“Daisy” of My Heart

Good Morning and Happy Summer, to you! It’s hard to believe the Summer season is finally upon us after a brutal Winter, over here in Pennsylvania. With that being said, the entrance of a new season and completion of a swift training program brings to me an announcement I’ve been waiting to make – On February 17, 2018, a new family member, best friend and companion entered my life by the name of Daisy. It’s hard to envision life without her, as everyday is an adventure, filled with excitement and new possibilities. With Daisy, the simplest moments become exciting and she teaches me to appreciate the smallest things in life, as they often become the things that make our lives whole. As the rescues often say, “Who rescued who?” Welcome Home, Miss Daisy and Happy “Gotcha” Day!

Daisy smiling          Daisy 9           Daisy toys

It’s important for me to note how Daisy and I first became “acquainted,” so to speak. Following my beloved Oliver’s passing, I began to research and follow numerous area animal rescue organizations via social media (i.e. Twitter & Facebook) and would regularly browse their available animals. Though many of the animals (or all of them, rather!) tugged at my heartstrings, none of them summoned a connection or pull to me. That is, until the first Sunday morning in February. It was a brisk day, albeit bright and sunny, and there I sat, on the iPad mindlessly perusing through my Facebook feed, not believing I’d find anything remotely interesting. Without warning, a white-haired, light brown spotted furry creature with a pleasant smile and the most beautiful/unique eyes – a light russet hue, graced the screen. Her name, as stated by Crossing Paths Animal Rescue (www.xpar.org), headquarted in Alabama, with various satellite sites (a local one by me, in Pennsylvania) was Cinderella and several months prior, she’d given birth to numerous puppies. With all of her puppies adopted and in their “furever” homes, now it was Cinderella’s turn at a new family and home. As I read her story and gazed at her photos, something within her stood out to me. Just about where I sat was the painting of Oliver, created and sent to me by pet supply company, Chewy.com and as I looked up at his photo, I couldn’t help but feel (as strange as it may sound) an approval and encouragement by him. Since his passing, a piece of my heart lay empty, longing for Oliver, wishing I could see or touch him again. His final day still haunts me; I can still hear my voice calling to him as I rocked him in my arms one last time, “I love you so much, Oliver, I love you so much.” Still to this day, I wish he hadn’t left me, but I know of the pain and anguish he was in for so long and force myself to believe he is over the rainbow bridge, enjoying all the pleasantries of where he is. With that being said, I still feel his presence and felt his urging to submit an application for Cinderella, giving me his approval. In a way, I felt him saying, “There is so much love inside you, Melissa, why not give that to another dog in need?” “Give yourself the chance to love again, don’t deny yourself the chance to experience another one of my friends; it’s okay, I know you’re not abandoning me, you’re continuing my legacy.” For so long, I was unable to take Oliver for walks, unable to see him enjoy his dog food and treats or life in general, due to his significant health issues and I realized at that moment, adopting another dog would give me the chance to give all that repressed love to another who is truly as deserving.

Daisy selfie              Daisy 1             Daisy 2

Within an hour of first seeing her, an application was completed and submitted to Crossing Paths Animal Rescue for Cinderella (who would soon become Daisy). About two weeks or so later, Daisy arrived at a local Petsmart in my area via transport van from an Alabama shelter with an assortment of other dogs, also being adopted. The day she arrived was one of the coldest days of the Winter, but standing outside and seeing her, also made the day one of the warmest, in a sense. Life with Daisy is never short of an adventure. She is full of energy, life and zest, with a true puppy-like nature (one I still have trouble remembering, as Oliver was 15.5 years and it had been so long since I’d been around any dog with that amount of momentum!). My favorite points in the day are when I am outside in the warm sun with Daisy, taking our time walking and looking up at life. Each time I hold her leash, I can’t help but smile as I see her swaying from side to side, sniffing the ground, taking in the sights and smells. Sometimes I find myself wondering what her early life was like in Alabama, but I try to live in the present, letting myself love and enjoy her the way she deserves. When I become sad due to the daily stresses of life, I take a moment to sink into Daisy, holding her in my arms, petting her, and realizing how even though I feared I might not be able to love another dog the way I loved Oliver, there are all different types of love and plenty to go around.

Daisy 4              Daisy 7

With Daisy, my home and heart is full again and I know Oliver couldn’t be prouder, not only of me, but of his sister. Often times, I’ll tell Daisy stories about her brother, Oliver, and as strange as it may sounds, I know she understands and accepts her title of sister, with much pride and contentment. Each and every day, I’m so thankful for Daisy, so glad I stumbled across her photo and so blessed to have submitted the first application for her as they proceeded to receive countless ones following mine. I thank Oliver for watching over me and for giving me the greatest gift – the chance to love another.

Daisy Rescue      Daisy HomeDaisy chair            Daisy Waiting

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Memories in Paint

Yesterday, upon arriving home, I was greeted by a surprise that not only captivated me, but brought me to tears which persisted the entire day. The tears I shed were tears of mourning and grieving, but also tears inspired by a touching, genuine and kindhearted act by a company I’ve come to know and love. Therefore, the following is a post on my personal Facebook page from yesterday, detailing the monumental event:

It’s been just over two months since my family and I lost our beloved Oliver. In that time, the healing and grieving has been slow and painfully difficult. For me and I’m sure also my family, it’s still surreal to accept his absence, given he was the heart of our family.

A pet food and supply company, Chewy.com whom many of you may be familiar with recognized our loyalty and deep loss. Shortly after Oliver’s passing, a bouquet of beautiful crimson roses arrived at my doorstep and just today, a beautiful custom-made painting arrived of Oliver, bringing tears to my eyes. For those of you who might have known him, this painting truly captures his uniqueness and true self, right down to his characteristic pink nose.

Oliver painting                Chewy roses

If you’re a pet owner or might be one someday or know someone who is, Chewy.com is not only a pet food/supply company, but a sense of family and a community. They pride themselves in reaching out to their customers in all situations and circumstances with heart and understanding.

I just wanted to share this today because companies like Chewy.com are often hard to find.

*In memory of our beloved, Oliver, forever in our hearts – 3/10/2002-11/22/2017

An Insatiable Longing

It’s been several days and I feel the loss as though it is continuing to happen again and again. Sometimes, the thought of you is still there, but will fall deeper into my mind, but other times, it will arise with a vengeance and often without warning, summoning tears to flood from my eyes. My entire 29-years of life I don’t believe I’ve ever felt a loss as profound as this, the void seeming to grow larger each day. Where I often sit at home, in the living room with my laptop, I’ll look to the right, expecting to see your dog bed sitting there, with you inside, sleeping or relaxing. Other times, I’ll look up across the room at the other sofa, half-expecting to see you sleeping on the arm on the sofa, as you did years prior. Every time I look at your usual spots, however, it’s not you, but the memory of you I see, a memory I carry so deeply in my heart and mind. The longing sometimes increases with such intensity and I can think of little to quell it.

Grieving Quote

These days, some of the only things providing me solace are the several quotes I’ve found in relation to grieving, such as these:

“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

More so than anything, I hope for my loved ones to heal; watching them hurt and me not being able to take away their pain is one of the hardest parts. Grieving is a process, an individual one for all of us, but I hope they know I’m recognizing their pain and hoping for a healing for all of us and that our Oliver knows how truly loved he was and will always be.

Dog Grief

 

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Today is Thanksgiving and this year, as I do every year, but even more poignantly this year, I have so very much to be thankful for. For the past 15.5 years, I’ve held the honor of being an owner of dog, my sweet Oliver, who I’ve written about countless times before. He was not a dog to me, but my family, my support, my strength and my constant companion. This morning, because I was unable to last night, I shared on my personal Facebook about his pathway to the Rainbow Bridge, where he plays today, free of pain and discomfort, delighting in all of his favorite foods and toys. The following is my post:

Yesterday, as the sky cleared and the sun began to emerge from the clouds of darkness, you were carried over the Rainbow Bridge, the bridge where you are greeted by the others waiting for you, where you can run, where you are free of pain.
 
As you departed, I held you in my arms as you nestled your body close to mine and I could feel your soft, curly fur and your shallow breaths. For a moment, your eyes fluttered open and gazed into mine and it was then I let you know you were safe and it was okay. For a moment, I could feel your dry nose against my skin and I could still hear the familiar sounds of your breathing I heard for 15 and a half years.
 
Then as you lay before us, we held your paws and each other, as you departed just as we first met. We didn’t say goodbye, but rather see you later, as we know we will.
IMG_4493
 
Oliver (March 10, 2002-November 22, 2017)
“Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
When you’re broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
If you only look around
You will be found.”
Happy Thanksgiving to whomever may be reading this today.

Every Healing Has a Paw

That day stands out to me like no other. It was May 20, 1997, a warm, humid day, in late Spring. As a newly-minted 9-year-old, it was customary for me to ask the same question each day after school as I approached my mom, who would be waiting for me at the end of the hallway in the school building at just about 3:30pm; how is Grandmom? Since the preceding October, my maternal Grandmother diagnosed with Leukemia, was in and out of the hospital, receiving chemotherapy, shortly going into remission in the Winter, only to experience a relapse in early Spring. Her prognosis was grave, but we were still hopeful as she underwent another round of treatment. The early activities of the day are blurry to me, but I remember arriving home and sitting at the kitchen table with my sister, as we so often did, but this day, the room was filled with silence instead of music radiating from MTV’s Total Request Live. It was a sunny day, the sky a pristine blue, with a gentle warmth in the air, but sadness and fear engulfed my family and I. I remember thinking it was strange, seeing my dad home during the afternoon, watching him sitting at the table, expressionless. We all sat there at the table for awhile, until out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a flash of golden fur from outside, catching it reflecting off the sliding door.

Dog Healing

Merely minutes later, I came to know his name was Darby, a young Yellow Labrador Retriever, owned by a young couple who were fairly new to the neighborhood and unbeknownst to us, living directly behind us.  Before meeting and becoming accustomed to Darby, I hadn’t known much about dogs, except the fact that I believed them to be cute and friendly. My extent of experience with dogs had been reading Clifford books or watching them on TV. In person, I’d never so much as played or pet any dogs – until this moment, that is. That particular day, I was filled with a sadness I’d never truly known, and was unsure how to silence it, or at least alleviate it. Seeing Darby, I asked both my parents, if it would be okay if Hope (my sister) and I went outside to play with him. With their approval, we made our way outside and asked his owners if it would be okay for us to play with him. Within minutes, Darby, Hope and I were running together through our respective backyards with frisbees, laughing and delighting in the cool breeze, our worries quickly slipping away. Sometimes, I’d stop to run my small fingers through his soft, golden mane, or to let him happily lick my arms and face. Seeing his happy, carefree smile filled me with a joy I’d never truly experienced before until that moment; the moment my love of dogs was cultivated. From that moment on, I knew I was meant to be a dog owner. Though I didn’t become one until my 14th birthday, Darby created for me, the ability to love another, canine and human, igniting a healing from a pain no 9-year-old child should ever have to experience.

Dog Quotes             Dog Quotes 2

Looking back, I owe Darby a lot for that day. While he might have only shown up, by doing so, he helped me heal and taught me the meaning of selflessness, of taking life one moment, one laugh and one smile at a time. I’m grateful for that day, because no matter how painful it was, it taught me that “We don’t always need advice. Sometimes all we need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a heart that understands. Sometimes all we need is a dog.”

Paw Prints Heart

 

Paw Prints on My Heart

I’ve never known romantic love. I’ve never felt that deep connection or pull propelling me towards a man.. yet. I’m not a mom and have never experienced what it might be like to mother a child.. yet. One feeling I do know, quite fondly for that matter, is the love between a dog and it’s owner. Since days before turning 14-years-old, I’ve been able to proudly identify myself as a dog owner, or “dog Mom,” more appropriately. I’ve known what it is like to care for another being so profoundly. To be sitting at school or work, wondering what he’s doing, thinking or feeling and if it’s he’s okay. I’ve known what it is like to worry for countless hours as he was rushed into emergency exploratory surgery after a grave, life-threatening surgical error on part of a veterinarian. I’ve known what it is like for my entire family to gather together during this moments as we anxious and nervously awaited word from the veterinarians regarding his status.

Oliver in his shirt.png                       Oliver smiling 2

Throughout my entire adolescence and adult life, Oliver, my 15-year-old Bichon Frise has taught me more than most people probably could. He’s taught and shown me the meaning of resilience and strength, even when he’s in pain. He’s stayed by me because he knew I needed him and still do. He’s been my one constant in my life – my only consistent co-worker, sitting beside me through the pain, the happiness, the turmoil, the challenging moments, only separated for brief periods of time throughout the course of his life.

Paw Prints

He fills the house with energy and light, even when he’s fast asleep in his bed, I can still feel his presence, clearly coloring my life and being my constant companion. When I reflect on his life and all the moments we’ve shared together, I only smile, as I remember him as a puppy, laying on the grass with me as a young teen, as we helped put together a swinging outdoor chair in our former house. He’s been through more than many dogs probably have their lifetime and yet, he epitomizes strength and courage. He looks to me with his eyes filled with emotion, almost telling me he is holding on, still filled with much life inside of him. How I hope he knows each and everyday, I’ll always fight for him, always stand up for him, because he’s always done so for me, looking to me for guidance and direction. Him and I have never given up on each other, holding on through love and courage.

Animal Eyes

I’ve come to know through Oliver that often times, the best cure and treatment for most anything is love and companionship – two remedies that are never too costly for anyone, because they are priceless. The greatest gift I’ve ever been given is Oliver, it is because of him, I know I’m capable of loving another.

Dogs Feel

 

Reach for Hand, Lend a Paw

Today is National Love Your Pet Day and I find it particularly fitting in that in a mere two weeks, I’ll be celebrating 15 years of pet ownership, or more specifically, when Oliver, my bichon frise, joined my family. Ever since the early years of my childhood, I’ve been a fan of dogs, enthralled with their pleasant, spunky nature, their ability to comfort, inspire a smile and simply maintain a calming and joyful presence.

oliver-after-eating            dog-quote

Several weeks prior to my 14th birthday, my mom announced she found an ad in the newspaper for bichon frise puppies, just having been born. Once the phone call was made, my mom, sister and I ventured to the short distance to the woman’s home whose dog had recently birthed several bichon puppies. The puppies fit in the palms of our hands, their white fur just starting to take on their signature curl. Too small to leave their mother, we waited several weeks until we ventured back to choose our new family member.

oliver-alone

From the moment I spotted him, I knew he was the one. The smallest of the bunch, he was a bit timid, but inquisitive, and I knew, there was something special about him. At first, my family questioned why I was so set on him when his other siblings happily frolicked about. For me, though, perhaps there was something about Oliver that resonated so deeply within me. From that moment on, I knew it was him; my co-pilot, my friend, my companion, the one constant in my life, who would be there through it all, always waiting for me at the end of the day.

oliver-busy-bone

So today, a day when we commemorate the love our pets, I’d like to share a montage of photos I’ve accumulated through the years, showcasing Oliver in his happiest moments, adding joy and light to my life and my family, showering us with love and care. He is truly loved and that love has persisted through his 15 years and will always continue. Here’s to you, Oliver, thank you for being you, thank you for your love, your presence and your guidance. Thank you for teaching me the meaning of resilience and strength and that sometimes, love is the best medicine we could ever give.

oliver-busy-treats              Oliver in his shirt.png     oliver-tongue