All Dogs go to Heaven

Please allow me to tell you about my sweet, beautiful collie, Steffi… I adopted Stef when she was 5 years old after being a breeder and show dog in Connecticut. I found out about her from a friend at the Children’s Hospital where I used to work because one of the therapy dogs who frequently visited the pediatric patients was a beautiful collie named “Jump”. Jump’s owner knew of my love for collies (I had one as a child, Timmy) and she knew that Steffi was being retired from breeding after having 3 litters, and she needed a forever home. I could not refuse this beautiful girl. Her picture and “story” below is still proudly displayed on the website today:

Steph2

 My Stef

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself”– Josh Billings
Stef was gentle and sweet; she was graceful and elegant. She couldn’t care less about a tennis ball or stuffed toy…she was far too refined. She enjoyed being the center of attention, being petted and brushed, and she was a big fan of cheese and pizza. She got along easily with every dog and person who ever crossed her path and I was so proud to share the story of how we came to find each other.
Sadly, she seemed to develop severe anxiety and dementia the past two years; after many visits to the vet and extensive testing to rule out a medical issue, she was placed on medications to reduce anxiety; first, we tried Valium, which only made her sleepy, and then, Prozac, which helped a little…until it didn’t. We changed her diet to help manage her incontinence, which was hit or miss. Eventually we just kept her calm, happy, and comfortable, and helped her manage her difficulties with vision and hearing. Many times I had to help her navigate out of a corner because she couldn’t find her way out. I waited for her to let me know when it was “time”. Her “good” days of being perky, playful, eating/drinking, and wanting to be petted and loved, were being measured against her “bad” days, when all she did was pace and sleep, pace and sleep, and not eat or drink. I could no longer ignore what was happening. And yet I was afraid to make that very final decision. What if she was going to have more “good” days? My beautiful pup, who could no longer walk without tripping, or stay awake for any extended amount of time, and who could barely see or hear, needed me to love her enough to make the right and hard decision to let her go. Today, she paced and she was anxious; she was breathing heavy and she broke my heart. Today, I held her and told her I loved her as she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge… until we meet again my beautiful girl.
“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day” – John Grogan
Steffi
“Grief is the price we pay for love”- Queen Elizabeth II

My truth

I read an article from a recent Oprah magazine featuring an interview with late night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel. Oprah asked Jimmy “On which truths would you stake your life?” (Winfrey, 2018). Predictably, he responded with a joke… something about never putting ketchup on hotdogs… but then he answered seriously “do unto others...”. The golden rule. Good one. But the question resonated with me more than the response because I feel so strongly about my convictions and truths that I have often gone toe-to-toe with people who, in my opinion, are just plain wrong. The answer to this huge question is uniquely personal to all of us, but I believe that it tells a lot about who we are, and why we do what we do, every single day. I also think that it is important to consider what we stand for, and what we don’t, from time-to-time to check-in with our own moral compass.

enemies winston churchill

The truths that I would stake my own life on are simple. I believe that you should always try to do the right thing, even if it’s hard and people get mad at you. I believe in honesty, fairness, equality, human rights, and animal rights, and I will do my best to advocate for those in need when I feel that there is an infringement on those rights. I believe that everyone deserves a second chance (after that, it’s a crap shoot), and even though it can be difficult, it is both necessary and important, to forgive others who have hurt you. You have to do it for yourself, not for them.

I’ve definitely made mistakes that I wish I could change. Looking back, I thought that I did the best that I could at the time, but regrettably I could have done better. If I did, I think my life would be completely different than it is now. I could have been braver, trusted more, fought harder, or let go faster. Live and learn. I think that it is extremely important to forgive ourselves for past mistakes, and try to not live life with regret/guilt/shame…these things can haunt you forever if you allow them to; trust me, I know.

So I ask you…on which truths would you stake your life?

stand up

Reference

Winfrey, O. (2018, April). A stand-up guy. Oprah Magazine, 19(4), pp 120-121.

The Gift of a Dog’s Love

Anyone who loves dogs as much as I do knows that they have a special gift of “knowing”. They instinctively pick up on how people are feeling; they know joy and sadness, and everything in between. Without saying a word, they have the uncanny ability to be able to just sit beside us in silence and solidarity as we navigate through difficult times; their presence is comforting, and it reassures us that we are not alone. We can say anything to them and they will never fault us for our honesty and moments of weakness; they do not judge, only love without condition. I can’t imagine my life without a dog by my side. Every single failure and heartbreak that I have had, I’ve gotten through it with a loyal best friend to give me strength and purpose.

dog therapy

A dog has a gift of sensing when someone is ill, and even near death. There is scientific evidence that therapy dogs provide both mental and physical benefits to those that are in hospice care; their presence has a calming effect. The soft texture of their fur can provide warmth and comfort to those who are in pain and feeling anxious.

My father loves having our family dogs visit; they are a welcome distraction to our new reality. Watching our golden retriever, Riley, play with a squeaky toy, or gently drop a tennis ball into his lap, brings a smile to his face that is usually grimaced in pain. His moans become chuckles as he throws the ball to watch Riley run after it with pure focus and intensity; sometimes bringing it back for more, sometimes just chewing it for awhile to revel in victory.

Riley

The love of a dog is the gift that keeps on giving.