Frankie in his days of helping me with my writing
Frankie in his days of helping me with my writing

When I returned to pet blogging on August 1, it was with the idea that I would be sharing information on dealing with an aging pet — in particular, one with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.  I didn’t know how long I would blog here again, or how involved I could be in the pet blogger’s community, but I wanted to help.

Turns out, I was the one who needed the help, although I didn’t realize it. There must have been a part of me that knew that this chapter of my life would be ending sooner rather than later, and that I didn’t want to go through it on my own — or undocumented.

You Don’t Keep a Journal??

Writing is a very individual experience. Some people dash through a first draft and then go back to polish their prose (or poetry). Others write more slowly, editing a little along the way.

And then there’s me.

Most of the time, I can barely get two sentences down without going back and rereading what I wrote. Sure, there’s the occasional white heat writing, when I’m angry and opinionated — okay, I’m always opinionated, but not always angry —  and the words come quickly. Usually, however, I work hard to make my writing look easy.

Writers often try to tell you that their method is the right one because it works for them. It’s taken me many years, but I finally have enough confidence to stop listening to advice like that. Can the writing itself be improved? Of course — sometimes I am so much in my own head, so immersed in a situation, that I don’t convey what I intended. That’s what good editors do: They clarify and ask the right questions, telling you what they don’t understand, making sure you’re getting your ideas across (not theirs).

But I digress.

My point is — and some will find this shocking — I don’t keep a journal. This, in the opinion of many writers, is a cardinal sin. I know, though, that I would pore over every word, and spend more time editing myself than putting my thoughts down.

And if you tell me that if only I got into the habit of journal writing this would change, I am going to bite you.

Blogging to the Rescue

I recommitted to blogging here because Frankie was on my mind, even while I was writing about my family history on Freud’s Butcher.  The family members I am researching there will stay dead and people will come back to that blog — or not — when I resume writing about them.  Meanwhile, I have a real dog whose life and whose passing I would like to think about. And the best way for me to do it is to write for a pet-loving audience, people who won’t consider my close attention to one small dog insane.

I don’t know how others work but, in addition to having a general pet-loving audience in mind, I also aim my writing towards a few specific people, smart ones with good hearts. I know some of them in real life, even if we’ve met only briefly;  some I may never meet, especially if I stop dog blogging. Nevertheless, I write to them because I know they will understand — or set me straight.

Which brings me back to my last post, the one about my guilt over not doing enough to take care of Frankie.

Good Caretaking, Ineffective Writing

Yes, I can be a paranoid nutcase at times; just ask any of my friends. And yes, grief brings out the irrational in me, as it does in most people. But most of the time, I know that I have taken excellent care of Frankie. One of his gifts to me was making me aware that even a plant-killing relationship-phobe from New York can find the inner resources to create a good life for another living creature, and to love that creature with a depth of feeling that would have been impossible to anticipate.

So when I wrote about feeling guilty that I hadn’t done enough for Frankie because I didn’t have the superpowers to keep him alive, I was being rhetorical, taking my fleeting emotions to their (il)logical extreme. I thought it would be obvious that second guessing my vet and keeping Frankie from jumping off stuff were as impossible as being able to change the course of time.

Apparently it wasn’t clear. And this is what I mean about writing that doesn’t convey what it is intended to convey.

So I am sorry you worried about me, but I am also very touched. Thank you.

Support — and a Report

Here’s the other thing. Your comments have been wonderful, often bringing me to tears with their displays of kindness and concern. If I haven’t answered many of them lately, it’s because I would spend my day sobbing — and I have to earn a living, not to mention devise ways to spoil Frankie. But I want you to know that I read and appreciate them all.  I especially appreciate knowing — from comments on Facebook and Google+ as well as here —  that I haven’t just depressed the hell out of everyone, that others have found it helpful to hear about this process.

Frankie and I are doing okay. I’m glad I’m spending these last few weeks with him. He’s still capable of annoying me — out or in, buddy? Make up your mind! — which means life is fairly normal, in its fashion. Frankie seems to be thriving on his semi-junk food diet — cheap cat food, sausages, potato chips… new treats every day  — and at first his new found energy freaked me out, making me wonder whether letting go was the right decision, the advice of Dr. Sheila Kirt, the hospice vet, notwithstanding. Maybe there’s still time, I wondered….

But nothing has changed Frankie’s prognosis, and why wait until he can no longer find joy in being spoiled?

I too am capable of pleasure: I gave Dr. Kirt a copy of Am I Boring My Dog. A few days later, I got a lovely thank you card from her with this note:

Your book is a pleasure to read. Your humorous approach makes it extremely enjoyable and entertaining. More importantly, the information you provide is well researched, accurate and complete. Thank you for writing this book and for sharing it with me.

Now all I have to do is remember to ask her to write the same thing on Amazon….


16 thoughts on “Put It In Words: How Blogging Helps Me Think”

  1. I just read back through your posts re: your decision to send Frankie on in the most pleasant way possible for him. Your care and research, adjusting your life to his last days even more than previously, and planning for your own grief with travel are smart, soulful, tender plans: you realize you need time to process and Frankie time to be Frankie to the fullest extent he can be in his final month.

    In my rescue work, much of which focuses on senior dogs, I’ve sent many dogs to Heaven (my phraseology and preference; no proselytizing here). Some, I think I’ve sent too soon; one for sure I waited too long….however, I sent all in LOVE, not out of convenience but, as best I could determine, at their best time. I’ve stopped keeping ashes. I now send them in a mass cremation; our crematory then uses the ashes in the gardens of her business and her cemetery, which is close to my home and dog sanctuary, Silverwalk Hounds.

    You and Frankie, in your latest posts and struggle, are helping me with three senior dogs whose very good days are past, with whom I’m reluctant to part, but for their sake, before the cold and ice of southeast MO are here in full force, may to pass from this Earth. Walter definitely needs to pass: his only pleasure anymore is food, which is good for a Coonhound, but he keeps giving me looks, “I’m ready, Ma.” I’m not…Peanut, a senior Weim/Lab mix, was not doing well, either, till volunteers with a tractor tore up the front yard, filled in the huge holes she had dug, planted grass, giving her new hope and soft earth in which to dig again. She, I’ll watch more carefully. Lucy, a senior Beagle who came to me HW+ with a huge mammary tumor, is doing OK but cries when left alone too long.

    In my Christan tradition, All Saints’ Day is Nov. 1. As good a day as Frankie’s to send Walter on. I’ll let his many fans know of his departure day so he can receive visitors; he has no CCD, so welcomes visitors. Peanut and Lucy can still wait….

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing your fears, joys, and care (EXCELLENT CARE), of Frankie with us. You are not alone.

    1. Thanks for this, Roberta. I’m fine with your terminology and if every one who is religious was as spiritual and consistently kind as you are I might feel differently.

      I’m touched that I could help with your decision about Walter; if I were devising an afterlife, it would be one in which fearful dogs are no longer frightened, so maybe Walter and Frankie could keep each other company.

  2. I don’t keep a journal ever! I made gestures at it throughout my life (especially when heroines in novels I read also kept journals) but it was never anything I maintained for very long.

    I agree with you, blogging (and planning for blogging) does help me think! It’s also great hearing other comments and perspectives, because sometimes you’re so close to your own issues, obvious answers don’t present themselves.

    1. Yes, damn those novels and those journal-keeping heroines! They often intimidated me into taking stabs at journal writing too. And thanks for being one of the commenters to provide valuable feedback.

  3. Dear Edie, I read every post from my phone, which means I don’t get to comment enough, but I had to drop by today to tell me just how much it means to me that you are sharing this journey with us. My Felix is getting on in years and my over-active imagination has often wondered how I will deal with his aging, with hospice and with saying Good-bye. I can honestly say that your care, compassion and the amazing send off that you’re giving Frankie moves me to tears every day. I feel blessed that you’re sharing so much of yourself (and Frankie) with us.

    Have you ever read Aaron Freeman’s thoughts on the physics of death? I too struggle with the Rainbow Bridge concept and my Catholic up bringing and my science-loving heart are still at odds over the after life, but that piece moved me to tears and gave me a new perspective on letting go. I can send it to you, if you’ve never seen it.

    My heart is with you both as you walk these final days together. May they be filled with love and tasty treats.

    1. Thank you, Jodi, for your good wishes. In many ways, anticipating how you will feel is worse than the feelings themselves — or at least that’s been my experience so far. I’m glad that sharing my experiences helps.

      I haven’t heard about Aaron Freeman’s essay and would love to see it — thanks!

      1. You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
        And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

        And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

        And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

        -Aaron Freeman.

        1. This is lovely, Jodi. That physicist would have everyone at the funeral sobbing, however! He’s already gotten me.

          1. I think I started crying at “amid the energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.” It got worse from there!

  4. Edie – I used to keep a journal until I started blogging. I don’t even write about my own life on my blog, but just the exercise of writing every day helps me – as well as knowing that my blogging buddies are there if I ever need them. Sending lots of love. x0

  5. Keep a journal, seriously?
    It would be one more thing to feel guilty about when I did not make regular entries. And, if/when I reread it I would probably think I was being a moron to write what I wrote. It would also hinder my goal to live in the moment, especially since you never know when bad shit is going to turn up, if I can be a little profane. Now that I have read this 14 times I will quit and wish you a happy Monday, it’s time to walk the pups.

    1. I didn’t even think about the guilt-about-not-writing component but of course you’re right! You can always be a little — actually a lot — profane on my blog.
      Happy Monday to you, too.

  6. I don’t journal either. Heresy! I suppose the blog is sort of a journal, but I don’t keep a journal-journal and haven’t since my teens. I totally got where that guilt / failure feeling was coming from — often feeling it myself. Wishing, wishing, wishing I could take back that one vaccine. Doing the hard work, the caretaking, the decision-making is never easy, but all of us walk the road with you in spirit.

    1. Yes, as a fellow writer you know the pressure to journal (a verb I dislike)!

      I sometimes go back to the two weeks of steroids as the start of all this — leading to diabetes which in turn led to CCD — but I know it’s irrational. Giving a required vaccination is nothing you could have avoided but I can’t imagine how much I would spin the “what ifs” — what if I went a day earlier and there was a different batch, etc. etc.

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