Healing

The entire last 12 months have been some of the hardest of my life time. My life has not been any kind of picnic. That said, none of it quite compares to the outright hell and pain of the last year. It started with something exciting and fun, and it progressed into a nightmare few people can imagine.

In March of 2019 we took an amazing trip with Courtney. We traveled to Florida so she could attend her brother’s wedding. It was a really beautiful event, and the entire trip was awesome. We went to the Blue Ridge. We made all sorts of memories. We saw our beloved friend Ellen in Ocala. We did a lot of amazing things. When we got back Courtney was tired but happy. She was feeling a little off, but it didn’t alarm her, or us. But the next day, it was apparent she wasn’t well. She had pneumonia. It was the first time, but it would sadly not be the last. Over the next months, Courtney fought pneumonia repeatedly, due to a spinal tumor that made swallowing difficult. She finally relented to a feeding tube. This improved matters for a time, but it was very hard for her to do without the things she loved most- baking, cooking, and enjoying her favorite foods and coffees. Eventually, no matter what we did, the tumor would take her eye sight, her remaining mobility, and her life.

All that fall I’d had little joy in my life. I was consumed with fear, worry, sadness, and most of all the drive to take care of Courtney and of my animals. One thing I did enjoy was going online and looking at my friends’ pictures and chatting with them and seeing their dogs. My favorites, of course, were the German Shepherds. I’d always loved Kysarah’s Corona Light, AKA Roro. She’s by Anya’s Cowboy and out of Whiskers, my Quest’s mom. She is lovely, and when Mina bred her to the gorgeous champion Falco I was very excited to see the puppies grow up on Facebook. I wasn’t going to get one, but I was going to enjoy every single adorable picture. I needed a smile. On August 30th, three beautiful babies were born. There was a saddle tan male, a bi color or very dark bitch, and a darling little sable girl. Being me, I liked the sable right away, but I didn’t think much of it.

Months passed, and the puppies got cuter and bigger. They were all precious, but the sable remained a favorite of mine. Mina decided to keep the darker female, and a friend of hers got the male. That left Mimosa, or Mimmy, the sable. As fate would have it, Mina asked if I would be interested in her. I am sure it was obvious I really liked her. I supposed that it couldn’t hurt. She could be sold if it wasn’t meant to be, right? I decided to call her Miami, since that’s where her sire lives, and it was one of mine and Courtney’s very favorite places to hang out when we were young and healthy. Right that week Courtney passed away. Not more than ten days later Anya brought Mimmy to my door. “You need a brown puppy to hug,” she said as she handed her over. I was to co-own Mimmy with Mina and Margaret. I suppose I did need a brown puppy. The weeks that followed were an impossible blur, but a sweet sable girl brought smiles through the tears. I tried to make her Scottie’s project, and he did like how playful and confident she was. She was also gorgeous and very promising looking. Just as we thought life might eventually improve, and our sadness might some day lift, the unthinkable happened, and Anya was killed in a horrific accident on January 22.

I really do hardly remember what happened after that. Small bits stand out. Mimmy’s mother Roro had been on her way here to board for a while. She survived the accident that took Anya’s life. After some shuffling about and transport, she was brought here. The dog community had stepped up in the most moving of ways. Mimmy was reunited with her mom, and life went on- a blur of grieving, winter, boredom, sadness, and confusion about what path we would take, both in life and in dogs. We survived difficult moments, like Quest’s first show without Anya. Other friends, the best kind in the world, came to stay, came to help, and came to take us to the show. Life began to seem like it might be worth living again some day. Through the end of winter and the start of spring, one thing definitely became apparent. As much as they liked each other, Mimmy wasn’t Scottie’s dog. She was mine. Smiling, happy, sweet, confident, sassy, and aloof, Mimmy picked me, and who was I to argue?

We started training, we started socializing, we started bonding and playing and snuggling more and more. Miami or Mimmy (the nickname stuck), is a stunning puppy, full of promise. She has lovely angles, is short-coupled and iron-backed, has a gorgeous coat, and moves very soundly. More than that, she is one of the bright things that got me through the worst and darkest of losses and days, and so was her mother. Roro also ingrained herself into our lives, cuddling, snuggling, and playing perfectly with the others. She has no apparent ill effects from the accident, and she fit into our lives seamlessly. Together, they wormed their way into my broken heart and brought the kind of healing only a good dog or two can. They have both earned their place here.

We will show. Roro will have a litter for her co-owner. We have plans for Mimmy, assuming her health testing is all good and such. I look forward to all of it, and to being me again. Me, with my pack of brown dogs at my heels. Me, knowing that there is a future, and that I made it to the other side.

So Close

In one last weekend of fun before COVID-19 changed everything, Quest and I went to a dog show. We went to Tallmadge, where I last spent time with Anya in January. Quest was supposed to be shown at this show by Anya, but in her absence another handler (and good friend of Anya’s) stepped up and did an INCREDIBLE job with him. He took home two more points, leaving him needing just one single point to finish.

The weekend was not an easy one, and it was full of tears and stress. That said, it was shared by amazing friends- Scottie, Amber, and Zee. They made it wonderful.

Everything changed days later as the virus started spreading rapidly through the country. I don’t know when Quest will get the chance to finish, but he’s more than proven his worthiness.

Here is his picture from Tallmadge- a bittersweet day, and a memory to keep. It happens to be one of his best win shots to date.

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Nothing Will Ever Be The Same

I don’t know how to go on. I don’t know how to care about anything. First, in December, I lose Courtney. Nothing could ever be the same. I haven’t even been able to post about losing her. My heart did not have a moment to begin to recover, and then this. This.

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Anya went off the road on her way back from some shows and time with one of her dearest friends in Florida. She was headed to my house to drop off a dog. She had only made it to South Carolina. We didn’t understand why she wasn’t messaging us back, as it wasn’t like her.

Then the news came. 2PM on a random Wednesday. I was doing all the dogs’ toenails. I sat down for a break.

“Jenna, Anya’s gone.”

Screaming. Screaming. NO! Scottie running in, confused, “What’s wrong? What happened?” ANYA. NO.

No.

I rode in that truck with her many miles. She called him Trucky. She was so god damn proud of her rig. It was a box truck set up for transporting show dogs safely. Trucky did keep the dogs safe. All seven dogs are fine. One of them is here with me now. I cry every time I look at her.

Just recently we had three days, largely just us. Three days and three nights. How could I know it would be the last? We went to a dog show. We lost in every breed that weekend, every day, with every dog we had with us. That didn’t happen much, but it turned out to be a gift. We left the show pretty early every day and just hung out. We found this tavern. It was perfect. We went there every day. We had some lunches and hang out time with other friends, also amazing, but I got so much time with Anya. I enjoyed the dog banter with other friends, too, and they loved her as well. We are all so lucky we had that weekend.

I most loved driving around with her, listening to music and talking. Every song she ever sent me, I loved. We just appreciated the same kind of tunes. We talked a lot in the truck. Serious talks. Real talk. Hopes, fears, dreams, ideas, plans… we got lost a lot. We had to avoid tunnels and certain overpasses, because Trucky had a big ass.

We found an ancient old stray dog on the way to the tavern on Saturday that weekend. Anya posted him all over the local Facebook pages and we found his owner! He’d gotten out.

I don’t “people” well, and I have crippling social anxiety. Anya understood. Sometimes I’d ditch the dog show for a bit and go sit in Trucky and eat poptarts and share them with all the dogs. She always reassured me. She made me feel safe, and sometimes even bright and capable. That’s not something anyone else has ever been able to do.

Last night I found a crumpled up dog show ribbon in the pocket of the pants I was wearing to a gathering at her favorite bar, in her honor. It has survived being washed and everything. It was from the last day of that show. He had gotten first place, but only by default as he was the only dog in his class. He didn’t go on to win the points that day.

He only needs to win one more time/weekend to finish. Just days before Anya died we put him the next show at the same location.

The other night a pro handler (and friend of hers) reached out and offered to show him for me for there, since our beloved Anya is gone.

I will go, and I will hope he gets his title that day. She would be so fucking proud. I don’t know if I can show anymore after that. She would want me to do whatever made me happy. Right now I feel like that all died with her.

She’s everywhere and in everything I do. Every room of my house has a memory of her. My mind is full of images of her. The music we last jammed in Trucky. The things we talked about. The last words she said to me in real life, before she headed off.

“We’ll do this again next month! I love you, boo”

I love you too 😭

On a rainy funeral day…

A Parable of Immortality
by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
” There she goes! ”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight . . . that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
” There she goes! ”
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .

” Here she comes! “

A Summer with Quest

I wanted to update on some of the highlights of my amazing summer with Quest.

In the Dog Days of Summer, my happy place was the lake. I’ve never had a finer retriever than this American show line German Shepherd Dog, and the irony of that isn’t lost on me. For hours we can play. I get a tiny thrill watching him air scent items I’ve thrown, diving into the water with glee, swimming hard once he knows which direction to go. He does this activity with the same pure joy and happiness and desire to please that he has when showing, herding, training, or doing anything else I ask of him. I’m going to miss the lake over winter, for sure.

Another thing we enjoyed this summer was attending a car show. Quest was, naturally, the “star” of the show, with his friend Sky (another German Shepherd). He posed in a 3-wheel motor cycle, grinning in sunglasses, while a dozen people took his photo. He did the same in front of any and all vehicles I wanted to take a picture of him with. He never missed a beat. He ignored another dog snarling and lunging at him, strangers reaching for him non stop, and everything else you could imagine at such an event.

Shortly before the car show, we attended another show, where of course Quest gained another point or two, leaving him only three single points shy of his champion title at 17 months old. He also has advanced massively in his training for service work (for me) and therapy work (at nursing homes). He enjoyed some hiking, and he helped raise Dare, Melon, and Tuna. To top it off, he was X rayed and his results came back as OFA good hips and normal elbows! Good dog, Quest.

All in all, it was a summer with many challenges, but lots of happiness and love too, and I owe so much of that joy to my sweet brown dog.

Built Like That

We’re regulars at the nursing home where we do pet therapy now. Staff, patients, and family know us. Case workers know us. The dogs are known by name. Residents save bits of food for them. Family reminds me their loved one is in a certain room, and begs me to please stop and see that resident if I can. I am getting to know the residents myself. I have learned their quirks. I know who wants to love on the dogs, who would rather just watch, and which nurse is actively scared of them. She doesn’t cringe and look alarmed anymore; she knows our dogs will flatten against the wall when asked and not even look at her. She knows we’re respectful.

Today a resident I had not seen before was staring from down the hall. I wasn’t sure if she was curious, disgusted, or desperate to meet the dogs. After some time had passed, and the dogs had finished visiting several others, I walked closer, testing the waters. It was very quickly apparent her look was one of deep desire to meet and pet the dogs. She began petting Quest, admiring him.

“I haven’t seen a shepherd built like THIS in years. It’s so nice to see.” This certainly caught my interest. She continued. “They’re so beautiful!” Dare greeted her too, and she examined both of them, petting and stroking them. She then turned stern. “Young lady, I have something to say to you!”

I felt a bit nervous, but she softened, smiling. “You’re doing a good thing. We need more people to show dogs and breed dogs like this.”

Oh how I would have loved to know more about her life and her history! I had to attend to something else, so I couldn’t ask just then. The next time we walked by the woman, just about an hour later, she smiled widely. “Here’s my chance,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t wait to know what breed she’d owned, and what she’d done with dogs in her life.

But she didn’t remember us. She asked about the dogs, and told us the same things, as if she’d never seen us before. And I let her. I told her their names again. I smiled as she complimented them. She stroked Quest’s beautiful face, and told me she hadn’t seen a dog in months. I let her start new, and I will let her every time I see her.

I don’t even know her name, but I let her know I won’t be giving up this breed or my dreams with them any time soon. Good dog, Quest. Good dog, Dare.

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