The Best Dog

One of my favourite sayings about dogs is,

Everyone thinks they have the best dog.

And none of them are wrong.

W.R Purche 

Dembe since coming home with us on 11th January 2019 has proven time and time again that he is not just the best dog but an exceptional dog. Highly intelligent and intuitive especially when it comes to matters of my health. It started when he was very tiny. He would some how know that I had a migraine and would lie quietly beside me with his face pressing against the side of my face that was hurting due to the migraine. He wouldn’t leave my side unless dragged away. I just put it down to him being impossibly cute but there are so many instances over the last 12 months that have made me realise that his behaviour isn’t just a fluke but something very real.

Around 3 weeks after we brought Dembe home I came down with a chest and sinus infection. I was floored by it, it was probably the closest I have come to feeling like I had the flu without having it in a few years. Dembe would have been around 10-11 weeks old and full of beans. Due to the fact we were still toilet training him I couldn’t go to bed, I simply didn’t have the energy to be going up and down the stairs every 30 minutes ( I couldn’t have done that on a normal day let alone this). So I would lie on the sofa counting down the hours until Jay would be back home so that I could crawl into bed.

A pup of this age is normally a live wire, yes they sleep quite a bit but when they are awake they are into everything. Normally Dembe would have been, however he seemed to know that I was poorly. Instead of running around playing with his toys, for 4 days straight he would lie on my feet or chest up on the sofa and sleep, as I slept. At the time I thought it was odd that such a young pup would alter his behaviour so radically. As soon as I started to be on the mend the crazy pup came back and yes sometimes it was a little too much for me as I was still feeling pretty rough but to contain all that energy for 4 days whilst I waited for the antibiotics to kick in was pretty weird.

 At the time I just put it down to a fluke, that I was projecting and seeing what I wanted to see after losing my beloved nurse Frankie. 

There have been a couple more instances over the year, where it was clear that Dembe was picking up on health stuff to deal with me. We have had a couple of dog training sessions where Dembe has wanted to just get back to me where normally he will quite happily ignore me. One night I was sat quietly on the sidelines when I suddenly lost the vision in my right eye, I knew I had a migraine brewing but as there was only 30 minutes left in the lesson I didn’t see the point in making a fuss. In the end I did have to speak up though as Jay and the trainer couldn’t understand why Dembe wasn’t focusing on the lesson like he normally would and all he kept doing was looking back at me or attempting to get back to me.

We had the same thing happen a few weeks ago during an agility training session. Out of nowhere earlier that morning I had been hit by vertigo. I had taken my medicatiom to attempt to stop it in its tracks but my head was still spinning. I was having to be careful how quickly I turned my head. Dembe again was really unsettled, every time he was off the leash he was back at my side. One of the fellow spectators commented on it and I just said “It is because he knows I am not feeling well, he gets very protective of me if he senses something isn’t right.” I then went onto explain something that had happened just a week or so earlier.

To the uniformed observer this way look like a cute photo of me and Dembe having a cuddle. Although it was cute and comforting it couldn’t have been any further from the truth. I had been feeling not quite right all day. Jay had just gone back to work after coming home for lunch when I had the strongest feeling that I was going to pass out ( even though I was sat down, you see I can pass out in any position it is my super power). Initially I tried to fight it by clenching my buttocks and calf muscles in the hope that this would get the blood circulating. However when I started yawning ( this is a key indicator that my blood pressure is dropping rapidly) I knew I was going to have to get myself to the floor as quickly as possible and then get my legs raised. Dembe was asleep beside me on the sofa.

I quickly got myself down on the floor and got my feet up on the coffee table. I expected Dembe to sleep through this. Instead he got up and then curled up beside my head resting his face against my face. Normally when I lie on the floor this signifies play time. I was fully expecting to be licked, trampled on and toys dropped on me as he would think this would be part of the game. However he didn’t move he just snuggled beside me, I took the photos after I had been down on the floor for ten minutes as I couldn’t believe that he was doing this. I tried to get up but he wouldn’t let me, he had me pinned to the floor for a good 30 minutes. If his face wasn’t against my face he was lying on my arm making it almost impossible for me to move.

What I find incredible is this is not something I have ever taught him to do, this is something he has done on his own. He was also just 14 months old when he did this, he is now 15 months old.

I still find it hard to believe that he is so in tune with me that for whatever reason he knew that I was very unwell at that time and needed him to look after me. Feeling that ill, whilst alone is scary. Thankfully I had my mobile phone on me as the top I was wearing has  what I call a kangaroo pouch pocket. I always try to wear clothes with pockets so that I always have my phone. I managed to get in touch with Mr Myasthenia Kid and explain what had happened I got really tearful when I explained what a wonder Dembe had been. He asked if I wanted him to come home but I said until I knew if I could sit up or not unaided there wasn’t any point. Around 30 minutes after I first hit the deck I was able to sit up, resting my back against the dresser. Another ten minutes later and I made my way up to bed and spent a few hours lying down . Again Dembe behaved beautifully, he just came up to bed with me and slept beside me.

Which if you had ever met Dembe you would know what a normal active, annoying pup he can be. Who regularly crawls onto my lap and knocks the chromebook from my hands because it has been at least 15 seconds since I gave him a cuddle. Who throws his crocodile toy, well any toy of his choosing that day around the lounge and to hell with the consequences. So to adapt his behaviour on his own accord is really quite amazing to me.

This is what I am battling against at the moment trying to write the blog post

 He is not a quiet pup, he isn’t massively high energy but if he wants your attention he has ways and means of ensuring he gets it. Who could resist that face peering around the computer screen.

I thank my lucky stars everyday that we were lucky enough to have Dembe choose us to be his human parents.

I do feel like I need to point out that just because of Dembe’s unique ability doesn’t mean I love our previous dogs Travis, Mollie, Willow and Frankie any differently. Life will always be marked in sections before the Weims, after the Weims. Life goes on but it goes on around a huge Weimaraner shaped hole. And it always will. Dembe is not a replacement but our boy and the beginning of a new chapter. He is currently our best dog, same as Frankie, Travis, Mollie and Willow were when they were with us.

Reflections

The start of a new year always makes me a little reflective. I always think that now I am in my forties I should have my shit together. When I was a teenager people in their forties all seemed to know what they were doing, were confident and self assured. Now I am in my forties I realise like everyone else my age that those forty year old’s I admired were just winging it. No one has got their shit together and we all are just making it up as we go along. All that those 40 year old’s had that I didn’t as a teenager was life experience. I don’t think there will ever be a eureka moment in my life where I feel like I have figured everything out. I think I will forever be winging it and pretending that I know what the hell I am doing.

As you get older I do think you appreciate the simpler things in life. You put home, happiness and friendships above the material things. You also start to refuse to put up with so much crap or maybe it is you finally get the courage to start putting yourself first for a change. At the end of last year I made some quite sweeping changes. I reassessed some relationships, I binned some, I reinvigorated others. I pushed myself to make an effort with those I didn’t want to lose. It is funny during the hard times you really notice who runs towards you and who runs away. And there is the third group of people those that in public or on a public forum make all the right noises but do nothing practically to help.I have noticed this a lot over the last 4 years.

 Those of you who follow the blog or know me personally know that basically over the last 4 years Mr Myasthenia Kid and I have been to hell and back. Briefly ( which is a laugh as even briefly so much has happened each event is a blog post in itself) in 2016 I developed a CSF leak which left me confined to my bed for much of the year and if not in bed lying down. It made socialising very hard, several of my friends were wonderful but one in particular would make all the right noises you know the “just let me know if you need anything” and when you did ask you were met with radio silence or a long list of excuses as to why they couldn’t help. I will never ever be able to repay Imogen for how she helped us during that year, looking after the dogs at the drop of a hat for 8 hours whilst I got treatment at a hospital an hour away. Same for my parents who when Imogen couldn’t help would come up and drive me back down to the hospital a journey of over 100 miles. 

In 2017 we lost our dear friend of over 20 years, Andrew, in a car accident, his passing made me realise I needed to make more of an effort to stay in contact with my friends as none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow let alone a next week. In this year I also lost a family friend of many years who I would have regular conversations with via Facebook Messenger and telephone calls, although we never met in person. Later that year I was to learn my Grandmother and my dear friend Pam ( my neighbour twice and the person I saw most other than my husband) had both been diagnosed with lung cancer, Willow our 11 year old Weimaraner passed away on December 15th and it broke my heart. Due to the events of the following January I don’t think we ever mourned her passing properly. Both Imogen and Heather rushed to my side that day. Another friend offered but I realised at that point that I didn’t want her there at the time I was surprised by my feelings but let it pass thinking it was grief.

In January 2018 we lost both my Grandmother and Pam, despite knowing that both their diagnosis had been terminal we had lived in a bubble that it wasn’t going to happen. I had many conversations with Pam, she moved between despair and complete denial. It was emotionally hard going for me, which probably sounds quite selfish and self absorbed but I challenge anyone to listen to your friend of over 20 years talk about the fact they are dying and walk away untouched. Pam passed away the same week Andrew had a year earlier, which I have always found quite bizarre, especially since Pam had accompanied Jay and I to Andrews funeral less than a year earlier.

 We had no idea then at the ticking time bomb that was contained within Pam’s body. Looking back now there were subtle signs that something wasn’t right, she had looked really tired all the time etc a whole heap of little symptoms that added together were something deadly. Even if we had known then I doubt much could have been done but it makes me angry that mistakes were made in her care and the people that made those mistakes have got away with it. 

When Pam passed away both H and Immie rushed to be by my side again. The other friend basically told me she was coming, despite me saying that she wasn’t needed. It was uncomfortable, for everyone as it was like there was a cuckoo in the nest.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want her there, I just knew that if I was hurting she was the last person I wanted present. I should have listened more to what I was feeling and realised that those feelings were a huge red flag. But instead I blamed myself, telling myself I was cruel and unreasonable to be feeling like that. 

Reflecting back on the situation the lesson I take away from this is don’t ignore those feelings / intuitions / gut instincts. If I hadn’t of ignored them I would have saved myself another 18 months of being treated like shit and only being visited when she thought other people may see her doing it. It was very much a keeping up appearances situation.

There are still a lot of emotions to process from the January of  that year. I haven’t stopped crying since starting to write this and the grief has come out of nowhere as I certainly wasn’t feeling sad before I started writing today.

In the July of 2018 my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a very rare type at the same time I had stuff going on in my life that was extremely stressful. I was already suffering from terrible anxiety and depression after losing by now 5 people from my life and one dog ( in the February I lost a school friend who I had known from the age of 11 and we used to have regular chats on social media, just last night I thought I must ask Jon what planet I can see in the nights sky currently, as Jon had bought himself a telescope not long before he passed – totally unexpectedly and I had to remind myself that he isn’t here). I struggled to get up and out of bed as the stress was doing a real number on my chronic health conditions. I was passing out frequently and had issues with ptosis. The heat of the summer didn’t help either.

My mum then had major surgery in the August, in the September we had good news that although what had been removed was cancer, it was tiny, the size of a pin head and very unlikely to return. She is currently in remission, no one is cancer free until they have been 5 years clear. She has regular checks at the hospital and will do for another 3 years.

I finally thought that we may get some peace, after all what the hell could happen to us next? Surely the universe was done toying with us now? But no, 2018 was going to end badly and 2019 wasn’t going to start any better. On 29th December 2018 we lost our beloved boy Frankie aged 12 ( a Weimaraner) and his Mum Mollie (Weimaraner) followed him over Rainbow Bridge exactly a week later on January 5th 2019 aged 14. Both had incredibly long lives for the size of dog they were but at the time it felt like my world had imploded. I had spent every day with my dogs since 1st June 2008 ( except for hospital stays ) They were a huge part of my life and most of the time the only company I had except Jay.  I didn’t know that I could be in such emotional and physical pain and yet still wake up day after day. I thought Mr Myasthenia Kid was going to drop dead from a broken heart he looked so fragile and  broken. Even with Dembe our Labrador puppy coming into our lives on January 11th 2019, we were struggling.

This was where I noticed this friends  persons absence even more, no messages checking on how I was doing. No card, no flowers, no visit. Yet again H and Immie were there by my side, along with Paul, Pam’s partner. I will be forever touched by Paul coming over on the Sunday after Frankie passed and then coming over again the following weekend when Mollie passed. He sat and shed tears with us and told us not to worry that Pam would be looking after them until we all met up again.

 I had cards and flowers from friends and cyber friends and yet no call to check how we were, beyond the initial messages of me telling you what had happened. That is when the penny finally dropped, that when I needed you, you disappeared as you had done so many times before, unless there was an opportunity for you to be seen as a “good” person. There were so many people I only knew on Facebook who came to visit to check that we were ok or who messaged me out of the blue. I have never felt love like it, so many people hugging us, looking out for us, physically being present. 

When Dembe arrived oh my goodness, so many visits. I have never known a puppy get so many toys and presents. I had baby gates offered within minutes of me asking on Facebook if I could borrow some, the same with crates etc. Nothing was too much trouble for people. It was overwhelming and it was something I have never experienced before and I am so touched by all those people. However it made this persons lack of action / concern even more painfully obvious. That hurt, even with all the pain I was in already the fact that we could all be so easily forgotten was another huge red flag.

Initially I made excuses,  maybe I hadn’t said I was struggling? Maybe you didn’t realise I was grieving? Maybe you didn’t understand the depth of my grief? But even to the village idiot it would have been glaringly obvious. Contact over the year became less and less. It felt more and more like it was one way traffic which indeed it was. I was lucky when I messaged you if I got more than a couple of sentences out of you. Again I made excuses, you were busy with your new life now. You certainly made me feel like I was interrupting you living your best life. When it got to 4 months since I had last spent any time with you and even longer since we had spent any time alone, the decision was made. I had waited a month at that point for a message to be answered. I snapped. I was faced with the prospect of you turning up on my birthday and I knew I couldn’t pretend for 5 minutes let alone several hours that everything was ok and that I was grateful for the few crumbs of attention you had thrown my way.

You would have never put up with being treated like that by anyone, yet I was just supposed to accept this? The last 2 years had passed in a haze of grief but I was starting to feel stronger. I knew that your behaviour  was now emotionally damaging to me. I couldn’t move forward if I was going to continually wound myself, wondering what I had done wrong, why I wasn’t good enough or why you felt you could take advantage of my good nature. So I ripped the band aid off and called time, reasonably amicably. I had been hesitant about hurting you when it was clear from your actions you had no concern about hurting me.

I suppose I am reflecting on all this as that is what the new year does. December and January are full of anniversaries of people and pets passing they are hard months. It’s only now on 22nd January that I feel like the weight has been lifted . That I realise that the last few years I have been operating / functioning with a low level depression going on in the background. That the anxiety has lessened enough for me to see things clearly.

 You had changed or maybe the real you had come to the surface? Perhaps I chose not to see the real you or the nasty comments you made on a regularly basis. I put those down to you being verbally clumsy despite the fact you claim to be a writer. I realised I had put up with far more than I had ever credited myself with. I was right to call time and that belief is unshakeable now. I’m not the only one that has noticed that you have changed, grown colder and more bitter than you have ever been. I feel sorry for you as your world is shrinking and you are so full of yourself you can’t see it. One day you will come crashing down to earth with a bump and you will be all alone. Maybe you want it that way, so you can perpetually be the victim?

I reflect back and realise I should have found the strength earlier. That I should have seen the pattern that I could never depend on you. That you liked to take and use, yet giving absolutely nothing in return.  You may think you have everybody fooled but truthfully more and more of us are seeing through you. I hope you find some peace because only someone who is utterly miserable with their own life finds joy in hurting others.

Dreading Christmas

Despite outward appearances, the decorations are up and I have been working on Christmas sewing projects, I am dreading Christmas. I know it is going to be hard and emotionally draining. No matter how hard I try not to make a big deal out of it, I can’t get away from the fact this will be the first year without Frankie and Mollie and will be the second without Willow ( our Weimaraners ) and it feels like a knife to the heart.

I feel guilty that I should be happy as we have Dembe and it is his first Christmas with us. Believe me I am but it doesn’t lessen the pain of knowing for the first time in 16 years our home will not have a Weimaraner in it this Christmas time. 

Travis our first Weimaraner arrived home on 13th December 2003, he was our very first dog as a couple. Although I had been brought up with dogs, budgies and Hamsters, Jay had never been allowed anything more than fish, so this was a huge deal and we loved it. Mollie arrived in January 2004 and for two years we were very happy, although Travis had been sick since he was 6 months old from an un-diagnosed illness which we now believe was Lung worm. He passed away 10 days after Willow and Frankie were born in our spare room ( now Jay’s room) in 2006. It broke our hearts and I have never got over it. There are still days I can’t say his name without breaking down and it has been 13 years. 

Although we knew that at age 14 and 12 Mollie and Frankie weren’t going to last forever. It still came as a terrible shock when the end came and to lose Frankie on 29th December followed 7 days later by Mollie passing away from a catastrophic stroke on 5th January after 16 years of having dogs we were suddenly left with nothing.  We were incredibly lucky that I found a breeder with 2 male Labrador puppies available and that could come home by 11th January. It was quick and I know some people need more time, I still wonder now if it was the right thing to do and after all the joy Dembe has brought us I have to say yes. Although it was incredibly difficult looking after a new puppy whilst in the midst of what seemed like never ending grief.

Jay and I have spoken about the fact that we don’t remember very much from this year. It isn’t until the summer that we actually start to remember things that have happened in 2019. For the first 6 to 7 months everything was a blur. I am so grateful that I started The Dembe Diaries and took so many photographs as his puppyhood was over in the blink of an eye and we have few memories about it. I actually have no idea how I have managed to survive this year. I didn’t know it was possible to survive such physical and emotional pain and still live. There were times I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up but I knew Dembe needed me and Jay would never cope with losing all of us. I am sure there were days that Jay felt the same but we were both so wrapped up in our own grief and it was just too much to attempt to put what we were feeling into words. 

Some people might not get this, they may not understand how you can have this level of grief over an animal and that’s fine. I actually feel sorry for you if you have never had an animal in your life that you have loved more than anything else in the world. My bond with the dogs was much stronger than a lot of peoples would have been because I spent nearly everyday with them ( other than hospital admissions and medical appointments and there have been a lot of both). Even writing this post has had me in tears at times.

So I just feel like Christmas this year is about going through the motions. We keep geeing each other along in the hope it gets us through. We are planning on spoiling Dembe and making it about the three of us. I am hoping a fake it until you make it approach may get me through the festive period. Jay already confessed that he is sick of Christmas already ( not brilliant when you work in retail but highly understandable)  the forced frivolity and pretending that you are going to be having the best Christmas ever has wound him up before the season of goodwill has really begun.

I am normally really organised, I would have sent out our Christmas cards already. Posted the parcels that needed sending to family today. I don’t know when it is getting done this year as neither of us really gives a shit. We have treated ourselves to a Marks & Spencer’s food order, only a very small one otherwise no Christmas food would have been bought and we would be having beans on toast on December 25th ( it actually wouldn’t be the first time as one year both of us came down with flu). Oh and by organised I mean that every Christmas present would have been bought and wrapped by now. This year I decided I would make them all….I am still making them and only some are wrapped. I just can’t whip myself into a Christmas frenzy because I just don’t give care if I am honest. Maybe later in the month I will feel it. But at the moment I am the Grinch. Christmas can go f**k itself currently.

This year we are at sixes and sevens as Jay’s job has changed. Since 2008 / 09 he has had Christmas Eve off to help prep the food / house for Christmas day. His old job meant he wasn’t needed in work, his new job means he is. So the first time in a decade I won’t have my trusty side kick with me on Christmas Eve. It is going to be strange, no Weimaraners pushing me off the sofa or leaving the back door open and no husband. It just adds to the sense of massive change this Christmas brings. I will have to find my Muppets Christmas Carol DVD and sit and watch that. 

We have changed the dresser over to our Christmas Emma Bridgewater Pottery display. Out of everything that is the one thing that gives us joy. We got the majority of our Christmas items when we took a day trip to the factory in 2017. It was a very special day, even though I did worry myself sick about leaving the dogs ( with a sitter, thank you Imogen) for that amount of time. We also got to meet our friend Emmey and her husband Mike ( and their doggies) which was a really lovely add on. This year we decided to spread some of the pottery over onto the bookcase as well. I couldn’t bring myself to take down the dogs photos to make room for our Christmas display. It probably sounds silly but it just felt wrong. I am pleased with how the lounge is looking and if anyone visits we look the epitome of Mr & Mrs Christmas…..even if we don’t feel like it.

We are trying to make it special for Dembe as a way of getting us through it. On Saturday we are taking him to meet Santa Paws and getting his photo taken. It does make me laugh a little bit as that is something we would never have managed to do with the Weimaraners unless we took them down separately as they were really badly behaved when they were outside the house. Dembe is an angel but to be fair it is much easier training one dog than trying to train 2 or 3 . Plus we have invested so much training time in Dembe, taking proper classes run by a professional rather than the rubbish we attended in the past with Mollie and Travis where we learned nothing as how can you get individual attention or help in a group of 15 dogs plus going around in circles at a village hall. We said right from the off he had to be trained and be exceptionally well behaved when working and that is exactly what we have got. But then you get back what we put in and every day is a school day with Dembe.

Believe me I am not anti Christmas, I normally like Christmas – I am not a Christmas lover as generally I find it never lives up to the hype. But I love spending time with Jay and well it used to be dogs plural but now just dog. We have always done what we wanted at Christmas . This year though its overshadowed with the sense of loss. Hopefully Christmas 2020 will be better, easier less painful. Just this one is going to hurt. It is the not knowing how much it will hurt that is bothering me, which is why I am dreading Christmas 2019.

Life Laundry – moving on.

Me and Travis

 

I don’t know what it is about October but it seems to be a catalyst for me to have a look at my life and change things. Remove those things that are causing me unhappiness / hurt. To assert myself and decide that those who do not treat me with respect will no longer have that option. I have no idea what makes me so brave in October, maybe it is because it is my birthday the following month? Is it because I don’t want another year of feeling unhappy, unworthy, stressed out by people or things or events? Maybe I just don’t want another birthday where I compromise and don’t put myself and my happiness first?  October as I have written about before is a month of sadness for me, even more so this year as it is full of anniversaries now of dogs and people I have lost. 

First it is my Grans birthday, I miss her more than I imagined I would. That may sound strange but for much of my childhood she was someone I spoke to on the phone and perhaps saw twice a year as she lived at the other end of the country. I stupidly believed that life would continue on as normal when the time came but I have to admit there have been so many occasions that I have gone to ring her and realised that she is no longer here. She would have loved Dembe, she loved dogs and told me on more than one occasion that if she had owned Buster ( her dog ) first she would never have had children. I miss her sense of humour and Jamie’s face when he tried to speak to her on the phone but struggled due to her Aberdonian accent.

The following day it would have been the babies – Frankie’s and Willow’s 13th birthday. I wasn’t really conscious that day due to the hemiplegic migraine I came down with. I knew it was coming and I was feeling sad so I do wonder if both those anniversaries triggered or played a part in triggering the migraine. It wasn’t something either of us was talking about it was the elephant in the room. Plus that birthday is shared by our niece who was celebrating her 30th birthday which left us feeling ancient. She was just 8 years old when I met Jamie. 

Today 16th October Dembe celebrates his 11 month birthday. He has celebrated in style this morning by having his very first swim in a pond on the common. He has been really funny about water outside of the home, he leaps over or avoids puddles at all costs. He would barely get his feet wet by paddling in ponds when very small and ran away from the sea when we took him down the beach.  So to hear he has had a swim is really funny. Unfortunately Jay thought he had videoed the event on his phone but when he came back to show me, he had taken about 1 seconds worth of footage. It’s not the end of the world Dembe will probably now be a regular swimmer and Jay will take better footage. 

I’m glad that it is only this year that we count the months of Dembe’s age. As our first dog Travis passed away on 17th October 2006, 13 years ago and in all those years there is not a day that goes by when he doesn’t pop into my head. Of course I know that the chances are that he would have passed away by now but to lose a dog before his 3rd birthday is a unique kind of hurt. When you get a puppy you expect to have at least 10 good years with them. Believe me those ten years fly by. If you get longer, which we have been incredibly lucky to do with Mollie ( Travis’ sister), Frankie and Willow, (Mollies children), the loss isn’t so hard to bear. Its tough believe me especially losing Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I have said it before and I shall say it again, I thought I would drop dead from the pain of it all. However the pain you feel when they don’t reach that milestone of ten years is a pain like no other. I don’t think I will ever be able to say that the pain has truly gone.

October 25th marks Travis’ birthday, we first saw him when he was three days old. At that point we had no idea which pup would be our boy but his name was already chosen and we were so excited already that we were having problems sleeping. It seemed such a grown up thing to be doing, even though we were both 29! Three days after his birth on a Tuesday we moved into our home and have been here ever since. I can’t believe it has been 16 years already, it still feels like it was just a few years ago. But the little boy two doors down is now coming up for 21 and works and the same place hubby does.

There doesn’t seem to be a week in October that doesn’t hold a significant anniversary. For years I always used to hate October, I would start to feel down the minute the clock struck midnight on October 1st. I would just feel sadder and sadder until the 17th and then I would spend that day blubbering on and off, trying to deal with the overwhelming grief that I felt over losing Travis. Some years are easier than others. Last year it was a terrible day, I sat on the sofa all day crying being comforted by Frankie not realising how little time I had left with him. This year it doesn’t feel so bad. Probably because we have our little ray of sunshine Dembe to keep us on our toes. He is such a happy dog it is pretty impossible to stay sad for more than a few moments as he will do something that will either melt your heart or make you dissolve into fits of laughter. I also think after going through that double loss at the start of the year all other grief / pain pales into insignificance.

Whilst October has for many years been a sad month for me, it also has become a significant milestone for my friendships. I am an extremely loyal friend who will fight to the death for you. I am the place you run to when you need help or comfort. Wrongly I put you before me and sometimes individuals take advantage of this and abuse my friendship. I don’t deliberately ever plan to sit and take stock of my friendships at this point in the year. It seems to be something that happens. I think it is because with my birthday the following month I think to myself “would I want to spend my birthday with this person?” Would I feel comfortable accepting a gift from them knowing how I feel about them?” I normally just look at the people I have been moaning to Mr Myasthenia Kid. He will tell me quite honestly if this is a conversation we have had many times before. He will ask me “if next year will we be having the same discussion?” Some years I do nothing, I soldier on determined to make the best of things as due to my health conditions friends who come and see me are in short supply. I do have wonderful friends on Instagram and Facebook but sometimes you need to actually speak to someone, share physical space with them. If it has got to the point where I don’t want to spend time with a person and would rather spend days on end alone then I know it is time to move on. Be it a friendship of two years or twenty. I have no desire to flog a dead horse. I won’t beg, I won’t demand, I just leave and move on with my life. I have done it before, I will probably do it many times.

I don’t expect much from friendship, I certainly don’t expect to be the centre of your universe, we all have our own lives and all the demands placed on them. I do expect to be more than an afterthought. I do expect manners, loyalty and respect. I also like communication, conversation that is two way. I will hold my hand up and admit I can be crap at remembering to message people but I do make an effort for those who I consider in my  close circle. I will always be there for my friends like they are for me. 

To be fair it’s not just my friendships that have come under scrutiny in this life laundry. I have done a lot of sorting out of clothes, belongings etc Donating a lot to charity as both hubby and I are on a diet and so much of our clothing has become tent like. I have been taking a look at each room and trying to reduce the clutter. It seems again to be a pattern of mine in October! probably because I want the house looking nice for our birthdays or Christmas.

As a friend told me its Life Laundry, as in it’s a spring clean of relationships. You get rid of the crap and the unnecessary. As she said “it’s tough but necessary” and she is right. You shouldn’t cling to things that no longer make you happy.  

I already feel so much happier and uncluttered. Even though there is a huge anniversary for me tomorrow I am not facing it with the usual dread.  It is time to move on.

Frankie

 

Mollie and Willow

 

Gran & me

Update on Dembe

For this week’s blog post I thought I would give you an update on Dembe. For those of you who would like to see more of him, he has his own blog over at http://www.thedembediaries.com, where I publish what we have been up to over the previous week, with video’s and photographs.

Dembe was 10 months old on Monday (16th SEptember 2019). He now weighs 32kg and is 23 inches to the shoulder. I can’t sing his praises loudly enough, he is a simply adorable pup. He is so loving, sensitive, clever and just happy. I have never known such a happy dog whose tail only really stops wagging when he is asleep but he has also been known to wag it in his sleep as well.

We are training him to become my assistance dog, so we have been doing lots of training going into various different environments, so that he can cope with strange noises, people, smells etc. He becomes a different dog when his yellow vest goes . He knows he is there to work and is on his best behaviour. Like anyone though he has his good and bad days . His bad days though most people wouldn’t even notice, Jay and I are acutely aware.

We passed level one basic obedience training and handling back in July and we are now attending level 2/3 with him for the next few weeks. We all enjoy going to the class and being able to ask the trainer questions and for advice. Dembe loves seeing the other dogs and his time spent with Jay is creating a fantastic bond between them.  When I look back at how he was at the first training class in June to how he is now the transformation is magnificent. We have a dog that listens to instructions and walks beautifully to heel. In fact on a few occasions Jay has been asked by complete strangers for hints and tips on training. Which always makes us laugh.

He is a really sensitive soul, he hates thinking he has done anything wrong. If he accidently hurts me ( which all puppies do clonking you with their paws etc)  he panics and smothers me in kisses. He is such a very loving boy who likes to be touching you when he sleeps or sits next to you. He is a mummys boy but it is wonderful to see how excited he gets when Jay comes home or Jay goes to give him a cuddle.

He is very clever, it took me a matter of minutes to train him to remove my socks. He can retrieve various toys from his toy-box when you ask him to. If you say “where’s crocodile?” “find him” he runs to the toy box and will retrieve his favourite crocodile toy. He will do this with a few toys like piggy, doggy, baby bear, baby blankey and blue dinosaur. I have also had him retrieve his empty kong from upstairs. We were talking about this at dog training last night and apparently this shows he has an aptitude for searching or being a search dog. This isn’t something we have trained him to do. One day I asked him to get crocodile and he did it. I thought it was just a fluke so I asked him to do it again later and he did. I then waited for Jay to get home and showed him. The next day I asked him to find Piggy wig and he did. Now it is our party piece when we have visitors!

As he is 10 months old there are things we still need to work on, things that we have let slide that are now becoming an issue. He is very keen to be as close as possible when you are eating. Which is a bit of a nightmare on the rare occasions we have guests. We need to stop the sitting next to you attempting to get your head in your plate nonsense that is happening . The other thing that needs working on is his need to jump up at me when I am on my mobility scooter and I have come to a stop. However that needs Jay to keep him on a shorter lead and to stop him getting the ability to jump. That will be a huge challenge as he never will see that he influences or has control over what Dembe is doing. Despite doing all these hours of training so it can be a bit annoying at times when you are having the same conversation over and over again. 

One thing I am very sure of is I want a dog and not a robot. I love his character and I don’t want him to feel like he can’t be himself. 

It was very funny on Sunday as we were taking a trip around a supermarket. This one was laid out differently and had a huge precut cheese section at the end of the deli counter. There is nothing in the world that Dembe enjoys more than cheese. He will literally spin in circles if you get the cheese out of the fridge. So here he was confronted by his most favourite thing in the world at Dembe height and easy to access. I closed my eyes fearing we were going to have to pay for a huge block of cheese because he had sunk his teeth into them. He sniffed for ages, every piece of cheese got a sniff but he was very restrained and when Jay told him leave he did indeed leave it. That was a massive test in self control for him and I was so proud. 

But even prouder when my friend who was the duty manager told me the story about the guide dog that visited their store. When you think of Guide dogs for the blind you think of superbly trained dogs that would never be tempted by food whilst working. They are the dogs that are so well trained they put many other dogs to shame.

At the side of the fish counter in her store they have a freshly cooked pasty section. At dog height…how perfect. Beccy told us that as the owner of the guide dog was talking to the fishmonger, the guide dog took a sly lick of a pasty  at the front of the shelf. Then stared down the fishmonger who had watched him do it, in almost a dare to see if he would tell the owner. The fishmonger said the attitude from the guide dog was hilarious and he did indeed keep quiet! That really made us laugh and made him obsessively sniffing the cheese not such a big deal, I mean if guide dogs get a bad day!

Dembe makes us laugh on a daily basis. I didn’t know it was possible to love a dog as much as I love him. He likes walking around carrying stuff in his mouth and he walks around with his antler chew like pipe. When we first brought him home it was really hard, we were dealing with so many conflicting emotions initially it felt like I was just going through the motions. I didn’t feel that bond with him like I do now. I was constantly reminded that I didn’t know him like I knew Mollie, Frankie and Willow because I had known them years. It fueled my anxiety because I was constantly worrying that if there was something wrong with him I wouldn’t know or I would miss the subtle signs that I wouldn’t have done with them. Now however I feel like I know him more and we do have a wonderful bond. I know I love hima crazy amount whereas before I was always doubting myself that I did.

At times I wondered if we had done the right thing by getting him so soon after Frankie and Mollie passed away. But I credit him with getting Jay and I through that awful dark time. We wouldn’t be without him and he brings such joy to us both.

Everyone who meets him, falls in love with him and his gentle nature. In all the time we have had him I have never heard him growl. Bark yes, he likes to do that a lot. Which makes me laugh as everything I have read about Labradors says they seldom bark. Obviously Dembe didn’t get that memo! 

He is also very good when I am poorly and he adjust his energy level accordingly. He did it when I was poorly with a chest and sinus infection about three weeks after we brought him home. He would sleep all day on my feet and only run around like a maniac when Jay came home for lunch and at the end of the day. If I am feeling crappy he will sleep beside me on the sofa having a cuddle. If I am feeling brighter he will want to play more and have more engagement with me. Again this isn’t something we have taught but this is something he has done instinctively, just like his Uncle Frankie.

I could go on and on about Dembe the wonder dog but I won’t bore your further with this quick update.

Truth v Gossip

There is one thing that I have found since having several chronic health conditions that people simply do not understand and that is the fatigue levels that come with them. I know some people have created this fairy tale in their heads that either have withdrawn from society or that Mr Myasthenia Kid doesn’t let me out in the world. People stupidly believe this gossip rather than actually ask me. They are simply untrue, the reason I don’t go out very much is because I get so exhausted by doing very little outside the home.

At home I have an environment I can control. I have regular household sounds, lighting etc. All of which my body is used to. The minute any of that becomes too much I can go to bed, lie down, limit the light and sound. Out of the home I have zero control over the additional stimuli my body is bombarded with. Also these days I am using a scooter a lot of the time, the concentration levels involved in driving this even for a short period of 20 minutes, drains me. It makes it hard for me to manage a conversation and drive. The minute I don’t concentrate like when driving a car accidents can happen. I have almost gone off the sea wall down at the seafront because I was trying to talk and drive. It takes a lot out of me and unless you have to balance your activity and rest periods people just don’t understand it.

Since Sunday I have had an extraordinarily busy week, for me. For normal people this will probably sound like a leisurely few days. On Sunday we went to Pets at Home the big one so around 20 minutes in the car to get there. Then we went to Tesco to upgrade our phones which took about an hour. We had Dembe with us who behaved beautifully. There were lots of people in Tesco that I knew that haven’t seen me since I have lost 49lbs in weight and who also wanted to meet Dembe. So it was very busy. After the morning we had around 90 minutes sit down and then we went to visit friends with Dembe. It was lovely to see them both and Dembe really enjoyed his visit too. However by 6pm I was completely drained and was up in bed resting, before dropping off just after 8pm.

Many of you will be thinking how can that low level of activity wear you out? I wish I knew, my only explanation is the assault on all my senses just physically and mentally wears me out. The extra noise, people, lights, smells, physical activity of driving a mobility scooter. Being upright with my legs down and blood pooling, changes in temperature, all those things combined just zap any charge that was left in my batteries. On Monday it took me hours to get moving. I was fit for nothing until about 2pm, which is crazy. My body just felt like there were 15lb weights attached to each limb and my head, well I just couldn’t really focus on anything that demanded more than a limited amount of mental acuity. 

On Tuesday I felt a lot better as I had spend Monday recuperating, which again if you have never suffered from bone crushing levels of fatigue you would struggle to understand. We needed to take Dembe to the vets to be weighed and to get his worming tablets / flea / tick treatment. We were there around 20 minutes as we like to have a catch up with the staff as Dembe is very popular there. We then popped up to Tesco for a few items, we took Dembe with us to give him some more environmentalization training. We only needed three things but Dembe has such a huge fan club amongst the staff and customers that it took 40 minutes. I then spent as much of the afternoon as I could resting with my feet up as in the evening we had our first night back at our weekly dog training class.

Evenings are the absolute worst time for me to be out of the house. Purely because I go to bed every evening between 7pm – 8pm or earlier if it is a rubbish day. By then I struggle to hold myself upright, co-ordinate my movements and as I discovered last night I can also end up struggling to talk because my brain can’t channel the words to my mouth. Ending up with me looking like a fish out of water. I thought I would be ok, after all I did the dog training in the summer. But I don’t think I had been out as much during the day. The dog training lessons are intense. Even though I just sit there and let Jay do all the training. I can’t do the walking around or being up on my feet that much. 

I coped ok in June and July so it was really surprising ( and frustrating ) to me last night to get half an hour in and to start feeling really, really unwell. I don’t know about anyone else but I hate having to ask for help or potentially making a scene due to being ill. I have in the past been known to wait for everyone to leave the room before I have allowed myself to projectile vomit. Thankfully there was nothing for anyone to see, although I may have gone more pale than normal. I just suddenly had the internal organ sinking feeling, then felt I experienced some feelings of dissociation. I knew I was in the room but I didn’t feel I was part of it. Unless you have felt this it is a difficult feeling to explain. I can feel like this just before I faint and I knew that is what my body was preparing to do. As I was sat down I rapidly starting clenching my bum cheek and tensing my calves in an attempt to get the blood moving. The whole time I was absolutely terrified I was going to wake up surrounded by people having taken a nosedive from the chair.

The weird thing was I could see poor Dembe trying to alert Jay to what was happening as hit lay down on the floor and had his head turned to me. He was watching ensuring I was ok. When I spoke to Jay afterwards to let him know what had happened he said “why didn’t you get up and go to the car so you could lie down?” which is a reasonable enough question as normally I do have quite a bit of warning so I can avert a faint. I just said to him that I felt so bad I was terrified if I stood up that I would go down with a bang. He then said “well why didn’t you shout me?” the simple fact of the matter was I just didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to me.

 I really HATE the spotlight being on me, I hate it even more if it is because I am having a funny turn or have fainted. It is stupid I know but I just can’t, it makes me feel so very uncomfortable. Like I am causing a nuisance or being melodramatic. This probably goes back to various incidents at school and at work where I have been seriously unwell and been called a drama queen or that I was causing a scene. When I was younger I was never believed when I was sick, even when I have had major surgery, I had work colleagues say I was doing it for attention. How on earth you get a team of NHS surgeons to open you up from pubic bone to sternum just for fun I have no idea but apparently I can.

Thankfully my funny turn went after 10 minutes but it left me feeling seriously drained. I spent the entire journey home yawning non stop which is always a sign that my blood pressure has dropped. I was in bed by 8pm and asleep by 9pm.

Today ( Wednesday ) I am seriously pooped but like I always say I’d rather be knackered due to going out and having fun or just living a normal life than being this wiped out from doing nothing. Again it has taken me all morning to get going. I have been up since 7am and it is only now at 13.30 that I am starting to feel human and that I can do anything that needs any mental clarity. On days like this I have to take advantage of any window of opportunity when I feel well enough physically and mentally to be able to get up and crack on with something I want to do.

Obviously having the Weimaraners did curtail my activities outside the house. It was too expensive to get dog sitters in all the time and there are only so many times you can ask friends to do it for you. They were too destructive to leave by themselves, so in the end it just became easier to not go out or just one of us go, than stress out about finding someone to stay with them. Our friends have been fabulous, Imogen looked after them so much in 2015 when I had my CSF leak. If it hadn’t been for her I wouldn’t have been able to attend half the appointments I did. She also looked after them when we went to the Emma Bridgewater factory for the day which was a 14 hour (plus) stint . My friend Sharon also did us a massive favour when she stayed with them so that Jay could appear on Sewing Quarter TV. Both Ellie and Heather have stepped up too and looked after them, along with Tracey, Sarah and so many others over the years. But even with that massive pool of helpers it wasn’t fair to continually ask them to look after them. So our outside activities took a back seat, plus a lot of the time I just wasn’t well enough.

Now we have Dembe and we are training him to be my assistance dog it means the whole world has opened up to me again. It is really weird after having 12 years of not really going anywhere but the hospital, the doctors surgery or the dentist. Those visits also wiped me out. We are so used to being home we are having to force ourselves to go out. Which is another reason why we are doing all the training with Dembe as it means at least once a week I will leave the house and also that he will be a well behaved assistance dog whom we can take everywhere with us. But I will always have to pace my activities. I will never be well enough to go out all day, every day of the week. I just don’t have the stamina or physical reserves to be able to cope with that. And that is fine with me. I do quite like my own company and being able to do the things I want to do. I guess I am saying I like a balance.

So when someone tells you that someone is a recluse or that they aren’t allowed to go out. Have a good long think about that person’s circumstances. Think about if they have a chronic health condition, suffered a bereavement all manner of things that could be the cause of them not being outside in the world as much as you think they should. Don’t take the easy option and accept the gossip no matter how credible the source because it is just that their take on what they “think” is happening. Which doesn’t make it the truth.

Empathy

When I wrote last week’s blog post Rainbow Bridge  I never expected in a million years the response that it received. It wasn’t just me hubby had people coming up to him in work, telling him that they couldn’t read it without shedding a tear or that it said what they felt but had never been able to express it. I had followers on Instagram contacting me about their recent losses and long ago losses too. On Facebook it was the same, with many people contacting me or leaving a comment. . It was emotionally hard as I am very empathetic, so when people start to get tearful when they are talking to me, it makes me cry too. But when I wrote the post I was half expecting it to stir up a lot of emotions because I had been in such a mess as I wrote it. I have to be honest I never did a final check on the post to look for errors, mainly because I found it so upsetting to read, it was real and raw. I haven’t even gone back to look at it now to refresh my memory before writing this one. I just can’t do it, I have already been in tears today twice over the dogs. It is always just bubbling away under the surface for me at the moment, although to look at me or to see any of my social media posts you would never know.

I am so touched that something I have written has moved so many people. I thank each and everyone of you who commented or messaged me. It was very hard last Thursday as I had no idea how it would be received. I had no clue if people would think I was wallowing, being self indulgent or a drama queen. That people would think that I should pull myself together and get on with the rest of my life. I promise you I am not self indulgent, wallowing or being a drama queen. I just write about life and my experiences. I try to give a voice to those feelings that we push down and don’t let anyone else see. I take a chance that people won’t reject me or ridicule me because I try to talk about things that many would rather brush under the carpet. Although there have been several articles regarding the death of a pet in National newspapers it is still treated with some degree of disbelief by those who have never had an animal / pet in their lives. 

The whole point of my post was for you – whoever you are, know that it is ok to feel whatever you are feeling, to express your grief ( and it is your’s and no one else’s) anyway that you like. That these feelings are totally normal. You are not weird, you aren’t wallowing in your grief, you aren’t an attention seeker and you are certainly not being a drama queen. You are hurting and it will take time to process all that emotion. Hell I am only 8 months on and there are days where I can barely keep it together. Days where all I do is cry. Days when I feel guilty when I know rationally I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I just wanted you to know you aren’t going mad, I honestly thought at times I was losing it. All of those feelings, even the uncontrollable rage that even surprises you when you roar, is totally normal. It is the beast called grief and it doesn’t have to be something that you go through alone.

As I touched on in my blog post even when you have suffered from a significant bereavement such as a partner / child / sibling / parent / friend, people who haven’t been through that kind of grief can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the feelings of loss and pain. They may see you red faced, tear stained and see your grief but that is soon forgotten because it has no direct impact on their lives. The next time they see you, taking the kids to school, going to work, getting the shopping – all things you have to do despite the pain and grief they assume you are “better”. They don’t understand that grief goes on forever. They seem to think that grief has a timeline and by a certain amount of time say 6-12 months maybe sooner if they are real dicks, you “should” be “over” it. How do you explain that there is no getting over it? You are just getting through each day the best you can. There will be good days, bad days and the worst kind of days.  Life will probably never be the same again. But there will never be or has there ever been for anyone who is grieving a time when they are over it. Getting Over It has to be the most grotesque phrase ever. Followed by Time is a great healer. There is no healing from grief, you carry that pain forever.

I had people contacting me about dogs they had lost thirty years ago during their childhood that they still mourned for.  Others told me about their recent losses that they just couldn’t process or that in the proceeding days before my blog post it had hit them, after thinking that they could keep going and carry on as normal. I was quite honest when I spoke to them and told them Jay and I have very little memory of January and February this year.

 We know we got Dembe, we know he was tiny but ask us to recall anything significant like where we took him on his first walk. What the date of his first walk was, his first bark, his first growl all the stuff we would normally remember and we draw a blank. It’s not because we didn’t care about it, purely our brains were overloaded processing what had happened when we lost Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I am so glad that I started the Dembe Diaries blog and his diary that I base the blog on, so that in years to come I can look back and see all those things in black and white that my brain was unable to absorb at the time.

 I do remember Jay barely spoke in the first 4-5 days after it happened. It was quite stressful as I went into list mode, trying to control everything because my anxiety spiked. His anxiety spiked because I was making so many demands on him all the time and obviously he needed to have some control in his life too. It was very difficult trying to get him motivated to help me sort the house out ready for Dembe’s arrival. Especially as we couldn’t stand being in the house as it was just full of reminders of how empty it was. We did cry together and we did talk about our babies, all of our babies. But the pain and grief was hard because although it has happened to both of you (or all of you) it is also an individual thing that no one can make better or take away from you. People grieve in different ways. Just because Jay wasn’t breaking down in tears every 5 minutes like I was didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting or struggling to cope. You only had to take a look at him, ashen faced, tired and so very quiet, grief and pain was written all over him. For a few days I was worried that he was going to drop down dead from a heart attack or stroke he looked so ill.  

Grief is weird one minute you can feel like you are doing ok and the next minute it feels like the world is imploding. There is no rhyme or reason to it, you are carried on its current and it takes you wherever it pleases. There is no control of it, it controls you initially, even denying you sleep when it wants to. Both Jay and I suffered from terrible insomnia in the 7 days after Mollie and Frankies passing. We would find ourselves downstairs in the middle of the night watching crap on the TV whilst eating chocolate biscuits and drinking sugary tea in the hope we would just pass out from a sugar overdose. I remember one day within about 20 minutes of each other we both left the electric shower on, when we left the bathroom, returning to it a few minutes later, neither of us could work out why we had left it running. We had no recollection of leaving the bathroom.  Life really was being lived on autopilot, all we could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and get through another day.

I want to tell you that things do get better, the grief becomes less overwhelming.  I feel like I am finally starting to live life again instead of just simply going through the motions. I am not saying that in 8 months you will also be feeling better, it could be less time it could be substantially more time. But there will come a time when you let a breathe out and know that you are starting to be you again.

Up until about a week ago the last time I listened to music and enjoyed it was 29th December 2018. That was the day that Frankie passed away and I had been listening to my Sinead O’connor LP. I didn’t play any music for a couple of weeks. After that time had passed, I tried but I found the noise too much and overwhelming. I had no emotional connection to the music. I would rather be in silence or have the TV on low in the background.  For the last two weeks I have played music non-stop. I have sung at the top of my voice and quite possibly scared the neighbours. I have found the joy in music again. I haven’t played my Sinead O’Connor LP, I think that one will take some time. I may not play it again for several years, I’m not setting myself a target, I will let it happen, I won’t force it. One day I will sing something from the album and it will be like an ear worm that won’t die until I play it. At the moment anything from that LP makes me sad.

We have also started planning things for the future. We have booked  a short break in the UK next year and we will be taking Dembe with us. It is very exciting. This will be the first time since 2006 that Jay and I have had any sort of holiday. It is only 3 nights away but it will do us all some good just to get out of the house and away from the day to day. I am nervous as hell as I have become a real homebody since becoming ill. Other than stays in hospital I haven’t been away from the house in 13 years. It is hilarious to me that I am getting a bit anxious thinking about it when Jay and I have travelled to Sri Lanka, USA (Florida), Antigua, Paris, Menorca and various places all over the UK for weddings / christenings. I know that we can do it, it is just my world has been so very small over the last 13 odd years.

So please be kind to yourself, wherever you are in your journey with grief. Everyone does grief differently, there is no one size fits all. What works for you may not work for anyone else.  Remember living life does not mean that you have forgotten those who are no longer with us. At some point things will get easier, you will reach a new normal. It is not a journey you have to do alone. If more of us start talking about grief and how it affects us we will educate those who have never experienced it and maybe create a little more empathy. The world could really do with more empathy at the moment.