Chapter 70: Strawberry Pop Tarts

I run into the bathroom at work after smelling Mary’s Chicken and Broccoli stir-fry. This had been happening for the past few days, it was weird, like I had some kind of bug or something. It had been really bad lately, it seemed like every time I smelled something I would get nauseous and I was so tired. I felt like shit, but I needed to stay in work today. I had already gone home early yesterday so I was behind. After I dump the little content that I managed to keep in my stomach from breakfast into the toilet I clean up and go back to my office. Shutting the door and opening the window, hoping to get the sickening smell out.

“Still sick?” Mary asks popping her head in quickly.

“Ugh, yeah. I think it might be from that one kid that came in with his bull dog the other day, he said he was feeling sick,” I say pulling out a folder and getting to work.

Bran studies me from his place on his dog bed. He was the only one that came with me today. It had been 3 weeks since his diagnosis and he was doing pretty well. He went everywhere with me, I wanted to keep him around me as much as possible.

Sid was coming home today from 2 day road trip, the season had just started the previous week. He would be getting home when I was still at work and I couldn’t wait to see him. It made the day go even slower.

Sid’s POV

I pull into the driveway, glad to be home after a 2 day road trip. We had had 2 games in a row, one against the Habs, the other against the Leafs. We had beaten the Habs, but fell to the Leafs. Not the best start of the season, but it wasn’t exactly easy having to travel for two days and have a game each day. I unlock the door and walk in finding that Caitlin had left most of the dogs at home. I smile as my hand passes over each of them as they fight for my attention. The house was packed. The pups were like bamboo, I swear they grew when I was gone those 2 days, they were already lab size. And Sam was there too; he always stayed when we were on road trips. I let them out and head to the kitchen, looking through the mail. I press the play button on the answering machine, finding 2 messages.

“Hi Sidney it’s Mom. I just wanted to congratulate you on you’re win against the Habs, you’ll get the Leafs next time. Call me when you get home. Love you.”

“Moms,” I sigh with a chuckle as I open some sort of bill.

The answering machine beeps and begins to play the next message.

“Hello Caitlin, this is John Garcia from DogTown. I called your office yesterday but your secretary said that you were at home sick. Hope you feel better. Anyway, I’m calling because I was wondering if you could reference anyone for the job I had offered you, we’re in a tight spot. If you could even just come up for a week and help us out that would be great. Alright, thanks.”

I stare at the machine not knowing what to feel. She was offered a job? Why didn’t she tell me? Was she going to tell me? At least she had refused it right? But what if she still left?

“I know, I see you,” I hear a female voice come from the living room. I walk out of the kitchen and see her juggling a few folders in her hands as she she tried to maneuver around the pile of dogs crowding to see her.

“Hey!” I smile walking over to her.

I see her eyes brighten a bit and she smiles as I take some folders from her hands. I bend down to kiss her but she turns her head at the last moment so that my lips connect with her cheek.

“Still not feeling good, eh?”

“No, I think a kid I helped the other day gave me this bug,” she sighs as she walks into her office. She puts the folders down and I set the ones in my hand down next to hers before I grab her waist pulling her to me.

I lower my lips down onto hers before she can stop me, feeling an static charge go through my body as they connect. She pushes me away quickly.

“Sid! You’ll get sick!” she starts walking out of my arms. She had been in a funk ever since she found out about Bran 3 weeks ago. I frown and lean against the edge of the desk, watching as she shuffles through some papers.

“Are you coming to the game tomorrow?”

“ I plan to,” she mumbles not looking up.

“Babe, what’s wrong?” I ask grabbing her hand and pulling her over to me.

She looks up at me with chocolaty doe eyes and I can tell something is bugging her. But as soon as I see it, it’s gone. She lets out a long sigh and steps into my arms.

“I just miss you,” she mumbles into my shoulder.

“And…” I push, to which she answers with another sigh. She hesitates and won’t look at me, her lashes fanned out against her cheeks as she looks at her hands.

“Caitlin, what’s wrong?” I ask gently. She hesitates before she sighs again.

“I had to turn back today and let Bran in the house. He couldn’t handle the jog,” she says so quietly I almost didn’t here.

“Come here,” I order gently. She plunges into my arms, but doesn’t shed a tear.

“He couldn’t keep up, but he was trying so hard. And he started dry heaving in the grass… I had to take him back,” she whispers, her cheek pressed against my chest, “I don’t want him to go Sid.”

“I know you don’t,” I sigh as she sniffs into my shoulder. She was finally beginning to let me in a little more, allowing me to see how much she was hurting. Sometimes I really had to pry the truth out of her, but she wasn’t shutting down anymore. For once she was letting me in, letting me take care of her and comfort her. As much as I hated how she was hurting and I didn’t want Bran to leave either, it was giving me a chance to be her partner.

I had been thinking of buying a ring, maybe asking Beth to help me pick it out. But it was tricky; this wasn’t the right time to do it. And every time I thought about putting a ring on her finger and officially making her mine, my thoughts drift back to the night of my birthday. I wanted to get it off my chest, to tell her and clear my conscious, but how could I? I just couldn’t do that to her. And now, with this job thing that she didn't tell me about. Why hadn't she told me?

Caitlin’s POV

I had taken the day off because I was feeling like shit, AGAIN! Ugh I was getting so sick of all of this nausea. I could hardly keep any food down, but I was constantly thirsty. I had already finished my second souvenir cup of ice water and it was only 10:30! I needed something sweet. I walk into the kitchen from my place on the couch; the dogs and I were watching Must Love Dogs.

What to eat, what to eat? I pick up a box of pop tarts, perfect. My mom always used to say she craved strawberry pop tarts when she was… oh my God. I feel myself pale and the packet of pop tarts I was holding falls to the floor. My hands come to my stomach… am I?

I grab my keys off the counter and run out the door and to the car.

I pace around the bathroom; this had to be one of the longest few minutes I had ever experienced. Bran sat by the door watching me pace. Finally my cell phone went off, telling me it was time. I take a deep breath, feeling my stomach full of butterflies. I hold my breath, as I get closer. I look at the plastic stick on the counter; very clearly it reveals a plus sign. My stomach falls, I feel my breath catch, and a small smile appears on my face.

“I’m pregnant,” I whisper with a smile to know one in particular.

September 19, 2009 at Saturday, September 19, 2009 , 10 Comments

Chapter 69: The Offer

After lying in Sid's arms for what seems like forever I had fallen asleep, a deep sleep plagued by dreams of Bran dying. I woke in tears a couple times, Sid comforting me if he heard me, being the perfect boyfriend he always is.

The next morning I feel the bed dip slightly and a cold nose press against my face. I inhale deeply and look to my right to see Flash staring at me intently, trying to get his point across.

“Alright Flash I’m up,” I whisper.

That’s when it kind of hits me again. Bran’s days are limited. I had finally fallen asleep from my last wake up and my head was pillowed on Sid’s chest, my hand covering his heart. I felt the beat slowly beneath my palm, trying unsuccessfully to get my heart to beat at the same tempo. I sigh and look up at his face, biting my lip. Without Bran in my life, he would be my rock. Sidney would be there for me, I don’t know what I would do with out him.


“Alright Flash,” I say carefully getting up. I walk down stairs and after a brief “good morning” to my pack I let them out. While they’re out, I run back upstairs and change into my running clothes.

Going back down I let Maggie inside and see her dash up the stairs, probably to go sleep with Sid.

I chuckle and step out into the warm air. I now had 5 dogs running with me in the morning before our walk, Ty and Finn joining the group. I was training them to be SAR dogs with Flash and Hawkeye. Which was especially important being that Bran couldn’t do it anymore.

I sigh as I stretch my tired muscles. I look down to Bran who was sitting next to me. Finn was sitting next to Bran as the other dogs lay in front of me. All watching me intently waiting to run. I look back to Bran and Finn. Finn’s white hair shown brightly against Bran’s black, but the blue eyes were almost identical, although they didn’t stand out as much as Bran’s. I had named Finn because of his light colored fur. I also hoped, even before I found out about Bran, that he would follow Bran’s lead and become a good partner. Much like the relationship Finn Mac Cool (the legend) had with his dog Bran.

“Alright, guys, Let’s go!” I say jogging down the porch steps and onto the road, my pack (minus Maggs) following behind me. My feet find the rhythm easily, after all I have been running for years, and pound against the pavement. I look back to see Bran panting more than the rest, but he was still keeping up. I bite my lip willing the tears not to come as I keep running. I was sick of crying. I needed to live in the moment like Sid said. Appreciate what I have now while he still here. From now on, no one would see me cry.

As I run back to the house I find a different car in the drive way, one with a car seat facing backwards in the back seat. I smile and jog up the stairs of the porch and into the house, the dogs following close behind. I pull my ear buds out of my ears and put my iPod on the end table by the coats. I turn around and I’m immediately pulled into a hug.


“Cait I’m so sorry to hear about Bran. Sid just called me and told me what happened. This just isn’t fair, first Annie and now Bran. No one should go through this. Especially not you, and Bran I can’t believe it. What did the doctor say, are you going through with Chemo?” she seems to say in one voice.

My jaw clenches as I swallow a wave of emotion.

“I’m ok Beth,” I sigh.

“Ugh, you’re all smelly and sweaty,” she says disgusted as she pulls away.

“Well, that’s what happens after you run over a mile,” I roll my eyes.

“Go shower, I brought ice cream and depressing movies,” she says with a bag in her hands.

I smile as I feel a wet nose press against my leg and turn to find a big white dog looking up at me.

“Hey Koda! Are you being a good boy for Beth?”I ask with a smile, bending down to pet him as he wags his tail furiously.

“I’ll go put the movies in and make popcorn,”Beth says heading to the kitchen.


She stops in her tracks turning to look at me.

“What? But Caitlin…”

“No Beth. I’m not going to start… mourning. Bran is still here,” I state bluntly.

“Cait… you can’t just keep all these emotions bottled…”

“I’m fine Beth,” I growl.

“Ok, fine,” she frowns.

Suddenly there is a knock on the door.

I walk over to open it to see a man with shaggy dark hair, his hands in his pockets as he looks at me through dark eyes. A Rottweiler stands next to him. The dog wiggles his butt excitedly wagging his tail and trots in to see me.

“Hey Sammy!”I laugh bending down to pet the dog before Sam goes off to visit with all the other dogs.

“Hey Kris! How was your summer?” I ask going over to give one of my best friends a hug.

“Hey Ace,” he sighs sadly pulling me tight against him. Boy did he smell good. “Sid told us about Bran.” 

They had had an optional skate today, so of course Sidney was there. Kris must have left early. He really was one of my best friends.

“Oh,” I frown.

“Caitlin I’m so, s…”

“No Tanger. I don’t want the sympathy, Bran is … he’s still here,” I sigh looking over at the black dog who standing next to me watching the Sam interact with the new pups. “And I’m not going to mourn him when he is still here.”

Kris looks at me with a small sympathetic smile nodding his head in understanding. He chuckles and pulls me into another hug. 

“Well, the boys are on their way over here to cheer you up anyway,” he smiles at me.

“Just tell them I don’t want sympathy. I want life to go on like normal,” I sigh.

“Will do Ace,” he smiles giving me a small salute.

“Well since you don’t need a shoulder to cry on,” Beth stated somewhat bitterly, “I guess I’ll just head home.”

“Beth I’m sorry, but when have I ever needed a shoulder to cry on?” I ask with a small chuckle, “And you are welcome to stay for the party.”

She smiles at me, “Good point. And thanks for the invite but Zach is off today too, so maybe we’ll take Brad to the zoo or something. So if it’s ok, I’m going to leave Koda here, I’m sure he’ll have a better time here than sleeping on the couch at home.”

“Sure thing Beth,” I smile.

“Great thanks Cait, I’ll come by for him after dinner,” she says giving me a hug and heading out the door.

“So, can you at least tell me what’s up with Bran?” Kris asks from behind me.

I sigh and look at him, my eyes connecting with his dark ones. I know my pain is showing through a little bit and I quickly look away. Kris was always good at picking up on emotions.

“Caitlin I know you’re hurting right now, but I also understand that you need to keep it all in. Can you just tell me what the vet told you?” he asks quietly coming close to me to put his hands on my shoulders.

I sigh and nod my head. "Yeah, ok. Do you want a cup of tea?"

"Umm... no thanks I'm good. I'll just steal one of Sid's Gatorades," he smiles following me into the kitchen. 

I put on a kettle of water to boil. My grandfather would always tell my grandmother to put on a tea at times like this. He said that his mother would always do it, just like she would at home in Ireland. I lean against the counter waiting for it to heat and Kris comes up to stand next to me, a bottle of electric blue Gatorade in his hand. He looks at me, expecting me to begin.

"I took Bran to the vet yesterday because I noticed that his glands were swollen," I begin with a sigh, "I think I knew it was bad. But ... I don't know. Anyway, the doctor confirmed it was lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes. That's it."

"Well, is there any cure?” he asks pressing on.

"No." I counter bluntly watching Bran's slight movement of breathing as he lay by my feet. 

"Is there chemo? I mean I've heard that dogs can get chemo..." he begins.

"Yes, chemo is an option. But Kris, chemo only adds a few months maybe a year onto his life. Lymphoma can't be 'taken out' like other cancers. It is in his glands and they can't be taken out."

"But it could add time," he presses gently.

"For what Kris?! So that I can watch him waste away longer. So I can see him suffer with the chemo?!" I snap back.

He looks at me with pity, but a bit taken aback by my sudden out burst.

"I'm sorry," I sigh, "It's just. I've seen dogs going through chemo, they can get very sick and be miserable. I don't want that for Bran. So he is on a steroid that will hopefully send the cancer into remission for a few weeks. But.... he just..." I say my lip quivering as I look down at my partner, "he just doesn't have that long."

I sniff and my voice catches in my throat. Before I know it I'm pulled into Kris's chest, his strong arms around me. I sigh and hug him back tightly. I hated this.

Sid's POV

I go to pull into the driveway but find that I can't. There were cars everywhere. I sigh and find a parking space in my old driveway. They weren't supposed to come. I knew Caitlin didn't really want to see anyone and I had tried to get out of practice as soon as possible. But let's face it, the season was coming up fast and the media wanted the scoop on everything. I knew they were planning on coming being that it was the beginning of a new season and they hadn't had a boys day at my house in forever.  However, I thought me telling them about Bran would put that to rest. 

I walk into the room finding some of the guys playing video games and the others I assumed were in the dining room. I walk up to Jordan fuming.

“What the fuck man?! I told everyone to lay low for awhile, let her be,” I whisper shout at him.

“Dude calm down! We all showed up to cheer her up, you know a movie or something, but she told us that she didn’t want our sympathy. She said that Bran was still here, that we shouldn’t be mourning. And then brought out the poker. She’s in the dining room, kicking ass last time I checked.”

I sigh, I should have known she would try to forget about all this. She was shutting everyone out, like I thought she would and hoped she wouldn’t. I could try to get her to stop, to open up, but that would probably not turn out well. I wanted her to let me in, but I knew she wouldn’t. What I saw last night would be as close as I got to knowing what she was feeling.

Caitlin’s POV

“Mary?! Can you get me Buster Chandler’s file?” I shout into the lobby from work. It was just Bran and the pups with me today, they were snoozing on their dog beds by the couch.

“Sure thing! Oh and there is someone for you on line 1,” she shouts back.

“Thanks!” I shout back before picking up the phone, “Hello?”

 “Is this Caitlin Shaw?” a man asks.

“Yes it is,” I say as Mary hands me a file before walking out of the room.

“Hi Caitlin, this is John Garcia. I’m the manager for DogTown out here in Utah.”

“Hi! What can I do for you?” I ask enthusiastically.

“Well, I’ll get right to the point. There was recently a big dog fighting ring found and with it was a Puppy Mill,” he says.

“Oh no,” I sigh shaking my head, it couldn’t get much worse than that.

“Yeah well, we have quite a few dogs on our hands and we’ve shipped some of the cases we are confident will be easy to rehibilitate out to other shelters, but we still have a good number of dogs and some of them are really difficult cases,” he continues.


“And we have heard of you’re work and we did some research and we would be honored if you joined our staff,” he states.

“Oh! Well… I don’t know… I have my own business and...” I begin.

“We could really use your skill here. I know you have a business and everything out in Pittsburgh, but if you could maybe even take a few weeks off, and help us….” He says.

“I don’t know Mr. Garcia, that’s a lot… and I have a life set up here,” I say.

“Please call me John. And I understand,” he says.

“I’m sorry John but the answer is no, I can’t just leave what I have in Pittsburgh,” I sigh, “I’m really sorry.”

“I understand. I just thought I would ask, and if you ever change your mind our door is always open for you,” he says.

“Thanks John.”

“Thank you,” he says before hanging up the phone.

I hang up and take a deep breath looking over at Bran and the pups, all three were looking at me curiously. DogTown was one of the greatest training facilities/ shelters in the US. A part of me wanted to check it out, see what it was like working there. I could learn so much from that experience. But… my life was here. I had friends here, a business, and I couldn’t leave Sidney. Whether I could help it or not I was head over heels in love with him. I couldn’t leave him, it would tear me apart. Nope. I was staying here in the burgh, for as far into the future as I could see.

September 07, 2009 at Monday, September 07, 2009 , 6 Comments

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Discovering...Love? by AS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.