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The Dog Lady Blog

Monday, February 14, 2011 :


"...a valentine for michael..."

My best friend for all of my adult life, despite distance or time, is Michael Woolsey.  He died on February 1 after a savage, ravaging, brutal fight with esophageal cancer.  He was very brave, incredibly unselfish and so centered in the midst of his decay.  The night he died the winds literally howled, all the way to morning, keeping me scary company.  The wind chimes outside my bedroom window sounded like they were being smashed instead of rung.  For the first time in ages I felt a sadness so intense that I was nauseated.  The thought of my life without the best friend I ever had in it seemed unreal.

Michael was here with me this past summer for what turned out to be the last time we would spend time together.  He arrived and I was taken aback by how shockingly thin and completely hairless (from the radiation) he was yet also how impressively energetic and upbeat he seemed, sure that he could beat the disease.  Having lost my husband at a very young age to leukemia, I was more fearful and less confident although I never let on.  I kept a smile on and the party going throughout his visit, sharing him with the other friends he visited during his stay.  He was a warrior, a courtly knight, a strong and steady soul.

I even agreed to marry him when he asked after a tipsy evening out in August although it was more of his statement of survival than a proposal (or so I tell myself). Of course, as his health plummetted the idea fluttered away.  In the end, he couldn't speak and all he wanted was for me to hold him.  Once he died, the gnawing that I felt in my stomach turned into a raw, chewed up wound that seemed to take over my body.  Everything hurt--sounds, aromas, light.  Like I had no skin, no armor.

Michael was my first and ultimate champion: always there when I needed him without rebuke, question or hesitation, the definition of a best friend.  When I first moved in 1998 to my 130 acres here (from the Cherokee Triangle in Louisville) to devote myself to animal rescue exclusively, Michael never tried to talk me off of the new road I was taking.  In fact, he would still drive all the way from his restaurant in Louisville with my favorite salad and homemade garlic bread whenever I craved his specialties.  No tip required.  He didn't criticize my lack of running water, the camper I began to call "home" and the number of dogs living with me.  He called me "Crazy Beauty", "Honey Bunny" and was the first to call me "The Dog Lady".  He was a gorgeous man physically as well.  A Dark Irish/Sicilian god who seemed immortal.  That's part of what

Smart, funny, quick to show affection, first to lend a hand and last to leave the party, that was Michael Hardy Woolsey.  Michael.  His death has left many people feeling lost, unsteady, smacked down. Wracked with grief, I cried so much I felt sick.  How do you say goodbye to someone who has been in your life for thirty years?  How do you come to terms with their unholy suffering?  How do you squelch the pain that  comes when you wake up every morning and remember that they're gone?  No more calls, no more visits, no more Michael.  Now the world feels emptier, less safe.

Thankfully, gratefully, I have my animals in all their in-the-moment joie de vivre.  Dogs and small children don't know what "death" is but unfortunately we do. Like small children, they are blissfully unaware of yesterday and tomorrow and find my tears confusing and in need of doleful attention.  Dogs make great tear reducers, if not eliminators.  My dogs and their silly, sober, willy-nilly personalities keep me from getting too mired down in my sadness.  That and their never ending want of kibble, toys, walkies and tummy rubs forced me to step out of the dark and stay in my life with them.  It is true: life goes on. The needs of others don't disappear just because we want time to grieve and the dogs, confused by my crying, rallied round trying to soothe me.  They did and do.
Before he left this summer, Michael told me that he was glad I was doing something I really loved, as unconventional and isolating as it is. Of course, he knew that I've never cared about being uncoventional
or alone.  How can one be lonely living with such a loving menagerie?  The only thing Michael worried about in regard to me is my fragile financial state though I fibbed to him right before he died and told him that I'd found a buyer for my place and that all my money woes were over...he was relieved.

Now I just hope Michael comes back as a dog so I can rescue him. 


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