Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: A Writer’s Blessing.

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I walk my ginger cookie dog Rusty every morning in the hour just before dawn. It’s a sweet time. A gift from heaven.

Peaceful. Quiet. A writer’s blessing.

The hush before the alarms go off. The kettles plug in. Showers turn on. The Today Show announces another incomprehensible tragedy.

We walk the same circle route every morning. I’m a creature of habit. So is Rusty.

He likes to poop in the same spots. I carry white plastic grocery bags to scoop up after him. It’s all part of our daily dance.

This morning, when we got to the bend in the road, the glorious spot at the crest of the hill, I caught a glimpse of eternity.

The lights below flickered like halos as the world awoke.

At that moment I wanted to fly. Spread my arms. And take off. Rusty has floppy ears that were engineered for flight. I have big hair.

We can do this.

I stopped and looked out at the glorious sunrise and thought how lovely and endless these days are. Filled with the promise of forever.

But they aren’t of course.

I thought of my mother. How this particular orange of the sky would have inspired her to paint.

What a view. Oh God what a divine view. Tears came unexpectedly.

One day, if I’ve done this right, I will be the memory. I will be the gentle tear brushed from the cheek of one of my children.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. Flying with the Dog.

IMG_4225In the years before my knees healed, and running was an impossible dream, I used to walk my dogs. First Andy, then the lovely Miss Coco. And most recently, my silly, endlessly amusing, ginger-cookie pal, Rusty.

With the world outside muted and my family resting serenely in the arms of Morpheus, there we were. Just a woman and her dog. In the ephemeral hour just before dawn.

It was a sweet time. A gift straight out of heaven. Peaceful. Quiet. Undisturbed. A writer’s blessing.

It was a time cherished. Held dear. Revered and coveted. The whispered hush before the busyness of the day began. Before E’s alarm went off.  The kettle plugged in. Shower turned on. Before the Today Show announced another incomprehensible tragedy.

We walked the same circle route every morning. At that hour, I was a creature of habit. So were my dogs. But Rusty, in particular, was painfully predictable. You could bet money on him.

He sniffed every blade of grass. Peed on every shrub. Squatted and pooped in all the same spots. I carried a fistful of white plastic grocery bags to scoop up after him. It was all part of our daily dance. I loved every minute of it.

On one of the last mornings that Rusty and I walked together, I had a bittersweet and profound experience.  When we got to the bend in the road, the glorious spot at the crest of the hill, I caught a glimpse of eternity.

The lights below flickered like halos as the world awoke.

At that moment I wanted to fly. Spread my arms. And take off. Rusty has floppy ears that were engineered for flight. I have big hair.

We can do this, I thought.

I stopped and looked out at the sublime sunrise and thought how lovely and endless these days were. Filled with the promise of forever.

But they aren’t of course.

I thought of my mother. My dear Ma. And how this breathtaking orange colored sky would have inspired her to paint.

What a view. Oh God, what a divine view. Tears came unexpectedly.

One day, if I’ve done this right, I will be the memory. I will be the gentle tear brushed from the cheek of one of my children.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Zen of Running.

IMG_3016I have a love-hate relationship with running. Going right back to that first time over 30 years ago.

Back then, I would have scoffed at the notion of running every day.  Killed myself laughing at the idea of rising in the wee hours of the morning, while my family snoozed in their warm cozy beds. Chuckled at the thought of running alone through the eery dark streets of the big city.  Looking back, it seems like the craziest decision I ever made.  And also the best.

I’ve never been horribly athletic but have always loved to walk.  Especially with Ma, my babies and my dogs.  Running was always far too vigorous and strenuous for my tastes.  During track and field season, I was one of the laggers in gym class.  I was in the group that faltered to the finish line.  There was no cheering from the sidelines.

You could say I went on that first run unintentionally.  Certainly without expectations. Or perhaps there was one. If I survived, I would never do it again.  My first, last, and only run with my ex-husband was that night.  It was his idea.  I just followed him out the door.  The things we do for love.

Flash forward a few decades and I’m still running. I use that term loosely.  I’m not sure what to call it these days. Jogging. Slow motion running.  I sometimes shuffle and drag my feet.  Many people could walk faster than I run.  Hell, on a good day I could walk faster than I run.  I’m a laggard once more.

Running is painful. Exhausting. Tiring. Grueling. Hot. Sweaty. Cold.  Achy. Smelly. Frustrating. Frightening. Punishing. And enslaving.

So why do I do it?

Because running is also satisfying. Energizing. Empowering. Relaxing. Meditative. Quiet. Solitary. Spiritual. Peaceful. Calming. Rewarding. And freeing.

Running is also a metaphor my marvelously messy life.

Seven years ago I stopped running. I didn’t want to. I had to.  Just after the Labor Day weekend I woke up to discover that my right knee was swollen.  Because it didn’t hurt, just looked fat, I carried on with my regular morning routine.  Donned my running shorts, stinky T-shirt, my Nike Frees and hit the streets.  At the time, I was experimenting with barefoot running. It was magnificent. There was a new spring in my step. I felt ten pounds lighter. Twenty years younger.  And swifter than a Cheetah.

I was a fool.

I have no idea if it was the new shoes, the misguided confidence, the delusions of renewed youth, or the dime-store vanity that was the cause of my swollen knee.  I just know that I didn’t get much past the first block before I was hobbling.  Groaning.  And limping all the way home.  The next day both of my knees were swollen.  That was it.  Over. Done like last night’s dinner. Finito Bandito Dorito.

Close to three decades of daily running. Stopped. Cold.

For the next seven years I walked my run route with a feisty Terrier in tow. Hopped on an elliptical machine every day for two years, and bored myself crazy with all the effort and movement, that essentially took me nowhere. Amped up my yoga practice, focusing on the muscles – I also use this term loosely – around my knees.  I prayed for healing and kept a watchful eye for signs of improvement.  The swelling eventually receded but my right knee is permanently pudgy. It would be cute if it were the knee of a ten-month old baby.

Occasionally I tested the waters.  Ran a block to see how the old knees were performing.  If they felt okay I’d go for a second. Sometimes a third.  Once and awhile I managed to jog the entire route.  This would go on for a few days, a few weeks even.  But eventually the stabbing pain would return and literally bring me to my knees.  It was a drag.  A drag made worse, by my weakening cardiovascular system. My lungs couldn’t hack it anymore.  I was running out of air.  (Some people may have considered this a good thing.) First knee rebellion.  Then lung unrest.  I feared a full-on body assault.  A revolution like no other.  Body parts crashing and burning.  Leaving behind a wake of rotting emotions and a decaying runner’s spirit.

After these little running forays I would return to the safety of walking the dog. One of us also had their tail between their legs.  I abandoned the elliptical with not so much as a backward glance. I practiced yoga faithfully, and continue to do so. I tried Zumba twice.  And sometimes I skipped to my Lou, my darlin’.

This has been my daily workout routine – and again I use this term loosely – for the past few years.  Until this spring.

Around the time that E was having his surgery I had an epiphany.  An awakening of sorts.  It was a regular morning.  Same old same old.  I was walking up the road with the dog and everything was copacetic.  Until I had this thought. A quivering notion. Flight of fancy. The quiet small voice inside my head whispered, run.  Run like the wind.

One of the things that my 40-year practice of yoga has taught me is to listen to that quiet small voice.  It is the voice of wisdom.  My inner knowing.  Higher self speaking.  So I listened and started to run.  Not like the wind.  More like a lazy summer breeze.  But it didn’t matter.  I heeded the call.  Summoned my runner’s soul. And took off.

The remarkable thing was.  Nothing hurt.  My lumpy bumpy old saggy knees felt fine.  They hung in there.  Rock steady.  Solid.  Reliable.

And continue do so. Even up the steep hill at the end of the run.

Read this part carefully because this is the really good stuff.  The point of this moving story.  The big metaphor I mentioned earlier.

You can’t get to my house without climbing a hill.  The neighborhood is aptly name Rock Heights.  And believe me, you have to climb to get here.  When I first starting running in this neck of the woods, even long before my knees blew out, I would walk up the last hill just before home. I called it my cool-down; thus justifying the leisurely end to the run.  But not any more.

For the past two months I have been challenging myself to run up the hill.  At first it was impossible. Then I gave myself small daily challenges that I was confident I could achieve.  Today, just make it to the red fire hydrant, for example.  Once that became easy, it was, make it to the telephone pole past the hydrant.  Then a few days later, it was the next pole, then after that, the bus stop, then the mustard colored house at the corner, then up past the entrance to the park, and then finally make it to our driveway.  Within weeks I was running up the hill nonstop.

Now I run up the hill without even thinking, without the markers, the little goals to achieve.  I no longer notice them.  Instead I keep my head down and focused on the small piece of sidewalk directly in front of me. No further. It’s a steep hill. Part of the Big Picture, I know. Yet I don’t look up.  I focus only on what I need to do.  The small task at hand.  Nothing more. That little square of cement is all that matters.  It’s manageable.  It doesn’t daunt. Deter. Dismay. Nor dishearten.  This much I can do.

I haven’t ever counted the number of squares in the sidewalk, from the bottom of the hill to our driveway, but let’s just say there are many.  Too numerous to count.  Besides it isn’t about that.

It’s about getting to the top of the hill.  Bit by bit.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 23 Days

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On Friday, April 26 E had surgery to remove cancer from his mouth just below the tongue. It was radical. It was a miracle. It was the longest 23 days of our life.

We held vigil. We prayed. We held hands. We circled the wagons. We kept the fear at bay. For this is what love does. There were evening cross-town drives. Desolate cement parking garages. Elevator rides. And endless corridor walks. The TV amused and kept him company. There was a lot of hockey. He discovered Duck Dynasty. A clipboard filled with lined paper was his only means of communication the first week. He said a lot with his eyes and hands.

Family, friends, and colleagues visited daily. There were puppy dog visits in the sunny tranquil courtyard. Our daughters danced and entertained. Our grand daughter brought sweet little girl kisses. There was a quiet Sunday morning visit with our son.
Strawberry plants grew on the windowsill. Happy-face daisies sprouted from the end of his bed. Photos blossomed on the cork board. Magazines and books grew in little stacks. Coffee from the outside was brought in. There was a glorious view from his seventh floor room. It was heavenly.

And this is what those 23 days looked like.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Today.

E relaxing by the pond with Coco and Rusty.

E relaxing by the pond with Coco and Rusty.

I usually like to keep a bit of time and distance between me and the stories I tell.  Sometimes years like I have with the Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter.  With others, it’s weeks or months like this blog about me and E and the Big C. This is the psychological and emotional space I need to tell a good story.  It’s the way I work.

Time allows me to separate myself from the story so that it doesn’t erode into sentimental sop.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a good tear jerker.  I just don’t intentionally write one.  I’m not here to emotionally manipulate.  It is my desire to share what I know, what I’ve learned on this journey.  At best, it may only be an enjoyable read.  At worst, a waste of time.  But if it informs and illuminates, touches a heartstring, resonates with some truth you hold dear, then I’ve accomplished more than I could have hoped for.

My story is your story.  We’re all in this together after all.  You may not have cancer, nor be married to someone with it.  You may be lucky and this disease hasn’t touched your life in any way.  But I doubt it.   That’s not the point.  This isn’t about the disease, you see.  It’s about two people and their family and friends and community.  It’s about you and me.  All of us.

Oh yes it is my dear ones.

Because we’re all human and this is a very human story.  Not a tragedy.  Although sometimes it is heartbreaking.  It is often fraught with folly.  And great big belly laughs.  Tears are shed.  Curse words are spat like mouldy grapes.  But there’s a whole lot of loving going on too.

So today, Saturday, April 6, exactly four months after my world was rocked I am going to do something I typically don’t do with my storytelling.  I’m telling you how it is now.  On this day.  No time.  No distance.  No space between me and the story.

This morning E and I were in the kitchen making coffee and chatting idly about the things we had to do today.  For reasons I’m not even certain of – maybe I was born with it or maybe it’s Maybelline – I turned to him and said the following:

“I know nothing can compare to the way you feel.  Part of me can’t even imagine.  But I just want you to know that for the people closest to you.  It feels horrible.  Awful.  Everyone expects you to feel like crap. You’ve got cancer for Christ sakes. But I feel like crap too.  I’m worried and exhausted.  I’m so depressed.”

E slumped in the chair and said, “I’m worried too.  I wake up at three in the morning and I can’t sleep.”

“Neither can I,” I snapped.

But what I wanted to say and couldn’t because he’s the one with cancer and that trumps everything: “You just don’t get it. Yes, you have the disease, but you don’t have a monopoly on feeling bad.”

“I’m depressed,” he sighed.

“Some days I feel like I’m hanging on by my fingernails.”

And that was the end of the conversation.  Maybe hanging on by your fingernails trumps everything.

There you have it.  Four months in and the truth is, we both feel like crap.  Not all the time.  The mornings are the worst.  Fortunately life distracts us.  We carry on.  Get on with it.  Try not to wallow.  Nor allow this thing to swallow us whole like a snake eating a rabbit.  Take the best part of us. We ‘do not go gentle into that good night.’

This afternoon we took our dogs for a walk around the lake.  It was good.  As we walked the trail, I breathed in the beauty of the world surrounding us.  The trees were green with newness.  Life was exerting itself everywhere. Hope filled the clouds above.  The breeze whispered sweet nothings in our ears.   You have today, it said.

There wasn’t a trace of cancer anywhere.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: You Could Die Waiting.

Boo looking up at E at the top of the garden.

Boo looking up at E at the top of the garden.

I have a big patience muscle.  I haven’t always.  But the older I get the bigger it grows.  It was tested fully those tedious grey hours that we sat waiting for a doctor in the ER. Each minute that passed felt like an hour.  I became the irritating kid on a road trip asking, “Are we there yet?”  Only my question that night was, “Is he here yet?”

M pulled out her Anthropology textbook and passed the time reading, listening to music and texting her best friend A.  Teenagers bring their cellphones to bed with them so they are there for each other 24 / 7. This wasn’t unusual. It’s a fascinating cultural phenomenon that is completely foreign to me, being that I’m as old as dirt after all.  I don’t judge.  It works for them.  I on the other hand, frustrate my daughter by my reckless lack of interest in my iPhone.  I use it primarily to take photographs, videos and record sounds.  I am also an Instagram addict.  But mostly the thing is either tethered to my iMac or lost in the bottom of my purse under wads of used Kleenex and other female essentials and paraphernalia.

During those wee hours of December 6, I amused myself by watching the monitor behind E.  It was hypnotic.  And almost as compelling as watching C-SPAN.  The endless minutes ticked by.  I spotted a miniature box of Kleenex on a shelf beneath the monitor and handed it to E to wipe his mouth.  He had the small bowl the nurse had given him resting on his chest to collect the steady flow of drool.  It’s funny the things that capture your imagination at times like these.  The bowl appeared to be made of the same material as take-out holders for drinks at fast food joints.  I wondered if it was sturdy enough to hold all that liquid pouring from E’s mouth. Would it turn to mush and melt all over him?  That’s all we needed on a night such as this.

Fatigue and weariness became intimate bedfellows, wreaking havoc with my emotions, which were fragile at best.  My body felt burdensome and heavy.  At one point I laid my head on the edge of E’s cot and closed my eyes.  I prayed for just five minutes of sleep. Just five lousy minutes.  Oh God, let me escape.  Get away from this insidious nightmare that held us captive.

With sleep turning it’s back on me like a jilted lover, I got up and tiptoed over to the nurse’s station.

“Do you think the doctor will be here soon?” I asked politely.

“Give it fifteen more minutes,” Nurse One replied patiently.

“My daughter has an exam in the morning and I have to work,” I said.  Not that it really mattered.  I just felt compelled to say this out loud.

“It shouldn’t be too much longer,” she assured.

“Okay,” I said, as I slunk quietly back to my chair next to E.

I was overcome by the 3Ds.  Defeated. Deflated. Depressed.

Then just like Nurse One promised, fifteen minutes later a lanky older man appeared suddenly out of no where.  The doctor had arrived. Hallelujah.

One of the other nurses emerged from behind their station to consult with him.  We were less than ten feet away so we could hear everything.  She gave him a quick rundown on the patients waiting for his attention.  There was the old lady in the wheel chair, the drunk guy sleeping on the gurney, and there was mouth guy.  Everyone was identified by their condition.  It was fast and efficient.

The doctor attended to E first.  Perhaps because he was one of the few who were conscious at that moment, or maybe my earlier query on when the doctor would arrive made me a squeaky wheel, or perhaps it was just our proximity to the nurse’s station.  It didn’t matter to me why E was the first to be treated.  I was simply grateful.

I filled the doctor in on the events that had transpired in the previous twelve hours — from the secret biopsy in the afternoon to the episode in the bathroom earlier that night.  A blow by blow account of E’s symptoms.  E interjected with the odd garbled comment.  No one really knew what he was saying.  The doctor scolded him for keeping secrets this big.

Then he asked E to open his mouth.

I peered over the doctor’s shoulder and got my first glimpse of what was causing all the grief.  E’s tongue was the size of a two-year old’s fist.

“Whoa,” I blurted. “Holy crap.”

The doctor sat down in my chair and crossed his long legs in a relaxed easy manner.  I stood across from him with M by my side.  We hung on his every word like he was our lifeline to hope and salvation.  He’d prescribe pain killers and call the surgeon who conducted the biopsy.  He teasingly proposed that M and I go home and get some rest.  E was in good hands and would be able to sleep once the medication kicked in.

Truthfully, M and I were relieved to be sent home.  The doctor was right.  E was in good hands.  There was nothing more for us to do that night.

M drove the truck home while I sunk into the passenger seat, thankful to be driven.  The rain had stopped but the streets were slick and wet.  We discussed the events of the evening. We were both a little shell-shocked.  M had been quiet and said very little during our vigil in the ER.  But in the shelter of our Ford Ranger she was able to share some of her feelings with me.

“I didn’t appreciate the nurse referring to Dad as mouth guy,” she said.

“I know,” I said.

“They shouldn’t talk like that in front of people’s families,” she said.

I understood my daughter’s hurt feelings.  But I also understood that this was just the everyday language of the ER. The nurse’s comments were not intended to cause harm. In fact, just the opposite was true.  They were merely the parlance of dispatching critical information with as much speed and economy as possible.

But I was too tired for explanations.  And she was too tired to care.

Silence filled the truck.  M and I were consumed with our own private thoughts.  As we were floating across town in a semi-dream state, I remember this horrible feeling of dread pass through my body.  Like thick black tar.  I flashed back to a year earlier.  To the week in September when our sweet little Jack Russell, Andy suffered a heart attack and died with me by his side.  E was in Nova Scotia burying his father, while M and I were thousands of miles away on the West coast.

It was just the two of us that week. Taking care of Andy. Watching him slip away. Overwhelmed by sadness. Paralyzed by grief.

This felt just like that.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: My Dog Sugar was a Good Judge of Boyfriends.

My dog Sugar.

I love dogs.  I love cats and other animals too.  But dogs in particular hold a noteworthy place in my heart. Long before there was Andy and Coco and Rusty there was Sugar and Tootsie and a few others I only know by old black and white photographs.  It’s true dogs are our best friends. And sometimes a lonely girl’s little sister.

Little back story.  When I was around five years old The Old Man brought a new puppy home to 204. There had been a few dogs before her but none like Sugar.  When I look back on my childhood I have no memory that doesn’t include Sugar.  It’s as if my life began with a sweet little ball of white fur and heart-melting chocolate eyes.

Ma and The Old Man posing with Sugar.

Sugar was completely white except for a tinge of black in her ears when The Old Man first brought her home. He was a huge animal lover but like me, dogs were his favorites. And Sugar was like another child to him.  Ma’s heart was large and compassionate for all living creatures.  She wasn’t one for rough and tumble play like me and The Old Man.  But she loved Sugar dearly and considered her part of our family.  Sugar was never discouraged from languishing on the couch or snuggling on the bed.  Ma would often sit in quiet meditation, petting Sugar while she rested her head on her lap.  They had a kinship.  A rare affinity and understanding that seemed to surpass the human-animal connection.

Me and Sugar standing tall together.

Back then, a spade was called a spade. Naming a dog was simple. Rex, Lassie, Buddy, Sparky or Skip were all common no-nonsense monikers of the era. Color also influenced the name given to a dog.  If it was black, then Blacky was an obvious choice. White dogs, on the other hand, were often named after white things. Like sugar.  Our dog Sugar was full of surprises right from the start though. They say a leopard never changes his spots but sometimes a white dog grows some. By the time she was six months, Sugar was covered in them and her ears were jet black.  But by then, it was too late to call her Spotty.

I’m not sure what breed Sugar was.  We didn’t go much for pedigree back then.  We just had pets.  She was a mutt from a long line of mutts.  But canine rumor has it that somewhere along her ancestral lineage a Cocker Spaniel and a Dalmatian got involved.  That was good enough for us.  Regardless, she was gorgeous, smart, funny, loving, affectionate, sweet tempered and an extremely good judge of boyfriends. Ma always said, if Sugar doesn’t like him, there’s something wrong with him.  I should have listened to Ma.  And Sugar.

A welcome visit from Sugar at bath time.

Sugar terrorized the Mailman.  She wasn’t fond of anyone in a uniform but the Mailman in particular was a favorite target.  Five days a week.  The irony of this is that The Old Man wore a uniform to work every day, a fact that Sugar appeared to overlook.  But the Mailman didn’t get off the hook so easily.  Even Uncle Bud, Ma’s brother-in-law, wasn’t immune to her snarling, snapping and gnashing of teeth. Needless-to-say, his tenure as our Mailman was short-lived. We all knew why.

My lovely sister-in-law hanging out with Sugar.

Back then dogs ran free and roamed the streets like four-legged hoodlums with nothing but mischief and shenanigans on their minds.  They were harmless and everyone knew their names.  Ma would let Sugar out in the morning for her daily doggy-do, which also included scouting the neighborhood for feline riffraff and other nefarious varmints.  She never went far and mostly stayed in our yard, which she protected like a Palace guard.  Every passerby, whether friend or foe, was subject to her relentless barking. She held her ground.  Literally.  The entire length of our front yard.  Doggedly determined to defend her turf no matter what.  The truth was, the girl was all bark and no bite.  The entire neighborhood knew this.  This didn’t make it any less irksome.  Not everyone appreciated her doggone single-minded attitude like I did.  Sugar found herself in the dog house on more than one occasion.  Relegated to the back yard where her inner beast was contained by a twenty foot tether.

Sugar photo bombs my son on the front steps.

Sugar was also a good sport and a very accommodating creature.  She was a willing participant in my fun and games, including “dress-up.”  I decked her out in old baby clothes, propped her up in my doll carriage and proudly strolled the neighborhood with my dog-baby.  It was both comical and sad.  Sugar became the little sister I never had but desperately longed for.  I wanted to be like the C kids who lived across the street.  Three kids all two years apart plus a fourth surprise bonus one to boot, a few years later.  They were the lucky ones.  I was envious of their sibling rivalry and fights over the toilet.  Even my older siblings had each other.  So Sugar became my surrogate sibling.  My baby sister.  She seemed to accept this role with patience, tolerance and an abundance of equanimity.  Or perhaps it was mere self-preservation and acquiescence.  Regardless of her motivation, she never struggled to free herself from the fancy frocks.  Floppy sun bonnets.  Nor the little pink socks.  I like to think she understood my loneliness and aching need.

Sugar goes for a ride in my son’s wagon.

We shared a bed for almost twenty years.  Unlike many dogs, who preferred the foot of the bed, Sugar spent her nights all nestled and tucked under the covers right next to me.  We even shared a pillow.  I loved to snuggle her little body next to mine.  She was a living teddy bear.  My Linus blanket.  My comforter.  My sweet furry lullaby.

In summer, Sugar had a house of her own.  The Old Man built it for her and kept it in the backyard.  Nothing fancy.  A simple one room abode.  But it did the trick when Sugar needed a place to rest and take shelter from the summer heat.  In the winter she hunkered down indoors with the rest of us.  Northwestern Ontario winters were brutal.  A dog’s pee could freeze before it hit the snow.  Sugar didn’t linger long outdoors between December and the end of March. She was a wise girl.

When Sugar was about a year old she had a litter of pups.  We gave them away to the neighborhood families.  It was a win-win situation.  Everyone was happy.  After experiencing motherhood she was spayed.  She gained some weight so we had more of her to love.  She was still gorgeous in my eyes.

The summer I turned 25 I was living in a small northern town in British Columbia with my first husband and young son. It was during that time that I got a call from Ma.  It was the call I dreaded.  It had been six months since I last saw Sugar.  Christmas vacation.  She was ancient and dog-tired by then.  Arthritic and slow walking. Her velvety muzzle as white as her name.  But her eyes were the same.  She was still my Sugar girl.  Sweet as that first day she became my little sister.

Sugar enjoys a pet on the head from my son.

I am grateful that I wasn’t there when Sugar died.  I’m not sure I had the courage and inner strength to witness her last breath.  But I do know intimately how painful it was for Ma and The Old Man to have her put down.  What an odd expression.  It was impossible for them to let her go.  But let her go they did.  She was twenty.  Her hind end was paralyzed.  She was no longer a threat to the Mailman. Her bark was gone.

I have never fully let Sugar go.

I searched in vain for years.  I stared into the eyes of every white dog I came across seeking some spark of recognition.  It was never there.  Until I met Andy.  Sweet.  Gentle.  With Sugar girl eyes.  It was love at first sight.  I knew him.  It was a double blessing too.  For in those eyes I also saw Ma’s.  And when he barked I heard The Old Man’s voice.

Now there’s my Sugar girl.