31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Family Dog Will Be Missed

Single With Children: Freeway surely earned her angel wings

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 05/28/03

A few months before my divorce was final, my kids and I decided to move from Florida to Charleston, S.C. I just didn't like the idea of raising my kids in the Miami area. It felt too scary to me.

We settled in, and then came my first experience with packing my kids off for a month to go visit their Dad in Florida. I couldn't imagine knocking around that house without the sounds of Katie and Justin, their friends and all the comforting chaos that speaks of a busy life.

So I went to the Internet and visited the online site of the local animal shelter. That's how I came to meet Freeway. She already came with the name because she had been found along Interstate 26 nursing four puppies, obviously abandoned by someone who didn't want to deal with her. She had been rescued by the shelter and allowed to continue nursing her puppies until they were ready for adoption. I was told she was a very protective, loving mother.

I met her on the day after her last puppy had been adopted. She was a mess - thin, scraggly, sporting three ticks on her nose and suffering from a pretty serious case of heartworm.

The moment we locked eyes, I knew I had found my canine companion. We had a lot in common. We were both pining for our kids, had been through some hard times and shared some sense of being left alone.

We bonded immediately. She would jump in my car and run errands with me, position her head under my hand for attention and, always at night, she would sleep at the foot of my bed, reminding me I really wasn't so alone.

I never knew how old she was when I adopted her. The vet's best guess was that she was probably 5 years old. There was no real friskiness left in her, but she more than made up for it in loyalty and unconditional love.

In the past few weeks I noticed that Freeway was groaning every time she climbed the stairs to my bedroom. She sometimes was unable to make the trek. I took her to the vet several times and she was diagnosed with arthritis and the various other maladies that come with aging.

This past weekend she couldn't keep food down and cried constantly. I tried to ignore the obvious, but last night there could be no mistake that she was suffering a lot of pain.

Today, my dear Freeway was taken to a compassionate veterinarian. I couldn't do it. My Dad stepped in and took care of what I knew needed to be done. The doctor called me at work when she was gone and told me it had been very peaceful and that she simply went to sleep. He reassured me it was the right thing to do, as did my parents. I have to tell you that after I thanked the doctor and hung up the phone, I sat at my desk for 10 minutes and relived our relationship from the moment I brought her home until I told her good-bye this morning. I cried. I'm still crying.

It may sound silly to say that a dog helped me get on with my life, but that's exactly what Freeway did. I needed a lot of love and attention those first few months after becoming a single parent, and she gave it. I can only hope that I made her life a little easier and returned some of that love along the way.

If dogs really do go to heaven, then I know that Freeway must be sporting some special canine angel wings this evening.

Thank you, Freeway, for showing me that if you could find the courage to love and trust again, that I could do the very same. I'll miss you, dear friend.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com.

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