Thursday, April 23, 2015

Goodbye, my love

This afternoon, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done.  I laid on the floor of a vet's office, stroked my baby girl, and watched her fall asleep for the last time.  I said goodbye to my best friend of 14 years, my constant companion and my favorite pet.  The picture above was taken moments before we left for the vet this afternoon.  Look at that beautiful face. 

Brandy has been with me since she was 5 weeks old.  I often called her the dog the school district bought me since I used money I won from winning the district's Beginning Teacher of the Year to buy her.  Cutest puppy ever--just a butterball of fur!  She was a mischievous puppy who loved to destroy paper.  She was a sock thief who took every opportunity to steal people's socks.  She hid them all over the house, tucking them into couch cushions and under my pillow.  When I was pregnant, she was my shadow at all times.  I have so many memories of her lying her head on my pregnant belly while I watched TV.  I used to joke that if she could crawl in the womb with me, she would have. 

She was the most loyal dog I could have ever asked for.   

Brandy has been through everything with me.  I got her at 23, so practically my entire adult life has been spent with her by my side.  She's been there through the birth of all three of my girls, Allie's death, my divorce, my single mommyhood, and my  new marriage to Rob.  She's been with me through all the tears and all the joys.  She laid beside me at my darkest moments when I literally couldn't pick myself up off the floor.  
There were times she was the only one I knew truly loved me. 

She started rapidly declining over the past few months. We had to coax her to eat most days.  Don't get me wrong, she still managed to steal a cheeseburger from me recently, but she had lost most appetite for food.  She was skin and bones, weighing in at only 39 lbs today.  She had lost all control of her functions about a month ago and we've been containing her in the kitchen to help control the messes. I wasn't ready to let go.  On April 9th, the girls and I threw her a 14th birthday dinner, getting her cake balls from the local doggie bakery and a cookie cake for us.  We loved on her lots, as we always have. 

We made the final decision on Tuesday night after she had five potty accidents and fell multiple times. She was falling all the time now and struggling to get up.  She hasn't eaten well in months.  I picked her up and put her on the scale with me.  When I saw that my once 65-70 lbs dog was a mere 39 lbs, I knew.  We had to do this for her.  The state testing was Tuesday and Wednesday for Maggie, so I knew I couldn't tell her until after it was over.  We waited until last night to sit down to have a family meeting.  

Telling the girls was agonizing.  Both sobbed and kept saying they weren't ready for BB to die.  I invited my ex-husband to come over and say goodbye.  She was his dog for 10 years and she loved him very much.  He and his wife came last night and loved on Brandy.  She perked up a little at seeing him and wagged her tail happily.  I offered for him to take the girls out to dinner to help cheer them up and I know that helped them a lot.  

This morning, Katie came in crying that she needed one more day with Brandy and didn't want us to take her to the vet.  We calmly explained that because we love her, we had to.  I hated watching my 5 year old say goodbye to her beloved pet.  She and Brandy always had a connection together.  She used to call Brandy her horse and would ride her.  She hasn't done that in over a year since B was way too fragile. The girls hugged Brandy this morning, gave her a treat from each of them and headed off to school.  Thankfully, they are at their dad's tonight to give them a little distraction.  It helps us too since I've been sick during all this too and my fever hasn't broken once today.  So, I feel miserable both with my heart and my body.  

Rob and I stayed with her until the very end.  I stayed on the floor and he was in the chair behind me stroking my back and giving me love.  He and I both cried along with the vet when we were told she was gone.  I'm so glad I had him next to me through it.  He told me how proud of me he was for staying strong and how much he too will miss her (even though she made him nuts at times!)

I'm going to miss my girl so much.  Life in this house will not be the same without her, that's for sure.  Dinner will certainly be quieter without her barking at us (the barking got worse and worse the more old and senile she got).  I won't have her Darth Vader breathing in every video I take of my kids now.  We might be able to leave a loaf of bread on the counter without her swiping it and eating the whole thing.  Her absence will be felt strongly.  Even our other dog Bandit, who has never lived without Brandy, will have to adjust without her.  Those two were buddies and laid back to back in Brandy's dog bed every day together.  Who will follow my every move now?  I feel as though I've lost my shadow.  After 14 years of having her right behind me, I'll have to adjust to being without her.  

Goodbye, my love.  I'll miss you always. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Working Mom

I've been a working mom for eleven years now.  I vividly remember a student's mom asking me at 6 months pregnant with my first child what my plans were once the baby was born.  I told her that I would take my maternity leave and return to the classroom to teach when it was complete.  Looking at me condescendingly, she responded with "Oh, well, I guess that will be nice for MY child."  Well, ok then.

I have an advantage now that I am a teacher again.  Yes, I get more time off with my children.  I no longer travel like I did when I was director of the charity.  That was difficult and took a large toll on my family.  I love my summers with the children when I get to be home with them, but I am always ready to be back to the academic rigor of the school year.  During the year, I work long hours, both at the school and home grading papers after the children go to bed.  Often until late in the night.

I think the struggle is balance.  Most working moms feel like they are doing an inadequate job in one or both areas of their lives.  I can't always be the teacher and employee I want to be because of my commitments as a mom. I can't always be the mom I want to be due to the commitments I have to my job.  I often feel like I am failing one or the other.  I question my abilities and I find comfort in other working moms who have the same issues.

It's a constant juggling act.  

As a teacher, I can't take my kids to the early morning dentist appointment and simply arrive late to work.  I ask for the latest appointment available in the day, explaining with a slight apology to the doctor's receptionist that I am a school teacher.  I have 24 minutes for lunch, so I can't bring my girls lunch from Chick Fil-A and enjoy seeing them with their elementary classmates.  School parties or assemblies?  Forget it.  I have to be in the classroom.  My girls understand, though they do complain on occasion that I can never be there.  Cue the mom guilt!

All in all though, I wouldn't change it.  I love my family and cherish my time with them.  I love my career and feel strongly that I was called to be in the classroom working with students.  My daughters are proud of me for being a teacher.  They love to come up to my school and meet my students during evening activities.  They enjoy hearing stories about the students.  Maggie has even written a prompt about it in class over who she most admires and why.  

I chose this life.  Daily, I continue to choose it.  It's not the easiest and it certainly is not meant for everyone. However, it's my life and I love being a working mom.