Golden Years

Jernee and the beginnings of cataracts.

Aging isn’t for the faint of heart. As Jernee gets older, several things are making themselves known and knocking our daily routine out of whack. During our last Vet visit, I was informed that cataracts are forming in Jernee’s eyes. Recently, she has also taken up not eating or refusing to eat what’s placed before her or simply eating once per day. I can handle the change in eating habits, but I just don’t know what she wants.

There’s also the low growling she does when I am preparing her for bed. She’ll enter her crate willingly when signaled, but as soon as I go to lower the cover, she growls. All of these changes are fairly new and I don’t like them at all. I feel like I am losing my sweet girl to age and the golden years and that ornery, off-the-wall behavior is now what I’ll have to face.

The Vet says that when her sight gets worse or if it does, she’ll refer us to an Ophthalmologist who specializes in animal care for a consult. I am not looking forward to that day, but if ever it occurs, I’ll try to be prepared. This is life. This is our reality. We live to age and then we die, if we’re lucky to do it in that order.

I have always looked at The Little Monster as being invincible and each day that she’s living, I am being reminded that she is not. I can handle what is ahead, at least, this is what I am telling myself. The golden years came too fast. I would definitely like a refund with interest included.

*sighs*

I want my puppy girl back–my sweet, little mischievous girl who minds commands, gets in her crate without protest, eats her food without being snooty or refusing her food, and the glorious fact of 20/20 vision to return.

But, we are moving forward, there is no going back. And that, my dear friends, is the scary part.

The Caretaker

Does She Ever Need A Break?

Jernee, stepping back to take a look at me after she’d licked my face and pawed away my tears.

Recently, I thought it would be a good idea to get Jernee a little sister, a new puppy to romp about in our bigger space, but that was swiftly shut down by my Little Monster. Jernee is a jealous girl. Now, I was not 100% aware of this until we opened up our home to the little ones for a visit. The foster mom brought both puppies over, the one for which I had interest and her sister and they had a blast running throughout our apartment. Jernee Timid? Not so much. She stood her ground at each station in our home and barked her disapproval at both pups.

The reaction to these little ones that she displayed made me incredibly sad. I was also a bit angry with her as she has never been mean to little ones before. She is generally a sweet girl, but she is a protector. She has one goal in mind — keep me safe. And to meet that goal, I am now thoroughly aware that she will do anything. Realizing her disdain, the puppies avoided her, they played with each other instead and Monterey, the puppy that I wanted for us, also played with me.

Noticing the discomfort written in the body language of Jernee disappointed me. I wanted her to feel my happiness, to welcome something new into our home, another baby for us to love, yet she clearly indicated that she was not having any of it. The foster mom leaned over to me and said, “I usually tell people with senior dogs to get older dogs as their companions, not puppies. In a sense, they feel as though they are being replaced. Maybe an older dog, close to her age will be a better fit for Jernee?”

At the shelter, holding Monterey one cold & rainy Saturday morning in December 2018.

And I instantly thought about Nala, who is Jernee’s best friend/big cousin. They grew up together and the two of them are like Frick and Frack and I said to myself, “Why is she so happy with Nala but will not let any other puppy in? Why the wall?” There used to be three: Reese, Nala, and Jernee. Both Reese and Nala are older than Jernee and we lost Reese two years ago. They went from The Triple Threat to Double Trouble. Now with only Nala in tow, she clings. I notice how she affixes herself to Nala when we visit or when I am dog-sitting Nala. She wants her close.

She wants to be sure that Nala is okay, just as she monitors my safety and happiness, she keeps an eye on her best friend too. But, when does the caretaker get her break? When can she rest and let us be without fully being on duty? I do not think that she’s programmed to step away from her job. Jernee is my safe place. She is who I turn to when I am overwhelmed by life — when things weigh me down and I feel like I will break. I can put my trust in her, it is in her, she will love me back to a place of peace.

Of late, there has been a mountain of things that have tumbled down and landed on my shoulders and I can feel the weight pushing into my skin. This is too much for Jernee. I know it. I feel it. I recognize it as a sign to call in bigger guns. I am seeking the help of professionals and have submitted my request for an appointment with a psychiatric practice in our area.

Thelma & Louise, the dog version/Nala & Jernee back at our old place.

was detailed in explaining what has happened, what is happening, and how it is affecting my daily life. I left a brief biography and description and also my preference in the therapist who will handle my care. The place in which I submitted my inquiry comes highly recommended by several people, including my cousin Akua (an operating room RN, now a board-certified Nurse Practitioner)who was apart of referring some of their patients to this entity while she was doing clinicals.

It feels good to share my feelings with my cousin regarding my heart health and my mental health as well and to hear her say, “This is going to be really good for you. I am happy you recognize that it’s time.” The Powerhouse is empathetic, wishing that she could share her therapist with me, but we are an hour and fifteen minutes away and convenience is a must.

I want to be myself again. I feel that I am not. I know that I am not. Jernee was/is a gift from God because he matched me with her when I was going through the same battle with emotions nearly eleven years ago and she has helped tremendously, but I feel the pull in my spirit and I am moving in the opposite direction, away from wellness and that must be rectified. Realignment of heart and mind must take place once again and I cannot rely on Jernee alone, although great therapy for me, this task… it is one that is too big for her. I am giving her a break.

I love myself enough to know that I need myself back and seeking professional help is the answer. This will be our new journey.

It is time.


Originally published in The Junction via Medium


Author’s Note: When I begin therapy, I will begin a nonfictional series about my journey back to mental wellness and a healthy heart. I wanted to share this here too just in case you’re in my shoes–just in case you needed someone to say it. Thank you for reading.

The Walk

An Experiment

Jernee, The Little Monster: Becoming familiar with nature. Photo Credit/Tremaine L. Loadholt

nicknames aren’t what most aspire to.
we’re often saddled with descriptions
that lessen our personality,
but “the little Monster” suits Jernee.
on walks, she sets her eyes
curiously on nature’s green gifts,
sniffing out the elite versus the subpar.
she has a system.
I am watchful, yet patient.
I admire her investigative process, her
obsession with marking her territory.

I give her space to explore
crumbled earth between her toes,
the dust settling on her paws
becomes a lickable treat after two miles.
we break for hydration and deep breaths,
neither of us — as young as we feel.
during Winter, the dew-drenched grass
is slick and tricky but doesn’t trip
the quick pace of a four-legged athlete.
she glides through the sea of green
without stopping.

life is less difficult with her around.
the walks we take, they are glue
for pieces of me prone to breaking and
in need of constant repair.
she senses my love for them, for her.
in every step, I witness a pet
who is confident in her role as
caregiver, as companion.

I don’t have to be anyone else.
she gives me space to adapt
whenever adaptation is necessary.
I favor the weekend morning walk.
we stroll and strut and spend
our time wisely.
just us, the wind, God, and the clouds…

and the knowledge of a connection
between a woman and her dog.


My little dog — a heartbeat at my feet. ©Edith Wharton

This is my eleventh year with Jernee by my side. You may hear people say, “I don’t know who rescued who,” but I do know and I can say without one shadow of doubt, that with her — I am much better. With her, I am alive.

The Funny Bone 

Me, an hour ago. I always fall asleep in my chair, with the remote close by and my glasses still planted on my face. The only thing missing is Jernee.

I do not watch much television, but on my days off and at night, you can find me in my big chair, in a relaxing position, watching cartoons or a few movies. I almost always fall asleep before 9:00 pm, telling myself that I’ll just close my eyes for a bit, get a few winks. Tonight… I had to shake myself awake so that I can get my nightly dose of Thera-flu with honey into my system. 

I want to be able to breathe without struggling to do so and this regimen is necessary. Why is the body so leaky? We have too many spaces in which fluids go in or come out and when one is sick, certain fluids are icky. I am looking at you mucous, yeah, you! Ick! Now that I am awake, I am filling myself with a liquid that always helps. It’ll surely give my enemy mucous a run for its money. 

Hey, when you’re sick, there’s gotta be some type of humor shuffling about. The old funny bone has to be tapped a few times if you wanna survive. 

*Taps funny bone*

Ouch!