Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My dog is dying. As I write this, I am sitting in a chair beside her. She is sprawled in a little blue bed eyes open, taking slow and shallow breaths. Earlier, I came home to find she had fallen on the hard wood floor, feet in every direction, head in a puddle of pee. This is not what we think about when we adopt our pets.

Barbie and her brother Wylie have been our companions for 9 (Wylie) and 9.5 (Barbie) years. They cuddled with me through three moves, a miscarriage, two pregnancies and the birth of three children and many adventures. In October, we made the decision to have Wylie put to sleep. He was in pain, we couldn't hold him and he couldn't hear or see. Even though it seemed to be the right decision, it was heart wrenching. After he died, I went to write about him and found I could not bring myself to. A couple weeks later when his ashes were returned to us, I walked all the way home for the vet, carrying a little box that contained all that was left of my little buddy and sobbed.

This week, we have been faced with an all too familiar situation and so far we have chosen not to euthanize, but tonight it is clear that Barbie is suffering. We sat with her and told her we love her and stroked her tiny body, and there is nothing else we can do. Losing Barbie feels like a double loss in a way. I feel I am losing her brother all over again and losing her as well. I feel guilty because she has received less and less attention as our family has grown and now that we moved to Oregon, she couldn't make it up the stairs to our bedroom and has been sleeping alone downstairs for the first time since we adopted her when she was five.

Losing Barbie is losing a good friend and saying goodbye again to all the chapters of our lives she has accompanied us through.

When I came home to find her sprawled on the wood floor, I quickly scooped her up to help her and to protect my three year old who understands way too much about death and dying already. We have been telling him that our dog is sick and she might go away soon and he remembers that Wylie died and went to heaven so he asked if she would be going there too and when. When Wylie died, our son asked for him and cried for months afterward. After a recent discussion about how everyone dies at some point, Riley turned to me and said, "I hope I stay until my baby sisters are grown up." I had to turn my head to hide the tears that came streaming down my face as I assured him he would live long after his sisters grow up - as if anyone can make that promise to anyone else.

My dog is dying. She suffers from kidney and heart failure and some sort gum or tooth infection that is causing her mouth to bleed. She is dying after 14.5 years of a good life and she is forcing me to remember my own mortality.

I will miss you Barbie.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

26 Hours

It took 26 hours to travel from our apartment on Amagerbrogade in Copenhagen to our new house in Beaverton, Oregon.

26 hours with me, Neil, two five month olds, a three year old, a fourteen year old Maltese dog, cousin Brittany, 13 checked bags and 11 carry on items. 26 hours to a different life.

No matter how you prepare for such a journey, there are bound to be mishaps. I am proud to say that we had adequate snacks, changes of clothes, diapers and toys for all three kids and the grown ups.

The big hitch in our plans occurred when our flight from Copenhagen to JFK didn't take off on time.

We had spent the time in the boarding area bonding with the crew of our airplane. Flight attendants were holding the babies and playing with Riley. Our kids charmed the New York-based flight crew and the crew, in turn, charmed us.

And so, when one of the nice men who had held the babies came on the intercom and said, "well ladies and gentlemen, the reason the plane was a little late getting in is that there is an exterior door that is broken. It isn't going to keep us from flying, but we can't fly at our top speed or the door will come open, so instead of a 7 hour flight to JFK, this will be a 9 hour flight." My first instinct was to want to kill the messenger, but I liked the messenger and realized I couldn't direct my anger at the crew so I resigned myself to our new fate - 9 hours on an airplane and a missed connection in New York.

The flight was ok. Riley slept for only 30 minutes and needed entertainment the rest of the time (for those of you who are not skilled with numbers, that was 8.5 hours of entertainment for the three year old) and the girls slept on and off, but needed to be walked around the plane the rest of the time. This meant that none of the adults slept at all and at least two of us were up walking around the plane most of the time. I got covered in spit up once and did a whole outfit change in a small, dirty airplane bathroom. Neil got covered in spit up, but neglected to bring an extra outfit for himself so he just put water all over his clothes and walked around wet. Otherwise, there were no major mishaps.

Our flight landed in New York and first Neil left Brittany's roller bag on the plane. Once that was retrieved, we promptly forgot Riley's stroller at the gate. (Easy to do when you have 11 carry on items.) This resulted in having our little three year old, who was by this time drunk with exhaustion, walk while towing his suitcase down the seemingly never ending hallway to customs. Brittany and I were carrying babies and bags and Neil was carrying what seemed like the entire world but was really a couple large bags and the dog in her bag. He tried to get Riley to ride on his shoulders, but Riley refused. I tried to get Riley to let me carry his suitcase, but Riley refused. Riley was swerving and stumbling and I struggled to get him to keep up, but several times the passengers from a flight from Israel and another flight that I am guessing came from India got between me and Riley. Because I was completely exhausted and uncomfortable and really upset that I couldn't carry my little guy when he so clearly needed to be carried, I was disproportionately distraught about his drunken stumbling. I imagined him being washed away with the crowds of unfamiliar foreigners, or just wilting and remaining forever in the long hallway between the international gates and
official entry to the US. 

Somehow, we made it through customs. Somehow we got all our 13 bags and got Riley in his stroller and he fell asleep. Which would have been glorious if we didn't have to rush like crazy to catch the last flight to Portland for the night. A kind airline employee took us on and hustled us through rechecking our bags and getting through security. She even held Barbie (the dog) while we went through with all our kids etc. At one point on our way from bag check to the security checkpoint I saw the lady give our three carseats and our insanely expensive double stroller to some male airport employees headed to oversized luggage and she said "make sure these get on the plane, these babies need these to get home tonight". The men disappeared with our stuff into an elevator and she turned to me and said "I hope you get those, if not, you can get carseats for car rental agencies" and then we were off running again. 

When our guardian angle airline employee first approached us to help us get to our flight, Neil was so exhausted and hassled he thought she was trying to prevent us from getting to our flight and started saying, "come on, we just need to get to our flight..." I had to intervene to clarify that she was trying to help, not hinder.

Again, we somehow made it through security and to our flight, we were among the last to board and were seated way in the back of the plane. Neil had to wake Riley and surrender the stroller at the gate. This resulted in our three year old screaming at the top of his lungs. He really couldn't be blamed, our journey was approaching the 19 hour mark and he hadn't slept. By the time we were seated on the plane, all three children were screaming at their top volumes. I thought the babies might be hungry,  but they wanted nothing to do with eating, they were also overtired. I think it took about 15 minutes of complete and utter torture which included all the passengers surrounding us making jokes and complaining about the crying, a flight attendant trying to bribe Riley with a big bag of peanut m&ms and me contorting my body so I could comfort one baby and Riley while Neil held the other baby until everyone, and I mean everyone including myself and Neil, fell asleep. 

The rest of that 6 hour flight was peaceful and when we got to the airport in Portland, more than half a dozen family members were waiting with Danish and American flags and helium balloons and welcome banners. Which was the most over-the-top airport welcome I had ever received, but was also completely appropriate given the marathon we had just completed. 

We got our bags, had lots of help loading them into three cars, took a ride to our new house and walked inside. 26 hours to a different life.