If you follow the page, “Following Atticus,” on a regular basis, you know that precious, Sweet William Lloyd Garrison, aka “Will” left this world yesterday, October 25, 2014 at approximately 3:30pm. Will, as you probably know, is the lost, angry oldster that Tom Ryan rescued from death’s door in May, 2012. Sweet Will, as I describe, was a beautiful white, curly haired schnauzer with one of the sweetest faces and the most beautiful, expressive eyes that one can imagine. Each time I saw a picture of him with his long eye lashes and amazing face, I melted. I asked how anyone could ever neglect or abandon such a precious life. Each time I watched him prancing and dancing around in a video, I laughed, enjoying those special moments. Although he was considered a senior dog, he certainly did not behave in such a manner.
May 2012 is so significant to me. Perhaps I failed to connect the significance of that sad month until reading about Sweet Will yesterday. May 2, 2012 is the day I lost a special part of my heart and soul when Prince Marmaduke Shamus left us due to a terminal illness. I do not remember the exact date where I discovered the Facebook page, “Following Atticus,” but I am certain it was right after the loss of precious Shamey-Pooh.
When Shamey-Pooh left, my heart felt completely empty. For weeks all I could do was cry – sometimes exploding into an ocean of tears. While it is true, I have suffered great losses prior to the loss of Shamus, I must say, never have I cried like I did with his loss. One night in a dream, Shamus spoke to me, telling me I needed to open my heart to another rescue, and so the exploration began – to find a lost animal to help ease the pain. Shakespeare Hemingway, the boss of our home, gave me great comfort after losing Shamus, but nothing could ease the pain. I searched online, checking the Schnauzer Rescue of the Carolinas website, in hopes of rescuing another giant schnauzer. No, I was not replacing Shamus, because I fully believe each of our animals, like children and loved ones, cannot be replaced; nevertheless, we can find a place inside our hearts to allow new love to enter. I checked other sites, failing to find ‘giant schnauzers.’
I found numerous sites to purchase a giant schnauzer, but I knew I had to find a rescue. Still, each time I looked at a picture of Shamus, my heart told me to wait and rescue. Early one morning, I opened Facebook, discovering a photograph of a solid black giant schnauzer needing a home. He was a stray that arrived at an animal shelter in Athens, GA. He was beautiful, with sad black eyes. I phoned the shelter. If I applied for him, I was told I would be the ‘fourth in line for him.’ Quickly, I filled out the application and faxed it to them, phoning to confirm receipt. The next morning, I was told he was still available and if I truly wanted to adopt him, I would need to be at the shelter the next morning at 10 o’clock. I was hopeful no one else would arrive before my husband and I did. That afternoon, I received a phone call from the shelter, letting me know that if I wanted “Schultz” I could adopt him!
Within 24 hours, I would meet “Schultz” arrange his neutering surgery and take him home. I was ecstatic!
My new guardian angel, Prince Marmaduke Shamus, helped me to find another animal needing a good and happy home. After meeting “Schultz” at the animal shelter, we fell in love. We were told he loves to jump, and he can jump extremely high, but that would not be an issue. “We accept and love our animals and I am certain we can teach him a few things in our home.”
Today, Prince Midnight Shadow is a different boy. He still loves to jump and tries to jump into trees to capture squirrels; however, he hasn’t managed to catch any, and there are a few squirrels that appear to tease him when they stop at tree level, as if to say, “Ha. Ha…You can’t catch me!” Shadow continues jumping in air, wishing and hoping that one day, he will catch a squirrel. He is quite comical with his behaviors and he loves to walk and chase balls. Shadow is the perfect friend to help with the loss of Shamus.
While writing this, my heart is still breaking over the loss of Sweet Will yesterday. If you do not know the story of Tom Ryan and his love and acceptance for animals, allow me to explain. In May 2012, Tom heard about a lost and neglected senior schnauzer that was dropped off at a kill shelter. He decided to rescue Will. Arriving at Tom’s home, Will was angry, short tempered and fearful. He bit Tom many times. Tom Ryan is a patient and gentle man, never lashing out at Will, simply remaining calm. He discovered Will’s spirit was broken, and Will was almost blind. He had the ability to see shapes, and he loved music and flowers. Tom wrote about Will. Reading his stories helped me to see how broken Shamus’ spirit was until we adopted him. Losing Shamus left me with such emptiness, but the words of Tom Ryan and his stories of “Following Atticus,” and the additional of “Will” helped ease my pain.
I still have days where losing Shamey-Pooh torment me. The emptiness I feel during those times is impossible to describe. When Shadow hears my sniffles or sees my tears, he rushes over to place a paw on me and to lick my tears away. This week, Shadow has heard me cry many, many times while reading the deterioration of Sweet Will, his inability to stand for long and the weakness in his body. As for his heart and soul, Sweet Will never lost it. If anything, he grew into a younger, feistier little fellow with expressive eyes, opened wide, ready to melt the heart of anyone he met. Yes, the body aged and was quickly giving out, but his spirit kept fighting.
Reading the compelling, touching words of Tom Ryan and his love for Sweet Will forced me to think about Shamus all over again, only this time, I recognized the guilt I had from allowing Shamey-Pooh to die with dignity while we held him was the right and dignified way to allow him to go. I did not want Shamus to ‘die on a table while bleeding out,’ nor did I wish him to suffer like my dad suffered a few weeks before his death. I wanted to sing to Shamus since he always loved to hear me singing.
One thing I have learned about the dying process is those who live deserve to die with dignity. While it is true, we allow animals to be euthanized when their life is almost over; we do not do the same with people. I believe we should. For two years, I watched my dad daily battling esophageal cancer. Gone was the privilege for him to walk, without a walker…Gone was his ability to eat, without regurgitating his food…Gone was his independence. At first, he was determined to continue living; however, the longer he fought, the angrier he became. At one point while visiting him in the nursing home, he shouted to me, “Just let me go. Go on. Get out of here…Leave me be!”
I visited my dad daily, unless I was sick. I did not want him to die alone. I refused to give up on him; however, on July 6, 1999 as he was dying, I remained strong when the nurses said they could bring him back. “Let him go,” I whispered through tears. “He wants to die with dignity.”
Today my heart aches for Tom Ryan and Atticus, while recognizing Sweet Will was allowed to leave on his own terms, just like my dad and my precious Shamus. Although he could not speak to Tom Ryan, Will’s tired, aching body was telling him that his life would end soon, and so this week, although he struggled to get up, he braced his legs and pranced around until collapsing. He was determined to smell the scent of the endless supply of aromatic flowers his fans sent to him. Sweet Will found happiness amongst scented flowers and music and when he left this world, he was surrounded by the therapeutic vibrations of music and flowers. We should all be so blessed when our life escapes us. Rest in peace, Sweet Will. May you and Shamey-Pooh prance around, making new friendships in the life beyond.
To read the inspiring, touching stories of “Following Atticus,” and “Will,” click the following link: http://tomandatticus.blogspot.com/