My Rescue Work/My Recovery

My first 3 rescued dogs, Ninia, Bitsy and Nikki

When I was living alone after I kicked Bart out of the house and Perry was home, I got very sick.  My illness lasted for nine months.  I really didn’t think I would ever get well.  I put my will in order and said goodbye to my children.  Then I waited to die.  That is when my first rescue showed up on my doorstep.  She was a really pitiful little puppy that I named Ninia.  She needed me and I needed her.  When I was unable to sleep at night, Ninia was there.  She gave me a reason to get up in the mornings.  I believe she helped me get well.

Ninia was the first of many rescue dogs to follow.  Patching up these homeless pets and helping them find homes has been important to my own recovery as they all have taught me life lessons that I could not have learned any other way.  


Crissy taught me about balance.  I saw her picture in the Sunday newspaper.  She had been found with a front leg severed.  The Humane Society had gotten her ready for adoption, but no one was interested in her.  I called the shelter everyday for a month and when no one else wanted her, I knew she was my dog, so Richard and I went and gathered her up.  I sat in the back with her and promised her that she would never be homeless or hungry again.  I was sobbing so hard that I knew I was making that promise to my own inner child.

Crissy has been amazing to watch. First she mastered the 6 steps that come up on my porch.  Then she figured out how to dig a hole, and after many tries, she finally managed to pounce on a lizard, all with only one front leg.


 I accidentally stumbled upon Felicia one cold day.  She was curled up in a pile of leaves trying to stay warm.  She was so thin with hardly any hair at all.  She was completely blind.  I scooped her up and took her to my vet who examined her skin and her eyes and tested her for heartworms.  Although she tested positive, we decided that there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with enough time, so I took her home and began caring for her.

We got her skin cleared up and the heartworms treated.  Then it was time to start work on her eyes to see if we could save them.  Unfortunately, she had dry eyes that had been neglected all her life.  That is very painful, if not treated.  She had suffered a lot.  I took her to a specialist who said the only way to end her suffering was to remove her eyes, which we did.  I took my little Felicia home with no eyes.  She was so much happier when she was no longer in pain.  She had not been able to see for no telling how many years, so this was a nice change for her.

She had already learned her way around our home and yard, so when people would come to visit, they were amazed at how well she went where she wanted to go without bumping into things.  I figured Felicia would be my dog forever since I couldn’t imagine anyone else wanting a blind dog.  I was wrong.  A very nice lady just happened to be looking for a blind Cocker Spaniel to replace the one she had lost.


 And then there was Sunshine.  I pulled her out from under a porch where she had crawled to die. Bless little Sunshine, she was a mess.  She didn’t have much hair and was covered in big sores.  She was so skinny she looked like a skeleton.

Getting her coat patched up was not easy, but I got it done.  The problem she was left with was brain damage that caused her to stagger and fall.  She fell coming up the steps and going back down again.  She fell a lot, but she always got right back up with such a sweet spirit that you couldn’t help but love her.  Sunshine also got her miracle when a family chose her out of the thousands of dogs that need a home. They love her in spite of her limitations.

I continue to work on the Adult Children of Alcoholics issues that keep cropping up.  The rescue work that I do with the stray dogs and cats is a part of that recovery.  It is one of my passions.

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How It Is

Daddy's last birthday with Casey and I

It has been 5 years since Perry died.  It does not seem possible that he is gone.  I miss him every day.  I miss the man he could have been and the family he could have had if he had not been ill with an addiction, the same addiction that destroyed my mother.  We buried Perry’s dog not long ago, she lived to be 15 years old.  She never got over him leaving her here when he was no longer able to take care of her.  She never bonded with us the way she bonded with him.  She missed him every day just as I still do.

Addiction has shown up in other areas of our family, but I will let them tell their story if they need to.  I tell my story because I need to and I tell what I know of Perry’s story because he can’t and I believe he would have wanted it told.

Mother and her girls, Donna in green, Ruthann in the middle and me in purple wearing my 8th grade graduation wrist watch that I bought myself

We have lived in the house that Perry built for almost 12 years now.  It is a joy to wake up every morning and enjoy the talents of his hands and mind. Addiction takes away so much from the talented.

Richard and I have been together 20 years.  I guess we each found our dream mates.  It’s not perfect because we are not perfect people, but we support each other through the things that life puts before us.

I continue the rescue work that keeps me very busy.  I can save homeless cats and dogs, but could not save my son.  I have to accept the things I can’t change and change the things I can.  I still attend Adult Children of Alcoholics online.  I share my experience, strength and hope with other members who grew up in addiction.

Bryan has a lovely family of girls that I adore.  He is a good daddy and a good son.  He works hard for his family and he takes good care of his mom and dad.  What a blessing he is to us all.  He is also a very talented man and can do anything he puts his mind to.

Casey lives nearby with his own family.  We share life’s ups and downs.  I see Donna and Ruthann occasionally.  We don’t talk about the past much at all.  We are each finding our own way on a path that has not been easy, but has had many joys and rewards along the way.

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Learning To Live Without Perry

Perry took this picture of me while he was helping me with rescue

I didn’t know how I would ever learn to live without Perry.  What I kept saying to myself, and anyone who would listen, was that I no longer had any hope.  As long as Perry was still alive, I had hope, but the life I had clung to for so many years no longer had him in it.  Bryan was wonderful.  While suffering the loss of his only brother, he tried to console Jimmy and I both.  He would call or come by to let me talk and cry.  Most other people avoided me and I couldn’t blame them.  I’m sure they felt my pain and were uncomfortable with it. 

I could not leave home without the fear of bursting into tears over the slightest thing.  I couldn’t eat or sleep.  I had never been a pill taking person, but I broke down and got a prescription for sleeping pills.  I used them for the first week but then worried that I might become addicted, so I hardly used them after that.  I could not eat anything that I had eaten before.  I could only manage to eat a few bites of soft food.  A friend of the family brought me some melon chunks that I lived on for the first week. 

I knew other mothers had survived the loss of a child and I wanted to know how they did it.  I ordered some books off the internet, but when they came, I was not able to read them.  I wasn’t able to comprehend anything.  I was exhausted all the time and couldn’t remember anything.  I had been very involved in a dog rescue group before Perry died.  We had several foster dogs here along with several dogs of our own, including Perry’s dog.  I got up everyday to tend to the dogs and then dropped back into the bed to lay and stare at the ceiling.

I could see Perry everywhere I looked.  He built the house and a lot of the furniture.  It was a comfort to see his work every time I opened my eyes, but it was also painful to remember working side by side with him.

Our house that Perry built

I was invited to attend a grieving parents group, but was never able to go to any of the meetings.  It would be too painful to hear other parents share their pain.  I was not able to take on anyone else’s pain.  If I had not had Bryan and the granddaughters to live for, I’m not sure I would have survived.  At first I worried about them all the time.  I was so afraid something would happen to them.

As I began to get some of my strength back, I poured myself into the rescue work that kept me busy.  Perry and I had done some rescue together.  He loved animals.  I knew he would want me to continue my work, so that kept me going day after day while I tried to put time behind me.  I knew that time was going to make it all better.

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Saying Goodbye

Perry's grave

Casey and I had taken care of our elderly parents right up until their last breath.  They both moved back to Malvern, where it all began, so they could be near family.  Mother was in a housing project and Daddy lived in a small rundown house surrounded in junk that he collected.  They saw each other at family gatherings or at the senior citizens center.  They were always civil to each other, which made it easier for the rest of the family.  Mother died at the age of 71 as a result of all of the abuse she suffered over the years. Daddy died at age 81 just 2 years later.  Now it was time to bury Perry.

Without the support of Bryan, Richard, Casey and the rest of the family, I don’t think I could have survived it.  The only thing that gave me any comfort was that he died in his sleep and he was no longer suffering.  Bryan went after Perry’s truck and rounded up all of his tools that were scattered around in pawn shops.  He also got some of Perry’s personal things, like his fishing pole, from Terri.  Ruthann wrote his eulogy.  We picked out a very nice oak casket (oak was Perry’s favorite wood) and a lovely arrangement of wild flowers to cover the casket.

The guys who taught Perry to build cabinets attended the funeral, as did some of Perry’s drinking buddies.  At first, I didn’t think I could stand to see Terri and I certainly didn’t want her to attend the funeral.  But in the end, I knew Perry would have wanted her there, so she slipped in the back and made a quiet exit at the end.  We buried Perry in an old cemetery where Daddy and his parents are buried.  We had a special headstone made with wood working tools engraved on the back.  There was nothing to do then, but go home and try to figure out a way to live life after the loss of a child.

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My Greatest Fear

Me and my boys, Bryan on my right and Perry on my left

Perry lived with Terri and her children for 6 years.  A couple of times he got away and rented a little place and tried to stay away from them.  She always found him and he went back.  There were many trips to the emergency room and to jail over those 6 years.  It reminded me so much of the life my mother lived.  They both suffered constant abuse and pain at the hands of their lover, but seemed unable to get away and stay away from them.  I worried a lot, but I stopped begging him to do anything different.

One day, I got a call from the emergency room saying he had been in an accident and was hurt badly.  I rushed in to see her standing there with the police.  She had run over him with her car.  They were both drunk, wrestling over who was leaving and who was staying.  In the process, Perry fell and she ran over him.  I tried to have her arrested, but he refused to press charges.   When I saw that he was going to live the night, I went home. I just was not up to dealing with them in the drunken state they were in. 

The next morning, I went back to the hospital to talk to the doctor.  They had sobered up by then and the doctor reported that Perry’s leg was badly broken.  It would take reconstructive surgery with pins and plates to put it back together in order for him to walk again.  Once he had his surgery, I took my mother’s walker to the hospital for him to use.  Mother had died a few years earlier.  It didn’t seem possible that I was taking the same walker to my son that Mother had used.  Each had been crippled by their drunk lovers.

Perry needed a lot of physical therapy.  I tried to talk him into coming to my house to recover.  He refused and left the hospital with Terri.  As they drove away, I got an awful feeling that she would be the death of him, and she was.  Perry died 6 months later as a result of that accident when he mixed pain medications with alcohol.  My boy was gone.

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One Last Try With Perry

Kitchen Cabinets by Perry

Richard and I decided to build a house on the property where the barn was.  We hired Perry to help.  That would give him about 6 months of work where he would be with us all day everyday.  Perry did a beautiful job of everything he touched.  Cypress walls, maple cabinets, counter tops, interior and exterior doors, maple floors, everything just the way I wanted it.  We had some really good times working together on the house.  We also spent some real miserable times with me trying to get him out of bed and to work when he was hung over. 

No matter how hard he worked during the day, he went home and got drunk every night.  I would cry, scream, beg, lecture, threaten, you name it and I tried it.  Finally the house was finished and we moved in.  Just about that time, Perry had met a lady named Terri in a strip club who he liked.  He closed up his cabinet shop, moved out of the little house we had fixed up for him and drove away, leaving his dog with us.  I was ready to detach with love. I finally accepted that I could not keep him sober or control his life. I decided to let him go to live life the way he wanted to live it. I kept attending Al-anon.

Perry moved in with Terri and her children.  They were a very dysfunctional family.  Four children all with different daddies.  Perry got a job in the cabinet shop where he had worked before he broke his wrist.  Although he tried to help that family, he was in no shape to be helping anyone.  He would buy groceries, help the kids with homework and clean the place up, but then he would start drinking until he passed out every night.  I got many calls to take him to the emergency room when Terri and the kids would hurt him.  They would catch him passed out and hit him in the head, kick his ribs, etc.  They were a real rough bunch.  I begged him to get away from them, but he seemed to be stuck there.

We got him into an alcohol treatment facility where he stayed for 30 days.  I went every week to visit him.  He looked so good and talked like they were really helping him.  He worked very hard to learn everything they were trying to teach him about staying sober. We went to pick him up when he was released, he got in his truck and drove right back to her house and got drunk that night.  My heart sank.

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Getting Perry Patched Up

We emptied our savings and got Perry patched up.  He quit school and we moved him into a small house just 2 streets over from us.  We thought we could keep up with him better from there.  We all knew his wrist would never hold up to the heavy, repetitious work that he had been doing in the cabinet shop, but he really loved cabinet building and wanted to continue as much as his wrist would allow.  We got him a nice truck with a covered back to haul supplies and deliver his cabinets on a small scale.  We fixed him up a shop in our barn and got the tools he would need to start work on his own as he was able.

He made some really beautiful furniture for us and some other family members until business began to pick up once word got around that his work was good. One thing kept getting in the way, Perry could not stay sober.

I worked in his cabinet shop with him quite a bit.  I loved building things and I loved working with Perry.  I also cleaned his little house and did his laundry.  My every waking moment was all about Perry and how to keep him sober.  I had heard of Al-anon, so I decided to go there and get them to tell me how to do it.  Boy, was I disappointed when they told me that it was impossible to keep him sober.  Surely they didn’t know how much I loved my boy and how determined I was.  I was not ready to give up yet. 

Thank goodness I kept attending Al-anon while I kept trying to make Perry happy enough to stop drinking.  Some of the things I heard in meetings began to sink in and the members were a great support.  I needed that a lot.

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Plans for Perry

Perry decided he wanted to go back to school.  Richard and I loved that idea.  He wanted to take computer drafting to help in his cabinet building.  We moved him into an apartment complex on the lake where Ruthann lived.  We figured she could help keep an eye on him for us.  He got enrolled and began classes, which he enjoyed.  We had high hopes this was going to be a turning point for us all.

Perry was the kind of drinker who could and would out drink everyone else.  He would also out perform for his group of drinking buddies while he was drunk.  This particular Saturday, they all went to the lake to party.  They took turns swinging from a rope tied to a nearby tree, landing in the water.  It didn’t take Perry long to get bored with that, so he climbed the tree to dive off the limb the rope was tied to.

Of course he had a huge audience for this feat.  Once he had climbed the tree and stepped on the branch, it broke, sending him to the ground on the rock bank.  It was a long way down.  His left wrist was shattered.  An ambulance was called, but in his drunken state, he refused to get in it.  Finally, he let some of his buddies take him to the emergency room where they patched it up the best they could.  He was not very cooperative and had no insurance or money.  He never called me.  Once they had a cast on his wrist, they took him to jail for public intoxication.

It was the next day before Ruthann called to tell me that Perry was in trouble.  When he was released from jail, he had gotten drunk again and had cut the cast off his wrist.  We went immediately to see him.  His wrist was a real mess…black, swollen and twice its normal size.

We moved him back home and got him to a specialist who said he could do reconstructive surgery to keep him from permanent disability.  His cabinet building depended on his ability to use his wrist.  Watching him hurt himself while drinking brought back a lot of painful memories of my mother.

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Getting To Know Richard

Richard worked two jobs to keep his son in college and pay child support for his daughter. He was a diesel mechanic, a skill he learned on a ship in Vietnam while in the Navy.  He was not pushy, but was around quite a bit doing nice things for me.  He lived in Little Rock, an hour away.  On his day off, I would come home from work to find him mowing my grass. One day, he noticed that I had nearly bald tires so he took my car and had some tires put on it for me.

He reminded me of my daddy in some ways. He could fix about anything.  I don’t like throwing away anything so when something would break, he could always fix it for me.  When cold weather came, he helped me tote all of my heavy house plants into the house, a chore I always dreaded doing by myself. 

We danced every Saturday night at Parents Without Partners too.  Richard could “belly rub” slow dance really well, but he didn’t know how to do all of the other fun dances that I enjoyed such as ballroom, country and line dancing.  He took lessons and learned them all, and he was a good dancer.  Before long, we were spending all of our time together.  He was very supportive of my determination to help Perry.  Both my boys liked Richard.

I remember once when Perry pulled me aside and told me that he really liked Richard and he didn’t want me to start trying to change him.  He knew that Richard was not a vegetarian and he feared I’d start trying to make him into one.  Perry was a very wise young man in many ways.

Bryan and his wife were about to have their first baby and Richard seemed as excited as I was about it.  Just before Kathleen was born, Richard and I got married.  We were there the day she was born.

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Richard and me

I was still going to the Parents Without Partners dance every Saturday night in Little Rock.  One night a guy asked me to dance.  There were usually as many as 200 singles there on Saturday night from around the state.  I had not seen him before.  When we were dancing, I noticed that he felt good, smelled good and moved very well to the music.  I began to tell him where I was from when he interrupted me to say that he was from Malvern.  That was the town where I was born and currently lived.  I had never met anyone at Parents Without Partners from Malvern before.

I began to ask him if he knew some of the people that I knew from Malvern. Turns out that he knew my entire family.  While I was traveling around the country in a travel trailer, he was going to school with my sister and cousins and mowing my grandparents grass.  His family even rented the basement of my Dad’s parents house for a while.  It was like dancing with a family member.  I was so excited to talk to him about my family and connect with my roots.  When we parted that night, he asked for my phone number.  I explained that I never gave my number to anyone.  I was not interested in dating, but just liked to dance.  He was polite and said he’d see me next week. 

Well, the next day he called me.  He had managed to get my number from someone in Malvern who had it.  We chatted for a little while.  I told him that I was putting all of my time and energy into trying to help my son.  Richard had two children of his own near the age of Perry that also lived in Malvern.  He offered to introduce Perry to his children so that he could get acquainted in Malvern and get a new start.  That was exactly what I was looking for…help for my boy.  We made a plan to have dinner at the pizza place where Perry worked on weekends so that he could meet Richard’s daughter.

The kids didn’t hit it off well at all.  Richard and I kept dancing each week.  Since I always brought a friend of mine who was in a wheelchair to the dance, I would have to pick her up and move her from the car to the wheelchair.  This was a real challenge for me.  Richard would wait at the door for us and lift her for me.  He was the nicest guy and didn’t seem pushy, just friendly.  I liked that.

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