Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thank You

Several years have passed since my initial meeting with Shirley Porter. On that day, as I said my goodbyes to Shirley, and watched the front door close behind her, I knew that a part of my life had disappeared forever. I stood in her driveway and cried uncontrollably. What follows is how and why I ended up in that place and in that state of mind.

My first contact with Mickey was at one of Alex's softball games. Mickey was not even a year old then. He had been beaten as a puppy, and blinded. The remains of his eyes had recently been removed. Mickey was then up for adoption. During a weekend 'trial' visit , Mickey showed us that the traumas he had endured may have scarred him on the outside, but not on the inside. He was loving and trusting and, soon after, a permanent member of our family.

Shadow, and later Banjo, came to us from Alex's summer camp. For Shadow, we would be at least her third home, and Shadow would be at least her second name. Banjo was a kitten and would show up, unannounced to us, as Alex exited the camp bus at the end of a summer away.

We lived, ate, slept and traveled as a group for many years. Jo and I worried, like all parents do, about whether all of those in our care were happy, healthy, well fed and well nurtured. Banjo was clearly under the impression that she had two very large siblings, whom she would often groom and clean. Shadow was in some ways a guide dog for Mickey. But Mickey, left on his own, could figure out and navigate his way around any surroundings in a matter of minutes. Like all of our children, these 3 had their own special qualities in which we took great pride.

Over time, signs of aging appeared. Banjo, used to eating not only her food but Mickey's and Shadow's, became ever and ever fatter. Shadow developed symptoms of arthritis and some incontinence.

Then, life interrupted our journey together. We were going to have to move to a place where we would not be able to take these 3 along for the ride. How does one possibly exit this scene gracefully? Who would come to our rescue?

Jo and Richie put together biographies, filled with love and photos. But still, the reality was that these were stories about an obese Banjo, an aging and slightly infirm Shadow, and a dog without eyes. Who could see past all this? Who could take on these burdens?

Among those who read the posts was one of Jo's fellow ski patrollers. While he was not the person to answer our pleas, he knew of a person with a big heart and a love for animals who might. Thus, Shirley Porter entered our lives.

The concept of all 3 of our pets descending on her, was initially even a little too much for Shirley. After speaking with her, we were told that Shadow and Banjo would be welcome in her home. One of our very close friends, who had picked out our very first dog from an animal shelter many years ago, volunteered to take Mickey.

When the day came for Shadow and Banjo to leave us, Mickey also took the ride to Shirley's. Jo thought it might ease the transition a little for Mickey to say one last goodbye at the same time we did.

When we arrived at Shirley's house, which was almost a 2 hour drive from where we lived, the animals emerged from the car, one by one. Mickey jumped out and soon was making his way around Shirley's place, avoiding a piece of furniture, or walking down the back steps and cruising around the backyard.

About an hour passed, while we got to know Shirley a little better and she got to know us and those that would soon become part of her world. As we readied to leave Shirley stopped us. She said it would be a shame to separate Mickey from Shadow and Banjo. If it was ok with us, and if Mickey wasn't already spoken for, she would be willing to try to add all 3 to her household.

I called my friend who had accepted responsibility for our blind dog and told him of the offer we had received. I asked him to be honest as to whether this would be ok with him. He was as generous in his response as he had been in his initial offer.

And so I stood on the driveway, as Mickey, Shadow and Banjo stayed behind. But while that door closed, it did not shut.

Over the past several years, we have remained in very close contact with Shirley. She wrote us often of the funny things that helped brighten her day, and ours by the retelling. We visited whenever we could, and Shirley made sure to make us feel not only welcome but wanted guests.

Shadow has since passed away, and then Mickey. Banjo has had some health scares, but for the moment anyway, remains relatively healthy and apparently slightly thinner. Shirley has remained constant in her clear devotion to those entrusted to her. She has made it seem like she is grateful to us, while the truth is that we are unspeakably grateful to her.

I saw a note from Jo to Shirley today saying that she missed her and that we had to get together soon. That thought triggered this piece.

I know this has been said often over the years, but never often enough. From me to Shirley Porter, thank you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for entrusting your furry friends to me. It has been, and continues to be a very rewarding experience.

Shirley Porter