A Void in My Heart

Sometimes there is a loss that leaves a void in your heart.  This void isn’t the worst kind of loss: the loss of a parent, a sibling, or child.  Rather, it’s the loss of a four-legged companion with whom you shared a lifetime. We suffered that kind of loss in my home this past weekend.  It’s left a void in my heart.

If you are a pet lover, you understand.  If you are not, you have my permission to skip over this postMiniature Schnauzer puppy we named Nemo

I’ve had pets most of my life.  And since pets lives are short, I have outlived many pets.  There are some pets, though, whose presence comes to mean far more than just companionship.  My miniature schnauzer, Nemo, was one such pet.  I’m including a snippet of one of my morning pages that explains a little of why Nemo’s presence was so very special in my life.

Morning Pages 3/17/12:  As I write this, Nemo’s labored breathing fills my ears. Tears well up and my heart aches. I’m losing him. I feel guilty for the pain I think he must be suffering. Yet, he still eats, he still plays with his toys, and he still guards the yard against silly squirrels and crazy cats, although all of those things are accomplished much more slowly than in the past. I know he doesn’t know he’s dying. I know that I’m projecting my feelings onto him, my faithful companion, my buddy. His liver and his heart are failing him. Am I failing him?

Eleven years ago DH was recovering from open heart surgery complicated by a stroke. I’d been fortunate enough to have sick time to stay with him for nearly six weeks. But time was running out. DH was hurting and depressed. I could barely motivate him to get up and move about the house. I would have to return to work soon and I was certain he would get worse alone in the house. Then, two weeks before I had to return to work, I brought a tiny miniature schnauzer puppy home. I named him Nemo.

DH couldn’t believe I had been so mean. He argued that he would never be able to care for the puppy while I was at work. I put a gate on the front porch. Now DH could let the puppy out on the porch to do his business. In the evening I would hose off the offending output. DH argued that he couldn’t bend over to pick the puppy up. I taught Nemo to jump onto the couch on command. And too soon, I had to return to work.

DH spent the days on the recliner sofa. When he couldn’t bend over, he played ‘footsie’ games with the puppy. When he napped, little Nemo curled up in his lap and napped, too. And every few hours, DH would shuffle out onto the porch and sit while the puppy sniffed and circled until he found just the right spot to relieve himself.

Over time, the puppy grew into a handsome, sweet-natured dog. DH regained strength playing fetch and taking Nemo on walks. While DH’s physicians, physical therapists, nor I could penetrate his pain, fear, and depression, the pup snuck into his heart. I firmly believe that Nemo saved DH’s life.

Over the next few years, we bought two more pups: a mutt and a Yorkie. Nemo adjusted fantastically. He tolerated the pup who tugged out the hairs of his beard and the pup who hid all the toys. He groomed the babies and woofed at them to come in with him. They are inseparable.

The three amigos, my three dogs
left to right: Cosmo, Astro & Nemo

A bad liver is causing his heart to fail. His failing heart can’t pump enough blood so he breathes fast and heavy. He’s having syncopal episodes or fainting because he’s not getting enough oxygen-carrying blood to his brain. Sometimes these episodes look like seizures. Medications can only help for so long.

I’m trying to enjoy the time we have left. He still greets me at the door, begs for treats, and he brings me his favorite toy which he holds in his mouth until I command him to ‘leave it.’ It’s a game he plays for an extra ‘good boy.’ I pet him and tell him what a good boy he is. And I pray that God takes him gently when it’s time, but not just yet, please, because my heart is breaking.


4/7/2012: I wrote the above paragraphs when I was feeling very selfish. I couldn’t imagine my life without Nemo in it. I couldn’t say goodbye.  I wasn’t ready. Unfortunately, Nemo’s quality of life declined dramatically. His chest heaved in an effort to get more oxygen. Sick as he was, his sweet temperament never changed.

As I watched his health decline, my selfishness vanished. He would pick up his toy in preparation to go outside, but had to drop it so he could breathe.  He would stand beside DH or me, his head against our legs because he couldn’t rise up on his hind legs to beg for a petting.  He tried so hard to continue to be the loving companion he had always been but his physical heart simply could not perform the way his spiritual heart wanted to.

We said our final goodbyes this weekend.  He laid his head in my hand and I stroked him as he left this world.  It was beyond hard.  My heart is full and empty at the same time. I have a void in my heart, in my life. Words fail me.

And can it be that in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!– Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

In loving memory: Nemo (2001-2012)

I have a void in my heart, Nemo, my miniature schnauzer died recently.
Nemo, miniature schnauzer

Fascination Friday: A Virtual Memorial Tour

It’s Friday Fascinations and Veteran’s Day. So the links I’ve posted are a virtual memorial tour. A small tribute to the Courage, Honor, Patriotism, and Sacrifice of our men and women of who have served our country.

The Great War

The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial is in Kansas City, MO. It is the only American museum dedicated solely to preserving objects from The Great War which lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918 (does that date sound familiar?). Visitors enter the museum by crossing a glass bridge suspended over a field of 9000 red poppies. Each poppy represents a combatant fatality. The museum’s displays, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits tell the comprehensive story of the war through the eyewitness testimony of people who experienced the war. There are letters, diaries, videos, and newspaper reports. Some of these will bring a tear to your eye. They did mine. It’s an impressive collection and far more material than you can possibly cover in a day. The museum also houses a 20,000 square foot research area that is open to the public.virtual memorial tour, Kansas City WWI museum, lynettemburrows.com

World War II

Depending upon which source you go to, somewhere between 70 – 100 million military personnel were mobilized during the second World War II. This conflict was fought from 1939 to 1945. (Isn’t conflict a nice, clean, distant word to use when talking about a war that had the distinction of the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare and the deadliest in human history with 50-70 million fatalities.) Go here for Digital history’s guided reading list about WWII. And you’ll find 10 things you may not know about World War II.

The Korean War

The Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) belonged to my father’s generation. Korea had been ruled by Japan until the end of World War II when the country became part of the spoils of war. It was divided at the 38th Parallel. American Troops occupied the southern half of the peninsula and Soviet troops occupied the northern part. That set up was a formula for war. For more information about this war go to History.com. For one man who would do it again if he had to go here.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was my generations’ war. It was the first time war was shown on the television screen. The consequences were enormous. I hope that American’s will never be so naive about war nor so disrespectful of her soldiers ever again. Please go here for more information. And if you are ever in Washington DC visit the wall, one of the most visually stunning memorials I’ve ever seen.

POWs and MIAs

only woman awarded Congressional Medal of Honor, virtual memorial tour, lynettemburrows.com

This tribute must include our prisoners of war (POWs) and our missing in action (MIAs). For biographies and information about POWs go to American Ex-POWs. A site specifically about women prisoners of war is here. And please, in your virtual memorial tour, be sure to visit Never Forgotten.

A Tribute to Heroes

This has been an emotional tour for me. My husband calls me a sap, a marshmallow. I can’t help it. My heart breaks for all of the lost, the wounded (physical and emotional), and the friends and families of all those men and women.

But my heart also busts with pride because Americans choose to fight, to serve because they believe in the ideals of this country and they hold our flag proudly. I say thank you for your service every time I meet or see a person in military uniform. Today I get the great honor of saying to all those who have served or are currently in service, to the ones I haven’t met and to their families: THANK YOU for your service to our great country. And now I close with one of my all-time favorite music videos honoring and celebrating veterans: “Here’s to the Heroes: a Military Tribute.”