife wondered the same thing - could she ever adopt another.

    Last month we came home with Scout an orphan who had lived along the interstate, completely bereft of any civilizing influence. She's spring-loaded and cannot help but jump on anyone who comes in the house.

    She has been a trial, and will continue to be for quite some time, but she's part of the family now and shows her sweet side more and more. Like when she's sleeping.

    Our little house is a wreck of chewed toys, dog hair tumbleweeds and one very irritated cat, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

    Please, accept my condolences. It's hard to lose one friend, but to lose three must have been a rolling tragedy.

    If you'll excuse this, I can't help but be reminded of Wilde's Lady Bracknell when she says, "To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."

    Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

  27. Patty - one of the media escorts on my recent book tour sent me a copy of "Dog Heaven." That book - together with the comments here - has had me in tears. Maya is under the desk, Sally is in my heart. And that's where they belong, these animals of ours - in our hearts, whether they're with us or in dog and cat (and of course, horse) heaven. When John Grogan wrote his column after Marley - the now famous, Marley - died, he was inundated with emails and letters. The comments today, together with the fact that people are plucking up courage to leave comments for the first time, speaks to the place that our companion animals have in our hearts and the chord you have struck with your post.

    And at the risk of everyone thinking I am a bit woo-woo (OK, so I am, there you have it), after we brought Maya home, there were times when she was in another room and I could swear I heard two dogs in the house. I'd like to think that Sal was not only checking her out, but giving her some older-dog advice about her new owners. She probably said, "Jackie may seem a bit indifferent now, but she'll get over it. Just sit under her desk, and if she reaches down for one of those books on the floor - yes, she has books all over the floor - just touch her hand with your wet nose. Before you know it she'll be ruffling your ears and you'll be home and dry."

    So, Patty, when the time is right - and you may not even know it's right, but it will be - your new dog will come home with you to join the trio in your heart.

    And Louise, I am so sorry to hear about your dog. I remember you telling me that you adopt senior citizen dogs, to give them a good home in their final years. I think that's wonderful - giving and receiving of such love.

  28. Norby, thanks for the info. I like the idea of leaving a message for your pet.

    David, sorry about Boomer. Your Lady Bracknell quote made me smile.

    Our J, I imagine that outpouring happened to the author of The Cat who Went to Paris when his Scottish Fold died.

  29. If you can make the commitment of time and money and most of all, love, than I strongly suggest you get yourself a puppy or an older dog that need a new home.

    After one of my two yorkies died, I swore that we'd remain a single dog home. Famous last words. A friend of a friend was getting a divorce and needed to find a new home for her yorkie. My Coco came into our home at the age of two, terribly shy and aggressive toward stangers....she was so difficult I wondered if I'd made a mistake. I'm glad I persisted...she has become the most loving dog and is a joy. My first yorkie, Chloe, is now 14 and as I realize that she is in the twilight of her years, it's nice to have both of these dear companions with me now.

    You can see where my vote sound like a dog lover too...if you can welcome that love into your life again, you won't be disappointed.

  30. Suzanne, I agree that having multiple pets is the way to go. My two Westies enjoyed having a fellow member of their tribe in the house. When my Dottie got sick toward the end, my cat used to climb into her bed and keep her warm.

  31. James O. Born4/20/2009 2:16 PM

    I can remember petitioning for a dog as a child. Undercutting any argument my father had until I got a dog.

    Now I have to use the same arguments to foil my wn kids' petitions.

    I like dogs but we travel so much I don't know what we'd do.


  32. when i was a kid, we always had cats in our house - lots and lots of cats. they had their own room across the yard that used to be my grandads workshop. they weren't allowed in our house downstairs because the whole groungfloor was the restaurant and kitchen. but they could come and go as they pleased upstairs into the private rooms.

    my last cat was budgie. i called him that simply because i liked the sound of the word. he was still quite young when he went missing for a few weeks. then a neighbour brought him back in a box. he looked terrible -his fur torn everywhere and he was badly wounded. i don't want to go into details but i took him straight to the vet. he said there was only a very slimm chance of recovery and he would have to amputate two legs.
    he adviced me to have budgie put down and i will never forget the look in this wonderful creatures eyes as he was falling asleep. this is about 30 years ago now.

    i haven't had a pet since then and it wasn't easy to write this. but after i read your post, patty, i could think of nothing else any more. so i thought it should better come out.

    john would like to have a dog and we will probably get one from the doghome when he retires.

    thanks for that post, patty. it brought back many happy memories but this sad one as well.


  33. I have not had a pet in many, many years. Airforce, travel, moving overseas, you name it. And I've missed having a furry companion over the years. The last live in 'friend' was our cat Biro (never around when you want him) who ostensibly belonged to my boyfriend, Phillip. However it was I who was made to take him to the vet and all the not so nice stuff, while Phillip got to play with him. However, it was always my easel that Biro crawled under to sleep when he wanted quiet company - and many's the time I looked down out of a painting trance to find him fast asleep. :-D When we broke up, Phillip took Biro with him and my friends bought me a 'companion cat' - a lifelike cardboard cut out. Not quite the same though.

    Religious texts say that animals don't have a soul. Not sure I agree with that. Animals have spirit and they infuse us with that when they choose to be our friends and share our lives. I hug all of you for knowing some fine friends.

    And Anon, the truck driver: please stop beating yourself up. At least you loved them and CARED about your pups. I've seen men with pickups who drive like maniacs who lose their dogs off the back of their little trucks in fatal ways, then shrug and say 'so what, I can get another dog any time'. Thoughtless fools. Get another puppy, Anon...and pour your love into him or her.

    Must go, all,

  34. Sybille and Marianne, thanks for sharing your stories. It's just amazing how these little creatures change our lives in most profound ways.

  35. Patty,

    The ashes of my dear friend, Kevin, my Bichon, sit on the shelf above my computer. He used to jump into my lap as I wrote, and so a portion of Paper, Scissors, Death certainly owes its spunk to him!

    When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I cried every day. Finally, I decided that some good had to come from his illness. I couldn't take hearing him cough and knowing each day his breathing got a little harder. I applied to "Small Paws", an animal rescue league. My husband wanted another dog that wouldn't shed. My son thought a three-legged dog would be "pimping." (That's a teenaged boy for you.)

    So...they hooked us up with Rafferty, a rescued half-Bichon/half-poodle. He had been found after being left outside until the fur wrapped around his right hind leg and cut off the blood supply. He came to us a recent amputee. So recent that he'd forget which leg was missing and fall over when he went to piddle with that phantom limb. As I write this, he's dreaming doggie dreams over on the chair in my office that he's appropriated.

    My prayer is that they are good dreams of the life he has now....

    People tell us he was lucky we gave him a chance. We tell them, "We're lucky Rafferty gave PEOPLE another chance."

  36. Thanks, Patty. We lost our two siamese and Chinese pug, all within six weeks of Mom's death. I understand how it hurts.

    Daring to love again is even harder.

  37. Thanks Joanna. I still have Tigger's ashes waiting to scatter them in the garden.

    Jeff, how tragic to lose them all at once. I can't imagine the pain.

  38. Patty, the garden would be lovely. But I wanted to keep Kevin as my muse, so he's here in my office.

  39. Your muse seems to be working overtime, Joanna. Congrats on your success.