Whitley

Whitley

 


“Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened.”Yesterday, Thursday, May 3rd we lost our beloved Whitley. Many of you long time readers know her, as well as Carter and Juni, through this blog. She was more than a heart dog, much, much more. She personified a whimsical home and garden.  It is a story I would love to share, so if you will indulge me, I will offer up a bit of her life story.


Some backstory first. My husband died on New Year’s Day of a brain tumor soon after we had built and moved into what was to be our forever home. It was a sudden and brief illness, and I was shocked, shattered, living in a new state, and knowing only a few people. For a very long time we had shown and occasionally bred dogs, completing championships on many . That said, they were first and foremost our pets. I have also done rescue, both purebred and mixed for as long as I can remember. People brought them to me, I found some and some found me. I got them healthy in mind and spirit and was able to find wonderful homes for them. Some of the folks who adopted them became lifelong friends. Once in a while though, a dog made it very clear that they preferred to stay with us. That is how I got my second “shaggy” Annie. There was a lovely one before that, my first, a sweet, gentle girl named Daisy, that was a giveaway first from one home, and then again, from a person that simply didn’t want her anymore because her new puppy didn’t like her. She came to me as a senior dog. So began the unplanned tradition of always having a “shaggy”.


After my husband died, I had to have surgery on my knee, damaged initially from being an elite athlete and then more extensively, from horses. The initial interventions helped, but then a knee replacement, removal of that, multiple surgeries, new replacement and a failure of that, which then precipitated a critical illness.  I was pretty sick, so the agonizing decision was made to rehome several, including a heart dog Gracie. They went to friends who had Newfs, and were deeply loved, but these were my “kids” who had accompanied me through so much, and to have to give them up was heartwrending. Then I lost my husbands constant companion Jessie to osteosarcoma, as well as Annie and now had only two, Butler and Kasodi. They were older, but I was fortunate I got to enjoy them for several more years before losing them both from old age on the same day.

I eventually survived my medical ordeal, but not without great cost to my spirit. After losing Butler and Kasodi I was worn out from heartbreak, and the flood of sorrows left me exhausted, and so for the first time in my life, except for college, I remained dogless. I was weary from grieving, from missing the dogs, my friends in NC, and more, such that I didn’t have the energy or space in my heart for another dog. Two more years went by, and I was asked by a rescue group that I had visited along with a friend who was looking for a dog, if I would foster one for them.  I had just put my house on the market, hoping to return to NC, but I didn’t listen to my head, I followed my heart and I said yes to a black hound I named SuSu. I had met KBJ a bit before I lost Butler and Kasodi, and we  became friends after he asked if I would help with some design ideas for his new home. He offered to come with me and help transport SuSu to my home.

Sweet, lovely SuSu


I had begun to consider adopting another “shaggy” and ended up meeting online, Laurie, who became a virtual friend, and who spearheaded a group that concentrated on Beardie mix shaggies. Although I still felt I wasn’t quite ready to adopt yet, I agreed to foster if they needed me.  I also really wanted to wait to add pupsters to my home until I moved back to NC, but the housing market was not very good.  Just after SuSu arrived, I got an email from Laurie asking me if I would go to a rural shelter in Roxboro, NC and try to pick up a shaggy dog that they had seen on Petfinder and then consider fostering. I told her that I can’t do kill shelters, and even if I did, I told her that the shelter was more than 3  hours away, and since Laurie hadn’t received any phone call back confirming she was still available, it might all be for naught. We never did get a call back from the shelter, even though I also made some myself as well, and leaving messages asking for a return call. Laurie is convincing, and so my heart again won over my head, and I agreed to make the trip. KBJ sweetly offered to make the drive with me. We left at 5:30 am in order to arrive shortly before they opened.

A few minutes before the shelter opened we got out of the car and I heard a single sharp yelp way back and to my left, and saw a medium sized fluffy dog trying to get my attention jumping up and down. I was too far away to know if she was the one I was hoping to pull from the shelter, but when the doors opened we walked in and at the desk told them we were here to inquire about this dog, and I showed them a photocopy of the posted photo. She looked at me puzzled, and said “well, she’s scheduled to be euthanized and is already in the back room”. This gal got up and sprinted back to the general area where I had first caught glimpse of a dog while we were getting out of the van. She returned and said for us to follow her. We passed pen after pen of mixed breeds, mostly Pitties and hounds, until we arrived at a door and entered a large room. I knew all about these areas in shelters, and what their purpose was. That is why I don’t do shelters. The director was there and she said that “Marigold” as she was known, had been returned to the shelter 3 times. She was just 10 months old. The policy is returned a dog two times and they are put down. They had made one exception for her, but when she came back a third time, they had no choice, and that is why she was back there. I asked if I could go see her and then asked if I could enter the pen. They said “sure”, and “Marigold” immediately jumped up on me. I said a soft,” no baby girl”, and she sat down immediately and wagged her tail. I knew at that moment she was coming home with me. I gave her the tax papers from the rescue, so there was no adoption fee, she was not spayed (no funds), but had a shot record. I had to sign a release, and agree that if she was turned back in again, that was it. I had a leash in my purse and we all, including Marigold, walked out to a meeting room area. I said to KBJ, why don’t you take her out to the van while I finish up. That 39 pound pup dragged a 6ft 2in man down that hall, and he later told me she pulled him straight to my van without missing a beat, where by now, the parking area held several more cars. She jumped right into the crate. How did she know which vehicle? As we drove home, I filled Keith in on the little bit of information the shelter had. The director appeared kind, and the staff friendly. The dogs seemed cared for, and for a shaggy, she was not matted much at all, apparently brushed by kids and adults who volunteered to walk  the dogs. I also was deeply saddened because there were four dogs remaining in the back room whose time had run out, and I will forever remember those eyes pleading with me. I already had one rescue, SuSu at home, and now this made two. I knew my limits and that it would have been very difficult to find them homes living in a rural area like I do without the support of a rescue group behind me. When I lived in NC that was not a problem, and I would have taken them in a heartbeat on my own, like I so often did. I have learned over so many years and effort, that I cannot save them all, just one by one.

Whitley in her new home


I don’t know how I knew that Whitley was a heart dog…….I simply did, and instantly. She had been misjudged, and her gentle, intelligent character was immediately recognized in those few minutes I stood in the shelter pen with her. Some dogs grow on you, and others hit you like a bolt of lightening, and sometimes it is like they were meant to be yours and your heart just feels warmer and softer instantly in their presence. That’s how it was with Whitley. And she was a constant reminder to me of the other dogs who were that day, on death row, and offered the same potential for someone else, yet were going to lose their lives that day because of humans not caring enough. It weighs so heavy on me…..that trip that day to that shelter. I remembered those four dogs many times when I looked at Whitley and told her she was just the best, and that she would always be loved and cared for. When we recognize that as humans we are all broken in some way, it creates more empathy, and those 4 dogs were a vivid reminder of that. I still don’t know what made me go get her. I just can’t do kill shelters…….. The whole thing with Whitley was serendipitous. And then along comes Scruffy. They say things come in 3’s, and so another shaggy from TN  made it so.

He came to us as Scruffy, but his mischievousness was immediately apparent, so KBJ named him Wilson. He didn’t look like a Dennis, like in Dennis the Menace, but we liked Mr. Wilson, so that was all there was to it. Oh, this boy was such a naughty dog.


Together Laurie, KBJ and I had now saved 2 more lives……. Wilson, Prince of Naughtyham, was 18 months old, all the way from Chattanooga TN. It was a crazy couple of weeks making arrangements to get them, and care for SuSu, but they  settled in terrifically, and within days we saw in Whitely a tenderness in her with both SuSu and Wilson that was extraordinary for a puppy. That trait grew as she did, and over the next several years many rescues with their own sobering and heartbreaking stories came into our home where Whitely in her quiet demeanor gave them all her attention, and brought out the best in them, especially confidence. She was a quiet, sure leader, and never once resorted to any aggression to keep them in line, even when they sometimes tumbled her over or acted in a less than appropriate way. She simply got up, walked over to the offender and stood a bit taller as if to say, don’t do that again, and they didn’t. Even that was a rare occasion, because her place in the group seemed instantly recognized by every one of them, and even Juni, nearly three times Whitley’s weight, respected Whitley’s position. (How Juni the Newf joined our family here)

Whitley and Wilson after a swim in the waterfall at the park down at the end of our road. When the weather was nice, we took them as often as possible, and they both loved it. Figures, lots of grooming on these two, and they loved to swim. They got more spa treatments than I ever did in my entire life!


Months went by,  Whitley was spayed, they were both growing up and growing lots of hair, and Wilson became the dog I knew he could be. SuSu had been adopted, and Wilson soon moved to the coast to live with a family that had an autistic son. He ended up being the perfect dog for their son. His story is a story about resilience and a vet who refused to put him down because of his bad behavior.


There were quite a few more dogs that came through, and Whitely increasingly mothered each and every one. Here, with Logan, a 3 legged hound found in the woods unable to move, she knew just how much to tug on that toy so as not to pull him over. Once Logan gained strength, they played as equals, like in this photo. Logan may have had only three legs, but he was strong and fast!


So it was now just Whitley. I think we were all a bit tired…….


Whitley continued to thrive, growing into an adult dog, adding 20 lbs to her frame, and growing hair, oh my gosh, that girl could grow hair. It never stopped growing to the point where I had to trim her side coat so it didn’t drag on the floor, and as well her facial hair. She absolutely hated to have a dirty or wet beard. Her coat was actually pretty easy for me to groom. It was a double coat, rarely matted and was like teflon, leaves, twigs, nothing stuck to it. It just grew and grew, and needed raking out and trimming every couple of weeks.

Getting her hair blow dried after a bath. In this photo I had already taken about 6 inches off her beard, and she was still a tad over a year old.


Eventually I took her head shorter. We liked it because we could see her eyes for more than a day before her hair grew over them. This is why you see her hair style varies in the photos. Sometimes I even cut her body hair shorter. I have friends in NC with a teeny tiny Chihuahua, actually 2, but the one girl “Bling”, is about 3 lbs, so has about as much hair as a cotton ball. Her Mom used to grumble how much shedding they did, and of course I would get laughing hysterically because of all the Whitley hair, so we began to measure the hair we had removed from Whitely in amounts we referred to as Bling’s. Above is maybe a 75 Bling groom.


Of course, I actually had two “kids” in the house, Whitely and KBJ. I spent 2 hours grooming her, and usually by that afternoon, KBJ had done some as well.



Whitley had a thousand faces. You knew exactly what she was thinking. She suffered two fools who put hats, glasses, ribbons on her that left us laughing. Most of the time she loved it, and when she saw something new from Dollar Store, she was first to check it out. Blogging meant she sometimes wore a Halloween mask, glasses or rabbits ears. It came with the job of being my office partner. When sorting fabrics or color chips, I would hold one up and ask her what she thought. She never answered, but her wagging tail somehow made the mundane more fun.



We visited friends in NC


We exercised and we went to the beach.

KBJ lifting “weights” was a pretty regular occurrence. When he was stretching on the floor Whitely would walk right over his head waiting for him to lift her up and down. She weighed 62 pounds, so he did get a workout. She was so relaxed there was no tension in her body. Usually her head hung low, but she saw the camera and turned.



And we celebrated Christmas…….


We have a tradition where Keith plays Christmas jazz on one of his guitars Christmas Eve and night. The first year, Whitely looked at him playing, and then back to the speaker, trying to figure it all out. Eventually when he played she just sat next to him, or with me on a chair.


She loved, loved videos and anything with dogs or children and animals in them. You would pull out your iPhone and she would wag the tail and do little hops wanting to know if she could watch. She and I watched The Dog Whisperer on TV every Saturday morning while I had coffee.


She was so much a part of our day to day lives. We both had offices at home, so she moved from one to the other, depending on who was home at the time and our lives had a quiet rhythm about it. And then came Carter……..

Poor little fella had a rough start. See the shaved front legs? He spent 4 days in ICU at VA Tech Vet School for gastroenteritis. It was touch and go there for a few days. Whitley was beside herself with joy when we brought him back home. She slept with him and watched over him like a mama bear. He became her shadow for life.




Training was easy because Whitley did most of the work. Although Afghans can be independent, this boy had much more of a “want to please” attitude as a puppy than did my first Afghan.


Inseparable.He wanted to be near her or touching her even into adulthood. She was incredibly accepting of this until the day she died.


And best of all, KBJ had another playmate!





These days Carter seems like a lost soul. He still looks for her, and it breaks both our hearts.


It was so sudden, one day she is in remission, and then she is not. Thankfully, the downward spiral happened in a matter of less than 2 days. Until then, she was always happy Whitley. We stayed up with her all Wednesday night. By Thursday morning she was very week, the destruction of her red blood cells rapid, her gums now white. KBJ was outside with her and she went and sat down by the lower fence in the cool early morning air. I came outside and called her name. She turned her head towards me, but did not get up and for the first time ever, she did not come when I called for her. I went dow to where KBJ was with her, and I knew we were losing her.  Even though she was in the shade, I didn’t want her to be outside, and in just this short time she became even weaker, so I got one of her beds and we carried her back inside. The vet returned my call and we told her it was time.






Whitley had coal button eyes, dark, large ones that drew you in. People, and especially other dogs and children, were drawn to her. The few times we went to the downtown historic mall for a walk, we didn’t get much strolling done because people would steadily stop us to say what a beautiful dog she was, could they pet her and peppered us with questions. She held court like the dignified canine she was. She drew me into her soul with those eyes from the first minute after I met her that day in the shelter. When our vet administered the second injection that ended her life, her eyes turned silver, unlike those of any dog I have accompanied at the end. I was always astonished to gaze into their eyes where you could see life, and then suddenly, it drained away to a mysterious emptiness and their life was forever stilled even though their eye color remained the same. This was not the case with Whitley. Her eyes immediately became a dull silver void, and in that moment my heart rose into a solid lump in my throat where my sobs got stuck, my lips quivered uncontrollably, and I could barely take a breath. I will forever remember that, not for any meaning, other than perhaps, like her DNA test showed and the geneticist shared, she was a highly unusual multi, multi mixed breed dog, intriguing from a scientific point, but also for her looks, personality and heart and soul. We spent some time with her before they took her away. I kissed her on the forehead like I had a hundred times before, and KBJ rubbed her ears and muzzle. We left the room emotionally drained.


  I had the pleasure of Whitely’s morning greeting, a happiness ritual that nothing could beat. It killed me this morning to come out to Juni and Carter, who were happy to see me, but more goal oriented towards, “OK” now it is breakfast time and Mom’s up, and no Whitley. Whitely would lock eyes with me, and do the donut, when she actually bent herself into a circle and somehow managed to walk forward while keeping an eye on me, to let me know that yes, she too was hungry, but that seeing me was the best way to start her day. I would sometimes grumble that every morning I had to get up and feed the dogs before I was awake and had coffee, and before extremely stiff and painful knees were willing to carry me upright. Little did she know that for me, despite the knee pain, especially in the early morning, seeing that damn dog made it all worthwhile, just because she made it so. The other two wag their tails, but she exuded something else, difficult to define, a kind of spirit that was contagious. With a dog there is nothing false or misleading about them. They are who they are. She was so finely attuned to me, to my emotions, to my physical challenges, and she made it her duty to make sure I was going to start my day with a smile and out loud laughter. Each and every day. Even at her worse while sick, she came to greet me, and although she held her tail a bit lower, she still held more joy inside her 60 lb body than any one person I have ever met. It seeped out of her in a quiet yet forceful way and was directed straight at me, like radiation, an invisible beam that had an immediate effect. Every morning I opened my bedroom door, and began my day with a smile and a really good laugh. Until now. How can I retain that perfect way to begin my day by laughing at a donut shaped dog? How do I replace the catalyst for that?

 


She was so deeply entwined in KBJ’s and my life, that we are both struggling to find our bearing in this house, and I am afraid that it will remain so for a very long time. She graced this home with elegance, humor, joyfulness, spunk and so much more. Whitley was the “decor” everyone noticed first when entering our home. She made this home happy again, inviting, lively without chaos. She was a favorite patient at the vets, and never met a stranger even there, where she wagged her tail, greeting those who would take her and draw blood test after blood test while we sought to return her to health from Evans Syndrome, where few survive. I thought we were going to be one of the lucky ones, but we weren’t despite a brief remission. I am grateful for the two months we had after the diagnosis, where despite initially being on the brink of death, she never failed in her devotion to us, her joyful attitude and zest for life.

She showed me unbridled delight 24/7, with eyes as bright and curious as any dog I have ever known. Happiness was her way to travel through her life, and it rubbed off on me. When I looked into her eyes I did not see a dog, I saw a friend, actually more. I loved her as much as any parent loves a child. Our sorrow is profound, our hearts feel empty without her, and our home even emptier of the joyous spirit that was a dog named Whitley.

Oh, how Whitely loved bells on her collar. Even the jingle of her tags. At Christmas she pranced around with a large red bell attached to her collar as though she had just won the holiday. lottery.


You were a gem Baby Girl, royal in every way, Queen of quite a lot.



 

 

               “Whitley”     November 26, 2009 – May 3, 2018 



laters, charisse

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Comments

  1. What a beautiful love story. Thank you for sharing. I am so very sorry for your loss. My heart breaks for you and Keith.
    Keeping ya’ll in my thoughts and prayers.
    Love ya,
    Fran

    • Thanks Fran. I am still in shock and every where I look I swear I can see her. She brought so much to my life and to Keith’s. She had so much character.

  2. Barbara Smith :

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You write beautifully, and although I’m not a “dog person” I could feel Whitely’s personality in your story. Bless you both.

  3. Margaret Murray :

    I just can’t find the words, Charisse. I am sitting here sobbing my heart out. She was the sweetest dog I ever knew and so, so easy to be around. I’m so glad I got to spend some time with her in February. Of all your dogs that I have met over the years, she is the one that made the most impression on me. I loved her name but most of all, I loved her nature and the look in those eyes. Hugs to you both as you try to adjust life without Whitley. Hugs to Carter and Juni as well.

    • Hi Margaret. Yup, her eyes were incredible expressive. I could always tell what it was she wanted by looking in her eyes and watching her tail. They were so easy to read. When I look at the photos I put on the blog of her last morning, I could see the resignation and withdrawal and that is when I knew. I am glad that to know that you felt that way about her, so thank you for sharing that. We both are missing her so very, very much. Carter is not eating well, and goes around the house looking for her, then looks at us as if we have the power to bring her back home.

  4. susan weiss :

    Whitley has also become a part of my life now too. Through our talks and now the loving words and pictures she will always be in my heart as a sweet memory linked you, to my dear friend. You and Keith gave her the love and care she needed and deserved so much and she gave so much back to you both as well. That’s what “heart” dogs do! They are just “special!” I truly believe that Whitty is playing with my heart dog Patti…introductions are being made to all our loved dogs that have moved on. I love you Charisse, our love of dogs have made us friends for many years and I feel your pain and sorrow as you well know! Your tribute to Whitley was beautiful. Whitley did her job and she did it well. Dogs complete us, so job well done Whitley, thank you for sharing your life and joy!!!
    Love, Susan and Buddy

    • Susan, thank you so much. That fluff of a gray dog gave more back to me than I could have possibly imagined when I brought her home. She held in that soul of hers every bit of the best in every dog I have had the privilege of having in my life. I do hope that Patti was there, and Illegal Beagle and Dylan and the rest of the gang of dogs that have passed through our homes and lives. charisse

  5. Shannon Champa :

    Charisse, my heart breaks for you all! I can’t even find the words. The devastation of losing a pet is unspeakable. Everything you described bought back memories of losing our dog Brady to cancer at only five years old. My heart is breaking for you. I am so sorry you are going through such tremendous pain. Your heart is so beautiful and so full of love. And you have been through so much, yet still have so much to give. I see why my mom loved you so very much! I see why she entrusted you with her newfee.
    I am so honored to know you. I am here for you if you want to talk or just cry. I am so so heart fully sorry for your tremendous loss!

    Love,
    Steven, Shannon, Michael & Alison

    • Hi Shannon, Thank you very much for your lovely note.It helps the heart to bear sorrow just knowing that others who have loved and lost a dog understand. And you, having lost your mother so recently, you are more connected to recent loss than most in its rawest form. I think of you so often. I know Mother’s Day will be another one of those firsts to navigate. Know I hold you and your siblings in my heart. We will talk soon. charisse

  6. My heart feels for you! Bless her. She was a sweet girl. Judy

  7. Oh no!!!!! My heart is aching so badly for you and Keith and Carter! So much pain to live with just now!
    Your story is the most beautiful tribute, Charisse. I have just sat and stared at the precious photos of you all! Such an amazing beginning to your relationship with Whitley and on through until her eyes of silver said “goodnight”. I can imagine that your fingers, at times, have almost raced across the keyboard pouring out the love memories of so many years with this miracle “heart dog.”
    I feel so blessed to be able to hear your thoughts of and passion for Sweet Whitley.
    Overwhelming sadness is overwhelming and tears, pen and paper make some moments of the day seem almost bearable. Robert and I are so very sorry for your loss and so very grateful for the love that you always share with your readers.
    We send our love hugs and prayers from Asheville, NC.

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