Connections: Tribute to Thurman and Milkshake
Ian and I were blessed to have our little dog named Milkshake. I don't bandy the word blessed around very often. A neighborhood acquaintance, Thurman, who later became a friend, gave us care of Milkshake in July 2016.
About ten years ago, I met Thurman at our neighborhood park while walking with other family pets. He had the cutest little Maltese with him named Milkshake. Thurman warned me not to pet him. Milkshake was quite defensive and wouldn't hesitate to snap. Long story short, you quickly learned to admire Milkshake from afar. Several years later Thurman became terminally ill. During this period Thurman and Milkshake would go barreling through the neighborhood together on his motorized cart. They were a great pair. Everyone knew them.
I found this very apt tribute from Nov. 2016 to Thurman online today:
"Mr Lewis was a truly special man. He was full of charisma and charm. Seeing him wheel around with his bright yellow umbrella and his dog Milkshake were part of what made my neighborhood special. I feel lucky to have known him.- Kate, R.N."
Starting in the Fall of 2015 we visited Thurman and Milkshake at their home a few blocks away at least once a week. Neighbors and friends ran errands, cooked meals, took him to the VA hospital for appointments, etc. Even Thurman's ex-wife, Joyce was very involved in his life. They were childhood sweethearts. As Kate states in her tribute, Thurman was very charismatic, so was Milkshake.
We all collectively supported Thurman and Milkshake. He had many visits from out of town family. Sometimes Thurman would talk to me about his concern for Milkshake's placement. He had offers from Joyce, and a good friend, Karen in Durham. I had the feeling that he was looking for me to say something. He mentioned more than once that he wanted Milkshake to stay in the neighborhood so he could have an easy transition. One day I summoned the courage to tell Thurman that Ian and I would take Milkshake, if he didn't know what to do. Ian was already smitten with Milkshake. I on the other hand wasn't completely sure. I knew he would be a handful.
In the Spring of 2016 Thurman moved to hospice care at the VA hospital. Thurman was a Vietnam vet and career military man for part of his life. Thurman was admitted in an emergency situation and unbeknownst to the neighbors Milkshake was with his friend Karen.
Eventually, we learned where Thurman and Milkshake were. We visited Thurman at the VA weekly. One day Thurman asked if we would take Milkshake. Karen was no longer living in a situation that allowed pets. She dropped him off at our house one night in July when Ian was away on his annual "Week of Rivers" trip in the NC mountains. There was a tearful farewell and then it was me and the "Shake". It was a bumpy couple of nights with Milkshake barking non-stop because I would not let him sleep in the bed with me. I had a very nice bed for him at the foot of my bed. This was one determined little dog. Seven pounds of dominance! After a few days we settled in together and Ian came home.
We took Milkshake to the VA weekly to see Thurman until he passed in early Nov. 2016. It cheered us all. Thurman, even to the end would light up at the sight of his Milkshake. One of Thurman's hospice nurses was also our neighbor, Kate who posted the above tribute. We also got to know Thurman's wife, Joyce. I can't call her an ex here because she was there for him every step of the way.
After the transition period with Milkshake we settled into a very happy lifestyle with him. Ian retired in Oct. 2016, so now Milkshake had two full time parents. He had multiple walks through the neighborhood and longer walks in the evening at the park with Ian. He loved Whole Foods roast chicken. Each day and night ended with Milkshake sitting beside us on the furniture. On pleasant weather evenings, we would sit on a picnic blanket in the backyard with him. He even had his own patio cushion for when we were at the table. Halcyon days!
This winter (Jan. thru March) Milkshake went through a period of declining health starting with a mysterious cold. The congestion seemed to go away after about three weeks. The last week and half he started to be sick multiple times a day. No food, just liquid. The vet (we kept the same one from Thurman's time) tried multiple approaches with cough medicine, antibiotics and two injections for IV fluid and anti-nausea medication on March 5th and March 14th, respectively. The first time Milkshake had a positive response. The second time on March 14th, we couldn't see any change.
Ian walked around the block with Milkshake in his arms wrapped in a towel on his last night with us. Our brave little boy followed me into the living room instead of staying in his bed on his last night. It was our habit to hang out together when Ian went to bed early. We watched "Doc Martin" together on the sofa. I'm documenting these moments, as I want to hold on to them.
Yesterday, a specialist vet hospital performed xrays and discovered a blockage in his esophagus. An endoscopy confirmed that he had a large tumor on his esophagus. She had been hopeful that we might find a "foreign object" that could be dealt with. We were with Milkshake after the endoscopy. He surprised us all and lifted his head when we talked and petted him. General anesthesia had been applied for the endoscopy. He looked me directly in the eyes. I had told him earlier that we were taking him home with us. Our hearts are broken, but Milkshake had put up a fight for so long. It gives me comfort to know that he was definitely aware that we were with him at the end, March 15th, 2018.
We took him home with us and he is in the Happy Cottage Garden. We are grieving, but know that we are blessed to have had him. He brought us great joy. Mama and Annette came over as we said our goodbyes to Milkshake. Even in death he was beautiful. We might have had a psychic moment when we came back inside. My sister Annette was looking into the laundry room at Milkshake's walking jackets. One of the overhead lights went out with a big pop when we turned them on. We certainly lost a bright light in our lives yesterday.
Thurman may have played a part in the timing of this exit. His obituary clearly states that he was born on March 14th. A neighbor, Marilee, who knew Milkshake and Thurman told me this story today:
"You know that Thurman said he was born on the Ides of March. Shamrocks were a favorite of his."
I leave you with a few pictures of Milkshake in better times. The video link is me testing the video option on my digital camera in May 2017.
There's lots of bird song and unfortunately, some white noise, but listen for the "gremlin" at the end. That was our colorful little guy growling at Ian at the end of his walk. No doubt Ian was trying to get debris off of him. The video is on Facebook, so I hope you can access it.
The cover photo in his red jacket was taken by my sister in Nov. 2016. We were out of town for a wedding, so he was in good hands with Annette and Rob. I was worried about leaving him, but as Thurman told me, "wherever, He and Milkshake laid their hat they were home." :)
Looks like a birthday since I'm in the throne chair with a card by my side. The photo upload didn't keep the date.
His adorable tongue. It's actually quite delicate.
A cuddle with his Christmas 2017 bunny.
With his dad, Ian on the sofa.
Milkshake snoozing on the patio.
Thurman as a young man. Very handsome!