Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Erin and Nana....Kindred Spirits
My grandmother affectionately called Nana by all family members was the matriarch of the family; she was loved and held in high esteem by all who met her and the closest thing to a living saint as one could ever hope to meet. She adored Erin from the very beginning and considered her another granddaughter albeit this one had a continuous shedding coat and a keen interest in her cats. They enjoyed spending time with each other and Erin especially liked the fact that Nana was very generous with whatever food was in the pantry. Growing up during the great depression Nana believed all food whether human or animal grade was not to be wasted but given to some deserving creature thus my girl reaped the rewards of many edible treats. The majority of visits to Nana's house resulted in Erin receiving some type of goodie and "Go see Nana" always elicited an enthusiastic rapid tail wag and a sprint to the car for a short ride.
We routinely visited Nana's house where Erin considered herself the boss despite being a mere adolescent and numerous cats roaming the premises. By nature she was very curious and loved to investigate every nook and cranny that was available in the aging structure and during these visits an occasional encounter with a feline would take place. Erin would corner the cats who didn't appreciate quality canine company and tried in vain to avoid the intruder but she never got the hint until a hiss and swipe of the paw across the snout shocked her. She would glance at me with an expression that said "I just want to play with them" then promptly she went back to wagging her tail and staring them down as if that would entice them into an impromptu game of chase but they never gave in to the tomfoolery and believe me...Nana never allowed Erin to harass her babies for very long!! When not cornering cats she loved to roam outdoors where Nana's many acres, blooming garden and thriving squirrel population provided an outlet to release pent-up energy; exhausted she would later sleep between us on the sofa.
Unfortunately Nana broke a hip and her health rapidly deteriorated to the point where she was admitted to a senior care facility to receive the medical care she desperately needed. Despite Nana being in a nursing home Erin was granted access to visit her without limitations, it was a good situation for everyone involved. Several times a week we loaded into the car for the commute across town to visit Nana whom was always expecting us to visit and before long "the hunting dog " was recognizable to members of the medical staff, many patients, and their family members. We shared a passion for reading so often I brought along some reading material to read aloud or snuck in a bag of her favorite candy while my girl waited patiently on the floor for her turn at some attention. Nana would dangle her hand over the edge of the bed for some quality petting or encourage Erin to stand upon her hind legs for eye to eye contact and more intimate bonding. Nana often wanted to hold the leather leash or stroke her head and there was never any protest from Erin who craved physical contact as much as one of those stashed cookies. If I visited alone, there were inquiries into the status of the “grand dog” and the latest doggie adventures had to be told while often a biscuit was stuck into my pocket for safe delivery.
Nana's love and adoration continued for Erin despite her living situation and declining health; food was often stashed from her dining room tray in the overflowing top drawer of her night stand. A peanut butter cookie, hamburger patty, or other delicacy could be found wrapped inside a napkin and stored for that special day when we visited; Erin devoured the food in record time and never was there enough to satisfy her craving. It was a testament to their friendship that Nana still felt the urge to spoil Erin when she herself was in a less than desirable position in life but that says so much about her as a person and their relationship. She was often urged to stop hiding food items but the pleas fell on deaf ears as she insisted on spoiling Erin so items designated for dog consumption continued for several more years. Being a devout animal lover Nana was always proud of my relationship with Erin and the life we shared; she thought it was the most amazing thing that a dog could live and travel across Europe. Nothing happens by accident as it was during this period of frequenting the nursing home that I became aware of the healing power of animals thus we became involved with a therapy dog group soon after Nana's passing; it was my honor to get Erin certified in tribute to Nana and to become an active therapy dog team in the community for 7 years.
It was a devastating loss when Nana suddenly passed away as I lost my best friend and I'll always remember coming home from the hospital bawling uncontrollably unaware of the world around me.
Soon after I felt Erin's head nudging my hand repeatedly until I began to stroke her then she climbed onto the couch beside me to offer emotional support and while holding her tightly I buried my head in her flank to cry like a baby. It was a difficult period made easier by the presence of Erin whom I wonder if was aware of the death of her beloved friend and kindred spirit; they were both full of love, embraced life to its fullest, and never encountered a stranger. They both touched and impacted my life in ways that are immeasurable and I'll always cherish the memories forged during our years together. It's endearing as I recall them expressing their love for one another and something tells me Nana is still sneaking Erin yummy treats as they watch over me from above. RIP Nana and Erin!!