Five days before Christmas marked the fourth anniversary of Mimi’s arrival into our family. I still remember as if it was yesterday; the day we rescued her from the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
Three weeks prior to signing her adoption papers and bringing her home Jesi and I had driven into the ARL so I could be assigned my volunteer working hours. After the assignment I remember sitting on the stone steps outside the Rescue and watching one of the adoption agents bring a scraggly looking shih tzu out to pee.
“What do you think of that little dog, Jesi?” I asked.
I had a history with shih tzu’s, having owned five; Mr Fu, Ming Ki, Douglas, Chili and Spunkee Monkee. We had lost our previous dog, a Pomeranian a “rescue” to a weird metabolic disorder six months earlier. We were ready to have a new four pawed member of the household.
“Hmm, I don’t know,” Jesi hesitated.
“Let’s go over and say hello,” I suggested.
Mimi was hesitant when I put my hand out in front of her nose. She was very subdued. She had just been surrendered by the second family who had owned her. She was said to be nine years old. She was thin and her coat was matted and oily, a sign of poor nutrition.
For the next three weeks when I volunteered at the rescue I spent a lot of time getting to know Mimi and I decided to adopt her. It was going to be a surprise for the kids.
On Thursday 20th December 2012 I pulled up outside the back entrance of Jesi’s high school at to pick her up. I was beaming. When Jesi hopped in the front seat I couldn’t contain myself.
“I have a surprise,” (I’m sure it was written all over my face.)
Jesi, her usual upbeat self, bounced around happily. I turned and nodded toward the back seat where Mimi was sitting impatiently. I reached over and picked her up and handed her to Jesi.
Jesi’s face lit up into one big 0 !!!!
“IS SHE OURS? TO KEEP? …. FOREVER?” she exclaimed.
At that time I remember thinking “forever” was a funny choice of word. But since then, I guess I have learnt that forever is a relative term and maybe wasn’t so strange a choice.
When Mimi came to us Jesi was in remission from her first “bout” of leukemia. She was still going to PT and OT and having numerous check-ups in the Jimmy Fund, but for the most part she was well. Because she loved spending time at home when the other kids were out with friends (and maybe because she never had as much energy to go out as they did) she and Mimi became very close. Jesi was always the more animal focused of the kids too so she loved cuddling with her and taking her for walks when she could.
Sometimes Jesi and I would spar over Mimi.
“She’s my dog,” I would say, remembering how I spent those first days in at the Rescue getting to know her.
“No, she’s mine,” Jesi would reply impishly.
“She’s mine,” I’d respond stubbornly.
And it would go on… Neither one of us willing to let go.
Sometimes these days I feel really guilty about so stubbornly holding on to Mimi when I could have graciously allowed Jesi the joy of feeling more closely connected to her.
During the final week of Jesi’s hospital stay in the ICU in September 2014, when we knew she wasn’t going to get better we were given permission to have Mimi visit her in hospital. It was my therapist who undertook to drive back home and pick Mimi up, wrap her in a blanket and smuggle her past the security guards at the entrance to the hospital, up in the elevators and past the security at the entrance to the ICU. Although the ICU Nurse Manager had given permission for Mimi’s visit, her visit was not generally known in the unit itself. Mimi performed her role beautifully. She was quiet throughout the entire visit. I held her at the head of Jesi’s bed and spoke softly to Jesi.
“Mimi’s here Jesi. She misses you and wants to give you kisses.”
As Jesi was unconscious and on a ventilator with tubes and IV lines and drips hanging all around her it was difficult to get close enough to have Mimi’s soft hair touch her bare skin. I persevered, all the time feeling the sadness of the situation.
“Jesi, Mimi’s here,” I repeated.
Mimi, confused and apprehensive at the strange environment she had been bought into looked at me plaintively. I was torn between trying to comfort her, knowing she was confused and anxious herself, and wanting her to sniff and snuggle up to Jesi. But it was too difficult. After a while we decided it was time to take her home. I never knew whether Jesi understood Mimi had visited. But Mimi and the three cats did get the opportunity to see Jesi again. A week or so later we made the decision to take Jesi home where she passed away in her own bedroom.
Now, over two years later Mimi is my dog. But I know it is not forever. Mimi is, as my vet tells me, “an ancient dog.” Probably more like sixteen years old, not the thirteen (nine years old plus four years since we bought her home). Mimi has a chronic fibrotic lung condition and tracheal collapse, and although she keeps toddling along in her sweet and self absorbed way (as older dogs slightly deaf and sight impaired do), I know that one day in the not too far off future, Mimi will go to Jesi.
And when that time comes Jesi will be there to receive her. Ands will take the best care of her that anyone ever would.