Monday, September 5, 2011

M&M Monday: My Sweet Millie

Friday I had to say goodbye to Millie. I already did a blog post about her last day, but I wanted to pay tribute to her life. As I was sifting thru thousands of photos, I realized I'd have to break this up into separate posts, so this week will be all about Millie.

This was the picture that made me fall in love; sweet Millie in a state of JOY.
It took me a year and half to consider getting another dog after Barkley, and then Remi, died. They were my mother-son labweilers. Until them, I never understood Dog People & I never thought I'd become one. To paraphrase John Morgan, there are 2 kinds of people: dog lovers & those who don't get it. I got it. Having  dogs in my life has made it richer than I could ever imagine. The depth of my grief over Remi's death was in proportion to how much I loved him. But I missed the companionship and the nuzzles and all of everything that comes with having a dog.

So I found my way onto Petfinder and saw the photo above; 2 senior, labweiler sisters. And I knew they were coming home to me. I knew how to care for senior dogs; Barkley lived to be 15 1/2, & Remi was 13 1/2. More than that, their story was heartbreaking.

They had found their way to AARF, a rescue organization in Richmond. They were brought in by a woman who had watched a man pulled over in a white truck on Jefferson Davis Highway. He got out and dumped both dogs off on the side of the road and drove away. They sat there waiting. He never came back.Who could do such a thing?

When I first got them, I thought they were coming home to hospice care; I didn't expect them to live for more than 6 months. Millie in particular seemed more frail with a host of health issues--skin condition, ear infection, allergies, and the creakiness of old age. But both girls slowly came back to life as we spent our days together. I have been fortunate enough to have a job that lets me work from home, and living out in the wilderness, I didn't leave the house much, anyway. So I was able to give them lots of consistent attention throughout the day.

Because they were old & had already had a lifetime without me, I couldn't really train them. Rather, I had to let them teach me what they already knew. I learned many things; they were leash trained, house trained, and they had good manners--no begging. I could tell that they had once been in a household where they were used to being loved; they didn't flinch when I lifted my hand to pet them and they lay on the floor and let me step over and around them. Someone had loved these girls before they ended up abandoned on a Richmond highway.

They looked so much alike, that it was difficult to tell them apart.  When I first got her, one of the physical differences between Millie & Maggie was that her front legs were thicker, due to, (I think) lymph fluid build up. After a few massage sessions, her legs were down to normal.

Millie's first week with me.

I soon learned not just physical differences, but personality differences as well. Millie was a bit . . . grumpier than Maggie. Maggie thumped her tail "hello" if I looked at her and was immediately by my side. Millie never wagged her tail, and was a bit more cautious around me.

Every night I would settle onto the floor and massage & Reiki her. As soon as the theme song for Ellen came on, both girls knew it was time for some lovin'.  For the longest time, I didn't even touch her lower back & hips; she was too sensitive & would give a slight warning growl. One of the aspects of healing that I learned from Chloe Wordsworth was that you must wait to be invited in when doing any healing modality.  So I did a lot of work around and over the area until I could get my hands on her back to do some myofascial release. I realized she didn't wag her tail because she couldn't. She had restricted range of motion and it was just too painful. She was grouchy because she was in a lot of physical discomfort. I surmised that this was more than old-age-arthritis, but that she'd had some sort of injury.

After several sessions, I was finally able to release her hips. She did a big stretch, made a groany sound, and then wagged her tail. :-)  She wagged her tail! From then on, while she was not the serial wagger that Maggie was, she was definitely a waggy girl. The sweetest thing was when I got up one night to get a drink of water and I heard a thump-thump-thump of a tail on the floor. I assumed it was Maggie, but it was not. It was Millie. So sweet. One of the sweetest things was to see her wag her tail in her sleep.

Waking up ritual: I loved how she would reach out her paw to stretch against my leg.

It was after these nightly sessions that Millie and I really bonded. I loved how Millie's toes would curl when I worked on her back legs. She would stretch and curl, stretch and curl. Her favourite nuzzling spot was the crook in her nose. She would position her head under my fingers and move it around as I did a scratchy thing. She also loved when I scratched under the axillary area of her front legs (sort of the armpit area). And it was gratifying to hear and feel her take a deep sigh and really relax.

She was a nuzzler; into my hands, or:

. . . into things on the floor, like bedding, or . . .
. . .  my computer bag, or . . .
. . . Maggie's paws.  Front . . .
. . . and back.
While Maggie's love and loyalty were immediate, Millie's trust and devotion had to be earned. She had to know that I was going to touch her in a kind and loving way. How do you express love? Dave Dobson used to say that the sensation of touch communicated a sense of place in the world. You're here and you matter.  After a previous life of probable neglect & subsequent abandonment, I wanted both dogs to know that they were in a safe and loving place and that they were home. By providing this place for them, they in turn, made it a home for me.

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