In spring 2017, I began dog-sitting as a way of earning extra money while hanging out with magical creatures, also known as DOGS. A couple contacted me about watching their angel bear, Genni, a 14-year old husky with bad hips. I agreed to watch her daily. It was one of the most personally challenging efforts I've ever undertaken.
A tremendous love and respect for all living things, a very soft heart, and an ongoing fight with severe depression had always kept me from being in sorrowful situations where animals were concerned. I avoided exposing myself to the deep emotions related to animal welfare: abuse, neglect and homelessness. Until Genni. Having Genni in my care changed something inside me, and changed the entire direction of my life. Watching this beautiful husky girl fight so hard, again and again, to stand on wobbly legs just for the joy of trotting through grass revealed a deeply-hidden strength I was so sure I didn't have.
Genni taught me how to push on in the worst circumstances. She was partially deaf and blind, incontinent, had to be hand-fed food and water due to a host of medical issues that complicated her life. No matter how many times she slowly went down like a ribbon falling, so girly and graceful, she'd stamp her front paws on the ground, meaning "come help me up!" She never took no for an answer.
Caring for Genni brought my depression into a new perspective. Before meeting Genni, I'd been struggling to break through the severe depressive state I was in. I'd hit the bottom of the bottom, and I thought it would take a few months to recover and rejoin regular life. Not the case for me. I've come to a small place of acceptance that I may never spring all the way back to the happy-ish, funny, productive self I was prior to the "big event".
The breakdown was significant. Over the following months, as I began to try and reassemble, knowing that returning to office work was not something I could tackle yet, dog-sitting in my home seemed to be a perfect solution. It was a the most joyous thing I've ever done, aside from repairing a monarch butterfly wing and seeing her fly again! I had the best pups in town come hang out with me and my two fur babies, Duke and Pantsy. Enter, Genni.
The first few days I had Genni, all I did was cry. She was very thin. She wobbled around like my uncle Bob after too many beers. And she fell (more like melted) down a lot. She need help to stand, to pee and to nourish. She was the most vulnerable pup I'd ever handled, and all I could think of was how lucky her and I both were to have found each other. Seeing an animal in Genni's state was an awakening in me that she deserved all the dignity, love and gentle care there was. And that I was the right person to care for her. Genni showed me a new path. She showed me that I was good for something. That I had worth. That my total devotion to her comfort mattered, and it was something that I could actually do...unlike my past belief that I could NEVER expose myself to this type of extremely difficult scenario.
The reward of knowing that I was keeping Genni safe and pampered began to lift me. Also knowing that Genni's mom & dad were at peace with her well-being while they worked helped to restore some confidence that I could be useful in this life.
At the same time I was beginning my journey with Genni, I was under constant threat of losing my rental home. I couldn't work like I used to, I had no income and was scrambling for ways to keep my already frugal life going. I took in roomates, hauled stuff around town in my hobbled 23-year old truck, & sold personal items on Craigslist. Around the same time, I stumbled on a tiny house video on YouTube. It all came into focus for me then. A MOBILE HOSPICE. I'm 52. This is the first real dream I've ever had. Since March 2017, I can think of nothing else but how to make this real.
Genni went on to a hospice center for her daily care, with vet staff and resources needed for her medical issues. Her mom asked if I'd watch her one Saturday in June. It was the last time I'd be with Genni. It was a very difficult day. She was in decline. A brain tumor had been discovered. She was also pretty banged up from all the falling and struggling to get up. No matter how weak, all she wanted was to get up.
I knew I'd never see her again after that day, so I took some paw prints in pink ink, clipped a little fur, and even found a whisker on her towel. I spoke my heart's desires into Genni's fluffy ears and bid her a safe journey.
Genni's mom texted me on 4th of July to say Genni had crossed earlier that morning. It hit me hard. My shirt was soaked in tears most of independence day. It was a fitting day for Genni to cross.
Genni's life has done more for me personally than three stints of in-patient treatment, ongoing outpatient treatment, pharmaceuticals, journaling, exercise, etc.. Genni showed me my own inner strength and provide me a little flicker of light to keep trying to get out of this tunnel.
If you've ever loved a dog until it's dying day, you'll understand how important supreme care, love and dignity is during the days leading up. It's my deepest privilege to be in a position of caring for ailing, aging pups while providing pet parents some peace of mind and heart. A traveling tiny house, converted school bus, airstream, some form of a home on wheels, and maybe a truck to tow it, to go where the angel bears are and offer respite to their parents is a dream I can never give up on. It solves my housing needs while helping families and angel bears safely and comfortably make their way to the rainbow bridge. It's a dream I humbly ask strangers to help me realize.