Friday, November 13, 2015

Remembering Beauty: Joan, Who Loved Dogs

Today is See Beautiful Friday, the monthly hop hosted by Golden Woofs to honor and appreciate the beauty in our world. 

My mother-in-law, Joan, was a beautiful woman, full of love and generosity. She passed away recently after her long illness with Alzheimer's disease. My husband and others will be eulogizing her at her memorial service in two weeks, no doubt bringing tears and laughter to all of us who mourn the loss of an amazingly selfless lady. That's not what I'm doing in this post.

Instead I'm remembering one tiny - but telling!- facet of her.  She loved dogs. 

When I first met her 37 years ago, the family dog was a little short-haired black mutt named Fred. Yep, Fred. No idea why they named him Fred. And every morning while Joan drank her beer (she'd just gotten home from the night shift at the hospital) she and Fred had long conversations. "You want to talk to me, Fred? Well, tell me. Go on. What is it, Fred?" And Fred would reply with little grunts and moans that did indeed sound like speech. She loved telling Fred what a good dog he was and he seemed to respond.

The year Ted and I married my new in-laws moved from a small ranch in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. to a two-story colonial on three acres of land in the countryside outside Kansas City. It was the kind of rural neighborhood where no one fenced their yards and dogs were allowed to run freely. Periodically over the years my in-laws would be sort of adopted by dogs belonging to neighbors. Usually alone but sometimes in pairs the dogs would plop down on the deck and wait for Joan to come out to keep them company. The expression of delight on her face as she fed her visitor a bit of hot dog is something I'll always remember. Just talking about these regular canine moochers made her smile. I think she felt like it was a cosmic pat on the back, or that the dogs were acknowledging her inner goodness by seeking her out.

We had a golden retriever mix named Nemo. When Joan visited after our daughter was born she gave most of her attention, naturally, to the baby, but she always had a smile and a pat on the head for Nemo.  Nemo was good with the baby -  otherwise there might have been trouble! 

The years rolled on. Nemo died and we adopted a little terrier mix named Sunny while living in California. Being a Navy family, the day came when we had to move back East to Northern Virginia. We decided to take the kids out of school a few weeks early and make a trip of the journey, visiting  national parks like the Grand Canyon and the grandparents along the way. We flew Sunny out to Kansas City to live with Ted's parents in the meantime. Joan didn't care much for Sunny's shaggy look or, to be honest, the shaggy dog hair she shed all over the house. So when we arrived weeks later Sunny was sporting a brand-new hairstyle. I have a feeling she saw the groomer every week during her Missouri vacation.

Sunny, starting to look shaggy again...
Of all our dogs though the one Joan loved the best was Kasey, another golden mix. Kasey loved walks, and every time we reached the corner of our street to turn toward home he tried to extract just a little more. Some days he began to plod at a snail's pace, as if he could barely stand to go home. Other times he'd trot gaily past the turn in an Oscar-worthy act of forgetfulness. "What? That's our street? We have to turn here?

Where Joan is...

…Kasey is sure to follow!

As Alzheimer's disease made it impossible for Joan to live alone, she came to stay with us for awhile. She loved to walk with Kasey and we felt pretty comfortable letting her go around the block by herself. Then the day came when she didn't get back when expected and we had to go get her. She was only a few blocks away, but when we asked where she was going she said she was letting Kasey decide! She was confident that Kasey would bring her home when the time was right. We had to gently tell her that Kasey would happily walk to Timbuktu with her.

Before long, Joan had to be moved to assisted living. She loved seeing Kasey on visits and giving him treats. Sometimes she forgot who we were but she always knew who Kasey was.

Kasey died of lymphoma. We hoped Joan wouldn't ask about him, but of course she always did. We had to tell her he was gone. Since she often insisted her parents and her husband were still alive, I fully expected to have to tell her about Kasey over and over. But Alzheimer's is an unpredictable illness. A shadow would pass over Joan's face and she'd say sadly, "Kasey died, didn't he?" Yes, we'd say, he did. "Oh that's too bad. He was such a good dog."

So Joan, wherever you are, may there be a cosmic "well done" pat of the back, and good dogs right there enjoying a bit of hot dog and acknowledging your inner goodness and how much you loved them. We surely do miss you here. 


  1. Amy and Toby and all the pups before you who love Joan...we want to say what an absolutely beautiful post this is in Joan's memory. We are sorry for the loss of this loving lady. I think you should read this post at her service..
    Lots of hugs madi and cecilia

  2. Awwwww WE think Kacey and Joan are out and about TOGETHER... headed fur Timbuktu... and BACK again...
    Enjoying EVERY SECOND of it.

    1. Haha love it, that's a great mental image! Thank you.

  3. What a lovely tribute for a woman who sounds like she was a bit of a character. May her afterlife be filled with dogs!

  4. Thoughtful, loving posting. May her life be full of fur and tail wags and sloppy wet kisses forever ... sending a gentle hug to those who loved her, will miss her.

  5. this was an incredible post about a woman who was obviously loving, fun, (as well as funny!) I loved reading this but I am so terribly sorry for your loss. My deepest sympathy to you, your husband and the rest of your family. I think I would have liked Joan

    1. Thank you Caren. She was the kind of person who loved laughing as others said funny things and told funny stories. She never said no to any kind of game (but poker was her favorite). Watching her play spoons with her grandchildren as they laughed themselves silly was another fave memory…yes Caren I'm sure you and Joan would have been good friends.

  6. Hi Y'all!

    What a sweet sorrowful story of life and love. Paws crossed for y'all.

    Y'all come on by,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  7. that was a wonderful post... I cried while reading, you found the right words of love for you mother in law.

    1. Thank you so much. She was the best MIL I could have had and taught me a lot about being a good mother-in-law to my daughters' husbands.

  8. That was truly a beautiful tribute to your mother in law. She sounds like a woman after my heart. I love seeing Kasey hanging out under her chair, wanting to be close to the woman who he loved.


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