Life Without a Dog

Friends of Sheba, please do not worry. She is alive and well and still part of the family. But, read on:

My husband had a medical emergency of sorts that was going to require us to be out of the house for an unknown period of time, and possibly spread out over a few days. Rather than force Sheba, who is very people dependent, to spend long hours in her crate and alone in the house, I chose to kennel her.

picture of a Husky in a crate
Photo by Julissa Helmuth from Pexels

Of course this means long hours, without us in a larger type of crate, but not alone and not without both human and canine companionship. As much as the neighbor dogs strike fear into her heart, she has done pretty well in the kennel. She even barks there! I have to laugh though, I have clearly watched way too many crime dramas and police shows. When you take a dog to the kennel and they are escorted to their pen, all the dogs bark and carry on and it makes me think of a “perp walk” in a crime drama.

I have a reason for deciding that kenneling her was the right option. When my husband had to have the same procedure done in 2008, we left Roxanne (Dog #2 of 4) home. Because our living room had a double wide doorway, there was no way to confine her to a specific area of the house. She had broken teeth trying to chew her way out of her crate, so crating her had ceased to be an option.

Picture of a large hound dog with black, white and tan coloring.
Roxanne

She chose to entertain herself, and eventually express her displeasure over our extended absence in our bedroom. First, she apparently attempted to “make her bed” on our bed. If you are a dog owner, you know what I am talking about. The dog tries to manipulate the cushion, pawing this way and that, then turning and turning around until things are just right, before curling up into a ball.

In Roxanne’s case, this act of “making the bed” served to unmake ours. The fitted sheets were dislodged and in a heap. Then, she apparently proceeded to express her dissatisfaction with our behavior…well, let’s just say, at least it was solid. Never made that mistake again. Never.

Having Sheba at the kennel made it that much easier for us to prepare for the upcoming test, but there was a surprising obstacle. I kept bumping into her absence!

In a relatively small old house, this dog has two crates, one in our bedroom, one in the dining room and a pad that serves as a bed on the opposite wall in the dining room from her crate. She frequently curls up (forces her way) between my feet and computer desk, or my chair and the tray table that holds my laptop. In other words she takes up space. In the house, in my heart. Her brief absence created an unexpected void.

The Unexpected Void

When each of our other dogs died, the void that they left in our lives was large. But this was different. Sheba is alive, she just was not in the house. Perhaps I noticed it more because she spends a lot of time with me. More than with any other dog, and they were all mine in theory, I seem to have “favored person” status. I am her “go to” person, her security blanket, her walker and petter. If that is a word I just made up, let us define it as ‘One who pets a pet.”

Picture of a man with a beard sitting on the couch petting a large black and tan dog.
“Pet me!”

That does not mean that my husband does not walk or pet her. In fact, if she deems that I have not done a sufficient job petting her, she will go to him and present herself for some petting. When he tires of the job, she returns to me and proceeds to act like a canine tennis ball, moving back and forth between her humans until she feels she has had enough attention. Then, it is naptime, until it is treat time and walk time and time to start the cycle all over again.

Now, after living with us for over a year and a half, Sheba has developed a new routine, which she does periodically. After shying away from my husband for months, she looks for him first thing in the morning, even before going outside for her walk. Perhaps she just wants to know where he is in order to avoid him. But no, if he is sitting up, she goes and stands in front of him, as if to say, “You may pet me now.”

Hopefully her ubiquitous presence and frequent seeking of attention explains why after returning from the kennel and other errands, my first thought was, “Oh, I have to take Sheba for a walk before I get comfortable.” Wait, what, oh, she is not here.

Kenneling Sheba for human medical procedures is a wise move. In addition we take vacations and choose the kennel route, as opposed to a pet sitter. I think those choices are good for us. The issue is when we are home and she is not. The house feels empty and it is empty of her large presence.

Medical Emergency Two

I don’t know if other bloggers do this but I actually began this post several weeks ago. Now and then I will start a post with just a working title and some notes or an outline because it is something I want to write and not lose, but do not have the time to complete. Other times I begin writing and do not stop until I have finished, sometimes spending the larger part of two days between writing, edits and selecting pictures. But here I am over a month after starting this story. A failed attempt at vacation and an accident have intervened. It happened like this:

I left home for my longed for visit to Onset, two days before my husband was to leave on an equally anticipated hunting trip with his brother and nephew. Thursday morning my husband took Sheba to the kennel. Thursday afternoon while starting to load his truck for the trip, he had an accidental fall that resulted in a broken hip.

Fortunately, Sheba was already at the kennel; not as fortunately I was way out of state. My husband had surgery and is recovering nicely. But broken hips in us older folks can be, well, I do not really want to think about it but, no pun intended, they can be a slippery slope to steady decline. We have been home from the hospital for 24 hours, Sheba is still at the kennel.

Picture of a large black and tan dog laying on a dark brown mat.
Sheba

She was scheduled to be there until Sunday. She does not know that we are at home. Yet I experienced a human version of that as a child, and it felt mean. I have been a pet owner long enough to know that pets are people too. They are capable of expressing joy, jumping for joy in fact. They are also capable of expressing displeasure (hence Roxanne’s expression on our bed). Even though skeptics will say this is just an attempt at anthropomorphizing, pet owners know that their pets are capable of expressing a wide range of emotions.

Even though we are home, the house feels somewhat empty and I feel guilty about not bringing her home right away. Yet, none of our dogs have ever liked change and only one of our dogs, Sammy, had the instinct to not get under foot of people walking with canes, oxygen cannisters (my mom) or crutches (me) or walkers. Sheba likes to anticipate where you are walking and get there first, or her preferred method walk right along side you.

So I am trying to give my spouse time to be stronger and more secure walking with the walker, before bringing Sheba home to the confusion of a rearranged house and that strange metal crate like thing. And I have to find places to put the things I dislodged in the process of making the house “walker” friendly. If I don’t, Sheba will assume I have left presents all around for her to check out.

But I may not be able to hold out much longer. She is family after all, a four-legged member of the family who has taken up more space in my heart than in our house. Things just aren’t the same when she is not here. She still needs us and we still need her.

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Copyright 2020 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

17 thoughts on “Life Without a Dog

  1. ❤️🤗. Good writing!! I don’t know how you fit it in!!

    On Thu, Oct 22, 2020 at 12:12 PM msomervillesite wrote:

    > msomerville2014 posted: ” Friends of Sheba, please do not worry. She is > alive and well and still part of the family. But, read on: My husband had a > medical emergency of sorts that was going to require us to be out of the > house for an unknown period of time, and possibly sprea” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Michele, so sorry to hear that your husband has some health problems. I pray that he is back to his best health soon. It’s nice to read that during this difficult time Sheba’s comfort is uppermost in your thoughts. She really is part of your family, that’s very clear. If you do manage to hold out until Sunday before you bring her home, rest assured that she will be fine, and even more grateful to see you again when you’re finally reunited. It’s hard to balance everything in life, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for those encouraging words. This has been quite an adventure. I keep repeating the mantra to him, “Sickness and health” to which he responds, yeah, but when is the health coming (and the wealth) and I remind him those ships have sailed, but we are in this together. Our pets, I think, have the ability to round us out and make us whole.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My husband and I often talk about our marriage vows, especially now that we’re getting older and our bodies are not what they used to be – aches and pains everywhere! We’ve only been married for 11 years, but the difference between being 40 and being 50 is enormous when it comes to health! But even though we don’t always have the good health and the wealth, it is nice having someone beside you during the difficult times. Yes, it’s hard, but imagine having to go through difficult times alone! I know that I need to practice patience and kindness a bit more when it comes to communicating with my husband during difficult times, and you’ve just reminded me of that, so thank you. I hope that Sheba is now at home and not too annoyed with you for sending her on her little holiday. Wishing you a lovely week, Michelle.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I love that you and he talk about your vows. When I am working with couples before a wedding, I always stress the vows and assign them the task of thinking of practical ways they will live them out. I would be sad if they attended a wedding and looked at each other and ask, “Did we say we would do that???” Becuase of your encouraging words, I chose to let Sheba sit an extra day and picked her up this morning. Giving myself a little space and time to adjust. She jumped and bounced and ran back a nd forth when she got out of her pen an d made me feel so loved. Really, how many people get that excited when they see you. Unconditional love. Blessings for the week, Michele

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I had no doubt that Sheba would still love you, glad that I was right! My husband also reminds me that in our wedding vows we said ‘forever’ – which is a long time, but I was very aware of saying this on the day and I can’t imagine a forever without him. It seems that we both chose our husbands wisely. Thank you again, Michele, I really enjoyed this post and so pleased that things worked out more or less ok for you all. Sending healing vibes to your husband.

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  3. I can completely relate to your recent post, the house is so empty without a furbaby. Miss seeing you and the Kitchen ladies, but enjoying how God has blessed me.

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  4. Hi Michele, You had filled me in briefly about your husband’s medical emergency. I enjoyed your description of the “perp walk.” A huge, wow, about Roxanne and trying to chew her way out. Stressful. I think we feel guilty with any of the choices we make when we leave a dog behind. Even when it is best for them. Interesting how Sheba is communicating with you and your husband. Like you say “pets are people too.”

    Your medical emergency Two, reminds me how life always takes priority over the virtual world. You are making good, loving choices, Michele, with the best intentions for all the “people” (family) in your life. Yet, I can see how all of this stressful for you. You need a vacation. Oh, oops, you had one planned. 😊 Hopefully, your husband mends quickly, and everyone settles into a routine again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was editing the post that describes the vacation that did happen, but started yawning, so I think I will finish the edits tomorrow and post it before I go pick up Sheba. then I can spend some quality time with her when I bring her back. Assuming she is talking to me! Thank you for the good wishes and “read” on the current situation. I think we are making the best of things. I took tomorrow off and instead of going to church I will go to the kennel to get Sheba. I just cut back my ministry commitments to 1 church 20 hours and that will help. Anyway, the next post is titled “A Short Trip to Onset…is better than No Trip to Onset” It is long, but I am trying not only to write it for the blog but as a way of processing the events. And, not s ure if it extends to writing, but my father loved to say that when I was born I was vaccinated with a victrola needle! Wonder what he meant (ha ha).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, Michele. So many feelings about this post. First, I am praying for your poor hubby. A broken hip is a painful experience, no matter what age we are. Here’s hoping he recovers steadily and as quickly as possible.
    Next, I am aware of how empty a house feels without the dog who lives there. I am still walking into our house and wondering where Benji is (for an instant) before I realize he is gone. Luckily, your Sheba will return to you. Finally, I am sending virtual hugs your way. Your life was turned upside down over the last few weeks and that is not easy. I am hoping by now that Sheba is at home and your hubby is recovering nicely under your good care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Laurie, I appreciate t h e prayers for Roger. Still lots of pain. I picked up Sheba this morning, she made me feel so good, just jumped all over and ran as fast as she could and back again. A little confused about the changes in the house, but doing well. I just posted a reflection about the trip. My administrative stuff is done. For weeks I couldn’t write anything, now I can hardly stop. But I have reading to do and focus on the joint project with Donna that I mention in the other post. Thank you for the good thoughts and virtual hugs.

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    1. Thank you so much. I am grateful, he is doing well. “graduated” from his walker to his cane and able to do steps. Sheba has taken everything in stride, including the parade of Home Health folks, she is a keeper! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post. Much appreciated. Michele

      Liked by 1 person

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