Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Oliver's Story - a Tail of Love

It seemed as if the timing could not have been worse. My Mom was coming home from her stay in a care home into hospice that Monday. My sister-in-law's mother died unexpectently Monday morning, she and my brother headed up to Massachusetts. My other brother was to arrive on Wednesday from Santa Cruz. Into this situation my sister had a canine client, Oliver, staying at the house. What a time for a dog sitter to have a pooch under foot. 

Yet, the timing could not have been better. Oliver didn't get under foot. Rather, the body part he wriggled his way into was our hearts, and did we ever need the comfort that only dogs can give. 

As late as Wednesday afternoon two weeks ago, I had not planned to be there for my Mom's death. I saw her for ten days at the beginning of September when she was at the hospital and then the care home. We had a very sweet goodbye together before I headed back to California. But while sitting on the very spot on our couch where I now write this blog post, I changed my mind. 

I was informing friends via Instagram of my family's situation back in Connecticut, and I chose a picture of my Mom's house in the Direct Message. I stared at the picture, trying to imagine what grief was inside. A death in the family and another one coming imminently? I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to be there, to not be looking at the picture of that house, but to be in that house. I checked airline schedules, found a night flight, called my husband and my brother who both agreed I should go, and I packed for another trip back east.

I arrived into a house in the middle of hospice care. Visitors bringing food, flowers and hugs. Kind, strong men delivering beds that go up and down and tilt every which way. Pamphlets on the kitchen table about death, dying and morphine dosages. Lots of adult children sharing bathrooms and timing showers and hot water. My family bungling in our attempts to comfort my sister-in-law as we faced the reality of our own mother's situation.

And my sweet Mom. And Oliver the visiting dog, who never left her side. That dog had a job to do and he did it well. He was on her bed. He was at her feet. He was under her wheelchair. He was under her blankets. He crawled up and laid his head on her pillow. He was doing what dogs do best, being loyal.

Friday night brought a power outage. Seeing that I had never administered morphine to anyone in my life, let alone my own mother, let alone by flashlight, let alone on no sleep since Tuesday night, it was quite the surreal experience. After the lights came back on, it was time for the others to catch some sleep. A plane ride back home to California was set for my brother, the funeral in Massachusetts to attend on Saturday for my brother and his wife. 

Into Saturday morning, it was just me and my Mom and Oliver. And then at quarter past five, it was just me and Oliver. I can't imagine a more perfect gift than to have had that sweet, calm and furry bundle of loyalty with me when she died. 

When hospice was called and all the sad realities of a death in the home were being taken care of, Oliver was content to stay in his crate, safely out of the way. His job was done, and soon his people would come and pick him up. The house was so empty without my Mom, and seemed doubly empty when Oliver went home. 

There are dogs and then there are dogs. Oliver is right up there with the best of them.

Waiting for his humans. His job was done.