Friday, June 12, 2009

Missing my pupcake

It's the middle of the night, the house is quiet. Thomas is staying in his crib in his room all night - for the first time yet - and everything is peaceful.

Except Viper isn't snuggling up next to me.

Nearly every night for the last 6 years, Viper climbs into bed with me and curls up in the blankets (when it's warm outside) or underneath the covers, behind my knees (if it's cold outside).

After Thomas was born, she took to sleeping directly on my pillow to remind me she was there.

It was five years ago this night (the night before the 20th Anniversary of the Relay For Life - which I was the event chair of), where she stayed up with me as I was overwhelmed by everything that was happening. With my family in Spain, the loser that I had been dating for 2 years breaking up with me the morning before the biggest event I'd ever been involved with, and things were pretty overwhelming...and she, as always, curled up next to me and licked my face.

It's strangely quiet.

The whole thing doesn't make sense at all.

Just the other day, Jonathan had lectured me about letting both dogs outside at the same time...they take off like partners in crime together to explore the farm (as they did in one of my favorite sets of photos of them ever).

But Wednesday night, we were all together. On the deck. Eating dinner. Viper doesn't ever take off when there's the chance she'll get food. She is a champion beggar dog. Acting as if she's never been fed before in her life.

At least she ate well this week - starting off Sunday night with the steaks that I caught Dad giving her on the deck. :)

Always happy, barking at everything, running wild and licking to greet everyone who walked through the door.

With the thunder in the background on Wednesday night, she normally jumped in our laps to burrow down, or cuddled up in the doorframe of the deck to cry until someone let her back in...where she would then run underneath the bed for a few hours.

She never just took off - especially without Maggie with her.

But that's what happened.

With us eating Copper River salmon on the grill, a rare evening where we let Thomas stay up until 8, sitting on the deck with Maggie, her, and the chickens. Everyone together. And she simply disappeared.

It definitely wasn't supposed to happen like that - right under our noses. Without warning or fanfare, barking or yapping. It wasn't supposed to be like that.

What was amazing was how quickly Jonathan picked up on his disappearance. No more than 10 minutes - since we'd gone outside at 7:30 and she was with us. By 7:40, she wasn't.

I am so grateful for his awareness of her disappearance - especially since they've definitely had a famous love-hate relationship over the years. :) She may have scratched up his favorite leather ottoman, woke him up early one too many times, or had her way with the stuffed cow dog toy right on top of him in bed. But I know he has always loved her. Even in secret, far from my eyes. She would cuddle him up when I was away, and he would always tell me that when I was gone, she would wait by the door for me, until he would take her to bed for the night. She on the bed, Maggie at the foot.

We searched for four hours that night - Jonathan driving the endless rows of trees, Maggie and I walking the road and near the house calling her name and whistling. The thunder gave way to pouring rain - and we could only hope that she was curled up under brambles, away from everything and safe.

We could not hear anything - which was the strangest part. If you knew Viper, she was everything but quiet. Quiet wasn't even in her vocabulary.

Yesterday, we did everything we could think of. I started looking again at 4 am - as soon as there was a hint of light. I posted signs at the end of our road and off 138th, in case she got spooked enough to really take off. Jonathan searched the brambles again (of which there are infinite little spots on the farm at this time in the year). I called every local animal shelter and left her info. Updated her microchip information to make sure everything reflected her new address on the farm. Made small flyers and taped them to nearly every paper box within a half mile. Met nearly all of our neighbors - who instantly recognized Viper as "the little one with the big dog". Combed the fields again, up and down, around and back, with and without Maggie. Sandy Brownrice, of whom Viper is one of her biggest fans, called out to her off and on all day long when she was down here with Thomas yesterday. If she was nearby, she would have found a way to connect with Sandy. Auntie Sandi Ski combed the lower fields as well, and Auntie Karen helped me search out all the 'normal haunts of the farm' that she's known animals to disappear to.

And there was nothing.

Simply nothing.

The "not knowing" is the hardest part. Not knowing if she's OK, hurt or scared. The options, out here, aren't great...when we woke up last night to coyotes crying out in the middle of the night, I couldn't stop sobbing. Jonathan held me and I held Thomas and we both rubbed Maggie's head - the heartbroken dog who missed her friend.

We are hopeful that she took off and a kind hearted neighbor picked her up and simply hasn't turned her over to the pound yet (which is what we're hoping for, since she's microchipped). We're realistic that it's a very real chance a hawk picked her up or the coyotes found her.

My big prayer yesterday was that she simply felt no pain...she could be scared, but not in pain.

So many of our dog-loving friends (and a few special ones who aren't!) have kept this whole experience in their thoughts and prayers, and for that we are grateful. While dogs are not the same as kids (which some well-meaning people reminded us yesterday - but who have clearly never seen Marley and Me), it still leaves a hole on our hearts for a tiny creature who was so full of selfless love. We are so grateful for everyone's encouragement and love.

Dogs just become part of the family, and when something sudden and unexplainable happens, the emotion is very real.

Before I went to bed earlier tonight, I put her famous stuffed cow back in dog toy box. I cried as I cleaned up a mess she made on the carpet in Thomas's room. I remembered back to my last night with Viper and Holly together, my beloved old kitty, a few years back. I thought back to my first days with her (where she fit in the palm of your hand) and thanked God for such a loving, always faithful four-legged companion.

So for now...I'm sitting on the deck, whistling occasionally like I always have to call her in. Waiting for her to come home, and reading through the infinite wisdom of John Grogan from Marley & Me, which I'll leave with you tonight. And you can go ahead and read my version...with Viper's name in place of Marley.

"In a dog's life, some plaster would fall, some cushions would open, some rugs would shred. Like any relationship, this one had its costs. They were costs we came to accept and balance against the joy and amusement and protection and companionship he gave us."

"A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Viper taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. She taught me to appreciate the simple things-a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as she grew old and achy, she taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, she taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty."

"A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbol means nothing to her. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give her your heart and she will give you hers. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. As I wrote that farewell column, I realized it was al right there in front of us, if only we opened our eyes. Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see."

We love you, little snow cyclone.

Praying that you're okay.

We miss you, Vipey.


Karen said...

I just can't stop thinking about you and this situation, Shelley. We had thunder here, too, and my dog has taken off in the past because of it. I will keep praying that Viper finds her way home safely, that she's not in any pain and that she's not scared. I'll pray, too, that you get some rest and peace, though I know how hard that must be right now. (((HUGS)))

KCina said...

Continued prayers! I LOVE all the photos (of course)...she's just so darn CUTE!

~ Kathy ;-)

Noreen said...

Shelley, I can't even imagine what you are going through. Please know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers and will hope, hope, hope for a safe return. I know what it is to have a dog that has been your rock through thick and thin. Viper has been more than just a pal to you. She IS family. Keep us posted and we'll keep praying. All our love!

samantha jo campen said...

I'm totally crying. My heart is breaking for you. The not knowing is the worst.

I've put a lot of feelers out there for you--people I know that live out your way and I hope something comes of it.

Praying for you and Viper.

Alisa said...

Shelley - I'm sitting here crying for you...and as soon as I type this, I'm going to go hug and kiss both Murphy and Molly. I'm so sad for you - because (as a fellow dog LOVER) I can't imagine my life without them. Please, please know that we love you and that we're thinking about you and praying for you...and praying that God might just be gracious enough to give you a little miracle back!!!!!

Erin said...

Shel, I'm so sorry. Vipes is such a great dog. One of my favorites of all time. I love you so much and I'm sending some good St. Francis and St. Anthony vibes out there. St. Anthony works overtime for me (and somehow you). When I lost the SWEET rosary you made me when I was in Rome, I looked everywhere and couldn't find it. I prayed and two days later found it in one of the most unlikely places. I'll ask him to work time and a half to find Viper.

i love you

Nancy E said...

(tears) - I have been checking your facebook page 2-3 times a day to see if you had any good news yet. I am here praying and thinking about Viper. Oakley is sending his doggie prayers too....Viper is an amazing dog - so beautiful --- please please please come home!


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