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Archive for April 2011

Goodbye Old Friend. Reggie Purdy Germer, 1996-2011.

With my sweet boy.

With my sweet boy.

I was Reggie’s third mother when I adopted him. He was a 6-year-old Golden Retriever whose first home was in Wisconsin with a family that adored him. Unfortunately, his bad hips made him suffer greatly in the winter, so he had to move to Florida to live with relatives. Four years later, he weighed just 45 pounds.

They intervened and got him to the Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida, where he waited a very long time to find his forever home. When he and I first met, he paid me no attention whatsoever and instead danced with the water from the garden hose and demonstrated every trick he knew. He was showing off, and I figured he’d be a good dog for me. I just hoped he’d give me some attention.

He gave me all of his attention. Once he moved into my home, he never left my side. It has been nine years since I went to the bathroom alone.  When I showered, I’d see him poking his face in from the other side of the curtain. When I dried my hair, he wanted to be dried too. Reggie was always right next to me, and it was annoying.

My sister-in-life  Tina Proctor noticed this and blurted, “Oh my God! He loves you so much!”

Suddenly, I got it. I got him. He wasn’t trying to take love from me. He was trying to give it to me.

We assume needy means “clingy,” but Reg taught me that there is nothing needy about unconditional love. Reggie loved me more than anyone on this earth had the capacity to love me. At night, he’d try so hard to keep his eyes open  just so he could watch me for a few more minutes.

A couple of years ago, I tracked down his first mama — Heather Purdy — and wrote her to let her know that his life had a happy ending. Ever since, we have had a close friendship. She and the family came to visit Reggie a little over a year ago. Before they arrived, my friend Suzann asked me what I’d do if he didn’t recognize them. I said, “He’s a Golden. Even if he doesn’t recognize them, he’ll act like he does.” But, when Heather got out of the rental car, Reggie ran straight to her. She dropped to the ground and he buried his head in her chest. He stood there for the longest time, reconnecting with the first mother he’d missed so much. That day, he loved and cuddled every member of his old family. I didn’t get much attention, but when I put him in bed that night, he flopped over top of me as if to say, “You’re still my mommy.”

Reggie with Heather and Kevin, his first mom and dad.

Reggie reunited with his first family.

Parenting a 15-year-old Golden Retriever is not easy. In human years, “Grampaw” was about 105.  Nine months ago, it appeared he had suffered a terrible stroke. I was on the road for a speech, but the minute I got home, I called the vet to come out and give him a merciful goodbye.  Dr. Patrick Hafner — the best vet on earth — came to my house,  took one look at Reggie and said, “Oh. Old dog vestibular syndrome.” “What does that mean?” I asked. “It means he has really bad vertigo and will be fine in about three weeks.” Dr. Hafner said it was the one stay of execution he was able to give.

After that, Reggie enjoyed everything his life had to offer him. He enjoyed eating and sleeping on my lap and, apparently, pooping whenever there was poop to be pooped. For the last six months of his life, he pretty much forgot that he was supposed to do his business outside, on the grass. I always kept a sheet on top of the bed because there would often be a 3-a.m. night deposit. He was happy all the way until the very end.

His actual birthday is April 18, and I scheduled a small party for the 16th and invited Heather down. But, Reggie pretty much stopped eating on the morning of the 14th, and although it looked like he would rebound, I knew his time here was ending. That night, I took him to the Whistle Stop Cafe and he didn’t touch the delicious hot dog I’d ordered for him. He wouldn’t make his party, but he’d be able to leave this world in the arms of the two mothers who loved him forever. The odds of that were so slight, and the fact that it happened had to be Divine.

Don’t feel sorry for me because my heart is broken. I was so lucky to have that precious boy. Look at what he taught me:

First: God is dog, dog is God. The unconditional love of a dog is the closest thing to the Divine that I have ever experienced. It is pure, it comes without strings and it is eternal. Simply magnificent, magnificiently simple.

Second: Don’t assume that those who are clingy or needy want to rob you of anything. They may just be trying to give you their world.

Third: Aging ain’t pretty, but it beats the alternative. I wouldn’t give up one minute that I had with my pooping pup. Not one minute.

Finally, with every goodbye there is a time for a hello. I’ve already lost my babies Honey and Vinny and Chelsea and Buster. My world changed with every single goodbye, but soon after, there was another animal who needed a home. If not for losing Honey, I’d never have had my beloved Vinny. If not for losing Vinny, I wouldn’t have my Louie.

Reggie lived 15 amazing years. My bed will have an empty space tonight, but it won’t be empty for long. I know Reggie would be happy about me giving his spot to some other dog who needs a mama. He was that kind of guy.

Rest in peace, my sweet boy.

You and Your Power

About power.

Nobody gives it to you. You don’t grow into it.

You have it. The more you use it, the more you understand it. The more you understand it, the more it grows.

You spend your 20s and 30s trying to figure out who you are and where you belong.  When you hit 40, it suddenly becomes less important to prove things, fit in and win approval. At 50, you stop wasting time. No more hemming and hawing and endlessly worrying about what others expect of you.

You set boundaries and use your power. You say “No, I’m not going there,” and you don’t.

Finally! The strength to be who you really are, the nerve to do what it is that you really want to do —  but it all comes at a time when you also have to deal with the insult of invisibility that comes with middle age. You put your foot down, but a lot of people don’t notice or care.

What the hell! I’d rather be emboldened at 50 than where I was at 30. I am sure I am not the only middle-aged woman to realize I had to make a lot of mistakes in order to earn my wisdom.

The other night, I shared some of my growth lessons with the very sharp 24-year-old daughter of a friend. She listened intently when I told her about setting boundaries and bolstering her self-esteem. She nodded in all the right places.

“When you know something isn’t right for you, act on it,” I told her.

“Everyone is insecure. It’s just a head game we play on ourselves…”

“Don’t settle…”

“You are the boss of you…”

“Who is going to stand up for you if you don’t stand up for yourself?”

There I was, mentoring. Lecturing. Is it even possible to learn the big lessons in life through other people? Battle scars are great teachers. Growth is a sequential revelation.

Would Dorothy have ever learned a damned thing if she’d known all along that she only had to click her heels to get back home? She had to encounter little people and flying monkeys and witches and The Wizard before she learned that everything she needed was right there within her. She always had the power she so desperately sought.

So, about power. Nobody gives it to you. You don’t grow into it.

How far will you travel down the road before you realize you already have it right there within you?