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.

 

A Good Friend of Benjamin’s passed on today

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Bean was one of my original foster girls.  I rescued her 10 years ago and she came right home and Benjamin became her number one support.  He showed her the way and helped calm and guide  her newly reborn spirit.  Wherever he laid down, she would immediately go lay right next to him.

Bean stayed with us for 7 months and I questioned if I could let her go.  She became part of my pack .  She was a little piggy –  stout, comical, and full of love.

Then one day, we met the Benson family in Rockridge. Bean got out of my truck and was chasing a squirrel up and down a quiet street.  Mary Alice walked by and asked who she was.  I told her she was my foster girl….Mary Alice and her wonderful family  ( husband and 2 young girls) had never had a family dog….but within a week or so-Bean went home to become girl #3.  It was MEANT TO BE.  Bean adored her family and oh- how they adored her…She opened up their world, I think.  They had never had any experience with a Pit bull type dog  ( she was a Staffie)- and Bean showed them the magical unconditional love and devotion this breed is known for.

I walked Bean for years in my pack walks.  She was always so happy to see her best friend,Benjamin.  She would see my truck coming from her front door and she would know her time was here- to be reunited with her pack friends and to go on  many wonderful adventures.

My beloved Benjamin passed away one year ago ,yesterday- March 11, 2011.  Bean left this earth March 12, 2012…the timing speaks volumes to me-  she was ready to join her best friend,Benjamin and this time beckoned her to him and back to God.

The Benson Family and I are mourning greatly tonight.  Death changes us in ways we can never know until it happens directly to us.  The heartbreak of  separation to those we cherish the most can send us into a deeper awareness of God and the Mysteries of Life.

Bean and Benjamin taught those closest to them- that God shows up in many forms- and a Dogs Love can exemplify Heaven on Earth. I choose to believe with all my heart that We will see our Beloveds again and never be parted from this Pure Love.

Until We Meet Again, Bean and Benjamin- watch over us.  We love you always.  Kathy and The Benson Family

 

A Rare Love

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My grandparents died many many years ago. My childhood dog, Shep died when I was 16. My first dog as an adult- Coda, my beloved lab Pit mix, died when I was 32.  All of these deaths hurt and I grieved hard…and then Benjamin came into my life and my heart became a devotional mechanism that knew no bounds to the depth of love I experienced for him.

This kind of Love, I believe, is a rare occurence.  Some people never experience it and that is tragic.  I don’t need to ever have it again- with a human or animal- the gifts it gave me are forever imprinted in my soul.  To be able to have a love that grows deeper and deeper with each moment is magical. To be able to look into his eyes and see the eyes of God – where Time stands still-put me in touch with the God in me.  I could look into his face for hours and find new things to marvel at.  We were in love.  Does that sound weird?  In love to me does not mean a romantic temporary feeling. In Love means being touched so deeply by someone that your Highest Self is revealed through the connection.  Benjamin made me a better woman. Benjamin revealed my Wholeness when I doubted my worth.  Benjamin reminded daily that All is Well when Love is the guiding force.

2011 is coming and going.  2011 I lost my soul mate.  2011- Benjamin returned to that from which he came from- the Loving Source of all Beings. There are no words big enough to express my deepest gratitude to him for showing me with such grace- that Unconditional Abiding Love is my birthright…and this is so for every living being. 

Benjamin sends a sign

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I go weekly, at least twice a week- to my boy’s memorial site- his favorite secret trail by the marina. I made a very special place- a meditation site of sorts- all from the earth. A huge rock patio, driftwood benches and trees and flowering bushes planted around. His picture hangs off the peach tree there. It is the “little tree that could”- it is thriving in a harsh environment- no doubt because of the presence of my boy there…and the love I bring and the love others bring by sitting and joining in this sacred space.  It has been very healing for me to build this place. The physical work is like my meditation and it brings me closer to him than anything has since he passed 10 months ago.  I still miss him daily , I still cry when I look at his pictures..but I am able to cry and feel joy at the same time now. This is the grief process.

 

I worked this weekend there – digging and planting flowering bushes . It was hard but rewarding work!   All the digging gave me some cuts and bruises-  one remarkable one showed up smack dab in the middle of my right palm- in the perfect shape of a  HEART.  I know without a doubt this is  sign from Benjamin-  saying  ” Mom, I am always with you”.

I wanted to share this picture with all of you because I am deeply touched that Benjamin choose to reveal his presence to me in such a unique way.I still miss him daily , I still cry when I look at his pictures…But the ache and misery is lifting- Life has a way of forcing you to move through the darkest hours…and my boy does not want me to stay in the darkness too long.  He represented Light- the brightest light I have ever met..The Light of God and that Light shines in me now forever.

Our Darkest Hour can be our Greatest Grace

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So, in regard to disagreeable and formidable things, prudence does not consist in evasion or flight, but in courage. He who wishes to walk in the most peaceful parts of life with any serenity must screw himself up to resolution. Let him front the object of his worst apprehension, and his stoutness will commonly make his fear groundless. —Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, United States)

I am not sure I will put this into words quite right but I will try.  When you have been in a time of deep despair- questioning Life- why, why, why?-  this is the time when you may crack and all the Light of Pure Consciousness shines and The Truth of Who you are is revealed.  I don’t mean this to sound like it will happen in some magical perfect moment- with a pot full of gold at the end of your neighborhood rainbow.  It is much more complicated than this.

You ( I) will suffer and question your sanity, or your reason for being on this very difficult path- your intellect will know some deeper learning is happening and try to conceptulize it is a concise phrase..but your soul is the only thing that matters when psychic lessons are concerned.  Your soul may never put it in a neat clean sentence that says ” I learned this…”  but I truly believe- in my darkest hours-  I am closer to God than I have ever been.

( and God looks like Abbey a lot- pure unbridled Bliss!!!!)

 

My dogs are my children

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I don’t think many people really get this.  yes- I am their leader/master and they are my dogs-  if you want to speak in proper dog behavior verbage- after all I do need them to listen, respect, respond, and defer to me- always.  we live in a human world where human law dictates, not animal law.
But saying that does not adequately express my bond with them.   I know what it is to be a  Mother. I put their needs before mine. I think about them the first moment upon waking and the last before sleeping.   Their pain is my pain, tenfold. Their joy is my joy.  Their fear is something I want to comfort and help extinguish.  I never want them to worry, fear, lose, or be in pain .  I will do everything to protect them.

yet, I cannot protect them from everything- sometimes Life has it’s own way that differs from my needs and wants.  I am truly humbled by my inability to control everything.   I cannot control that dogs live way shorter lives than humans. I cannot control their aging before mine.  This given is something I once again wrestle with as 2 of my dogs are elders.  Lucille has arthritis  and Madeline has had cancer.  How much longer will I be graced with their presence in my life?

So God’s plan for me was to have dogs as my children. I feel very fulfilled within this role.  I know what it means to Mother- to love someone so deeply and selflessly that the Self disappears- and all that remains is Unconditional Love.    But I ache tonight with the realization that the Mother I choose to be- a Mother to dogs, means I will lose all my children before I pass.  How do I endure this?  I am in the midst of the biggest loss I have ever known- my beloved Benjamin…and 3 more will follow at some future point.  Madeline, Lucille and Abbey- my pack of girls who have sustained me through my darkest days.

I need to live in the NOW. Because Now is when they are here, with me, joyfully loving me and this precious life we have.  The future is fear and living in this place brings me nothing but angst.  Live here, Live now- they ask this of me- so that I don’t waste a moment of this blessed relationship in fear.  Stay in the Present, and Stay in Love’s safety.

Signs from my Boy

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I wanted to share a few things that have happened:

last week, as I was driving, I said very loudly  ” I miss you” and RIGHT THEN, I saw a person walking an old Rottie right next to me on the street.    A Rottie is not so common to see. I felt it was my boy’s essence – saying ” I am right here mom”

last night,  I was walking the girls late- and i looked back and Madeline and Lucille- the slow pokes- and saw a small grey cat very assuredly following about 5 feet behind Madeline.  She followed us with complete determination for about 100 years-  only 3 feet or less behind Madeline.  She was whimsical and a bundle of distinct personality.  The 3 pitties and the kitty.  It was my boy checking in with us on our evening walk.

Today,  a woman was walking 2 small dogs and a ROTTIE  ( another random sighting)  and this cat came out of nowhere-  grey again, but  a different one- and the dogs saw it and pulled the woman down- instead of running, the cat got pissed off and CAME AT the 3 barking dogs and tried to scratch one.  the woman turned and left and the cat followed the dogs with the intention of letting them know she would not tolerate their misbehavior on HER street.   It reminded me of Benjamin once again.  Not even sure how or why…..

Thanks for listening.  Just wanted to share that I believe my boy is reaching out from the great Source to let me know- he is always with me.

Tomorrow will be 6 months since he passed and today, he feels very much alive in spirit and perhaps in the temporary essence of a grey kitty.

Pit bulls make the greatest friends

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