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Life Story Club Contributor

I’m going to talk today about my dog, Chance. Chance came to me at a time when my husband had passed away, and my children were so very sad. So a little after my daughter started college, she had a fall, and she was given 30 Motrin pills, which she was supposed to take for pain. But we had also just gotten the puppy, Chance. I named the dog Dordal’s Chance because he came with the name Chance. So it was Chance and the person who owned them. So I figured, Dordal’s Chance, right. This was the first time that I had a pedigreed animal, and I really didn’t know how to treat him. So for a while, he was very sad, and he lived really under the bed. But when my daughter got hurt and she had the pills next to her bed, he thought it was a toy. So, he got hold of the pills one day and went under the bed. And my daughter heard him crunching on the supposed bottle. But it wasn’t the bottle. He had gotten the bottle open and was crunching on the pills.

By the time that I got to him, there was only one pill left. That means that he swallowed or chewed the rest of them. So I didn’t know what to do. My daughter finally thought about calling…what do they call them? poison control. So I called poison control, and they referred me to the veterinarian. I called the veterinarian, and he told me to come right in. So I took the innocent-looking Chance (who looked at me like, “I didn’t do anything”) and I grabbed the cab and ended up at the vet’s door. The minute I got there, the vet took a black stick and put it down Chance’s throat, and he collapsed. At that point, he took him to the back, and I started reminiscing about all of the little incidents that had gone before about Chance. So then the doctor came out and told me it was going to take about $1,500 to save the dog. So I had the $500 and I gave it right to him. Then I called my husband and told him…my husband was still alive at the time. And told him that Chancey needed $1,500 only to just see if he will survive. They weren’t guaranteeing anything. And to think about it. It was a harsh decision for me because I was poor, my husband was poor, and that’s a lot of money. That was basically our savings.

So I thought about it and I thought about it, and I said I could not go home to these children, a boy, and a girl at the time, and just tell them I let him go. So I told the doctor, “Do your best,” you know, and my husband, he just went along for the ride. So that’s basically my story. But after this, he survived, and he not only survived, but he lived to save my life. I had stage two cancer of the cervix. And if it hadn’t been for Chance detecting it, I would have never known I had it. I went to the doctor’s office because of him – because he was acting strange around me. And I had some signs that everything was not well with me. So when I went to the doctor, she told me that, you know, I was early with what I had, and that I had a good chance of survival. And I’m still here, I’m 71. 

This happened when I was like 54. 

Chance lived a good life until I had to put him down for sleep because he couldn’t walk anymore. And he was so prideful that he didn’t like making a mess or anything. So for his sake, I did it. I put him to sleep. I hope that my story reminds you of a pet that you love.

Passing Down Family Recipes

Life Story Club Contributor

November 5, 2020

What I do for myself now that we’re in the COVID thing … and I don’t like to break the rules, I like to be inside. Anyway, I like playing games on my phone. I love to play Solitaire, watch movies, and cook for my grandkids. I have them with me, and I’m fortunate enough to have them with me. And I like to make them special little treats and stuff like that. And I keep applying my time like that. Also, one of several moments in which you felt very happy and content. I was thinking about that one because last night, as the boys lay sleeping, I was looking at the younger one. And I’m watching him and he’s sleeping so peacefully. No stress on him. But he looked so peaceful and that made me so happy and content to see him like that.

As I said, I love to cook for my grandchildren – especially Spanish treats. We have something we call bacalaítos. That’s fritters. You make them with codfish. When I cook them foods like that, I tell them, I give them a little history of how it came to pass and how it’s a part of our culture, like the roast pork and the green bananas.

The other day, I made the older one some tostones. They’re called tostones and it’s one of our cultural foods that we really like. And I was giving him the history of it and he loved them so much. He enjoyed it, every bite of it. So that was a nice moment. I make them anything that I could think of that’s cultural and then teach them the lesson. And the thing is that he’s in a culinary school. He can share with his mates in school these recipes, and with his teacher also.

The history behind tostones is that the green bananas … you have to cook them twice because it’s just one of the foods that traditionally, we eat … you can have it like a snack or part of a meal. It’s just delicious. I mean, I learned about it from my mother, who recently passed away. She was the one that taught me how to cook them. And my father used to love them. And I learned how to make them very, very good, the traditional way, with the salt, and water, and the garlic, and all of that. And it’s from memory I have from her.

As a matter of fact, I learned how to cook from my father. My father was the one that taught me how to cook. When they got married, they lived in Puerto Rico. She was a young woman who had been trained to take care of children. She was like a nanny so she wasn’t taught. Her mother cooked for her all her life until she got married.

My father was a jack of all trades. He knew how to do many things but when he came through in the United States as a first-generation here, he worked in a factory. But he had a lot of skills. Then later on, he moved into working in a ship as a sous-chef. So he had a whole range of things but his main joy was cooking, so he taught me. I learned from him, and I learned to love the kitchen. And I learned how to be a good cook.

Islamorada With My Brothers

Life Story Club Contributor

December 3, 2020

I was in Florida. That’s where I usually like to go for vacations because my brother is there … two of my brothers are there. As it is now, the two that are still living are in Florida and myself. There’s three of us left. Well, this particular year, my brother decided that we were gonna go to Islamorada. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that place. It’s in the Florida Keys.

And so, we made a little weekend trip there and it turned out to be such a good experience. I got to spend time with my two brothers and we were hoping at one point to get the other two to come and have the same experience. But all five of us, as adults, but it never happened. My other two brothers passed away, one recently and one last year. So I was thinking about that. That we had always planned to go back. So a very beautiful place.

The name of the place was Islamorada, it means purple isle. It’s very tropical. We stayed at a beautiful hotel. It was like a family thing. We had two different big, big rooms and we had kids with us and they were, like, all over the place. They were sleeping on the couches. It was just my two siblings, myself, and one of their spouses. The other one was single. I was single at the time, my husband had passed.

But it was a family time thing and my brothers cooked for us. They made all the things that we love. We’re Puerto Rican and we just had such a lovely time. As an adult, I don’t remember ever having spent such a wonderful time with my brothers. And it was like you say a spur of the moment thing. They decided, “Well we’re gonna take sis to Islamorada.” But the place is beautiful. I hope to go back someday.

A Special Thanksgiving With My Daughter

Life Story Club Contributor

November 19, 2020

Something that I’m grateful for is the opportunity to share Thanksgiving again with my daughter. She’s been very ill. She’s on the kidney dialysis list. We’ve been getting a lot of lessons lately. She’s doing well on dialysis, and there’s a possibility that she’ll be able to get a kidney. So I’m grateful most of all for that, but just for us to be a family again because it’s been a long road. She’s been in and out of the hospital. She was in a nursing home for about 14 months and they didn’t want to let her go. And then finally, we got to take her home. And then, it’s been good. So I’m really grateful for that.

We’ll be able to celebrate Thanksgiving together. I’m here right now. And we’ve been having a nice few days, you know, just because I’ve been stuck at home. I don’t go anywhere. So I decided last week to come over early because she needed to go to Cornell University to start the process for the kidney. So I’m really thankful for that.

We can’t even decide yet on Thanksgiving plans because she’s on such a restricted diet. As a matter of fact, that’s what we were doing just a few minutes ago before I did this because she feels sad that she can’t have … we have a traditional meal that we prepare. Macaroni and cheese, she can’t have that, our special rice with peas, Spanish style. We usually make what they call a fresh pork. That, she can have. But there are so many things and you have to be so careful. So, we’re trying to work around that.

So I was telling her, there’s a lot of stuff that is cheese but they’re not cheese. They’re what you call the vegan cheese and stuff like that. And I told her just try to find things that you could substitute for the things that you usually put in there and that’s what we were doing. But this is what I imparted to her, and then Iike calmed her down and took away some of her tears. I tell her, “Let’s just be grateful that you’re here, that you’re actually here to celebrate with us.”

Last year, it was very sad, the year before, because we’ve been in this trouble for two years. I said I’m just grateful that I’m here and whatever we do, we want to do it together and we want to be a family. And Christmas, we were planning our Christmas. You know, two years ago, we didn’t have these options. We were just going from day to day, hoping that she would make it to the next day, you know. So I’m so grateful. I thank God every day.

Last year, she was with us in November but it was still touch and go. And she had to go back and then come home again and then go back again. This is the first year that we were able to say, “Thank you Lord. You know, you’ve given us a good year.”

Learning About el Día de Los Muertos

Life Story Club Contributor

October 29, 2020

My parents were first-generation here. So when they came and I was very, very little, I knew nothing about Halloween or besides Christmas and the other holidays that were from here. I’m from Puerto Rico. So the first couple of years, I’ve seen my mother, around Halloween, lighting candles and praying. So, I’m listening to her say these prayers and everything. But I was very young and, you know, I didn’t ask questions. But as I got older and went to school and started celebrating Halloween, I realized that there was still that day when she would … It was usually the day after Halloween that she would light these candles and pray.

It took me until I was like 12 and I asked her, “Mom why are you doing that?” And she told me, “Well from our culture, we celebrate something called el Día de los Muertos, which means the Day of the Dead, where you celebrate their life. We light a candle for them to let them see their way through to heaven. You know, it’s a tradition that you do these things.” And I learned about it that first year for the first time when I was 12. And it was so memorable to me that after that year, the next year when I was 13, I myself got the candles, and lit them, and said the prayers because I have studied about it during the year and realized that it was important to my Puerto Rican culture.

So I started this tradition on my own when I turned 13. Yes. I’m gonna light my candles on November 1st. It’s not only a tradition, it’s part of our religion, I’m Catholic, that we remember the dead on that day. So, you know, light candles, pray for them that they have a good afterlife and things like that. I still do it. And when I was told about the tradition, I did all of this research on my own.

I kept up my Spanish. I’m one of five children, and I am the only one that is fluent in Spanish. Tradition and culture were very important to me from a very early age. My father was very happy to see that I was interested, especially in keeping the language and the traditions because he saw that my siblings, none of them were interested. So when he saw that I was serious about it, he was very happy to sit with me, to teach me how to speak the language properly.

Family Dog Comes to the Rescue

Life Story Club Contributor

November 12, 2020

When my husband passed away many, many years ago, my children were very sad. So I decided to get a dog. And I gave my daughter she was like 15 at the time I gave her a credit card and I told her where to go, that they have puppies. So she came home with a Cocker spaniel that she paid $500 for. I didn’t expect to spend that much, but he was there and she loved him. So he… the minute he came in the house, he went under the bed and stayed there for a week. And I thought I would have to take him back because he didn’t want to interact with the family. But finally, I got under the bed with him, and I started talking to him and gave him a little bit of pizza and he looked like, you know, he took a little bit of it. I said as long as he eats, he’s going to be fine.

So after that, he started coming out a little bit and … he became part of the family. When he was about a year and a half old, my daughter broke her leg going down the stairs. And she was given medication. She was given a bottle of Motrin. The bottle had like 30 pills. She hadn’t taken any yet because it just happened. So all of a sudden she yells and calls me and tells me, I think Chancey has, that’s the dog’s name. She came with her name because she’s a pedigree. So he tells me he’s munching on something under the bed. I got to get under the bed and I noticed that he had cracked open the bottle of Motrin. But I’m looking for the pills and they’re all gone. And then I pull him out and I see there was one pill under him.

So I panicked. I started telling my daughter to call poison control, blah, blah, blah. The poison control told us to take him straight to the bed. We had a bed for him, so I got into a cabin. I called them back before I got there. The minute I got there, they put a stick of charcoal down his throat and they stabilized him. And then they told us if we want to save this animal, we need at least a thousand dollars up front and another thousand to get him through this and no guarantees. So I now I had a decision to make. Did I want to involve myself in this? What if he didn’t make it? We are not rich but you know, he is part of the family.

So long story short, I decided to save him. I love that animal as much as the kids. So he was touching gold for two weeks, but he made it, he made it and he got to come home. And then we have many, many wonderful years with him until he was 17. But before that, boys really started aging, I got sick, I had cancer and I didn’t know it. And this animal told me basically that there was something wrong with me and that I needed to see a doctor. If it wasn’t for this animal, I would have never gone to see that doctor, and it turns out that I was in the beginning stages of cancer, which was taken care of with surgery and medication. And I’m still here and I’m 70 years old and I’m still here. And I prayed for him. I had him put to sleep when he was 17 years old because he got so old and he was such a proud animal that he didn’t like to make a mess or anything. And it had gotten to the stage where he couldn’t even get up. He had really bad arthritis, but he did help me with that situation with the cancer.

I wasn’t feeling well. And I was weighing down a lot and he kept coming over to me and nudging me in my stomach, like nudging me and pushing against me that he put his head on my knee. Like he would lay down next to me and just look at me like, you know, there was something wrong. He wasn’t right. He was so intelligent. So I knew I wasn’t feeling well. And I had symptoms but I wasn’t taking them seriously. But when I noticed that he started doing this, I have read somewhere that animals often can tell you when there’s something wrong with you. So I took that as a sign and I went to my OB-GYN and I was in the second stage of cancer. So I had the surgery and I had some treatment and I really thank him for it. I thank him, that animal was my life. My children and myself we adored him and he lived to a ripe old age of 17.

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