Thursday, June 28, 2012

We're appreciated!

Last Friday was the primary school graduation at the government school in 7 Miles/El Progresso.  We went because we were invited, and we thought the invitation was because one of Julio's sons was graduating.  We were surprised when we got there and were escorted to seats in the front row...with our names on them!  We were even more surprised when, as part of the ceremony, the principal, Mr. Cano, started giving out Thank You Awards, and called Tom up to the podium.  Tom has done a lot to help the school, from fixing chairs to building a wall so the principal could have an office, but he thought the profusive thanks he always gets when he finishes a project was enough.  But Mr. Cano, the teachers, the students, and the school officials thought otherwise, and thought that Tom, along with other people, should be publicly thanked for his contributions. 

We were even more surprised we were called again to receive another Certificate of Appreciation.  This one was for what our business, Moonracer Farm Lodging & Tours, Ltd., contributes to the school, and it was really a gesture of appreciation for all of our guests who have made very generous contributions to the school, from clothing and uniforms to school supplies to books to shelves to money to be used as needed.  Mr. Cano was a little choked up, and said he is overwhelmed with the generosity of people who mostly haven't even been in the school or met many of the children.  So we, along with the school in 7 Miles, thank all of our guests, who probably don't even realize how much their gifts are appreciated.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, my bestest buddy Louie died. He was 16, which is plenty of years in dog years, but after living with Louie for about a third of my life and probably spending more time with Lou than with Tom over those years, I am heartbroken and have a giant hole in my heart. I didn’t think it would be this difficult; I thought I was ready because he’s been failing for the past couple of years, and I’d thought about having him put to sleep over the past few months, but he was never in pain and he always seemed happy following me throughout my day and napping when he wasn’t with me. And, typical of Louie, he seemed to plan his death when it was most convenient for me, just after a visit from a much loved friend, and before we started a long string of guests…almost as if he didn’t want to ruin the visit with our friend, but also didn’t want to affect our work. And, he just died, and is the first dog Tom and I have ever had that just naturally died of old age and we didn’t have to make the decision for that last trip to the vet.
I think part of my difficulty with this is that in January 2007 we came here with three dogs, Nock, Lou, and Mel. Mel died of old age in the July 2008, and now Lou is gone. We have Jalis to keep Nock company, but Nock, who is now 14, is our last remaining tie to our old life in the US. And, at 14, she probably has a few more years, but Lou’s death has made us realize that she is old and won’t last forever. We now consider Belize home and love it here, but thinking about all the things we (and I, more than Tom) did with Lou when we lived in NY has made me feel sort of homesick, as well as feeling the grief associated with losing an old friend.

From the day we picked Louie up, he was my dog, although he was originally supposed to be Tom’s. He was a little over a year old, and was a sort-of Rescue Russell in that Catherine, his breeder, was leading Russell Rescue at the time but had taken Lou back after he didn’t work out at his first home because he killed a lot of chickens one day. She thought she’d keep him and do something with him, but then he scaled a kennel fence and bred an imported bitch, resulting in Nock’s litter. Catherine decided she didn’t need this much trouble in her life at that time, so when I contacted Russell Rescue, she decided that we could “rescue” Lou. He was supposed to be Tom’s because Mel and I were pretty attached to each other, and Tom wanted his own dog. Lou, however, had other ideas, and after riding home from Catherine’s on my lap, he stuck to me as I was making lunch, and when the other dogs we had at the time wanted to smell him, he jumped into my arms and that was that – he was glued to me for the rest of his life.  It's hard not to love something that makes you its whole world.
At home, Lou was always with me. I would take him to work sometimes, especially if I was working on the weekend. And, he ALWAYS went to horse trials with me. I would take a small crate and put him in the crate next to my stall when I went to ride. People used to complain that he whined a lot, but I didn’t really believe them until one time at a horse trial when Bruce Davidson’s group was stabled behind Karin’s group. I put Lou in the crate and went off for my ride, and when I came back Bruce was sitting in the aisle in front of my stall with Lou in his lap, crooning to him that everything was okay and his mother would be back soon. I was, of course, mortified, but Bruce kindly explained that the little guy really missed me and he was trying to make him feel better…but then I knew that the whining must be really bad if Bruce could take the time away from his multiple rides, his students he was coaching, and all the other stuff that a BNR has to do at a horse trial.
Lou also went to Florida with Karin and Tilly and me in the winters. Lou loved Tilly, Karin’s dog, and he loved camping with Karin and Tilly, whether it was in Florida or just at a weekend-away horse trial. Whenever he saw us putting the camper on the truck and hooking up the trailer, he’d prowl around until he found the truck door open, and then jump into the truck and refuse to get out. Lou and Tilly would walk the cross country courses with us - and all their other dog friends - and the two of them were always happy to play in the water jumps so we could see how deep it was. They were also happy to play in the cow fields and roll in the cow manure where we stayed in Florida, and I can still picture them galloping back to us when we called them, stinking to high heaven of really nasty cow poop – but oh so happy with themselves. Tilly died the year before Lou, so I’m sure the two of them are on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge rolling in something really stinky and having a grand time.

I don’t think I realized how much a part of me Lou was until he died and I put a posting on Facebook about it. The post received over 70 comments from people from all aspects of my life: people, both guests and friends, who met Lou here in Belize, family who knew Lou because he always traveled with us, work friends, horse friends, dog friends, and pretty much everybody I know, because he was always with me. I was shocked when I went into 7 Miles the week after he died because a bunch of people there made a point of telling me how sorry they were to hear that “el Viejito” (the little old one) had died; people here don’t generally consider a dog to be part of the family and when their dogs die they frequently just throw the carcass in the bushes, but they knew he meant a lot to me and they liked him, and I really appreciated them making the effort to tell me. He’s been gone over two weeks, and I still look down to make sure I don’t step on him if I’ve been standing in one spot in the kitchen and want to move, because he was always right under my feet – if he wasn’t in my lap or my bed.

I know the grief is normal, and I’m thankful that Lou was a part of my life for so long and that he and I had such a good time together that it hurts this much, and I know it will get better with time – but for now I still just miss him.