Monday, November 8, 2010

Moving On

This post won't have much to do with veterinary "stuff," but it does have to do with that incredible connection some of us have been fortunate to share with a very special animal in our lives. It is just personal ramblings-so won't be for every one.

Many of you know I lost my best friend, Verbal, earlier this summer-on Father's Day in fact. I never knew a heart could break like that. I have been so lucky to have good, understanding humans in my life to help me through the loss, but ultimately it has been just a terribly lonely and painful ordeal. Any one who has lost a "heart" dog or cat (or horse or rabbit for that matter) can relate to some of what I went through, and many people have been helpful in relating their experiences. Some told me of dreams or visions they had of their beloved departed pet-and how comforting that was for them. The dream was a way for that pet to "communicate" to their human, to let them know they were doing well, moving on, watching over them, or whatever the message was that they felt their owner needed to receive at the time. Regardless, it was almost always a means of closure, and I was so envious of that!

As time passed, I kept wondering why in the world I wouldn't dream of my dear Verbal dog. We had shared so much in this life, had been so very close, and I began to worry that maybe she WASN'T in a peaceful place, watching over me, maybe she was scared, alone, couldn't "move forward," that I had left things unresolved-you know how a grieving mind can work. I know my husband hurt, too, but he was getting on with life, and he didn't know what to do with me when I was crying my heart out every night. After a month of that, just exhausted from the pain, I did what I thought I "should" do-I got a puppy.

I visited only two puppy "brokers," and that is exactly what they were. The first was a true puppy mill, no matter how nice things might have seemed on the surface, and I couldn't in good conscience support that "business." The second was an actual rescue situation-adult dogs being bred well past "retirement" ages. There were 10 and 12 year old momma dogs with mammary tumors, flea and worm infestations and who knows what else-and I don't think any one could really match up which parents went with which puppies. Selling puppies would help the rescue group get the older dogs spayed and neutered and re-homed. I wished I could have stepped up and taken an older dog, but after just losing one old dog, I knew my heart wasn't in any kind of shape for that. I used my check book to help with what I could, and scooped up a mangy, pot-bellied skinny yellow puppy, was handed a bag of "Atta Boy" dog chow to tide her over ( give me a break,) and headed home.

I texted a picture of her to Michael on the way home. I just got the reply "It's a puppyyyyyyy!!!!" so figured that was an approval of sorts. It really didn't matter much-it was love at first site.

I'll fill you in later on the antics of "Alvy" and her wily ways of working her way into our lives...and hearts over the past few months. Suffice it to say, she has grown from a scrawny 10 pound 9 week-old babe to a pretty robust 6 month-old DOG now.

This past Saturday was a pretty terrific day all around. I soooo wanted to sleep in on that rainy morning, but made myself get up early so I could take Alvy to her training class. We are in a program called Sit Means Sit, and I can't say enough about how well she and her class mates are doing with their training. I should say "our" training-probably 80% or more of dog training is training the humans, and I am definitely in that category. We all meet in "real world" situations-parks and schools-so face all the distractions that are inevitable. It is amazing to see even very young puppies focusing on their humans, intent on figuring out the puzzles and wanting so very much to please. They have such a great time in the classes-lots of work, but lots of breaks to run around and play with classmates or tug on a toy, fetch a frisbee or yes, jump in puddles or whatever. I will certainly write more about this amazing training system-I'm a big fan, not only because of how well Alvy and I are doing, (she was "spotlight client of the month" in November-check out her Bio on their site) but also because so many of my clients and patients have taken part in it and some have begun solving even some major problems like aggression.

After class, Michael and I decided to take Alvy over to a dog park I read about on Whidbey Island. Now, we have plenty of dog parks around here-so why take a ferry ride? Well, the weather has a tendency to be a little better over on the Island, and this dog park just happens to be on a BEACH! Oh boy! Alvy had never been to a beach, and I was very excited to introduce her to all that meant. It was a great choice. The dogs were allowed to be off leash while on the beach itself, so Alvy could run play and body slam with all the other dogs-and of course, find all the dead stinky things to roll in, waves to jump in, and salt water to lap up (before she figured out that wasn't such a great idea!) We must have played for 2 hours-I thought I'd have to carry her back to the car, but she made it just in time to collapse on the pile of towels I actually remembered to bring. She was so darned happy! It did my heart good to give her this gift. I know we have other beaches pretty close, and this one really wasn't far at all-we will be doing the beach thing a LOT!

You can imagine we all slept very well that night. I had actually been pretty sick for several months and was finally starting to breathe better and sleep through an entire night without waking up in fits of coughing. And guess what happened that night? I dreamed about my dear sweet Verbal dog! It wasn't anything earth shattering or unusual-she didn't talk to me or anything like that. She was just comfortably walking by my side as she always did-and now I knew she always would-my old friend was there by my side, or rather, we were together, by each others sides-forever.

I know that after 5 months of wishing and hoping for a "sign" from her, my dear Verbal came to see me after we gave Alvy a perfect day-and she told me that was as it should be. Life goes on. The young whipper-snapper deserves all the love we have to give her (and all the stinky dead things to roll in!) Verbal was telling me that Alvy was lucky to have come in to our family-she would always know love and care (and fun!) but we are lucky to have her in our lives, too. Verbal would have hated having the youngster around her-it is why we never did have other dogs while we had Verbal. Young puppies were big ol' pains, disrespectful of older dogs who might be hurting like Verbal did. Despite this, Verbal was acknowledging that her humans' happiness was the most important thing to her-and if this obnoxious puppy could give us that happiness, that was as it should be. And by the way, she (Verbal) wasn't going anywhere. She would be right by my side as that puppy frolicked ahead. Moving on certainly doesn't mean replacing or forgetting.

Oh my. I have never been more relieved (or more happy) to have dreamed such a simple thing. It only took 5 months of wishing and hoping and praying...

A few hours later I was in church...and realized it was All Saints Day. We lit candles in memory of family or friends who died this past year. You can bet I lit a candle for Verbal. She was family. She was my friend. There was no one who better fit the qualifications. A friend sent me the link to this very sweet song/poem about dogs and God-check it out if you have the time. God and Dog

I have had quite a few friends and clients ask me when I might start to blog again. I don't know if I can keep up the momentum, but telling this story of Verbal's dream visit seemed worthy of an entry, maybe the start of something regular. But regardless, it is a pretty good story, isn't it?