Thursday, March 10, 2011

PostHeaderIcon Jenn: The story of Us

Yesterday I had to make the agonizing decision to put my loyal companion of 15 + years to sleep.  It was a decision I knew was coming.  The vet and I had only spoken a few weeks before.  I asked her how I would know.  She said when she stops "being a dog" you will know.  Yesterday, she stopped being a dog.  I knew what I had to do.  It doesn't make it any less heart wrenching to know that you are ending your dogs suffering.  The brain and the heart don't always work in tandem and yesterday I learned that the hard way.  My head knew the dog was suffering, my heart didn't want to let her go.  So here is our story.  The story of a dear friend who I will miss.

In October of 1994, my husband and I moved from the Upper West side of New York to Johannesburg, South Africa.  It was a wonderful opportunity for my husband.  I chose to "retire" from my high pressure 60-hour-a-week public relations job.  People thought we were crazy.  We gave a up a great NY apartment overlooking the Museum of Natural History.  I gave up my uber-glamorous job.  We left our friends and families who all promised to visit - a few did.  We packed up our lives and we moved.  For us, it was a chance of a lifetime. A chance to live somewhere beautiful, if not in turmoil, and to learn and grow as people and to really just enjoy life.  We didn't have children but wanted to start a family.  We were thrilled. 

The first few weeks were exciting. We were car shopping and house hunting.  My husband went off to work each day and I was living in a hotel. My days consisted of house hunting.  We finally found a house about a month in.  It was a cottage on the property of a lovely Afrikaans family.  It was perfect for us.  Fully furnished, there was nothing I needed to do.  The home came with a laundress and housekeeper.  I spent my days by the pool or shopping and exploring.  It was a bit lonely.  I joined the American Society and slowly began to find people like me. I made a few friends but I was still lonely from 9 - 5 until hubby got home.  We spend the weekends travelling and really making the most of our time there.  We tried to start a family.  Nothing happened.  I went to the specialist.  Nothing happened.  Hubby decided I needed something to take care of.  We went puppy shopping, at a roof top flea market. There were rows of puppies all together in playpens.  I wish I could have taken them all.  I knew I wanted a Maltese.  When I saw that puppy - the tiniest in the lot, I knew she was the one.  We purchased her and began thinking of a name.  We knew we wanted an African name and we walked through the vendor stalls asking everyone what we should name our puppy.  One lady suggested M'Bali which means Rose in Zulu. Perfect.  We called her Bali - although all her papers say M'Bali.  We brought her home.  We were proud parents. I took her everywhere with me.  In my handbag she went. She was only 5 weeks when we got her and was super tiny. She slept in the bed with me - usually on my head.  I think she thought she was a kitten.  Six weeks after we got her, I discovered I was pregnant.  She went through the whole pregnancy with me.  I bought her to my first sonogram.  The receptionist was appalled that I had "snuck" her into the hospital - the doctor - a very regal elderly British woman - thought it hysterical.  She let me hold her during my sono. 

Bali was always my dog. She loved my husband, but she was mine.  We had other dogs too while in South Africa - we ended up adopting two older Maltese that someone we knew didn't want any more. At one time we had three.  My fist baby was born and I think Bali thought it was her baby.  She followed him everywhere.  Always trailing behind whoever was holding him.  She stopped sleeping with me and started sleeping under his crib.  She barked at me when he cried and cleaned up his messes when he spilled his food.  She loved that boy.  As the years went on, we had another baby. She treated this one the same as the first.  Followed her, slept under her crib, barked when she cried.  We decided to move back to the states and of course we took Bali with us - we also took Jo-Jo who was a 9 year old rescue we had adopted.  We packed them into a dog crate for the trip.  They went on the same plane as my husband.  He found them loose in baggage claim - apparently someone had opened their crate.  He heard stories from the flight crew of them running around the cargo hold.  They survived - no harm - they made it to America..

We settled in Long Island - where hubbie is from.  Not Mayberry at first, but out east while we figured out what we were doing.  We lived by the beach and so Bali learned to love the sand and surf. It was a great time for all of us. Eventually duty calls and we moved to Mayberry, hubbies hometown.  He went back to work in NYC and I stayed home with kids and pets and settled into my life.  Another baby came and again Bali mothered her too. I was busy with three kids and didn't always have time or patience for my dog - but she was understanding - she always slept with me at night.  Jo-Jo got sick and we had to put her down.  I remember Bali looking for her for days. I guess she finally realized she wasn't coming back. She was 8 then.  She started to settle into her "only" dog status and seemed to be content.  But she was getting old and seemed so lonely all the time that I decided she needed a friend.  Four years ago, this June, we got Daisy.  Another Maltese, who drove Bali crazy.  She also renewed that mothering instinct in Bali too and Bali took over the caring of Daisy. She taught her not to bite, she taught her to play and she taught her about quiet time.  Up until last week, they would still have a moment or two of playtime, Bali was now 15 and playing for more than 5 minutes was not an option.  Daisy followed Bali everywhere. In recent months with her eyesight and hearing failing, Daisy would not let Bali go out alone.  I would see her nudge her in the right direction and if she looked lost, Daisy would get in her face and bark. Bali started having accidents and Daisy would be the one to hide -I think she was trying to take the blame.

On Monday Bali took tumble down the stairs.  I knew it was bad - I heard it.  Daisy knew it too.  We took Bali to the vet - not our usual Dr., she wasn't in, but an associate who sent me home with some drugs and told me my dog would be OK. She had a concussion, some spinal and nerve damage but she would recover.  I had my doubts and so did Daisy.  Daisy did not go near her the last two days of her life.  Was she distancing herself? Did she see it coming?  I was hand feeding Bali chicken and normally Daisy would be all over me trying to get some too - she kept her distance.  Yesterday, Bali stopped being a dog and I knew it was time. She couldn't walk, couldn't get up and started to bleed.   We had our few days of saying goodbye.  We knew it was coming.  I had to be the grown-up and despite pleading tears from my children, I had to say goodbye.  Ballerina and Cara came with me.  It was done with love and kindness and gentleness,  I was with my friend at the end - and she knew I was there.  She was ready.  She had stopped whimpering, she wasn't shaking, she was just calm. She knew it was time and was glad of it. So I thank her for being my friend. For putting up with me - good and bad - for loving my children and protecting my family.  She was a good dog and I will miss her dearly.  For now I have Daisy, who does not stand in her place, but eases the pain. My hope for Bali is that she is running in the fields of heaven and someday, I will run with her too.

Cara's two cents: Crying all over again...RIP Bali...I know she is in heaven from the peace that was in her eyes when we left her in that room after she had passed. I know some pretty cool dogs up there I hope they introduced themselves to her...and they are all there waiting when we come. <3 u pal.


Anonymous said...

RIP, Bali--a life well-lived. By the by, she will be waiting at heaven's gate; otherwise, it wouldn't be heaven!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, I have 2 older terriers the older one is 16 1/2....I have had them since I was 24 and it amazes me to think of all we have been thru together! My heart goes out to you.... I hope and pray we all get reunited with our 4 legged "children" some day in heaven! xoxo

Jenn Kleiber said...

Oh, Jenn, I'm sorry!

Anonymous said...

So Sorry Jenn, great words on a great companion. Hope the memories comfort you : ) EA

Moongate said...

Beautiful and heart wrenching tribute, thank you for sharing... :(.

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