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Sleeping with A Pheasant
A Poem for Cammy Jane, 9/5/2000-2/9/2007
Cammy with her pheasant.

I’m sleeping with a pheasant, Puppy.
Cupped hands cradle your toy
And gently press its belly to my lips.
The warmth of my breath
Arouses your scent
And I inhale deeply,
As if life depends on it.

Wild and giddy playmate!
I see you prance and stalk
And sneak from behind
To snatch this bright bird
Whose raspy call is muffled
In your gentle grasp,
And game for capture and release.


Hunter of toys,
Your delight is a shadow.
In your absence
The call is silent,
The stuffing gone dry,
And it is no game
To have you and let you go.

Should the time ever come
When tears have washed
Every trace of your scent
From my memory—
I will release you.
But, for the moment,
I’m sleeping with a pheasant.


The story behind the poem:

There were no symptoms, no warnings, no intuitive curiosity to cause a consult with our vet. Only necropsy confirmed what we couldn’t have known. Taken from us in a matter of hours, Cammy (Calamity’s Best Shot), died of hemangiosarcoma at the age of six. It’s unfathomable that a tumor was growing in our dog’s heart. To say Cammy died peacefully in her sleep is incongruous with the ugly, graphic reality of that violent rupture in her glorious chest. Late in the afternoon, when the pathologist’s report was sinking in, we were able to smile at one small detail: “Dietary indiscretions,” including lettuce and mushrooms, were found in Cammy’s tummy. Common fare for a creature who ran to the vegetable drawer every time I opened the refrigerator!

I am guilty with the blessings that she didn’t suffer any indignities and that her beauty was never diminished. I thank God for her and know in my heart we never wasted a minute of the time we had together.  

It has been almost three years since Cammy’s passing and this is the first time I have been able to “go public” with this (her) poem and picture. The pheasant and I hung out for many, many months. Now our daily doses of joy and laughter come from a Golden pup named Zena, short for Zenith. The pheasant loves her, too!


Judith Vander Weg, a cellist, lives in Grosse Pointe, Mich., with her husband John and their Golden, Zena. She encourages everyone to write down their thoughts and memories of these precious creatures who inhabit our lives and hearts.
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Submitted by Judith McNeel | January 6 2010 |

"A Poem for Cammy Jane" brings back the smiles and tears as I remember Cammy Jane, the puppy and the Great Golden Hunter of Toys. I remember her romps in our yard, her first swim in the creek, and her love of life. We have a glimpse of the joy of living by remembering Cammy Jane.

Submitted by Keisha | January 7 2010 |

Oh, Cammy, there you are, in these beautiful lines! :-)
...I remember the very first time I went for a swim in the San Geronimo creek - I did it because I wanted to be like you, happy puppy! There is a photo of you and I on my mom's fridge, and we are both beaming, looking very young and jolly! You are in my heart, amiga!

Submitted by J. | January 12 2010 |

"I inhale deeply as if life depends on it", "your delight is a shadow". Your words here are music that we can all relate to. Thank-you for sharing this poem about a most beautiful companion. Happy to hear that the pheasant and you have a new friend.

Submitted by Carol | January 16 2010 |

I read your tribute with tears in my eyes. I lost my beautiful 10-year old rottweiler/lab mix, Harley, to hemangiosarcoma in June 2007. She was diagnosed after discovering internal bleeding and undergoing a splenectomy. She was sent home with a prognosis of 2-4 months. After 3 months, she had another internal bleeding episode and I chose to euthanize her rather than put her and myself through the fear and agony of waiting for her to die in her sleep (or whenever). It was almost 2 years before I felt the blanket of depression receding. Already having a second dog at the time of Harley's death, it seemed necessary to have a companion for her, even though I wasn't ready. Six months later I acquired Roscoe and he patiently waited until I was ready to let him love me. He is a great addition to our family and I can now remember Harley with smiles and affection (and only a few tears).

Submitted by Judith Vander Weg | January 17 2010 |

Through misty eyes I read and appreciate your saga, too, and I'm sorry. Beyond Harley's tragic passing I am touched by your words that Roscoe "patiently waited until I was ready to let him love me". About 6 months after Cammy died we brought 8-week old Zena home. Of course you're head-over-heels for a new puppy but it took many more months for me to let go of Cammy and give myself to this adorable, loving creature - who was waiting for me all along! I am always sad when I hear people say they could never love another dog...

Submitted by Lynn | January 29 2010 |

I, too, lost my beautiful Golden Retriever mix, Maple, to hemangiosarcoma, on December 23, 2009. Four days earlier, without warning, she went into near collapse. A visit to the vet (and an x-ray and an ultrasound) revealed that she had internal bleeding and masses in her spleen and liver. Surgery and chemo were offered, but we were told they would give her no more than another two months. We didn't want to put her through the pain and fear of the treatment for such a short extension to her life, so we just took her home. She rebounded from the initial episode and we had a beautiful, magical couple of days (you wouldn't have known she was sick) before she had another internal bleed and collapsed. With the heaviest of hearts we took her to the emergency vet in the middle of the night and said goodbye. She was the most beautiful dog ever, and my soul dog if there ever was one.

Submitted by Lynn | January 30 2010 |

After re-reading my post, I regret that I sank into my own grief and forgot that my original intention was to extend my condolences for your loss of Cammy and to thank you for sharing your story. I can tell that your Cammy was a beautiful gift from heaven like my Maple, and they're both there on the other side of the rainbow bridge waiting for us! The suddenness and shock of losing a dog to hemangiosarcoma is like a sucker punch in the gut for those who loved the dog, but on the other hand, at least the dog does not have to go through a long, painful illness or suffer the decline of old age. Thanks again for your story.

Submitted by Judith Vander Weg | February 6 2010 |

It made me smile to read that you enjoyed several "magical" days with Maple. Perhaps she was celebrating your love and the wisdom of your decision to not prolong any suffering. I had never heard of hemangiosarcoma and began reading everything I could find for several weeks after Cammy's death. There was only a little comfort in knowing that since the mass was in her heart there was no saving or extending her beautiful life. My condolences to you and your family.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 2 2010 |

Yesterday, I lost my majestic rotti named Rex. It is believed that his passing was due to hemangiosarcoma. He was eight and a half. I understand how you feel. It's pure torment. But the joys our dogs bring to us during their lives are among the strongest love I have ever felt.

Submitted by Judith Vander Weg | February 6 2010 |

Thank you for your comments. This is a devastating time for you and I am filled with understanding. Hemangiosarcoma is dreadfully fast and often without warning. Hang on to the joy and memories of your soul-mate, Rex. Perhaps you will be moved to write down some of your memories. I am NOT a writer but doing so brought a great deal of comfort and order to my grieving.

Submitted by Lucy's Mom | July 21 2010 |

Monday 6/19/10 We lost our beloved Doberman mix Lucy (Goosemonster)to hemangiosarcoma of her heart. My parents and I shared "custody" of Lucy after I left home to get married. My parents loved her just as much as I did and everyday Lucy and Nugget (their aussie mix) would play catch with their "bally" twice a day everday rain or shine with Nana (my mom). Lucy loved to play bally more than anything in life. But right now I'm sitting here 2 days later crying my eyes out trying to understand how a perfectly healthy and happy dog can be fine one day and lose it the next to this god awful angry disease....Sunday night Lucy would'nt eat her supper which never happens and threw up water all over which happens alot. The next morning my mom dropped Luce off to me at work (I own a pet boarding and grooming business) so I made an appointment with my local vet for 4pm. as the day went on she just wasn't herself at all she was very lethargic and not bouncing off the walls like she normally does. I just had a gut feeling that i should take to the emergency vet in Columbus Med vet. So I finished up work and got her there around 345 pm by 430 the vet came in and told me she had fluid in her abdomen and around her heart and he was going to go in with a needle and drain it. There was a chance she wouldn't make it through this so they rushed me into the operating room to see her flat out on a table fighting for her life to say goodbye if it didn't go well. About a half hour later they brought her back into the room i was in tail slightly wagging and I got a big kiss from my beautiful sweet angel. That was the last time I saw her standing. We sat down on the floor her head rested in my lap while they gave her IV fluids. The vet told me that she could hopefully go home with me if the bleeding has stopped by 730 they would re-check her. About 45 min later her breathing got heavy again and i knew the worst was here. I had them drain her again while i tried to make a decision about what to do. I thought i was bringing my dog in for an infection of somekind so i didn't have my husband or my parents go with me. He said if the bleeding would have stopped she may have 2 days 3 months or 6 months or only hours. They could do surgery to remove the tumor and cemo but for what? So she could maybe make it through the surgery to maybe live 3-6 months? What about "bally"? I wasn't willing to do that to her... I would have mortgaged the house to save her life but this just wasn't a good enough prognosis. It took almost 40 minutes to drain the blood this time. They brought her in to me on a stretcher. We laid her on the floor next to me with her head in my lap and i told her what a beautiful wonderful, GOOD GOOD girl she was and how much love, joy and laughter she brought to all of our lives and i had to make the hardest decision of my life...She was more peaceful than i have ever seen her and she looked up at me and i knew that she knew it was time. She went to sleep on her moms lap.....I loved her so much and i don't know what to do. I rescued Lucy from an abusive home when she was 6 months old because i had just lost my beloved Sam to cancer of the right kidney just days earlier. She was there for all of us during alot of hard times and I feel like she and we have all been robbed.I still have three other wonderfull furry children but theres a really big hole in our hearts....."Thank you my gorgeous girl for bringing so much love and joy to our lives and I can't wait to see you over the bridge someday...Fly Fly away my beautiful butterfly". Until we meet again, Mom, Nana, Dad, Brandon, Nuggett, Rosemary, Daisy and Newt XXOOXXOO

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