Borrowed Time

g6XuJI4HSVOSmkQfqdnHZAI have been wanting to write about my friend Ridley but I have been putting it off as I have been with ALL my writing ideas. If I keep putting off writing about Ridley it might be too late as Ridley is living on borrowed time. Ridley isn’t a human friend he is a canine one – and sometimes they are the best friends to have.

Ridley came to us at the ripe old age of 10 – he turned 11 just a couple months after his arrival. I love to adopt senior dogs. I have a heart for them.  Ridley never has acted like an old dog though. It is a breed thing I think. I should mention Ridley is an Old English Sheepdog (OES)- likely backyard bred. I say this because he is a big gangly guy – all legs that splay out in awkward positions when he lays down – and lets just say he is not bright- but he is affable and funny and loving.

Ridley is now almost 15 years old and he is failing.  His back legs are to a point where he is unable to get himself up – though once in a while something motivates him and he gets up on his own. He takes meds to help with any pain issues – and aside from his hips being sore when he goes to lay down he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He is having issues with pottying.  He wears a belly pad and that helps some. He just was diagnosed with whip worm and is being treated. Let me tell you that is not something you want your dog to get! Food goes right though them.  Last month it was a skin bacterial infection. His immune system is likely not what it once was.

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One of his last beach walks. We try to get him out to the bay each trip. Kevin carries him up and down the walkway steps.

We have thought a million times – this is Ridleys last trip to the beach, last walk to see the chickens, last this and last that- but we have been wrong.  Ridley is tenacious – and alert- still funny- and it is for these reasons he is still with us. He is involved in life. But it is getting to the point where we may have to make a hard choice to let him go even if he is still happy and engaged. If he can’t hold himself up at all that will be a problem. I can’t lift him really- I do it but it can flare up my pain.  But at least once up he can motor around ok. He can also motor on his butt and scoot along. People think it is sad- I think it speaks to his determination and his engagement in life. It tells me he is still in the game. He doesn’t want to give up. And that is what makes knowing when to let him go so hard.

Kevin and I are Rid’s prime caretakers and we can’t really go anywhere and leave him with someone else. Our son can take care of him for a night or two- but forget it if we wanted to travel for longer. Believe me, we don’t want to put him down for our own selfish reasons.  I am trying to let him squeeze as much time in this life as I can. But I also want to be a good steward to him.  But there is that self check where we have to make sure we are keeping him alive for him and not for us. Once the scales tip towards keeping him alive to avoid feeling the grief of his loss then I know its time. We aren’t quite there yet but its closing in. I never want to be selfish with his life.

Sadly this is likley our last sheep dog. We are trying to downsize our dog population (we have 5 and mom who lives with us has one) so we wont be “backfilling” when we lose one of the gang we have now.

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The Gang- Rudy, Pierce, Ridley, Reese, And Lemon

The significance of Ridley coming to our home will always be an important part of his story.  He was preceded here by an amazing OES named Dave. Dave was my heart dog..he was part of me and he took part of me with him when he left. Dave was sheepdog through and through…he was stubborn and he never listened but somehow he mostly did what you wanted him to do- but it was always his choice. Dave bit me and bit Kevin on a couple occasions when we went to retrieve some item he shouldn’t have that he was trying to ingest. Mostly it was napkins but once he got a plastic baggie- unbeknownst to us – that was a pricey vet visit and an uncomfortable few days as we waited for it to pass.

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Dave and Rudy years ago

Dave had those OES traits and many good ones. I became his job. I was his person and he was my friend. I loved that guy. Before he left he trained my Golden Rudy about how to take over being my companion.  Rudy has done a great job – he is always at my side-  and  welcomed Ridley  – maybe with some jealousy . Ridley also decided I was his person so is with us most of the time – and Rudy has shared me.  So most of the time in my office it is Me, Rudy, and Ridley. It will feel empty  -literally and figuratively – when he is gone.

So back to the significance of his being here. I told you about Dave- but there was another OES after Dave. We had an OES for 4 days. We got him from a NC rescue group who basically had no idea what they were doing and they allowed a dog that had bitten his foster carer to be adopted.  Long story short- Kevin was attacked by this dog when he went to put a leash on -and the dog went after him. There was no warning growl – nothing.  I had stepped away for just a minute and I heard Kevin yell and ran to see this dog biting and biting my husband. No growls – just an attack. Kevin got away and had significant wounds- he has a hand disfigurement still to this day. He was ill with infection for days- almost was hospitalized- probably he should have been. It was awful. And the idea of ever getting an OES again was shattered for both of us.

But I knew some good people in the OES world. Betsey, the woman I got Dave from who was not doing rescue anymore (which is why I got a dog from NC) was so upset for us. She and two other wonderful women who run rescues in New England and North Carolina (a different rescue than the one we got the biter dog from) encouraged us to take time to heal from this and regroup.

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I loved this and had to take a photo

In my heart I knew I wanted an OES-but I was scared too. They can bite- because they are stubborn – but I knew from having Dave who was a hard head that biting isn’t first on their agenda. I knew the attack I saw on my husband was not a breed thing it was because the dog wasn’t right in the head. So getting another one was an idea that I tabled for a while – I could not quite nix the idea entirely. So I kept in touch with my OES rescue friends.

Belinda Lamm of TOESR (Tarheels Old English Sheepdog Rescue) kept checking in on us. She was so upset by what happened and knew how awful the situation had been for us – the rescue where the biter dog came from was awful to us- and she did not want us to be disillusioned because of that experience.

One day she told me about a senior dog name Ridley that had been in the owners backyard and uncared for and someone had called animal control. The owner willfully gave up Ridley who by then was a matted mess – he couldn’t move his head.  Belinda’s group went and got him and put him in a foster home – once they had him cleaned up and vetted she wrote and asked if we might like to adopt him. I was skeptical – as you can imagine- and I asked a ton of questions. But in the end I trusted her – and Kevin trusted me. So we said yes we would take him.

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Car Ride!

Ridley restored our love of the breed. He is annoying and funny and so many things. He has no boundaries and likes to lick your hair if you bend down or sit on the floor. If you don’t close the door to the potty you will have a visitor. He nags and nags you for a bite when you eat, he drools puddles of slime, he thinks he is the leader of the pack and it has gotten him bitten a couple times too. He loves to ride in the car – he will just lay in zen mode anytime he is in the car- he is the perfect rider. He is not bright but he knows how to love. I think at some point Ridley had lived inside his home and he was cared for as his demeanor says “I like people- they are my friends”.

I will always be grateful to Ridley for reminding me not to judge a whole community just because of one bad apple.

I will miss this guy. I don’t when goodbye will be – but it will be sooner than later.  I try to enjoy the time. Having to care for a dog in their declining days builds a tight bond. I try not to sit and cry as I wait for the day to come. I would be wasting precious time with him – but I cry a little sometimes.  For now, we just love and care for him the best we can – we have frustrating moments for sure he is a lot of work now- but we love him- and we want to enjoy these last borrowed days.

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Car Ride

The day will come soon where Ridley will be laying in the van – going for a ride to get a special treat. Maybe a McDs burger or some other greasy human feast. In that food there will be a bit of tranquilizer, and after his meal we will drive around the country side chatting with him until he falls asleep. Then we will go to the vets and open the side door of the van where the vet will meet us. In that van – that is a calm place for him- is where we will say our goodbyes as the vet helps him to slip away.  Kevin and I will be holding him and loving him as his spirit takes flight to it’s next job.

Ok now I am crying. It gets too real sometimes.

Anyway – thanks for letting me tell you a bit about Ridley.  He is a good guy- and a good friend. There will be a big gap in our lives when he is gone.

Ok I think I am going to grab him a treat because he’s a good boy….

Hover over photos to see who is who!

Hair eating!

On the ground with Ridley!

That Cat

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My barn cat Ziggy died yesterday. A hit and run.

I was outside yesterday morning with my very old sheepdog- letting him pee out front because he can’t get down the back deck stairs anymore- when I saw a young teen get out an SUV that had pulled into my neighbors driveway across the street – she went up and knocked on the neighbors door.  I know the neighbors don’t have teens so the SUV and the teen seemed out of place.

Her knock was not answered and she turned back toward the car.  I think she had seen me when I first stepped outside a minute before but I had stepped back behind the tree in my yard not wanting to be seen bc I was snooping. Yes I admit I was. But I wasn’t hidden well. The teen began walking back to the car.  I had called my dog to come in and I as I turned to go in I glanced over to the SUV and I saw that she was not stopping at the SUV. She was passing it and heading my way. I pretended not to see her. I am not a morning person – and I am not big on conversing before I have some food and my tea. 

 It was 7:30am -I thought she must be selling something. But it was way too early to be selling things- so that theory made no sense. Then it dawned on me as I heard the low ring of our doorbell that she wouldn’t be selling anything – something else was up -so I went to the door.

Maybe they were lost I thought. Some homes on this stretch of road are hidden down long driveways with their mailboxes on the opposite side of the road. So I opened the door and I was definitely not expecting to hear what I heard this young lady say. 

“We-my mom and I-wondered if you knew who owned the cat we saw over there. It was killed by a car.”

“Oh f*ck”. Were my first words. Then my apology for such words. Then I say to this young person – Oh well well you’ve heard them before. I was rambling.

Then my questions – is it black? Yes. Did it have white. I think so. She said – but we aren’t the ones who hit him. No. No I know.  Then I am saying I can’t handle picking the cat up I’ll get my son. (Kevin was out of town). She said –my mom says it has a collar. Oh my cat doesn’t have one. (Later I realize that she misheard her mom most likely).

At that moment I’m still not sure what I’m feeling. I’m not upset – it might not be our cat right? I’m just there bumbling my words -but I know I can’t handle getting too close. I walk over to my driveway and look past the car and I see a black leg with a white paw laying still on the other side of the road. Oh shit. I’ll get my son I say.

Get a trash bag I tell him. Get the dead cat across the road. I think it’s Ziggy. I don’t even know what he said- but my almost 19 year old son went outside and got that cat in a bag- our much loved barn cat. Though at that moment I didn’t want to believe it was him. Then I wonder if he thanked the girl for stopping. Then I think how this could have unfolded had we not answered the door. Would I have found him hours later when I went to get the mail or when I took my mom to the doctor that day? 

The things that go through the mind.

Even after my son had done this terrible chore. I’m asking him was it Ziggy? Can we be sure? He didn’t know for sure. He went back to look. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to look again he didn’t say. When he came back in he still wasn’t sure. I was upset and irritated. How can you not know know your own cat I asked him? But shock is shock. And his was not wanting to know it. And there is his mom in shock wanting so hard to believe it was someone else’s cat. I even texted my neighbor that lives up behind us. Checking- Is Jafar at home? But he doesn’t wander far. He’s bigger than Ziggy. She confirms quickly -Jafar is at home..

It was Ziggy, Ziggers, Zigman, Zig….he is gone…as I write this I still can’t believe it.

I talk to my husband on the phone just before he has to go to a meeting. He told me to have my son take Ziggy to the vet – drop off his broken body. They will take care of him.  I was in shock. I didn’t know what I was feeling. Anything?

But then the like a sheet being slowly pulled off my body reality waves over me. And the tears came. So many tears.

F*ck, f*ck, f*ck. Why?

Just moments before the biggest worry I had was picking up poop on the bedroom from my old dog. But things can change in an instant.

The other day Kevin and I were going to a town nearby to shop and just as the road widens to 4 lanes a groundhog jumped out onto the road. Kevin had little room to do much bc of the traffic and sadly we hit it.  I bent over in my seat and held my ears yelling – no, no, no, no….- on and on. Kevin was rattled- and I am sure my reaction didn’t help. I cried – but calmed enough to shop for the few things we went out for. We were so upset about the groundhog we took a different route home. Since that day last weekend I had been really shook up about that incident. I had been trying to figure it out- look at it. See what it meant. 

But then Ziggy got killed on the road. 

As that sheet of shock wore off the tears burst forth for this sweet cat. For that groundhog too. For the son who struggles in rehab in Florida. For my guilt. Guilt over taking a cat from a nice lady who couldn’t keep him and making him barn cat. But he was born to be a barn cat – he took to it in days. I feel so much responsibility to my animals- and you can’t really control a barn cat. They are enigmas. But still I feel I failed in my responsibility.

I cried and cried. This was why the hitting of the groundhog hung on to me in such a way. I was needing to grieve things I had been holding in. 

There have been so many tears. Guilt and sadness about that and other things. Tears that have needed to come out – not all about this cat – this sweet cat. Tears I have hidden behind a wall that I build in order to be able to walk into each day with my armor on. Those tears clawing to come out and it took the loss of one sweet cat to break the dam.

The cloak of grief over a sweet cat and so much more. That cat that made us smile and laugh. That cat that hunted like no other.. who left us many gifts of dead prey in the barn. Rubbed up on our legs, followed us all over as we did our chores or I rode my horse. That cat who played with his buddy Jet in the barnyard. (Jet has been missing since last week- but I am hopeful he returns.) That cat that went too close to the road. That cat who died and now I grieve for so many things – and maybe in his leaving – in my finally breaking open- because we can only hold things in for so long or they become toxic to us- maybe that cat gave me a final gift. 

Thank you Ziggy- for being our cat…your job with us was complete and on you go to whatever is next. We will not forget you….