Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Tale of Two Sisters: CarrieAnne and Lucy

I'm deviating from my irregular-regular posts to tell you the story of CarrieAnne.  I know that it's quite long, and I know that it's one that some of you won't have the time to read and I respect and understand that.  It's a story that I've never written or talked about much over the years.  But I felt like with Carrie's recent passing, it was time to write Lucy and CarrieAnne's story so that they will be remembered.  **Thank-you** as always for stopping by my blog, and especially for your friendship, support and good thoughts that have truly made a difference!  
I named her CarrieAnne because of the rural county, “Caroline” in Virginia where she’d come from.  Her sister, a mirror image of her was red and I named her Lucy Fox from a character I’d remembered from a childhood story. Carrie wore a little pink collar, but it had no tags. CarrieAnne and Lucy were strays and nobody claimed or adopted either of them.  Since the girls appeared to have Golden Retriever in them, the rescue that I volunteer with accepted them.  Both girls were very frightened and would sit curled into one another and would try to get away from you or freeze when you’d try to pet them.

The girls were totally covered in ticks, and so our first evening was spent removing them.  They would silently endure the contact with us, never flinching, but hardly moving or making eye contact.   They both got along well with the dogs, and were the same age as Josh, who was about a year old at the time.  But they knew nothing about being dogs, they only knew fear.  Josh would try to get them to play with him but they would sit frozen, never moving or knowing how to react.  Eventually they would learn to play and eventually they would learn to cope with their fears, but in different ways.
~Josh and CarrieAnne 2003~
CarrieAnne throughout her life remained afraid of loud noises.  We lived in a subdivision in 2003, and taking her for a walk was frightening for her, and challenging for me. To try and build CarrieAnne's confidence, we would walk her with another dog who enjoyed going for walks thinking that she would learn to as well.  It didn't work.  Carrie would only walk to one nearby corner, and would then turn around and pull at the leash to be taken back home.  She would never cross the road, or want to go any farther. Her world was very small.  On the walks I held Carrie's leash very tightly because if a loud vehicle passed by, even before we got to the corner, she would frantically and wildly try to get away from me and whatever it was that had scared her. My biggest worry became her accidentally getting loose and running away, and not being able to catch her. In those wild moments of chaos I started saying the words "home CarrieAnne, home" and we would quickly go back to the house. My hope was that despite being so scared and out of control, she would hear those words and learn to go back to the security of "home" when something had frightened her.  It worked. The words, "home CarrieAnne, home" became a phrase that she came to know and would be used throughout her life.
Carrie's sister Lucy was also shy, but of the two she was the more confident and outgoing one.  The world to her was not quite as frightening.  She was however, fiercely loyal to her sister.  Anyone that she didn’t know that tried to approach CarrieAnne would be warned to stay away by an alert stance and a sharp bark.  The two were always together, and when they slept, Lucy always slept with her head on Carrie's back, keeping watch.
~CarrieAnne's sister, Lucy 2003~
Lucy’s guarding CarrieAnne was in part why I decided that I should split them up and place them in separate homes.  I felt that Carrie and Lucy needed the chance to blossom on their own.  So, I made them both available for adoption through the rescue.  I would meet a couple that could offer everything that I felt Lucy needed, and so I placed her with them and their dog.  It all went pretty well at first.  But then Lucy began to not let anyone she didn't trust come near her, or her family.  The behavior was "allowed" to escalate, and Lucy began charging at and biting everyone she saw as a threat.  A trainer felt that Lucy’s behavior was driven by her fears, and a natural territorial instinct to guard. For many (understandable) reasons, the family felt that they could no longer keep Lucy, and so she was returned to me.
Lucy and I began working with a behaviorist to try and curb her behavior and help her work through her fears.  I thought we were making progress but one day Lucy ran out the door and bit a child standing in front of our house. In that moment, I knew we had failed. Lucy had no bite inhibition whatsoever.  Because we lived in a subdivision, it was impossible to keep Lucy and everyone else completely “safe” from her charging at them. So, after a lot of discussion with several experts and the rescue, the heartbreaking decision was made to euthanize Lucy.  Times were different in 2004, and no one knew of any other options. The guilt and regret of the whole experience with Lucy has always stayed with me.  But I find comfort in knowing that despite her fears, Lucy knew what it felt like to be loved and safe.  I often used words from a Byron poem to describe Lucy in that she was “A troubled stream, but from a pure source.”  
~Lucy, 2003~
The experience with Lucy is why we decided to adopt CarrieAnne. I was so afraid a similar thing happening to her and I knew that if she stayed with us, I could keep that from happening to her. So, Carrie became an official member of our household in the late summer of 2004.
~The "official" gang December 2004~
CarrieAnne never totally got over her fears, but she learned to cope with them, and she learned to trust people on her own terms.  She found companionship and security both with us and the other dogs.
~Christmas photo 2010~
 When we moved to “Golden Pines” in 2007 it proved to be the perfect place for Carrie.  Here in the country away from the noise of the city, CarrieAnne found peace, contentment and her confidence.  She blossomed into what she was meant to become.
In 2011, Rudi passed away.  CarrieAnne became the pack leader. She had earned the respect of the other dogs, and took that role very seriously.  For whatever reason, Sheba would challenge Carrie. One year the two had several fights that ended with one or both of them needing to be taken to the vet.  Thankfully we were able to work it out and for the last 3+ years of Carrie's life, the two truly became canine-sisters and always ran and played together.
While Carrie may have been a "tough little street fighter" she was also a very affectionate and delightful companion.  She would often come and sit next to me (always on my left side), lean into me and I'd put my arm around her and talk quietly into her ear, and maybe tell her a secret or two. She would quietly listen.  There always seemed to be a little bit of uncertainty in CarrieAnne's eyes, but they sparkled and I could see the trust and happiness.
CarrieAnne felt confident enough to to go off on her own to explore around our property. One summer she found a place to swim and would come back on those hot evenings, soaked.
I never could find where she had gone, but will admit that I never really looked.  I let it stay her secret.
But when the loud noises came, as they sometimes would, I would call out "home CarrieAnne, home" and it would always bring her back to the safety of the house.
The times that Carrie seemed most content was when she could just be outside stretched out in the grass in the warm sun.  A favorite place was the hay field that adjoins our property.
Seeing her there, it was easy to see a peace and calm about her that I'd hardly see at any other time. Sometimes she would sniff the air, and let out a little "yip."  I couldn't help but wonder if maybe during those times, Lucy was nearby, continuing to watch over her.
Sadly, Carrie's time with us would suddenly end on September 3, 2014 shortly after surgery to remove a mast-cell tumor.  The tumor was larger than expected making the surgery more involved.  It was just too much for her. A few days later I received an e-mail from the surgeon, who said in-part,  "Despite the awful outcome, I do want to assure you that surgery was CarreAnne's best hope.   ...during surgery when I could fully appreciate how far the tumor had progressed, it was clear that CarrieAnne's time would have been very short without surgery." The surgeon's e-mail was appreciated, but did little to ease the guilt I've felt at her loss.  Just as with Lucy, there will always be regrets. But I find comfort in knowing that CarrieAnne did have a good life.  She found security, love and a good home with us.  I know she was happy.    
The morning after CarrieAnne passed away, I stood outside with the other dogs totally consumed by the darkness of the early hour and her loss. Across the hay field that Carrie loved, I heard the echo of a dog barking off in the distance. Without realizing it, I heard myself saying "home CarrieAnne, home." and in that moment of heartbreak and silence, a voice from my heart said, "I am." 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Kingdom of Ms. Yellow

We have had six months of bowing and catering to the every whim of our foster-cat, the lovely Ms. Yellow.  I'm not sure we meet with her complete approval, but it has been decided that she will stay with us.  "Golden Pines" will be her official kingdom.
 All hail to the lovely Ms. Yellow, our newest permanent addition!

Friday, September 12, 2014

We Are Okay

Its been more than a week since the unexpected loss of CarrieAnne.  The sadness of her loss trapped me last week, and I couldn't seem to escape it.  No matter how much I tried, no matter how many friends tried to cheer me up, I just couldn't break free.  It's the nature of grief.

But the healing has started. Life continues on.   

We are okay.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

What Helps

~CarrieAnne in late July~
As you know, it has been a difficult and sad time for us, as we grieve the loss of our precious CarrieAnne. Thank you to all of you for your thoughts, prayers and words of sympathy.  I am deeply touched and humbled by your taking a moment to share her loss with us.  You truly make a difference. 

Yesterday was a difficult day.  Without much sleep the night before and going to work for part of the morning, left me exhausted.  The rest of the day was spent quietly at home.  The holistic vet came to see Gus and she helped me to sort out what happened, and encouraged me to not feel guilty about the choice I'd made for Carrie to have the surgery.  I think that feeling of guilt will stay with me for a long time.

At the end of the day, however, I did find that what can make anyone feel better, at least for a few moments is a Scottie and a fully charged bubble-gun.
What would I do without Todd? 
Thank-you all again for your kind words, support and friendship.