Three Words – Not Those Words!


Acceptance, Courage, Wisdom

I’m writing this on Mother’s Day.  Missing my mother more each year as I realize all she went through while alive and how I didn’t understand her while I was growing up.  And reminded that “mothers” come in different packages:  single moms, dads who have become moms, same sex partners, broken family moms, abused moms and even fur baby moms.  I’m in the latter category as mom for three female dogs.

And here’s where this story begins.  I’ve rescued three dogs these last two years.  The first two are sisters, Miley and Casey.  Casey is hearing impaired or deaf.  They’re four years old now but I rescued them at three.  They’ve always had each other as they moved from household to household.  And of course Casey looked to Miley for everything – her actions, knowing what was going on around her and even when to go outdoors.

It was love at first sight when I went to look for a dog.  I went looking for a dog eight months after I had lost Martin, my husband, to suicide.  It took that long for me to find some semblance of being able to take care of myself.  That’s when I felt I’d likely be okay to take care of a dog who needed me.  I found instead of one dog, a package deal.  Their whole lives until then, they’d been together.  How could I split them up?  It was a package deal and I brought them both home.  A year later I realized how happy they’d made me.

While viewing photos of dogs from a Rescue site, this one girl tugged at my heart.  Mabel was in urgent need of a foster home.  She was very heartworm positive and that concerned me.  But I couldn’t help the overwhelming feeling I had that I needed to take her in, at least for a little while.  And so it was Mabel came to live with us as our foster.  She too had moved from household to foster household for various reasons.

That was five months ago and today we’ve adopted Mabel.  She is now heartworm FREE.  The vet and assistant were amazed and I was thrilled.  Funny thing is after the heartworm test, Mabel began acting “happy” and had a smile on her face.  We arrived home and she was jumping around and playing with Miley and Casey.  In her heart, she knew and it was her way of telling her soon to be sisters.

Which brings me to present day.  Today at the end of a favorite movie of mine, The Notebook, I lost it   and cried uncontrollably.  Not for my mother, oh no, these were tears for my late husband.  It felt as bad as when the tragedy first occurred.   I began grappling with my feelings and asking why?  Why had Martin hurt me this way?  Why did God allow this pain to consume me still?  I realized how silly it felt and yet I couldn’t stop myself.  I had come so far in forgiving Martin.  And I had learned from therapists and support groups that you don’t ever get over a tragedy like this.  You just learn to live through it.  It has been two years now and I should be living through it so what’s up with the uncontrollable feelings I now had and the tears and wailing?

While Miley and Mabel were laying at my feet, my little baby Casey climbed into my lap.  She stared at me as tears flooded my eyes and streamed down my face.  She began to kiss me with constant loving licks.  She couldn’t hear me crying – she’s deaf.  Instead, she felt my feelings and was trying to console me.  And she wouldn’t stop for as long as I was crying.

It took a while, but I was consciously able to think through my feelings and the tears began to stop.  That and her kisses did much to ease my heartache.  It was like coming out of a small meditation and I could grip reality.  Casey had fallen asleep in my arms and I recognized that my heartbeat had finally slowed down to fairly normal speed.

Something important washed over me at this time.  A while back I acknowledged that I’ll never get over the tragic death of Martin but I’m going to live through it.  But had I … and these thoughts brought to mind The Serenity Prayer.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The ability to live through something awful means acceptance.  The acceptance that this tragedy had nothing to do with me and that nothing I could have done would have prevented him from doing what he felt he must to stop the pain.

We find acceptance through learning to seek love and happiness in different other ways.  For me, my furry girls love me and I’m so in love with each of them and for different reasons.  They’re different and seem to provide me with something special in their own ways and collectively for the things dogs are famous at – compassion, forgiveness, undying love.  Isn’t that what we all want and need?

Which brings me to the wisdom part of the Prayer.  To be able forgive ourselves when we seem to falter and to love ourselves when we don’t feel loveable is to collectively take all we’ve learned and apply it.  We only need to understand that we can make ourselves happy or happier by learning what makes us happy and applying it to our life.

For me right now, my girls are everything.  Happiness abounds whenever I’m around them.  There are other things which create happiness for me also.  And I’m learning more about those things hoping I can implement them into my little part of the world around me.

I’m learning to live one day at a time and enjoy each moment.  I’m trying to accept hardship as a path I need to take.  Winston Churchill once said, “If you think you’re going through Hell, keep on going!”  He was right.  There is light at that tunnel’s end and peace and happiness too.  Sometimes all we need do is to trust in ourselves.

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Three’s Company … Also a Family


There’s a saying, “Who Rescued Who” referring to saving or adopting a pet which in my case are dogs. I wrote last April about my two white boxers in “We Are Family — My Dogs and Me!” Extra extra … now there is another dog saved. Or was I the one saved, again?

As I learn about dancing in the rain, May 4th is a reminder of the terrible tragedy that I encountered in 2010 – the horrible suicide of my husband. So tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of that awful day. Sad, yes…angry still, can’t help but be a bit. However, this year I made a firm decision as to May 4th. Going forward, I wanted it to be not just a memory of sadness and grief. Oh no, I want to show progress and I need to find positive reasons for progressing with my life. This year on May 4th, I’m officially adopting my foster dog, Mabel.

I’ve learned quite a few lessons in two years’ time, about myself and my life, and about others around me. Your real friends will always be there for you no matter what you go through. The others … well, they were really only acquaintances anyway.  And what is family these days?  It’s very different than it once was in our parents’ era.  Broken homes, single parents, blended families – you name it.  It’s not homogeneous and uniform; it’s heterogeneous and different.  That is America today.  And I believe family is what and who you make it.  In my life, my little family is made up of three wonderful creatures who love me unconditionally.  They are always there for me, just like my real friends are.  And I couldn’t be happier with my family.  I wonder how many people feel this way.

And also I made some decisions.  I wanted to Speak Up about the tragedy to inform people about suicide, its statistics, and that there is help out there.  So many positives I felt could come about from such a dreadful situation.  And I’ve made further decisions, one important one is to make May 4th much more of a positive.

Now I had viewed many photos of dogs that need to be rescued.  But already having two, I had no feelings to have another.  When I saw Mabel’s photo and read about her, it all tugged at my heart.  She felt to me like some kindred spirit needing me.  Once I brought her home as my foster, she immediately made friends with my other two dogs, Miley and Casey, sisters.  Her timid demeanor, soft and gentle ways and she is the sweetest girl I’ve ever known.  Which leads me to the original quote above.  Who Saved Who here?  I think we saved each other.  What a wonderful way to help remember May 4th with new beginnings and a new life.

As I work from home now, the girls are here with me and seem to love it.  The Florida weather allows me to open the sliding doors to the living room and the girls go in and out, like little kids.  After playing outdoors for a while, they’ll trot inside for water and to check up on me.  Life is good!

So look into your hearts and see if maybe a pet needs your saving.  Or perhaps you could be helped a bit by “being saved” and becoming a family.

We Are Family – My Dogs and Me!


 

Dogs invite us into their world, and through that, our lives are deeply enriched.  My two beautiful white boxers, Miley and Casey, have brought me such happiness, love and calm after a terrible tragedy befell me.  They are a God-send.  I post this in order to celebrate our love and devotion for dogs, which in turn is reciprocated many times over by their love and devotion for us.

There is so much we can truly learn from dogs.  They teach us how to go with the flow of life.  And they are the kindest, most caring and devoted animals known to humankind. 
Dogs have become a part of our family and a part of our personal history. They live in the house with us; they sit and sleep together with us. They have brought something unique and fulfilling to our lives. They have loved us unconditionally and have taught us important lessons for better living — how to embrace life, how to enjoy the moment, how to let go when it’s time to let go, even when it seems way too soon.

While we struggle to figure out why we were put here on Earth, all a dog wants is to love and be loved — a powerful lesson for us all.

 

 

Furry Shrink

I’d double her life if I could —
we share a history.
When friends turn false, my dog stays true,
her head upon my knee.

She can erase my loneliness —
my pain melts in her eyes.
My dog lies close — she understands
what I cannot disguise.

 

I came across a couple of poems written about our love for dogs.

I think you’ll agree with their sentiments below.

 

 The Greeting

I open the door.
You are already
bounding to the door
with a wagging tail,
flashing teeth,
and four prancing paws.
Your healing power dissolves
the most difficult day
from memory.
A cold nose
and warm kisses
trigger a child’s laughter
from my heart.
I am a better human
for having you
in my life.

— Joan Noëldechen

 

 

 

Puppy Days

Bless this frisky puppy
Who’s into everything
His playful fresh behavior
Is like a day in spring

Remind me to be patient
When he’s chewed another book
Or races through the living room
With a newly laundered sock

He loves without condition
Gives me kisses every day
And greets me with a wagging tail
After I have been away

Like any other baby
He needs a lot of rest
When he falls asleep curled next to me
I know that I am blessed

— Louise Webster

 

 

 

Lessons

If I greeted everyone happily
Instead of eyeing with distrust
If I didn’t pass judgment
But accepted all
If I listened intently
With understanding in my eyes
If I brought comfort
All the time, no matter what
If I loved unconditionally
Without reservation
If I lived life more simply
Instead of worrying so much
If I played tirelessly
And didn’t work so hard
If I made people smile
Just by my presence in the room
If I experienced true joy
At the little things in life
Then I’d be the perfect friend
Just like my dog. 

 

 

Attitude Towards Depression


 

In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures.  For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.   —Kahlil Gibran

 

Taking care of a depressed person is often very stressful and frustrating.  Many close to a depressed person have  tried everything they know in order to get the person to seek help.  They have also struggled with trying to make things better for the depressed person, often to the point of their own exhaustion.  Sometimes, caretakers become depressed themselves as they find their efforts have made little difference.  Family and friends of depressed people miss the former person they knew.  They see the dark cloud of depression not only affecting the person’s life, work and family, but they see it eating away at their own relationship as well.

Those close to a depressed person often struggle with their own feelings toward that person.  Feelings of concern, frustration and fear combined with futile efforts to make things better can lead to stronger feelings of anger, helplessness, despair, resentment and guilt.  Please know these feelings are very normal.  No one can make another person get help for depression and no one can take away another person’s depression.

People who are depressed may behave in ways uncharacteristic for them when they are not depressed.  It is not uncommon for a depressed person to be irritable, angry, argumentative, withdrawn, unmotivated, lethargic and self-defeating.  They may say things that are hurtful, harsh, irrational or unusual.  For those who are not depressed, these behaviors are hard to understand and very difficult to bear.

As a relative or friend of a depressed person you should pay attention to your own feelings.  If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed, overly frustrated, depressed, anxious, exhausted, or guilty, then it is time to start taking better care of yourself.  You cannot help another person if you are struggling yourself. 

 Please remember your feelings and reactions are normal.  It is essential to take good care of yourself.  Friends and family of those who are depressed experience a range of emotions from compassion and empathy to anger, frustration and even hatred.  These feelings can be expected since it is very difficult not to take personally a depressed person’s behaviors.  A depressed person’s life is being negatively affected by depression, but so is yours.

You don’t have to be alone.  Dealing with depression on your own can be a lonely and isolating task.  Your friends may not understand, yet you need the support of others.  Depression is a common illness, and there are many others who also have a depressed person in their lives.  You may wish to join a support group and connect with others who understand your struggles.  Talking about your feelings, getting the issues out in the open in itself can help relieve you of some of the stress just knowing others are there to listen and support you as well.

Please remember it’s not your fault.  It is not uncommon for family and friends of depressed people to feel guilty or wonder if they hold some responsibility for another person’s depression.  Depression does not occur because of anything you say or do.  Depression is a medical condition, like diabetes or heart disease, that needs to be treated.

 Your feelings will change with time.  Family and friends of depressed people go through various emotional phases.   Initial reactions include disbelief or denial.  It may seem that depression will just magically go away if it goes unacknowledged.  After some time, people may experience some anger or resentment that life as they know it has changed.  People also may feel grief that the person they once knew seems lost to them.  After a depressed person seeks treatment and begins to feel better, family and friends often feel relieved and lucky or blessed that things are improving again.

But don’t lose hope.  Depression is a very treatable illness!  Psychotherapy and/or medication have been shown to be quite effective. 80% or more of those who seek help for treatment can feel better within several weeks.  

Take good care of yourself.  You need to set boundaries and limits on how much you can and will do.  This is a healthy and necessary thing to do.  And it is okay to take a vacation from caretaking once in a while.  Schedule time for yourself and do things that bring you enjoyment and satisfaction to keep yourself healthy.  This is not being “selfish,” it is being healthy and compassionate towards yourself.  You may also choose to seek counseling in order to have a place to process and manage your own feelings.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.   — Khalil Gibran 

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