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Tuesday, January 21, 2014


After the layered holiday memories of my Lug battered my emotional stability; I was then surprisingly sucked into the undertoe again during the one-year anniversary of Finn's passing. I sobbed while I tapped out every word of my last post and found it fascinating that, after months of recalling memories with a smile and feeling so peaceful when I close my eyes and see Finn's goofy grin that, wham...knocked into the abyss. Again. But, once I read through my own prose a few times; I felt I said what I needed to say, walked with a lighter heart and was myself again. I had not realized how much of me slipped away when my Lug's health started to descend; it is nice to almost be back.

I started this blog as a way to share my healing journey. And, hopefully, let someone who is sitting alone, in an empty room, crippled by silence and wondering if the tears will ever stop, know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Grief sucks and throughout this past year I have felt amazing one moment then in the next instant, could barely put one foot in front of the other. I even found my way to a grief counseling group and was stunned when not one, but two women shared stories of not liking their new animal at first.

Then, I met a dog named Cappucino, I liked him a lot. Lil' Big Head was instantly in love with me. After all the paperwork was finalized and I walked Gavin onto the sidewalk, I felt overwhelmed. But, the sensation was different than those first couple of moments with Finn. I was terrified I was going to break my Lug of a puppy because I was so clueless, no matter how in love I was. Gavin was a stranger who was coming home to live with me, bad or good and he was mine. My stomach started rolling as I drove, and I rubbed some hand sanitizer across my un-manicured dog trainer's palms while we sat at a light. I kept glancing back at Lil' Big Head, who looked quite cozy and thinking, "ok, I'm really doing this". Mundane activities like driving, that I easily I approached with Finn suddenly became awkward because there was this unknown creature with a history I would never know riding next to me. When I opened the lid, Gavin sniffed upwards into air with the most peculiar, pointed look on his face then shoved his nose right into my cheek. And, suddenly a slideshow of all the scary, sometimes downright bizarre and dangerous behavior problems I have seen over the years ran through my brain.

When we arrived home, I tried to play fetch with Gavin, but Lil' Big Head was hellbent on playing tug. I stopped the game because when Finn growled while gripping his ducky in his mouth; I knew his grumbles meant nothing more than he having a blast. And, I also had the carefree confidence that my Lug would never put his teeth on a human, ever. But, at the time, I did not know if the strange little dog sharing my house would consider biting me. As I was trying to put the squeaky toy into the cabinet; Lil' Big Head was overexcited and we had been a pair for barely an hour. I saw giant white teeth come at my hand but the clumsy puppy missed the ball and his head rammed into the bridge of my nose. Blood squirted EVERYWHERE. And, again, Gavin stared right at my face, his lips puckered tight while he trailed me to the bathroom and sat, waiting and watching.

I later learned what a curious little guy Gavin was and he was not plotting my death. And, as the months passed and we played, snuggled and listened to each other; I began to love Lil' Big Head. Last weekend, Gavin was showing off his ridiculously savvy dog skills while a client worked with her dog a few feet away to reduce her pup's fear of other dogs. I was watching Mindy, to assure she was not worrying or staring at Gavin. Mindy likes to bark, but that's all she is capable of. As much as I love my job; I would never put Gavin near a dog I thought would hurt him, never. Completely focused on my client and her dog, I could feel Lil' Big Head's gaze. When they walked away for a quick break; I looked down and all I saw were those giant white teeth again. Gavin's smile took up his whole face and those beautiful, old-soul, cocoa-brown eyes looking to me for partially for guidance, but mostly, staggering adoration. It was in that moment, I realized how deeply infatuated I am now with Gavin.

I thought about my sad poem being my last post, but, I also felt strongly about wanting to say thank you to all
who have religiously read my musings over the past year. I am truly blessed. And, this day, back in 1999, my Lug entered the world. Finn changed my life forever, in the most fantastic way. So, to celebrate my Lug's birthday and all the joy he brought to my life; I have started volunteering again. And, Gavin and I went to the pet store to stock up on clearance holiday sweaters and toys; two of which he has already growled and ripped apart but I know this dog, he would rather chew off his own leg than to hurt anyone. I had taken a philanthropic hiatus because I injured my back and shoulder. Given the strength of some of the court case dogs coming out of their cages; I worried I would not be able to hold the leash and one of them would get into trouble. Gavin and I are also one step away from him being able to join events as an Ambassador Dog. So, I ask of you, if you have enjoyed these posts at all and want to give back in any way, Safe Humane is a great place to do so.

Thank you again for sharing our voyage. This certainly will not be the last time you hear about my Finn or my Gavin. I leave you with this beautiful quote from the book  Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief. Martha Whitmore Hickman's words have helped me tremendously every single day and I will continue to reach for it when I feel sad and miss my Finn:

"May this New Year be for me a time for music. And if I am able- later, if not now-may I hear in my heart the voice of my loved one lifted with my voice, to praise life, to hope for life, to join others on this circling globe in an "Alleluia", for the experiences we have shared and share even now, and for the ways beyond time and death in which we are bound to one another in gratitude and love."

Happy Birthday, my Lug, my soulmate, my angel. I hope you are swimming and chasing tennis balls today and forever, as you continue to watch over us.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Today, and Always

Today, I will light a candle.

One year ago, you looked up at me at me and for the first time, I saw suffering in your eyes.
One year ago, I doubted my decision.
One year ago, you wagged and wiggled when Sheila came for us.
One year ago, your insatiable spirit gave in to your frail body again.
One year ago, I knew another day would have caused you misery.
One year ago, I watched you twinkle your nose to the sunny sky.
One year ago, you ate treats at the park, your first meal in days.
One year ago, you happily wandered onto your bed and laid your face next to mine.
One year ago, I tenderly kissed your nose and whispered "I'm going to miss you so much".
One year ago, I gave you the greatest gift I ever gave you, freedom from pain.
One year ago, I knew that if I had another 13 years with you, it still would not have been enough.
One year ago, profound grief suffocated me when you closed your eyes for the last time.
One year ago, an odd sense of calm also washed over me because I felt you peacefully drift away.
One year ago, I was grateful that I had the courage to release you, for you.

Today, I will open my front door and see your sleepy eyes that just awoke from a deep slumber because nothing would have stopped you from greeting me at the door.
Today, I will place my hand on my heart when I look at the tree, our tree, right outside my window that still looks like a heart, despite the   blustery wind.
Today, I will smile when I look through all your bright-eyed, tongue-hanging-out-of-your-mouth, always happy pictures.
Today, I still sometimes cry an ocean because I miss you so much.
Today, I will give Gavin as much love as I can because I know I can only be sure of this moment.
Today, your spirit is etched into my soul.
Today, the gratitude I feel for the millions of happy memories I have of you and with you surrounds me with warmth.
Today, I wonder if you had anything at all to do with the unbelievably sweet dog who is snuggled next to me.
Today, I thank you for dedicating your life to me and years of mutual adoration.
Today, and, forever, I will love you.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Almost a Year

I vowed to myself that I would focus my energy on January 21st; the day my insanely enthralling Lug was born. But, announcing my emotional intentions and gripping onto the belief that I have any control over my sensitivity to the one-year anniversary of Finn's last day with me; on his robot bed at Gomper's Park, was foolish. As January 8th draws nearer, I think of how reciting funny stories of my Lug's zany puppy antics; recalling the copious, profound moments Finn and I experienced together that shaped us, me; and sometimes, sharing my tears have soothed my tattered heart. The basic act of carving out a window of time, every week, to do absolutely nothing but think, write about and celebrate Finn's memory has helped me walk along my new path; exuding my Lug's happiness, strength and his bright torch, rather than plodding through mud. I know now that Finn's light may have not shone as bright had he hurdled his entire body onto a different human being almost 15 year ago and that Gavin was just as destined to be my wingman as my Lug.

Gavin's first Christmas home was distinctly dissimilar from Finn's grand holiday entrance. The week before Christmas; the pandemonium Gavin caused by trying to chase Elvis out of the house; creating ruckus not only to the neighbors who live below us, but to both dogs' spirit and my heart. Gavin finally relegated himself to the bathroom, Elvis sat, confused, by my feet and I felt the tumult as I thought back to my intention days prior. Providing a temporary home for a dog in need was supposed to be a good deed for Gavin too. Despite the upheaval in routine and the craziness prior to our departure; Gavin arrived at my mom's house, merry and wiggly. Within minutes of unpacking my bags, Lil' Big Head was lying on the couch, with is belly in the air and his giant head resting on my mom's lap while she and I talked. I thought, perhaps, Elvis would weave into our lives but the innate comfort between Gavin and I was already there, maybe I needed to witness a moment of chaos to appreciate the strong ties between us.

I love telling the tale of Finn's first Christmas, because it truly reminds me of a scene from a Chevy Chase movie. When I opened the door to my childhood home; my Lug's toenails clamored against the foyer floor at the sight of our cat, Apple. Our cat dashed up the stairs and tried to escape the big goober chasing him by running up the Christmas tree. Finn was so focused on his pursuit that he followed Apple and was midway up the tree before I could even catch up to them. Wrapping paper went flying all over the floor, crushed presents sat at our feet and sparkly ornaments were whizzing past my head as the tree started wobbling back and forth. My brother Matt was faster than I was and was able to catch the tree as it fell into the fish tank before I had dead fish on my conscious and gallons of water to soak up from the rug. Matt literally had steam coming out of his ears. I sent Finn to the backyard for a minute to give my brother time to cool off and hopefully encourage my Lug to chase our dog Goldie, not the cat. Three months a city dog; Finn grew bored of the suburban fenced arena within seconds and decided it was more fun to climb the ladder of our above-ground pool and go swimming, in December. My Lug was paddling with oblivious delight to the fact that the winter liner could have easily wrapped around his big body and hurt him. Thankfully I was watching from the window and my dad begrudgingly rescued him. I dried Finn off, and he was then off to tackle my sister, giving her big, wet, slobbery kisses; carefree and clueless to the chaos he caused.

My dad invited Lil' Big Head to join our annual gathering at his bar and my mom's side of the family welcomed him to the party house on Christmas Eve. Gavin loves smacking everyone with his tail, wiggling for kisses and snuggles then darting off after his ball or me to show off some of his tricks. My cousin, once removed, Hayden was so excited to watch Gavin "wait" then "get it" with his squeaky toy over and over and over again. There's something about Lil' Big Head, he draws people to him. Every time I would look up, my cousin Margie and her husband were next to us and rubbing Gavin's shoulders. And, Taylor, my stepmother's granddaughter was trailing Lil' Big Head no matter whether he was tearing up cardboard boxes, pouncing on his tennis ball with the precision of a cat, waiting patiently by her mom's side for a morsel of meat to drop onto the floor or placing his paws on the pool table for a better shot at the game he was dying to play.

We were barely home for a full day before Lil' Big Head and I headed to the airport then Lake Geneva for my birthday and New Year's celebrations. The weather was so frigid but I was overcome with immense gratefulness for my friends who took time off of work, away from their babies (four-legged and two) and traveled across the country to chill out in a rental home with my dog and I. My friend Pam compiled years of photos into a video and as I sat on the couch in between Gavin and four of the most beautiful people I know; I fought the tears as I watched pictures, so many pictures, of Finn and I flash before my eyes. I know if I dropped the floodgates; I would have been surrounded by hugs, warmth and a deeply emotional dog, content to be accompany me wherever I go. But when Matt gave me a framed photo of Finn and Gavin for Christmas and I started crying; the sadness that washed over his face hurt my soul. I tried to tell my brother that I was crying because I was stirred by the warm sentiment behind his gift but I know Matt and in that instant, he thought he was the reason for my rain.

I will continue to let my tears wash over me when I miss Finn because there is a freshness after the storm that allows me to more deeply and freely appreciate Gavin, Lil' Big Head, the awesome sidekick that he is for the dog he is, not Finn, not Elvis. And, now that Gavin and I are back home and we are in a place in our relationship where the lines are blurred as to who is speaking and who is listening; my courage and sunshine balance my rainy, weak moments. My love for Finn is a living force that sustains me. Telling tales of my Lug and sharing the joys of learning about and loving Lil' Big Head has been such a healing process for me. I would like to open the Lug of My Life up to you and your stories about love and loss, two and four-legged, so that it may help you the way it has helped me. My last official post will be on Finn's birthday, January 21st, and it will certainly not be the last time I write about Finn or Gavin but I believe it is time for me honor Finn's memory by doing what I love most, helping others.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Almost two years ago; I made a huge change to my business, one that I knew was right for me but the responses I received were less than enthusiastic. In a world of bigger, bigger, BIGGER; I chose to scale back my business so I could do what I loved again, spend time training dogs and working with people. I had a few moments of terror that I questioned whether or not I could make my living without being attached to a large facility and during every panic, freak-out, cold-sweat flash; I asked to universe for Finn to be healthy and for me to be happy, over and over again.

That winter, Finn was beyond happy, all the time. We still went for long walks, without any concern of time or reserving energy for the stairs. And, when the sun hit the snow just right and I knew I was exactly where I wanted to be; I was able to simply breathe in the fresh air and be thankful for the big, sweet Lug standing next to me, enjoying every step we took together.

It is fairly easy to smile when the sky is crystal blue and "healthy" really means all our parts are working together seamlessly and relatively pain-free. Gavin and I went home to Columbus this week for Christmas. The time always seems to soar past me like a bald eagle; and attempts to see my grandmother or sister, just one more time, before I drive to back Chicago often fail. As I watched my mother take care of my step dad, who she has continuously told me over the phone is doing fine; I ached for both of them because how can one be happy when the one we love has faded? Or when we constantly feel the need to apologize for being a perceived burden to our loved ones?

I remember crying in my car every single time I turned on the ignition because I was mourning Finn long before he was actually gone. And, I knew if I could allow myself that time to be sad, I could appreciate our time together even more. But, I refused to look at pictures of him when he was young and I still have not brought myself to do so. I did not want to feel sorry for myself for missing any moments of youth that we shared or to not see him, love my Lug, for exactly who he grew to be. But, sadness when someone is still here is much harder to talk about than once they are gone.

I have heard so many people say to both my mom and Jim how lucky they are or it could have been so much worse and "let me know if you need anything". I am mystified how she is supposed to respond. Her husband has been through two very intense brain surgeries and is being subjected to chemotherapy, radiation, physical therapy and a life that is very difficult, for both of them. I wonder what their happiness looks like now. They still laugh together and share moments that gives me hope that I will find a human partner who I can share a love so deep. But, so much of who they both were was stripped from them, without warning.

Is it possible to be happy when worry is far more than trivial stresses? I know I did a terrible job of finding my own peace and light last Christmas. My happiness was contingent on whether or not Finn was having a good health day and the strength of the flicker in his tawny eyes that seemed to fade the same way Jim's brightness has also dimmed. I can see Jim misses the vivacious, always willing-to-help, jokester that he has unceasingly been his entire life. Why is it so difficult to talk about loss that is not absolute? To me, it seems like the cultural norm to is chant gratitude for life, any life, even if that life is harder and painful. Please pray for Jim and my mom, they need all the love they can get right now. Gavin did his best to share his love and was so unbelievably sweet as Lil' Big Head gently placed his paws on the side of the bed, not directly on Jim, for my stepdad to tell him to "be a good boy" for his mom. Gavin whacked me with his tail every time they had a moment.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


It is no secret that I could become smitten with just about any dog. For years, I wanted a second dog in the house for Finn but my landlord did not allow it. The fall of 2010, months after I moved into my condo, a friend sent me a photo of a gorgeous gray-faced gal named Calillou. I immediately set up a meeting with the dog I could only say her name while singing the last syllable in a high-pitched, off key tune. I sat in the grass with the something or other mixed breed dog on a warm, sunny day and she smiled through broken teeth and squirmed towards me on the emerald green grass. Calillou so quickly found the window to my heart that salty tears rolled down my cheeks; and I watched her throw herself on her back when another dog barked at her. It would only be a perfect marriage if she allowed Finn to remain King of the Castle as easily as the wind blows. I went to sleep that night with my sacked-out Lug stretched across the foot of my bed and visions of a senior dog love dancing in my head.

My friend Sheila went with me to make the introduction because the shelter requires any potential adopter to sign in before bringing their own dog inside. There was no way I was leaving Finn alone in that parking lot for even a second. I opened the door to lift my Lug begrudgingly, out of my SUV; he had not been allowed to jump on his own for years, to prevent any further damage to his old boy knees. Usually, Finn looked around brightly, eager to discover what fun I had planned for us ANYWHERE we arrived; even at the vet's office where he was always showered with treats and returned the favor by lavishing anyone who was near with blubbery smooches. But, my Lug stopped, he was so tentative and his smile faded while he eerily looked around. I choked, ruminating all the animals who stood in that same parking lot; hesitant then left behind, confused and scared.

I knew Finn would tell me very quickly if Calillou was meant to be his gal pal; but despite any inkling that my Lug might be the one to get himself ruffled at the sight of a new dog; Calillou took one look at Finn and started snarling and lunging. My Lug turned to me, with a knowing look that said "can we go now?" And, we did.

This past week, Gavin and I have had a foster dog in the house named Elvis. The big, sweet goober arrived late Sunday evening and from the instant he walked in the door after a long ride from Missouri; I knew my Lil' Big Head and he were not a perfect match.  Elvis would try to so hard play with Gavin and Lil' Big Head found the Lab's oafish ways extremely annoying as Humpfest 2013 ensued for two days. It was pathetic to watch Gavin try to grasp Elvis's back end and the 90-pound dog, just stood, tongue hanging out the side of his grinning mouth. The instant Gavin stopped, Elvis swatted him again, trying to initiate a game. And, when Elvis barrelled into Gavin, repeatedly, every single walk; Lil' Big Head took out his frustration on every tree he could scale and gnaw. We worked hard to only chase trees at Gompers Park but I let it go this week; Gavin needed a win.

As the week went on and I attempted to keep up with all the emails that came from having so many suitors for the adorable creature who I grew very fond of; Gavin grew despondent. My heart shattered as I watched Gavin retreat to the bathroom and curl up into the tightest ball. Some friends have said maybe Gavin was not ready to share me but for reasons I cannot explain; Gavin relaxed the most when Elvis clumsily laid on my lap, the best he could. My hunch is that Lil' Big Head knew Elvis would not try to lay on top of him if he was preoccupied by me, at least for a few seconds.

Wednesday night, Elvis was laying on the floor and I went to snuggle with Gavin in the bathroom as I held him close and whispered, "he's not staying little buddy, I promise". Gavin yelped and barked like I have never heard then snapped at the air. His eyes were blown apart when he realized how close he jerked towards my face; it was gut-wrenching. Gavin would rather chew his own leg off than hurt anyone. While I tended to Gavin, thinking his neck was injured and maybe Elvis clumsily jumped on him too hard, just trying to use Gavin as a trampoline. But, after a visit to the vet, it turns out my Lil' Big Head had an allergic reaction to a possible bug bite because his nose, a place I kiss ALL the time was swollen and sore.

Luckily, the next night, I spoke to a woman named Nicole that I just knew was the right fit for Big E. I sat in the back seat of my tiny car and lured Elvis over my lap with baby food as his giant, klunky paws soaked my lap, jacket, bag and back seat with muddy, rain water. We drove through Friday afternoon traffic and every time I uttered a word, the clumsy, adorable dog tried to jump into the front seat and onto my lap so I drove silently and occasionally glanced over my shoulder as Elvis caught a bit of sleep in the back seat. When I met Nicole, I could see in her eyes, what a kind person she was and I felt honored to be a part of helping Elvis find his way to her.

And, I while I will always hold a special spot in my heart for Elvis; I think I will be waiting until I am ready for a forever second dog before I open my door again. I promised Gavin he gets first pick too; I can love any dog as long as Lil' Big Head is happy. This morning, I took him to the school he likes to play fetch and wiggle for every person that walks by and I spotted a giant paw print in the snow that I can only guess is Elvis's; then we walked to the pet store and I let Lil' Big Head pick out two new toys. As soon as we come home from our holiday travels; Gavin will need to see his girlfriend Grace again. He has forgiven me and; as I write this, I have a big, snoring head in my lap again. I missed that.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Other Dog

For years, I have stood next to lovely people who have a bouncing puppy grabbing at their pant legs, tugging on shoestrings, then, squatting on the rug and peeing. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the pictures of a beautiful dog, the same breed and color but much older and clearly, very loved. I wait for the words "but, my other dog" because they are always uttered and never ill-intended. The rational side of the brain knows that every dog is different and even if we fall head over heels with a specific breed of dog; the personalities vary as greatly as the weather does hour to hour in Chicago. But, it takes considerable effort to look into the eyes of a newly hitched dog, and see only the amazing dog in front of us, no assumptions or paws to fill.

When I started the quest for a new dog; I was waffling on whether or not I would be able to look at another Lab's face and not feel hurt; not assume impossible attributes. The dogs I was looking at online had been through enough turmoil in their lives to walk into a home with unrealistic expectations. I spent a lot of time thinking about WHY I thought I was ready for a dog before I reached out to any rescue. For me, the role of caretaker fills me up in a way that nothing else seems to do. But, even though my heart was ready to love again; I would be lying if I said Gavin and I did not butt heads a time or two.

In the late hours of the night; I would throw Lil' Big Head's leash onto his collar and trot down the stairs. Gavin would stop and stare. I would wave for my little buddy to come along; head lower, stare. This went on for a couple weeks; I would sit on the stairs, wait to put Gavin's leash on when we hit the bottom of the steps, wave hot dogs, meatballs or baby food in his face and Lil' Big Head just refused to go outside for his last pee without an epic struggle. One night, I was mustering the energy to start our nightly routine and decided to threw another option to Gavin. I stood at the edge of the rug near the couch where Lil' Big Head was snoozing in the tightest ball he could possibly curl and said "outside or bed?" Gavin lifted his head, slid off the sofa and shuffled right into my bedroom. Finn adored being outside and peeing on every tree, leaf or pole he could lift his leg on; any time of the day and in any weather. And, though I thought I was looking at Gavin as his own dog; years of going outside for fun pees seemed standard to me but Gavin would much rather sleep.

A couple days after Gavin wobbled onto my lap and let me know his heart was mine if I wanted it and I, of course, was smitten too; a friend sent me a picture of a Chocolate Lab. I glanced at Camden, my stomach did somersaults and I had no control of my fingers as I sent an email and kept hitting refresh over and over again, waiting for a response. The volunteer who brought Gavin to meet me just gushed over how much Lil' Big Head went bonkers for other dogs. And, while I would likely highly advise anyone adopting a new dog to not also adopt a second dog at the same time; I thought if they loved each other, I could save two dogs!

When I walked up to the door to meet the big, brown boy; I could see through the glass a giant, barky dog who's nubbin for a tail was bobbing back and forth. Cam was happy to meet me and even more ecstatic to go for a walk, walk, walk while he stopped to snuffle leaves, just like my Finn. He was not eating much except for cheap, grocery store treats; despite all the efforts his awesome foster mom was making trying to get him to eat food higher quality than my own. Camden REALLY hated his ears being touched and; even though I was not supposed to fall again, I did.

As I rattled off to my mom through the speaker in the ceiling of my car that I was going to put post-it notes
all over the house to remind myself to not rub Camden's ears; one of Finn's favorite spots. And, if he and Gavin were not a match made in heaven, I would not adopt Camden. I was very open with both rescues and delighted they both were willing to see if the two dogs would be a good fit. As I continued to ramble on faster and faster; I could hear my mom's thoughts by her silence. But, she knows that I need to figure things out for myself. And while, it may have seemed absolutely ludicrous to adopt both dogs at the same time; I was so turned around when I first met Finn that I did not even know I was lost but tending to my Lug's needs and getting to know him made me feel like I was home. Unfortunately, big, sweet Camden did not like my stairs at all and Gavin's energy was way too much for the awesome four-year old Lab. My mom later told me she was nervous that living with another Chocolate Lab so soon might prove harder than I imagined.

At the risk of sounding hokey, I believe things work out for a reason. I have kept in touch with the rescue and Camden ended up staying where he belongs, with his once-foster mom. And, starting this Sunday, we will have a foster dog in the house through the same rescue. Gavin is going to be ricocheting off the ceiling with excitement to have another puppy actually staying with us, not just visiting for an hour or two. I have to thank Buzzy, Skipper, Cinnamon and Mika for making me smile and helping me realize that I can look into the radiant face of a Lab with pure appreciation for those goofy grins.

And, while Gavin shares Finn's infatuation for sharing microwave popcorn, does a mean imitation of my Lug's "I got my bone shuffle", also likes to sit, stare, sit, stare, beg with his eyes whenever I am cutting up treats for my sessions and has recently started to bark when I try to take his picture, one of Finn's favorite comedy routines; I have to continually and attentively remind myself to listen as much as I can to Gavin. Lil' Big Head recently started the doorknob gaze when we come home. I always treasured the anticipation Finn had on his face as I fumbled to find my keys, my Lug adored coming home. Gavin is going to dig his digs even more when he realizes his new buddy will be staying for awhile.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holding On & Letting Go

Wilbur blushed. "But I'm not terrific, Charlotte, I'm just about average for a pig".

"You're terrific as far as I'm concerned", replied Charlotte, sweetly, "and that's what counts. You're my best friend and I think you are sensational."-E.B. White

When I gawkily arrived at the dusty, dirt road and clumsily opened the greasy door handle of the chipped, cracked barn door; I wanted a dog, a buddy. I never intended to find my muse in the runt, outcast of the litter; a creature who would weave for me new paths, passions and a friendship that I will treasure far beyond my feeble days. Fortitude came so easily to my Lug and he reveled in being my rock, my inspiration. And, every time I looked into his devoted, merry eyes; I believed I was sensational too.

This time of year, I am usually as giddy as my nephew, Isaac, about upcoming holiday traditions. Every year growing up; I looked forward to the stories my grandmother would tell about how her mother had passed onto her the sparkly, teal and silver wind-chime I always searched for the perfect position on twinkly, tinseled limbs. I loved seeing what character my mom and aunt chose for each of my cousins; we all had a wooden, hand-painted ornament with our name inscribed at the bottom; my sister Beth was a cherub. How did they know she would turn into a woman with such a big heart? But, mending a heartache caused by bereavement is not a smooth, uphill ride. And, I remember, after losing my grandfather exactly 11 years ago today, we all tried to make Christmas festive and fun; to honor what we all knew my Papaw would have wished. However, it was formidable to lift each other's spirits and not be melancholy about the vibrant man that we were all missing.

While I am so looking forward to seeing Gavin gallop through wadded-up wrapping paper and wiggle-stretch-shimmy on the carpet next to my brother Matt; there's a lump in my throat. And, because the holidays bring such significance to love and magic, I can't NOT think of Finn. He exuded both. But, when Gavin is not in super sonic play mode, he needs me to lean on so now I have to find the moxie for both Lil' Big Head and I. And, oh, that Lil' Big Head sure brings his own ways of showing love to me everyday. This weekend, I took a nap on the couch for the first time in ages; though I was telling myself I was going to "rest my eyes", a favorite tale of my Papaw's.  When I plopped my head onto the pillow, Gavin curled up in the crook of my knees, so endearing. And, when I woke up twenty minutes later to heavy breathing on my neck and his paw wrapped around my waist the first thing that popped into my mind was Jeanine Garofalo's line from Truth About Cats and Dogs, "you can love your pets, but don't LOOVVEE your pets". I laid there for awhile longer and just rubbed Gavin's shoulders, there was no need to disturb Lil' Big Head, he was so peaceful.

I thought I would have a hard time with another dog, any dog laying on Finn's beds; ripping apart my Lug's old toys or wearing his coat. But, it's just stuff. And, Gavin is my dude, he deserves to be spoiled and treasured for the dog that he is. Lil' Big Head looks so handsome with Finn's coat layered on top of his sweatshirt but he also resembles a burrito and it does not phase him that Finn's name is scribbled across the chest. The name tag is only present because I accidentally laid the coat on a candle the week after I bought it and burned a hole in a coat that cost more than my own. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself when tears roll down my cheeks as I am cleaning up Gavin's toys, or what's left of them and I stop myself before tossing a bone onto the big orthopedic dog bed that Finn's not there.

When I see Finn in my dreams, his body is young but he still has bushy grey eyebrows as they made him
look more dashing and animated; fitting for my Lug. And, while I talk now of my sadness; it still creeps in at times but it rolls along like a wave now rather than a sucker punch to the chest. The Finn who paddles through my heart stops and sits next to my Papaw by a stream. My Papaw looks over at me with the orneriest of grins and a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. They reminded me so much of each other, raucous sense of humor but, if I needed my Papaw, he was my rock too. Now, it is my turn to be Gavin's anchor; devote my love and keep that barn door open because nothing would make him happier than another dog in the house.

Wilbur's heart brimmed with happiness....."Welcome to the barn cellar. You have chosen a hallowed doorway from which to string your webs. I think it is only fair to tell you that I was devoted to your mother...I shall always treasure her memory. To you, her daughters, I pledge my friendship, forever and ever."
"I pledge mine." said Joy
"I do, too," said Aranea
"And so do I," said Nellie
It was a happy day for Wilbur. And many, more happy, tranquil days followed.
-E.B. White