There’s a beach I go to when I’m in Florida, St. Pete Beach. It’s just few minutes walk south of the hotel Don Caesar, a big obtrusive building for tourist with bad taste – just my opinion. There are two Adirondack chairs facing the ocean with tall sea oats grass framing in the back with which I find myself most often. It’s a serene place to sit and watch the sunset, people strolling along the shore every so often. A small perhaps eight unit three-story condo sits further back from where the sea oats grass sway from time to time. This is an unassuming place, no commercial buildings, only open space for the most part. The vast ocean spreads out in front of me in its entire spender, always different with every wave pushing back and forth to shore. They are unpredictable, at times angry, cold other times warm and serene.
I keep this image in my thoughts when I am so very tired. I try to feel the texture of the chair, the sand beneath my feet, the smell of the ocean, the rustle of the sea oats and the pace of life at my special spot. Sometimes the pull from the other side is so great it is a struggle. To make this struggle less difficult, I keep thinking of my dog, Chi who died almost two years ago, Jan. 22. My psychologist (Enemy) said he believes we do see our pets when we die. Chi was not supposed to die, he was not very old. I used to foster kittens for an animal shelter and one day he was in a cage, in the room where the kittens were kept. He was on bite hold. No paper work to tell me who he was, his name or why he was abandoned from his owner in his early senior years. It was love at first sight.
He was part Chihuahua part Rat Terrier. He’s profiled as my Gravatar. We believe he belonged to an elderly person who may have died. He was 9 years old they think and feisty as hell. He never bit me, but everyone who came close, he would show his teeth – they would get the message. We put tags with our information on his collar but I always said we should just put “911” because if anyone got that close to his face, they would have to call 911! I think I bonded with him because he had been taken from his home , like I had been at 17 without knowing why. It’s an indescribable feeling. Chi adapted to our household of pets quite easily as he was the alpha male and they, 2 dachshunds, and 3 cats were now his subordinates. We would only learn three things about Chi’s past, 1. He liked large tall dogs, 2. He knew the cry of a seagull was a bird, before we took him to Florida, 3. He shied a way from anyone who spoke Spanish as if he had been abused. One day I was holding him and out of no where I said to him “Give me a kiss” and to my amazement he leaned towards my cheek and licked me! He would acknowledge my friends and family, but if I went out-of-town, he would be in their lap and buddy, buddy. When people would get up to leave, he would chase them out the door, barking ferociously, I often wondered what he would do if he actually caught them! He definitely was my alter ego.
We went to Florida a couple of years ago to help my parents who were struggling with my father’s numerous hospitalizations. All of the pets came with us since we were renting a house that could accommodate everyone. It was a long drive; our 17-year-old blind dachshund fell out of our SUV while parked for lunch, which required a vet check. The worst part of the drive was staying in a Motel 6 – we did not touch anything except one faucet to brush our teeth. We arrived to our second stop of the trip late and the hotel we wanted to stay in had no vacancies. With 3 cats, 3 dogs and a guinea pig, you can’t be too picky. To top it off, there was a police helicopter with its search light twirling around and police sirens all over the area. We couldn’t drive any further and this was not in a bad part of the town! We slept in our cloths and got the hell out the next morning as soon as we woke up.
Chi road shot-gun for most of the three days as he was prime radar detector. We were pulled over once and he had at it! I loved it! He wouldn’t stop barking and I naturally wouldn’t stop him from enjoying his moment of glory! I really didn’t care if the cop was annoyed at the barking “Rat-Chi” barking non-stop or not, I was trying to cover my laughter while my husband was taking care of the ticket process. It was too funny as Chi was pulling from my arms trying to lunge at the cop! It was not a good time to say “Give the cop a kiss, Chi”. He always did what I wish I could do in life. My little man.
All great things come to an end. I was sitting by the pool one afternoon at my sisters, and naturally Chi was in my lap when he saw a chameleon. There is only one reason for the existence of chameleons and Chi knew this, it was his duty to catch them to protect all mankind. Chi jumped from my lap hurting one of his legs as he slipped to a stop. He limped for a couple of days until I took him to the vet, thinking he would get better. The vet put him on a medication that would make the leg heal. Chi’s leg would take several weeks to heal, as he favored the leg for a long time. By the time we returned to Colorado, his injured leg healed. Our dachshund would have a mild seizure from time to time, but we expected her to leave us at anytime as she was so very old.
We had returned from Florida early November, everyone settled in from the long trip. My father was doing better and life slipped back into the normal routine albeit my flashbacks of Straight Inc. Chi was always with me, catching my occasional tears when I fell into an old memory. Sometimes going back to where you were raised is like slamming into a brick wall, but you are unaware until you leave perhaps days, weeks or months later. But Chi was always by my side, chasing my chameleons away.
One evening, a few months later, Chi started to cough, we knew he was in distress, by the time we got him to the emergency vet, he had almost stopped breathing. They were able to get the fluid out of his lungs and oxygen to him just in time to save his life. We were presented with the option to put him down or see how he would do over the night. They had taken X-Rays and found fluid in his lungs and a clot. The vet felt he would not make it. He looked like his old self in the oxygen contained plexiglas cage. So of course we kept him there over night. He survived, but required a specialist, and into Denver we rushed Chi the next morning with an oxygen bottle and mask. They were waiting for him, as hard as it was to hand him to the vet tech, we were told to go home and they would call when they knew more about his diagnosis. I kept telling myself he would be fine, my Chi is such a stubborn old man, a fighter. At first the call came in that he would be fine and we needed to adjust his diet. Then they called back and it wasn’t good news. Something to do with clot/s normal for this breed, $3500.00 or more to try over night, no guarantee, strongly recommend not to, he would have to stay in an oxygen tent a lot of his time if the procedure even worked, he’s a very old dog, etc. We had already spent around $2100.00 and more with what ever decision we would make.
We drove back to the specialist’s, every moment felt like a year and the memories of the first day I saw Chi with his big bold eyes staring at me through the cage in the kitten room at the shelter came rushing back. His steadfast approach towards life “if you don’t like something, show your teeth and it will go away, and if that doesn’t work, simply bite it” made me laugh through my tears. I would hold him one last time, wishing for a miraculous miracle that would take us away from there and never look back again, that I knew the vet had made a mistake, Chi was a conqueror of all chameleons and surely this little medical issue would go away. As I held him, he looked into my eyes as the first day I looked into his.
My daughter left her job early to join us and to say good-bye to Chi one last time. She stayed with him until he fell asleep, while my husband and I sat in the waiting room.
The medication the vet had prescribed in Florida may have caused blood clots. Both veterinarians said absolutely not. They said there was nothing I could have done for this to have happened. I don’t believe them. January 22, will be the second anniversary. I no longer cry except when I think of him and how I failed him. I can talk about anything and check-out for what ever reason, but never cry like I used to do. I guess my priorities have changed. The dachshund died 10 days later, for which we felt Chi was shining the path for her to follow. I know when I see him again; there will be a lot of chameleons keeping Chi very busy.
I had a dream of the color of a chameleon and a computer keyboard.
I find myself falling into a dark place more and more often. I feel more and more tired. It’s a very quiet darkness. The pull is more demanding as the days get darker. I close my eyes and hear the waves of the ocean and smell the salt in the air.