September 2009


You’ll notice something different this month in our update – I (Lucille) am writing in the first person to make it a little easier to write about some of our September happenings.  Since arriving at Camp Carr (our nickname for my sister’s place in Rincon, Georgia), we’ve been busy shuttling my mother back and forth to visit my father.  He’s still waiting for a bed to open up in Richmond Hill (he’ll be closer to my mother then) but we don’t know when that is going to happen.  To help us out when we leave the area, we have lined up three church volunteers to take her to see him during the week – I’ve nicknamed them the transportation angels. 

We’ve also spent time with a local attorney going through the multiple hoops necessary to apply for Medicaid.  We had to apply for a trust for my father (a Georgia requirement), set up a special checking account, and learn about the spousal impoverishment clause so that some of my father’s funds are diverted to my mother so she can continue to live on her own.  What we don’t understand is how some folks can manage all this red tape on their own or without an advocate of some sorts.  Larry and I have above-average intelligence but we were getting bogged down in the process!  On our last day in town, we received yet another response from the local Medicaid office, denying his claim, and this just after having had a telephone interview that same day with a different case worker who was processing the claim.  My first thought was to ignore this denial but the attorney quickly informed us that if we didn’t appeal this ‘denial’, anything in the works would be cancelled.  Sheesh!  More red tape.

Pastor Larry and his wife Sunshine gave us a warm welcome back at Rincon United Methodist Church – another church family we look forward to seeing when we are in the area.

Larry headed down to the Fort Lauderdale area for a week to help out our aunts with computer and house-related issues.  The man can’t sit still!  His visit was much appreciated but it sure was good to have him home again.

One Sunday I was invited to join in a mini-family reunion on brother-in-law Pat’s side – always good eating when they all get together.  The following Sunday, Pat prepared low country boil – we wondered what the following Sunday would bring – we’d had two great family meals two weeks in a row!

My cousin Richard from Nova Scotia dropped in for a weekend visit on his whirlwind tour of the East recruiting students for St. Anne’s University in Nova Scotia.  It’s always a hoot to be around him and I know his godparents, my folks, enjoyed seeing him. 

Sadly, we lost Shelley, our four-legged traveling companion for the last seven years.  She was diagnosed with an almost inoperable mass around her colon.  Surgery would have subjected her to a lot of pain and nothing may have been gained.  As it was, she was feeling every one of her 11+ years – she only walked around outside long enough to take care of business.  Letting her go wasn’t an easy decision but it was the humane thing to do. 

I thought I’d share some of Shelley’s background and special memories.  If you’re not a pet lover, you may want to just skip over the rest of this month’s update – no hurt feelings.

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The vet in Milledgeville sent us this picture of Shelley when we were looking for another dog.

We were still living and working in Huntsville, Alabama when Shelley joined our family in September 2000.  We adopted Shelley through the Saint Bernard Breed Rescue Group in Milledgeville, Georgia, after she was rescued by Dr. Webb of Webb Animal Clinic in Rincon, Georgia.    Small world moment – this was also my sister Yvette’s vet at the time.  Her prior owner couldn’t afford to treat Shelley’s various medical problems – heartworm, demodectic mange, and eye problems.  Dr. Webb had Shelley turned over to him and his staff who then spent several months clearing up her skin problem and treating the heartworm.  We continued the heartworm treatment and once she was healthy enough, we had her eye problems taken care of.  She had ‘entropion’, a common condition amongst her breed – the eyelashes curl in and would ultimately damage the cornea, causing blindness.  Dr. Whitworth, our long-time vet in the Huntsville area, skillfully gave her eye tucks on both eyes – her big beautiful brown eyes were now visible. 

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After surgery, Shelley showed her big brown eyes.

Some memorable moments:

Her  introduction to our backyard that first day:  We suspect she’d been used as a breeding female and kept indoors all her life because of her reaction to walking on grass – picture a big dog daintily picking up those big paws wondering what that scratchy stuff was!  But she quickly learned about swimming pools….we had the solar cover on it at the time and she barged on ahead of us and realized once she stepped onto the cover that she was no longer on solid ground.  We got her out of the pool in record time and she never once went near the pool again.

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Shelley telling Bernice that she was now top dog! 

Her alpha personality:  She must have figured she outranked Bernice, her playmate, another Saint a few years older than she was.  Shelley would settle down for a snooze in the screened room with her head hanging out the dog door and Bernice had to wait to be allowed back in without getting snapped at.

Her determination:  So what if she had to wear one of those silly-looking collars after her eye surgery (she looked like a walking radar dish) – she was bound and determined to go out into the backyard, bouncing off the door frame till she got the hang of the collar, for that instance, then again going through the same process next time she wanted out.  We still have that collar with all its dents and creases.

Her strength:  In an RV park on our way to Indiana, she decided the dog next door needed a personal visit, right then! Before I could pull back on the leash, she darted underneath the dog’s motor home.  I wonder what those owners thought looking out and seeing my face squashed against their slide.  My arms took the brunt of her pulling and for a month, I required physical therapy so I could raise them again. 

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Shelley's goal was to have everyone pet her.  Karen and Galen were two of her favorite people.

Her friendliness:  Shelley’s goal in her life was to have everyone on this planet pet her.  Over the past seven years of living full-time, she worked hard at that, with her own life list of those she met who gave her attention.  It would be embarrassing at times when she’d pull us towards a group of people, just knowing they wanted to pet her.  It was funny to see her make the rounds of one person after another, making sure each one got to spend time with her.  (She much preferred two-legged critters to four-legged ones.)

Her reaction to the first thunder storm experienced when we began full-timing:  Larry and I were just getting ready to call it a night when at the first crack of thunder, she was up on the bed in a flash, beating us to it.  Two adults and a 120 pound dog on a queen-sized bed – a little crowded!  She got chased off immediately and never got back up again.

Her day time job:  Because our house sold so quickly, we moved into the RV nine months before we hit the road, continuing to work.  When we'd return from our respective jobs, we’d be greeted by that big face looking out the window as she lounged on the sofa – watch dog faithfully on duty!  (We learned to keep the sofa covered.) 

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Shelley's primary job was to guard the RV.  She didn't want anybody to get into her cookies or treats. Sometimes she worked undercover.

Her adjustment to our lifestyle:  I worried at first that all the changes in location, so many new smells, would frustrate her but she thrived on it – more opportunities to meet folks, more opportunities to leave her own messages across the country and Canada. 

Her patience:  Watching us walk ‘other’ dogs during our volunteer work at Desert Haven Animal Refuge in New Mexico (she knew we’d always be her people); riding patiently in the back seat of the truck during our 16+ hour ferry crossing from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and looking at me like I was crazy when I walked her on the deck during breaks.  I could picture her saying – You expect me to do what here on this deck?

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She was also a culvert inspector (you never know what can be hiding under there) and liked walks in the woods.

Her exuberance:  Bounding out of our home-on-wheels – you’d better keep those steps cleared and the leash loose as she barged down the steps, heading immediately for her water bucket (outside water must be tastier than inside water); inspecting all culverts, instinctively knowing where the other end was and checking out that side too; her excitement at seeing her protective harness when it was time for her to get in the truck; going down the road and trying to bite at all the 18-wheelers that would drive by in the opposite direction (she never did catch one); and up until the end, always greeting us at the door like we’d been gone for days. 

Her run-in with a skunk at Monte Sano State Park one fall:  In a blink, she spotted Pepe LePew and took off.  I couldn’t retract her leash fast enough before she caught the skunk.  Yipes!  Then I didn’t want her heeling next to me.  8:30 on a cold fall evening and we’re giving her a bath outdoors to rid her of most of the smell.  For months, we’d smell memories of that encounter every time she got wet and the scent was reconstituted.  And darned if she still didn’t go back to that same spot each time we were in the area!

Shelley was a great dog – we were blessed to have had her as long as we did and to have shared that joy with others as we traveled.  She’ll be missed by so many.

Coming up:  Sightseeing along the South Carolina/Georgia state lines; a short stay for medical appointments in Huntsville, Alabama; a return to Rincon for more annual medical and dental appointments; heading to Mobile, Alabama for a new Habitat for Humanity experience mid-November till just before Christmas.


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