I met Kira on October 24, 2004. She was a scared little bundle that had to be caught from inside the pen where she and her siblings had been living before she could be handed to me. She was so light and small cradled in the crook of my arm. She wouldn’t look at me but I kept cooing and kissing at her like the goofball that anyone near a puppy becomes, and I finally felt a tremulous wag from the little tail under my elbow. She then turned her head and gave me a few timid kisses on the nose and quickly looked away again. She was quick, but it was enough time for me to notice that she had adorable little freckles on the bridge of her nose. I got her to turn her head one more time so that my ex-husband could take a picture of us but in the second picture she’s looking away again. I held her brother too who was a normal Eskie puppy size and more confident in attention, but I already knew that the little girl had my heart.
The only problem was that we had just come to “look” at the puppies on our way to a pumpkin fair and I didn’t expect my ex-husband to let me adopt one. We left and continued to our destination, and I did my best to not think about how I wished the little girl puppy was with me when we arrived at the fair.
It was the next day – when we were at Wal-Mart of all places – that my ex-husband told me that I could get the puppy. I wanted to jump up and down and scream with joy, but I controlled myself. I asked him if he was really sure because he wasn’t an “animal person”, but he said yes with the contingency that I couldn’t pick her up until Sunday, the day after the Halloween party we were having on Saturday night. As soon as we got back to the house I called the woman who had the litter and told her that I wanted the puppy. “You remember which one it was, right? The one I held?” I asked anxiously. “The one with the freckles on her nose?” She assured me that she knew which one I wanted and would hold her for me until Sunday.
I couldn’t wait an entire week to see the puppy again though, so I stopped at the woman’s house a few days later on my way home from work. I knocked at the door but no one answered so I went around the back to the puppys’ kennel. To my surprise two little white bundles of fluff were running around in the yard. “My” puppy and her twin sister who was as tiny as she was had dug a hole under the fence of their kennel and escaped while their other sister and brother – who were twice as big as the little ones and couldn’t fit through – barked in indignation at them. The twin managed to run past me and squirm back under the hole into the safety of her kennel, but mine continued to scurry while I did my best to catch her. For twenty minutes she managed to avoid my grasp, but she started to seem not so much scared as she was just enjoying making me chase her. This theory was confirmed when she ran under the deck then assumed the pounce position with her front legs on the ground and her butt in the air, she did her first yodel/howl at me. I did finally caught her when she made a break for the hole to return to her kennel but wasn’t fast enough to shimmy through before I grabbed her. Once I had her in my arms I didn’t want to let have to let her go again, so even though it was a long shot, I called my ex-husband to see if I could convince him to let me bring her home early. Unfortunately he wouldn’t budge, and I had to hand her back to her custodian again. I remember the woman was wiping her face to get all of the dirt off and she squeaked in distress. The woman told me that she was dramatic, but it made leaving her that much more difficult.
It was the longest four days ever, but when Sunday, Halloween, came I picked up the girl who would always be referred to as my favoritest Halloween treat ever, my Kira.
The following three years were very difficult for both of us. My ex-husband never turned into an animal person, and in fact was jealous of the attention I gave her, so the abuse that I suffered increased in my effort to shield her from his tantrums. I hated having to go to work wondering if there would be enough people at the house to distract him from looking for any excuse to chastise her. As difficult as those years were though I find myself now thinking back to all of the beautiful memories Kira and I managed to create with just the two of us together. I remember taking her to a second round of obedience/socialization class and having her win the trophy for Most Improved. I remember leash training her and then taking walking around the neighbourhood going down different blocks to mix it up. I remember walking around the blocks in the south and looking at all of the decorations for Christmas and Halloween while she sniffed along the sidewalk. I remember walking her northwise while listening to “Preston & Steve” podcasts. I remember driving to an old cemetery near us and walking her around all the crumbling tombstones. I remember watching Christmas shows – all of the classics like “A Year Without Santa Clause” – with her snuggled against me on the bed despite my ex-husband forbidding Kira sleeping with us, and how she would hear my ex-husband come in the front door and jump off the bed and hop into the bed in her crate as if she had been there the entire time. I remember how she was always with me whether I was making run to the one shopping center to get sushi for dinner, or going to Dunkin’ Donuts to get coffee and a vanilla-iced doughnut. Oh my God, how she learned to love “Double D’s”. There was Dunkin’ Donuts just down the road in town and I’d stop in there enough in the evening or on weekends, but the one I remember most is the Dunkin’ Donuts right after the circle on 73 North in Berlin. That’s the one I would always stop at in the morning on the way to work when I had Kira with me to drop her off at her Grandmumma’s to stay there while I worked. Kira never got over her “stranger danger” despite all of the classes and socialization, but she learned that the drive-through attendants were not someone to bark at because they would give you treats from their windows. Her love of Double D’s reached a point that she would recognize the crinkle of their bag if I stopped on the way home, and she would be quite indignant if I did not share what I had purchased without her supervision. But of course I always shared. I found that I loved vanilla frosted donuts best only because I started getting that flavor instead of chocolate frosting since dogs shouldn’t have chocolate. Vanilla doughnuts WITH JIMMIES are still my favorite.
When we had our own apartment I would take her walking all around the complex, both for exercise and for her to do her business. There were these decorative grasses that the complex had planted all around the walkways in the complex and Kira would have to pee in each and every one of them. And she wouldn’t just pee on them, she had to get all the way up right in the middle of the plant to pee. My mom and I am jokingly called them her “tickly pee plants.” I’ve been to our old complex and found that they removed all of the tickly pee plants. I can’t really blame them because they weren’t that attractive but still, I don’t know if it makes me feel sadder or better that they’re not there anymore.
On June 30th 2015 I noticed that Kira’s poo was too dark for my comfort. Not that I regularly analyze my pup’s poo, but we had just adopted our Daisy, and since I had to be outside confirming Daisy’s bathroom habits I noticed Kira’s too. I told my mother that I was going to call our vet to have them run an occult blood screen on it.
The next day I was sitting at my desk at work when I saw my mother’s number flash on my cellphone. She never called me at work and I just thank God that I had my cell in a position where I saw her calling despite my ringer being off. When I answered my mother told me that Kira had “passed out” but assured me that she was better, however she was still on her way to the emergency vet to be safe. I wanted to fly out of the office and meet her there but instead I composed myself and waited to hear more once my mother got Kira to the vet. My mother called me back when she reached the vet and told me that Kira seemed fine now but did I still wanted them to examine her to be safe. I knew it would be expensive but I said yes that I wanted her examined because it would be worth it to know that Kira really was fine. But when ER vet called me about an hour later I found out that Kira wasn’t fine.
The vet told me that Kira’s hematocrit was at 20 whereas the normal level was 30. She was bleeding internally somewhere and the vet recommended an abdominal ultrasound to look for any foreign objects or a possible tumor in her stomach. I agreed to the ultrasound, and the vet said she would call me as soon as she had results.
The next few hours of that day are a story in themselves because I did not handle the stress well. The vet was taking too long to call me with results so I decided to drive to hospital and demand answers. I was on my way there and then, long story short, I took road rage to the next level when an asshole driver blocked my lane- and then flipped me off when I beeped – by grabbing a desk fan I had in my car, jumping out and threatening to beat the man to death with it if he didn’t get the fuck out of my lane. But anyway. It ended up that the vet called me just as I was pulling into the hospital parking lot. She hadn’t be able to see anything in the ultrasound due to a lot of gas and wanted to do an endoscopy. Kira’s hematocrit had also dropped during those hours and she needed a blood transfusion. I agreed to the blood transfusion but Kira did not handle anesthesia well and I didn’t want to put her through the stress of a procedure without being sure that she needed it so I asked to wait on the endoscopy. The ER vet was actually very sweet and considerate and said she would do the blood transfusion and understood my decision to wait on the endoscopy. When she asked me if I wanted to pick up Kira in the morning or have them call when the transfusion was done which would be around 2 am, there was no question that I would be driving there in the middle of the night to get my girl.
At nearly 2 am on the dot they called me and said that Kira’s levels were at 28, and I could come to get her. I knew as soon as I picked her up that it was not a good situation. Kira looked exhausted, panting and her eyes drooping. As soon as I set her down when we got home she dove into the water bowl drinking the entire thing. Ten minutes later it all came back up. I sopped up the vomit/water and she immediately guzzled down another bowl of water. And it all came back up. I tried letting her parched little body drink from the bowl one more time, and when it all came up again I had to force myself to only give her a 1/2 cup of water at a time. The water finally stayed down, though it broke my heart to see her licking and licking at the empty water bowl. We both dozed on the living room floor that night but neither of us got much sleep.
I went to work – or I think I went to work, I honestly don’t remember since I was awake for 30 hours at that point – but later that day we became concerned when Kira would not eat any solid food because without her eating we could not get her medicines into her. Once again I have to commend the vet for her trust in me because when I called and explained the situation and how I felt that Kira being away from me had exacerbated whatever was going on inside her, she agreed to give me the syringe of medication and have me administer it myself at home. This is actually a really big deal for a doctor to allow someone to do this and I’ll admit that I was nervous when the time came for me to administer this huge-ass needle to my baby. I finally mustered and got most of the injection in her – she shrieked halfway through the injection and the needle came out when she ran off – but it was enough that she finally started eating solid fool.
That Monday, July 6th, my mother took Kira to doctor who was covering for our regular vet as a follow up while I went to work and waited again for news. I remember sitting in the dark, empty auditorium at my office when that vet called and broke the news that Kira’s levels had dropped again. I sat there listening as she told me the possible causes and what treatment did I want to pursue if Kira had cancer. I could not answer her because I did not believe that Kira had something that would threaten her life. I felt that she had a stomach ulcer and that the medication we had been giving her just needed more time to work. I told her that I wanted to continue our current course of medication and we scheduled another follow up for Friday the 10th. We labored religiously to get all of Kira’s medications in her at all of the exact times and had everyone we know send prayers and good vibes that week, and when she had her follow up her levels climbed to 25. It was a miracle.
I was so relieved and thankful, particularly when I celebrated her birthday on the 14th. We hadn’t been to a Dunkin Donuts drive-through in since we had moved and lived within walking distance of one so I made a special trip and took her to the closest Dunkin Donuts with a drive-through so that she could get her vanilla doughnut as we had done so many times before. I remember that I was furious that they didn’t have vanilla – we still got a doughnut and I did get her a vanilla one at a walk-in Dunkin – but I was so upset. I think it was because some part of me knew. However I still wasn’t prepared when the vet called after Kira’s next appointment a few days later on Thursday the 16th and told me her levels were down to 18.
I went hysterical. I was at work sobbing on a dear friend’s shoulder trying to comprehend that my girl was so sick.
Our regular vet was finally back from vacation and surprisingly had hours that Saturday and he agreed to squeeze us in. We saw him only two days after her previous appointment and her levels were down to 13. The only good thing was that he agreed to put Kira on steroids and antibiotics like I had wanted for the previous week.
Again we had a schedule for all of her medications and gave them to her exactly when the had to be taken. I even started giving her a blood booster supplement and baking her “Pibble Pot Roast” a recipe from another dear friend that had helped her boy when he was sick. Her poo seemed to be getting lighter, but on July 22nd I noticed that Kira’s gums were extremely pale and she was very short of breath, so I rushed her to the ER again. This time when they tested her blood her level it was down to 10. I immediately consented to a second blood transfusion, but the vet did warn me that it was more difficult to predict a blood type interaction after a previous transfusion and that they would have to keep her overnight to be sure she didn’t have a reaction. They told me that she was refusing to eat though and asked if I would bring her some food to see if she would eat for me. I drove directly from work and took her for a stroll to the hospital’s yard and stroked her as we sat in the grass like we would do at our old apartment. I prayed the entire time. My mother came to the hospital too and brought some baby food and a hamburger. We got the food and the medication into her and then I had relinquish her back to the tech. It felt like how it did eleven years earlier when I wasn’t able to take her home as a puppy, the time I had stopped to see her after work and chased her around to catch her mischievous puppy self. All I could do was wait and pray that the transfusion took and that she held her levels. Incredibly not only did her levels hold but they rose through the night and reach a high of 28. I left work as soon as I got the call and brought her home. She seemed better than she had since this had all started three weeks prior.
We had a good week.
On the night of July 30th, Kira seemed to be having trouble breathing. Her gums were extremely pale and she didn’t want to eat. I laid on the carpet next to her and rubbed her gently and kissed her on her little freckled nose. I told her that I loved her and that I was so proud of her for being such a fighter. And then I told her that it was okay if she was tired and didn’t want to fight anymore. She had been such a strong girl, and it was okay if she wanted to go home.
I went into work the morning of July 31st, and then came home so that I could take Kira with my mother to her appointment with Dr Heller. She was such a good girl and didn’t struggle at all when he took her blood. He went out of the room and when he came back in with the results I knew that it wasn’t good. I stood next to him as he measured her levels and read them as 13. He asked me what I wanted to do, and said that she was okay right now even though her levels were low, she wasn’t struggling, but what did I want to do if they dropped. I told him that I didn’t want to put her through anything more. I wouldn’t put her through any more stays at hospitals or pricks at her legs trying to get blood from her tiny veins. He said to call if we needed anything.
We went home, and because I’m such a coward, because I knew what was coming and the reason I will hate myself forever, I went back to work while my mother watched Kira. At 3:45 my mother called me to make sure that I wasn’t working over time, and to be honest I had considered it, but I will always be so thankful that she called me.
I walked in my front door and Kira stood up to greet me as she always did, but I knew that she was suffering. My mother told me later that it was the first time that she had stood up all day. I immediately grabbed Kira up into my arms and vaguely remember hearing my mother saying that Dr. Heller could not stay but that he had told his associate about Kira and we could go right over. I don’t remember getting into the car – was the front door locked? I don’t know – all I knew was that I was holding my baby girl, the one who had been through so much with me, the most perfect and beautiful piece of my heart, and she was struggling. My beautiful brave little girl was still fighting despite how tired she was. I could not in my selfishness keep her here. She was a little restless as my mother floored the car out of the driveway and into the street, but relaxed a little as I adjusted her on my lap and turned her so that the air conditioning vent could blow directly on her. I wrapped my arms around her and felt her finally settle and then rest in the crook of my arm. I told her, “It’s okay. Mommy’s here. Mommy’s here.” She closed her eyes a little, and then I felt her take her last breath, a gasp and then a quiet sigh, and she was gone.
We made it to the vet’s office where they quickly took us into a room and gave me a towel to wrap her in so that I didn’t have to place her on a cold exam table. Then the vet came in and listened to her chest to confirm what I had already felt in the car. The thing is though, the vet’s office is literally three minutes from my house and Kira had passed before we could get there. Kira had already known it was time but she had been holding on for me to be with her. I believe she knew that I would have shattered completely if I had not been with her when she passed and so she fought until I was able to hold her in my arms as she finally able let go. Kira had loved me and taken care of me as she always did, down to her last breath.
I’ve so many beautiful memories of you, my Kira. I know that they will help me and make me smile, but I will never stop missing you. I will miss your “Uncle Leo hello” yodel that you would do when you were excited that someone came home, and I’ll miss your “Crazy Shake” as you gave me tons of shakes (and “sits” and “downs” and every trick you knew) to get me to give you the treat in my hand faster. I will miss you opening the bathroom door when I’m peeing, and I’ll miss how you would rub your rump against my leg for back scratches. I’ll miss how soft your fur was, it was more like rabbit fur than dog fur. I’ll miss how you somehow always smelled like Snuggle fabric softener. I’ll miss having you velcroed against my leg when I sat on the floor or against my foot when I sat in a chair, and I’m miss reaching down absentmindedly when I’d lay on the couch and know I would feel you sleeping against it. I’ll miss your random burps and I’ll miss blaming all of my burps on you. I’ll miss your soft snores as you slept. I’ll miss your kisses when I cry because you were always there to lick them away. I’ll miss you when I’m in the garden and expect to look up to see you lounging in the grass “Eskie suntanning” in the summer or sniffing the cool breeze in the Autumn. I’ll miss seeing you in the passenger seat of “Zoe” and know that it will always be “your spot” especially thanks to the nap of the seat which is permanently flattened from your sitting there or from you resting your head on my hand when I set it there. I’ll miss hearing you smack at the water bowl when it wasn’t filled up to your standards. I’ll miss you opening presents on Christmas, taking the initiative to tear into them even before Grandmumma had finished reading the Christmas story from the Bible. I will miss your beautiful smile, I had never seen a dog smile but there was no denying that you were smiling especially when you were being cuddled. I will miss holding you and having you tuck your head under my chin in response when someone would ask, “Do you love Mommy?”
I’ll miss you for all of these reasons, Kira, and for so many more because I see you in so many important things in my life. You were such a part of how I went from an insecure abused wife to a more confident and self-sufficient person. I truly believe that I would not have grown as much as I have if God had not blessed me with you. I gave you a piece of my heart on that chilly October afternoon in 2004, and I am so thankful that you accepted it. It’s yours and it will always be yours. Keep it safe in Heaven until I see you again.
I love you, Kira.
I think I started doing “years in reviews” in 2004. They were not formal posts but more like inventories based on the notes in my appointment book from the previous year. They were fun back then.
But then the deaths started and they weren’t fun anymore.
I started writing official “Year in Review” posts in 2010 because that was the year I started making a conscious effort to pull myself from the pit. I’m a list-holic and whenever I’m struggling I make schedules and lists. The YiR for 2010 is literally broken down into such quotidian landmarks as “Made it to the gym three times”. Ironically the events that stand out most are ones that make this year so difficult. I didn’t realize until I just checked now that it was 2010 when I got Kira spayed, and when I began the Feast of Seven Fishes.
So, 2015. What can I say about you? Do I hate you for how painful you have been, or do I love you because you were the last year that I was complete? I don’t even know what to say anymore. You’ve even taken my words.
Stacy Campbell died at the worst possible time.**
Yes, well, a return is also based on investment, and in this case the investment of time has created a poor return. (And while I’m at it, I love my penchant for using numerical alliterations despite being dyslexic.) But anyway. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about then we’re on the same page; I’m writing this shit and I don’t even know what I’m talking about.
No, that’s not exactly true. I unfortunately know exactly what I’m talking about, but it makes the dinner guest feel better if you volunteer that the meal is terrible.
Eat up, and please be assured that I hate the fare as much as you.
Stacy Campbell died at the worst possible time, but it apparently was her time – on her own time. Her official last day in this world is September 16, 2015, but the actual date isn’t known for certain. I can’t help but wonder if she didn’t actually pass on September 15th. I wonder this because Stacy had the most ironic sense of humor, and it would be so her to take her life on National Suicide Awareness Day.
And, as is the case whenever someone takes their life, I’ve being wrestling with that question of “why?”.
I know the answer, but I don’t understand it. And I hope that I never do understand it. I think that “why” is in itself part of the reason that I’ve been as frantic to figure out what made her reach that point as I have.
I’ve been low, and I’ve had those thoughts of the world being a better place without the burden of me and my insanity. I’ve also been to that point where everything hurts and you don’t want to end your life so much as you just want everything to just stop fucking hurting. I understand that pain so much that I cannot be angry at her for wanting it to end. I just wish I knew what I could’ve said to make her hold on a little longer, and that I could’ve been there to say it to her. I wish I could’ve told her that she’s not alone, and then I would’ve pointed to all of the people who have written on her Facebook wall saying how much she meant to them. The Interwebz can be good like that sometimes.
But then that very thing, the ability to connect to other people who understand your pain – the pain that “normal” people do not – is a double edge sword. I know that unless you battle mental issues you might not understand this, but people with our – ahem – affliction tend to gravitate to each other. We want to help each other, to assure each other that there are people who understand, that they are not alone. It helps, but at the same time I feel that our exclusive community of the tortured and the tested ends up being a macabre game of Russian Roulette. With so many players we’re bound to lose someone eventually. Depression comes in ebbs and flows, and everyone comes to a time when it’s their turn to pick up the gun. Thankfully the odds are in our favor. There are five empty chambers – family, and friends, and Faith, and life, and you, and anything else you value – they outnumber that single bullet. And life goes on… But people with depression identify and lean on each other, and unfortunately as soon as you put down the gun, then one of your friends picks it up.
Spin the barrel.
Fire the gun.
That’s my own issues speaking though, and I want to talk about Stacy. Being a writer herself, I know she would have understood that diatribe.
Though we were both writers, I met Stacy through our love of animals. She had lost her beloved Jurgen, yet had found the strength to adopt another dog that needed a loving home. I so admired her for opening her heart again that it inspired me to dedicate my 200th blog post to animal rescue stories. I remember wondering what I should do for such a landmark post, and she was the inspiration for it.
Unfortunately my own depression has been relentless for the past two years, and I didn’t talk with her as much as I wish I had. Like so many things in my life, I’d set her in my peripheral vision and only looked directly when something really fascinated me. I’m just thankful that she was so fascinating that I paid as much attention as I did.
Stacy just seemed so…”cool”. Even her name was interesting. Her full name was Anastasia, which usually garners the nickname of “Anne” or “Anna”, but she was a Stacy. I seriously thought that was the neatest nicking of names ever – so much so that I planned on changing the name of one of my characters in my book to that.
Stacy had the best Bucket List, and she was the only person I knew who actively worked to check things off of it. I loved it when a picture would show up on her Instagram feed documenting an adventure done, a check marked next to box on that list.
I am a huge fan of The Shining and it had never occurred to me to want to stay in the creepy hotel that inspired the story until I saw Stacy’s black and white pictures of the infamous fourth floor. Not only was the fact that she was at the hotel so brilliant, but her pictures were taken with such a sharp eye that they captured eeriness without being campy. But this shouldn’t be surprising because Stacy was an incredible photographer. Her Stanley Hotel pictures were not just beautiful but they were complete with captions about hearing children playing in empty halls, and ordering Whiskey from a bartender named Lloyd. They were beautiful as only she could make them because they illustrated her vision, both also her wicked sense of humor and her mastery of words.
Her words. I wish that I had read more of them while she was still here.
Through the power of the Interwebz and its promise
threat that nothing ever really disappears from its depths I’ve been able to read her former blog “Jurgen Nation”. There is so much brilliance there. It’s not an easy blog to read – there is a lot of pain, and it kills me a little wondering if she wished that she could make her pain disappear as simply as she thought she had deleted the blog that detailed it…and how wretchedly ironic it is that her blog didn’t truly disappear after all. Nothing disappears.
Another irony – bloody fucking hell I’m beginning to hate you, Mistress Irony – is that the post that resonates most to me right now – the one that exactly touches on the punch in the throat that has knocked me into such a pit this year that I cannot fathom ever being able to climb out of it, on a pain that I cannot even yet put into words – was written only a few days after a post where she wrote a letter to herself twenty years from now. Or “then” since it was in 2009. It a post about how she would still be here in twenty years, even though she might think she won’t.
It makes me so angry that Life thinks it’s so clever with these little elbows to the ribs. You’re so not fucking funny, in fact sometimes You feel downright cruel.
There is so much that I’m going to miss about Stacy. Her presence was like birds singing: you don’t realize how much you enjoy their music, and take for granted that they will always be singing until they are silent. I think of all of the empty buildings that she will never photograph, all of the words she’ll never write, all of the snarky jokes she will never make. Stacy was caring, and beautiful, and wrong, and clever, and brilliant. I read the stories shared by people who knew her better, and I’m so jealous of them. I wish that I could justify this pain by proximity, where the equation would make sense. But there is a reason that artists are dyslexic, and numbers do not add up to us.
Stacy was a true Siren, drawing so many people to her.
I’m grateful that I heard her song and listened while I could.
I will see you later, beautiful girl. Keep the cocktail chilling.
In the mean time I am changing a character’s name in your honour. It is my hope that “Stacy” destroying demons in my story will give you the victory down here that you so deserved.
**The average time that people will allow you to mourn is one month. I wrote this entry nearly three months ago, and I still feel it so much that I decided to finish it and publish the bloody thing. It reminds me that loss has no timetable. Loss is not something get over, you just learn to live with it.