Our First Meeting
Murrieta Pet Pals in old town Murrieta was owned by Barry Littlejohn, a huge man who loved animals, especially parrots. I had bought my daughter, Colleen, her little green Senegal parrot, Moose, from Barry, and I had gone back to look at perches for Moose.
Barry knew that I had my two babies at home: Sneaker Doodles (the adorable but ‘dumb as a box of rocks’ Yorkie) and Susannah Valentina Gonzales y Rodriguez y Hernandez y Chihuahua (who married Sneakers in an elaborate ceremony in 1985 and added “y Doodles” to her name). I had absolutely NO intention of acquiring another “child”.
Barry called out to me “Hey, I just got in some new puppies”.
“That’s nice, Barry”, I replied, “Do you have any new perches?”.
Ignoring my question, he said, “They’re half Yorkie and half Chihuahua.” I became only mildly interested.
“Ok…I’ll take a look”.
He brought out what looked like an oversized parrot cage with shreds of newspaper on the bottom, and two teeny little dalmation-like pups playing in the paper.
“They’re cute, Barry”, I said, and started to walk away. All of a sudden, a tiny little golden brownish head popped above the others. It was smaller, with ears that reminded me of Sister Bertrille’s headpiece from the “Flying Nun”. “What is THAT?”, I asked. Barry said it was the other little dogs’ sister. She had been hiding behind her two brothers. She seemed so frightened and shy. But she looked at me with big doe-like Walt Disney character eyes and I asked Barry if I could hold her…..just for a moment.
Barry handed her to me and she was trembling. She snuggled tightly into my hand and I held her to my chest. I could feel her little heart beating as fast as a bird’s. I put her down on the floor to see just how tiny she was. She stood there for a brief moment, quivering, and then made a split second mad dash to a floor-to-ceiling display of 50 and 100 pound sacks of dry feed.
Barry and I tried to coax her out but she was having none of that. Eventually, over the next hour (or so it seemed) we unloaded these huge sacks of food off of the display unit. Finally, it was light enough to move, and there…huddled in a corner looking a bit like a dust bunny herself, was my new baby….Rose Anne. Never did I expect to have the depth of love for her that I came to know over the next fourteen years.
One day someone left our side gate open. When I got home that night, both Susie and Sneakers were gone, and Rosie was nowhere to be found. Susie and Sneakers both had name tags with my phone number, but Rose was just a new baby (9 weeks) and she still hadn’t gotten her identification tag. I wandered the neighborhood calling “Susie….Sneakers….Rose Anne…..” over and over.
I hunted and searched and hunted some more and then I went home in tears, thinking they’d all been either stolen or lost. I stood in the back yard just listening for a while, hoping to hear a bark…a cry…the jingle of their tags… before turning to go back into the house. Suddenly I saw a small dark spot inside the doghouse and reached in. Warm and soft, it turned out to be a scared little Rose Anne. Everyone had left her all by herself and the only home she knew was where she now lived.
Later, a phone call came in and, it seems, Sneakers had turned right and walked down into the cul-de-sac. I went and picked him up. The following day another call came in and Susie had turned left, spending the night up the street, taking full advantage of being the poor hungry little waif.
For Rose Anne’s entire life, even when the gate was open, she never even tried to leave home. She knew where she belonged and was quite content to stay on our property and out of the street.
Rose and Randy
Shortly after Rose Anne joined our family, my daughter Melissa and her son, Randy, came home to live with us for a while. Melissa was getting her life back on track after a bad relationship, and working and going to school. Randy was just a baby himself, still in Pampers and learning to walk, and he and Rose Anne immediately formed a bond.
Little children and little dogs still like to play in small, enclosed places, or so I found out one day when hunting all over for little Randy. Finally, I heard some movement in the dog house and when I looked inside, there were the two of them cuddled up together, eyes impish and bright, waiting to see if I could find them. They were playing hide and seek.
They became pals, and it wasn’t unusual to find them both cuddled up on the sofa in the family room watching TV together, or perhaps sharing baby secrets. Randy turned 15 last August 19th. I’ve watched both my grandson and my Rosie grow from infancy to adulthood together. Funny how I still think of Rosie curled up in the palm of my hand, and Randy puttering about in his diapers. But the most vivid image of the two of them is that of Rosie & Randy hiding in the dog house.
Rose and “The Kissing Place”
When Randy was little he discovered that it was easier to obtain kisses from older adults by standing on the landing of the stairway and poking his puckered up little lips through the railing. Rose quickly learned how to do that too. Even when Randy and Melissa left, Rosie would come racing from wherever she was the moment I got home from work just to stand with her little nose through the wrought iron to give me a kiss.
The house seemed so empty without Melissa and Randy. Rose began to fill it up again for me, going out of her way to bring her sweetness and love to wherever I was. After a bit, we developed a routine that continued all the way up until the end.
I’d come into the house from the garage, call out “Honey, I’m Hoooo-oooome”, and she’d run, lickety-split, from wherever she was to stand at the kissing place. A couple of times I’d be pre-occupied and forget, but when I rounded the corner into the entry way, there she was with a big old grin on her face, standing at the kissing place and waiting to be recognized. I couldn’t help but laugh. No matter how busy I was, I made a point to give her a kiss. Even if it was just one or two, it was enough to make her happy and then she’d dash off to do whatever dogs do when they’re left to their own devices.
Thinking of this routine, “Kissing Place”, makes me smile even as I write this story, my tribute to Rose.
Rose and the Punk Hair-do
In my daily travels I meet many people, and become part of many lives. One of my clients rented out an office to a gentleman who was going through a divorce. The tenant and his wife had a huge, black standard poodle named “Fiona” or “Fifi” for short. She was elegant, perfectly groomed, and had an air of aristocracy about her.
Every day, there she was. She greeted me by approaching me and waiting for me to pet her. She knew that she was vastly superior to me yet still she allowed me to touch her. I started bringing her French fries from McDonald’s. After all, she was a “French” poodle, n’est pas? She wasn’t quite so aristocratic when she smelled the French fries, and we became pals.
One day, while I was on the road, I had to call my client. His secretary told me he was out. Naturally, I asked how “Fifi” was. “She’s gone”, Shelly told me. “What do you mean “gone”?, I asked. I was informed that neither the tenant nor his wife wanted the poodle and so they’d taken her to the groomer who knew someone who “might” want her.
“No no”, I cried. “Not Fifi….she’s my friend. I’ll take her”, I said. And so Shelly told me where to find her. I went to Patty’s and within a half hour I was driving along like a chauffeur with a French Poodle sitting in the back seat, elegantly and arrogantly looking out the windows. When we got home, Rose and Susie both took one look at this canine giantess and ran for cover.
After a bit, we settled into a routine. Rose and Susie would spend the majority of the day in my bedroom avoiding Fiona. Fiona, on the other hand, would spend the majority of the day dismantling my house. First, she took out the screen on the slider. Next, she was actively working on the window by the front door, digging into the plaster casing in the hopes of making an escape. I asked her former owner about her, and he laughed. He “forgot” to mention that Fifi liked to get out and run. She especially liked chasing and catching rabbits. He told me that in France these dogs were trained to hunt. I started keeping a closer eye on the relationship between Susie and Rose and Fiona from that point on.
One evening, I heard a loud squeal coming from the kitchen. I ran in and found Fiona with Rosie’s entire head inside her mouth. I smacked Fiona on the rear with a newspaper and she dropped Rose, who made a beeline to her favorite safe place – the underside of my bed. I severely chastised Fiona, peeked under the bed to reassure Rose that would NEVER happen again, and then sat down at my desk to do some work.
About an hour or so later, Rose came into my home office. I looked down at her and burst out laughing. Fiona had apparently been salivating quite a bit when she grabbed Rose because Rose’s hair was sticking straight out from her head in spikes, just like a punk rocker. I wish I had a digital camera at the time because I would love to share that picture with you. Imagine! This gorgeous little girl with a totally spiked hair-do. Rose was mortified. I was still laughing as I shampooed her hair. Poor baby.
Fiona found a home within a couple of days and the last I heard, Fifi/Fiona was living with a couple of boys, playing ball and hunting. Rose and Susie came out of hiding, and life went on as it had before we’d been invaded by the French.
Rose and her Great-Aunt Susie
Rose and Susie Chihuahua became good room mates. They’d eat together, spend time together, and – at night – they’d curl up together in the little doggie bed in the corner. As Susie grew older, she preferred to sleep alone and Rose took to sleeping under my bed.
As all dogs must go to heaven, so it came time for Susie to cross over. She made it perfectly clear to me that she was ready in no uncertain terms. Susie’s strong personality and iron will had served her well throughout her life, and remained consistent, even as her health began to fail.
On the day we said good-bye to Rose’s Aunt Susie, we all three went together to Dr. Hill’s pet hospital. Susie, Rose and I went into the examination room together and gave our support to Susie as she was cathetered and sent off during a “group hug”.
This was my first experience in losing a pet this way, and I have to tell you, losing Susie was more than just losing a pet. Susie was representative of so much of my life, my marriage, my sadness and loneliness after the break-up of my marriage. Susie and I had a lot in common, and it was extremely difficult to let her go.
When Rose and I got home that day, I couldn’t stop crying. Rose stuck to me like glue. She cuddled with me, kissed me, and even though she also very obviously missed her Aunt Susie, she made it a point to see me through this. Unfortunately, I guess I must have been run down, too, because not only did I cry for almost two weeks, off and on, but I got extremely ill and couldn’t even go to work for over a week.
Rose started sleeping in my bed…on my bed…and even under the covers at the foot of the bed. I don’t know how she could breathe at times, but she was there 24/7, and she got me through my grief.
At one time, I had Sneakers, Susie and Rose. Now I just had Rose, and people were asking me if I would get another dog. The idea had crossed my mind once or twice, but it just kept going. Rose was my one and only, and I had no desire to dilute the bond that we had formed after the death of her great Aunt Susie.
Rose and My Mother
My parents are in their 80’s and don’t get down to visit me very often. A couple of years ago they managed to drive down for a visit , perhaps it was before Colleen and Jason left for Texas. Anyway, it was a long and tiring day for all, especially for my mom who hadn’t been feeling all that well.
She was having trouble catching her breath and relaxing. She was sitting in the old maple rocker that used to belong to my Uncle Michael (and had since been re-upholstered three times) when Rose jumped into her lap. Rose wasn’t an aggressive personality, but she generally knew when her services were needed, and this was one of those times.
She quietly lay in my mother’s lap, and my mom began stroking her. Rose was blessed with a coat that was unusually soft. I have felt chinchilla only once in my life, but it was like that. Silky and soft, it had a therapeutic quality to it when petted. Within about a half hour, my mother’s breathing became easier and she seemed to de-stress. Rose hopped off her lap and went back to her doggie business, whatever that was at the moment. She always knew when she was needed, and she knew when her job was done.
Rose and her Minnesota Christmas 2004
Melissa and her family moved to Minnesota and bought a lovely 100-year old farmhouse which they are fixing up. Colleen and Jason had moved to Texas and back, and lived about an hour from me in another county here in California. More than anything, Melissa had a dream of having us all together at her house for a big, old-fashioned traditional Christmas gathering.
I thought it was a wonderful idea. It was expensive and probably not too practical, but Melissa insisted we’d make do. She had already figured out who would sleep where. Colleen and Jason would have Randy’s room; Cailin and I would share Cade and Carter’s room; Carter would sleep in his parent’s room in his little race car bed, and Clancy, Cade and Randy would camp out in the living room in their sleeping bags.
When presented with this plan, Colleen and Jason agreed, and I bought airline tickets for the California contingency. Rose and Rudy (Colleen’s Yorkie) were also invited to attend the festivities. We all met at Ontario airport, Rose and Rudy in their little on-board carriers, and off we went to Minneapolis.
We expected that it might be cold, but never had any of us experienced anything like minus 8 degree weather. We stopped on the way to Melissa’s at a Burger King for a “necessary visit”, and suited up both pups in sweaters, parkas and boots. Both dogs were visibly surprised that, at their first potty stop, they just about froze to the ground.
It didn’t snow much during our visit, but it was enough that Rose sunk into it all the way up to her elbows. When the temperature rose to about 16 degrees, she decided she wasn’t interested in wearing her booties any longer and took her walks barefoot.
She made adjustments for the weather, I discovered, as on the last day before we left when I took her outside, she walked over to a rather large bush. She backed up to it and actually lifted her back leg as she’d seen her nephew, Rudy, do. Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks didn’t know Rose very well. Even at the age of 13 ½ years, she managed to figure out a way to keep from freezing herself to the ground.
On the way home it was late and most of the passengers on the flight were sound asleep. Despite having to pay for a round-trip ticket on Northwest Airlines, they made no effort to provide Rose with meals or even a seat. She was expected to spend the flight tucked under the seat in front of me. I disagreed and so did she. From about South Dakota all the way through the air space over Utah, Rose sat on the armrest looking out the side window of the aircraft. Every time we’d pass over a city below, her ears would go up and she’d follow the lights until they disappeared. Then she’d turn to me with a satisfied look on her little face. I like to think that was an exciting experience for her. She is a very good traveler in the air as well as in the car.
She was an excellent companion and, after that trip, I took her with me to business meetings where she’d spend her time in the hotel room, and feast on things like Chicken Marsala that I’d smuggle to her from the buffet tables. She absolutely loved to ride in the car in her little car seat and was at home wherever she went.
This is the hardest part to write because the memory of her is still so fresh, and even thinking that she suffered for a short while breaks my heart. She was such a good girl…such a good friend…that she deserved to go out of this life with dignity and grace.
Saturday night, November 12, 2005, my Rosie started to cough. She seemed so healthy during the day, even able to jump up on her favorite sherpa blanket on my cedar chest, or to run up stairs like a puppy when I called during that day. But that night, she just couldn’t stop coughing. I thought maybe she had choked on a piece of kibble, or had an allergy, as her nose was slightly runny. Sometimes she would sneeze and get a runny nose if the pollen count was high or the winds came up. This time, she just coughed and coughed, and by morning the cough subsided somewhat and she was able to sleep some. She slept briefly and fitfully, occasionally coughing, and I decided to take her to the “dogtor” the next day, Monday. Meanwhile, she seemed a bit lethargic – understandable for having been up all night – so I just loved her and petted her and assured her that I’d take care of her.
Monday we went to the Medical Center and saw Dr. Bach. A very gentle, sweet woman, she listened to Rose’s heart and lungs and thought she sounded fine. She weighed Rose in at 6.1 pounds, normal for her. Rose had no fever, but she just was uninterested in moving, eating, drinking. She just wanted to rest. Dr. Bach asked if she’d been in a public place recently. My only thought was when she stayed with Colleen and her family while I was in London the 3rd week of October. Dr. Bach said she might have picked up a “doggie flu” from one of her outings. Dr. Bach sent us home with cough medicine, antibiotics and a tube of Nutri-Cal (high calorie paste that I would put on the roof of Rose’s mouth). She seemed to enjoy the Nutri-Cal and absorbed perhaps 4 teaspoons that day. I gave her water by syringe, and later she would lap some from her dish, but without much gusto they way she usually did.
She had some accidents in her bed, both vomiting and diarrhoea, but she wasn’t feeling well and doggie laundry is the same as kid laundry. I took her downstairs to potty several times a day, and she did….she was such a good girl. Still, she had trouble walking and tended to stagger a bit. I would carry her back into the house, and then up to her bed.
Tuesday, she seemed pretty much the same. Maybe even a little irritated with me, especially when I was trying to feed her. She took her medicine like a trooper and swallowed, but she just didn’t want to eat all that much. She still refused her regular food.
Wednesday she was weaker. And then sometimes she’d seem the same. But never better. Her breathing seemed difficult, and her little heart was racing. Friends thought it sounded much like congestive heart failure. I would have thought so, too, but Dr. Bach seemed pretty confident that it was the flu.
Thursday was difficult. Rose did get up to get water, but it took her forever to walk and she tottered and wobbled the whole time. When she’d look at me, I felt as if she were trying to communicate with me. Perhaps to bore into my mind and let me know how sick she was. She wanted to live for me, but she was tired. It was so hard for her to sleep…to even breathe. She’d spend the majority of the day raised up on her elbows so she could take a breath.
Friday I set the alarm to go of at 6:00AM as we had an appointment at 8:00AM to have her rechecked. She was laboring but still stubbornly hanging on. I held her close to me and took her outside to potty. She was too weak and had nothing to offer, so I picked her up and carried her back in. I wrapped her in a pink towel like a new baby and we left the house together, arriving at the veterinarian’s at 7:56AM.
Amy, the assistant, eagerly asked how Rosie was doing, hoping for some improvement. She had known Rose for years and had grown quite fond of her, as had all of the personnel at the hospital. “Not good”, I said, trying to hold back the tears. Amy’s eyes watered, too, and we walked into the examining room.
Amy talked to Rose for a bit and then Dr. Kaylor came in. She, too, loved Rose. She listened to her heart and could barely find a beat, and noted that Rose was having difficulty breathing. Yet, there she was wrapped all in pink, with two bright little eyes watching us, and following every move. Dr. Kaylor explained that her system was shutting down and even if there was a chance she might show improvement with IV drips and hospitalization, the end was near and the outcome would be the same. Dr. Kaylor asked it I needed to think about it for a while, but Rose and I had already communicated over the past week, and I really felt that I owed it to her to let her go peacefully.
Dr. Kaylor and Amy took her into the back of the hospital to put a catheter into her “arm” and attach a long tube to it. That way, I could hold her and comfort her all the way through until she finally passed. They were gone for about 20 minutes and when they came back, Rosie had a bright pink Velcro band on her right arm with a long, clear plastic tube attached. They left me with Rose for a moment while they prepared the final injection.
I held Rose like a newborn, and rocked her gently back and forth. When she was a baby, I’d sing “Rock-a-bye, Rosie, in the treetop…….” to her, and I did so again, for the last time. They came back and uncurled the tube. I kissed Rose on her little forehead, told her what a good girl she’d been, told her I loved her very much and asked her to please wait for me. I know she agreed.
As the fluid gently entered her veins, I talked to Rose about all the fun things we did together. How she saw “Omaha” from the airplane, and how she went to Minnesota for Christmas. How she was able to see her family again just before she left us, and how much we were all going to miss her. Her little body gradually relaxed, and the raspy breathing quieted down. Then, I felt a warmth rush into my heart from Rose’s and it filled me with both sadness and peace. Dr. Kaylor took her stethoscope and listened for her heart, and told me that it was stopped. It was 8:45AM.
Holding Rose that way, it seemed a lot like she was just sleeping. I finally had the courage to look directly at her sweet little furry face and I suddenly felt a rush of love fill my soul, and I knew then that even if she no longer brightened my home, she would always brighten my life and be with me always. I looked at Amy and Dr. Kaylor and they both were crying at least as much as I was. Dr. Kaylor came over and gave me a big hug, and then she took my sweet Rosie from me.
The rest of the day was difficult. I was comfortable that the right decision had been made at the right time, and my little darling wouldn’t have to suffer or be humiliated or tortured in any way. Instead of possibly dying alone, she was escorted out of this life in the arms of her “mom”, the one who always made things better for her. If I had to speak of that morning and the passing of Rose to anyone, I couldn’t do it without a tears filling my eyes, but honestly….even then, I felt her presence so strongly alongside of me and in me, that it was as if she were comforting me and telling me “It’s ok, Mom. I love you, too!”
Last night, November 19th, I had an unusual dream. Unusual for me, anyway. I dreamed that someone gave me a little poodle puppy... a girl... black and white, with curly hair. I didn’t want it. It wasn’t what I had envisioned, but I had to keep it because it had no where else to go. In dreams, time goes quickly, and after a few days, I grew to love the dog for the person it was, not the size or the looks. I then saw another Yorkie/Chihuahua mix that resembled Rose, but it was browner and smaller. This was what I thought I wanted but, by then, I’d grown to love the poodle.
When I awoke, I remembered this dream vividly. It seemed symbolic rather than prophetic. I think that, from somewhere across "the rainbow bridge", Rose gave me permission to love again when love comes into my life. I don’t have to look for it, but I need to know it when it arrives. She approves and will help me find another roommate, when the time comes. It’s not here yet, but it will be again. I know it in my heart.
Sleep well, my darling baby Rose. We are still, and always will be, a part of each other’s soul.