We have struggled to write this blog. The nature of our work is that we are witness to the loss of companion dogs and it is heartbreaking and difficult. This summer has been particularly hard not just because of the animal clients who have passed, but also because of the loss of one of the dearest, most generous people we’ve ever known — our veterinarian and friend, Cindy Geisler (at Mercy Vet Clinic).
I am particularly saddened because Cindy was the only vet I completely trusted. I let her work on me in a way I wouldn’t allow other vets to even consider. We began working with Cindy 5 years ago and from the moment she did her first chiropractic adjustment on me, I knew she had special healing powers.
There is so much to say about Cindy and so much that’s difficult to explain. She was real. She was genuine. She was honest and compassionate, witty and patient. She gave of herself fully and she was always there when we had questions or needed further explanations. Dezi loved her too and gave her gentle kisses whenever he saw her. When it was my turn for treatment, I just backed into her, waiting for those gifted hands to make me feel better. She never disappointed.
Gretchen, I think, is the saddest of us all, though. Cindy was more than a vet to her — she was a friend and a mentor — sharing with Gretchen her dream of rafting the rivers of Alaska as well as sharing her knowledge of cranial/sacral work while Gretchen was furthering her own knowledge.
Cindy had such gentle way about her and was so encouraging it was hard not to heed every word she spoke. Once, when I was being particularly difficult and wimpy, she told me to “man up.” I wrote about that in this blog (here) and spent most of my time trying to do just that — be brave and courageous and strong just like she wanted me to be.
In a way, she told Gretchen much the same only she said it like this: Be kind with yourself. Trust yourself and your hands; you are a healer and you must believe in what you feel.
There is so much more I could say, but the tears flooding my eyes, and Gretchen and Dezi’s too, make it difficult to write more about this amazing woman at this time. More to come…when I am able.
And this summer has been a hard one for other losses as well. The losses feel heavy, especially for Gretchen. As a small animal massage and swim therapist, she knows a lot more dogs than I do. And she helps them, too, but dogs don’t live forever so she often has to say a lot of goodbyes.
And these months of summer have been some of the hardest. Some of her oldest and dearest clients crossed the Rainbow Bridge and there is a tendency to let the sadness overwhelm. But instead, we have decided to celebrate the lives of some amazing dogs who were and are loved by some amazing families.
First, there is Henry. Gretchen didn’t know him long, but she fell pretty hard for this dog with flying ears. She started massage Henry at the Equisports Veterinary clinic in Kingston where Gretchen works two days a week under the guidance of Dr. Christin Finn. Henry had lots of mobility issues and in addition to acupuncture and laser treatments, Henry got and LOVED massages. In fact, he loved them so much, he’d fall fast asleep and Gretchen would have to wake him up so he could get his treatments from Dr. Finn.
As is common with large dogs who lose strength in their hind end, Henry’s front legs, chest, shoulders, and neck were always really tight. The second the massage began, Henry would drop off to sleep, snoring loudly as she worked down his back and his rear legs. Turning him over was a silly event as Henry would stay mostly asleep as she flipped him on the other side. He’d wake just a moment, then the snoring would commence.
There were a number of times when we all thought Henry was ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge, but he lived 5 months longer than anyone expected. I hope his flying ears helped his passage over the bridge smooth and pain free.
Rest in Peace Henry.
Unlike Henry, Bob has been a massage and acupressure client of Gretchen’s for many years. And unlike Henry, Bob wasn’t so sure about body work in general. I’ve written about Bob before. He was an opinionated guy and Gretchen had to work hard to win him over.
Ironically, it took an animal communicator to help Bob and Gretchen overcome their initial difficulties. Turns out, Bob had a certain way he liked the sessions to progress. Gretchen would walk into the house, Bob would bark his head off (his normal greeting for everyone), then he’d lie in his little soft circle bed. Gretchen would start massaging his crippled but strong body and he’d squirm all over the place.
His wonderful mom, who uses an animal communicator to communicate with all her dogs, conveyed that Bob would prefer acupressure first and then massage. Unfamiliar with animal communication, Gretchen was skeptical at first, but she gave it a try – acupressure first, then massage. As if a flip had been switched, Bob went from Mr. Squirrelly Pants, to the calmest, most relaxed dog she’d ever seen. From then on, that’s how their sessions progressed — acupressure first and then massage
Bob’s passing came suddenly and as quite a shock. I know Gretchen misses his sassiness a lot, but I also know she will remember him as a great teacher. She learns a lot from all her clients, but Bob, all 8 pounds of him, taught her more than almost any of them combined.
Second on that list of dogs who’ve taught her a lot is Bella the Chow Chow. Bella was extremely lucky to have a mom who was incredibly attentive and willing to give her beloved companion the best possible care. So much so that Bella not only got massage sessions, but she also got sessions solely devoted to acupressure. Maybe it was because Bella was Chinese that she understood the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but no matter what it was, Bella adored her acupressure.
She too, would communicate her needs not through barking, but with this very intense gaze. Her gaze would let Gretchen know that if the pattern of acupressure points she was working were effective or if they weren’t exactly what was needed. And after each session, Bella got her most favorite thing in the world — goat cheese! She loved her goat cheese so much that she’d forget her elderly age and struggles with mobility and pop up at the end of every session like she was three again just to receive that tiny morsel of goodness.
Rest in Peace Ms. Bella.
Gretchen had a number of elderly clients (Bella and Henry among them) and many of them had been through a lot in their time on this earth. Perhaps one of the toughest fighters was Brutus who battled cancer late in his life and was cancer free for many months beyond predictions. Brutus was another of those reluctant clients, but weekly Gretchen would head to his house and provide a combination of acupressure and massage to help him strengthen his immune system and bring some mobility back to his weak hind legs.
Brutus wasn’t so sure about Gretchen’s weekly arrivals. When she entered the house, Brutus would often turn and head the other direction. He wasn’t very fast and could no longer go up or down stairs on his own, so “running away” was never really an option. And after awhile, Gretchen realized that running away was just a game for him, so she went along with it just to make Brutus feel better.
Like most older dogs, Brutus loved the acupressure the most. Yes, he liked massage too, but there’s something very soothing about acupressure that made Brutus (and many of the older clients) feel safe and relaxed. Perhaps it’s the gentle approach – a soft touch to a specific point — or the feeling of a channel opening up and the Qi flowing through more freely — that appeals to the senior citizens. I know I enjoy it immensely, so maybe Brutus did too. Gretchen said Brutus was one of her sweetest clients — so gentle and quiet — and like all the others, she will miss him very much.
Rest in Peace Brutus.
Perhaps the hardest goodbyes are for those dogs who we’ve known for a long, long time. First among those is Bebe, a border collie who lived to be 16 years old. Bebe was a swim and massage client of Gretchen’s for six years and boy, does Gretchen have Bebe stories galore! When Bebe first starting swimming with Gretchen she LOVED the swimming…she’d walk right into the pool and swim her own laps without any assistance.
Massage was another story. Bebe was pretty arthritic and while massage (and swimming) would help, Bebe wasn’t keen on resting long enough to let Gretchen do her work. After months of swimming together, Gretchen finally figured out how to prop Bebe up on the step of the pool and there, once Bebe felt how wonderful massage was, she’d fall asleep while Gretchen worked on her sore and stiff muscles.
In the final years of her life, Bebe rested in Gretchen’s lap and soaked up every ounce of massage time that she could. I hope that, across the Rainbow Bridge, Bebe can get a massage every day and swim to her heart’s content!
Rest in Peace Sweet Bebe
Chica swam with Gretchen because of an injury sustained in an awful fall — her elbow smashed and damaged. Chica loved to swim. And she loved massage too. Most of all, she loved the treats at the end of the massage.
And Chica was a tough cookie. As she aged, her lameness advanced, but still she soldiered on — looking for the perfect squirrel to chase and quietly demanding the best snacks and the most comfortable bed. Gretchen said Chica smelled of campfires — the good kind, where the family gathered round to roast marshmallows. Every time Chica came to swim, Gretchen would smell her head and smile at the scent. There’s a lot she’s going to miss about that girl. A lot.
Rest in Peace Chica girl!
And the final loss is one that impacts me as well. While I heard great stories about all of Gretchen’s massage and swim clients, I knew Carter personally. For four years we walked goofy Carter and his shy sister, Kali, and the three of us became fast and close friends.
Carter was silly fellow. He always wanted to be on the move, walking from side to side so he could smell every scent on the ground. A champion show dog, he could strike a stunning pose, but underneath that Best in Show appearance, was a dog who loved life to its fullest.
When we walked together, Kali and I would generally walk side by side letting Carter pull us all down the sidewalk. He was always on a mission on the way out and then, on the way home, he’d sidle up to me and gently bump his big, spotted body into me as if to say, “We’re friends, right Rubin? We’re like best friends, yeah?”
We were, Carter, and I miss your big, goofy beauty every day.
Rest in Peace you handsome fellow.
As you can see, many tears have been shed at this house this summer. Yes, we’ve had joyful moments in between the losses, but today we wanted to count our blessings remembering those who are no longer here though they live on in our hearts. We will never ever forget any of you.
May you all Rest in Peace,