Seniors & Aging

Pam Stone | A love letter to a recovering, faithful friend

Our “little girl in fur pajamas,” Bonnie, was distinctly unwell this past week, resulting in a stay at the veterinary clinic and receiving IV fluids to help bring down elevated kidney and liver numbers resulting from a digestive upset. Being 14 with cardiac issues, all of the treatment must be monitored carefully under a watchful eye and ear that no fluid should accumulate in her lungs.

With the exception of when she was spayed as a youngster, Bonnie has never spent a day apart from us, so you can imagine my despair and, frankly, guilt for not getting her to the clinic straight away. Living on a farm, the terriers get into the most disgusting things on a regular basis (preferring maggot-encrusted squirrel corpse over Newman’s Own organic dog food), which are generally easily treated with a 24-hour fast, then tiny increments of chicken and a bit of white rice and a half-teaspoon of canned pumpkin to help soothe the tummy. But this time, her illness fell on the Friday before the Fourth of July weekend, offices were closed, and so we took her in on Monday.

Coming up the front steps of the house Monday evening, sick with worry and knowing we wouldn’t know if her BUN and creatinine levels had returned to relatively normal levels until the following day, a lump rose in my throat, as for the first time in nearly 14 years, her dear face, wriggling body and relentless bark of giddy delight was absent from the other side of the storm door. Neither was she there to trot alongside me to the barn, patiently waiting as I fed and watered the horses and leading the way back into the mud room before plastering herself against my leg on first, the sofa, and later, in bed.

When the murmur of her heart eventually takes her from us, it won’t be possible to write about it – I can’t even allow myself to imagine it – and so, Bonnie, here is a love letter to you as you are now back home, snoozing away in the cool of the house, at my feet, natch, on this warm July afternoon:

Thank you for your unconditional love and loyalty. Thank you for your uncanny empathy when Paul or I were either ill or a bit blue and your affectionate ability to curl sympathetically against our chest until troubles had passed.

Thank you for your unwavering comfort at the loss of both my parents and three beloved horses and countless cats. The back of your neck has absorbed more tears than any handkerchief. And I will never forget spying you spring lightly unto the bed of Paul’s father, John, minutes away from his own passing, to curl quietly behind the crook of his knees. From the doorway I watched that greatly beloved gentleman, lying on his side, reach a frail arm behind his hip to feel if it were really you, greatly beloved by him, come to offer a last gift of loving sustenance.

Thank you for your good-natured ability to greet all with an open heart completely devoid of suspicion or aggression. Makes you a lousy watchdog (“Hey, follow me! Let me show you where we keep the family silver!”) but gives relief whenever a toddler might run up to thump your head with clumsy affection. And thank you for, if somewhat begrudgingly, always accepting new animals into the household, especially Rosie, who, although she drives you crazy with her constant shadowing, thinks you hung the moon and stars.

Thank you for accompanying me on silly personal appearances and tolerating even sillier outfits – although I still think you look adorable in that straw hat with the giant rose blossom pinned to the brim. Thank you for your impeccable table manners and demure partaking of many a sliver of birthday cake (or Christmas trifle) over the years and your navigational skills as we delivered Mobile Meals together out toward Lake Lure (as well as snarling ferociously from the safety of the truck at any number of mongrels who approached me with glinting eyes as I edged my way carefully to back doors, balancing Styrofoam containers of a meat and three.

And finally, dear Bonnie, thank you for not allowing a single day to go by that I haven’t felt entirely cherished. It is a bittersweet irony that you have an enlarged heart. Of course you do, it’s as big as all outdoors. I only hope one day I can be half the person you believe me to be. Thank you, dearest dog.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

Reach PAM STONE at pammstone@gmail.com.

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