My shift inward

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For the last 30 years, I have been on a spiritual quest.  It’s been a windy road filled with loss, angst, anxiety and growth.  This past year, 2017 was my dark night of the soul. I am private in these matters, but it is enough to say, that I was hurting deeply psychically and spiritually.  It all came to a head the first 15 days of 2018.  My Abbey was declining.  My entire days were filled with so much worry. The worry of a mama is like no other.  I was tired, skinny, anxious and overworked.  I came down with the terrible flu that so many had.  It was the sickest I have ever been with a flu.  I was bed ridden for several days, delerious for a few and Abbey and Patrick hunkered down with me. I was in an altered world of sickness, fear, and true surrender.

Looking back on those 15 days, I know that Abbey was moving back and forth between worlds.  The AfterLife of All-That-Is Good and this life- where her mama was weak and scared.  It is truly humbling to live alone and worry that you could actually die alone….  Abbey was preparing to depart.  She was sleeping so much more, that deep kind of sleeping that instills a sense of wonder in where the sleeper is abiding.   I know she was communicating and in touch with Madeline.  Madeline was preparing her to return Home.  But my Abbey was worried about me.  I had been putting myself through so much this last year.  Hidden from many but not my 2 dogs.  They felt and sensed all my woes.

These 2 weeks are very hard for me to write about.  Because it brings me back there.  We were a pack of 3, so tightly bonded in our silent world of infinite understanding and unconditional love. The hastening was coming.  The hastening of my own breakthrough from the dark night which then brought the hastening of my Beloved’s readiness to leave me and return Home.  My Abbey did not leave me until she got 100% definitive signs from me and from God that I was going to be OK.  She left with a huge sigh of relief. Her whole being was ready, so ready….but she would not die until she knew I was standing on solid ground.   and I was…fragile but standing.

Since her passing, so much light is entering my life.  The light of pure goodness and joy of Bernandette Rose. Her rescue was my resurrection.

and then something even more mysterious….This subtle yet so palpable shift into the Silence of God.  How do I explain it?  Okay, let me try.  Imagine me-  a human being that has run fast and anxious her entire life.  My anxiety and OCD has also brought fits of brilliance of intuition and knowledge about dogs.  This brought me my career!  The only time I could touch this silence within is when I am fully present, teaching and working a dog.  It- is -being -done -through -me.  Not unlike a painter, a writer,a dancer.  But then the other 90% of my days are anxious, running late, losing things, cleaning too much organizing beyond a necessity and on and on.

and then Abbey passed..Grief hit hard…Bernadette found me.  and I woke up one day about 2 weeks ago, and said to myself- I feel the Silence.

Oh My God.  It is hastening.  That which I have always craved and only read about in old spiritual texts.  I have experienced a dipping in to the Eternal.  The anxious me is not me.  I watch the anxious me from a vantage point right above me, without judgement or shame.  The I that is watching is the same I that can speak to a dog with my touch, my presence and my compassionate heart.

and then I wake up, drink too much coffee, curse at someone that is pissing me off, and I am human again.   and the Silence watches that too.

Hurricane Bernadette

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This was not supposed to happen. This was the last thing that was on my mind. I had processed for months and months – I don’t want another dog. I want a different life. I want to be more unencumbered. I want more freedom, less stress, less responsibility. The last year or more with, my ray of light, Abbey was so trying. Just like my last year with Madeline. Just like my last year with Lucille. Just like my last year with Benjamin. Just like my last year with Coda. Chronic illnesses and diseases that took all of my heart; all my time; all my money. I gave it my all, and I don’t know how I survived every one of those diseases. How I survived every one of those deaths. They take so much from me. The last thing I wanted was another dog.

I was so defiantly against getting another dog. I seriously don’t know why all this happened. Why the hell did Bernadette enter my life like a tsunami? Why ???

The last year with my Abbey took all of my life force fighting a chronic disease; It’s not for the faint of heart. Fighting a chronic illness for a creature you love with your entire being can break you. It plummeted me into depresssion and panic attacks . My whole life revolved around her care. I had to cut back on work because of the hours of medical management at home. I am not complaining in the least. I would not have it any other way ever. IV fluids, sub q fluids, 23 medications and supplements daily, extended hospital stays, waking up multiple times a night to let her out and check on her.  Every single moment I would do over 1000 times for my little ray of light.

But eventually, she had had enough. She was so tired of her old, sick body. She was ready to fly free, to fly Home to re-join the Kear pack. I do not doubt that Madeline, her very best friend  and older sister,  was the first to welcome her Home.

It’s been only a little over two months since she passed and then the luck dragon, who I named Bernadette, came flying into my life.  in a clumsy submissive insecure sweet, sweet way. She’s so earnest to love and to be loved  that it breaks my heart. I get the sense she was ignored a lot in her previous life. She craves to be close to me.
It’s a massive shift in my life plan to adopt this girl. I had no desire to add another dog. I have significant changes in my future.   My hope for the future includes , a move to a quieter area and  a new creative business with my BFF Stephanie .  This means a massive restructuring in heart, home and work.   All of this, I believe, required me to be less burdened with responsibility.

But life had other plans.

And then there’s Patrick. My quirky, weird, sensitive, insecure Patrick. He’s freaked out by Bernadette. He’s stressed out. He’s unsure. He’s worried.  It breaks my heart. I want to protect him and let him know he’s my number one.  He will come with me every day and continue to be my right-hand man. I only ask that he will, in time, accept her as a big clumsy younger sister who wants 2  things – to be accepted by him and to be loved by me.

My family will always be – Abbey, my precious sunshine girl ,was my little daughter in life and death.   As is my Coda, my Lucille, my Madeline, and my stoic proud son, Benjamin.

I hope they were the ones that brought this angel, Bernie Rose,  into my life. All I want is their blessing.

With their blessing, We carry on.

Abbey- She was everything that is good

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Her long piano fingers did not fit the rest of her body.   She had a stout football players body with these long elegant toes

When she was near me, she needed to touch me. with one of her front paws. and she also wanted me to touch her.  she just wanted to feel my body on her in some small way

Her squawk when she wanted something.  she would just lay on her bed and squawk at me, beckoning me to come to her

she loved to squeeze tennis balls in her mouth.  she looked like she was eating a devilish chocholate cake , in so much bliss.
How she loved me most of all. she really really only wanted her mama
 She corrected dogs verbally with a loud squeech. she never ever hurt them but her squeech was as effective as a bite.
She flirted with many dogs.   standing stiff for one second then loose wag body flriting. a cougar girl.
Years ago, when she was in the foster home-  and I went to pick up Sonny to walk, she did not yet go with me- but she still ALWAYS ran to the fence when she saw me arrive, with a huge red kong in her mouth and shook it right at me,  with a serious shine in her eyes and massive grin on her face
She had a small unique group of people she just adored. Silvia,  Kate, Beth.   She just lit up when she saw them.  Others she liked or was neutral about
She also made it clear when she was not so sure about someone.  spatially sensitive .  do not kiss her right on the head if she does not know you well.   who would do that ?!  she never ever bit but she sure did do a surprisingly snap
Her first foster mom ,Astrid says about her – “Oh Abbey!! What a special great girl! The first memory that springs to mind is her first day with me when she slept for over 12 hours straight! I would go to check on her, wondering if she was alright and then she would let out this big deep snore!”
She and Madeline were instant friends.  no tension ever. The older  wise sister was always thougthful and strong in her abiding subtle advocacy of Abbey
Patrick annoyed her and enthralled her.  total kindred souls. they existed in the same silent world. she “got him”.  and she taught him a lot.  he trusted her above all else.  never an aggression. Siblings for sure
She knew when I was not okay. that is all.  she knew and it worried her a lot. she could not be herself or relax when I was not okay
That HUGE smile.  it took over her whole face.
The day she went through Sarah’s window. ( foster time years ago). because Sarah left with her dog Maddox.  and she was very anxious. and then once outside on the Oakland street- she saw a cat and took detour from the anxiety 🙂  she brought out the whole neighborhood.  She had the cat cornered under a car. the cat was just scratching her face over and over again.  Abbey got all the wounds and the cat- nada.  but the people outside saw a bloody pit and called the police!  Sarah turned around and got Miss Abbey out of her adventure.
She veered toward people on her walks only if she wanted to get pet.  Usually the person would have already been making their way to her. and then she was so so subtle in askng for attention- she would just stand silently right next to them. they often needed me to tell them that she wanted to get pet.  and then she would not move from them.  so stubborn to me and welcoming to them.
Another thing she did in her last year or so , when she did not want to walk anymore- she would act overly interested in sniffing a bush.  like it was the best smelling bush that she had to spend minutes at, she just was using it as a distraction from walking more
She resisted the wagon years ago when she had a acl tear, she tried to jump right out. the last several months here. 2017- she loved the wagon. she got right in and snuggled down in the blanket. It became her throne.
How her big tongue hung out to the side or in front ( the front tip) when she was oh- so- satisfied
The front of her tongue had was cut off from the cat, under the car, biting or scratching at it.  her battle scar!
Her big snoopy nose
When she completely rolled in dank mud and looked exactly like a pig
She barked orders at me. when she wanted attention, when she wanted to get up from her bed, when she was lonely for me
Her old lady waddle walk.
She loved for me to provoke with the big broom.  she hated and loved that broom
She was so  dog appropriate. her deafness had no deficiency.  she was perfect in her posture and communication to all dogs.  standing still, wag, flirt, sqwak.  all her communication had no conflict. super super clear
She was an old lady and did the cross country trip 2016 summer like a fucking warrior
Her almond shaped eyes
The day in the hills she got out of my truck , unloading the pack dogs,, no vibrating collar on!  and meandered away for a good long while . Oh I my heart! then she literally just meandered back to the truck in her own good time; ( our first month together)
 She would fall over like a weeble wobble. ( when we began to play and she would lose balance).  it hurt my heart so much to see her fall.  but how she got right back up and wanted to play- in true Bull Terrier spirit
One time, early in her adoption ,Lucille went after her  strong, fight ensued for freakin 1 minute because Abbey, 1/2 Lucille’s size, was on top of her and giving it back to her hard.  It surprised the hell out of Lucille and fight ended.   There was never another fight again between these 2 bull heads
 She waddled down the ramps slow .  how she would often not come back up but wait for me to get her from the side. I never quite understood why
 I hung ropes from many trees hidden off trails in various east bay parks and she KNEW a hundred or more yards from the various spots that we were approaching the rope in the tree and she would start waddling/running , so so excited, and by the time I would catch up with her, she was either hanging by the rope or if she could not catch it- she was screeching like a banshee to try to get it.   people might pass by and they either laughed or looked very concerned.  One of my best memories ever!
 The Sausal Creek trail rope swings were her favorite.  She and Lucille would be be making so much noise.  Lucille was barking like a maniac AT ABBEY, loving her intense fixation. Abbey would scoff at her with a big quick  verbal correction when Lucille started jumping too close to her rope cause all Abbey cared about was getting that rope.  Pretty amazing that a Bull Terrier and a American Bulldog in the height of adreneline never once fought. I think Lucille admired Abbey so much in these moments of Bullish tenacity!
Her big pink belly
Her short stout body
Her soft white coat
 She loved intact male dogs. in her senior years especially- so freaking cute to see her go from hum drum on a walk and then we encounter a dog with balls, and she perks right up.  looking good lady.  doing her very best flirting poses.  she did this with many other dogs too, puppies- she loved them. she really was a dog’s dog.  more at ease with dogs,  a bit particular with us humans.
She loved riding up front with me.  After Lucille and Madeline passed,she took over co-pilot. oftentimes her head on my lap.
She would voraciouly hump me when she was so excited, usually when I got home, sometimes when she was nervous like at the vets. she always had a good solid grip on me,  she was a hoot!  when she would see me bend over on my knees, she would often try to get on me.  i joked that I should put this on my dog training you tube channel. she did not do it to dominate , I honestly think she just need to express her andrenalized JOY at seeing me come home.  she would also occasionally bite nibble between my shoulder blades when she was on me. so inappropriate!
The way she ran, like a little mechanical dog.  I used the remote colllar on her, the months before she passed to ensure she would follow me. -it was like operating a mechanical dog. she is not moving, I press a button for vibrate  and she starts to move like a perfectly obedient mechanical dog.
People were very drawn to her in her old age. She had her big flower collar on , often a pink coat, and she was very slow.  she would gravitate toward any human that was looking at her sweetly . when she got to them, she would just stand there, and they did not quite know what to make of that. I told them she was asking to be pet.  and so they pet her, and the whole while, she is just standing there still while they pet her. and then she won’t leave them,  she does not kiss them or really look at them, but she continues to stand stoically enjoying every moment.
She tolerated every needle, medicine, probing that I had to do to her the last year with her kidney disease. oh it was so so hard on us.   but she never once tried to bite me. she never would. I was her mama after all. I am so sorry my dear little girl for all those needles. I just wanted you to feel as well as possible.
Her gummy mouth,  all her teeth were worn out.  gummy lovey mouth . she liked to do corn row nibbles on me when she was expressing big love.
Her snore. especially when the last little bit of her tongue hung out.
The depth of devotion she had for me.  I was her everything. I was her mama. her protector, her best friend.  I will cherish every precious moment with you my baby girl.

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.