A Letter from Gina
Pablo Picasso knew how to paint, Rachael Ray knows how to cook, and Stephen King knows how to write books. I know how to love dogs. I love telling people I'm a Fospice Guardian. Not because I have an exaggerated idea of myself or wish to be highly esteemed. I am outrageously inept at cooking for my family, ( so I don't), I struggle with biting my nails and cuticles, I loathe exercising, I can't change a tire, (unless it means calling my husband), I'm incapable of buying only ONE thing at Target, and I cant carry a tune, (though I love to sing). I say I love fospice because it is my absolute joy and privilege to love on dogs ... no matter the phase of life they're in. By telling others, it lets people know there is a real need for palliative care for dogs. It encourages people to consider getting involved in one way or another.
When I was 7, my brother and his friend stomped on a bee and exclaimed victory. I quickly scooped it up thinking that I could save it. Instead I got stung. In Catholic school, we were asked to write about our favorite saint. For all his love of animals and music, Saint Francis of Assisi was my obvious choice. When I would watch National Geographic shows, depicting wild animals hunting each other, I was dismayed that the people behind the camera never interceded to show the animals not to fight. At 9 I begged my mother for a chimpanzee and cried when she said no. After my father would catch a fish, I used a leaf with water on it to ease its suffering. At 16, my friend's family cat had a litter that included one blind kitty with deformed legs. I "smuggled" her during our 2 hr drive home in order to give her a loving home. Imagine my parents' surprise!
As a child, I had a lot of big dreams for my future and my place in this world. I think we all do. The world felt conquerable and easy to fix with some love. I wanted to be a nurse and work overseas in impoverished countries. Until, that is, I realized I hated science and appreciated air conditioning more than I realized. Much like the I Love Lucy show, I wanted to live in an apartment with my husband and my best friend in the same complex. I thought I could change the evils of this world into good and everyone would be joyful. Adult life has proven so much more complicated that my naive spirit had anticipated. Many of my hopes for being a positive force in thus world fell to the wayside as I realized I was "just one person," in a sea of problems. My talents were few. what could I offer?
Until I heard about hospice care for dogs...fospice. As soon as I heard about the opportunity, I knew. I knew deep in the places where one knows their calling. I knew this was second nature for me. I knew this "one thing" I could do without trying. Becoming a Fospice Guardian makes me proud to be a haven from the cruelties of the world. By opening my heart, my home and resources, I am able to provide a sanctuary where the unfairness of life is washed away in a space that says, "It's okay now. You're home." Many times I have wrestled with questions..."How much good are you really doing when people are suffering in the same way or worse all over the world? What kind of meaningful change are you really making when what you di is in a very small scale?" For all my devotion in my Christian walk, I wanted someone to tell me that what I was doing meant a great deal in the eyes of God. And so I waited for an answer...all while caring for my husband, son, 4 doggy residents and 1 fospice.
I learned how my mustard-sized seed of love would ripple. My son was 8 years old when we brought our first fospice home. My husband, for all his amazing attributes, was never a dog person. Although he was raised in a family where dogs were cherished as family, he would always ask me to wash my hands after I pet an animal. Of course my animal loving enthusiasm helped us become a family of 3 humans and 4 dogs. My parents and sister often visit to see how your current fospice is. One of out fospices was only comforted when carried and had her head tucked in the crook of our necks. My son provided that solace multiple times a day. During nail cutting and baths, my son knows to let them know what a good job they are doing and that it will be over soon. When medication is administered, my son offers relief by saying, "shhhhhh, " and petting them. Sometimes during the day, I can hear my son saying to one of our dogs, "Wow, you look so pretty today. Did you do your hair different?" After my husband saw how one of our hospices struggled up and down the pet stairs...he would come home from his job and work a few hours in the garage each day to build a carpeted incline for the dogs' use. Because feeding schedules are not set with our new dogs, we feel that in their first week they should be fed often and when they ask. Sometimes those times have been 3am. My hubby would hear their first bark and be at the ready for their feeding. Because of my pitiful cooking skills, my husband cooks a steak every 3 days for our fospice dog that struggles with anemia.
My son will grow up knowing that life can be cruel, but it doesn't mean he has to be. My son understands what it is to care for a soul that is incapable of repaying the favor. He has experienced the joy of new beginnings and seeing a dog come out of their shell and show their personality. He knows sometimes "sun downers" isn't so fun, but sitting int he dark and offering comfort until they're finally ready to sleep is what good parents do. He has offered kissed and reminders of "what a good girl you are" as a fospice passes from this life to the next. I'll never forget my son reminding me while crying at the vet, "It is sad, but it would have been more sad if she would have died on the streets or at the pound." As a Fospice Guardian family, we collectively try to ease the burden of suffering of illness or disease by carrying some of the load for our fur family members. Sure it can be sad...but many miracles contain a tinge of sadness and pain. Children leaving for college, moving from one's first home to another, recovering from an illness, receiving good news after enduring despair, even the birth of a child. Our miracle is the privilege to love someone that graced us with their presence. Saying goodbye is likened more to, "Thank you for letting us love you. We'll see you again. Until then, say 'hello' to the others that left us sooner than we wanted. Feel free to share stories about how wacky your family on earth was." The ripple effect us the inheritance of empathy, compassion in action, and the richness of serving others even if it costs us something. We all benefit this way. My contribution is tangible in the man my son grows up to be.
Fospice Guardianship is not the waiting room of death. It's not an encouragement for passing on. It's a commitment to love another soul. It's an understanding that each animal has their own personality, preference, and needs. It requires patience to allow the precious soul to get to know us, while we get to know them. It is a promise that everything will be done within our power to bring health as complete as possible, affection as respectfully as they wish, and a life full of all the comforts we can provide. To each fospice, it is a declaration of "welcome home" to the family they just met, already in love with them and delighted that they're part of our crazy family.
My goal as Fospice Guardian is to create a life that thrives as much as is possible. When their time to enter Forever comes, they will be surrounded by an abundance of love.