Waltzing with Matilda,  

a tale of loss and finding purpose  
Written by Kelly Brookdale At Home Administrator  
Dorothy moved to Tampa last year, to start a new chapter of her life, living with her son and his new  wife. She left behind her friends, her church, and everything she had known. But shortly after the move,  disaster struck, and her son passed away very suddenly. Not wanting to be a burden to his wife, she  made the choice to move into an Assisted Living Facility.  
She liked the idea of making new friends, and being able to socialize with people her own age, plus, she  was going to be bringing her two best friends with her, Adam and Eve, sibling Japanese Chin dogs that  were about 13 years old. Everything was going well, until the week of Christmas, when she realized her  beloved Eve was struggling with untreatable health issues. After a special last meal prepared just for  Eve by the Chef, Eve “passed over the rainbow bridge” in the comfort of Dorothy’s apartment,  surrounded with love, and damp from the tears that Dorothy shed. Residents showered her with  sympathy cards and flowers, and associates came by one by one to give her a hug, and share in her grief.  
Months went by, and life went on, as it always does…  
Dorothy stayed busy sewing, joining activities, and giving extra attention to Adam. And then… the  COVID epidemic struck. (Could 2020 get any worse?) Outings were canceled, the group activities  Dorothy enjoy slowly disappeared, she could no longer look forward to visits with her daughter in law,  and her favorite social time, dinner, was changed to eating alone in her room. But she still had Adam.  Adam kept her on a schedule and was always there for her to talk to, even if the rest of the world had  gone quiet. She planned her days around his daily walks and his feeding schedule. And the visits from  the Home Health team that walked Adam gave her companionship and a bit of normalcy.  
Days of isolation turned into weeks, then months. In June, during Adam’s last walk for the day, the  Home Health Manager Kelly, notice he was struggling to breath and walk. When she brought him back  to Dorothy, she dreaded bringing up his failing health, after so much loss Dorothy had recently gone  through. “Dorothy, have you noticed that Adam can’t stop coughing, and doesn’t seem to breathe  well?” With tears rolling down her face, Dorothy replied, “I know, I already made an appointment with  my vet. I don’t want him to suffer any more, and I want him to be with Eve”. Two days later, once  again, Dorothy held her best friend, as he drifted off to sleep. She had him cremated, and his ashes  placed with Eve’s, so they could be reunited.  
Dorothy’s grief and loneliness both from loss and isolation started taking its toll on her. She started  sleeping all day, and missing her meals. She stopped sewing, or even watching tv. Once happy, and full  of energy, her conversations now revolved around her 5 children and two husbands, that had all passed  away.  
The Home Health Administrator, with permission from Dorothy’s daughter in law, started searching for  a new dog. Dorothy’s request was simply that the dog be cuddly, would want to be loved and petted,  and would give her kisses. However, due to COVID, the local shelters had been emptied, there were no  dogs available. Local rescue groups were of no help, telling Kelly “we have to take in so many dogs from  elderly people who can no longer take care of them, or that are moving into a retirement home, we  simply cannot put a dog BACK into the situation we rescue them from!”  
Finally, Kelly found a rescue group that would at least listen to Dorothy’s story. “What about a Hospice  dog?” asked Mary, the founder of Limbo Chihuahua’s. “I have a dog that is a forever foster, she can’t be  adopted out, because of her age, and because…. she has breast cancer. But she really is SUCH a sweet  dog! Would Dorothy be willing to love her, even if she knows she has a terminal diagnosis?” Kelly ran to  Dorothy’s room. “I found a dog!! Her name is Matilda! Dorothy’s eyes lit up, “When Can I get her?”  And then Kelly explained the situation the dog was in. “Dorothy, we don’t know how long any of us  have on this earth, we don’t know if this dog has 6 months left, or 6 years. The rescue needs someone  to be Matilda’s Hospice mom, to love her and shower her with kisses, not knowing when the end will  be.” “What kind of cancer does she have?” asked Dorothy. “Its breast cancer, and they had to give her  a mastectomy. They tried to get it all, but due to her age, they don’t think they can do any further  treatments, and it may come back.” “I had breast cancer and a mastectomy too!” she proclaimed, “its  ok! I still want her!”  
Kelly helped Dorothy to call the rescue, so she could talk to Mary, and learn more about the dog in need.  “You know, when I was going through my treatments, I would walk down the hallways and pull along my  IV poll on wheels, and I would sing “Waltzing with Matilda”. I would pretend the pole was my dance  partner, and swing it around!” Dorothy then started singing the lyrics to the song. Mary became quiet  on the phone. “The first day I picked up this dog, she was scared, and sick, and had tumors. She looked  so sad in the car on the ride home, I started singing “Waltzing with Matilda” to her to cheer her up. It  made her feel better, so I named her Matilda!” Dorothy and Kelly started to cry. Sometimes, there is  just no mistaking, when something is “meant to be”.  
It’s been 9 weeks. Nine weeks of cuddles, of kisses, of a warm body pressed up against Dorothy while  she is sleeping in bed with Matilda. Nine weeks of a new best friend, of a life shared, and a life saved.  Dorothy can't stop smiling and laughing. She has been inviting her neighbors to come over to meet  Matilda. A suggestion was made to make matching pink shirts for Dorothy and Matilda that say “I am a  breast cancer survivor. Matilda has learned to sit, and to come. Each day, Kelly stops by to check on  them, and asks “Do you want to return her yet?” And they both start laughing.  
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the need for love, acceptance, companionship and  kisses doesn’t fade away with age. If anything, as those we love leave us, as our health declines, and as  the world passes us by, those needs become so much more important. They can even become the  driving force of finding a dog named Matilda.  
Update: Despite her gray hair, Matilda is still prancing around like a teenager and her cancerous  growths have not come back. Unfortunately, it was Dorothy’s health that failed before Mathilda’s.  Dorothy and her caregivers would like to say thank you to Limbo Chichuahuas, for allowing Matilda in  their lives, to share her infectious smile and her love. It filled the past 2 month’s life of Dorothy with  priceless love and joy. If you know someone that has time and love to share with a “forever foster”  animal, please contact Limbo Chihuahua’s. Matilda and several other dogs are waiting to give you a kiss  and snuggles.