I debated whether or not to post about this for Flashback Friday... so I'll give you the abbreviated version--which is still kind of long (Sorry).
My dad has a towing business in my little hometown. He has met many different "characters" throughout the years while out on the road helping people with flat tires, wrecked cars and any other crazy thing you can imagine that would happen. Unfortunately, he has also had to be present at a few wrecks that resulted in fatality. *yikes* But for this particular post I would like to tell you about the lady who broke down with a trailer full of animals. I don't know if I ever knew her real name... but we called her "Mrs. Noah" (you know, like Noah's Ark). She was traveling from somewhere on the North East Coast the whole way across the U.S. to get to California. Along the way her trailer was giving her issues... and I think she got duped by someone who "fixed" it before she ended up breaking down again near my town. Now, when I say that she had a trailer full of animals... I'm saying... it was FULL! I can't remember everything that she had... but basically she was relocating her little farm of goats, chickens, geese...even a chinchilla and also a beta fish in a glass bowl! The animals I remember most though, were her dogs. She had a couple of Great Pyrenees... big, white, fluffy, sweet dogs! We helped house her animals at our neighbors barn until her trailer was ready to get back on the road. Since she had been scammed earlier in her travels and didn't have much left for the rest of her trip (and she wasn't even a quarter of the way there yet)... my dad didn't charge her (he's nice like that)... although he did joke about taking one of her dogs as payment. They laughed and she said that they were her family... but when she bred them in the fall, she'd send us a puppy. Can you guess where this is headed?? Of course, my parents thought, Yeah Right... we'll never hear from this lady again! But not too many months later, my dad gets a call. Mrs. Noah's dogs must've gotten a little busy on their cross country adventure.. because she had a litter of puppies on her hands quite a bit earlier than expected! They worked out the details... and Mrs. Noah actually flew the pup to the Pittsburgh Airport for us! I can still remember the day my mom picked me up at school a little early in my grandpa's convertible (it was probably the only reliable car we had available for the long trip to the airport). We had the top down and cruised in the sunshine to the airport. I don't remember much about what happened at the airport... but I do remember when we brought her home and let her out in the yard... she was the biggest, whitest, fluffiest puppy I'd ever seen. And her face... was beautiful!! We tried to decide on a name... and finally ended up with "Cali" (because she was from California).
Life went on through the years... and Cali was always a pretty good dog. She grew to be pretty huge! She was a bit of a nuisance at times... she could reach the table and counter--so many a loaf of bread or batch of cookies was devoured when we weren't paying attention. She also had very sensitive skin and had to be treated... but yet, it still took a toll on her beautiful white fur. And oh, did that fur ever shed too! It was a constant battle with the vacuum... I honestly can't tell you how many vacuums my parents have gone through in the past ten years!! Anyway, I finished high school (which ended up being at home with Cali since I homeschooled 11th and 12th grades). I went to college for a semester... moved back home... then eventually bought the little house next to my parents where I lived until last year when Cory and I got married. So even though I didn't live with Cali for a number of years... I was still there quite a bit.
Fast Forward to Wednesday, January 27th, 2010...
I was getting ready to make the hour trip to my parents place for the day. It was the day they were putting my grandma into the Alzheimer's Unit at a local nursing home. My mom called a few minutes before I was about to leave to tell me that my dad had taken Cali to the vet to be assessed. She had developed tumors over the winter and they seemed to be getting pretty bad. They may have to put her down... but they were going to see what their options were. So, I got in my car and headed to the vet's office, which was on my way to town anyway. I figured I might make it there in time if they had to put her down... but when I got there, my dad was gone. I felt a little relief until I called to see where he was and he said that he was on his way back to work... he had left Cali at the vet's for the assessment. So, I went in and spent the day with my parents (at my dad's business)... and a little before 1PM, my mom got THE CALL. Cali had breast cancer and most likely, it had spread to other parts of her body. They could do surgery (for an outrageous price)... but they couldn't guarantee anything... and... she was old. 10 years is pretty old for a big dog. My parents made the heartbreaking decision that it was time to put her down. So, my mom, having said her goodbye to Cali earlier that morning (and not being sure she could face her again), stayed at the garage while I drove my dad to the vet. I tried to keep myself composed... but it's hard to lose a pet that has been a part of your family for 10 years! My dad didn't say much on the ride over... but at one point he said, "It's pretty bad when you have to put your mom in a home and lose your dog all in the same day." Let me tell you... I had to hold it together after that. My dad is not one of those guys who tries to be all tough... but he does hold his emotions inside. That statement reaffirmed to me that his heart was breaking probably more than any of the rest of us. At the vets office, we were sent into a room... and they brought Cali in. I swear she was smiling. She just walked around and we would pet her and talk to her. They gave us probably 15 mins to say goodbye. It was NOT easy... you know... she was walking around like any other normal day! She didn't seem to be suffering... however, she had those awful tumors that would only get worse. She would only end up suffering in the end... so it was the right thing to do. Again, with the heart breaking moments... my dad got down on his knees and hugged Cali around her neck telling her that he loved her and that he's sorry it had to be this way. I should've just brought the box of tissues from my car inside with me because I was blubbering like an idiot. Finally, the vet came in with a shot of pink stuff. I had to leave. I couldn't bear to watch the life drain out of her.... so I waited in the car and called Cory and told him what was happening through my outbursts of tears. About 20 mins later, my dad and 2 of the vet people brought Cali out on a stretcher and we took her back to my parents house where a couple of guys that work for my dad came out to bury her for us.
That day was one of the hardest days I've had to go through in a long time. Losing a pet is seriously like losing a member of the family. I can still see Cali's pretty face... I wish I had a better picture of it to post here. Unfortunately, I also have a vision of her face as she was lying lifeless on the stretcher. Not something I really want to remember, but it's seared in my mind nonetheless. Losing loved ones (pets or people) is tough... but it's all a part of the circle of life. I just hope that God has a special place in heaven for our pets to find us again one day!! Rest in Peace Cali-bear!
Oh, and if you were wondering... I also visited my grandma at the home that afternoon. She is a little overwhelmed, but I think she will get settled in just fine.
For more Flashback Fridays... visit Christopher&Tia's Blog.