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Friday, May 25, 2012


Early in the morning on Thursday, May 24 I had to get my dog Shiloh to the vet to be put to sleep. She just went downhill so fast that all I could do was to take care of her needs and keep her comfortable because I knew the final trip to the vet was inevitable. If you’ve had a pet that got so sick like she did, you know the feeling. You think some miracle might happen until you realize that it won’t and oh the feeling of going through the finality of it all is heartbreaking. And yet, it is the last humane act that a person can do for a loving and dying pet.

I already had a huge dog and a cat, when I spied Shiloh at the school where I taught; was getting ready to pull into my parking place, when I saw the teacher’s aide outside holding a tiny black dog. “Don’t look” I told myself but I did and that is all it took. As I got out of my car, all I could think was to get her to my house but there was no way I that would happen—I had a class of students ready to come in my room soon. And so, I waved down my up the street neighbor who was in traffic to let out her son. “Can you take the dog home with you?” And she did.

There was this look in the dog’s eyes that just cried out to me. And oh I had seen that look before in my pets I would have whether they were cats or dogs. All day while teaching, I had that dog on my mind. Hoped my neighbors would keep it but that evening, I got a call from her saying that her husband did not like dogs. And so, I became the owner of this little black puppy. Already had a huge 125 pound dog and a huge cat but since I was going through a divorce, somehow bringing another pet into the house just didn’t matter. And this puppy seemed special.

After my dog and cat met her, it was rather chaotic but the puppy followed me all over the house. I guessed she was about twelve weeks old or so and I also guessed that she had followed some kids to school because trust me, I saw more than my share of that during my time spent there. Had forgotten what puppies smelled like and oh that smell only can compare to that of a newborn baby—magical and soothing both at once. Never was sure what mixture she was but she was all black except for some white on her chest. Even her big eyes were black and so big that when you looked at them, you found yourself falling into those huge dark pools of eyes. No doubt she had some collie in her, for I had two collies and her face shape was the same but I had no idea if she would stay a small dog or become a big one.

Here I was with her in bed with me, my huge dog on the floor and the cat in and out; this went on for weeks. Had no choice that first week but to put her in a cage while I was gone. Seemed to work out fine until one day I just sensed that something was wrong when I pulled into the driveway. As soon as I opened the door, there she was hanging by her feet upside down. She had gotten the top of the cage open trying to escape. Thank God I got there when I did for she was frantic and so was I. That was the end of the cage forever for her.

What to name her? All kinds of pet’s names went whizzing through my head and none of them seemed right. As a friend of mine said “You have to know your dog before you name it.” And she was so right. The part of me that is Native American heritage seemed to stir up a name and I came up with Shiloh. Not only did it fit her but just saying that beautiful word made it roll right off of my tongue. And so that was her name but she was also called “Shys” and boy did it fit her!

Goldie, my huge dog, was the alpha dog [or so she thought] but really my cat Chessie was the alpha of the three. Shiloh looked upon Goldie as a mentor and took on her gentle ways but unlike her, she started following me everywhere I went in the house. Already she was developing separation anxiety and it would last her lifetime. I should mention that when I got Goldie at age two from the shelter and brought her home with my then-husband, she never barked. We had gotten her some stuffed animals. She carried them around the house like her babies but her signal that she wanted to go outside to the bathroom was to stand in front of the door with one of those in her mouth.  And so Shiloh picked up on that—the not picking up stuff animals or playing with them but not barking. She was docile too. Shiloh followed me everywhere I went and developed a love for dog food but then changed her taste to human food. I found myself not able to leave a morsel of food on the counter or kitchen table, or she’d finagle some way to get it. Always. And it only got worse as far as her frenzy for food. Did it make her huge? No for she grew into a medium sized dog and was never fat and was never sick.

When I took her outside on a leash, she was always hesitant and fearful of unknown things: Those two qualities became her makeup forever. If a leaf fell on her, she would become hysterical and drag me to the front door. Didn’t matter if we were far away from the house or close for she always did that. Goldie died when Shiloh was five. And by then, she became more and more needy. My gosh, you couldn’t pet her enough or love on her for it was always more and more. The cat noticed this trust me and he had his share of my time as well.

The bigger Shiloh got, she couldn’t sleep with me but had the run of the house with Chessie. Heaven only knows what transpired between those two. If company were here, she had to have their attention and always got it—it was those big black eyes of hers that won everyone over. Everyone who knew her loved her and she knew it. She expected their reaction always.

Several years ago, she did something that no dog I had ever did: She learned to open the refrigerator! Never did it in my presence but it was always when I was either somewhere else in this house or off on an errand. I’d come in here or come home to find the door wide open and food missing. She apparently scouted out what she wanted to eat and got it! I couldn’t begin to tell you the things she devoured. And she also knew what a box of spaghetti looked like as well as a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese for she attacked those on the counter and dragged them onto the floor and I would find remnants of raw pasta everywhere. She must have thought it would be cooked but alas and alack, it wasn’t. It was a mess to clean up which can only be referenced to having to pick up a thousand pickup sticks in a hurry less they be eaten. Over and over this happened until I had to start putting those boxes in the cabinet or in another room.

I felt like some contestant on a show when I got home from the grocery store. Anything fresh and edible had to be put in the refrigerator right away or she’d grab it out of the bag and run with it. Nothing like marathon putting groceries away and I became a master of it every week.

In all of her twelve years with me, she never played with a toy or ate a milk bone. Just wasn’t in her makeup or perhaps something happened to her before I became her owner; I never knew. When I left the house, I would tell her where I was going; the cat was oblivious unless I mentioned chicken but Shiloh seemed to understand. And when I got back with food, she was in seventh heaven for she could never get enough of it. Another thing that separated her from the other dogs that I had was that when she got near me, she always licked my hand as if to say “I love you.” No other dog had ever done that before till she did.

She became my shadow everywhere I went in this house. And if someone else were here, she became their shadow following them even into the bathroom—didn’t matter to her but mattered to guests. Friends accepted it. She had two favorite places to hang out: One was under this computer and in front of the chair and the other was under the kitchen table. She liked hiding places. I would get hysterical when I couldn’t find her because both of the places were dark and she was mostly all black making her almost invisible. But her hiding didn’t last long for she got the attention –either from me or from the cat. When Chessie died, Shiloh sensed it and was in remorse; that didn’t last long because I rescued a cat that some lowlife had thrown out of a truck near my house. Once again, Shiloh shared this house with a cat—Maysie Apple a calico and a cat that wanted the attention.

Trust me, both got it from everyone and from me. You know when you have a pet, you have this weird idea that it will live forever knowing full well that it is impossible. You think they are invincible; maybe that helps heal the wound when you lose them. It has to be a human trait called denial. I’ve had it a lot with all of the dogs and cats I’ve had over the years.  And last week, I found myself in it again: Shiloh started not eating. That was a huge red flag. That lasted two days and then her appetite came back with a fervor but I could tell something was wrong: You just sense it. Day by day I kept in touch with the vet’s office and a friend of mine who is on a board of directors for a shelter. Shiloh was given baby aspirins every twelve hours and seemed to rally until her front leg gave out. This past Tuesday evening, her back legs gave out and she was under the kitchen table on pillows I had placed there. Eating but getting worse and worse. Watched her hobble down the hall and go into the bathroom; she knew there was a vent in there and the air conditioning was on. More pillows for her and she was covered up with either towels or pillow cases. And then she took a severe turn for the worse.

I didn’t leave her side except to come into the kitchen to get something to drink: I had no appetite either. Her breathing got labored and she couldn’t get herself up. And I knew the time had come. My sons offered to come here and take her to the vet but I had a backup with a humane officer and chose that for she had to be lifted and I couldn’t lift her. Her final trip was in a sling made out of sheet and carried lovingly by the officer to the vet. I followed in my car with tears streaming down my face so much that I could hardly see to get there. But I did. He got there after me, brought her into the vet’s office, told them that he had to fill out some paper work and I was escorted into a room with Shiloh being carried by a vet. By this time, she was dying. I told her I loved her, petted her face and looked for the last time into those huge black eyes that were now cloudy and distant. The vet gave her a shot and in a matter of a minute or so, she was gone. I looked at her on the table as I had done so with other pets and just didn’t want it to be. And yet, I owed it to her—I owed her to be out of her misery.

Signed papers to have her cremated and left crying so hard that I am not sure how I got home. Felt like I was going to throw up and worse was coming into the house where she had been for twelve years. I thought I would see her—your mind plays tricks on you like that. The emptiness I felt and feel is overpowering. In all the years of having dogs, Shiloh was the only one I had picked out and looking back to that day at school, I am so glad that I saw her and even more glad that I was her owner for twelve years. She gave me fits at times with her grabbing food but she gave me unconditional love. Isn’t that what pets do anyway? As a firm believer that animals have souls, I know that she is in a far better place and not suffering anymore. But oh how I will miss her. When she died, part of my heart went with her.  She was a blessing and loved more than I can ever say. Shiloh was mine or maybe I belonged to her. Just thankful that fate intervened that warm December morning twelve years ago. Her eyes said it all; glad they “spoke “ to me.

Sherry Hill

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Have you ever had a bad toothache that just wouldn't go away? And worse, have you had it happen in the wee hours of the morning? I did this past Tuesday and it wasn't a tooth: It was the space between two teeth. Was in bed and the pain kept intensifying and I kept thinking that my heart was pounding like the tooth pain was. Should I call 911 I thought to myself? This is not normal. And I waited and waited. And tried to calm myself down--sometimes that works and sometimes not. It did help some and then the fever set in; at first I was freezing and then I was  burning up. Found myself with four tops on, flannel pajama bottoms and a big blanket around me! Had all this on under the covers and I still couldn't get warm. Seemed like an eternity passed before I got warm and then I was burning up. 

Managed to drag myself out of bed and seek a washcloth and soak it in cold water and promptly plopped it on my forehead. Sort of helped. But did nothing for the toothache at all. Couldn't sit up [didn't want to anyway!,] couldn't watch tv or do a thing but feel miserable for seven straight hours but this time I was on top of the covers and had discarded one of the four tops. By the time my dentist was in his office, there was no way I could call or get there and I kept wishing I had called 911. At least an ambulance could have taken me. But with a fever? No dentist wants a patient with one of those. And so I waited it out.

And it passed after two days of misery. I did keep in contact with my dentist and my doctor but neither could phone in an antibiotic without seeing me. And I know how it all started: I used those wooden picks that go between teeth. Somehow, I irritated the gum between two upper teeth like major. Will I ever use those things again? NO WAY!

Who likes being sick? No one that I know of and who likes a toothache? No one!! It's like the worst thing ever that happens to a person. I survived on liquids and then soup finally making it to solid foods by the fourth day. And where am I going soon? To the the dentist. Just can't wait for the news there! I will not do another thing to irritate my gums. What a horrible four days. Just hope that he says it's all right and give me some antibiotics to get rid of any infection. 

Moral of this story is: Never jab the wooden picks that are designed to go between teeth. I jabbed and didn't follow directions. And boy did I pay the consequences!

Sherry Hill


 Received this in an  email. Not sure who originally wrote it but what wise words of wisdom.

Sherry Hill


It's been foggy since midnight and now it's after 5 am. Foggy nights bother me and remind me of my childhood when I was afraid of vampires. Still am in a way--not that I believe in them but yet that thought lingers. Funny when you peek out the blinds when it's foggy: Your mind plays tricks on you.  You think you see things when really you don't; sometimes well-known objects take on a frightening look. When that happens, I quickly close the blind and pretend it didn't happen. Not real fond of fog but then who is?
As for me, I can't wait till the sun comes up and it goes away.

Sherry Hill


Wishing everyone mother a “Happy Mother’s Day!” As a mother of two grown sons, I have received some pretty thunderous gifts—in the form of handpainted things or their handprints in plaster of Paris when they were in pre-school and I treasure those the most. No, these weren’t the showy gifts but ones that I can hold and I am instantly taken back to the time they were given to me. Every mother remembers those times for it seemed that they were long and endless. But were they? No they zoomed by like a lightning bolt. Seems as if just the other day I was whining to my mom about fingerprints on everything and she said that it wouldn’t be long that those would be gone. Boy was she right.

I survived thirteen months of colic with my first son and must have walked ten thousand miles in the living room of our other house. Had no idea how to handle the situation but the pediatrician and my mother and in laws helped me through it. What was sleep? Neither my son nor I knew throughout that time or so it seemed. When he was one year old, I thought he would be walking. Wrong! He did walk about a month after that and learned to run it seems at the same time. Things were never the same. All thoughout that time, thank heavens for pacifiers or I would have lost my mind. My then-husband and I must have bought two hundred of those things: They were stashed everywhere in the house and in the car for emergency’s sake.

When my son was two and a half years old and into everything, I gave birth to another son. My mom had stayed a week with me the first time but this time, she only stayed three days. Don’t think her nerves could take it and am not sure how mine did but they did. It was a matter of survival for all of us. My second son did not have colic; he had projectile vomiting which went on for nine months straight. I wasn’t sure he was ever going to keep any formula down or food but by some miracle, he did. Cotton diapers were my lifesaver then for I had one on my shoulder at all times in case he had to throw up and boy did he. Dr.Spock’s book on child rearing became my everyday reading and the phone was my second source of help.

I learned quickly that with two sons under the age of three, I could have had twenty and it would have been the same. What one didn’t do, the other did. If one was asleep, the other son was awake. One day I had just gotten my younger son asleep in his crib, when I heard my older son downstairs saying “Painting. Painting.” I ran down the steps and found him standing on the brand new couch with both of his hands swirling around on an oil painting I had just finished. The oil wasn’t dry and both of his hands were covered in every color you could imagine. “Stop!” I screamed. But it was too late for he scrambled off the couch leaving oil handprints all over it.To this day, I’m not sure how I got the oil paint off of that couch but it did happen.

Then within a week of that, my younger son was asleep and my older son was playing in the bathroom while I was trying to take a ten second shower. I called out his name and looked and he was gone! It was then that I heard him saying “Shaving!” Grabbed a huge towel and ran into my younger son’s room to find his face covered in shaving cream and my older son was holding his dad’s razor! Fear almost got the best of me but I grabbed that razor, took a clean cloth diaper and wiped off my younger son’s face. Too close of a call for me. Oh these incidents went on for what seemed like years upon years—the doings of those two.

I survived a thousand trips to the emergency room for a cut in the older’s one’s forehead [when he learned to run he ran into an end table] and big wheel wrecks followed by midget league football injuries on both parts. Heck the nurses knew my sons’ names as well as mine and my husband—that’s not a good sign at all. And so it went with a house full of boys running here and there for during the summers I wasn’t teaching and this was the house to be. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Kool Aid by the gallons were fixed and devoured by a pack of starving boys. And I loved every minute of that part.

Then came junior high for them and the phone ringing off the hook by unknown and known girls wanting to know if they were home. Proms, friendships, house full of boys and girls now replaced all boys. Their voices changed,they got taller and were no longer little boys—it was happening too fast for me. The best thing was that since they  were little, we had belonged to a private swimming pool. Had we not, I’m not sure that my sanity would have survived for it was a lifesaver—we had no air conditioning at that time and at least we could get cool there before coming home to swelter.

Before I knew it, both were in high school but two years apart grade wise. Oh how I longed for the past when they were complacent to just play out in the yard for now one had gotten his driver’s license and was driving my car. It seemed unreal. And then both were driving and it was my car that got the blunt of their wrecks and mistakes. When my younger son was in the eleventh grade, my car died. It died right in front of my school where I taught: I saw him drive to the corner and saw the smoke pouring out of the exhaust. Gone. And time to get another car and then another and another.

Girls hounded both of them; that was normal. Serious love affairs and oh the flowers I bought for these girls as well as corsages for proms and other dances. My older son and his friend took my car one weekend to visit a college; I prayed all weekend that they would  survive the trip. And they did. Before I knew it, my older son was in college and my younger son was finishing high school. One graduation down and one to go but it seemed like it had just been me graduating. That’s how fast time seemed to go. Then my younger son was off to college and I found myself experiencing what every mother goes through—the horrible “empty nest” feeling. I’d go by their empty bedrooms and cry my eyes out. Did they ever know this? No, because I never told them. But I can’t help but think that they somehow knew.

My younger son got married and had three children who became the loves of my life. My older son married about six years ago and has no children. This house is so empty and so quiet now—something I never thought would ever happen. But it did and it was in the wink of an eye. I find myself wishing I could turn back the hands of time to when they were little; am sure that most parents feel that way for it was the best of times with both of them. But that’s not possible for growing up is inevitable. Happens whether we want it to or not. When I pick up the phone, I can still hear one of them saying “I’m on the phone!” Well they’re not anymore but it is so engrained it me that I won’t ever forget those words.

No matter how old they get, they will always be my “babies” to me. Remember my grandmother saying that to me and I was clueless as to what she meant. I know now. Like any mother, I can only hope that I did the right thing at the right time—I’m sure I messed up more than once but just hope that they were guided in the right direction. I’m pretty sure that both of them are. A former minister at my church once told me [he was the father of five sons]: “You can instill your morals and values into your sons but when they turn eighteen, you will have no control over them.” What words of wisdom for he was so right. And isn’t that the goal of every parent and especially a mother to hope that they remember those morals and values? Oh sure they got mistrued along the way and it wasn’t a fairy tale but they both turned  out to be wonderful caring men.

This “Mother’s Day” all I want to hear is “Hi mom.” No thunderous gifts are needed and if I don’t hear thank yous, I will know that they mean it for they never miss that special day. All the memories of what both did are forever etched in my mind and I am glad that I became the mother of two sons. Not only did I survive but so did they. And isn’t that the greatest gift of all? We made it. And I hope that you who are reading this, feel the same way for despite the ups and downs, you never stop being a mother ever. Happy Mother’s Day to you.

Sherry Hill