Couple and dog roll on after fire
When a fire broke out last month at Jackie and Bob Schuesler’s home on the Intervale Road in Bethel, Jackie was at the vet with their dog.
Poppee, a 15-year-old border collie/beagle /lab mix, had hurt her back a week earlier when she tumbled down some stairs.
Bob was also not home when the fire started. He returned first to find the house engulfed. The couple lost everything, including two cats and a rabbit.
Everything except Poppee.
Jackie believes that despite their loss, there was some divine intervention involved that put Poppee at the Bethel Animal Hospital instead of at home with the other animals.
“It was bad losing the cats and the rabbits, but losing Poppee ... Bob and Poppee are always together,” she said.
But Poppee’s diagnosis was not an easy fix. The old dog had suffered nerve damage in her spine, making it impossible to use her hind legs.
So instead she got dog wheels.
With guidance from Jeanne Boelsma of BAH, Poppee was set up with a sulky-like device. It attached to her body with a harness, and allowed her hindquarters to roll along as she walked with her front legs.
When they first attached it, said Jackie, “Poppee just stood there and stared at it.”
But with a little encouragement, she was soon wheeling along, navigating the rooms of the house where the Schueslers are staying.
Now Bob takes Poppee to Davis Park three times a day to walk/wheel.
The Schueslers also take her to Songo Pond almost daily for swim therapy (complete with a life jacket), and back to the vet for acupuncture and laser treatment.
Jackie said Poppee is doing well overall, considering the trauma of the injury, the fire and the change of living quarters.
She didn’t eat well for several weeks, but her appetite returned last week.
As for Poppee’s humans, they are also doing well considering the circumstances.
“I feel like someone died and I’m in the mourning process,” said Jackie.
She mourns such things as baby pictures and her grandmother’s vase.
She also grew up in the house where she and Bob lived, so the sense of loss spans a lifetime.
Jackie says she alternates between crying and laughing about her circumstances.
But the support of the community has buoyed the couple, she said.
“It’s beyond anything anybody could imagine - townspeople, businesses,” said Jackie.
The Schueslers have received gift cards, clothes, food - and shredded paper.
Jackie vermicomposts (composting using worms) and paper is part of the diet.
Finding some humor in the disastrous fire, she described how she ran around the perimeter of the burning house shouting, “My worms, my worms!”
Fortunately, the worm beds, located in a shed, were far enough from the building to survive.
Her friends and acquaintenances have responded by supplying worm food.
It helps the worms, but for Jackie caring for them also provides some normalcy in a world turned upside down.
In addition to support from the community, Jackie also relies on her faith in God. She said she regularly repeats to herself the words, “He is a great and mighty God, who has set His plans in place for all of us from the beginning of time. Robert and I have never, ever questioned that. So, here we are” -
Bob, Jackie and Poppee.