Peace out, Joy

by

JC Schildbach

The kid and I had been making offhand comments about putting Joy down for so long, that once I actually made the call to have it done, I was caught off guard by the flood of emotion a few minutes later.  I went through the call pretty much like a straightforward business matter: What’s the cost? What’s the soonest you can send someone out?

But when I went to relay the information to M, I made it through the date and time no problem, then choked up when I tried to explain the cremation options.  I paused long enough for M to ask “Are you ok?”

I meant to say, “Not really,” but all that came out was a squeak of a “no” followed by me closing my eyes in a vain effort to stop any tears from escaping.  The cremation options discussion would have to wait until later.  I was heading out to Costco.

To back up a bit, the kid and I had been making offhand comments about putting Joy down for quite some time, because Joy was clearly getting weaker and struggling with pain issues, not to mention breathing heavily after just minor physical exertion. For close to a year, we’d had had to coax her outside by offering a treat – and by ‘coax her outside’, I mean we had to bribe her just to get her to stand up.  She would occasionally, of her own free will, get up and move to a different location, usually to be with M or to move to a cooler or more comfortable location.

On multiple occasions, we had tried to springboard these comments into actual discussions of why it would be beneficial for Joy to ‘move on.’ But M wasn’t having any of it. She could see that Joy was still alert, and appeared at least reasonably happy much of the time. Joy spent most of her time asleep—and usually only screamed and cried for a few minutes when trying to get up from a long rest, or in the middle of just about any TV program or movie we were trying to watch.  We were able to manage her pain, for the most part, with OTC CBD.

The turning point in the whole situation came when M and I returned from a weekend trip.  The kid had texted us the day before that Joy had cried/screamed for almost four hours straight on Saturday. On our arrival home Sunday night, Joy made her way to the top of the stairs to greet us, and there she stayed for hours, occasionally bursting into loud crying jags.  I used a sling to try to help her get up and move, but that only led to more crying, and some awkward escape attempts that propelled her into furniture or far afield from any destination we might have been aiming for.  She eventually struggled her way into the kitchen and slurped up as much water as she could.

Joy would stay in that same basic spot for her remaining hours.

Joy lying down

Joy: 10/15/2004 – 9/24/2019

I stayed up late, attempting to read and write, and not making much headway on either project—frequently reverting back to screwing around online. Joy woke up every so often, engaging in loud crying jags. I couldn’t get her to get up and go out, and the CBD-filled treats I was feeding her clearly weren’t getting the job done, aside from making her comfortable and sleepy enough to go down for a half-hour or so at a time.

I eventually started researching in-home euthanasia for dogs. Being as it was the middle of the night, and I didn’t imagine we’d have much luck moving Joy to the car and getting her to a 24-hour vet, I was hoping to find some humane, in-home method we could legally administer ourselves. Virtually every article that mentioned some way or other to euthanize a dog (beyond the ‘call an in-home service’ or ‘take your dog to her/his regular vet’) urged readers to ‘check local ordinances’ – which, of course meant, ‘this is probably illegal where you live, so good luck.’ The same basic warnings went along with the idea of burying your dog on your property.

Around 2:00 a.m., Joy started crying again, and was clearly struggling with trying to get up on the slippery kitchen floor.  I helped her onto the living room carpet, where she generally has an easier time getting up, only to have the struggle continue, culminating in the realization that she was trying to get up and go outside to relieve herself…in a big way. I cleaned and cleaned while Joy’s breathing went through a variety of odd stages…mostly very rapid and shallow, with brief periods of gasping for air, or settling in to long, labored, moaning breaths.

Convinced Joy was on her way out, I went to wake up M, who, in turn, woke up the kid.  We all gathered by Joy, now back on the kitchen floor, along with our other two dogs, Darby and Bobby, who were clearly frightened by whatever was going on, and tried to keep their distance.  Roughly 45 minutes passed with us all expecting some final death rattle and exit.  Instead, Joy’s breathing returned to it’s relatively normal-but-labored state and she seemed to say ‘thanks for your concern, but I’m gonna be around a while longer.’

We all went to bed, or back to bed in everybody’s case but mine.  It was 4:00 a.m.

Four hours later, I was startled awake by Joy’s crying, somewhat confused Joy was still alive. I’d been – well, I wouldn’t say hoping—but thinking she would have passed in the night after the display we’d witnessed. I rolled out of bed and headed upstairs, where M was on the couch watching videos on her laptop.  Joy was right where she’d been hours before. M told me she had called out from work, also thinking Joy would pass.

I went back to bed for a few more hours, occasionally being wakened by Joy’s cries. Eventually, I called our vet’s office. They gave us contact info for a few in-home dog euthanasia services. Ever the smart shopper, I called the first number they gave me and booked an appointment, jotting down names and prices without giving much thought to whether it was a good, or even reasonable deal, or if it was normal to have to give 24 hours notice to have your dog put down.  Given the number of dog owners in the region, I have no doubt that these services are probably booked all the time, and 24 hours hardly seemed a stretch.  I set up the appointment for the latest available time the following night, unsure of what the kid’s schedule was, or if M was planning to go to work or not (I was on my usual days off, in addition to having taken vacation days, in no way anticipating that this is how I would be spending my time away from the office).

Our ‘euthanizer’, Dr. Audrey, was, perhaps younger than we expected…but, really, not having done this before, I didn’t know what to expect. Wearing a pony tail, a light-beige sweater, and deep-red pants with an autumn-colored leaf pattern, she seemed a pleasantly non-threatening angel-of-doggy-death.

Just prior to her arrival, I was getting frustrated with the pressure cooker not allowing me to set the cooking time appropriately for a corned-beef brisket, and continued in my button-poking while Dr. Audrey gently eased M into accepting Joy’s passing. I eventually dug out the operating manual for the pressure cooker, set the damn thing as best I could, and got down on the kitchen floor with Joy, M, and Dr. Audrey.  The kid, Darby, and Bobby all kept a bit of sorrowed distance.

When it was all over and Dr. Audrey had taken the body away (we opted for the private cremation where we would get the ashes back, the kid offering to design and build a special urn), we toasted Joy with martinis, and sat in the living room comforting our remaining dogs and each other with tales of Joy’s antics….among my favorites…

On the way home from the shelter where we got Joy, she repeatedly kept climbing into my lap until I just decided it was (slightly) less dangerous to drive with her in my lap than to try to fight her off again and again. On arriving home, she didn’t leave my side for nearly two weeks (I was working out of our home then), except for one escape attempt, where she took off down the road for several blocks, constantly looking back over her shoulder to make sure I was still following.  When I stopped, she apparently decided it was better to come back than to keep going…

Prior to bringing her home, we were thinking of different names for Joy, since Joy was not (as far as we knew) her actual name from before she arrived at the shelter.  However, because our landlord left town for several days after telling us it was ok to have a dog at the house, and the shelter couldn’t reach him for almost a week, we got used to calling her Joy while visiting her daily, waiting for the shelter to confirm it was ok for us to take her home.

We bought a house a few years after getting Joy, and realized that on July 4th, we could see all kinds of fireworks around the region from our roof. Not a big fan of explosions, Joy, not wanting to be alone, climbed up a ladder onto the roof to join us in watching the fireworks (I had a picture of M, the kid, and Joy sitting on the roof, but can’t find it – not sure if it was digitally wiped out in a computer incident, or what). Getting Joy back off the roof was not an easy task, and I’m surprised neither she nor I were injured at all in the process.

Joy was a champion tennis-ball fetcher.  She would make insane, twisting leaps into the air to catch a ball.  She especially loved chasing them into the water and swimming back with them, just to get us to throw them as far away as possible, over and over.

Joy waiting for a throw

Joy — waiting at Lake Cushman — ‘you think you jackasses could stop the jibber jabber and maybe throw a ball?’

One time, we had gone out to dinner, leaving Joy at home alone.  On returning, she was standing on the kitchen table, eating an almost full stick of butter. Rather than leaping away to pretend she wasn’t doing such a thing, she stood her ground, rushing to finish the butter before we could get to her.

I won’t go on about all the times Joy bit or nipped people out of some misguided sense of a need to protect her pack, or growled and whined and barked at people over at our house.  If you were here, you know exactly what I’m talking about and how loud and aggravating it could be. It was a fear behavior we never managed to cure her of.

Still, she was (mostly) a good dog.  She was the first dog all three of us ever had as our own. We loved her, and we’ll miss her.

Peace out, Joy.  See you when we see you. Just know you’re still here with us forever.

 

 

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2018 Year in Review

by

JCS Bach, LMHC

father time, yo!Ok, time (well, a little late, but still time) for the obligatory review of last year’s resolutions and the pass/fail ratings.

  1. Finish the damn downstairs: Definite fail.  I made some progress, in the same kind of way that sitting up in bed is progress toward walking from Seattle to London.  Ok, maybe it was a little better than that…some framing happened.  And I moved a light fixture (yes, it’s fully functioning).  So that was good.  At this rate, only about 38 more years to completion.
  2. Every Day is Halloween: Pass!  Well, pass in the way that the horrible sh*t in your life drives you to do something to distract you from all that horrible sh*t.  I got started early with Halloween decorations (early June(?)) and knocked out a lot of new decorations that I’d been thinking about for years.  You can see the earlier posts.  I also actually came up with the perfect use for a big, old canvas and some other cast-off materials I have.  Unfortunately, once I figured out what I wanted to do, it got more and more ambitious, and I ultimately had to bail.  It will be done in time for Halloween 2019.  That’s not a resolution. That’s a promise.
  3.   Read/Write—don’t watch/scroll. Pass/Fail? Hmmmm…I did a lot of reading…but plenty was of the scrolling variety.  I read some excellent books, but didn’t really keep up the idea of bailing on pointless Internet foolishness in favor of reading enlightening books. As for the writing…well, you can scroll back just a smidge and see the sum total of the writing I did this year…well, not ALL of the writing I did this year, but about 80% of the writing I actually finished this year…well, the writing that extended beyond stupid Internet arguments.  I did have a record number of my Internet arguments shut down by moderators. I like to think that was (mostly) because the people I was arguing with started calling me names, but moderators don’t tend to explain themselves once they shut something down.
  4. No more hair resolutions. Well, if I can make it through my next post without resolving anything about my hair (assuming I’m going to do a post about my 2019 resolutions), I’m in business with this one.  Stay tuned. I’m sure the suspense is killing you.
  5. Be better to those closer. I’m a little conflicted on my success with this one.  I guess it needs some clarifying definitions—which I’m not going to supply right now.  Things got rough on a pretty constant basis. Plenty of my friends/family/colleagues of one stripe or another got into some major life changes/deep sh*t that took up a lot of my time, energy, and, in some cases, cash.  A lot of those occurrences also drained a lot of my patience—patience I could no longer spare on those who are peripheral and antagonistic. So, with that I give a hearty, ‘Much love and/or go f*ck yourself!’  If I’ve been at all close to my target with this resolution (and you actually know me) you know where on that spectrum you lie. For the rest of you, consider yourself square in the middle—and please consider that a good thing.

Happy more-or-less New Year, you beautiful sods!

Anniversaries and Immigration

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

Two dozen years out and it’s still a humbling thing to think that someone chose to leave her family and home country halfway around the world in order to spend her life with me.

Perhaps if our decision to get married hadn’t been so essentially impulsive, we would have been a bit better prepared for the hassles we faced with what was known at the time as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)—now the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) operating under the Department of Homeland Security.

Then again, if it hadn’t been for hassles with the INS, we might not have made the decision we did. See, M was here on a student visa that was set to expire. If she returned home, she didn’t know when—or if—she would be able to make it back to the states.

Get married, we thought. That’ll fix the situation, we thought.

Okay, we didn’t really enter into our marriage to address a situation with a student visa. But we were young and foolish enough to think that getting married, having known each other less than a year (and, really, only a few months at the time we decided to get married) was a solid enough plan, when the alternative was to be apart for months, perhaps even years. If it’s rash to get married after knowing each other only a short time, it is potentially deadly to so short a relationship to have a prolonged separation.

And so we married. And so began our long-term relationship with the INS.

I cannot express how fortunate we were to live in a city with a major INS office. The mind reels to think what the immigration process is like for someone trying to navigate it from outside the country, or even from a few states away from an INS hub.

Keep in mind, this was back before the Internet was a common thing in peoples’ homes. In fact, at the time, I wasn’t even aware it was a thing. We couldn’t just log on and download the forms we needed. We had to phone the INS, tell them what we needed, and wait for them to send out the forms in the mail. We then had to complete the forms, gather up the necessary supporting items (photographs, birth certificates, marriage certificate, translations of M’s birth certificate, etc.) and mail them into a government office that would then get back to us at some unspecified time, with essentially no means for us to track the progress of our case.

Adding to the complications was the fact that M was not legally allowed to work, so I was having to cover the immigration filing fees on top of all of our other living expenses, on what is perhaps best described as a meager income. I was trying to build a business screen-printing shirts, and occasionally temping in different offices around town when funds came up short. Making sure we had enough funds in the bank to cover a check to the INS, with no idea of when it might be cashed, was a bit of a strain.

I didn’t keep a count of the number of times we had to submit the complete package for M to get her ‘resident alien’ status, or ‘green card’. Perhaps overly optimistic, and clearly naïve, I didn’t realize just how many ways we could be made to re-do a few detailed forms, and ship off all of our supporting documents.

The packet was returned to us for the photographs (a strip of four for each of us) being the wrong size (we’d paid a professional photographer for that first set, not realizing we could’ve gone to Kinko’s for the correct-sized photos for much less).

The packet was returned to us, because it was not clear who had completed the translation of M’s birth certificate (we did—thankfully, the INS accepted that).

The packet was returned to us because we were missing a form. (It had been in the packet when we sent it). Did I mention we were having to mail in our marriage certificate and our birth certificates with these forms—not copies—the actual documents?

Rather than call the INS toll-free number to request a new form, I drove down to the office, thinking that, like with the Post Office, I could just pop in and grab the form. (The office was down near the wholesaler where I bought t-shirts anyway). Instead, I stood on line for over 45 minutes, as the number of clerks dwindled down to only one clerk at one window.

Then he was gone.

All of us in line stood there, looking about nervously, irritated, wondering how it was possible that they had just stopped dealing with us altogether. Roughly fifteen minutes later, one of the clerks returned and announced that if we had not already gotten an appointment, we would have to come back the next day, because all the day’s appointments were filled. That clerk, again, disappeared. Wait? Was I in the wrong line? I can’t just get a form from somebody? I had been waiting in line to schedule an appointment to get a form? I ping-ponged about the building, stopping and waiting in a few other lines, trying to find out if there was some way to just get a copy of the form. ‘Call the INS toll-free line,’ I was told.

Seattle INS

Love, Marriage, and Bureaucracy — The old Seattle Immigration Office–complete with holding cells.

The packet was returned to us another time because there was ink on our photographs. Sure enough, there was a smear of blue ink across the bottom of my strip of photographs—a smear that had most certainly not been there when I mailed the packet in.

The packet was returned to us because the date we wrote next to our signatures had passed the one-year mark.

Then, after we re-did those forms, the packet was returned to us again, because the INS had updated one of the forms—although, aside from the form number and issue date, I’m really not sure what was different.  But we had to fill out that new form, anyway, directly transferring information from the old form.

The whole process seemed designed to frustrate people into deciding that a green card just wasn’t really worth it—or to force them to pay a lawyer to file paperwork that really wasn’t all that complicated—at least on the surface.

By the time our forms had been approved and we had an appointment for an interview scheduled, our daughter was approaching the one-year-old mark. In all that time, M was unable to leave the country to visit her family, lest she be denied re-entry.

The interview itself was rather anti-climactic. The agent who interviewed us, apparently taking the presence of our child as evidence that we weren’t in a sham, immigration-law-circumventing marriage, asked us a few brief questions about our wedding and our backgrounds, then signed off on all our paperwork and sent us on our way.

Our later dealings with the INS—to get M her full U.S. citizenship status—took place when the Internet was more of a thing, a new immigration office had been built in our region, and processes had reportedly been streamlined. It was much less dramatic and frustrating. And, despite her nervousness, M passed the immigration exam handily.

Still, even with all the immigration hoop-jumping we had to endure, I’m glad we made the essentially impulsive decision we made.

Happy anniversary, M. I love you.