In memory of the life, love and wit of Carol Versandi
Bianca's Last Stand
December 23, 2014
11 years ago, my wife Amanda and I rescued our dog Lulu from the Brookhaven Animal Shelter.
Anyone that knows us, knows Lulu. We're a team. A packaged deal.
In fact, she's more a part of my family then I am.
She certainly gets more attention. That's for sure.
Anyway, shortly after getting Lulu, we took her for a walk around the neighborhood. Getting her acclimated to her new environment. Giving her time to stop and sniff the roses. Both literally and figuratively.
While walking past a house that was almost parallel to ours on the next block over, a young man named Doug, spotted Lulu and said something like "Wow, great looking dog! Hang on 1 second."
He ran into his house and came back out with his own dog, Bianca.
Bianca was about a year older then Lulu, but had double her energy.
The dogs immediately took to one another and began running around Doug's front yard at top speed.
They ran, they played, they ran some more, until they were both exhausted.
Doug said it was amazing how easily they got along (and how closely they resembled one another)
Bianca wasn't all that great with other dogs and there had been a few questionable instances with Lulu as well.
But the dogs almost instantly became best friends.
That might sound strange to someone without a dog, but trust me, it happens.
Looking at all of this in hindsight, it turned out to be one of those weird "meant to be" chance meetings.
I just didn't realize how significant at the time.
For the next year or two, every time we would walk past Doug's house, he would run inside and get Bianca.
We got to know not only Doug, but his Aunt, his Uncle and his Grandmother whom he lived with.
Sadly, one day while walking past his house, his Uncle informed us that Doug has passed away.
Massive heart attack.
He was only 40 years old.
Bianca was now being looked after by Doug's grandmother, who to be perfectly honest, wasn't in the best of health.
Amanda and I spoke with her, offered our condolences and told her that if she ever needed anything at all, to just call us. We're right around the block.
Her hearing wasn't so great, so who knows if she even heard what we said. For all I know, she might have thought we were selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.
From then on, we never saw Bianca outside.
Occasionally we would see her sitting on the interior ledge of the front bay window of the grandmother's house when we walked by.
About a year later I was outside mowing my front lawn when I saw Doug's uncle walking toward me with Bianca on a leash.
He proceeded to tell me that the grandmother had passed away two days prior and that he needed to find a good home for Bianca.
Without another word, I took the leash and said "I'll take her. No problem!"
Except there was a problem.
Realistically, I couldn't keep her.
I mean, I could, but my wife is a "one dog woman" and it wasn't fair to Lulu.
After all, she had been head honcho of the Versandi household since she moved in.
As much as she liked Bianca, she wasn't about to share any of the attention that was (in her little doggie eyes) rightfully hers.
But my heart broke for Bianca.
She was a great dog. She had buckets of personality – none of which seemed to be diminished by the fact that she had lost two of her owners in almost as many years.
She deserved to live out the rest of her days with love and comfort in security and peace.
And I knew just the place.
A few months prior to all of this, my mom's dog Rocha had to be put to sleep.
She had lived a long full life, but in the end, cancer was eating her from the inside out and she was in constant pain and suffering.
My mom was devastated and swore that she would never get another dog.
To be fair, this was a claim my mom had made several times before.
She loved dogs and I know it was only a matter of time before my aunt took her to the pound and they would both end up with a new dog.
By the way, that is absolutely true.
My aunt used to take my mom out looking for dogs like they were shoe shopping.
They would come back and one of them always had a new dog – usually my aunt.
So I called my mom up and said "Have I got the dog for you!"
My mom put on her usual airs, feigned interest and eventually relented to giving Bianca a "test run".
But we both knew this deal was signed and sealed.
From that point on, Bianca became the most spoiled dog in New York.
Bianca slept on my moms bed while my mom slept on the couch.
She ate fresh chicken while my mom ate tuna fish from a can. In fact, my mother, who had never cooked a steak in her life, suddenly became an expert on choice cuts of meat and demanded only the best.
She loved Bianca and treated her like a Queen.
And all was well.
Until February 1st 2014.
The day I lost one of the two most important people in my life.
My best friend. My mom.
And Bianca lost her third owner.
Every molecule in my body told me that I should keep Bianca this time.
To let her live out her days in my house.
Sure it would be a serious inconvenience, but it was the right thing to do.
By this time, Bianca was older and not as spry as she used to be. She had suffered a spinal stroke a little over a year before this. And although she mostly recovered, her back legs would still occasionally fail her.
It's incredibly sad to see a dog that once ran laps around you, now hobble just to get outside.
She's still just as spirited, but the body is no longer capable.
Despite my instincts and better judgement, in May of 2014, I ended up giving Bianca to a woman named Annemarie who lived 2 hours away from me.
She seemed like a nice enough person, even though she didn't live in the greatest area or on the greatest block.
Before leaving, I told her repeatedly that if there were any problems, any issues, anything at all that she couldn't handle, to call me. Day or night.
If, for whatever reason, she couldn't take care of Bianca, just let me know and I will come back up there and take her back. No hard feelings and no questions asked.
I tried to make that point as crystal clear as I possibly could.
For the first week or two it was a little shaky.
Annemarie called me and said she wasn't sure if she could keep Bianca.
As I mentioned, Bianca's hips her bad and Annemarie had a lot of steps in her house. In fact, just to get out the backdoor, you had to walk down about 7 or 8 steps.
I told her, no problem. I'd come and get Bianca. But I was leaving for a vacation in a few days, so I asked her if she could just hang on to her until I got back. I would call her as soon as I got in and arrange a pick up.
Annemarie said sure. That would be fine.
When I got back home, I called Annemarie several times. After about a week, she finally got back to me saying that she had changed her mind. Both her and her son had fallen in love with Bianca and despite her mobility issues, they were going to keep her and make it work. They even talked about building a ramp on the back steps just for her.
I was delighted. It seemed like Bianca was finally going to get her "forever home" and it looked like it was a good one.
She deserved it and I was finally relieved.
December 22nd 2014
Almost 7 months to the day that I left Bianca in Annemarie's care, my wife spoted this post on Facebook:
I. Was. Livid.
I don't know what happened or how long Bianca had been homeless, but thankfully the Save-A-Pet Shelter where this post originated from and where Bianca was being kept, is 5 miles from my office.
I jumped in my car and head over there within seconds.
On the way I called Annemarie's cell phone several times, leaving several different messages.
One more irate then the next.
And no, as of this writing, she hasn't called me back.
When I got to Save-A-Pet, it was obvious Bianca knew me.
She came walking over and jumped right into my lap, licking my face.
I told the volunteers who were handling her the entire story. Everything up until this point.
They asked me what I wanted to do and I said "I'm taking her."
5 minutes later, Bianca was back in my car and headed toward what will now be her final home.
She's still the same spirited girl she always was. The glimmer of happiness is still in her eyes. But I can see her body is breaking down.
Her back hips are worse then they were before and she can't manage even the smallest of inclines.
I had to carry her into my house twice last night.
But I don't mind.
I honestly don't know if I believe in things like "fate", "destiny" or things sent "from beyond".
I'd like to think they exist, but the pragmatist in me, stops me from truly making that grand leap of faith.
I'm more of a cautious observer. Standing on the precipice, looking out toward the horizon, hoping that there's more then what I see, but never really sure.
However, if you are the type that believes whole heatedly, then you'd have to admit all the signs are there and this isn't just a coincidence.
We're two days away from Christmas. The season of giving.
My mom is gone and it's hitting me especially hard because it's my first holiday without her.
Suddenly one of the last pieces I had of her, a piece I was reluctant to give away, finds it's way back to my proverbial doorstep in desperate need of my help.
Bianca's sheer presence alone is a comfort and the fact that I can give this poor girl the love and care she needs is a joy.
I don't know how much time she has left.
A year. Maybe two. Who knows. She might live another 5 or 6.
What I do know is that I'm going to be there to make sure she's safe and she knows nothing but love until it's her time.
And just this once, I'm going to make that leap and accept…no, not accept…I'm going to believe that this is a gift from my mother to me.
This isn't just chance. This is a gesture. The completion of a plan.
I admit to it. I acknowledge it. I believe it.
And I'm grateful for it.
Thank you mom.
I love you.
Save-A-Pet posted an article on their website about Bianca.