Monday, October 17, 2011


Tallie giving me a smooch
I lost a friend one year ago today, on October 17, 2010 at 9:15 in the morning.  She was a wonderful friend, even though she could be a bit moody and demanding at times.  She was beautiful, loving, loyal and always thrilled to hang out with me, even when I wasn't that easy to be around.  Her love for me was unconditional, and mine for her was the same.  Her name was Tallie.  She was my dog.  That wonderful little being came into my life on May 4, 2004.  Tallie was born exactly one month before I had to make the painful, yet necessary decision to put my beloved poodle, Jasmine, to sleep.  Jazzie, as I called her, saw me through my twenties, thirties and into my forties.  She was there through the deaths of some very important people in my life.  She was there through the best of times and the worst of times.  Her loss was very difficult because she was such a gentle, undemanding soul, and had been with me for nearly sixteen years.  However, the anticipation of bringing Tallie home helped ease my sorrow.
Tallie's baby picture
The breeder allowed me to visit her once it was safe to do so.  I loved the cockeyed little spot on her head.  The dots on blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are supposed to be in the center of their heads when they are lucky enough to have them.  Hers wasn't, and it gave her a very comical look.   She always appeared a bit worried, and that misplaced spot kind of took the edge off.   Tallie was small, but she was sturdy and she always let you know exactly what she wanted.  That was evident when she was just a few weeks old and her "Grandmama" went to visit.  She snuggled up on her chest, and when it was time to go back to her doggy mom, she protested with a loud puppy squeal that defied her small size.   From that day forward, Tallie and "Grandmama" had a special thing going on between them.  I always joked that Tallie should be my Mom's dog because she loved her more than me.

I got to take Tallie home a week earlier than anticipated because the breeder knew she would be in good hands.  I prepared the house for the new "baby, but what I didn't anticipate was the cat's reaction.  Miss Misha is a Siamese and has more than her fair share of  "catititude".  Misha loved Jasmine.  That was HER dog, and she wailed nightly for a week after Jazzie died.  I figured Tallie would be a distraction for the cat and they would have a grand time romping around together.  Boy, was I wrong!  Miss Misha was NOT pleased and was extremely vocal about her disapproval.  She hissed, growled, spit and hid under the bed for three long weeks.  Misha did come around eventually, though Tallie was always very cautious about the cat's intentions.  It was not unusual for Misha to cozy up to Tallie, groom her lovingly, then haul off and bite her with those sharp kitty teeth for no good reason.  Such was their relationship...

Even now, with the pain of losing her still so raw, I smile through tears when I think of what a little diva Tallie was and how she demanded attention from everyone.  Should perfect strangers dare think to ignore her, she let them know about it.  As a puppy, she would squeal and carry on until they took notice and admired her.  In the vet's office, Tallie would walk up to every single person and vocalize until they acknowledged her cuteness.  She had a little potty dance that she did when it was time to go outside.  It actually looked like she was doing the puppy polka!  She was a favorite on the bike path during our walks.  She wanted all the love and she got it.  Everyone loved Tallie. When she wanted food (and she ALWAYS wanted food) she had the annoying habit of plopping her butt on the floor and dragging it around in a perfect circle until she got her way.  Yes, she was spoiled...
Tallie with "Grandmama"

One of my favorite memories is how much Tallie loved going to see "Grandmama".  Sometimes I would say it very softly to her and with different inflections, but the result was always the same.  She would cock her little head from side to side, then yip with glee until we loaded up the car and were on our way.  She'd start in again when we would take the exit off of the highway.  Tallie loved her "Grandmama"!  She also knew an easy target for food when she saw one.  On one trip, we stopped to get "Grandmama" a hamburger.  I was unloading the car when I heard shrieking inside Mom's house.  Tallie had snatched her hamburger, wrapper and all, and ran under the table to enjoy her feast.  That wasn't the only time she stole food from "Grandmama", but it was the most amusing.
Jene with baby Tallie

I never wanted to share my bed with another dog after Jasmine, but Tallie had other ideas.  I would kiss her goodnight and put her in her little kennel.  All was well with the world until four in the morning.  Then, she would cry as though her little heart was breaking and of course, I would give in.  Tallie would put her little paws around my neck and sleep like the most content little dog in the world.   That lead to a morning ritual that lasted until the week before she closed her eyes for the last time.  When I would wake up in the morning, I'd tell her, "puppy love!" and she would throw her paws around my neck and smother me with wet kisses.  I miss that.  Tallie would make what I called her "cave" at the foot of the bed on cold nights.  The comforter was folded back so she would burrow in and all you would see is her little freckled nose peaking out.  In the warmer months, she'd hang out under the bed during the day.  I miss seeing her lush white tail sticking out from under the bed skirt.  I miss so many things...

A little more than a year after Tallie came into my life, fate brought her a "brother".  I never intended to have two dogs, but I fell in love with Bogie and when his previous owners decided they didn't want him, I jumped at the chance to have him join our little family.  He fared much better with Miss Misha.  She only hissed at him for three days and then decided to ignore him.  Except for an occasional smack on the head or a nip on the butt, Misha keeps her distance.  Tallie was a bit horrified by this noisy, energetic little guy who kept pouncing on her and demanding to play.  That didn't last long.  They became the best of friends and he followed her like a shadow.  They would run through the house yapping at each other, pretend they were growling in each others faces, and always seemed to want the same bone or toy.  They would take turns tattling on each other to me.  Bogie never knew a day without his "sister" and I am thankful they were together until the end.  He seems lost without her...
Tallie's first night in ICU
Tallie & Bogie loved road trips

During the week of September 26th, Tallie wasn't very interested in food.  That was not Tallie.  She could wolf down her food at a rate that never failed to amaze me.  I took her to see the vet on September 29th and she was quickly, and incorrectly, diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, even though she was not coughing or sneezing.  A couple of antibiotics each day was supposed to cure her in no time.  She did seem to perk up a bit, so I took her to see "Grandmama".  Although still happy to make the journey, she wasn't her exuberant self and still wasn't very interested in food.  In an attempt to fix that, we bought a deli chicken that normally would cause her to become a savage little beasty.  She turned her nose up at it and I told my Mom I was taking her back to the vet the following morning.

On Monday, October 4th, Tallie was significantly weaker than she had been so we put all morning rituals aside, got in the car and headed back to the vet.  The hours that followed are a bit of a blur.  A blood test was finally done and it revealed her red count was 9, which is dangerously low, and she needed an immediate blood transfusion.  I was told to take her to Alameda East Veterinary Hospital.  I don't know how I pulled it together enough to drive her there.  I was probably a true hazard on the road, but fortunately, the hospital wasn't that far away.  I met with doctors there and the preliminary diagnosis was Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia, or IMHA.  I had never heard of this illness and truly wish I never had.  Those four words changed my life forever and began a journey that left behind a trail of tears.  The staff let me stay with Tallie for quite awhile during the time she was being transfused.  I went home and got a pillowcase from my bed to leave with her.  It was so hard to leave that night and even more difficult to try to sleep.  Instead, I read every bit of information I could find on IMHA.  Much of it was scary and didn't offer much hope although I did find a great website with dozens of success stories.  "One day Tallie's story will be among these," I told myself.  Then, I slept.
Tallie with Dr. Shanna O'Marra
Bogie stayed by Tallie's side
The next morning, I woke up very early, which is unusual for this night owl.  A doctor from Alameda East called me shortly after waking.  Tallie's hematocrit level rose to fifteen and doctors were hopeful it would continue to rise.  Visiting hours for ICU patients are from noon to two and seven to nine.  I took full advantage of every moment and the staff was kind enough to let me stay far beyond that schedule.  It was so hard seeing Tallie hooked up to an I.V. with her furry little tummy shaved from where they performed an ultra sound.  That revealed that she had blood clots in her spleen.  Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia causes blood clots, so in addition to the transfusion and Prednisone, Tallie needed an anti-coagulant.  The only pharmacy that carried the type she needed was at Children's Hospital so I went to pick that up.  I also brought the t-shirt I was wearing that morning for her to sleep on.   Each day blurred into the other and became a cycle of hope and despair, hope and despair.  On the fifth day, I received news that Tallie's PCV was stable enough to bring her home!  I was overjoyed and hopeful at the thought of bringing my girl back to the home where she was raised, back to her "brother", and even back to Miss Misha.  I was terrified at the thought of giving her the medication she required, including shots of Lovenox every six hours.  I drove very carefully, picked her up slowly, and walked through the door.  Bogie squealed with delight and Misha even kissed Tallie on the nose.  I made a bed on the floor for all of us and there we remained until the next day.  I can still hear the ticking of the alarm clock that I set as a reminder so she would not miss a dose of her medicine.   Tallie needed daily visits to the specialists who were treating her so they could monitor her blood count.  The next day brought bad news:  her PCV had dropped, there was a notable change in her breathing pattern and Tallie needed to be readmitted to ICU.  Fear tugged again and was winning.  I had to leave her once more, but was allowed to stay with her past visiting hours once again.

The next day brought unexpected good news.  Her PCV was back up and I could take her home!  Her breathing was still a little ragged and we needed to keep a close eye on that.  When we got home, Misha hissed at Tallie and hid behind the computer monitor, something she had never done before.  We snuggled on the floor in front of the fireplace Tallie so dearly loved and slept ... The specialist wanted to check her again on Monday and the hope was that her blood count would continue to rise.  The news seemed encouraging and I grasped it with all of the hope in my heart.

Saturday night was rough.  Tallie seemed more restless than she ever had before but she was still eating and drinking water.  Bogie laid down next to her and stretched his paws across her.  They stayed like that for quite a long while - enough time for me to snap a few cherished pictures.  I know now that doggy gesture was his goodbye to her...
Bogie's goodbye to Tallie
Tallie fought so hard...
Very early on Sunday morning, October 17, 2010, I knew something had changed.  The routine of her care continued and Tallie's condition seemed no worse.  At about 9am, she started struggling to get outside but was having a difficult time standing.  I picked her up to help her, and Tallie looked right into my eyes.  That's when I knew for sure.   I still don't know why I said these words to her, because they really weren't true at all, but I told her if she had to leave me that was okay ... that I would be alright.  With that, she took two soft breaths and died in my arms at 9:15 that morning.  A blood clot hit her lungs, despite the regimen of Lovenox. Her death was peaceful and she was with the person who loved her the most.

I still mourn her premature passing and I have frequently asked myself why her death has been the most difficult to deal with at this point in my life.  I believe I finally have the answer.  I have lost loved ones, human beings who raised me and loved me, as well as pets that I loved dearly.  The difference was that each lived a full life and the conclusion of those lives was not sudden or shocking.  My family members died safe and warm in their beds, surrounded by people who loved them.  My previous dogs lived well into their teens... Tiffany was 16 1/2, Jazzie was one month shy of 16, and our little Bingo was almost 17.  I have been very fortunate to not have suffered the pain of a life that ended too soon...until now.  Perhaps that is to be my lesson.  Life is a fragile circle and it is very important not to take it for granted.  No being is guaranteed length of days.  Because of that truth, it is so important to appreciate and not waste whatever time is given because it is indeed a gift.

Tallie wasn't granted the gift of a long life.  Even though I only got to hold her in my arms for half of the usual life expectancy for her breed, I will hold her in my heart forever.  There is a paragraph from "The Rainbow Bridge" that I would like to share:

"The day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. YOU have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.  Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together..."  -Author unknown

Until we meet again, sweet girl.  Run free, Tallie, run free...