I’ve been neglectful. Since the viewing we attended in Pennsylvania, I’ve caught a bad case of bronchitis and our eldest dog, Taz, developed megaesophagus. So, I have not been writing much. In today’s post, I’m going to get a little personal. I’m going to explain what brought an abrupt end to the life of a very happy and healthy dog. Then I am going to explain how we communicate with those we lost and how we stay open to receiving messages from them after they’re gone.
Megaesophagus. If the cause of the enlarged esophagus is obstruction, sometimes removal of the obstruction can help the condition. If the cause isn’t obstruction, then the cause is of little importance; the prognosis is the same. X-rays indicated no obstruction.
When eating, your esophagus contracts and enlarges. Taz’s was stuck in enlarged mode. So, a lot of food and water was entering his lungs. He would regurgitate food and water immediately upon eating or drinking. He predictably developed pneumonia. The lack of eating created nausea. We fed Taz a diet the vet recommended. We made him eat standing straight up, as that could aid in food actually getting to his stomach and the vet gave him antibiotics to fight the pneumonia.
We were told this is what will kill him. I took the news knowing my job was to keep this old boy as comfortable and full as possible. We were told that if he gets over the pneumonia and can keep some food down, he could live a few more months or longer. Looking at Taz’s pained face and tired eyes, I was wondering how much fight he truly had left in him.
Right after we were married,my husband and I had planned on trying to conceive with the hopes of a summer baby (my first year teaching). The very first pregnancy test I took was positive. We were very excited. The excitement only lasted a moment it seemed. I went to see the doctor because of a possible miscarriage. Seeing my empty uterus on the screen was the most devastating feeling of loss and hopelessness I had ever felt at that time in my life.
I’m the type of person who goes to work or keeps moving no matter what. Today, I’m up at 4 AM to start my day and the earliest I’m normally to bed is almost 11 at night. After confirming the miscarriage, I really didn’t want to do anything except sleep. My husband would often tell me he didn’t care what I felt like doing, but to just do it and not stay on the couch. It was difficult to really want to do anything.
We found ourselves taking a trip to Georgia. My in-laws had property there and it was nice to get away from home as it had become a sad place for me. We went to an animal shelter and played with some weimaraner cross puppies. We left and I decided I really actually wanted a puppy. So we went back and learned that all the puppies were spoken for. We did find a weimaraner breeder later that day though. They had two males left. One was a chubby little thing who had little interest in me. The other was the runt of the entire litter that no one wanted. He was so tiny. All he wanted to do was be held by me. He would get very excited and chase his own tail like a nut. So, I named him Taz and brought him home.
I experienced another miscarriage, but the third pregnancy took. Taz was attached for both miscarriage and pregnancy. Zach was working night shifts at the hospital at the time. I’d often fall asleep on the couch with Taz. Zach would come home and Taz wouldn’t be able to see him. Taz would cause a lot of havoc barking and growling. As soon as Zach would speak, Taz would calm down recognizing his voice. Taz was very protective of me and up my ass to the point of really being annoying at times.
He had the worst separation anxiety. Novi, our husky, joined us a couple of months later and that solved all issues with us leaving for work. After Fiona was born we moved out into the country onto our homestead. Taz took the change of scenery with grace. He brought me home baby softshell turtles two separate seasons. He accompanied me to the water to save them from the high husky prey drive.
Last summer, he brought me a baby mockingbird he stole from a nest. He never hurt the bird though. I love all living things and he did, too.
Taz never got over the pneumonia. Even with the changed eating technique, he still couldn’t get food in his stomach. When the vet came to our farm to put him down, he had quit entirely on his own. He isolated himself from all of the dogs. He hid under the hydroponic deck and would only let Zach or myself handle him. I held him as he died. We were given his pawprint. Zach made him a coffin and we buried him on property.
It’s never easy to lose an animal and I miss him very dearly. He was special to me and very responsive to the feelings of those around him. He never hurt anything in his entire life. And I still cannot believe that he’s gone.
January and February have been months of great loss for my family and me. Right after we buried Taz, I made a small shrine with a candle. I lit the candle and whispered to the flame. I spoke to my Taz. I told him “Stay as long as you like and move on when you’re ready. I miss you so and wish I could see you again.” That night, I had a dream. I am in the school I work at. I am sad and need to have my mind preoccupied (I know when I’m dreaming). So I create a tall building on campus. I create this building a lot when I need to “get away.” I automatically transported to the top floor. It is everything I expected it to be. A normal sized ledge around nothing but a pool. But as always, it’s when I dive in that it becomes breathtaking.
In the water I’m greeted by a whale. I grab his fin and he takes me on a tour. I’m greeted by rays and dolphins and other animals I can’t name. I resurface and just swim. I love swimming. None of this is unusual. I’ve crafted this world basically to be left alone. I miss those I lost. I eventually call it a day and leave the “pool.” I go back into the school.
That’s when I lose control of the dream. Sometimes I’m teleported without my doing. I can tell when is happening because my world starts to fade. I fight it because I don’t feel like losing control tonight. I begin to feel dizzy as the walls of my school fade in and out. I claw at the wall, feeling like they won’t disappear if I’m touching them. My hands feel a nail in the wall. I think “that’s never been there before”and then whatever was trying to pull from this place stopped. I looked at the nail and pulled off a necklace that was hanging on it. It was cheap. String with long silver beads. The necklace had two charms. One was a cross. I’m not religious. But I love Granny and she was religious. Accepting of others though. We had just lost her before losing Taz. I knew this was a playful sign from her. But then there was an arrow pendant. This one confuses me but there is a huge pull.
There’s a woman I work with who suddenly appears. I greatly admire and appreciate this woman. But it isn’t really her. Her face keeps changing quickly changing back to who she was trying to look like (my colleague). She puts the necklace on me and touches the arrow. She tells me “The hunter never loses her hounds.” And I wake up.
Dreams are a very common way to easily communicate with those who have passed. It’s also very common to receive signs or messages from the dead in dreams. Sometimes the dreams need interpreting. I’m very certain, for example, that the cross in my dream signifies Granny. I’m certain–though also baffled–that the arrow in my dream signifies Taz.
When you lose someone be aware of your waking surroundings as well. On the second night of Taz’s passing, I lit the candle and spoke to it again. Following my message,the television turned on by itself. When you notice these clues or messages don’t ignore them. I cried a little and said hello once the television turned on. It was a small acknowledgement, but an acknowledgement nonetheless. He gave me his all for almost ten years. The least I can do is acknowledge his presence when he chooses to let it be known.
Notice nature–always. Our youngest pup and future livestock guardian, Apollo, quickly became very close to Taz upon his arrival home. The day after Taz died, Apollo was resting on his gravesite. The dogs didn’t watch us put Taz down and they didn’t know where we buried him. Apollo greeted my departure from the house in the same manner as Taz. He sped walk to my side and sat, waiting for my lead. I couldn’t help but cry. Apollo had never done that. Only Taz. Apollo walked the perimeter of the land with me (a little under three acres). He rolled in all of Taz’s favorite spots. He barked at any movement or sound out of the ordinary–and ceased at my signal. At the end of the morning routine, I sat down and he put his paw on my shoulder. This was Apollo. Not Taz. And I was a little less taken aback. Until he threw his upper body on my lap, rolled onto his back, and waited for me to scratch his belly. This was a Taz trait.
That same day, my husband said Apollo had picked up a lot of Taz’s mannerisms. I noted that it’s almost like Taz told Apollo he was his replacement and told him what to do and where all the best rolling spots were outside.
It’s been a few weeks now. My television doesn’t turn on randomly anymore. I’ve not had any more dreams until last night, the night before posting this. I was outside at night in my dream, by the hydroponic deck. He emerged from under the deck, the moonlight reflecting off his silver coat. He was bony and light enough to carry in the house. I brought him to the lit fireplace in my house, by his shrine. He licked me. I smelled his rank breath and held him in my lap the whole night. Other than that, no other dreams. Apollo is very intelligent, but does have his own personality. However, he has never backed down from his new duties of being my new partner in crime. He still does his job in the same exact manner as Taz.