Archive for the ‘dogs’ Category
One year ago today, I was sprawled on a blanket in the vet’s office. My beautiful, spiritual, best companion – a Golden Retriever named Barbara Bush Mallory – had told me that morning that it was time. She needed to give up the fight. We laid down together, just to be there for each other. And later, I left the vet’s office without my companion. As I sobbed my way to the car, I held tight to her collar. Three days later, I returned to pick up her ashes and a plaster cast of her pawprint.
Today I write about her – for myself. The past year has been an emotional one, and at times I have felt so lonely, so alone, so misunderstood. I live in a new home now. I moved away from St. Petersburg and the home where I saw Barbara in every room after she was gone. Now I am in an almost-perfect small town, with love and friends and beauty filling my life. Still, it does not feel like home. I have been unable to fully unpack – especially in the room where I’d planned to hang my dog art collection – because I do not feel complete. I miss my precious Barbara. It isn’t home. How could it be? I am, for the first time in my 57 years, going through life without a dog.
I don’t mean to say anything negative about what’s happened since I moved here. I can’t count the number of fantastic trips I’ve taken. I can’t count how much I’ve laughed. So many happy days, so many new friends and new emotions. I even rode a horse, and hope to do it again.
Still, there are no words to describe what it’s like to wake up in the morning and still look down to see if Barbara is there, sleeping by my side. I dream about her regularly. And just this week, I SWEAR she barked to wake me up. It was just one loud bark, but it was indisputably her voice. “Get up, Mama. I need to go outSIDE…BARK!”
I have waited until today to go through “her” box. When I opened the box, oh, the wonderful perfume of that sweet dog filled the air. I laid my head on her little pillow and bawled. I have touched her collar and rubbed it on my face. I have thumbed through photos and little things I scribbled down over the course of her life. We had such a life. I’m sorry to say that much of it was bad. For me. I tried to keep my emotions away from her. We walked every day, went swimming, made friends, sang, danced, and did everything we could to enjoy life. And then she got cancer, and it was time for me to be her caregiver. Through it all, right up until the last day, she faced life with a wagging tail and constant kisses for her mama.
I’d give everything I have for just one more day with her. But today marks a turning point. She is not coming back, and I must go into the future with a happy, positive “Golden Retriever Attitude.” I call it GRAttitude. Makes sense to me.
Get those lizards, my sweet Barbara, just like you did in this picture. Chase all of heaven’s squirrels. Be young and free. Wait for your mama. I’ll be there one day, and I hope you’ll be right there, wagging your tail.
Mama always loves you.
Last night, in my first volunteer assignment for our lovely Hospice, I helped at the group’s annual Renewal event. It was a time for people to remember those they’ve lost. We opened with a prayer and introduction, and then the hospice grief counselor sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Next, attendees had an opportunity to say a few words about their loved ones, if they felt like talking (some didn’t). Then they lit a small candle and placed an ornament on the tree in memory of their loved one/s.
Then Brian lit four special candles.
1. For grief, which we all experience, even if we’ve been fortunate and have not yet lost someone dear.
2. For courage, which we need to keep going after a loss.
3. For memory, which will never leave us; those we love will always be with us.
4. For love, which does not fail. “Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
We sang again, then stood, and held hands to form a never-ending circle, while Brian said another prayer. Hug all around after that, followed by some refreshments.
I was there as a volunteer, so no one knew I was also there because I lost a loved one this year, and I miss her more than ever during this, my first Christmas in High Springs. I think about her all the time, especially on days like today – the air is crisp, the temperature is in the 40’s, and there are all sorts of places to explore and “sniff.” She loved the cold weather.
This morning, I’d planned to do my Christmas cards. I went to the drawer where I’d stored them for the move. They are sweet little cards, but I cannot send them because the image makes me cry. It’s a painting of all types of dogs and puppies, dancing around a snowman. The littlest things just bring me to my knees with missing her.
I guess what I want to say is that if you know someone who has lost a human or “animal” loved one, please don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t think, “Well, maybe she’s not thinking about that right now,” or “I don’t want to bring it up; it will just upset her.” Trust me; we’re all thinking about it right now, and maybe we’d like to know that you care. Maybe we’d like a hug or just a few words so we know you recognize what we’re going through.
I lost my son 27 years ago, and my dad passed in 1994. I still think about them. And I still think about my sweet, precious Barbara, whose joyous spirit and unconditional love embodied what we need to remember at this time of year.