Chapter 13 of A Life Worth Living – A Time for Everything

Chapter 13 of “A Life Worth Living – The Story of Sassy”

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Chapter 13 – A Time for Everything
(2004)

And so everything worked out for the best and we all lived happily ever after. Well – not exactly.

As you know Life isn’t always a fairy tale. 2004 was a year that had its up’s and down’s and in that regard it was a microcosm of life experiences for Anne, Sassy, and I, as well as many of the people in our circle of friends.

On a positive note, Sassy was having a blast in our new house – between being able to sun herself on the back patio, to watching the goings-on in front of our house through the window beside the front door, to listening to new age music by the giant speakers on our TV, to being totally spoiled by Anne and I, it’s safe to say that Sassy was on top of the world — and now that we were ‘officially’ her parents we doted with joy at her every move.

OK, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch — to be honest, Sassy had her moments.  Now that she was the undisputed queen of the roost, Sassy did her best to live up to that title. Very early on she discovered the pantry closet in the house and realized its purpose was to store food inside (both hers and ours — the latter of which she felt was hers as well). We quickly lost count of the times that Sassy tried raiding the pantry – working her way between the accordion doors and in to the closet – only to be frustrated that she could smell the food but never quite get to it because all the shelves were out of her reach. Inevitably this led to her barking, which in turn compelled us to give her a treat (once again rewarding her bad behavior and causing Anne and I to fail Parenting Lesson #101).

The same cycle happened if we left a something on the counter that Sassy wanted – she’d whine and bark, we’d give in, and she’d get her way. Case in point — when Anne and I brought home a crate of oranges for juicing and threw the rinds in the trash can, Sassy had such a fit that she ‘didn’t get her fair share’ (trust me, she had plenty!) that it was one of her worst tantrums ever – complete with throwing herself on the ground, running around in circles, and letting out an unrelenting series of demanding ‘I want it now’ barks that even Veruka Salt would have been proud of. The end result: Sassy got more oranges!

Meanwhile, Sassy was also growing bolder about acting up away from the house. One such incident occurred at a party at Liz and Kris’s house, who in spite of their troubles, they were still together and trying to work things out. Now that Anne and I lived just five minutes away, we got the opportunity to spend even more time with Liz and Kris and were all to happy to ‘help’ them enjoy their beautiful lake house. As we prepared to go over one Saturday, Anne and I felt guilty about leaving Sassy at home again when we knew we’d likely be at Liz’s house most of the day, so we decided to take her with us, hoping she’d be able to relax and enjoy the afternoon with us.

It had been some time since Sassy’s last visit to the lake and we figured that if we kept her close to us maybe she could fly under the radar with Gabby. That turned out to be a poor plan — as soon as Gabby saw her, she let Sassy have it with a full-on close-talker bark right in the face, and that was pretty much it for Sassy, who promptly demanded that either Anne or I get her away from the white maniac that kept chasing her. However holding Sassy did little good — Gabby just stood up next to our chair and barked all the more. I tried to get Gabby, Peter, and Sassy to play nicely — but to no avail. Gabby wanted everyone to play her game (hide and seek) but she was so fast that Peter and Sassy never had a chance to hide (much less escape). It was amusing to watch — at first — until it became apparent that Sassy wasn’t really playing and that her sole mission was to get away from Gabby. At one point, I saw Sassy run faster than I’d ever seen her run before — hightailing it around a sofa and racing towards me with wild eyes begging to be rescued while Gabby was right on her tail. I relented and picked Sassy up, just before Gabby ran in to me and demanded with a flurry of barks that I put Sassy back down again.

“It’s not working.” I lamented to Anne as I handed her Sassy. “I’m going outside to the dock to relax.”

“Well what should I do?” Anne asked, holding Sassy in one hand, while using the other to keep Gabby at bay.

I pretended not to hear as I raced outside, “Boz, you got that jet ski ready?” (Knowing I would pay for all this later).

And so the afternoon unfolded. Anne and I eventually tried taking Sassy outside so she could enjoy herself and perhaps find a quiet place to herself — on the dock, the patio, the yard, and more – but to no avail – wherever Sassy went, there Gabby wanted to be too. Sassy’s only comfort was in our laps and she did her best to make holding her as easy as possible — morphing in to a black and tan puffball and not letting out a peep (hoping against hope that Gabby wouldn’t see her). For her part, Gabby would take the hint for a half hour or so, but she always returned with renewed hopes that eventually Sassy would be ready to play — clearly she didn’t know Sassy very well.

Meanwhile, Sassy had other things on her mind besides just avoiding Gabby — as I’ve mentioned before Sassy was a foodie. And what do you tend to find a lot at parties? Food. It didn’t take Sassy long to figure out that as she was sitting as the table with Anne and I, there was a smorgasbord of food right before her eyes. Sure Anne and I gave her a taste or two, and Sassy had access to Gabby and Peter’s food and water all day, but those scraps didn’t cut it in Sassy’s mind. She wanted more of the food on the table. Now had this happened at home, Sassy would have solved the problem by throwing a tantrum until she got what she wanted, but that wasn’t an option here because Sassy was smart enough to know that if she barked and blew here cover, Gabby would be at her side much faster than Sassy could get any food. Alas, what could she do?

Hours went by as little Sassy’s mind worked — in the end, the food drove her crazy and she began to silently but forcefully Sassy squirm her way out of Anne’s lap and onto the table.

“Sassy, no!” Anne reprimanded her, but Sassy just wiggled all the more and Anne was on the verge of dropping her. “Michael, you gotta help me out here.”

“Oh just put her down,” Liz waved me away and pointed to Gabby in her lap – the maltese sleeping peacefully. “Gabby won’t bother her anymore.”

Anne took Liz’s advice and put Sassy down next to Peter, who was his usual ever-calm self. For a moment it appeared that maybe Sassy and Peter would be able to relax by themselves for a change. Unfortunately the moment didn’t last — as soon as Sassy’s legs hit the ground, some sort of sensor must have gone off inside Gabby because she immediately woke up, and before Liz could stop her, Gabby jumped on the floor and was barking at in Sassy’s face again, demanding that she finally play. The sudden fright turned Peter’s knees to jelly and he quickly scampered outside to relieve himself, while Sassy panicked and came scurrying over to me. Seeing the desperation in her eyes, I picked her up to rescue her yet again. Needless to say, our dreams of Sassy (or ourselves!) being able to enjoy a relaxing day at the lake never did materialize — and things were only about to get worse — little did we know that Sassy had a trick up her sleeve to get back us for subjecting her to this torture.

As the sun set on the lake, Anne and I continued to share “Sassy duty” – made all the more complicated because of Sassy’s constant desire for the food on the table. Things finally boiled over when the group began passing around Anne’s beanie-weenie dish and Sassy was then forced to endure repeated whiffs of those mini hot dogs in a savory glaze wafting by her nose every few minutes. Since I was never a fan of that dish, I wasn’t paying much attention to the impending doom that was brewing — instead I was in the middle of playing cards with Kris and The Boz, while Anne, Liz, and Cindy were talking about work. The hot-dog bowl kept getting passed around – always on top of the table – and whenever it would pass I would see a little black paw emerge from Anne’s lap, only to be pushed back each time; that is until one pass during which the bowl came a bit too close to the edge, and Sassy, who had apparently secretly maneuvered herself into a forward position on Anne’s lap, finally struck – pulling the whole bowl towards herself with her paws and diving face-first into the hot dogs!

“Sassy, no!” Anne was horrified, while the guys and I laughed. “It’s not funny, Michael! Help me clean her up. I’m so sorry, every–” But then Anne burst out laughing too, because as she held up Sassy, she couldn’t help but be amused by the sight: there was Sassy, her face and fur covered in a thick BBQ glaze, and with a couple mini-dogs still sticking out of her mouth (but only for a moment as she quickly chomped them down).

And so Sassy got what she wanted yet again — then after a quick bath she promptly went to sleep on Anne’s lap for the rest of the night.

Score another one for Yorkie Nation.

*****

Speaking of Yorkie Nation – Sassy inspired multiple friends of ours to take the “Yorkie Plunge.”

First there was Cindy – who showed up at the lake house one day with a tiny black puffball that she proudly held in her hands for all to see.

“It looks like a bat,” The Boz laughed, pointing out the humongous ears that Lacy had yet to grow in to.

“Her name is Lacy.” Cindy ignored The Boz’s comments as she fawned on the teacup sized Yorkie.  “She’s mine and I love her. Now I’ll never be alone.” That last was said in a near-whisper and perhaps more to herself than the group — for Cindy was ever at-odds with her love life and many of those in our group wondered if she had yet to figure out where her true attractions lied since she appeared to be in-love with Liz more than anyone else.

But we’ll return to Lacy in a moment, meanwhile let me tell you about Bailey. He was the yorkie who our new neighbors Tom and Kim adopted about six months after we moved in to our house on Billingham Drive. It’s said that “good neighbors are priceless” and one of the great things about our new neighborhood was that Anne and I quickly discovered we were surrounded by not just good, but truly great neighbors. Our favorites were a Hungarian couple (Aniko and Alex) who lived directly across from us, and The Barrett’s (Tom, Kim, and their son Nick) who lived beside us. In the case of the latter, they proved their worth the very first week we were there. Here’s how: always one to help out with yard work, Anne was busy doing a task I hated — going around the house with a weed eater while I mowed the front lawn. In and of itself that should have been a harmless proposition, but what Anne didn’t realize was that I had replaced the standard weed wire with some hopped-up ‘grass gator’ blades (in retrospect perhaps that was a mistake or maybe I should have just read the directions?). The end result: Anne cut right through our sprinkler water supply pipes (like butter) with the new weed destroying blades and in moments <whoosh!> water was soon gushing everywhere! Knowing what I know now (from numerous later instances like this) I believe that buying a first home should require new homeowners to take some sort of basic-skills course because Anne and I were totally unprepared for what to do.

“Turn the water off, Michael!” Anne screamed in a panic as I stopped the mower.

“How do I do that?” I replied desperately, feeling helpless and knowing that if my father were here he’d be laughing at me with I-Told-You-So eyes because this was yet another example of something to do with manual labor that I hadn’t paid attention to when I was younger.

“You gotta find the water main, honey.” Anne commanded.

“Ok, and where’s that?” I ran over to inspect the damage, getting soaked in the process from the 2-inch gas in the PVC pipe that was now spouting water 10 feet into the air.

Thankfully our new neighbor Tom was also outside, and when he heard us struggling to figure out what to do, he was Johnny-on-the-spot and quickly handled the situation: turning off the water, then fixing the pipe with spare parts he had on hand, and finally giving us a beer when the ordeal was over. That was when we discovered that Tom and Kim both worked for a brewery and that their fridge in the garage was always stocked with beer – Yuengling beer to be exact, a mighty fine brew. As you might imagine, we became fast friends (hey I may be dumb when it comes to household chores, but I never said I was stupid!)

Over time, we learned that Tommy was a man’s man — in addition to working for the brewery, he liked classic cars, all kinds of sports, and proved time and again that he was handy around the house (which was good because we’d later need his help on many more occasions). Since I’m not into cars and I’ve never been much of a handy man, I’m not sure what that makes me, but the point here is that Tommy was probably the last guy you’d ever picture with a tiny yorkie for a dog. Yet that’s exactly what happened when Kim brought home a 12-month old puppy named “Bailey” one afternoon and Tommy was suddenly forced to accept the fact that he was now the father of a yorkie (and not the bulldog he’d apparently always wanted).

“Look on the bright side, Tommy,” Anne laughed as we all sat in Tommy’s garage and enjoyed a beer, “at least you don’t have to walk around the neighborhood with a pink leash like Michael has to with Sassy.”

Tommy wasn’t amused. “Mark my words, you all won’t catch that dog up on the furniture in my house.”

“We’ll see, Mr. Big Talker.” Anne smiled. “After all, Sassy not only gets on our furniture, she sleeps in our bed.”

Tommy stopped short on taking another sip and instead looked at me like he wanted to revoke my Man Card.

“It’s true.” I said, holding Sassy in one arm and a Yuengling lager in the other. “Cheers, my friend. This will be you too soon enough.”

“That’ll never happen in the Barrett household.” Tommy advised. “You can take that to the bank.”

As it turned out, Bailey was in Tom and Kim’s bed at night within a month — a little nugget that Tommy let slip one evening after work and one that Anne still ribs him about to this day — for Tommy, like all Yorkie owners that I know of, quickly fell head-over-heels for his new friend.

As for Sassy, she loved Bailey. They became fast friends because Bailey was just Sassy’s speed – slow and steady. Whenever we went out for a walk, Sassy would always try to make her way over to see Bailey first, for such was her attachment to him. 

*****

I’d love to be able to write that things went all peachy for Bailey and Sassy from there, but alas that’s not what happened in real life. Around the six month mark, Bailey went to the vet for a relatively simple teeth cleaning — and that’s where things went horribly wrong; it seems that when the vet tech put Bailey under to perform the cleaning, she nicked Bailey’s trachea with the anesthesia tube — an injury that wasn’t discovered until well after the procedure was over, which in turn caused the damage to worsen.

Kim fought back tears as she struggled to explain things to us that evening, “After Bailey woke up, they finally realized there was a problem — every time he takes a breath, air gets sucked in through his trachea and released into his body.”

“Oh, Kim, I’m so sorry.” Anne soothed. “But what does alls this mean for Bailey? Is this something serious?”

“Bailey can’t get rid of the air he’s taking in to his body and now he’s blowing up like a balloon!” Kim replied.

I couldn’t help picturing Violet Beauregard who turned into that giant blueberry in Willie Wonka and the thought was scary for such a little dog. “It sounds very serious – so how can Bailey get rid of that air?”

“That’s the problem. He can’t get rid of the air on his own!” Kim cried. “This is life threatening because with no way for Bailey to release the air trapped in places inside his body it’s not supposed to be, there’s a very real chance he could…he could…” She couldn’t say the word and things hung in the air for a moment.

“What now?” Anne whispered, breaking the silence.

“Our vet has already sent Bailey to the emergency vet to perform a trach repair. We’re hoping this can save him.” And Kim paused a moment before adding, “But nobody knows for sure.”

“Well that vet sure better be paying for all this.” I decried, trying to take the focus off the doom and gloom medical part of things. Not realizing that Anne’s sudden stepping on my foot was a perhaps a hint that my new subject wasn’t any better, I continued, “A trip to the ER vet is no joke and it was clearly negligence on their part.”

“We’ll see, I just want him back.” Kim sobbed.

“How are Tommy and Nick.” Anne asked.

“They’re both a mess.” Kim replied. “Tommy is angry and Nick won’t come out of his room. We all love Bailey so much. You know how it is with Sassy.”

“Indeed we do.” Anne hugged Kim and we all prayed for a good outcome.

Thankfully our prayers we’re answered in this case. After a $20,000+ vet bill, Bailey made it through – the only caveat was that he couldn’t use a standard leash any more or engage in any activity that put pressure on this throat. As Bailey was always a bit of a gentle soul these requirements didn’t seem to bother him all that much and he was none the worse for wear over the long run.

*****

Unfortunately Lacy’s story didn’t end so well. As it turned out, Lacy’s trouble was a function of Cindy’s failed love life. Although Lacy and Cindy got along great and Lacy appeared to be flourishing in her new home, the honeymoon ended before it ever really started.

Cindy was in tears as she told us the story one day at Liz’s house, “That bastard Keith let her out while I was gone and claimed she got lost on her own!”

“What do you mean?” Liz asked. “He just opened the door and she didn’t come back?”

“What I mean is that Keith hated Lacy to begin with. He said he wasn’t a dog person but that he would put up with her ‘for my sake.’ But I’m telling you all right now that Keith did something to her!”

“Come on, Cindy, nobody would be that mean, right?” I wondered.

“Yes, surely Lacy is just lost and will return soon.” Anne chimed in. “Perhaps she got out and somebody found her and doesn’t know how to find you?”

“Tell us again, what happened.” Liz said.

“Arg. I went out of town for work and asked Keith to watch Lacy for me.” Cindy explained. “He didn’t want to do it but I told him I would break up with him if he didn’t help me out. Eventually the jerk said he’d do it, but then when I got back Lacy wasn’t there. Keith tried to play it off like it was no big deal – said he opened the door for Lacy to go outside to potty and she just never came out. I told the idiot before I left to never let Lacy out on her own but Keith didn’t listen! He said he’s only been around big dogs and they take care of themselves so he figured that was the same for all dogs.”

“But Lacy isn’t a big dog, she’s just a little yorkie.” Anne was shocked.

“I knew this would happen!” Cindy hit herself. “I knew this would happen. Keith hated Lacy. Did you know he tried to roll over on her in bed a couple times? It’s true. But luckily I’m a light sleeper so I always stopped him. I hate that man. I was going to break up with him anyway. I don’t know why I didn’t do it before I left. I don’t know why I let him watch my little Lacy. Oh, I hate myself. I ha–”

“Sshhh.” Liz held Cindy as she sobbed.

“What can we do to help?” I asked. “Can we search the neighborhood?”

“It’s been…two weeks.” Cindy said through her tears. “Lacy is gone.”

As it turned out, Lacy never did turn up. Being that we live in Florida and Cindy’s home was on a conservation (read: swamp), I hesitate to think what might have happened to Lacy if she ventured too far back into the woods on her own. Sadly, the mystery was never solved. As Lacy wasn’t wearing any dog tags at the time of her disappearance (and since this was prior to GPS insertions), Anne and I have always preferred to think that perhaps Lacy was found by someone else and raised in a loving home. Lacy really was a beautiful, loving little puppy and we like to believe that God protected her in her ordeal. Even still, we felt horrible for Cindy.

“I can’t imagine going through that.” Anne whispered to me in bed that evening.

“Me too.” I could barely reply as I continued to pet Sassy who was asleep on a pillow between us. “I wouldn’t wish something like that on my worst enemy.”

“Hopefully Cindy will feel better soon.”

Anne’s wish wasn’t granted in this case — worse yet the loss of Lucy was just the first of Cindy’s personal trials that year: obviously her relationship with Keith didn’t work out, but on top of that she lost her job, and then went into a downward spiral — all of which we heard second hand over the course of the next few months from Liz since Cindy suddenly fell out of our circle of friends.

Yet Cindy wasn’t the only one with problems – Liz and Kris began having problems again too. When Liz left USAA to pursue a career in pharmaceuticals it sounded like a great opportunity, but it came with unforeseen consequences. The USAA building in Tampa houses about 2500 employees – many of them in their 20’s and 30’s, with a higher percentage of women than men. Quite frankly it’s a guy’s paradise because the dating pool is massive. Prior to his marriage to Liz, Kris was notorious for moving from one girl to the next before the last relationship ended. That was actually the script with how he met Liz too. Now Liz was obviously well aware of this – but so long as she worked at USAA with Kris, she’d always been able to keep an eye on him. However Liz left USAA in late 2003, and once she did, perhaps it should have been obvious what would happen — Liz grew jealous and suspicious about what Kris might be up to with so many ladies to catch his eye. She tried enlisting Anne, The Boz, and I to report on Kris – but none of us agreed to be a spy. As you might imagine accusations soon started flying and one thing inevitably led to another. By mid-2004 things were getting grim and in a few more months it was over. The end came while I was out of town doing training for a new job, and Anne spent her birthday helping Liz secretly move out of the lake house while Kris was at work.

Just like that Liz was gone, Kris was alone at the house, and their marriage was in shambles. As so often happens in these cases, things got nasty, quickly. Worse yet, each of them wanted Anne and I to pick a side, and when we said we couldn’t do that because they were both our friends, that didn’t work out too well either. We tried to support them both through their trying times but Liz and Anne’s ‘sisterhood’ was never the same. In fact, Liz soon fell out of our lives all together and sadly we’ve never seen her since. Meanwhile, Kris was at his wits end as Liz began to force a liquidation of their assets – which meant Kris had to sell his treasured lake property (the only consolation being that, at the time, the real estate market was so high he got a pretty penny on the sale). Kris then moved in to one of the condo’s he and Liz owned and hoped that at least his budding real estate empire (focused on flipping condos) would continue to work out (especially since he was making $20-50,000 a pop!) — it didn’t. Things began to turn south in the Florida real estate market as early as 2005 and all too soon Kris found himself holding a number of upside down condo units that would eventually drain him to his last dime.

As you can see, things were a mess for our best friends, and there was little we could do to help them. 

Now while all this was going on, Anne and I were still trying to plan our wedding. Originally we’d planned to get married on the beach in Siesta Key in the fall of 2004 – surrounded by our family and friends. That didn’t quite work out. For one thing, our friend’s lives were in disrepair and therefore we didn’t know who would even come; for another I left USAA to start a new job during this time and couldn’t take vacation that quickly; and on top of that Siesta Key and the surrounding beaches were destroyed by multiple hurricanes during the summer of 2004 (the most notable being Hurricane Charlie).

Like a hurricane, questions swirled around us. We knew our wedding would have to wait but for how long? What could Anne and I do to help our relationship survive when so many around us were faltering – were we simply to be doomed to the same fate? And what would all this mean for Sassy?

 

Sassy’s Life Lesson #13 – A Time for Everything. 

This chapter showed us numerous examples of the up’s and down’s of life. From the simple (Sassy’s quest for hot dogs and Anne weed-whacking the water pipes) to the sublime (Cindy’s loss of Lucy and Bailey’s medical ordeal). Meanwhile we saw relationships end, new friendships made while others got cast away, and weddings delayed. Truly it was a time for everything.

One of King Solomon’s most often quoted passages comes from Ecclesiastes (3:1-8). I’m sure you’ve heard at least a snippet of it, but it’s so beautiful, so full of wisdom, and applies so perfectly to our discussion that I’d like to share the entire passage with you…

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to harvest;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather them together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain;
a time to keep searching, and a time to give up;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear apart, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent, and a time to speak up;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Wow – there’s so much here to chew on for wisdom seekers: the seasons of life, the importance of patience, acting at the proper time, and even the beauty of life’s balance. I encourage you to save this passage somewhere and refer to it often because this, my friends, is one of life’s guideposts.

BONUS TIP: for ideas to improve your Time Management, be sure to see my post about “Using Time Wisely”

Points to Ponder

It’s clear from Solomon’s message that there is a balance to life and that good timing is the key. Isaac Newton also talked about this from a scientific sense when he said “for every action there is a reaction.” Unfortunately all too often we try to live life out of balance – forcing life to fit our desires and swimming against the current — which generally results in making things harder for ourselves, and leads to anger, frustration, and stress. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Instead, why not let life come to you? Recognize that there IS a time for everything. Life will play out and you will contribute the part you were destined to perform — just be sure to act at the right time.

Are you living life in balance? Are you exercising patience? How much better would your life be if you were?

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One thought on “Chapter 13 of A Life Worth Living – A Time for Everything

  1. Pingback: Chapter 15 of “A Life Worth Living” – Tragedy |

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