A Poem For Callie…

A Poem For Callie…

MAY I GO

May I go now?
Do you think the time is right?
May I say goodbye to pain filled days
and endless lonely nights?

I’ve lived my life and done my best,
an example tried to be.
So can I take that step beyond
and set my spirit free?

I didn’t want to go at first,
I fought with all my might.
But something seems to draw me now
to a warm and loving light.

I want to go. I really do.
It’s difficult to stay.
But I will try as best I can
to live just one more day.

To give you time to care for me
and share your love and fears.
I know you’re sad and afraid,
because I see your tears.

I’ll not be far, I promise that,
and hope you’ll always know
that my spirit will be close to you
wherever you may go.

Thank you so for loving me.
You know I love you, too.
That’s why it’s hard to say goodbye
and end this life with you.

So hold me now just one more time
and let me hear you say,
because you care so much for me,
you’ll let me go today.

“Dedicated to everyone who has ever had to have  a beloved dog laid to rest.”

Author: Susan A. Jackson

 

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I cannot take credit for this poem as it was written by Susan A. Jackson, a gifted author and poet who penned it after she had to make the heart wrenching decision to have her beloved dog laid to rest. Although our paths never crossed, Susan lived in my native New Jersey. She wrote this over fifteen years ago and it remains a well-loved poem for the loss of a pet as well as a human family member, often for a hospice patient.

I Am Your Dog…

I Am Your Dog…

Dear Human,

I am your dog, and I have a little something I’d like to whisper in your ear; I know that you humans lead busy lives. Some have to work, some have children to raise. It always seems like you are running here and there, often much too fast, often never noticing the truly grand things in life.

Look down at me now, while you sit there at your computer. See the way my dark brown eyes look at yours? They are slightly cloudy now. That comes with age. The grey hairs are beginning to ring my soft muzzle. You smile at me; I see love in your eyes. What do you see in mine? Do you see a spirit? A soul inside, who loves you as no other could in the world? A spirit that would forgive all trespasses of prior wrong doing for just a simple moment of your time?

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Callie Ann ~ 10 years March 2015 (8 months before she passed)

That is all I ask; To slow down, if even for a few minutes to be with me. So many times you have been saddened by the words you read on that screen, of others of my kind, passing.Sometimes we die young and oh so quickly, sometimes so suddenly it wrenches your heart out of your throat. Sometimes, we age so slowly before your eyes that you may not even seem to know until the very end, when we look at you with grizzled muzzles and cataract clouded eyes. Still the love is always there, even when we must take that long sleep, to run free in a distant land.

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She had a way of getting me outside in the sun like no one else could ! July 2015

I may not be here tomorrow; I may not be here next week. Someday you will shed the water from your eyes, that humans have when deep grief fills their souls, and you will be angry at yourself that you did not have just “One more day” with me.

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Because I love you so, your sorrow touches my spirit and grieves me. We have NOW, together. So come, sit down here next to me on the floor, and look deep into my eyes. What do you see? If you look hard and deep enough we will talk, you and I, heart to heart. Come to me not as “alpha” or as “trainer” or even “Mom or Dad,” come to me as a living soul and stroke my fur and let us look deep into one another’s eyes, and talk. I may tell you something about the fun of chasing a tennis ball, or I may tell you something profound about myself, or even life in general. You decided to have me in your life because you wanted a soul to share such things with. Someone very different from you, and here I am.

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Callie Ann April 14, 2005

I am a dog, but I am alive. I feel emotion, I feel physical senses, and I can revel in the differences of our spirits and souls. I do not think of you as a “Dog on two feet” ~ I know what you are. You are human, in all your quirkiness, and I love you still.

Now, come sit with me, on the floor. Enter my world, and let time slow down if only for 15 minutes. Look deep into my eyes, and whisper to my ears.

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Callie Ann aka Callie Angel

Speak with your heart, with your joy and I will know your true self. We may not have tomorrow, and life is oh so very short.

So please… come sit with me now and let us share the precious moments we have together.

Love,
Your Dog

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Advice From A Grieving Dog Parent…

Advice From A Grieving Dog Parent…

I lost my beloved dog, Callie Ann, on November 6, 2015. Ironically it was not because of her recent lymphoma diagnosis  but rather irreversible kidney damage brought on due to mismanagement of an extremely high temperature by her local veterinarian of nearly ten years. This was not the scenario I had envisioned for my sweet girl. Just earlier that week her oncologist was excited to report that her lymph nodes had shrunk “90%” after just one IV chemo infusion. Her prognosis was excellent and I thought we’d have “more time”. This post isn’t about laying blame but rather regrets for missed opportunities and suggestions that might keep another person from experiencing the heartache and anguish I’ve gone through and to some extent ~ still am.

♥︎Take lots of photos with both you and your 4 legged companion. Callie had an inmate ability to tell if someone was holding a camera and as a result always turned her head away. I’ve got hundreds of photos and videos of her that I often resorted to subterfuge to get but sadly, only a handful of us together. All because I didn’t want a photo of the back of her head. Now, I’d give anything for more pictures of us together ~ back of the head and all.

♥︎Advocate for your beloved companion just as you would for your child or significant other. Just because the person treating your pet has been their veterinarian for years doesn’t guarantee their diagnosis/treatment is correct. If a little voice creeps into your head questioning the treatment or if you get an uneasy feeling in your stomach ~ act. Question your vet, ask for a second opinion from another doctor in the practice. Don’t just assume that because they have DVM after their name they’re automatically right. Callie is proof that mistakes happen and tragically, the cost of that mistake was her life.

♥︎Don’t allow a vet, their tech or their assistant to intimidate you. They need to  accept that you have your pets best interest at heart and understand when you question something. If they are unwilling to listen then find a new practice.

♥︎Never, ever give up if your pet is given a serious diagnosis like cancer. Don’t let the high cost keep you from getting treatment (if the age and prognosis is favorable). There are many organizations that can hep fund the treatment along with Care Credit, fundraising, social media to name a few.

♥︎Know when to say goodbye. None of us want to lose our beloved pet and sometimes that causes us to hold on “just a little longer”. Ask yourself “Am I doing this for the RIGHT reason? If it was me, would I want my family to keep me alive despite my failing health?” Always remember that it’s the quality of your pet’s life vs the quantity of days. As painful as it is, be prepared to give your faithful friend that one final gift.

♥︎Spay/neuter and keep vaccinations up to date. Yes the vet visit can be expensive but if you can’t afford pet insurance call your vet to ask about prices then incorporate them into your budget so that when the time comes you’ll have the money. Also keep in mind that many communities offer low cost rabies vaccinations and animal organizations offer low cost spay/neuter clinics. Do your homework ~ your pets good health is worth it. Trust me, that mani/pedi can wait; monthly heart worm prevention can’t.

♥︎Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Carve time from your schedule to spend with your faithful friend. Take walks, go to a lake or even a lawn sprinkler in summer. Toss a few snowballs in the winter or frolic in freshly fallen snow.Go hiking whether in the mountains or a stroll on a city sidewalk. Create your own adventure! Talk to your friend while cooking, sewing, working on your car. Surprise them with a treat they love like deer antlers, rawhide or a stuffy. Make a ritual you and your pet can do together and that they can look forward to such as getting the daily newspaper, waiting for the school bus or walking to the post office. We don’t realize it at the time but each interaction fills pages in a memory book that will last forever within our hearts.

♥︎Finally, love them unconditionally just as they do you. In a 100 years, will those occasional dog hairs on your black coat really matter? Trust me, I’d give the world to find some of Callie’s precious black hairs anywhere!

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Now go hug your pet!

♥︎♥︎♥︎♥︎♥︎♥︎

Does Time Heal? … Part 2

Does Time Heal? … Part 2

This has been my most difficult post to date. I actually wrote it a week ago but whenever I tried to post  I simply couldn’t get my finger to scroll the touchpad to the Publish widget. Even tonight the  simple task of  proof reading has taken on a life of its own ~ so I’m just doing it…

I’ve pondered my own question since I initially posted it on  June 22 and think that in my case it’s safe to say it doesn’t. Life will be going along at a steady happy pace then out of the blue something happens and you’re transported back to a place you thought was long gone. A place, a time, or even a state of mind that you thought was buried with time yet here it is, front and center, reducing you to a bundle of spiraling emotions and tense nerve endings. You actually experience a physiological state called fight or fight.
The other night I wanted to escape all the horror in the world; the attack in France, assassination of police in Dallas, the civil unrest brewing in America and the ongoing terrorism in other parts of the world. I wanted to forget about my drive to spread the plight of K9s dying in hot police cars throughout social media. I wanted a night away from researching my dog Sasha’s complex and ever-changing medical needs so I turned to an ongoing and numerous subject ~ my hair. Blogged about my efforts over the years to have Pantene like hair and failing. I went to bed that night without a weight on my shoulders and it was truly wonderful. The next morning I was home alone with the dogs when it sounded like a knock on the front door. The dogs went ballistic because a knock on my door is truly a rarity. We live off the beaten path and our driveway is akin to a steep, dirt logging road disappearing up through trees. The only person that comes here with any regularity is the UPS delivery driver because I buy through Amazon frequently.

 

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I don’t even have politicians soliciting my vote during election years. Complete solitude but instead of welcoming a knock on the door I went into a full-blown panic mode of almost epic proportions. Regressing a minute, panic induced because a knock on the door terrified me until I was about 23. It was approximately 14 years since the original life changing trauma, I was a mother and I NEEDED to lock it away because intellectually I knew I was safe. I knew my fear was irrational and I could not allow it to define me any longer, especially with small children who depended on me. I put the traumatic memory in a compartment within the deepest recesses of my mind and sealed it shut. I did the same with each horrible memory, one by one. I could not be the kind of mother my children needed, the kind of mother I ached for as a child as long as those memories were floating loose in my head. Once I completed the compartmentalizing and sealing process, I actually felt  better. I won’t lie and say my psyche wasn’t in turmoil and chaos from time to time but I couldn’t afford to be so I suppressed it. I had an image of the storage area in my mind; it was a dark room with columns of boxes which not only appeared welded shut but each with a chain and padlock. For the most part they stayed safely locked away until 2012. Then came my rude awakening ~ that traumatic memories which have not been properly addressed and processed can never truly be left behind. Instead they lurk below the surface, ready to trigger you at any given moment and often without a precipitous factor. When an employer accused me of theft in retaliation for reporting activity to a state agency which I was ethically and morally bound to do, I knew I was risking my job but it never entered my mind that the repercussions would be so costly to my mental health. Of all the ways they could choose to retaliate they inadvertently stumbled on the ONE thing that most assuredly wold drop me to my knees ~ an unjustified accusation of theft. The very thing that caused so many of my childhood beatings. Of lying on the floor crying that I didn’t steal this or that but not being believed. Of being beat with a leather belt, kicked with feet or being pulled by the hair. All by the parent I loved and at the bidding of a truly demented woman. Even worse, there were no relatives to intervene, no teachers expressed concern about my frequent bruises and cuts, no social service agency reports nor police involvement. As I previously wrote when I tried to describe that day, all the individual compartments within my mind, relics of past abuse and terror, flew open and I was flooded like I never knew was possible. It was as if EVERY incident, EVERY beating, EVERY lie, EVERY emotion was front and center in my car, accosting me from the dashboard. I remember at one point suddenly pulling over, getting out and shaking my head hoping  that would bring me back to the present, as if standing for a minute in the bright sun of a summer day would erase the horrors on the dashboard. It didn’t and even now, four years later I don’t know how I drove home. I have a deep-rooted fear of the police because they removed me from my childhood home before I was even ten years old. Not because I was a physically abused child, not because I was sexually assaulted the summer before kindergarten. It was because my crazy stepmother called them. My father came home later than usual that day and smelled of beer. I had the impression for several years that he wasn’t allowed to go to the bar unless he took me with him, a practice that began the summer before I started kindergarten. My mother would have conversations with herself during the day while sitting in the living room with a tissue tightly clenched in her hand. She wore a pained expression at times and an expression of smug superiority at other times. Superiority was the look she had as she showed me her dresses that she said were cheap substitutes of her expensive ones, switched by the nameless faceless people I was terrified of for many years. She radiated smugness as she proclaimed “They can’t fool me. I’m too smart”. That was the same expression she alternated with the pained look of a victim during the conversations she had sitting alone in the chair. I knew from listening by the door to her talking with herself that women were chasing my father in the bar; that they were trying to take him away. So began my ritual of going to the bar with my father. He had to come directly home from work, eat dinner (or not) then he and I left for the bar. I remember hour upon hour of sitting on the bar stool as he played pool with his friends. I had an endless supply of cheese puffs and orange soda from my fathers drunken friends. I would sit on the barstool staring at large jars of pickled eggs, pickled pigs feet, and just pickles that graced a section of the wooden bar near the beer taps. To this day I despise orange soda, cheese puffs and anything that’s pickled in any way, shape or form. I don’t drink alcohol, never went to a bar/club, play pool and so far haven’t had a conversation with either myself or a tissue.

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PS: I snapped the header photo last week with an iPhone in Bethel  ~ home to one of the several ski resorts in Maine.  I drive there every week for Sasha’s acupuncture. 

 

Something To Think About: “Does Time Heal? Part I

Something To Think About: “Does Time Heal? Part I

The outcome depends on what you fill the time with ~ or rather that’s my theory. Sometimes after life has dealt us a particularly bad hand it’s difficult to get up, shake yourself off and carry on. The pain of losing a loved one, a failed relationship, loss of a wonderful job all take an emotional toll, often on a psyche that’s been bruised once too often. Each of us processes grief differently; I’m not sure there is a “correct” way. Using the death of a much beloved pet as an example, I know people who raised a dog since it was a young pup, making her a part of their family. Their “human” kid and their “fur” kid grow up together. Play time was filled with squeals of fun from both and many times the dog accompanied the family on vacation. Years passed and one autumn day last  the now grown child, college bound, left the family home after tears and hugs were shared with his parents along with  tears, hugs and wet kisses with his furry best friend. At first the dog’s slow pace was attributed to melancholy from her “kid’s” absence. As  autumn waned and winter approached the aging dog didn’t shake what her owners initially thought was sadness. Their once frisky 2 month old puppy was now approaching 14 so they  scheduled a comprehensive examination with her trusted  veterinarian.  After a battery of diagnostic testing they were stunned to learn their “girl” has advanced canine lymphoma (Stage 5) and at best might gain a few extra months with chemo. They agonized and even argued with each other about telling their son. Ultimately they did not because of concern  he’d come home early to see her and the ramifications it could have on his semester finals. They devised a treatment plan with their vet which was palliative, addressing the pain and stress of illness while providing as much quality to her life as possible. When the son arrived home for Thanksgiving he was shocked, angry then heartbroken to see his faithful companion lying on the sofa, a fraction of her former self. Two weeks after he reluctantly returned to college the old girl passed with the help of her veterinarian. Here’s the tricky part; how does one handle the loss of a beloved dog after sharing your life with her for 14 years? The couple in my post chose to find a new dog the same day. They reasoned that a puppy would fill the void created by the old girls death and give the son a surprise when he came home for winter holiday. They called him to say the old girl was free of pain but never mentioned the new family member. In this particular case it created a terrible rift when their son arrived home for the holiday. He had no anger at the new puppy, only with his parents. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. While immediately replacing a deceased pet with a new one might work for some, it could be a recipe for disaster for another. And once again I beg the question; does time heal all wounds? Does the instant family addition negate the years of love one shared with a companion animal? Does it signify a vacant heart or rather, one that is so shattered it craves puppy kisses from a new friend?

This is Callie Ann, my beautiful companion, best friend, protector  and muse for 10 years. I mourned her loss in November 2015 the polar opposite of the family above, opting to ride the “Crazy Train of Grief” yet we both loved our girls without reservation. Their deaths created scars which burned into our very souls, but we handled the time following our losses very differently. Does that mean their wounds were healed in one day or that they loved their dog  less?  Somehow I doubt it. They just chose a different healing process than me. My emotional scars are deep but are also a testament to the unconditional love I shared with a sweet black dog and I am slowly learning to embrace them because they define who I am.

 

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Today also marks 2 months since my dear friend put a gun to his head and committed suicide. I’ve tried to keep busy because to dwell on the “why” is a moot point as I cannot change the outcome. Time has passed slowly but I am coming to accept the loss. I’ve had a few people  comment about his possible reasons but I chose not to engage, even with  one individual who diagnosed my late friend as “prone to suicide” because of his lifestyle. He lived in a sweet cabin set back in the woods for 20 years. By choice ~ his. An environment that was perfect for someone who loved nature the way he did, rife with animals in their natural element, stately trees and an abundance of sounds. Like me, my friend was a voracious reader but the similarity stopped there because he enjoyed fantasy and  paranormal whereas I prefer my reading a bit more grounded. I bought him a series of books about a shapeshifter which he enjoyed immensely. In one of the books he found a quote by the author that he shared. I was dumbstruck when I heard it for it could have been written by him instead of author Patricia Briggs in her book “River Marked”:

“All life is rife with possibilities. Seeds have possibilities, but all their tomorrows are caught by the patterning of their life cycle. Animals have possibilities that are greater than that of a fir tree or a blade of grass. Still, though, for most animals, the pattern of instinct, the patterns of their lives, are very strong. Humanity has a far greater range of possibilities, especially the very young. Who will children grow up to be? Who will they marry, what will they believe, what will they create? Creation is a very powerful seed of possibility.”

Those words so accurately sum up my late friend. He had many losses in his life, many wounds that were so deep that they were incapable of closing. Yet he had a remarkable quest for knowledge, engaging in meaningful conversation/readings and pondering the future and all the possibilities it held. Yes he had deep, gouging scars which perhaps time did NOT heal, yet he used the years to his advantage; to question and learn ~ constantly growing. If only he could have seen that but his past  clouded his vision. I had terrible guilt following his suicide, that in some way I’d failed him. Time has relieved me of that burden and I no longer accept the onus of his actions yet time has not brought me the healing I still need to move forward. It will, just not yet.

To be continued…