Mom Speaks: A Very Special Valentine

I graciously share my podium with a certain cranky dog and what happens? She reveals my true name, overdramatizes her faux brushes with death, misleads all of you with her tales of woe, and then fails to give you any real information about her cancer and her time left. That’s the last time I hand the pen and notepad over to a dog.

hanging with mom and my gecko

hanging with mom and my gecko

In truth, yes, the anonymous person who did what so many dog lovers do these days – post a photo and link to a shelter site indicating that a dog has been placed there – really did save Mica’s life. If only she had been dumped at that shelter sooner…

Mica glossed over a few details in telling you her story. The cancer she has is an aggressive form of mast cell sarcoma, and when we got to it, it was already very advanced. The vet won’t make guesses about how long she has, but we are all in agreement that we’re looking at palliative care, not treatment. Treatment, it is felt, would simply ruin the time she has left. Make her happy, he said. Keep her as happy as possible, he said. I felt the lump rising in my throat at these words.

When Mica got here I was sure she was going to be adopted. I thought a couple of months, a little training and socialization, and some relearning love and trust and off she’d go to a new home. She is an adaptable and strangely relaxed dog: she would come with me to the most stimulating environments (the farmers’ market or the Ellenville Blueberry Festival) and just lie quietly at my feet while people pushed strollers or wheelchairs practically right over her tail. She was rock solid in public, a calm but pleasant greeter of strangers (dogs and humans), and seemed to be ok with cats. She was jealous and cranky with my dogs, but with time and time outs in the bathroom she learned that she couldn’t attack them for breathing near her. She has received a scar on her cheek and a torn ear in exchange for those lessons.

I thought for sure one of my hiking buddies would want her. She is a very pretty dog, embodies the word “lithe,” has a great sense of humor, and loves to be in the woods. I tried hard, wielding guilt and manipulation like a light saber, but none of my friends stepped up.

I am a superior hiker dog, decked out in deer season garb.

I am a superior hiker dog, decked out in deer season garb.

I refused to adopt her because I didn’t want to prevent someone from having her. It was a vain effort to shun the sin of gluttony. I already have 3 beautiful dogs, including 2 malinois. I was trying to share the wealth. And I believed in her that she was eminently adoptable, despite her age, her aggression towards bananas, her barking, and her general crankiness. I saw her as a truly great dog that someone would eventually fall in love with and for whom she would be a perfect match.

The cancer changed everything. I no longer see her as adoptable. In fact, I think anyone who voluntarily adopts a senior dog with a terminal illness and a grouchy attitude is officially not right in the head. If an application came in on her now, I would argue and lie, cheat, or steal to prevent her going anywhere.

snuggling with her man

snuggling with her man

She is dying. I think about her with her original family and I know that if they hadn’t dumped her at the shelter, she would have suffered and died from this cancer stuck alone on the end of a chain. I am grateful that she was abandoned when she was, so that ABMC and I could at least get that tumor off her and give her some happiness and fun times before the end.

I know it sounds ridiculous and anthropomorphized to the nth degree, but I realized that now, since she is no longer “adoptable” in my eyes, I need to adopt her. I want to make an honest dog out of her, to make sure that she dies with a family around that has no hyphens, so “steps,” no disclaimers and no specifiers. I know she can’t tell the difference – after I read her piece and she admitted to actually loving me (I wasn’t sure she even liked me), I realized that selfish and ridiculous or not, I needed to make her a real, regular, full member of our family. Legally. Not only for her, but for me. I can’t make up for 11 years of neglect, but this is a small symbolic step I can take to show her and her friends that she is not in any way separate or different from us. She is a member of this pack and a legal resident of my heart. I am mailing the adoption contract in today.

A huge thank you and shout out to ABMC-R and Mica’s coordinator, Tracey Dellibove. Tracey never pressured me to adopt her when I guess it was obvious that Mica fit in here. Tracey never criticized me when Mica got attacked by a beaver, terrorized by bananas, and then beaten up by a porcupine. Tracey just stood by me and this pack, and waited us out. The obvious and inevitable end to Mica’s foster status comes in such a bittersweet way.

So I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day. Celebrate love. Hug your children, your spouse/partner, your dogs, cats, geckos… trust that good happens and then make it happen. Do good and be good.

Remember Mica, who was old, neglected, abandoned, and thoroughly annoyed about it. The complete turnaround she did is inspiring. She and I are a team now – I help her up and down stairs, she comes to me to rub her belly and help with the itchy incision site. She sees me as part of her team, her pack, her family. And now I can call her my own.


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29 Responses to Mom Speaks: A Very Special Valentine

  1. Sandi says:

    Happy Adoption Day! Hugs, high fives, and tail wags all around 🙂

  2. halia466 says:

    Mica says “Paws up, Patch’s Mom! Barkbarkbarkbarkbark!” Actually, she is snoring at the moment. 🙂

  3. You know, I have to say – I’m sure that one of the reasons she wasn’t adopted was that is has been clear from the beginning Mica belonged with you and the other pups (and Tom…can’t forget Tom). From the beginning it was always apparent to me, anyway…I’m sure that’s why she’s still there, where she belongs.

    • halia466 says:

      Not sure what it says about me that the most irritable dog I ever met “belongs” with me… but you’re right. She does, and always did, belong with me. I was just trying not to be greedy…

  4. Jan Saylors says:

    Beautiful. Would write more, but can’t see through the tears. Thanks for sharing your love with this special girl.

  5. What fabulous ears! May Mica have fun and love in your family for whatever time she has left.
    You’ve given her a good life and you have the power to give her a good death. Which should never be underestimated, I reckon, both in how hard it is to decide on/do and how much kinder it is for the dog. It was terrible trying to choose the ‘right’ time for my old girl Rosie when she was terminally ill. I was also worried I might not manage to keep calm and loving enough when the time came. But a good vet helped me, and Rosie died by peacefully falling asleep in my arms, in familiar surroundings, before she was suffering too much. It was very moving and of course I was so sad, yet it felt right. I’d like to be able to choose for myself that I’d die gently in the arms of the person who loved me most.

  6. Lisa Doan says:

    Oh Heather, you made me cry. I’m so happy for you and Mica, and of course sad as well. Been through this cancer crap with my first Mal. I did my best to keep him happy right up to the end. I’m so glad that Mica landed at your house and learned what love is.

  7. Hoof n Paw says:

    Thank you for adopting her,senors are so special. It is great you have given her your love and brought her into your family. You maybe her first Valentine!

    • halia466 says:

      Thank you! We all chuckle about her “senior” status. That dog is spry and fit as a fiddle. thank DOG I didn’t have when she was young. She would have been too much dog for me, for sure!

  8. No doubt about it: things are unfolding as they should.

  9. Sheilah Graham says:

    That was beautiful Heather…. Congrats to your newest family member… Way to go Mica…. Very happy for all of you… Mica has an amazing, loving, caring family to love and to pawtect from those crazy bananas…. I need to go dry my eyes now…

  10. Kelly Gallagher says:

    Oh Heather…you sure do know how to make the tears flow. Thank you for opening your home to Mica when she needed one, thank you for opening your heart and thank you for allowing her to be a permanent member of your pack. It is so unfair how early we lose our best friends who show us nothing but unconditional love. I’m going to give my dogs extra tight hugs tonight…and please do the same to Mica. Thank you for being there for her when no one else was.

  11. Janet McSwain says:

    Heather, those pictures speak volumes. The love and peace in Mica is evident. One thing I have learned from dogs is they do live in the Now, and because of that, they have eternity. You have given her love for eternity. Happy adoption day Mica – you are now 100% officially loved, as I suspect you have known all along. May the love you share in your family provide for some healing and give all of you the gift of time.

    • halia466 says:

      It has been a real journey for both of us. I’ll never forget the despairing emails early on: “She won’t even look at me.” But you and others helped me with so much support and love and patience, and a few key training tips. 🙂 My vet said it best: you turned her into a normal dog. Well, he doesn’t know about the bananas.

  12. Nancy says:

    This is the reason Mica came into your life, so that at the end of hers, she would be loved way beyond her imagination. A dog that was tethered, alone and forgotten, to living with a family of humans that gives back the unconditional love that she gives you right up till the end. What gracious luck for the both of you. Please give her a hug from me and a nose nudge from my dog Cayenne.

  13. Jody Larkin says:

    Very well written, Heather. What a lucky girl. What a lucky mom. So loved.

  14. Tracey says:

    I have so much to say right now, but I’m afraid it will make no sense as it’s challenging to see to type through the tears. Thank you Heather … From my heart and soul … Thank you.

  15. halia466 says:

    ❤ you, Tracey. You made this possible. You could have said no. (stop laughing!) But you just made it all happen – you, Brydon, Lin (transport coordinator), and a small army of transporters, Julie who shared her canine guest room for the night, and finally she was mine. just took me 8 months to figure that out.

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