Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Viva & Vinny: The Whole Story

Several years ago at an Art is YOU retreat in Nashville I had the honor of meeting a woman who I had only read about & adored her artwork published in countless magazines & books.  A group of us artists loaded up on a van & traveled to the middle of no where......where A Place to Bark is situated in an idyllic setting with land as far as the eye can see.  Located on 25-30 acres of land sits A Place to Bark rescue which on an extra busy period houses slightly over 100 animals.  When I met Bernie I found her one of the most genuine of ladies I've ever met with one of the largest hearts I've ever seen.  Most days the rescue has volunteers but there's Bernie in the thick of it all. There's always so much work to be done but very little time. If everyone saw how hard Bernie works to save countless lives you'd be donating your coffee money ($10 unless you're a heavy drinker...ha) to this very worthwhile cause.  Bernie does what I can't do so I gladly donate for her to be able to save as many lives as possible.  To do this and do it right, you would have very little social/art life --Van was stunned to learn that Bernie didn't even own a television set!  Bernie has no time for TV.  Her mornings begin before dawn and end way after midnight.....and that's on a good day!  This is how I became to know Bernie and have donated to her rescue monthly without fail.  For the last 2 years my art club "Artistic Stampers" has had a Christmas in July where gifts are wrapped & brought by each club member. Members shout out happily out-bidding each other on the nicely wrapped packages to raise money for A Place to Bark. You'd be surprised at how much can be raised this way! 
My sweet chi, Subria died of congestive heart failure, Oct. 31, 2013
Although my heart ached for my sweet girl of 14 yrs, my Sammy grieved deeply.  I never realized how deeply dogs could "feel".  Van & I witnessed it first hand.  Sammy withdrew and was so lonely.  I reached out to Bernie and she took my hand.  Bernie is an extremely busy woman so between my schedule & hers, Dec. 17 of 2013 we arranged to meet up at a vets office to check out some dogs.  Van & I wanted a smaller statured dog, easier to bathe, pick up, etc.  We were introduced to Viva, a chi/fist mix and about 4/5 years old. She's been a blessing in so many ways.

Viva was NOT amused with the hat & boots.
Viva came home with us after Sammy decided she was the one he'd be able to play with & keep company with.  Sammy slowly emerged out of his grieving process to let Viva into his heart.  They began playing with each other & Sammy taught Viva many things, one of which was how to use the doggy door! 

April of this year we realized there was something wrong with Sammy. After doctors here in Jackson couldn't pin point his problem, I again called upon Bernie who again took my hand.  I met her wonderful vets at the Gallatin Animal Hospital in Nashville. After giving him a through exam which included: a full blood panel, ultra sounds, and state of the art xrays, the vet came in to tell us it wasn't good news. In fact the news was about as bad as it gets. Sammy had several huge cancer masses, one was almost as big as his bladder & the other mass was in his spleen. Vet said Sammy may have 6 months at most to live. Van & I were totally devastated. You always hope it's a problem that a month of medicine can cure but this cancer was extremely aggressive. As much as it hurt to watch Sammy use the bathroom we knew in our hearts he would never make it a month much less six. The spleen cancer is what the vet said would likely kill him if we didn't choose to let him go easily.  Bernie called me after leaving an animal control....I was so choked up I could barely talk to her. She had just left animal control (loaded up with precious lives who will LIVE because of Bernie) and was driving an hour out of her way to meet up with Van & I.....Bernie wanted to meet Sammy.  She did.  :-)  We couldn't take the chance on losing Sammy in a painful way so two weeks after this devastating news, we arranged to take Sammy to our vet to have put to sleep peacefully.  August 3, 2015, we took Sammy for his last squirrel run at Jackson State Community College.  We then headed to Hardees where we bought Sammy his very own burger which he loved woofing down....then it was time to work our way to the vet's office.  Sammy crossed over the rainbow bridge at 4:15 p.m. where I'm sure he was met by Subria, his little momma. He & Subria have been cremated & put on a shelf of family honor in our home.  They were amazing members to our families.  Never to be forgotten.

Sammy went to my work JSCC quite often to take a run at the squirrels.
Bernie reached out to me with this text: "Ronnie, when you are ready, I have a baby for you."   While my heart still aches deeply for Sammy, I knew Viva now needed a little partner to keep her company. Sept. 26 around 5 p.m. we arrived at "A Place to Bark" with some much needed items plus money to give to Bernie towards her rescue efforts.
A stop at SAMS in Nashville before heading to "A Place to Bark".
When Viva heard all the barking I'm sure she began having flashbacks of her time just before we adopted her. But she was a trooper!  Bernie had over 100 dogs & we just about met each one of them.  Some snapped at Viva, some didn't acknowledge her at all.  Then Bernie opened a gate to let one little dog out. Viva & he met up, tail to nose, tails began wagging fiercely.  Viva had made her choice.  We brought the little fella with us.
Thanks Bernie for taking this picture!
We stopped in Hermitage to stay the night. We were dead tired & it was raining. A precious friend of mine (my second daughter), Sherri Sickler, met us at the hotel with a kings feast of food. While the food was great....her friendship is priceless. We talked for what seemed like hours about art, pets, family.......the whole nine yards! If Van & I weren't so tired we could have talked another 2 hours! Sherri is our ice cream partner!  We rarely fail to eat ice cream somewhere when we hook up.
Sherri Sickler
Getting to know Daddy in the hotel.  Viva prairie dogging it for a treat. ha
In car heading to the hotel.

Van & pup were dog tired!  My two tired fellas.

Pups first night in a bed with Van.
This little barely 5 pounds of energy has been name VINNY.  He needed a big name to go with his big ego!

If you are able, please reach out & help an animal rescue in your area and if you can't find one, please donate to A Place to Bark--Bernie has several things in the works that will be AWESOME once in place.  She is wanting to build a Senior Animal House so she can separate the older dogs from the younger ones to live peacefully until adopted out. Most rescues struggle against tremendous odds yet they go forward to save millions of cats/dogs who will be put to sleep simply because some people don't care or they simply tire of taking care of their animals. Thing is....Animal Control is no place for any living creature. I'll end this with this last comment:  SPAY & NEUTER your animals so no unwanted litters will ever happen. If more folks took the time to do just this, there would be fewer unwanted & unloved animals in this world. 

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