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 That's Life

This is Officer Lee Groinman.

That’s right, Washington’s most bewildered cop.

Yeah, this year, 2009, just won’t end. It all started back when my basement blew up with those frozen pipes. Today it’s a blown water pump in the old Dodge. Seems we’ve got a water theme going on here. I suppose we’ll get drenched come the Apple Cup…

But hey, this is Thanksgiving, I suppose I’m thankful that a blown water pump is not a cracked block or a blown head.. In all things give thanks, less you blow a head gasket. A loss to the cougs and you just might get a blown body part, well Happy Thanksgiving Dawg fans!

I wonder if the Husky marching band won’t come out Saturday and start playin’ Frank Sinatra’s "That’s Life."

"That’s Life, that’s life,
"That’s what all the people say,
You’re ridin’ high in April…
Shot down in May…"

Beatin’ SC at home was one of my best moments in years, the Arizona game, unbelievable.

"Riding high in April…"

Notre Dame, ASU? Ucla?

Shot down in May…

But damn, it’s what happened since that really busted my pipe.

My beautiful, albeit sly Alaskan Malamute female, my Elsie had started to swell up a bit on her stump. She had fallen and bruised it. Ya’ see, she took on cancer and had to have her front right wheel amputated. She did fine. We were fearful about that lump and decided to have it X-rayed.

The damndest thing, we had to send that X-ray down to wsu to have some cow Doctor look at it, but then the X-ray came back clean! My Elsie had beaten cancer! Her lungs were clear!

"You’re riding high in April…"

Now my Elsie just had to adjust to three legs, she’d already done that, as she’d been three-legged now for four months. Well Elsie had that lump and she was starting to cry a bit. I’d been giving her some pain killers, but that lump had to go.

Our Vet wanted to go in and "clean out" her shoulder area. Clean out that hematoma on her shoulder; maybe find a bleeder or two. A hematoma for you coug fans is like a bruise.

The night before the surgery I gave Elsie her pain meds, laced in crunchy peanut butter, I told her that "Elsie tomorrow at this time, you’ll be eating pizza bones!" You see this surgery was just a day surgery and she could come home that very night. When Elsie heard "pizza bones" she smiled and licked my face.

The morning couldn’t come soon enough! This would be the day that Elsie would get all fixed up, once and for all. No more chemo’s, no more X-rays, no more stitches.

"Come on Elsie Bells! Let’s go for a ride in the Jeep!" Her face lit up and she bounced down the stairs. She then did her hop-along thru the garage and out onto the lawn. She laid down on the grass for a bit to enjoy a nice sunny November morning.

I opened up the back of the Jeep and she hopped in. Nothin’ better that a ride in the Jeep. As my wheel cover says. "Only in A Jeep".

My wife Gloria comes out and sets herself down in the passenger seat, spillin’ coffee all the way. I’m drivin’ thru some country roads and the leaves are all colored up, the sun is shining and it seems more like spring. I look in my rearview mirror and see my Elsie smiling back at me. She then spots another dog in some yard and gives him the what for.

I pull into the Vet’s office, Dr. Rowan. Elsie wanted to hop around for a bit. She didn’t want to enter the door. After a bit she did. The Vets cat then ran up to Elsie and they wrestled a bit. Crazy dog, she always liked cats, go figure….

Dr. Rowan then gave Elsie a shot to calm her down. I had to put her in the kennel, in the pre-stagin’ area if you will. "Pizza bones tonight Elsie!"

I told the Vet that I’d have to pull some stunt to get off work long enough to pick her up after the surgery. "That’s no problem Mr. Groinman, if not she is welcome to spend the night here."

Yeah, ‘welcome to spend the night’ means another 45 bucks on the bill…

That’s when it hit me. I’ll tell the truth! Only I’ll make it 55 bucks; that sounds better…

"Say, uh Sarge,"

"What’s up Lee?"

"Uh, Sarge I’ll be needing to take a bit of a long lunch today, say around 6 or so, you see my dog is havin’ surgery and if I don’t pick her up, they gonna ring me up another 55 bucks for the over-night stay."

My Sarge, being a thrifty tight wad agreed, it’ll cost me another batch of donuts…

I don’t think it was ten minutes later. The intercom in the Prison blared out. Officer Groinman number for contact?" That means I had a phone call from the outside.

"This is Officer Groinman, How can I help you?"

"Lee, this is Dr. Rowan, I’ve got terrible news. Elsie didn’t survive the surgery. I was nearly done, and her heart just stopped."

Who was this strange voice on the phone? What the snot are you talkin’ about? Elsie is havin’ pizza bones tonight!

I think I was in some kinda state, a funk or something. I walked into the Sarge’s office and stammered something about "she didn’t make it." Sarge told me to go home, they’ll cover for me.

It was a beautiful morning, just some hours ago, now rain drops are covering my windshield. Now I had to go home to tell my wife Gloria. I’d tried to call, phone busy. I walk into the house Gloria’s got her cell head set on yakin’ at her co-workers and typing on the internet. I took a seat across from her and her phone conversation ceased.

"Oh you’re home! Ready to go pick her up?"

Now Gloria is a tough ol’ bird, Army trained, Army tough.

But soldiers do cry, they surely do. Sometimes, yeah, sometimes, even Correction Officers…

Now we had to get back into the Jeep. We had to trace back the same route we took this morning, the same route back to the Vet’s. The sunny colorful trip we took just a few hours ago, the rain had let up, but the colorful trees of this morning just weren’t so colorful.

Dr. Rowan took us into her office. She had been crying. "It’s tough on me too! I was nearly finished!" To think Elsie had beaten cancer, and then this. I couldn’t, and can’t get a handle on it.

"Shot down in May…"

We got Elsie buried under what’s left of the old Apricot tree. The sun had come out brightly, and now the last of its rays were going down.

"Shot down in May…"

In the morning, just after sunup. I got up and walked out to Elsie’s grave. It was still there, it really happened, not some cruel nightmare or joke. I talked to her a bit, until it hurt too bad. I lost my male Mal Rocky, seems like just yesterday, now Elsie. Both of them knuckle-heads were the only thing that could make me laugh. You see, I lack a sense of humor. Now both my in-home clowns are gone.

Life once more, was over as I knew it…

Looking back, I realize that I was in an altered state, sleep deprived, grief stricken, emotional drained, physically spent, blisters on my grave diggin’ hands, a shattered wife trying to sleep upstairs, and a part of me, I buried too, a huge part…

Maybe it was the angry state of grief that I had that was setting in, but it set in quick.

Remembering John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd, I grabbed my dark sunglasses, and headed into the house. Seems that I was on a ‘Mission from God…’

I then got on the computer.

I decided to do something.

"Gonna pick myself up

And get back in the race."

I went to WAMAL.COM. Alaskan Malamute Assistance League. You can adopt Malamutes there.

The second dog on the list, right under "Matt Dillon" was "Bella", an Elsie spittin’ image. I could not believe it, Bella looked exactly like Elsie! I immediately filled out the adoption application and started the long process of the actual adoption.

We took some shortcuts…

I then ran upstairs to where Gloria was finally asleep, snorin’ like a trooper. It had been a long sleepless night.

"Hey Gloria! Look what I did!"

Eight days later… Here’s Bella!

Like I said, we took some shortcuts… Adoption photos and Washington Malamute Adoption League

Bella and Gloria at the Kennel, waiting to sign those adoption papers.

She’s now down on the bottom of the WAMAL list, under "Adoption Pending".

It takes a month to be official, it’s a trial period. She has a month to become a good dog.

Yeah, Like that’s gonna happen…

So here it is, Thanksgiving, and I’m so very thankful that my ‘mission from God’ ended up in Bella waitin’ for Turkey scraps! She ain’t no Elsie, but she sure is a Bella….

But hey, ya’ know that after Elsie died, I figured for sure that the Huskies would go down and stomp on UCLA, ya’ know, just to make me feel better. Yup, that is what I get for doin’ my own figurin’…

Now it’s WSU, do we even have go here? Let’s play some FOOTBALL!

As Frank would say "Pick yourself up, and get back in the race!"

It’s the cougs for crappin’ out loud…

Kavario Middleton has got it right. Earlier this week he stated ; "We want to put on a show." He says we’re going to put up at least 50 against the coug, yeah, and I say that Chris Polk will get 200 yards to go over a 1000 for the year, a frosh record.

That oughta’ make me feel just a little bit better, and I could use a "show" like that right about now…



P.S. Elsie, even though we now have Bella, and often times I call her ‘Elsie’, you’re still my favorite little girl. We miss you terribly. It is Thanksgiving, and we are very thankful for the five years we had with you. I wish we could turn back the clock and have it be last year’s Thanksgiving, even though you ate the whole darn apple pie…

You gave it one tough fight, what a fight. You’re still a winner girl!

Rest in peace, Sweetie.

Many thanks to Dr. Rowan and staff: The entire staff at WAMAL: Dr. Cat Nowak, Sammamish Highlands Veterinary Clinic, Mary Allen, Heidi Howard, Misty Hertel, Stacy Thompson, Michele Wyler, and of course Auntie April Downey, Bella’s Auntie and handler, dedicated and professional to the core. All of you were very helpful at a real rough spot. Also thanks to Holiday Kennels of Kent WA. and their entire staff. Bella still misses you all, but not so much.


I smiled some as I wrote this. It was a tough one, more tears than smiles… You laugh a bit, you cry a bit. Just ain’t the way I planned it. As God might say: 'You think YOU planned this?' Yup, in all things give thanks. Give thanks no matter how bad the hurt, now that’s the tough part. We are thankful for the new, and thankful, but sad for what we lost.. (LG)

Editor's note: Photo top: Elsie in her younger days.

Also, see the poem, "Sled Dawgs for Eternity," at the bottom of the page linked herein.

Lee Groinman can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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