Inspiration


Grief, Loss, and Staying Present.

 

Written by Carson Reid

In the aftermath of losing Cece, I felt like I needed to say something about mental health and the importance of our animals. So…here it is. Honest public discussions about anxiety and depression are becoming more common, and I think it can be incredibly valuable to talk about these experiences openly, because they are so often shared by others.

Every significant moment in my life is organized in my brain by date, time of day, and day of the week. As I get older, the number of days out of the year that must be noted, dreaded, or honored in some way just increases. Last Friday, April 1st, 11pm, was added to the list. My dad also died on a Friday, also at 11pm, December 16, 2011. On Tuesday, July 7, 2009, about 4pm, with afternoon sun blasting through the kitchen windows and a pretty terrible vegan quiche in the oven, I had my first proper kiss. But on another beautiful Tuesday afternoon in March, that boy broke my heart. Around 3pm on Thursday, December 18th, 2014, my favorite doctor called to say I had cancer.

Those little details shouldn’t matter, but somehow that is the information my anxious brain clings to when the alarm goes off and all the signs say “Pay attention, this is important.” Some of those moments are bright and vivid and joyous, but many of them are snapshots of the deepest pain, fear and uncertainty.

I was reminded this weekend that all of those moments are connected. They all live in the same part of my brain and heart. Experiences of trauma do not exist in a vacuum, and they like to gang up on you and combine in new and excruciating little ways.
In retrospect, I have realized that I was always an anxious child, and experienced a lot of physical symptoms of general anxiety disorder without any sort of understanding, but in October of 2013 (amazingly I don’t remember the date), I had my first full-fledged panic attack. It was the kind where you get super light-headed, dizzy, and nauseous, and your heart beats so fast that death seems like an inevitable relief.

I very rarely have those anymore. When I do, it usually involves a trip to the dermatologist, because two major surgeries and eighteen (and counting) smaller ones definitely counts as negative conditioning. Over the last year, the number of times each day that i think about those specific Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays, has decreased, by a lot. For the last year, the thing that I think about several times every day is, “I can’t wait to get home so I can take my dog for a walk. She’ll be so happy to see me. She’ll be so glad that I exist. Maybe I’ll bake some chicken for both of our dinners.”

My dog was not a trained service dog. She wasn’t a trained anything. She was old and falling apart and a very picky eater and not very smart and often loud and sometimes cranky and occasionally mean to children. But she was everything I needed because she needed me.

Everyone talks about the amazing unconditional love of dogs. It’s true, they give us affection without judgement. But the greatest gift that Cece gave me, was expecting more. She demanded that I buy the most premium dog food, and then demanded that I change it every week for variety or she’d go on a hunger strike. She demanded that I arrange my schedule so that she could make inconveniently tiny poops at least four times a day, instead of one or two big ones. She demanded that i get in bed and turn the lights out a reasonable hour, because old ladies get very cranky past their bedtime. She insisted that certain strangers we encountered on our walks were meant to be new friends. She demanded that I be present, and active, and brave, even at the airport, because her happiness depended upon my happiness.

Everything about Cece made me want to be the best human I could, for her. And that human happened to be the best version of myself. She was so deserving of love and protection and comfort and long walks in the sunshine, and it kind of blew my mind that I, and no one else, could do all of that for her. Caring for Cece gave me a daily purpose, and the stability and routine of her needs started to make it seem possible to take care of myself. That focus and consistency, and knowing what she expected of me, helped me in ways that medications and talk therapy never could.

I don’t think trauma or anxiety ever go away. This week I have been reminded of that in a sharp way. My apartment felt too quiet and empty, and I had my first real panic attacks in many months. I have learned that I am incredibly resilient. I have survived all of those Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays, and the past three months have been some of my absolute happiest.
Right now I still feel scared and sick and shaken, and the ticker tape of Bad Days has been on loop since 5am Saturday morning. But in the quiet moments when my heart stops racing, I am deeply, achingly grateful that I know now what it is to be needed. I know that the thing that can snap me out of an infinite anxiety loop, and pull me out of stagnation, is a little dog who expects me to wake up and be the World’s Best Human every single day. No excuses.

One Final Rescue

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Unlike most days at the Rainbow Bridge, this day dawned cold and grey, damp as a swamp and as dismal as could be imagined. All the recent arrivals were confused and concerned. They had no idea what to think for they had never experienced a day like this before. But the animals who had spent some time waiting for their beloved people knew exactly what was happening and began to gather at the pathway leading to the Bridge to watch. They knew this was something special.

It wasn’t too long before an elderly animal came into view, head hung heavy and low with tail dragging along the ground. The other animals on the pathway…the ones who had been at Rainbow Bridge for a while…knew the story of this sad creature immediately. They had seen it happen far too many times.

Although it was obvious the animal’s heart was leaden and he was totally overcome with emotional pain and hurt, there was no sign of injury or any illness. Unlike the pets waiting at the Bridge, this dog had not been restored to his prime. He was full of neither health nor vigor. He approached slowly and painfully, watching all the pets who were by now watching him. He knew he was out of place here. This was no resting place for him. He felt instinctively that the sooner he could cross over, the happier he would be. But alas, as he came closer to the Bridge, his way was barred by the appearance of an Angel who spoke softly to the old dog and apologized sorrowfully, telling him that he would not be able to pass. Only those animals who were with their special people could pass over the Rainbow Bridge. And he had no special beloved people…not here at the Bridge nor on Earth below.

With no place else to turn, the poor elderly dog looked toward the fields before the Bridge. There, in a separate area nearby, he spotted a group of other sad-eyed animals like himself…elderly and infirm. Unlike the pets waiting for their special people, these animals weren’t playing, but simply lying on the green grass, forlornly and miserably staring out at the pathway leading to the Bridge. The recent arrival knew he had no choice but to join them. And so, he took his place among them, just watching the pathway and waiting.

One of the newest arrivals at the Bridge, who was waiting for his special people, could not understand what he had just witnessed and asked one of the pets who had been there for some time to explain it to him.

“That poor dog was a rescue, sent to the pound when his owner grew tired of him. The way you see him now, with greying fur and sad, cloudy eyes, was exactly the way he was when he was put into the kennels. He never, ever made it out and passed on only with the love and comfort that the kennel workers could give him as he left his miserable and unloved existence on Earth for good. Because he had no family or special person to give his love, he has nobody to escort him across the Bridge.”

The first animal thought about this for a minute and then asked, “So what will happen now?”

As he was about to receive his answer, the clouds suddenly parted and the all-invasive gloom lifted. Coming toward the Bridge could be seen a single figure…a person who, on Earth, had seemed quite ordinary…a person who, just like the elderly dog, had just left Earth forever. This figure turned toward a group of the sad animals and extended outstretched palms. The sweetest sounds they had ever heard echoed gently above them and all were bathed in a pure and golden light. Instantly, each was young and healthy again, just as they had been in the prime of life.

From within the gathering of pets waiting for their special people, a group of animals emerged and moved toward the pathway. As they came close to the passing figure, each bowed low and each received a tender pat on the head or a scratch behind the ears. Their eyes grew even brighter as the figure softly murmured each name. Then, the newly-restored pets fell into line behind the figure and quietly followed this person to the Bridge, where they all crossed together.

The recent arrival who had been watching, was amazed. “What happened?”

“That was a rescuer,” came the answer.

“That person spent a lifetime trying to help pets of all kinds. The ones you saw bowing in respect were those who found new homes because of such unselfish work. They will cross when their families arrive. Those you saw restored were ones who never found homes. When a rescuer arrives, they are permitted to perform one, final act of rescue. They are allowed to escort those poor pets that couldn’t place on Earth across the Rainbow Bridge. You see, all animals are special to them…just as they are special to all animals.”

“I think I like rescuers,” said the recent arrival.

“So does God,” was the reply.
– Author Unknown

Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend….

diamonds

Animal Rescue Truths

***Written by Ashley Owen Hill, Lucky Dog Rescue Blog***

For animal lovers like me, animal rescue is the most incredible, rewarding job… in the history of ever.

At the same time… it’s also the most heartbreaking…

The truth is…
You see a lot of things… you never thought you’d see.
You witness a level of cruelty… you didn’t think was possible.
You feel a degree of helplessness… you never thought you’d know.

You stare at painful images… soon burned into your memory… that will haunt your thoughts forever.
You try to pick up the pieces… so many pieces… of the damage you didn’t do.
You do everything in your power… but even still… you’ll never reach them all.

You’ll try to stay strong… but you’ll mostly feel weak.
You’ll build walls to protect your heart… but they’ll never keep you safe.
You’ll place barriers around your soul… but the pain will always reach you.

And no matter how hard you try to fight it… over time… here’s the truth about what happens in animal rescue…

The neglect changes you.
The abuse hardens you.
The suffering breaks you.

The ignorance angers you.
The indifference disturbs you.
The injustice destroys you.

On a daily basis… your faith will be tested.
Your heart will be wounded.
Your soul will be altered.

On a weekly basis… you’ll question yourself.
You’ll question your strength.
You’ll question the world.

On a monthly basis… you’ll fall down.
You’ll get up.
You’ll go on…

On a yearly basis… you’ll look back…
You’ll see faces…
You couldn’t save them.

You’ll learn to mourn.
To grieve.
To sob.

You’ll learn to trust a little less.
To do a little more.
To fight a little harder.

You’ll learn to try.
To hope.
To pray.

You’ll learn to fail.
To succeed.
To accept.

You’ll learn when to hold on.
When to give up.
When to let go.

You’ll learn who you are.
What you stand for.
Why that matters.

Then… at times… you’ll forget why you matter.
You’ll question what you’re doing.
You’ll wonder if it’s worth it.

But… here’s the good news…

When you forget…
When you question…
When you wonder…

All you have to do…
Is take a look around…
And you’ll see them.

You’ll see their faces.
You’ll see their smiles.
You’ll feel their love.

In their eyes, you’ll see their journeys…
You’ll remember their beginnings…
You’ll know how far they’ve come…

You’ll remember when they didn’t know you…
When they didn’t trust you…
When they’d given up.

You’ll remember how you healed them…
How you loved them…
How they loved you, too.

And as you look back…
You’ll want to move forward…
For them… and because of them.

In your darkest hours, you’ll look around…
To find the differences made… the hope given… and the lives saved…
Because you existed.

In those moments, when you look into their eyes… every doubt will be erased.
Every question will be answered.
Every worry will subside.

Because in that instant… in each of your hearts…
You both share the very same thought:
“Every bit of pain was worth it… for this moment here with you.”

And honestly… no matter what else happens…
Those moments hold all the strength you need…
To keep going.

Rescue is pain.
Rescue is joy.
Rescue is worth it… because they are worth it.

And that’s the honest truth.

***Written by Ashley Owen Hill, Lucky Dog Rescue Blog***

The Reason

I would’ve died that day if not for you.

I would’ve given up on life if not for your kind eyes.

I would’ve used my teeth in fear if not for your gentle hands.

I would have left this life believing that all humans don’t care

Believing there is no such thing as fur that isn’t matted

skin that isn’t flea bitten

good food and enough of it

beds to sleep on

someone to love me

to show me I deserve love just because I exist.

Your kind eyes, your loving smile, your gentle hands

Your big heart saved me…

You saved me from the terror of the pound,

Soothing away the memories of my old life.

You have taught me what it means to be loved.

I have seen you do the same for other dogs like me.

I have heard you ask yourself in times of despair

Why do you do it

When there is no more money, no more room, no more homes

You open your heart a little bigger, stretch the money a little tighter

Make just a little more room…to save one more like me.

I tell you with the gratitude and love that shines in my eyes

In the best way I know how

Reminding you why you go on trying.

 

I am the reason

The dogs before me are the reason

As are the ones who come after.

Our lives would’ve been wasted, our love never given

We would die if not for you
 – Anonymous

SIGHS OF THE HEART

She keeps repeating it over and over again. “We’ve been back to this shelter at least five times. It has been weeks now since we started all of this,” the woman told the volunteer. “What is it she keeps asking for?” she asked.

“Puppy size!”

“We have plenty of puppies, if that’s what she’s looking for.”

“I know. We have seen most of them,” she said in frustration. Just then the young child came walking in the office.

“Well, did you find one?”

“No, not this time,” she said with sadness in her voice. “Can we come back on the weekend?”

The two women looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed.

“You never know when we will get more dogs. Unfortunately, there’s always a supply,” the volunteer said.

The young child took her Mother by the hand and headed to the door.  “Don’t worry, I bet we’ll find one this weekend,” the child said.

Over the next few days both mom and dad had long conversations with her.  They both felt she was being too particular.

“It’s this weekend or we’re not looking any more,” Dad finally said in frustration.  “We don’t want to hear anything more about “puppy size” either,” mom added.

Sure enough they were the first ones in the shelter on Saturday morning. By now the young child knew her way around, so she ran right for the  section that housed the smaller dogs.

Tired of the routine, mom sat in the small waiting room at the end of the first row of cages. There was an observation window so you could see  the animals during times when visitors weren’t permitted.

The young girl walked slowly from cage to cage, kneeling periodically to take a closer look. One by one the dogs were brought out and she held each one. One by one she said, “Sorry, you’re not the one.”

It was the last cage on this last day in search of the perfect pup. The  volunteer opened the cage door and the child carefully picked up the dog and held it closely. This time she it took a little longer.

“Mom, that’s it! I found the right puppy! He’s the one! I know it!” she screamed with joy.

Mom, startled by all the commotion, came running.  “What? Are you sure? How do you know?” she asked.

“It’s the puppy sighs!”

“Yes, it the same size as all the other puppies you held the last few weeks,” mom said.

“No, not “size”. “sighs.” When I held him in my arms he sighed,” she said.

“So?”

“Don’t you remember? When I asked you one day what love is, you told me, “Love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sighs!”

The two women looked at each other for a moment. Mom didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. As she stooped down to hug her child she did a little of both.

“Mom every time you hold me I sigh. When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other you both sigh. I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms,” she said.

Then holding the puppy up close to her face she said, “Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart.”

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the love that makes you sigh. I not only find it in the arms of my loved ones, but in the caress of a sunset, the kiss of the moonlight and the gentle brush of cool air on a hot day.

They are the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sighs. ~

PIECES OF MY HEART (ON FOSTERING)

[by Jim Willis, Author]

Our paths will cross for only a short time, but while you are in my care I will be devoted to you.  If memories of your former life are painful, I will help erase them.  No longer will you hunger and I will help to heal your wounds. If your former life was good, I will promise you an even better future.

One day our time together will come to an end and you will go off to your new home, healthy, happy and healed. As a parting gift, I will give you a piece of my heart to remember me by.  I may shed a tear . . . not for my loss, but for your gain.

Perhaps our paths may cross again for a fleeting instant and I will be comforted by the aura of love that surrounds you.  There will always be a bond between us, though we walk separate paths through this life.

After we reach our heavenly reward our paths may cross again.  You may try to return the piece of my heart with thanks for all that I did for you.  I will tell you to keep it and thank you for showing me that I could be better than I thought I could be, and that I learned in giving came the greatest gifts.

The pieces of our hearts are like grains of sand. They are pulled along a current beyond our control until they come together and form a safe haven.

I, like you, came to understand what it meant to be saved.

Two Wolves

TWO WOLVES : One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Taming of the Fox

Written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It was then that the fox appeared.

“Good morning,” said the fox.

“Good morning,” the little prince responded politely, although when he turned around he saw nothing.

“I am right here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”

 

“Who are you?” asked the little prince, and added, “You are very pretty to look at.”

“I am a fox,” the fox said.

“Come and play with me,” proposed the little prince. “I am so unhappy.”

“I cannot play with you,” the fox said. “I am not tamed.”

“Ah! Please excuse me,” said the little prince.

But, after some thought, he added:

“What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“You do not live here,” said the fox. “What is it that you are looking for?”

“I am looking for men,” said the little prince. “What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“Men,” said the fox. “They have guns, and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?”

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

“‘To establish ties’?”

“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . .”

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower . . . I think that she has tamed me . . .”

“It is possible,” said the fox. “On the Earth one sees all sorts of things.”

“Oh, but this is not on the Earth!” said the little prince.

The fox seemed perplexed, and very curious.

“On another planet?”

“Yes.”

“Are there hunters on that planet?”

“No.”

“Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?”

“No.”

“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.

But he came back to his idea.

“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat . . .”

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.

 

“Please–tame me!” he said.

“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . .”

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me–like that–in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”

The next day the little prince came back.

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . .”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like every other day, and I should never have any vacation at all.”

 

 

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near–

“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you . . .”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.” And then he added:

“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret.”

 

 

The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.

“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were very much embarassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.

 

 

And he went back to meet the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.