What I Am Most Thankful For

by Tina Michelle Cameron

Screenshot_20191101-034744_DriveAs the holidays approach I thought I would write about what I am thankful for. First and foremost, I am most thankful for my two children that God has blessed me with. They are the best two things in my life. It was never easy being a divorced mom raising two small children on my own, but I did it. At times, I had to work four jobs at once to support us – I wouldn’t change that for anything. I was always homeroom mom, soccer mom, assistant coach for my younger son’s soccer team, served on the PTA committee, volunteered during testing at their schools, and never missed an orchestra concert, track meet, or football game. Unless I worked the nightshift, I was there to tuck them in bed each night, make dinner, play games, or just snuggle and watch a movie.

I put both through my sons through college – my older son Corey is now a Mechanical Engineer at Mercedes-Benz in Charleston and my younger son is in graduate school at The Citadel and will become a teacher when he graduates next December. I am one proud mommy, and I did it all on my own. I love my boys to the moon and back.

I am thankful for the love and support of my parents. They have always been there for my boys and me through everything, and I love them so very much. I am also thankful for my brother and his family.

Next, I am thankful that I became a nurse and chose to go into the field of oncology. I have been an oncology nurse for twenty-five-and-a-half years, and it was the best decision I have made. I love my patients, and I work for the best nurse manager with a great unit at Lexington Medical Center in the oncology unit. I am blessed to love what I do and thankful for my job every day.

20191006_093104I am thankful that I was hired as a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo and that I have a work schedule that allows me to do other volunteer work in our community, feeding the homeless at the Transitions Homeless Shelter.

I am thankful for my close friends.

I am thankful for my health, despite a few minor health issues, but overall, I know that it could be worse.

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I am thankful for my beautiful home and thankful that I can afford to put food on the table and have a car to drive.

And lastly, I am thankful for my two fur-babies and my turtle that I get to call my children. They bring me such joy.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season. Don’t forget to take some time to be thankful.

My New Family Member

by Tina Cameron         

20190928_110613 On September 19th, 2019 I went into our local pet store to buy some things for my new turtle tank. I happened to notice that they sell Red-Eared Sliders which is the type of turtle I have. Incubus is fourteen and a half years old. I saw the cute, little babies and one that was a little bigger. I just thought, no one wanted to buy him. Fast forward a week, and he was still there when I went back.

I spoke with the manager about him, and he had been surrendered by the “owner.” I use that term loosely, as the lady that brought him in told the manager that if they wouldn’t take him, she was going to “put him down.” I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My heart broke, and I knew I had to have him. Unfortunately, I had somewhere to be and told them I would be back to get him.

On Saturday, September 28th I stayed up after working all night waiting on the store to open and prayed that he was still there. The employees knew that I was coming and seemed happy that someone was saving this poor little guy. See, he was neglected and apparently mistreated. He was not properly cared for because his shell is bubbled in places and misshapen. He is very nervous and appears to not trust humans. He tends to hiss if you go to touch him. It is so very sad that this poor innocent turtle was mistreated. So, once I signed the adoption papers, he was placed in a transport box. I about cried in the store because I was just so relieved to know that he was going to a loving home. The salesperson said the vet thinks he is about eighteen months old and was told the “owner” never named him. He did check out healthy except for his shell. His first outing was to The Dollar Tree and then to Wal-Mart.

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Introducing him to Incubus was interesting. Incubus couldn’t him figure out—he does seem a little bit jealous and well, the new baby is still adjusting. I was told it would take him a few days. Incubus let him know that he was boss (he stepped on our new addition while swimming by). They are now swimming in the tank in sync with each other, and he is warming up to me. He now swims to me when I stand at the tank, and he has not hissed again. After deliberating for days, I have decided that his name will be Crimson Tide and will call him Crimson for short. He is a Red-Eared Slider, so that is why I chose Crimson. After all, I love turtles, and everyone knows I love the Crimson Tide.

 

One Year Later: The Grief Continues

By Tina Michelle Cameron 

Today marks the one-year anniversary of making the difficult decision to send my sweet Haley Michelle-my beloved Yorkie over the Rainbow Bridge. My first blog was about her because it was so fresh and raw; today, one year later, it is still so painful. Pet grief is real. People that are not dog lovers do not understand. Haley was in my life for almost ten years. She brought such joy to my life and to my sons lives (even though they thought she was a girl’s dog and thought I was crazy to dress her up in dresses). They grew to love her and even talked sweet baby talk to her. She was always so happy to see them when they came home and couldn’t wait to greet them at the door when they returned home from college for the weekend.

Call me crazy, but Haley was “my daughter I never had”. I often joked I didn’t have to send her to college, I could take her places with me, dress her up in dresses, pajamas and Haley 2hair-bows (she hated the hair-bows and could shake them out in about 10 seconds). She loved cheese and knew where it was located. Like clockwork every morning, she would go potty and then return and sit in front of the fridge until she got a small bite of a cheese stick. When she was a puppy, every night, she would carry her baby (stuffed animal) up to bed. She would go tell the boys goodnight and sit outside their door until they told her goodnight.

Haley was sick from 8 months on with several major illnesses and each time she would get sick, I thought it was going to be time to say goodbye. She went into liver failure at age 2 and I was told she would not live to be four. So, I decided she would eat whatever her little heart desired. Besides cheese, she loved Cheetos and chicken. In a million years, I never thought at almost 10 years old, her liver enzymes would be normal, and she would be diagnosed with a rare pancreatic cancer. This cancer would ravage her tiny body. First, with weight loss (despite having a great appetite), then with low blood sugars, seizures, no appetite for food or water followed by bleeding. Twelve days after diagnosis, I made the difficult decision to end her suffering. I wrapped her inHaley 1 one of her blankets, held her and told her how much I loved her through the tears. Before I could get the words “I’m not ready yet” out of my mouth, the second medicine was given by the vet and it was over. The sweet vet tech took a picture of me holding her just before that and Haley perked up for a second, looked at the camera (she hated having pictures taken) and appeared to be smiling and at peace. I know I did the humane thing by ending her suffering, but my heart still hurts. I still cry when I think about her. My sweet daddy came over that afternoon and we buried her in my backyard. I allowed my other pets to see her and say goodbye. I made her burial site a little flower garden which makes me smile when I look at it.

Peyton grieving for Haley

Peyton grieving the loss of Haley

The loss of a pet is real and painful-not just for the owners, but also for the other pets in the family. Peyton, my other Yorkie is still not herself. She stares out the window for most of the day, doesn’t play like she used to, and will cry on my lap for no apparent reason. I know with time, my grief will get easier, but for now it is still painful. Writing about her today on the first anniversary has helped me get through the day.

Dogs Leave Paw Prints on Our Hearts

by Tina Michelle Cameron

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Fluffy

I have owned 13 dogs in my life. All of them have touched my life in their own unique way, but some have left their paw prints on my heart forever. My Nanny gave me a dog when I was nine-years-old. He was a tiny ball of white fluff, so his name became Fluffy. He was a Cock-a-Poo. He was my everything as a child and would play hide-and-seek with me and my brother. He would cuddle with me at night and was there to comfort me if I had a bad day.

He went missing for two weeks when I was a teenager. My family and I searched and finally found him on a truck that had just been brought in to the animal shelter—he was already being adopted when I heard his bark over the other animals. He was also hit by a man in a van and suffered fractures in his back. At times, he was unable to walk and would have to be hand-fed and carried out to the grass to use the bathroom. He bounced back after about two weeks and became the same energetic Fluffy.

When I was in college and married, he was the bright spot in my life and my heart. I got into a disagreement with my husband (now ex) about Fluffy having an accident in the house during a time when he was having pain in his back. I left for work and came home that evening and found that he was missing. I searched for him for months and found out later by police that there was a cult that had taken over 100 animals and sacrificed them. My heart still breaks to this day over this. He was 13 ½ years old, and my heart was forever broken. I will never forget him.

After Fluffy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, I promised myself I would have more dogs, but that I would never get that close to another one again because my heart could not take it. Well, I could not keep that promise. Each dog I have owned since Fluffy has touched my heart and made me fall in love with them. Molly the golden retriever, AC and DC the yellow lab brothers, and Greyson the Dalmatian all brought joy to me and my two sons. However, my heart did not know how bad it could break over the loss of a dog until my sweet Yorkie, Haley Michelle, had to be put down on June 25th, 2018.

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Haley in her bed.

My first blog last year was about her. She was almost 10 years-old when she passed and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I became her mommy when she was a 2 lbs. 4 oz puppy. She was healthy until she turned 8 months old and developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease and ended up having emergency surgery. She had issues with this every few weeks, but it eventually got to where she was only sick every few months. That is until she turned two and was diagnosed with liver failure at one of her regular check-ups. I was told unless she went on oral chemotherapy everyday for the rest of her life, she would not live past four years old. The chemo pill was $60 a day, and as a single mom who had two sons to put through college, there was no way I could afford this. I researched her condition and changed her diet, and her elevated liver enzymes started dropping. They were still abnormal, but better. She continued to have numerous other health problems throughout the years but was still a happy and playful sweet girl.

 

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Haley

Fast forward to June 13th, 2018—my sweet, spoiled, dress-wearing, hairbow-hating, cheese-eating dog was 9 ½-years-old and began losing weight. Despite eating like a pig, I could feel her bones. I was absolutely floored and devastated when I took her in thinking it was her liver failing her and was told she had pancreatic cancer. I don’t remember a time when I have cried so much. I took her home and checked off as much as I could on her bucket list. Twelve days later, I made the hardest decision ever to end her suffering. I remember that terrible day as I sat in this room alone with her and the vet staff, holding her and telling her I love her more than anything. I am still mourning her loss, and so is my other Yorkie, Peyton. I have her buried in a small garden in my backyard. I still call her name by accident at times and can still remember her ear-piercing bark.

 

She will always hold a special place in my heart as will each dog I have ever owned. Dogs are not just pets; they are family, and they have a way of leaving paw prints on our hearts.

 

Hank-Dog

by Tina Michelle Cameron

In October 2017, my son Hunter and his friend saw a puppy running down a busy street in Rock Hill, SC. My son was a senior at the time at Winthrop University living in a fraternity house, so the last thing he needed was a dog. Well, he showed up the night before Thanksgiving with this precious surprise that I knew nothing about. He named him Hank Williams, Jr. (he did spend 3 weeks posting flyers, taking him to be scanned for a chip, and looking for the owner without luck).

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My first thought was “no.” Then this sweet dog came into the den to meet me and my other dogs and proceeded within a minute to mark his territory on my cloth chair in the den. That put another “no” in my mind. I am so thankful that my son was able to save this poor puppy from being hit from a car or put into a bad person’s hands. After spending Thanksgiving with him, I was in love. My son understood the responsibility of having a dog, and since he was a student without a job, I agreed to help him pay for the dog’s needs. Hank is a Beagle-German Shepherd mix and was 8 months old when he was rescued off the street.

Fast forward to June 2018 and having to put my beloved Haley, my older Yorkie, to sleep.

My other Yorkie, Peyton, became extremely depressed and would not eat or drink. My20181225_105439 son suggested that I keep Hank for a week or two while he finished his summer job before moving to Charleston for graduate school. Peyton was not too happy at first, but they eventually started playing a little here and there. I decided that when Hunter started grad school, it would be best if Hank stayed with me to let him get adjusted with a school schedule. Plus, Charleston apartment rentals are expensive and even more so with a pet. He reluctantly agreed. Hank’s bark is rather loud, and he needs a backyard for the space to run and chase squirrels and birds and just be a dog.

Hank has settled in nicely at my home, and now he and Peyton have a love-hate relationship. She is 6 years older than him and is still suffering from depression from losing her best friend Haley. For the most part, she loves playing with him; however, he never slows down. He is 90 miles an hour, wide-open 24/7. I wish I knew the story of his first 8 months. My heart tells me he was abused because when you go to pet him on his head, he cowers down like you are going to hit him. This breaks my heart. He is the sweetest, craziest (sometimes most annoying) dog, but he has brought joy to my home.

His favorite play time is 3 a.m. every single morning—nudging me in the face with his toy all while standing on my stomach. Peyton and Hank both suffer from separation anxiety which is a challenge, but they comfort each other by snuggling is his large crate when I leave.

I am so proud of my son for saving this poor, scared dog, and even though Hank can be a handful at times, I love his sweet hugs and puppy kisses, and I love that he and Peyton are best buddies. Here are some pictures of Hank and Peyton- enjoy!

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Paying It Forward in a Small Way

By Tina Cameron

Today was a good day. It has been 4 months and 1 day since I had to put my precious 9-year old Yorkie—Haley Michelle to sleep. I wrote about her in my first blog. She lived longer than she was supposed to according to her vet –she had been in liver failure since the age of 2. However, she ended up being diagnosed with a rare Pancreatic cancer 12 days before I made the painful decision to let her go as she was rapidly declining.

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Haley Michelle

Haley’s birthday was on September 20th and I have been paying it forward since then in little ways to honor her. I donated to a pet charity on her birthday and have been looking to pay the adoption fee for someone. Well, today was the day! I happened to be at the Humane Society in Columbia picking up a voucher for my grand-dog Hanks neutering appointment this Thursday. While waiting I noticed a woman petting and loving on a Pit-bull mix breed dog named Clayton. He is approximately 2 years old. I overheard the woman give her name—Savannah to the lady at the counter and told her she would be back tomorrow afternoon to pick Clayton up. When she went to return the dog to his room, I asked if I could pay the adoption fee for this young lady. I excitedly sat back down and waited for her to leave. I explained about my sweet Haley passing and that I wanted to pay it forward. The two wonderful ladies who helped me were so excited to be in on this secret. They also explained to me that Clayton had been there longer than the other dogs who were already adopted out.

I immediately felt a sense of happiness in my heart for doing this for this dog. I am terrified of Pit Bulls and I know that a lot are put down because of either waiting for their fur-ever home and never getting it or because of their temperament. Last week, I hugged and petted a beautiful Pit at Pet Smart. This was a first for me.

While I was waiting to get my voucher, I could tell that the woman was already falling for this dog and the dog seemed to be so excited for someone to be paying attention to him. After I paid the $35 adoption fee and was waiting on my receipt, I wrote Savannah a sweet little note that will be given to her tomorrow when she returns to pick Clayton up. I wish I could see her face when she picks up her sweet dog. Happy Gotcha Day Clayton!! Wishing you and your fur-ever family nothing but happiness. I know my sweet Haley is smiling down on me today.

If you would like to help The Humane Society, they take newspapers, old towels and sheets. Their address is 121 Humane Lane Columbia, SC 29209. Their phone number is 803-783-1267. Also, if you are a Richland County resident and are having your cat/dog spayed or neutered, you can get a voucher to use to help with the cost of the surgery at Pawmetto Lifeline Spay/Neuter Clinic located on 1275 Bower Parkway Columbia, SC 29212. Their phone number is 803-465-9150. You are allowed 2 vouchers a year. This is a great thing that these two organizations do.

Pawprints on my heart

By Jeanne Reynolds

It’s taken me more than a month to be able to write this. It’s just been too hard to talk about or even think much about. In late July, we lost our beloved cat, Walker.

When I say “lost,” that’s not entirely accurate, because we know exactly where he is: galloping across kitty heaven, hanging out on God’s screened porch, purring loud as a motor boat as an angel’s hand reaches out to pet him.Walker on porch

Like any loved one, he was only on loan to us. But it’s still been so hard to give him back.

I know anyone who’s lost a fur baby has felt this pain. The staff at the animal emergency room – who see it all the time – were especially caring and thoughtful. They sent us a card with sweet notes that bring back my tears even as I read them six weeks later:

“Cats may be small in size but their spirits are large.”

 “Pets are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

 “They leave our homes but never our hearts.”

“Some angels have fur instead of wings.”

They also enclosed a printed page with a wonderful message. Maybe it will someday also help you, a friend or a family member with tender paw prints on their hearts.

Our Friend, Our Family

WalkerFolks are born so they can learn how to live a good life. This takes a long time. Pets already know how to do this, so they don’t have to stay as long.

These are some of the things our pets have taught us:

  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply and speak kindly.
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Run, romp and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch your heart.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Walker on couchAlso on that card was written this note: “Our furry friends never leave us. They run ahead and wait.”

I’m looking forward to our next faux-wrestling match and hearing that motor boat purr again one day, Walker. I know you’ll be waiting.