Once upon a time, there was a rough and tumble, fired up, happy go lucky gal who loved God, Country & Family. She was an adventurer who wanted to see the world. So, this gal decided to join the elite. She became a United States Marine.
Now, this gal, through a freak, medical mishap, was stopped dead in her tracks. At the age of twenty-four, she found herself disabled, without a job, alone and scared to death
It was 1994 when I was sent home to “lick my wounds” and try to make sense of something that made no sense. I applied for Veteran’s benefits, tried to get my life back together just existing from doctor appointment to doctor appointment.
At that point in my life, I was floundering about… with no real direction in sight My medical problems two failed surgeries had me reeling… but I did finally have a diagnosis. The doctors said, I have Trigeminal Neuralgia (facial nerve damage), Vertigo (due to the 2nd surgery, which severed the nerve in my ear) and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ). I was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the trauma I experienced. I was a mess and felt I was lost in a testosterone driven world… where my age and sex made it super hard for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “Mr. Reilly” despite it saying VERONICA on my chart. I spent a year in miserable pain, fear and loss. I didn’t know what to do.
In November 1995, I received the first bit of good news since leaving the Marines. I was given a disability rating in the system and could begin seeing specialists to try and help me. At this time, I was feeling a bit more independent and went in search of a small companion to keep me company on the days when life was just too overwhelming. I visited all the area shelters, not knowing what I was looking for; but feeling in my heart not a single match… you just know when they grab your heart.
One Sunday, about a week before Thanksgiving, I saw an ad in the paper for a Pomeranian costing $75. I called the number and spoke with the owner. She had a toddler and just had a baby. The dog did not like the kids, I could only imagine why, and she just wanted to get rid of him. I decided to drive up there and see him. I arrived and she brought this small, tiny red & white fox out for me to see. This little guy was so adorable. He just jumped right into my open car door and looked at me as if to say, “Okay, I’m yours, let’s go.” It was love at first sight.
I gave her the $75 and high tailed it out of there before the woman got second thoughts. I stopped off at a local department store and took him in with me. I proceeded to spoil this little boy. I got him toys, food, treats, a bed, bowls, leash and collar. Jake was about a year old and we were in love.
Over the next 5 months, we were inseparable. When the days were just too painful for me to cope, Jake would lay by my side and just loved me, without question, without judgment. Jake was my constant companion. The only time he wasn’t with me was for doctor appointments, because he just wasn’t allowed into the VA Hospital. I called him “The Original Purse Puppy” because he’d hunker down inside my purse and not make a peep when we went out. He was 5lbs of love and just wanted to be around me, and I with him.
On May 1, 1996, after getting all his shots up to date, the vet finally convinced me that for his health, I should have Jake neutered. I left him there that morning, walking away to his frantic cries that broke my heart and to this day fill me with guilt. I never saw him alive again. After the surgery, he had a hard time coming out of anesthesia. The vet recommended that I leave him overnight for observation. Little did I know that he’d be alone, in a cage, all night, with no one there from 9 pm to 6 am. At 6:30 am, my phone rang with the devastating news. My heart was broken. My little one was gone and my life was shattered.
Sometimes I wonder if Jake thought I’d abandoned him. I wonder if I’d insisted on taking him home with me and watching him through the long night if he would have recovered. I will never know. What I do know is that he is waiting for me at the foot of the rainbow bridge, along with my other poms, and when we are reunited, it will be forever.