Gig Line: All lives are precious

Published 11:55 am Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Saying goodbye to last year was not too difficult for many of us given the state of the economy, wars, crime ridden cities, government corruption and closest to our heart … the loss of friends and family members which trumps it all.

We all know life is short, we all know that it is unpredictable and in the blink of an eye it can drastically change for loved ones who are left to mourn others no longer at the table. None of us are exempt from suffering grief, heartache and heartbreak. But as much as its about death that we will all experience one day, it is also about life.

I’ve thought a lot about the loss of incredible people in our communities … our loved ones first, of course, and of those who have served everyone in one way or another by doing kind things; thinking more of their fellow man than themselves; striving to make life better for people they didn’t know well or not at all.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

With the news of a friend who passed, we are saddened and sometimes it’s especially difficult to fathom depending on their age, the state of their health and as much as we try our best to accept the vacancy their absence will create, the tears will flow often, perhaps change our sleep habits, habits of talking to them every single day … telling them you love them and not hearing those words come back is hard, very sad and at times seemingly unbearable. For a period of time we feel disconnected from the world, if only temporary.

No matter how we live our lives, what we have or what we don’t, we are connected to each other. We share each other’s joys and each other’s sorrows. We worry over, pray for and do whatever we can to help those around us whose hearts are shattered … but because of that, we get through it.

Now, what I am about to share (to some) may seem out of bounds because it is not about humankind, but it is just another reminder that love is ever so strong, so available, so welcomed in this world and oh so needed.

In 2014 and with Father’s Day approaching, I considered what gift to give my sweet Billy and an opportunity presented itself for a new puppy that was scheduled to be delivered by cesarean section in Nags Head. The mother dog, a Yorkie, was about to deliver three little puppies, two males and one female and having heard that, I spoke up for the female. The delivery was uneventful and six weeks later we were able to pick her up. At that time, my plan was to totally surprise Billy but I’m bad about that; when I know something is going to touch someone I love in a special way, I find it hard to keep it to myself. So not being able to keep the surprise secret any longer, I told him. The minute we could pick her up could not come fast enough and when he first held her, even at six weeks, she could nestle in the palm of his big hand. Needless to say, my big strapping husband fell madly in love. Because her fur was black and brown, we named her “Pepper” Brown.

From that moment on, she was his constant companion riding with him in his Toyota Tundra, cradled in his strong arms usually with her chin on the crook of his arm peering out the driver’s side window. It was adorable to watch, and they were buddies from morning until night.

Two years into their inseparable relationship, we got the terrible news that Billy had terminal brain cancer with little to no hope of recovery. For the next four and a half short months, their special life together was altered. Due to concern that Billy could suffer a seizure, his doctors asked him not to drive again. Billy always loved to drive or operate a vehicle, no matter what kind. Over the course of his life, his passion was cars, trucks and boats. He had driven everything from hydroplanes, Trailways buses, police cars, ambulances, every piece of heavy equipment: bull dozers, backhoes, forklifts, tractors – his specialty being a drag line – so forfeiting his ability to drive was a hard but necessary adjustment.

As time passed, he and his little Pepper snuggled together first in his favorite recliner, then in his hospital bed set up in our home. Pepper was so little; she lay on his shoulder in the crook of his neck giving every bit of comfort she could to her suffering “Daddy.” After Billy went to be with the Lord, Pepper would search the house over, looking for and missing him. And while every responsibility from taking her out to potty, bathing her, feeding her, taking her to vet check-ups, etc. was a joy and a privilege in Billy’s eyes, she had now become much more than the cutest little dog ever to me.

I loved her from the first day we picked her up and I loved how she instantly became my husband’s best little buddy, but now in July 2016, it was just us girls … Pepper and me … together but alone.

Our little Yorkie had the perfect little fuzzy face. She was an exceptionally clean little dog, hypo-allergenic, no shedding of fur, no allergies to either of us or anybody else, and while she was only 11 lbs. full grown, she was a force to be reckoned with. There was no better alarm system to be had and over the precious years of loving her, she never attempted to bite anyone who came into her presence. Our children, grandchildren, my sister, our best friends all loved little “Peppy.”

Whenever I even said the word, “Daddy,” she would immediately look at the front door as if expecting him to come in so she could jump in his arms.

Little Pepper had become sick two weeks ago and on the first evaluation visit to find out why, her vet, Dr. Hayes of Sound Veterinary Hospital in Nags Head, came to realize following a blood panel that she was gravely ill. Over the following two weeks, everything that could be done for her was done: IV fluids, the under the skin “bubble” fluids, antibiotics, meds to combat stomach acid/nausea, insulin twice a day, and even an appetite stimulant was administered as prescribed in addition to very frequent visits to the hospital to monitor her progress, etc., but she kept declining, her appetite weaned, even her desire to drink water or eat anything eventually came to a halt.

In her condition with no notable improvement, it was recommended that I consider euthanasia, but she seemed almost normal. She wasn’t throwing up, she’d still jump off the couch to greet anyone who came in, she’d let me know she wanted to lay in the sun on our front deck or walk down the enclosed ramp to the fenced in side yard, she snuggled with me every night and sometimes I’d wake up and look at her and she’d be staring at me in the sweetest way. So, I told Dr. Hayes I hoped if she were not going to make it that she would go in her sleep naturally so I could be with her to the end if she did not experience throwing up, diarrhea, crying or in pain … then it happened. She could not eat a bite, refused every conceivable food source she had eaten before, and I had to accept the inevitable.

On the morning of January 4, my best friend Bibber drove me and little Pepper to see Dr. Hayes. I had cried day after day for almost two weeks afraid this day would come … and it did. She was sick, so sick. I held her in a very soft blanket in my arms up to my chin so I could kiss her little face and head and tell her what a good girl she was and how much I loved her. Dr. Hayes was comforting and reassuring that it was the best thing to do as things had progressively gotten worse, the latest blood test revealing her kidneys were not functioning … she was dying.

She explained the procedure and after giving me some time with her to grasp the situation, with my permission, she proceeded. As it took place, I held her tightly and close to my heart talking to her about Daddy and Heaven, she licked my chin one last time and remained calm … no attempt to get down or away … and she seemed to welcome the first shot to relax her, then the second and final one.

While I was cognizant of other patrons and patients at the clinic, my tears were followed by my own moans and cries losing “my” little buddy for the last seven and a half years since Billy had passed. Bibber sat with me through the process, and I will never forget the comfort her presence gave me. Dr. Hayes was an incredible doctor for Pepper. She felt my pain and my attachment to Pepper, and she obviously felt for Pepper, her patient who she cared for deeply. Since coming home alone without her anxiously greeting me at the door, or sitting in my lap, beside me or cuddling with me during a storm under a blanket we shared, her absence speaks loudly. I wake up several times at night to see if she’s resting, needs water, wet her pads and in general if she’s okay … then I realize she’s no longer here. I miss her terribly. Another good friend boxed up her toys and doggie beds, her sweaters, leashes and harnesses. I washed her food and water bowl and gathered her medicines, pill splitter, syringes and every item of care used to make her well or hopefully prolong her life and set them aside.

To people who have not experienced the loss of an animal, be it a dog, cat, horse etc., I understand your disconnect from the emotions a pet lover feels. Is it the same as losing a parent? a child? a sibling? No, of course not, but similar. Pets, especially dogs, love us regardless of our weaknesses or our flaws. They love us unconditionally – when we’re tired, grumpy, worried about bills or sad – they seem to mourn along with us, especially when we grieve the loss of a loved one. They protect our law enforcement, they alert when drugs are concealed, they detect bodies under rubble when storms or earthquakes collapse buildings, they can even detect illness in a sick person. They serve a unique and incredible purpose in our lives and in the world.

Anyone who could hurt an innocent animal who depends on us so much and who give such love to us in return – shame, shame on them!

Do I believe there is a place in Heaven for animals? Yes, I do! If they weren’t so important, why would God have inspired Noah to build the Ark? Why and how do the fowl of the air, the great and small creatures of the earth feel love, give love, and interact with their little babies in countless ways to protect them? feed them? teach them? Nobody will ever convince me that they aren’t a divine creation, just like us.

We are in the new year now and life, with or without the people and pets we love dearly, goes on for as long as it goes on. We are here for a purpose … to love each other, help each other, comfort each other, and pray for each other when times are rough, for whatever reason. I am thankful for God, for His mercies, His love and forgiveness. I am thankful for the opportunity He gave me to be loved by my parents, siblings, Billy, Pepper and all who love me now being my children, grandchildren, special friends and extended family. I am blessed.

And when we think about our losses, let’s also think about our gains in life – how those we have lost touched us, changed us and made us better people. Moving forward, I will cry some more and often, but I will also give thanks for the privilege to have been Billy’s wife, the mother of his children and the devoted caretaker of “his” little Pepper.

Think about it. Look around you and “count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

If you’d like to talk to me, please feel free to call or text me: 252-202-2058 or email me: If you need official advice re: the V.A. please contact our veteran service officer, Patty O’Sullivan at 252-475-5604; 252-473-7749 or patricia.o’ regarding filing a claim; acquiring a duplicate DD-214; or if you have questions about disability compensation.

Until next time, be healthy, safe and happy. Love yourself, our veterans and active duty and just know that you have an opportunity to lift a heavy heart or comfort your fellow man in this world. Do good with your time. Be honest, kind-hearted, selfless and be blessed … because I believe you will be. God loves you so much and so do I. Stay tuned.