In Memory Of…

As many of you know,  I left nearly two weeks ago to be by my sister’s side as she was dying.  She passed away on Friday, May 29, 2020. which is Pentecost in the New Testament. I don’t really understand the connection, but her dear friend she celebrated the tradition each year with her, called it to my attention.  Over the years, They embraced and began celebrating many of the Jewish festivals and traditions, as taught by her Christian Jewish friends, so it was fitting that that was the day she would die.

Today, I went through some of her old pictures and I will sprinkle them throughout my story. Click on them for more info.  Her art and some of her stories are in blog posts I’ve done in the past, so if you ever have a chance or time to go back, and some are way back, I encourage you to do so.  I hope you will bear with me, while I share how my trip went and some of the feelings I experienced.

Diana's senior pic
Senior Picture

I went to be at my sisters side because she was at mine when I needed her most.  I have to say, it was the hardest thing I have ever done.  It doesn’t even compare to how I felt when my parents died.  Over the years, my blogs  have shared bits and pieces of our childhood and the abuse we endured growing up, so their passing was different.  It was perhaps one of relief.  We knew that mother’s mental illness would be cured and that dad’s judgement for his actions would be in God’s hands.  They were still our parents and we loved them despite themselves. We appreciated their good attributes and tried to focus on those and that part of them that made us who we are today. To be honest our feelings vacillated often. We would often remind ourselves to stay positive. She and I worked as a team to take care of our parents as we felt a Christian should.

 

No, my sister’s death cut deep.  If she had not come up to help me care for our ailing parents, I might not be here to write this blog today.  She was my rock and my lifesaver.  I loved her deeper than I can ever express. Surprisingly, I am composed for the moment as I am sharing this.

I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to share my trip experience which went as follows:

May 19th

When I spoke to my nephews the doctor had stated, she might not live through the weekend.  I was in a quandary because of Covid-19. I vacillated all day.  I did not want to be sitting in such close proximity to people in an enclosed airplane cabin which recycles and blows back air from throughout the cabin.  I didn’t know what their process was or if it would be safe.  I get sick every time I fly, so I know I’m inhaling germs that recirculate.  My daughter reassured me that her flight left seats open between people, so it wasn’t until evening that the decision was made. I asked my friend for buddy passes. She responded instantly.  However, because of Covid, flight schedules were considerably cut and my choices left me with either leaving my house at 4am for a  flight leaving at 6 am and not arriving to my destination until after 9 PM, with a long layover in Seattle or leaving at 11:30am, laying over in Seattle until the next day and arriving the day after that, the same time I would have arrived had I left at 6am, only a day later.  36 hours!  So, I had to explore other options.  Fortunately, I found another carrier with a flight I could afford that would not leave me in Orlando but get me where I needed to be without hiring an Uber for the rest of the way.

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May 20th

I arrive at the airport and I was relieved that it looked pretty empty. My goal was to get to my sister right away.  She was there for me when I needed her so I had to be there for her.  I was early as I wound my way through the terminal and sat down.  Social distancing was not a problem.  Yay!  That, however was short lived as more and more people arrive.  They announce this will be a full flight.  I’m understanding that to mean with the extra seat in between.  WRONG!  It was full.

They announce they will not be serving food but we can pick up a sack on our way in and we are to leave our masks on except to eat.  For real?  The two people in my row take their masks off and I thought I overheard the man next to me say, he’d been in an area that was questionable. UGH!  No way in hell is this mask coming off.  Years ago when I worked at the health department, I was fitted with an N-95 mask specific to me, so I was fairly confident I would be okay. It is not like the ones today but it fit extremely well.  The problem was that it had been in it’s package for six years.  On arrival to Charlotte, one of the straps broke, breaking the seal. I put a spare one on over that and it kept it in place.  To be honest, it was horribly uncomfortable and I hated re-breathing my own air for 8 hours. I was extra careful too because there was a chance I might not get into hospice being from California.  Despite my good intentions, near the end of that flight I looked over at the passengers near me and they were all sleeping with masks on, so I sneak a drink and a couple of bites of pretzels or some nutty thing.  By the time I got to Charlotte, I was parched and hungry.  Not starved, but at my age I never let that happen.  I rationalize to eat when I’m not hungry so I don’t bonk later. Before my next flight I bought a sandwich, found a safe place, ate and drank all my water.

My next leg had delays. This time we each got a row to ourselves. The second officer comes out and tells us there are creaky boards in the back deck and some lights going off.  For real? The girl across the way wasn’t sure she wanted to stay on board.  I’m worried and I’m getting antzy that I’ll never get to my sister in time.   I feel like screaming, “my sister is gonna die before we get there” but I don’t, then I debate telling everyone my mission and starting a prayer vigil, but that’s not my style either, though I sometimes wish it were. I’m sure some of that comes from all those years as a Jehovah’s Witness getting rejected for our door to door ministry that’s made me gun shy.  I do have faith and I do share scripture, but not like others might.  We lift off, finally and I text my nephew with our new ETA.

I was so afraid I wouldn’t get there in time.  I let my nephew know, since he’s picking me up at the airport.  He said, no worries, he’s taking me straight to her, which isn’t far and open 24 hours. I feel better.  My nephew was worried they might not let me in because he’d heard that folks from four states were prohibited.  New York, Washington, California plus Connecticut.  I’m thinking, yeah, I’m from California, but there are no incidences in the area I live in and I don’t go into the denser areas. I hadn’t been anywhere populated in months, so I have my argument ready.

My sister was my go to girl.  She’s the one I talked to and most of the time with no judgement.  Sometimes, my brother and I would roll our eyes though, because she could be at times quite self righteous… no, just coming across that way.  Now my other sister, she uses scripture for everything and talks in scripture, which I find annoying.  Maybe she thinks we’d forgotten everything we ever knew or perhaps she has nothing else to say and finds that a way to connect, which I believe may be the case.

Diana's new pic3
Her trip to Mexico with the parents but without us. I have no clue who these kids are. Mom’s on the right.

I have step siblings who’ve been very supportive and encouraging as well. One has been surprisingly reasonable and I call attention to it because she can be a little like sister #2. Oddly, for some reason, amid all the updates I send them, they start talking about their cats, or barbecues and recipes.  Let me explain.  I have two major chat groups I’ve formed for getting updates on my sister.  This saves the nephews.  One are the siblings,  the other are my children and one adult grandchild. Then there’s my brother who would go crazy on the group chat. And, one for sister #2, since any news in the group chat would warrant  incessant phone calls.  Sister #2 is on the autism spectrum, so communication is handled differently.

 

My kids on the other hand start joking in a sick sort of way.  They love their aunt very much.  She is their favorite aunt, but when I told them there’s an off chance I might not get in the hospice center because of where I came from, my  daughter, the nurse asks if they have the quick test and then says something like, “they’re all gonna die anyway”.

I exclaim “Tina!”

My son, who tends to be a bit stoic say, “I thought the same thing Tina”

My granddaughter, boy do I love that girl, says “haha, that was funny”  “terrible but funny”

Mr. Stoic follows it with “Robert Heinlein said, “people laugh because it hurts too much to cry”

Yes, its true.  I know my kids meant no disrespect. They are hurting too. They hurt for me, they hurt for Di and for their cousins. I get it and in the next few days, witness it. None of us were ready for this, yet over the past few months we’ve had to make ourselves ready for this eventuality.  I think deep in our gut, we knew.

Diana's new pic12
With our grandpa on the porch of the cabin he was born in. No longer the Casanova I spoke about.

I was thinking how just a few years ago, Diana and I were each other’s soldier while we cared for our dying parents.  Mom in 2009, Daddy in 2011. It felt like so long ago, another space in time. We parted in 2014, yet we talked nearly every day for the first two years, then it became once or twice a week.  On a rare occasion, we’d skip a week, then we’d pick it up again.

Diana's new pic11
Bud’s for life.

We tried weaning ourselves of being so dependent on one another.  She was doing a better job of joining groups and making friends than I.  I had a harder time of doing this even though I had always thought of her as the dependent one.   She needed me, but I think I needed her more.  What she had a hard time with is connecting with her kids.  She admired my time and relationship with my kids.  I was more open about their foibles and they had their fair share, but to me her boys were perfect and maybe so did she.  I saw them as successful in their careers, while my kids took longer to get off the ground. She had these two stud muffin, gorgeous sons and she couldn’t get close to them.  She never said, it but I felt it.  For a long time I thought it was them, but it wasn’t all them.  I see how close we’ve become since all this happened and we’ve talked.  I had observed this before.  I remember how when she first came up to live with me and help, there were moments of miscommunication or lack of.  I’m guessing she had moments of feeling unworthy so it makes sense, it was easier for her to chat and make friends with strangers.  No risk there.  She loved her boys and I believe they loved her but I think they had a hard time bringing it all in together.  At first I thought that was why she didn’t get the help she needed in time.  No matter how much I encouraged her to reach out to them,  she didn’t.  Help came when her grand daughter noticed something wasn’t right with her Nana, when she went over to help her with bookkeeping, because her eyesight had started to go.

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I think this is Miami somewhere at a boatyard daddy probably wanted to check out.

So I believed, it passed, she didn’t get the right help at the right time.  In speaking with her son, it appeared that early on if she’d gone for help, it still might have been missed.  As it was, her symptoms may have lead another doctor down a rabbit hole.

The facility she is staying in is immaculate.  I fill out the questionnaire, they take my temperature and I go in. It’s after 11pm.

We go into her room and she is breathing steadily. I marvel at how young her skin looks.  No wrinkles. But she’s gaunt.  There is nice soft spa music playing.  Her son said, someone had brought that in.  It was perfect.  I talk to her, tell her about my trip and all the chaos going on around her.  There is no recognition, just a lifeless body. It is now May 21.  1 AM I tell her I love her and miss her.  Around 2am we leave.

The next day, after little sleep, we go again.  I go over all the fun times we had.  A little past 1PM, we decide to grab a bite.  As we head out to the parking lot, the director runs after us and inquires about the sister from California.  She apologizes for not having gotten back to my nephew right away.  She tells him California, New York, Connecticut and Washington are prohibited. She asks when I would get there. I hesitantly tell her, it’s me. She asks if I’d already been in.  I say, “yes”.  Well, because my sister is so grave, she would make an exception. Uh, I’ve already been in there we’re thinking.

I reassure her that the area I’m from has few cases and I took extra measures myself, given where I planned to be.  So, she’s okay with that.  Perhaps she’s unaware that her forms only ask about foreign travel, exposure to Covid – 19, temperature and cough.  My answers were “No” straight on down. Oh, well.

Diana's new pic5
One of our last bike rides in Florida a few years back.

Each day from there on out is the same. Every other day a doctor comes in and every other day a NP.  The doctor tells us on Friday the 22nd that she’s hanging on but did not expect her to survive the weekend.  The NP tells us this is her favorite room because of the nice music.  It makes her feel like she’s at a spa.  We tell her Diana was a massage therapist, so it’s perfect for her.  The nurse says no wonder and agrees. The second day I go from sitting by her bed to the couch and notice her birth date just happens to be stamped on her bed. It is a yearly inspection sticker, but…?  I start to say something and her son says, “yeah, we know”.  Huh.

Diana's new pic27

So here we sit by her bed waiting for her life to end.  I recount stories of our childhood and we share stories of life with Diana.  The teasing her boys used to give her… what is it about boys teasing their mother?  I see hubby doing it to his mom all the time.  He is still doing it as a grown man.  There was so much these boys didn’t know about their mother, but only one is here to hear the stories.

Each day there are minor changes and each day they’d level off.  On Saturday though she starts to gurgle.  I guess they call it the death rattle?  They gave her an injection and we thought this is it.  When it increased, I lost it. When my step mom got it, I thought it was because she’d had emphysema from all those years of heavy smoking, but the nurse explained we might see fluid being released from her lungs even though Diana never smoked a day in her life other than maybe one time behind the house as a teen experimentally.

After awhile, I apologized to the nurse and said we had to leave.  I couldn’t do it.  She understood and reassured me not to worry, I would not be the first nor the last to do so.  That night I didn’t sleep feeling guilty I’d run out on her like that. At the same time, it seemed awful waiting for someone to die.  We expected a call that never came. The next day, the gurgling had gone away.  Then her gaps in breathing increased but Sunday came and went and she was still there.  When the doctor came in Monday, she shook her head and said, she had a strong heart.  They referred to the gaps in breathing as apnea.  I’ve had occasional sleep apnea and that isn’t any fun at all.   My son calls and his little girl, Maggie May wants to talk to her Auntie.  She’s four, doesn’t understand but wants her to get better, so I put the phone to Diana’s ear and Maggie May proceeds to tell her about her unicorns like only a four year old would.  I take the phone up and start to talk to my son, when Diana starts this continuous moan.  I hang up and my niece in law calls the nurse.  She’s given a shot and it subsides. A couple of days later her breathing gaps increase.  The doctor says, she shouldn’t be here and I want to pop her one. In a way, I wish she wasn’t lingering.  It was painful to see how thin she was.

May 26 Tuesday.  Something felt different and I didn’t want her to be alone.  Since I’d been there, three people had come and gone.  The nurses and staff are wonderful.  I decide this is where I want to come to die. The room across the way is now empty.  I let my nephew know I’m not coming home, but they tell me it didn’t matter what time, they would leave the light on in case I change my mind.

When I left my home in California, I really wasn’t anticipating staying away so long.  When I left the weather in Florida was 91, it cooled off a few days later and add the fact that her room was air conditioned, I was freezing to death. My light linen pants and short sleeved shirts weren’t cutting it, so I brought in blankets.  Eventually I bought sweatpants and sweatshirt at Walmart.

That night, they bring someone else in across the way and she is wailing and moaning as well.  That’s when I noticed Diana moaning. I close the door. I call the nurse and tell her, but I hear them saying the person across the way had vomited, so they’re fighting to keep her from aspirating.  It is now night and the staff is lighter.  Even so, someone comes in right away to give Diana her shot.  They are quick, but the nurse across the way calls for help.  Fortunately, there is a male nurse on duty.  Later, when the door is opened briefly, I see them walking a tall, large, (not fat) woman.  There are several interruptions in the night and I’ve not slept hardly at all.  When morning comes I shower and put my same clothes on.

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There she is distracting her siblings as big sister pokes her to straighten up.

At some point, I realize my body feels like it went to war, so I decide to go home.  She’s somewhat stable and my nephew will arrive shortly.  At this point, we have been staggering visits.  I’ve still not seen nephew #2.  I ask if I might see him, but no, he’s too busy with kids and work.  Those words were often my sisters excuse for why she didn’t spend more time with them.  Work and kids.  It always upset me that she wasn’t being included in that dynamic.  Nana’s can watch kids and love spending time with them.  I didn’t know how much of it was her or them.  I learn later, he was struggling over the fact that he had no solutions for her condition. He has a strong science background and a professor at the college, so he was in a quandary over what happened and why.  The thing is, and I knew in my gut this is true, when you “play” with the brain, anything can happen and the why can sometimes be elusive, to never be understood or discovered.  I get it.  He was also hoping for a miracle.  I guess we all were.

Before I left, a new nurse had come in to administer her pain med.  Over the last couple of days, because of the moaning, her meds would be upped.  However, her heart was still strong and her urine clear.  The nurse says it tends to get darker near the end.

I slept a good part of the day.  I just couldn’t get my strength up after my previous night.  I realize that despite my good intentions, I just have to understand my limitations.  So far Diana has disproved every prediction they’ve made. No two people die the same, that was the only verifiable truth.  We all die differently. I wondered how much longer.  My family and husband have been supportive.  Everyone constantly grateful I could represent them.

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On the back of her product label she had this quote, which sums her up pretty good.

At one point on the first Friday I was there, my husband tells me his brother, who had just had a quadruple bypass just before Diana went in for her surgery was having to get four stents in.  His arteries were already calcifying.  I fretted that day that we would lose them both on the same day.  Then, if that happened it could start a chain reaction.  My mother in law would be devastated, her husband at 94 would get upset for her and our whole house could fall.  As it turns out, the stents were put in and he goes back to do two more in a month.  So far, it looks fine.

Thursday May 28, My nephew and his wife stayed with me most of the day.  Even though they only allow two visitors at a time, they gave us a pass.  We apologized to one nurse who sweetly says, “What? I don’t see anything”   We were grateful. I had my reservations about leaving Diana that night, but I knew I couldn’t stay the night again. She was different, but I had to trust.

In the morning on Friday, when I came in, I sorta knew.  Her eyes were veiled and it was like she was already gone but she was still breathing. My nephew came in a little later.  A couple of hours later they changed her position.  My niece in law comes in to switch places with nephew but he doesn’t want to leave.  He feels it too.  When she starts to assure him it’s okay, she doesn’t mind staying, I look over her shoulder and say, “She’s not breathing”.  It takes a moment for that to register.  I look at the clock.  11:37am.  I get the nurse and she verifies that yes, she has passed on.

For ten days, I talked to her. The last two days I prayed over her and told her how much I loved her.  How I didn’t want to see her go but that I knew she’d be okay and better soon.  I asked God to take good care of her as I knew how much she trusted he would.

I did research. I learned that the first to go is the brain, but hers was pretty much already gone.  The last MRI showed her frontal lobe completely dark. Then each major part takes turns. Despite how strong her heart had been and the other parts of her body that hung on for so long, there was no chance of any organ transplant unless they were in the hospital.  Hearing is the last to go. Her urine diminished but never changed color.  The skin on her limbs did mottle hence my biggest clue she was close. When they administered that last dose, she cried out. I asked why. The nurse said, every five days they have to change the portal.  Hers had been changed last night, so yes, she probably felt it initially but only for a moment since they’d given her a pain shot.  She went minutes later.  When her death was confirmed I bawled. My niece in law bawled. Nephew calls his brother who comes running.  He had been visiting most nights after the kiddos were tucked in bed.  I felt bad for his kids, that they would never really know their Nana.  The other grands were in their late teens, his are only two and four. He said his goodbyes.  By then we girls had regained our composure.  Son, #1 had been hugging us both while remaining strong. Son #2 also hugged me, but neither shed a tear.

I remember when parents died, we didn’t cry until two weeks later.  I understood when there were times #1 son wouldn’t respond to my chatter, that it was how he was keeping it together.  Sometimes, I can’t talk either.  Sometimes being alone is hardest.

I rushed to make my return flight home so that I wouldn’t be an added burden to my sweet sisters#1 son, should I completely come unglued.  Our mourning was derailed when we heard on the news about George Floyd and all that mess.  For a moment I thought Diana why couldn’t I have gone with you?  I don’t want to be here anymore.

Oh girl, if you only knew what has been happening while you were sleeping and now are gone.  We would have had so much to talk about and analyze. We still dissect these events and make it all better.  I did talk to her today, but she didn’t answer.

Diana' Mad photo
My favorite picture of her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dying Alone in the Time of CoVid-19

This blog was going to address the question of what we were doing with our time,  but it’s a matter I’ve seen dealt with in other blogs and even though I only got around to writing the first two paragraphs, when I got back to it, I realized a more important event that some of us may not have thought of is taking place.

My first line was:  What are we doing with our time?  Better yet, what am I doing with my time?

At first I played games and binge watched shows, but to be honest, I was watching things I wouldn’t normally watch, so I stopped. I quit watching doomsday or apocalyptic shows, like TWD and started looking for films that were upbeat. There really isn’t much out there and I don’t get Hallmark.  I think that was when I wrote instead,  “Wishing for a Musical”.

Actually, what I was doing is stewing a lot about my sister in Critical Care and/or ICU, because they, the doctors, kept bouncing her back and forth between the two places. I hated too, that while she was there the past two months, she couldn’t possibly get better because there were NO VISITORS allowed!   I got to thinking about so many others out there like her.  Families like ours.  So I started doing “busy” things.

Sure, I refinished some furniture until three weeks ago when my C5-C6 rebelled and put me in the ER. It was like a charlie horse in my back that wouldn’t go away.  Hubby and I first tried to work it out like you would a charlie horse and it got worse.  So the paramedics came and off I went.

There I was sitting in a wheelchair unable to move, all alone and my previous musings slapped me in the face multiple times until it got my attention.  I looked around at the people I didn’t know, like 4 or 5 of us spaced out in the room, but no family members by our side. One lady decided she didn’t like it or where she was, so she got up from her wheelchair and moved over by me.  I was in so much pain, I could neither stand nor sit without help. Between clenched teeth I hissed,  “No!  You’re too close, go away!” , but she didn’t listen and kept moving in even closer. I was in too much pain to roll away.  I felt helpless. Thankfully, a nurse rescued me and took me away, just as the woman settled in the closest seat to me! I guess I looked like a friendly face despite my hissing.  Some things, I guess you can’t hide.

I didn’t cry but I felt like throwing up, my Bp went up to 249/111 and I could hardly breathe and I waited.  They did scans and ran tests and I waited.  My four  hours felt like an eternity and I waited. That whole time I couldn’t even take a selfie to document my misery! Finally, I was heavily dosed and we called hubby to pick me up.  I was so sedated, I could not focus.  I was the equivalent of an inebriated drunk in pain.  The pills they gave me made my mouth feel so dry and nasty. I won’t tell you all the other things these pills made my body do or not do.  I did have time to think though.

You see, when I worry, I keep busy so I don’t have time to think about it, whatever it happens to be.  If you’re a blogger I follow, I probably hit “like” delete and no comment, or I pretended I’d read it or I read it and didn’t comment because I just didn’t have the energy to do anything else. Forgive me. By the end of the second week they lifted part of the ban, hubby asked if could walk. I was feeling like a walk.  It didn’t hurt to walk anymore, but as you noticed, I still didn’t have the energy to write about our hike until yesterday.

BACK TO THE PATIENTS

Think about all these non Covid-19 patients in hospitals all around the world not getting to see or hear their loved ones voices or feel a touch or a hug from them.  It was no wonder my sister began declining. We are all very close, but if there was a chance for her mind to come back it went with the lockdown.  The question at the top of my mind, “Was there ever a cognisant moment where she wondered where we’d gone?” I wondered and felt an overwhelming sadness.

Finally, this week, the doctor told my nephews that he did not believe she would recover.   Her brain has apparently atrophied.  Of course, if it isn’t being used or recognizing familiar sounds or voices around her… where was her motivation? When she spoke last, I was asking her and telling her about things she was familiar with, so I could get a yes, and finally, an “okay” when I told her “I have to leave, but you get better, so you can visit me in California”.  It gave her mind something to work on.

It made me sad this past week reflecting on not only her situation, but that of others during this pandemic.  She’s not the only one alone right now and my nephews are also not the only ones prevented from being near their loved ones when they need it most.

In November, my cousin, who had Parkinson’s, but because of her weak state, caught pneumonia, was hospitalized.  There, in the months that followed,  she had a series of three strokes, the last one being the most debilitating.  Her family was not allowed to see her because of quarantine.  Hispanic families are very much about family, so not liking the situation, they fought to bring her home.  She, unlike my sister was somewhat aware and once home they said their goodbyes and I love you’s.  Within 24 hours or so she passed.  I know that was how she would have wanted it.  Her siblings never made it in time, but her children, grandchildren and husband of 50+ years were all there. She was 4 months older than my sister.

I’m sure there are other stories like these.  We are living in an unprecedented time, no doubt.  I realize hospitals have to be extra careful, but in my heart I cry for all these folks who can’t be with loved ones.  Some of these patients may not consciously understand why their loved ones aren’t there.  There may even be confusion and concern. It’s an impossible situation.

After the conversation with the doctor, her boys had to decide.  Do we keep doing what we’re doing and not get to see her and her not improving and possibly dying alone or do we put her under hospice care, where at least we can be with her?  On the remote possibility something turns around, where her mind can possibly absorb the sounds of their voices, they opted for the latter.  Sure, they know it may not happen, but then who knows?  There is always the off chance of a miracle.  What if something penetrates and she realizes she’s not alone?  WHAT IF?

In the meantime, she has a room with a beautiful view and she is getting soft massage like music played in her room. (She was a massage therapist) It is peaceful. But, the best part is her family can visit.

The view from her room and she and I, after a bike ride, a few years back.  She’s the tall pretty one.

 

IS IT POSSIBLE?

I know each hospital room has a TV and they are almost always on.  Has anyone thought to video family members talking to them and perhaps cycling positive messages and images from loved ones to these patients?  Many of these patients, even those not totally aware may be staring at or hearing the noise of a horrible TV with depressing news cycling all day long with information, that for the moment may not apply to them or it’s playing some stupid show they’ve seen a hundred times already.  How much better would it be to hear the sound or possibly the face or faces of  loved ones on the screen instead? Or, perhaps a family video of a special moment.  I would think that could aid their recovery.

Maybe someone out there has thought of doing this or maybe not. I don’t have the skill to run with this, though I wish I did.

In the meantime, if you’re with me on this, send all the good vibrations, prayers and love you can muster in all directions on behalf of all these special people.

Just sayin’

Ferguson – Where Are You?

I’ve not been online for awhile.Ferg

I lost my dog.

I don’t know if the coyotes got him or perhaps the homeless that live at the bottom of the hill have him.  They admitted to seeing him, but because their camps are booby trapped and Hep A is rampant in them, not to mention that the one at the bottom of our hill is a known meth lab and heaven knows what else is there that even cops won’t go in there.

I have no way of knowing if they decided to keep him.  Soooo, I’m in a frump, majorly depressed.  My kitty won’t eat and I’m afraid she may be next. She is 17, after all.

It amazes me how something so small can get into your heart and wrench it out. Chloe, our cat,  has always behaved from Day 1 as though Ferguson was an inconvenience, an interloper and a nuisance to her.  She was here first and he was so damn needy.

She knows. She hasn’t been eating and her usual sleep all day life pattern has been disrupted and she walks around looking for him.  She goes in and out of rooms as though she thinks he will materialize from heaven knows where. I’m thinking she misses him too. Even though they generally didn’t get along, when night time came or it was cold, they’d call a truce.f13

It happened on July 2.  I was out in the yard pulling weeds and planting to prepare for our big fourth of July BBQ and Ferguson came out to lift his leg on a plant I’d just relocated. Of course.

I hadn’t realized how the day had gotten away from me, so I said to him, “Oh, I’m sorry buddy, you need your walk!”  I was working on a slope on the other side of our fence. So, I “jumped” over the fence to get his leash in the house, but turned and he was nowhere to be seen.  I figured the little guy had gone back into the house or if he’d gone down the hill, he’d be right back up.  But, he didn’t. Nothing.  Poof!  He disappeared.

I called out but he was nowhere to be found.  He’s gone down the hill before on a number of occasions but he always comes back up within minutes. Little did I realize we would have an earthquake a couple of days later and it’s a known fact, dogs flee before quakes. I waited only a few before I got worried.  I called and called, but nothing.  My husband got home from work, my brother, who was painting the fence stopped and we all went searching.  Within an half hour after my last sighting of him, the whole neighborhood was out en force to search.  Another half hour later, the neighborhood kids had created posters to put up.

Range Rovers, Pick ups and Armada’s were cruising the streets for him. I was shocked at how quickly the neighborhood was mobilized. I told them they didn’t have to but they insisted.  They said, “He’s family, we do have to!” Everyone loves Ferguson.

He was after all their favorite sidewalk sweeper. His tail was good for something.

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Hubby and I had joked in Alabama that everyone in town knew Ferguson’s name but I bet not a one knew ours. Everyone always asks about Ferguson and I’d bet the whole of Etowah County is praying for him.

It is now going on four days.  No Ferguson.

The first day, I went down the hill but heard screaming and profuse foul language.  That prevented me from going further. As I said, the homeless camp below is a known meth lab, and that even the police won’t go down there.  They say it’s booby trapped. It may be.  My neighbor, Val and I went over to the other side of the railroad tracks with binoculars to see if we could see movement.  We see our house clearly.  (see photo) There’s so much brush and he’s such a little guy, did we really believe we’d see anything?  We hope. We post signs along the way.  We talk to everyone, especially other dog walkers. Some we know, some we don’t.  We scan the slope for over a half hour. We later go to the cul de sac where the trail leading to those camps begin and ventured forward a little ways to get a different vantage.  Never going in so far that we couldn’t be seen, of course.  I’m guessing our husband’s would have had a coronary if they knew.  By then, it was getting dark.  We meet some people headed to the camp.  They are well dressed but tell us, they have family there and they bring food and goods to them. We tell them about Ferguson and they promise to convey the message. We are out of flyers so we have nothing to leave them. Val gives them her number. I notice they have a small child with them, so in my mind I’m questioning the danger factor.h3

That night, Hubby and I hear the coyotes howling and growling.  It was a big pack.  I hadn’t heard them like that in months.  I thought with all the homeless around that they had moved on.  The likelihood of Ferguson surviving that was nil.  I finally broke down and bawled, hubby too.  Our hopes are dashed. How can something so little break our hearts like that?

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When I took this picture in slo-mo, I found myself with two Fergs. I’d love to just get one of those back.

Day two,  I spend most of the day on all my Social Media connections,  posting pictures of Ferguson and the details of his disappearance.  I get some feedback on what to do next and how to get the most of my postings.  Friends and those in the know reassure me that as little as he is, he could easily hide and stay safe. I go to post more posters.  I’m thinking, the Sprinter Station which is below us and off to our right a little ways would be a good spot to post something, since I knew the homeless often cross over the tracks at that juncture, but there was no posting permitted.  As I turn away, a young woman saw the poster and shouted, “That’s “Woofy Boy”!  I ask her if she’d seen him (while at the same time thinking, my dog already has a nick name?) and she said, yes. He was at their camp the night before, then turned to the other two men to get their affirmation, they agree but are not as sociable.  I told her I was worried the coyotes might have gotten him and she said, “no,  he was still there in the morning”.

“Is he still there?” I ask

“I don’t know, I haven’t been there all afternoon.”  The guys were getting impatient and walk away.

“I can go check and call you, your number is right here” and she took the flyer with her.

“Call me” I shout.

She tells me to “wait there” and I do.

It was all I could do to stay rooted and wait. I waited and waited, but no call.  Finally, I get a hold of hubby and he says, “What should I do?”

“I don’t know”.  A few minutes later he’s scrambling down the hill.   A few minutes after that, I too am heading up the path, police or no police.

I stop at the first camp which is camouflaged like a military dugout. Invisible to the eye.  I only knew it was there because I heard them talking.  I shouted out.  The guy inside gruffly asks who I was and what I wanted.  I told him.h2

He responded with, “No, I haven’t seen it!”  Sweetly, I tell him I have a flyer.

He says, “Don’t come in (as if I would), I’m coming out”  A few seconds later, he appeared.  He was a big bruiser. He took the flyer and said, “Oh yeah, I did see it, but he’s gone now”  give me the poster and I’ll keep an eye out for him.”

So, I go back on the trail,  and I come across a young man swinging a golf club and all sorts of things are going through my head.  My heart is about to pop out of my chest and I’m wondering what in the hell am I doing?  Shiiiiit, Do I keep going or do I talk to him?

I talk to him, all the while watching that club, then I notice a golf ball. Both, viable weapons. He turns and walks with me and tells me how Ferguson was stationed by his tent but that he wouldn’t let him touch him.  He tells me that he didn’t push it because it was getting dark and he didn’t want him to run off and get eaten by coyotes and that Ferguson was still there in the morning.  I thanked him.

The young man and I keep walking until I finally run into my hubby who is talking to a woman other  than the one I’d seen earlier, who was also friendly and promising she’d keep an eye out.  He also never went into their actual camp. Mind you, none of these people look like your typical homeless, except for the young man with the club, maybe. We pointed out our yard above them and the young man said, “If I catch him, I’ll take him and “throw” him over the fence”.  Hubby says, “you can knock on the door, that’s okay, there’ll be a little reward”.  We thanked them for their kindness and left. There are probably six or eight camps, I could not get close enough to photograph the others.

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Day three is the fourth of July and still no word.  Hubby says, I’m gonna go down and check.  I hand him some dog food and treats.  Some time later, he comes back and says, they were not nearly as friendly today, except the lady.

Day four, I hear screaming and yelling again.  There’s a disturbance below, so we stay away.  The women swear like sailors, but this time I hear men.  Something is going down and we want no part of it.   We go to the animal shelter hoping maybe someone has turned him in.  We give them all the info and at first they frown wondering why we delayed coming to them.  I told them the above story and they understood.  They admitted they’d seen all our online postings anyway.  We explained how we had hoped “they” would have gotten hold of him and brought him to us.  The Humane Society told us they are inclined to believe the homeless will keep him as they generally do.  They tell us it happens all the time.

I start getting texts and emails from people wanting us to get a police escort and search warrants to go in there.  Hubby and I are not crazy about that idea. For one, we already know their reputation and they now know where we live.  If they are as rough as they sound or are reputed to be, there could be ramifications for anything we do aggressively.  My brother in law, in a puffed up display of ignorance says,  “you can’t let them bully you like that, holding you hostage in your own home” and going on about showing force etc.  etc.  Of course, he doesn’t live here and I wish it were that easy.  I will however talk to the police and ask them what they think is the best course of action.

Day five, I don’t know what else to do.  Folks, I live in Oceanside, California.  If anyone knows anyone out this way, let them know our situation and hopefully, we can get Ferguson back.

A part of me is angry Ferguson took off.  I mean, how could he do that to us or to himself?  He had it good here. Is he hungry, cold? Have they tied him up? He would absolutely hate that. He always slept between Hubby and I and when I crawled into bed last night I instinctively reached out to ruffle his ears and stroke his little frame. What were you thinking little buddy?  Was it because we’ve had company? Did you feel neglected with all of us busily working? Was it the earthquake? WHY?!

His Backstory:

This was our first look at this little guy.  He was sitting like this on our stoop for two days on a hot, summer day in Alabama.

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I put water and cat food in a dish and kept telling him to “go home”.

Isn’t he just the cutest?  We learned later that he’d been wandering and scavenging around town for months after a big tornado hit.  If you check the date on the photo, it’s been almost exactly 8 years we’ve been calling him our own and now he’s gone. He’s gotten gray around the face and shoulders since then.  My hubby loved it when he’d drape his head over his arm while snuggling in. See the gray?Ferg 5

Initially, he wouldn’t let us touch him, so my sister and I sat in our driveway and talked to him until he let us near enough to get him but he just rolled over and let me pick him up.  My sister is an animal whisperer so I begged her to let me have first contact because I was in love.  Even so, we did our due diligence and searched for his owners with ads in the paper for two months. We put up posters everywhere and hit the vets and shelters, trying our best to find them. His teeth were nearly rotted out, he was wormy, flea ridden and dirty.  We checked for a chip and got him his shots and dental cleaning.

When I’d get home from work or anything where I was gone no more than two hours, he’d do a crazy “happy dance” and run all over the house with his butt looking like it was going to get ahead of the rest of his body.  When he peed, he did so with his back legs up doing a handstand and the first time he found four objects he wanted to christen, he did so without ever hitting all fours, turning on his front legs only, in one full swoop. The first time he did that, I laughed so hard I thought I’d pee my pants.

How can I be soooo sad?

Because that little scamp is and can be a a little dickens, like a child, he burrowed his way into our hearts and it hurts.

Ferguson was the first dog my hubby ever had and he didn’t think he’d like him, but he bawled harder than I did at first. Even now, the tears fight their way to the surface unbidden. Who couldn’t have resisted that face?

 At his first vet visit, the vet guessed he may have been around two years old then, which I doubted because of the condition of his teeth (I’d been a human dental assistant and that didn’t make sense to me) but then he was also malnourished when we found him. He pranced like a show dog and heeled like a well trained dog. That’s another reason for believing that someone ought to be missing him.  At the time we didn’t know about the tornado websites, but a friend did and she helped check those out. Nothing.  In fact my friend was even more determined to find his owners while I’m secretly hoping she doesn’t. Yeah, he wormed his way in real good.

These are some of our memories:

This was the picture we used on the posters and ads to find his owners. It was this picture that someone saw and told us he wan’t a long hair Chihuahua, but a Papillon. The vet thought he might have Chihuahua in him but a breeder said, no.  He’s all clean here. Initially, he had a limp, but with good nourishment that went away.

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Here he is taking a breather under our car or by a tree on our hike in Colorado.  This little guy had more stamina on a long hike than my grand kids. When he got tired or cold, I’d put him in my shirt or backpack. He loved going on walks.

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Sign? What sign?

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Okay. I’m done.

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He loved our tranquil walks at Noccalula Falls in Alabama and hikes in the Sawatch Mountains of Utah and Park City.

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He loved taking over our bed, even in this cushy hotel room with lots of pillows.  You’d a thought he’d paid for it. lol

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Daddy’s tummy is just right and this hammock at grandma’s is pretty cool too.

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A special day on the beach with mommy.

Day 6 – I spend all day putting up flyers, talking to people and visiting the police department and talking to Sheriff and Code Enforcement.

The police department photocopied flyers to hand out to those officers that work that area.  They definitely do not recommend we go down there because of diseases and such, plus most of them are on drugs, tend to be erratic and other hazards related to that. They recommend I call Code Enforcement. I call Code Enforcement to get an address but end up leaving a message.

I talk to people at the Sprinter (rail station), who I know will ride by the area in question and they are awesome and say they will keep a lookout.

I go to another station and see the Sheriff congregating, so I talk to them and they take photos of my flyer and say they will gladly keep an eye out.

I leave flyers at businesses nearby and they hang them up.  They are agreeable.

Code enforcement calls back and tells me they can’t hand out flyers.  I tell the lady that’s not what I’m asking and she sounds like it would be a major inconvenience to accommodate me.  PLUS… she tells me that I could get fined for putting up all those flyers and… get this, a lady who put up flyers for her missing child was fined and not allowed to do so!!!  Welcome to California.  I talk to her a few more minutes and before I hang up she says she looks forward to seeing me.  Wow!  Maybe, I’ll be the one in jail.

Well folks, all I can say, is it’s in God’s hands now.  Ferguson wherever you are, we love you and miss you.  We hope you are safe.f1