Through everything, You 3 grew me

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Every moment, every aggression , every  mistake, every correction, every touch, every sickness, every frailty, every  needle at the end –
You precious 3 grew me.
Until we meet again my Beloveds

Part two

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I don’t know how long Madeline was talking to me while the three others status in silent meditation next to her but at some point I saw a very bright light in my minds eye
It was yellow and orange in hue and I had suddenly taken over my closed eyes.

Was certainly aware that I was at the dentist and I was in the chair and I remember asking him if he had suddenly turned on the light and he said no. The light stayed. I remember being babies in an incredible feeling of warmth and joy and love.
It was a complete radical departure from the panic and anxiety that my body and mind was having just a short time before
I’ve never been able to pray myself out of a panic or anxiety attack. I’ve never been able to breathe myself out of one. They’ve always happened and they suck
And anxiety attack is just extreme anxious thinking and overwhelm. A panic attack feels like you may die physically. I had to on my cross country trip and one in my Berkeley apartment about a month ago. This fourth one was thwarted by Madeline’s arrival

I find it really interesting that she was the abiding presence in this spectacular experience. Because in life – she was The most quiet and on the sidelines out of all of my dogs. She was the one that not many new intimately besides my mom, Kate and myself. Those three people mattered the most to her. She was my Buddha girl. Stoic, quiet and supremely enlightened. But no one really knew it because of her apparent detached nature.
I think she was just ABIDING in PURE CONSCIOUSNESS the entire time she lived on this earth.
The others – Benjamin, Lucille and Coda played a very important role in this direct experience. It’s like they were backing up Madeline. They were there as reinforcement for her message.

The message was and will always be-

We are never separate from you. We are always in you, with you and forever for you. There is no separation. there is no death. There is just pure abiding consciousness and love. Rest in this knowledge and may you find peace

At some point – the procedure ended and I came back to the chair.
I was excited and I think I said something like that “something happened to me ,something happened to me ,I don’t think you will believe me but Angels came to me”
The dentist said something disregarding like – “whatever you needed to make you come down I’m glad it helped”
We had a longer conversation afterwords and he told me he was a Buddhist. I told him that what happened to me was not religious and had no god really. And I try to explain it to him and I think we found a middle ground but ultimately it really doesn’t matter because what I experienced will be forever held in my heart as the deepest truth of who I am

They came to me when I needed them the most

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There’s much more to convey but this is part one
So stress certainly can hurt the body. Not going to go on with my litany of elements but one of the things I’ve had to deal with is grinding my teeth for many many years and TMJ and finally I decided to gift myself crowns – I need many crowns from all the grinding but all I could put on a credit card was the six front
I had the appointment last week to do the first half of the procedure.

I didn’t sleep enough the night before and went into the dentist a bit dazed and stressed out. It’s pouring rain outside my dogs were in the truck and I was soaking wet from walking them before. I know that I stuck out like a sore thumb in their office because I was harried, wet and talking about how worried I was about my dogs

My friend recently called eccentric. I have never ever thought of myself like that. In my mind eye – I don’t see myself as some artsy fartseccentric gal . see myself as very down to earth but. Maybe in the last several months I am some kind of odd specimen walking around not completely present with too much on her mind and strange mannerisms

Anyways the dental proper procedure was quite intense actually drill into your teeth and make them smaller the dentist really wanted me to take the laughing gas but I remember hating that stuff because it made me feel very spacey and out of it. And I realize that I don’t really want drugs to make me do that I either want them to make me feel more awake, more alert, more conscious or more open but not disassociated .I wonder why some people choose drugs that make them feel fuzzy and others choose drugs that make them feel less so I wonder if it hasto do a trauma
The dentist was becoming a bit impatient with me because I was resisting the laughing gas and resisting more Novocain but suddenly I screamed in pain and agreed for more numbing medicine. It was then that I started to feel like I might have a panic attack – the reason was because I could feel his impatience that he wanted me to be different than what I was and I couldn’t be. I was emotional, expressive and very very authentic. Assoon as I realize he wanted me to be quiet and perfect – I could feel the panic starting to happen in my feet and hands. That tingling feeling that lightheadedness that yes disassociation. I got scared.
Ever since my trip – panic attacks had happened A handful of times and they scared the shit out of me. I didn’t have control over my body. I knew the anxiety caused the bodily sensations and that I should stop thinking because the thinking was the problem but I had no control over any of it I started to lose myself in that dentist chair – there was no safety. The dentist was mad at me. The assistant was silently backing him up and I was all alone in my panic
I don’t remember exactly what I was saying or doing but I think I might’ve been praying when quite all of a sudden I saw Madeline’s face it was the face of my Madeline my stoic supreme pitbull Madeline
She was big in my mind. She took up all of the space in my mind and she said many times I am here I am here I am here
When I realized that she was really really here in my minds eye – everything started to calm down. My feet and hands stop tingling and everything got very quiet. I knew the drill was still going but I could barely hear it I just keep on focusing on her face looking right at her. At first Mostly she didn’t talk but her presence was deep abiding warmth, safety and protection .
Soon after I saw and felt the presence of Lucille next to her and then Benjamin and then Coda next to Benjamin they were all sitting in a lotus position next to each other.
I don’t remember exactly what I was saying to them – mostly to Madeline – but I was asking for help. Asking for this emergency help

Her voice was very strong yet soft and motherly and extremely Reassuring. She kept on saying “we are here for you, we have never left you, we will never leave you, we are always here for you. Never doubt that.”
She was very deliberate and what she was saying. There was no hesitation but everything was said very slow and deliberate
The other three were silent but they had the same reassuring presence that Madeline did. They were looking down in meditation but sometimes at me. Their gaze was unwavering. Not really moving much down or occasionally at me
More soon

Alpha pack girl Zelda joins my Madeline, Lucille, Benjamin, and Coda.

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zelda-and-madelineThere are not enough adequate words to describe one- the- greatest- of -all -time- Pack -dogs, Zelda. We love them all so much. we spend the better part of our days with all these precious souls. They become like our own. And then there was Zelda.
Zelda’s owners came to many years ago for a Behavior Modification because, quite honestly, she was an Alpha girl who liked to make her own rules with all the dogs who crossed her path and sometimes her rules got her in trouble.
We worked hard and she started to soften some- allowing other women ( myself included) to sometimes take charge
She began pack walks with Happy Hound/Cause and Effect and I had the supreme pleasure of daily trail adventures with this old soul.
She loved sticks, so much so that if another weaker dog got near- she would resolutely tell them “No Fuc$%^&* way are you getting MY STICK”
She loved treats and every time I called another dog’s name for recall to come back, Zelda expected and insisted she deserved just as much, simply for standing there and looking cute.
She loved dead deer carcasses. At least 10 times over the last many years of our hike adventures, she would oh so quietly disappear and I or her other pack leader would get very worried. it is always stressful when a dog goes missing. We would always find her, deep in brush or down a small ravine, gnawing on an old deer bone determined to get every ounce of flesh off it. So every time she went missing going forward, we would just have to listen to the quiet chewing/gnawing in the brush and there she would be, very satisfied with herself.
She loved sitting up front with me. I think that is where Madeline and hers friendship began. Sometimes Zelda could not be in the back with the other dog, because of her alpha bitch ways 🙂 so she had the pleasure of sitting up with Madeline, Patrick, Abbey , Lucille or some combination of. Madeline was so Zen, she accepted anyone in her space. I think if Zelda could talk , when she first met Madeline, she would have said ” This chick is so cool, I gotta take notes.”. So in the years to come, when Zelda would continue to prefer young cute boys over female dogs- she always always deferred to My Madeline. Madeline enjoyed many perks in her senior years. One was that she always wanted to get out of the truck at almost every house I went to pick up a pack dog- either to roll in their front lawn or hunt around for cat poop. At Zelda’s- for some reason she wanted to come in. and I eventually let her while I would leash Zelda up. Madeline would come up the stairs and walk right into her house and walk resolutely to her food bowl and eat a kibble or two before I could get to her. and what did Zelda do- smile, wiggle and just be so darn happy that her alpha bitch leader dog had arrived. For the next several years, this became our custom- Madeline expected it and Zelda expected it.
Madeline and Zelda were soul mates, They walked like each other, They ruled the pack like one another. They were equally and defiantly as stubborn as the other.
and they left this earth like each other. I got to say Good Bye to my Zelda last night- and her eyes made me cry and shiver with the memory of Madeline’s last day with me. They were the eyes of supreme wisdom, grace, and the deepest knowing that they had done a job well done on this earth. I love you Zelda. I love you Madeline. Until we meet again, hold down the heavens for us!

The things I love about My Madeline

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Her Zen temperament. No matter what her age- she was always so deep, thoughtful, serene

Except when she would fence fight. Oh how she loved to fence fight. In her elder years- I let her do it with full gusto. She had certain dogs she would love to get riled up for. She found supreme power and hit of adrenenline in fence fighting. I loved to see her strut her stuff in her old lady days.

Squirrels! Oh how she loved them, she would see one, bark at the tree and run back and forth, seemingly losing sight of the squirrel. I think she just loved that hit of adrenaline. It was like if she had to be a spiritual master in a dog’s body- she was going to enjoy the things dogs loved the most.

The way she would plop down anywhere, head in between her paws and just rest. People commented all the time. I saw this as her Zen innateness to rest and just Be at a moment’s notice. People thought she was tired, and in her later years- she often was but I tend to think she just wanted to meditate whenever possible.

Her depth of beingness. I knew she was a master . Looking into her eyes- you could see her soul.

She was not a typical Pit bull who loved everyone. She was selective ( not aggressive at all, just aloof). I loved her aloofness. It was dignified. But if you were one of the choosen few in the Madeline club- you felt so so privileged to have her attention. She would come over and sit right in front of you and look at you- right into your eyes. And you knew she knew the mysteries of the Cosmos.

The depth in her eyes. Human like. You could not keep secrets from her. She was always watching everything and everyone in her quiet deep profound way. Not intervening or ever obtrusive.

Her total disinterest in balls or toys. She had no use for them.

They way she would do the crazy Pit bull zoomies every once in a blue moon and when she did- it was soooooooo wonderful to see. Even as an old lady, for no reason that I could see- she would suddenly break out in her prance and zoomies. With gusto, howeve short it lasted.

Her bark. Deep alive full

They way she would paw me and curl herself when I was massaging her. She was quietly asking for more in her non pushy way. I loved seeing her like this- she was in bliss when I massged her.

Her moans of pleasure when I massaged her.   Especially when I cleaned or massaged her ears.

The color of her coat the first several years. Such a unique hue. Like a subtle shade of pink and apricot

How she endured so so so much illness and trauma and rarely complained about all the medical probing.

How she liked to lay on the cold hard floor instead of the big beds. And how she would moan and stretch as soon as she hit the cold floor

How she acquiesced to Lucille, to Benjamin. She never tried to claim status. She only asked to be accepted wherever there was space . but the truth was she was a spiritual giant and she did this with full knowing that it was the best thing to do , not because she was truly submissive

How Lucille, in her later years, would flock to Madeline , in all our training sessions together, the hundreds we did as a pack- wherever Madeline layed, Lucille would go to her and lay right next to her. The dominant intense Lucille felt the most secure when she was close to the calm serene Madeline.

How Madeline never overtly begged for anything but she had this deep gaze- where she would look at me , standing up usually, and I would need to get real quiet and ask her- what do you want? And very soon, she would tell me.

Her very pink nose

Her stature- strong yet soft

How she loved loved loved the dirt. She always preferred laying in the dirt. She would make a bed in it- I would come out back or in your favorite spot by the Buddha statue up front- and see her curled up in the dirt, with a very dirty nose.

How she preferred the ground in her later years. She would eventually leave the cozy warm bed for the cold floor- and moan and stretch out on it.

How Abbey always loved her and she loved Abbey. They had a sweet relationship- giving each other kisses, smelling each other often, sitting by each other.   Or in quirky moments at the vet- Madeline would try to hump her. Very funny and weird. They never got in one fight ever.

How she really loved my mom. She would be happy to see her at her yearly visits. She would come over to her, still way more quiet than the other dogs, but she would sit right in front of my mom ,give her her paw and look right into her eyes.

We went to Kari’s cabin in Twain Harte and spent just 20 minutes in the cabin, we had never been there before. I wanted to give the girls a big walk before it got dark. I did not know really where to go. We walked the neighborhood road looking for trail, when suddenly Madeline took off running up this steep hill, off the side of the road. I knew she must have sensed deer.   I called to her , expecting her to return very soon. 15 minutes turned into an hour and it was getting very dark and I began to freak out. I put Abbey and Lucille back in the truck and got a flashlight. I took off into the big hills, crossing over a deep creek. My sneakers and pants got soaked. It was dark, cold, and eerily quiet. I could not hear her anywhere. After 2 hours, I was so so worried. I went back to my truck and someone pulled up asking if I was okay. I told them my dog was missing.   The driver let me know there were mountain lions in these hills and that Madeline was in danger. I was in total tears at this time. I got in my truck to race back to the cabin- I was so starving that I felt like I was going to faint . I grabbed some nuts and soda. I decided to leave the front door wide open, not because I really thought she could find her way back to a house she had never been to- but I was going to pray that a miracle could happen. I was out looking for her for another hour and went back to the cabin to grab some water. And there was my Madeline- laying right inside the door, on the nice big rug- just waiting for me to come back. I couldn’t believe she had found her way back to a place she had been to for only 15 minutes! I was so so angry at her yet so completely relieved.

Her stubbornness. She was so so so stubborn. The most stubborn dog I ever met. But I secretly loved her independence. I found her incredibly confident and secure in herself and I so so admired her strength.

How she would absolutely not go for a walk with anyone but me. No way was anyone going to make her go when she did not know where I was. She was independent but she showed her total devotion and allegiance to me whenever any would try to walk her without me around.

How she tolerated and accepted so so much from so many dogs in all their pushy rude obnoxious ways over the years. She just stood there in all her stoic deep presence and allowed these behaviors because ultimately she was so strong to be unaffected by them. Such grace. Such amazing presence.

How she did these crazy pit bull zoomies at very random times. I never knew when they were going to happen . she did them up to her final month. Seeing her run like a pup in these crazy circles when she was 14 years old brought the most profound feelings of joy in me, especially because she was a stoic girl. So when she let loose- it was a glimpse into her playful spirit

She would see the deer statues on Mountain road and go bonkers barking at them, for years . I loved seeing her realize she was approaching them and then start to get all tense and territorial and let out her beautiful deep menacing bark at them.

How out of the blue she would decide she wanted to play with a dog and she would do her funny lopsided pounce at them., so unexpected.

How she just loved laying on the floor right by my computer. She was a fixture there.

The white of her chest and on her paws. So so beautiful

The depth of of her surviving. How much she persevered through so much illness. Such life force .

How she would stretch her old lady body, on the ground, and she seemed so in bliss for those few moments

How she choose all the best lawns to roll on in the hood. One moment she would be walking on the sidewalk and the next, she would be rolling and twising on someone’s lawn, in total free abandonment.

How I could sense every morning that she was awake. She would very quietly just come in the kitchen and stare into my bedroom. So sweetly and respectfully asking to be let out

how she gravitated to every body of water-  lakes, ponds, streams, the bay, and any puddle!  she had to lay in them and meditate. she attracted so many people to comment because she would look so so peaceful- laying in the water, eyes closed and not moving.

how you felt important when she asked for attention because she did not do it as often as most dogs

Madeline, Madeline, Madeline- that became her name, because she never ever came on one call.

How she loved me so deeply, respectfully and with such elegance

My Lady Madeline, My Warrior Girl

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My Madeline left this earth January 12th, 2015.  She left it in the manner in which she lived- dignified and serene.   She was called aloof by some..but that was only because she took her time fully opening to others.  Once she knew you could be trusted-  you felt so so very special that she asked for love.  She would come over and sit right in front of you and just stare.  The most soulful human like eyes-  they seemed to hold the answers to the universe.  Looking into her eyes, I  felt the immensity of God’s embrace.   She was rarely pushy,  She was Zen like in her temperament.   I believe  she spent most of the day meditating- connecting with God  was so natural for her.

I met Madeline  abut 8 years ago.  I heard about her from the Berkeley shelter volunteers.  She had been dumped in the “night box”  one evening with a note.  The note said ” Name- Madison, 6 years old, good with kids and BadRap would love her”.      How could someone dump a dog after 6 years?   She was terrified and stressed at the shelter.  She would not let anyone approach her. She would back up to the rear of her small kennel and growl when anyone approached. She looked formidable and the shelter staff soon started saying she would need to be euthanized.  I came in to see her and approached her very slowly.  She was growling at me but I was not afraid.  I just calmly told her she was coming for a walk with me and leashed her up.  Once outside, at the Albany bulb- I had her meet a pack of dogs I was to walk.  I had full faith almost immediately that she was going to be just fine with all the dogs, and she was.   She walked with me for an hour that day, and I could see a very different dog than the one in the shelter scared and growling.   She was already that Zen dog to me , in a matter of an hour.  I took her back to the shelter and felt so bad putting her back in to her cold small kennel.  The next day, I went back and it seemed like she was waiting for me- she was right at the front of the kennel, which was quite unusual as she had hunkered down in the back since she had arrived.    I took her out again and took her back to the shelter. I left her a big blanket but knew that would not do much to ease her worried heart. I came back one more time to walk her and never brought her back.   I told the staff I would foster her.  I saw something so  deep and meaningful in this girl and knew she deserved to be heard , loved and understood.

Bringing her home to my small apartment with Benjamin and Lucille seemed right…but I knew getting Lucille to accept another female into the home could be a challenge.  Lucille was a dominant insecure dog and she needed her space from other dogs.  She loved and adored Benjamin because he was so strong and clear in his presence.  Madeline did the very right thing- she came in unobtrusively, quietly and with full understanding of Lucille’s definite boundaries.  I remember walking them in my Oakland neighborhood and feeling immensely proud  of having these formidable dogs by my side. Madeline was so peaceful to walk, within days, I allowed her to be off leash . She naturally followed , albeit at a pace that worked for her.  She assumed a regal yet non threatening stance  to walker bys.

Within a month of fostering her,  a lump appeared on her ear.  The vet concluded that it was Mast cell cancer.  This was the very same cancer that my beloved first dog, Coda, had died from some years ago.  I was worried but the vet assured me if we took Madeline’s entire ear off , that she would get all the cancer.   Madeline had her ear removed and she became my one ear beautiful Pit bull.  For the rest of her life,  I had to hear hundreds of times from strangers  – that she must have been a fighting dog.  Oh how easy it is for people to make assumptions on this most amazing breed!   No,she had cancer I told them and they quietly walked away. I hope some of them were able to examine their own biases.

My Landlord soon found out I had a 3rd dog and insisted she had to go.  I met with a few families that wanted to adopt her- good people with love to share, but I could not let her go. It just became so apparent to me that she was meant to be in our family.  I officially adopted her, changed her name to Madeline and moved out of that apartment into my first owned home in Richmond.    Lucille and Madeline were still working out their relationship and it was not without a few good fights.  Lucille always was the instigator and I could tell Madeline really did not want to go there but she had that might about her-  she would protect herself it push came to shove.  These girls were large dogs and their fights were intense….but within a year- something changed in Lucille-  we had been working so hard on her transformation.  I put all my training knowledge and skills that I had learned with Benjamin to her as well.  It was a longer road with many peaks and dips but finally- my beloved Lucille came to be the sound good dog I could take anywhere , just like my boy.   And with  this growth, she came  not only  fully  to accept Madeline, but to deeply bond and connect with her for the many years to come.

 

Madelin’s medical woes spanned the course of our 8  years together.  She had subsequent skin mast cell tumors removed. About every 2-3 years, a small lump would come up, causing me instant worry and when it came back cancer- we would have it removed through surgery.  The years of 2011-2015- we faced serious life threatening emergencies together.  In 2012, Madeline was laying down  within several feet of   my truck while I tended to my 3 other dogs, and a car literally ran right over her.  I still can picture it today.  Her leg was stuck in the engine and she was screaming in agony. Beyond the hellish  stress, I also remember  many people come running to our aid and in seconds.  Someone  got a jack to lift the car she was stuck under and lifted it up to free her.  I did not know if she would live or die. I ran through every red light and took the HOV lane on the highway to make it to my vet 10 miles away.  Madeline had  a broken leg and immediately went into surgery.   12 weeks after surgery, it was determined that the surgery was unsuccessful and her bone was not healing.  Amputation was mentioned.  I vowed to fight to save her leg.   I found a surgeon specialist and Madeline underwent another complex limb surgery .  It was very touch and go for 3 more months but it was finally determined after loads of rest, rehab and alternative modalities to promote bone growth – her bone was saved and healed!!

Then in 2013- without a known cause, Madeline stopped eating for 13 days. Thousands of dollars in tests  later,  the specialist  determined that she had Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  This is a complex disease that requires a radical change in diet and long term medicines including steroids.  For the next  2 years, I home cooked Madeline a variety of novel meats like rabbit, bison and duck.  As a staunch vegetarian, it certainly took resolve to have a whole rabbit cooking in a pot many evenings a month.  Madeline responded very well to the new diet and medicine almost immediately but we would still  be faced with many bouts of IBD illness over the next 2 years.  My days were often determined as “good” if she was eating well and ” very bad” if she was not.  It took a toll on both of us.

Shortly after her IBD diagnosis, a lump appeared on her hind end.   I knew the cancer could return at any time  but still devastated when the tests came back a “high grade 2 mast cell tumor”.  This was NOT good news.  This meant the cancer was not only in the lump sight but also in the lymph node right next to it.   My regular vet said it was time to see a cancer specialist, a vet oncologist.   After an in depth consultation with the oncologist, Madeline started on a chemotherapy regime.  Some dog cancers are treated with chemotherapy for the life of the dog.  If Madeline tolerated this medicine, it would mean, she could be on it for the rest of her life and indeed that came to pass.   For 11 months,  Madeline went into almost full remission.  She had a tiny spot on her eyelid that was a tiny cancerous tumor but her lymph node returned to its normal size. I was over joyed at her great response!  But there was always the vet’s voice in the back of my head- ” eventually this chemo drug will stop working”  and at the 11 month mark-  a lymph node in her belly  got ugly ,enlarged , and bruised.  The cancer had become more aggressive.  My amazing vet  gave me a few options and I decided to go with a more aggressive chemo protocol.  For the next  4 months, we drove 45 minutes away to her clinic to get Madeline’s chemotherapy.  This was much different than the Palladia she had been on for 11 months-  those were pills given at home.  This chemo worked to shrink her lymph node but it also made her sick off and on.  We had some hard days and this hurt my heart.  Madeline was my stoic angel but I knew when she did not feel good.  She would ask to go outside and she would dig a hole in the cold dirt and lay there.   She suffered from nausea, low appetite and diarrhea.  But she also had many good days in between, or I would not have continued this medicine.  We still took 2 long walks every day. She still fence fought the dogs she loved to ambush in our neighborhood.  Now normally, I would never allow this behavior but there is something really cool about seeing an old lady dog have such gumption and nerve to act all tough and ferocious , especially because she was not a fighter.

Madeline was a truly unique dog. As my friend Silvia said  “She was a bad ass dog that listened to no one”.   She was supremely confident and stoic girl who had simple pleasures.   She had to chase deer, she had to bark at dogs behind fences. She had to lay in every body of water we came across.  Not just lay, mind you, but meditate fully.  Anyone that would come across our path when she was doing this would be overcome with curiosity.  She literally laid in the water and did not move.  She looked like she was deep in meditation. She would do this for as long as I would let her.

 

This stronger chemo worked for 4 months and then I awoke one morning to see her lymph node swollen. My heart leapt into my throat.  Truth be told, this cancer worry had taken over my life.  Madeline’s good days were my good days.  Her bad days were mine  hundred fold.  My life had become all about her well being.  That’s what mothers do.  Anyone who loves their dogs as their children will understand what I feel.  I couldn’t bear to see her sick and I would do anything possible to make her better.

Madeline got upwards of 30 pills a day her last 2 years.  The pill taking became a really hard time for us.  There was nothing I could hide them in anymore. If she got even a whiff of a pill, she would spit the whole food mouthful out and not ever want to eat that food again.  So for  over a year, I had to put 30 pills a day down her throat.  I hate that there were times I would get frustrated with her- when she would  try to throw them back up.  She would froth at the mouth and look at me pained.  I only  hope she understood, on some level, that  these pills were saving her life.

Madeline also developed “food aversion”.   This is when a dog doesn’t feel good and then associates the food they most recently ate with not feeling good , so they do not want to eat it anymore, even though they are very hungry.  This became a complicated situation to say the least.  Because Madeline had IBD, she could only eat certain proteins- like bison, rabbit or duck.  So when she stopped trusting one food, I had to buy another one, until she stopped trusting that one and so on.  My friends found it incredulous that I, as a staunch vegetarian, would cook  a whole rabbit on my stove.  But alas, when Madeline was eating well-those were my good days.

Madeline’s good days way outnumbered the bad ones.  We did a 3 hour hike New year’s day.  People on the big hills that passed us by  yelled words of encouragement for her.  It made me tear up and realize how much of a warrior she truly was.  I could also tell when Madeline felt good- she loved to roll in any good lawn or field or grass.   She was usually behind me on a walk and when I would call out to her and there was a nice lawn right near by- she would look at me for a moment or two , pondering if she should listen to me and almost always- she didn’t!  Instead she would saunter over to the grass and do a full body roll , her face clearly satisfied and joyful.

Madeline’s good days lasted until just our last 48 together.  She took a sudden sharp turn and stopped eating.  She also seemed suddenly very weak.  I was praying it was just a bout of her IBD, but when morning came- she could not even walk outside.   I prayed on what to do.  I carried her outside to the back yard filled with straw and lay her down.   She seemed at peace.  I imagined taking her into the vet-  where they would no less do a battery of tests and keep her there in a cage.  Madeline hated the vet. She had had years of testing, surgeries, needles, and time away from me.  Did she want to try to fight one more time?   Did she want to be in the hospital, away from her family?  Would she even ever come back home?   All day I wrestled with these questions and felt so so very sad and scared.   But when I got really quiet with myself  , laying next to my Beloved- I had the answer.  The answer was No. The answer was She was ready to be Free.

Dr Grant came in the evening. My closest friends were with me . Our last moments were spent in deep communion and perfect love and acceptance.  This was a magical dog who came into my life and showed me what true meditation, acceptance, and peace look and feel like.  They are  a deep  vast ocean that fills your heart, mind and body with  the Silence of  God.  When I looked into the eyes of my Madeline- I saw the Universe. I saw Infinite Goodness.  There was no complexity , no confusion, no doubt- Just the Abiding Ever Present Face of Love.   I will never forget you my lady.

Thank you for every single moment you gave me.  I will love you forever.

 

 

Thank you for every single moment you gave me.  I will love you forever.

Our Last day and the Divine Gift she gave me

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I have been reflecting on our last day together.   Whatever words I find here to share will be wholly inadequate.  I have been looking for God most of my life. I have been praying, screaming at, and begging for God to appear to me.  I don’t mean the God image of an old bearded man who rules over the universe.  I let go of that image eons ago.  I mean God – Source Energy that is All Love .

Lucille brought me to God our last day together.   I woke up and layed with her. I had no idea I would decide to put her down that day. I was very  concerned about her painful front leg limp  yet I was not thinking of letting her go.   We began our morning walk-  She was in her wheel chair.  She was struggling so much. I was crying as we attempted to move down my street. My other dogs patiently walked beside us.   After less than a hundred yards,  the clearest voice inside me said to put her gently into the wagon.

The rest of our day was mostly held in the deepest silence.  I have a busy mind, often with anxious stressful thoughts and this day-  they disappeared. I had no doubts, I had no fears, I had no scary images to block out.   I was in communion with my beloved Lucille through silence and love.

Why did this massive shift in my regular way of being happen?   How could it possibly happen on the day I would be saying goodbye to her?  Why was I not rattled and stressed ?   That would the normal way I would handle such a devastating reality.  I now see Lucille’s divine plan and gift to me as clear as day.   Her soul was preparing to leave her body  and I believe she wanted to share something so profound and sacred to me before she left my side.  She wanted to give me a glimpse into God.

That day, I was bathed in the deepest Peace.  I had hours to be with her , knowing it was our last hours together- there was not a moment of fear or stress.  Instead, there was the deepest of connection and understanding with her.  When I laid next to her in our living room-  I felt an indescribable Wholeness.  I believe Lucille’s soul opened the portal into Source/God in these last hours together.  She gave me the gift of direct experience into the Divine.  It’s almost like I died for a moment, crossed over to feel God’s unwavering Love and then came back to my mind and body.

It’s been one month since her passing, and I am  wrapped in grief.   I am allowing all of it. I am not running or shutting down from the immensity of these feelings.  It just is.

I

I do not need to be any other way than the way I am right now. and amidst all this vulnerability and fragility- I am able to recall our last day quite clearly.   The day when our Souls celebrated our infinite unending Love.   I am blessed beyond words that my Lucille revealed the Light of God in me.

I think Lucille also wants me to understand that this unwavering Silence and Love can be reached at any time- that I can reconnect with her , with God, with All That Is- by simply stopping fully  and asking with an open heart- to see with awakened eyes.  I plan on connecting with my beloveds often now.  To have touched the beauty of that space makes me yearn for it.  It’s here for me, for all of us- simply sit and rest in your own open heart.

All the things I loved about my Beloved Lucille

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Her bulldog bark

Her Howl

Her soft fur

how excited she was to see a treat

her round belly

her undeniable determination to continue to be Alpha

her love of Benjamin

her quiet connection with Madeline

her love of kissing me

her endless kisses

when she was in bliss- the way her teeth would chatter.

when she was in bliss- how she would roll on the bed and stretch out her legs and moan.  ( she did this the last few days )

the way she demanded her food with barking

the way she hated the OYS word and would stop what she was doing when she heard it

her face

how she loved her wagon

her snoring

how she loved to chase my truck and would get so excited when I told her it was coming  :” gonna chase the truckie”

how she bulldozed into other dogs when they were playing

how she chewed on balls in bliss

her big paws

how she would look up at me when I was sitting next to her and kiss me

her soft ears

how she loved other dominant dogs- boys and girls

how she had to mark on others’ spots- even in her wheelchair

her amazing grit to keep walking even when she was tired

her stubbornness

her love of her boyfriends- Ty, Jasper, Charlie

the joyful noises she would make when she was on her bed rubbing her face. even at the end

the morning howl with Benjamin

how she would talk back to Benjamin when he had the ball

how peaceful she looked when she slept

how tolerant she became of all the stuff I had to do with her

how she guarded the food from the others even when she could not stand up anymore

how everyone knew her in the hood.  how she was an inspiration to so many. so many people calling out to her

Go  Lucille!

The way she would bark at dogs only in her chair or wagon

Her jowls, especially under her mouth

Her big head

How cute her paws looked in her booties

How everyone knew Lucille in the hood. Everyone was rooting for her

How she helped change people’s perceptions of Bullies

How she was choosey in who she really loved

How she wanted to mark over everyone

How she would like Patrick for a moment- sniffing her, then change her mind and growl at him

How she barked for her dinner all the time

How she barked at Madeline when she was too close to her bed

How she liked to sun herself

Her stubbornness was BIG

Her face. The white side was gentle

Her stubby teeth

The day on the beach with the wheels and how she ran for the first time in so long with such glee

How the pranced when she flirted with the dominant dogs

Her extreme stubbornness

Her Love of food

How she had to have the last word with me with her snap at the end

Her massive Bulldog presence

How she truly loved me

How her ears would go submissive when she first looked at me

 

Farewell for now, My Beloved Lucille March 11, 2014

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Lucille left her aching tired body on March 11, 2014 at 8 pm, surrounded by her pack.  She passed on the 3rd anniversary of her Beloved Benjamin’s death.  She will be forever deeply missed. I’d like to tell her story here

The ache is immense.  The void is beyond measure.  Lucille was a mighty soul.  She commanded attention with her true Alpha grit.  All the dogs knew not to mess with Lucille-  she was a dominant beast yet with such a soft underbelly.  Her kisses lasted for minutes and minutes- she couldn’t get enough of my face.  She would go into a trance of sorts- just kissing me.  I relished in her attention because I knew it was coming from a vulnerable heart.  She was complicated in many ways. Strong yet insecure ,  Intense yet calm,  Loud yet  beautiful in her ability to be quiet when most necessary.

I brought her home from the Berkeley shelter 9 1/2 years ago.  She had been there 8 months and was becoming depressed there.  She was just going to be my foster dog…I took her to prospective homes and everyone fell in love with her- she was after all a true beauty.   I came up with excuses each time why it was not the right home and soon realized-  she was staying with me and Benjamin- she had found home.  He was her home in many ways.   I  would soon discover she had some unpredictable dog aggression that was fierce- but never once did she go after Benjamin.  He was her rock.  He was her leader- even better than I could be.  He showed her through his magnificent grounded presence that he could be ultimately trusted.  She always wanted to lay wherever he was-  he was like her medicine when she felt insecure.  I was still learning how to be a dog trainer and she would challenge in many ways over the next few years.

I was also doing big pack walks with my dog walking business and the first day I brought her home- I took her a long on a 8 dog pack walk.  I just assumed she had to fit in because this was my job.  I honestly did not take into consideration what SHE NEEDED.  She got into a fight with a formidable Pit girl as soon as I unloaded the truck.  This was my welcoming into the world of Lucille’s dog aggression.  I was angry at her a lot over the next months.  She could be great with dogs but she could also just decide- that she did not like their energy and Bam! she would over correct them.  She especially did not like puppies- the would come bounding up to her and the before I could down her – she would correct them which usually meant a puncture on  their face. I worked her hard- I demanded from her. I used brute force with her often and in turn- over corrected her.   It wasnt until years later that I saw the error of my ways.

Lucille ended up having transformation- it just took a long time.   She ended up being a true sound Alpha girl.  I took her everywhere , alongside Benjamin and Madeline.  They were my dynamic trio of mighty ambassadors for their breeds.   But I also noticed what the times of heavy demand work did to her-  she would always hang way back in my training classes.  She did not want to be around any pressure, any aggression or any possibility of correction.  Her aggression had been uprooted but her insecurities were intact.  and I had contributed to this.   I was so angry at myself.  I realized- I did not practice what I preached to my clients in later years-   I truly believe even a dominant aggressive dog needs to learn how to cope with the pressures of the world through thoughtful slow patient exposure.  I believe I expected way too much of my dear Lucille so soon.  I expected her to fit into my busy pack walk life immediately and if she couldn’t deal with it- then the only “cure” was to correct her strongly.

This amazing beast taught me something so profound-  do not be attached to the outcome.  Being truly present with her would have shown me that she needed a patient path that did not require her to instantly “fit in”.   She needed to take in her new world and her new life with me on her terms- and then trust would have come naturally.    I am so blessed that she forgave me every day and in every moment and in all ways-  she loved me unconditionally even through my mistakes.

About 2.5 years ago- Lucille’s back legs started to weaken.  She would fall down unexpectedly.  I took her to a neurologist and it was eventually determined that she most likely had early stage IVDD-  which is a degenerative disc disease.  Over the next 2 years- there was a slow but steady decline.  She was wobbly on her back legs and I could tell it affected her attitude.  She felt more vulnerable.  She would lay down every time we stopped on our walks- it was becoming hard for her to carry her big frame.  In June of 2013, I decided finally to take the plunge and get her a wheelchair. It was an emotional decision for me because it was an acknowledgement that my girl was weakening. I researched all the dog wheel chair companies and went with Eddie’s Wheels.  What a gift these wheels would come to be!  Lucille took to it right away.  She was the Berkeley Bulldog on wheels. Lucille walked almost 4 hours a day in her chair.
We became so well known around town- 4 Pitties with special needs , one of them in wheels.   We went on long neighborhood walks daily and there wasn’t a walk where someone did not stop to say hello and ask about her.  People would pull over in the car and take photos every day.  People yelled out the most encouraging things from their cars .  Lucille made people smile pure and simple.  Lucille gave people encouragement when they needed it for their own private purpose.  Lucille’s determination made others around her feel inspired to move beyond their own limitations.  Every single walk we did for 9 months-  brought someone around us to smile, talk , take photos, or even cry.  Lucille was the local hero.  If she could walk with wheels, then it somehow  made people believe in themselves more.  Lucille inspired others and most of all she inspired me-  She showed me that a vulnerable body does not mean a vulnerable spirit.

Her disc disease continued to progress though- around December- she became unable to lift herself to move from bed to bed.  I did not leave her at home alone for more than 3 hours. I cut back on work immensely so that I could be there to move her.  She also was fully incontinent for the last  9 months.  She had to wear diapers.  I cleaned her  at least 20 times a day. I tended to her and wanted to keep her dignity amongst even these most vulnerable declines.  She had to wear booties because her back feet were knuckling.  My mind would only allow brief moments of thinking ” how much time do I have with my girl?”  She was the reason I came home, she was the reason I walked for hours,  she was the reason I turned away work. she was the reason I spent all my evenings at home.  How could I possibly imagine a life without her?  She had become my whole Identity in many ways.

Suddenly,  2 weeks ago- she took a decline. I thought it was only an arthritic flare up in her front leg.  We adjusted the wheelchair to help take weight off her front- but she still struggled.  I could see myself arguing with reality.  I did not want to admit things were changing. I pushed her to walk, maybe too much…and at times, I hated myself for it.  and then suddenly-  I shifted-  I put her in her the big wagon and started to give her a break from the wheelchair.  Oh how she loved being in the wagon-  she seemed so relieved.  This was a monumental moment of growth for me- I let go of control . I let go of things needing to be a certain way- that “Lucille must walk!”.    Lucille was teaching me a divine lesson-  Surrendering to What Is. The moment I put her in the wagon and viscerally felt her relief-  I cried and cried.  She was telling me it was time- she was ready to drop her tired body and rejoin the Cosmos.  She was so ready for her day of Freedom.

Everything changed for me in a flash- I went from being so taunt and wound in my convictions of things needing to be a certain way- to the most profound feeling of all-  Flowing with Life.  I stopped fighting.  Lucille’s most precious gift to me came our last day together- when she told me in most quiet dignified presence- that I could Let Go.

Our last day together was sacred. March 11, 2014-  she choose to tell me she was ready on the 3rd year anniversary of Benjamin’s death  ( March 11, 2011).   Her communication with me was other worldly. By this, I mean- it was just as clear as clear can be -transmuted to me in the perfection of Silence and Love.  I heard her Beingness tell me she was ready.   We did 2 wagon walks that day- she looked up and out and took in the day, but she also was quieter .  Not a sick kind of quiet – more like she was moving back and forth between 2 worlds.  I truly feel that she was communicating with Benjamin and he was gently guiding her in his Divine Direction.  I laid next to her while she was resting on her bed, that afternoon. The other dogs were sleeping nearby. I just stroked her over and over and basked in my love for her.  She was so peaceful. There really are no

words that will  do justice to how it felt  being with her this last day-  We were in communion with one another through the Infinite Knowledge that goes beyond dog and human.  I knew she was moving on and she knew I was the one that would support her onward to her next divine chapter.  The love I felt for her that day was of the deepest richest quality-  God was flowing through us and guiding her back Home.

 

The vet came and we talked about Lucille.  My dearest friend, Susanne , held my hand as we watched Lucille drift off to sleep with the first injection. I kissed her all over. I told her again and again, how much I loved her. I told her how proud I was of her, how beautiful and precious and perfect she was.  I told her that Benjamin was going to be right there to welcome her Home.  She passed with the greatest elegance.  She left this earth surrounded by Love Ever Lasting.

Her final gift to me was my own Surrender .  I surrendered to Life.  When I listened to my dearest Lucille –  so gently yet resolutely tell me she was ready-  She gave me new eyes and ears that see and hear from the Deepest Silence.  I was lost and now I am found.  Thank you for your grace, my Beloved.

Bittersweet Aging

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It’s been almost 3 years since my beloved boy passed on and life has not been easy for my pack and I.  We have had serious life threatening health issues , some that are chronic.  I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars.  I have stayed up many many nights with worry. I have cried so many tears that there was no more to cry, yet amidst all the heartache and worry- my dogs continue to point me toward  life’s deepest revelations.

Lucille is in a wheel chair now.  She cannot walk really without it.  She has degenerative disc disease and her neurological function is diminishing.  She is also fully incontinent.  I have to clean her up to 20 times a day.  She also wears diapers.  I move her from one bed to the other. She takes 10 pills a day and I ice her aching muscles and give her deep tissue massage daily. I wake up 2-3 times a night to check on her.  Yet- you would not know she is so fragile.  She still rules the home.  She still keeps the others in line.  She still demands her meals on time, her walks on time and even her belly rubs on time.  Physicality does not determine spirit.  Physical strength does not determine might and will to live.

Madeline, my ever incorrigible and stubborn old Pitty girl has been at death’s door 4 times in the last 1.5 years.   Hit and stuck under a car in July 2012 and  2 surgeries followed to fix the broken femur bone.  After her second surgery- she came down with aspirate pneumonia which had to be quickly treated so the infection would not spread to her healing bone.   Then in Nov. 2012- she stopped eating for 14 days.. Many many tests later revealed she has Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  A few months after we got that disease under control , her mast cell cancer came back and it was a higher grade and in the lymph node.  I opted for surgery and chemotherapy.  Before we could start the chemo- she collapsed and I rushed her to the hospital-  she was going into DIC- what vets nickname ” Death is coming”- her platelets were not clotting- basically she was going to bleed to death.  3 days later- she was out of the hospital and chemotherapy began.  In August 2013-  she stopped eating and had massive bowel and stomach issues.  She was hospitalized for 3 days because bones were found in her intestine and stomach and there was a high risk of perforation which would mean death.  My girl survived this and here we are today-  9 months of chemotherapy and her cancer is in remission . She takes 16 pills a day which I have to shove down her throat because there is no amount of hiding them in food that she will not realize and then spit them all out.  That is what I love about her- her willfulness to have it her way. Her IBD is in remission and she continues to amaze me.  She continues to be so stubborn . She continues to do things her own damn way.  She continues to have this persistent spirit that knows what she wants and finds any way to achieve her mission. She also has this quiet tenderness that only a few know.  She appears aloof to many but when you are in her inside circle of people to trust- she will look at you right in the eyes-  like a human – and just stare – as though she has such important things to share with you and desperately wants you to understand her, beyond the limited verbal language we  have.

Both these girls have shown me that I am stronger than I thought.  I thought I would fall apart so many times in anguish and worry yet the power of Love pulled me up and onward. They have revealed my nature- which is everyone’s true nature- Unconditional Abiding Love.  This Love is constant through sickness, weakness, vulnerability and aging.   Love is devotion amidst hardship. Love does not leave when things get hard. Love sees fragility and wants to  honor and protect it.  Love sees the strength in all beings, not matter how old, feeble or unsteady they are.  I may not be married but I certainly have come to know what ” In sickness and in health ” really means.

I readily admit there are days of great frustration and overwhelm.  I see myself as a mom for 4 special needs children and  there are many days I am pushed too thin.  I have cursed at my dogs for their stubbornness , their willfulness and even their neediness but in the very next moment- I forgive myself and recognize I am  just tired. Love never left us in these hard moments, it just waited for me to recharge and love myself too through it all.   That is another thing- these years of tending to my old girls has done for me-  I love myself more. I accept myself more. I recognize my gifts through their eyes. I see my mothering and so appreciate this aspect of me.

One day, my girls will leave me to journey on . Those will be such sad sad  days. Letting go of my beloveds  is the hardest thing I have ever done.  But when I look back on these later years- I will see clearly that my devotion to their care made me a kinder more patient human being.  What a gift , what a gift.  Thank you my Madeline, Thank you My Lucille.