Murphy Sweet Punkin’



Murphy lay on the floor and barked. I felt myself shaking a little. I held out my hand to see if the shaking was outside or in-. In, I decided.

The veterinary technician was familiar and I like her, but I could not come up with her name. Maybe it’s Chrissy. Dave might know, but he wasn’t there. He was Murphy’s primary caretaker, spent more time with her than anyone else. No way my husband could do this. I could, so I did.

Chrissy told me how sorry she was, tears in her eyes.

I nodded.

“I have a couple of things to go over with you,” she said. “There are three options. With the first one, you’d take her home with you.” When she offered the second option, I said, “Yes, that’s what we want,” a communal cremation where the crematorium scattered her ashes in a private wooded area.

Chrissy went on to the procedure. I stopped her and said I’d already discussed with Mel, the long-term receptionist, when I booked the appointment.

“Do you want me to put her on the table?” I asked.

She said yes, so I hefted our puppy’s almost 15 pounds on top of the exam table.  I still called her our puppy. Dave laughed at me and says “She’s hardly a puppy,” but her little Shih-tzu face still looked like a puppy to me.

Chrissy asked me to check and initial the preferred option and then sign permission. The initials ran off the line and I found it difficult to write my last name. Revell came out more like Reiwelll.

Dr. O’Neill eased the door open. She said she knew this was a difficult decision, and that we’d gone the extra mile for Murphy. “Do you want your friend to come in?”

“No,” I said and wrapped my arms around Murphy. The tech held her bottom half.

“Okay, sweet girl,” Dr. O’Neill said as she did the first injection, “you’ll sleep in a few minutes.” She stroked Murphy’s head. In sync, our hands touched. I instantly glanced at Dr. O’Neill, but she had already averted her eyes.

I held our Murphy Sweet Punkin while she drifted off to sleep. I knew she was asleep when she started to snore. She grew heavier and the tip of her tongue protruded. I smiled.

“I think she’s asleep,” Dr. O’Neill said.

I lifted Murphy’s back leg and let it fall–gently. “She is.”

The second injection of clear deep pink solution struck me as a good color. I’d always told groomers “She’s partial to hot pink” when they asked if they could put bows on her ears.

It took three tries for Dr. O’Neill to get a good vein. They were all small and kept collapsing. When the needle found the third vein, it seemed that my little old dog’s heart stopped beating within a couple of minutes. I held her tight and wept, happy to see a tissue box at the end of the table.

“Okay,” I said, “I’m going to leave her with you.” I kissed her head and said something like “Sleep, no more pain now.” I moved her gently from my arms to the table.

I know Dr. O’Neill and Chrissy said something. I don’t know what they said.

When I reached the waiting room, I nodded to my friend Peggy, who had driven me to Animal Care Center. At the counter, I said, “Do I need to sign…..”

“No,” the young woman at the desk said, “we’re good. I’m so sorry.”

I turned to Peggy. “Okay,” I said. She followed me out the door.

Past the beautiful statue of St. Francis and the animals, I remembered to pick up the bag of poop I’d left on the short wall around the clinic front patio. We didn’t see a trash receptacle so I put it on the floor of the van, along with the pink harness and leash.

When we got home, I gathered my purse, my water bottle, and the leash. “Oh, let me get the poop,” I said.

Peggy answered, “Whew, I’m glad you said that. It’s pretty ripe.” We both laughed a little.

“You mean you could smell it?” I asked.

“Lord, yes,” she said. “But I knew you couldn’t smell anything.”

I laughed. Peggy knew my sense of smell left with years of inhalers and other medications for asthma.

We hugged and I told her thank you, couldn’t say much more. I had to get inside to Dave and his grief combined with mine.

When I walked onto the porch and threw the bag of poop in the trash, I realized I never looked at Murphy’s face. No way I could look at that little face. But I’ll always remember it.



TomTom is gone.

I have grieved but not nearly as much as my dad. He made friends with the little grey and white kitten the first time TomTom crawled up the bank from the ravine. Dad was working outside and talked to his new friend every day until the cat was no longer afraid of him. Tom might have been six months old, or maybe just four. 2016-05-05-18-15-04

While Dad strolled around the Compound on his morning walk, Tom followed. Every chance he got, he rubbed Dad’s legs, sometimes winding between them to almost trip him. Dad learned to shake him loose. Tom didn’t mind.

One day I asked Dad if he had seen the tomcat that morning.

“Is he a tomcat?” he asked.

“Yes, he is.”

“You can tell?”

“Yes, I see some things that indicate to me that he is definitely a male.”

Dad named him TomTom, one of his favorite names for cats. He bought a little sherpa-lined bed and stuffed it into a protected spot on the apartment porch. Mom included Meow Mix on her grocery list.

TomTom chose Dave next. One morning, after he took the recycling cans to the street, Dave announced that Tom had let him pet him. I’ll admit I was a bit jealous.

“Well,” I said to Dad, “if that cat is going to stay around, I guess we better take him in for shots. And we need to have him neutered.”

I found a good community clinic with reasonable prices and told Dad I would give him Tom’s veterinary visit for his birthday. He was pleased. Tom wasn’t.

I borrowed a hard crate from a friend and set it outside–“so Tom can get used to seeing it.” Tom took off and didn’t appear until three days later when I returned the crate to the garage. We decided Tom had seen a cat-carrier, probably up close, at least once in his lifetime–and wasn’t fond of the experience.

My hairdresser told me she favored a soft-sided case, that it was easy to sort of “stuff the cat in and zip it up fast.” I started to purchase one, but my daughter-in-law said she’d loan me theirs. I figured I’d give Tom’s reluctance a couple weeks to subside.

He wouldn’t sleep in his little bed on Mom and Dad’s porch, so we moved it to the main house’s porch beside the den. He still wouldn’t use the bed, but he curled up almost every night on one of the wicker chair cushions. During the day, he’d walk or sit with Dad, stroll in the gardens, and nap in the sunlight on the bank or in the shade of one of the porches. He drank from a birdbath that I always filled with fresh water. He hunted up and down the ravine, the old home place he returned to at some point every day.

I started a morning-treat ritual with Tom, and he grew to like me. I gave him a small piece of meat or fish, and when I had no leftovers, I pulled out a small container of purchased cat food that I always kept on hand. After the appetizer, he climbed the steps to the apartment steps and finished off his bowl of Meow Mix.

Tom loved to aggravate our little Shih-tzu Murphy by meowing at her through the glass door of the den. She was always willing to growl, yap, and fuss at him. When Dave took her out for her bedtime walk, Tom either followed them down the street, Murphy barking and pulling at her leash until Dave had to pick her up and carry her away from the cat. Or if TomTom was already sleepy, he’d maybe open one eye from the middle of his warm, curled-up self and totally ignore that silly dog.

About the third week into our newly-cemented relationship, Tom began to walk into The Cellar when I’d open the door. He’d make one loop around the small kitchen area and then he was ready to get back outside. He also let me pick him up. He wouldn’t stay long, and he wiggled, but he didn’t really fight it, and he never scratched me.

I figured he was ready for the trip to the vet.  Easy-peasy this time.

I never got him there.

The last time we saw TomTom was right before the New Year, a couple of weeks after I’d sent out the Christmas newsletter where I included this photo of Tom sitting on a rock in the rose garden. It was also just about the same time that the neighborhood coyote sightings began. First, a woman posted that she’d seen a three-legged coyote. Next, another neighbor spotted one. One family came upon three in their back yard.

I put a Missing Cat notice on our neighborhood website. Several friends and neighbors told me, “He’s just tom-catting around. He’ll be back, and when you get him fixed, he’ll stop that.” In my heart, I knew he wouldn’t be found, wouldn’t be back. In my heart, I knew if TomTom could make it home, he would. He wouldn’t give up his morning ritual, he wouldn’t want to sleep anywhere else but the wicker chair, and he would never choose some other entertainment over tormenting Murphy.

It took me several days of missing Tom to put the pieces together, maybe because I didn’t want to. Actually, Dad said it first. “The coyotes got my TomTom.”

My post is still up on the NextDoor website. Last week, a sweet neighbor replied with a list of places to post notices for a lost animal. I wrote that I thought the coyotes got Tom. She replied she was sorry, and that she’d still look for him.

This morning, Dave spotted a coyote between two birch trees on the edge of our ravine. He said it wasn’t the three-legged one, so that meant there are at least two. I told him about the three seen together in the back yard a couple streets over. He hadn’t seen that post.

So here’s what I wrote on my Missing Cat thread this morning:  “I’m going to take this post down tomorrow morning. A coyote was in our back yard just now. Everybody, watch your animals.”





The Friendly Beasts

Four years here in The Compound on this ravine and we’ve had emergency services out four times. HazMat came first with several big red trucks and firemen, then two ambulance calls with accompanying fire engines, and, right at dawn this morning, a stuck-dog call.

I first heard a dog crying at 4:30 this morning and wondered if I was dreaming. Or was it Murphy whining?

Yesterday, Dad told us about his dream the night before. He was hooked up to all manner of tubes and restraints a la hospital and could not get loose. I suppose that was akin to a nightmare. He woke, not realizing he’d had a dream, and began to look for the things that bound him; finally got out of bed, turned on the light, and got on the floor to look under the bed. After he got back up from the floor, which is no easy feat for an 83-year-old in the middle of the night, he forgot what he was looking for and decided to go back to bed since he couldn’t find whatever it was. He said he didn’t recognize the occurrence as a dream until he was almost asleep again—and it woke him up again.

So, this morning, foggy-headed, I guessed I could have been in a stupor post dog-dreams. I ambled into the bathroom where, after a few minutes, I placed the sound as real and coming from the patio under the window. Foxes mating, maybe the foxes were mating. Is this the time for the foxes to mate? I ruled out Murphy because she was in her crate at the other end of the house. I tried to see the patio from the bathroom window but there was not enough light in the pre-dawn.

I put on a pot of coffee and checked the view from the from the dining room. I made out a shape of a large black mass that looked to be flopping around down there.

Astigmatism, uncorrected, makes objects appear much larger than they really are and I was wearing my computer glasses which do not afford me the best vision for distance. I searched for, and found, my better-suited “spare pair” for a better look. He was big. He was a big black German Shepherd—maybe a mix—with brown paws and brown around his mouth and maybe some on his belly. He seemed to be hurt. He got up only to drag himself a few feet and cry again.

I was reminded of a canine hit by a car in the hindquarters, not a pretty sight. I turned from the window, a hollow feeling gathering in my middle. And if he’s not hurt, I said to myself, he must be sick. Rabies?

And then I heard scraping. When I returned to the window, there was enough light to see that this “somebody’s buddy” was stuck, caught; by what? Was that a wire? And where was the wire caught? He had dragged the wrought iron teacart several feet out into the yard from its normal position beside the picnic table.

Caught on a serving cart. No, wait, the “wire” was red, and maybe a lead of some kind, and it was wrapped around one of the bird feeder poles now pulled from the ground. He really was caught.

5:25. I decided to wake Dave. Actually, I figured he might be awake now, anyway, because he went to bed very early. If he wasn’t ready to wake up, he should be.

“There is a big dog…” I began.

When I finished, Dave said, “I thought I heard Murphy doing that thing she does when she’s dreaming.”

“What should we do?” we asked each other, agreeing that there was no use in calling our pitiful animal control service. We’ve had experience with Metro Animal Control, an office that is staffed less than 40 hours each week. Animal Control will come to pick up an animal, or ask a neighbor to quiet a barking dog, IF the complainant does the legwork; you know, somehow trap the dog or chase it back home and make a note of the house number.

We weren’t sure that the big black dog was friendly so neither of us wimps were keen to get close to the animal.

“You know,” I said, “I think I’ll call the police. They’ll send somebody and maybe they’ll bring a net.”

“Good idea. Don’t call 9-1-1, though,” Dave said.

“No, I’ll call the non-emergency number. You remember what that is?”


Two police cars and two fire trucks arrived five minutes after the call. I’d had just enough time to throw on what could loosely be described as clothes. I headed out to the side porch to meet them.

And there, curled up against the gate to the porch, was another big black dog just like the other one, and he wasn’t about to budge.

Oh, he got loose, I thought, so I headed to the front door to tell the firemen. But, on the way I looked out the den window and saw the first big black dog with the red lead, still caught on the teacart and the birdfeeder.

“Hey,” I called in the most voice I could muster. I’ve had laryngitis for a month. “Here I am,” I squawked. “There’s another dog. Right there, on the ramp.”

One of the four firemen and three policemen in the driveway answered me, “Yeah. Well, where is the other one—the one you called about?”

“Down the driveway, in the back,” I said, and they all traipsed down the hill.

I ran down the inside stairs to The Cellar. By that time, one of the firemen had removed the lead from the dog’s neck and wound it into a circle. Another was stroking our new friend’s head. I opened the door.

“He’s friendly,” he said. “This lead was on a stake, see?” He held it up, the contraption that anchored the poor animal to my yard furnishings. There was a screw-like thing attached to the end of the ropey thing.

“Looks like he pulled the stake out of the ground and got loose. I think he’ll go home. They usually do. But now, he doesn’t have any tags for us to see where he lives.”

All of them started back up the driveway, the men and the big black dog.

“What about the one on the porch?” I asked from the rear of the parade.

“You don’t know that dog? It’s not your dog?”

“No. It’s just like this one.” I pointed to the first dog, the one that had just been un-hitched.

“You want us to get him off the porch?” One of the firefighters sounded a bit indignant. The whole bunch stopped. I did, too.

“Well, I don’t know if he’s friendly,” I said.

“You want me to check?” he asked.

“Yes, please, if you wouldn’t mind.” They resumed the trek up the hill. I followed.

“He’s okay,” I heard one call. “They’re together.”

“Right,” I said. I never would have thought of that.

One of the policemen was radioing and I heard him say “animal control”. I could have sworn I heard him follow with “tried to snap”. They were all headed back to their respective vehicles. The fireman who un-bound the dog turned to ask, “Is there anything else we can do for you, ma’am?”

“No, and thank you,” I said and then asked the policeman with the radio, “Did you all call Animal Control?”

“Yes, I did.”

“But they won’t be out, will they?” I asked. “They’re not even open yet.”

“I left a message,” the policeman answered.

My fireman turned around and walked back to the driveway.

“No, they won’t be out,” he said. “By the time they get to the office this morning, these dogs will be gone.” Then he added, “They’re practically useless anyway unless the dog is violent or dangerous—and then we’ll get them out of bed.”

He looked toward the two dogs walking into the street together. “But these dogs aren’t bad. We like to give them a chance to go on home.”

“I agree,” I said. We both turned our heads toward yet another police car pulling into the driveway but neither of us cared much and resumed our conversation.

“They look healthy and well-cared-for,” I said. “And I’d hate for them to go to the pound.”

“Yeah, they’re definitely somebody’s pets.”

There were no sirens, but one car and one fire engine left with their lights on.

Dave says the neighbors are going to wonder about us.

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