I originally posted this last year, but since it’s another Friday the 13th, thought I’d share again for those of you who missed it!  Wishing you all an awesome Friday the 13th!

For as long as I can remember Friday the 13th has always been a lucky day for me.  When I was younger, some of my best dates were had on this day of the year and I’ve always felt a certain sense of anticipation when a Friday the 13th was approaching!  Maybe that’s because I’ve always been one of those people who refuses to believe in bad luck or anything that is ‘icky’ or dark.  (I once had a therapist tell me that all I wanted to see was the ‘pretty’ side of life and that I needed to explore the darker corners of my mind and emotions.  WHY would I possibly want to do that??? – OK, so that’s a topic for another day.)

Back to Friday the 13th … about 15 years ago – yikes! – I read a wonderful book by Marianne Williamson, “A Woman’s Worth”, and in it she describes this much feared day so beautifully:  “We are used to thinking of Friday the thirteenth as bad luck.  In fact Friday the thirteenth was the day the witches gathered.  When the patriarchal system, headed by the early church, began to squelch the power of women, witches were deemed evil, and many great women were deemed witches.  Their meeting time, then, was seen as bad luck rather than as what it truly was:  a time for women to gather and share energy and pray together and heal.”  Those words resonated deep within me and from that day forward I’ve always CELEBRATED Friday the 13th – sometimes with other witches – empowered women! – and sometimes quietly alone, lighting a candle and honoring my inner witch, Goddess and Wonder Woman!

I did this collage several years ago and have shared it with very few.  Actually, I had forgotten about it until today when I was mulling over my thoughts on Friday the 13th and what I was going to write in this blog.  It seems appropriate that I finally throw caution to the wind and expose my inner Wonder Woman today for all the world (or however many might read this post) to see!

My Inner Wonder Woman

If you’re a woman reading this today, I hope that I’ve inspired you to honor your greatness and all that you have to give to the world – and yourself!  And by chance, if there are any of the male types reading this – surprise the witch/Goddess/Wonder Woman in your life by honoring her today, show her how grateful you are for everything she brings to your life each and every day!

Right now, more than ever, the world  needs feminine energy – our compassion, empathy, tenderness, strength and magic!

Blessings,

Melissa

Like most children, when I was a little girl, I trusted that my parents would take care of me and that all was well in my world.  It isn’t something that children even think about, they just open their hearts and place their trust in others – their parents, their siblings, their teachers and their friends.  Thankfully, I’m one of the lucky ones whose trust was unbroken as a young child.

Although this post is not about dogs (for a change!), I love this photo as it beautifully illustrates the trust between my sweet Daisy and one of her kitties, Salem.  Animals have so much to teach us about so many things - including trusting one another!

Although this post is not about dogs (for a change!), I love this photo as it beautifully illustrates the trust between my sweet Daisy and one of her kitties, Salem. Like young children, most animals seem to have that innate ability to trust with an open heart!

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to trust – the elusive, intangible that is often an unspoken promise.  In many aspects the glue that holds a relationship together.  Whether it be a friendship, a marriage or even a business relationship.  I’ve been going back in my mind, trying to pinpoint at what age I first experienced the pain of placing my trust in another, only to have it broken.  And we use the term ‘broken’ when referring to trust as it can be shattered into tiny fragments, destroying a once healthy relationship.  When we place our trust in someone and they disappoint or betray us, it’s almost impossible for that relationship to be made whole again.

I honestly can’t remember the first time my trust was broken.  But I do know that I’ve experienced the pain many times over the years.   I’ve been told by those closest to me that I’m ‘too trusting’ – but how can you have a deep connection with anyone while guarding your heart and holding back the trust?  I don’t believe in hedging my bets when it comes to relationships – I’m an ‘all in’ kind of gal.  I also don’t believe that trust needs to be earned, I believe it’s something that is given freely with an open heart. And yes, this often results in having my trust broken.  Sometimes it’s a slow erosion, little seemingly inconsequential events that eventually lead to broken trust and the end of a relationship.  Other times, there is a major deal breaker such as infidelity that has broken my trust in another.

Which leads me to the point of this blog.  I recently experienced a very painful ‘break up’ of sorts – not with my husband but with a trusted friend and business associate.  Over the past five years, this person was someone that I trusted above all others in many times of crisis. I don’t want to go into detail, as this is not a ‘smear’, but suffice it to say that we had what I thought was a symbiotic relationship, both personally and professionally.  I went out of my way to show my appreciation and gratitude for everything this person brought to my life, and yes, I trusted them completely.

Things began to shift in the past few months.   At first I overlooked the unreturned phone calls and texts, making excuses for the other person – they were busy, lots going on in their life, etc.  But as this progressed, I began to get angry – and yes hurt.  I was busy, too and quite honestly, I was no longer getting what I needed from this relationship – mostly on a professional level, but also personally.  When you mix business with friendship, the lines sometimes get blurred and this is where things get sticky.  And so I had two choices, walk away or confront. If you know me, you know that I will avoid confrontation at all costs, but this was an important relationship to me and I decided to take the chance and ask point blank, “what the heck is going on?”  I reached out several times via email – only to be put off repeatedly.  As time went on, I vacillated between confusion – “what did I do to cause this person to turn their back on me?”, anger, “how dare they, I have been a loyal and faithful client and friend!”, and ultimately to a deep sadness.

And finally, I reached out one more time – hoping that I was just being overly sensitive and there was a perfectly logical explanation for what was a simple misunderstanding. Turns out there was no misunderstanding.  For no apparent reason, this person no longer wished to continue our relationship – professionally or personally.  Although these were not the exact words, the intent of the message was crystal clear.  I have been summarily dismissed and my trust has been shattered.

At this point, I have several choices – push for further explanation, the ever popular ‘don’t get mad, get even’ or simply walk away.  Often in these situations, our first instinct is to want to inflict emotional pain on the other person, so they will feel as badly as we do.  And trust me, this was tempting.  As I cried tears of frustration and sorrow mixed with anger, my husband gave me the best advice of all – do nothing, it’s OVER.  At first I thought that was the typical male response, just ignore the feelings – but then after calming down and much soul searching, I realized he was right.  There is nothing I can do or say in this situation that is going to change the outcome.  Lashing out at the other person will not make me feel better.  I know in my heart that I have been a good friend and client, and that is the best I can do.  I gave my trust freely and it was broken, but this will not break me nor cause me to guard my heart in the future.  I’m not quite evolved enough to truly wish this person well, but I can say Namaste (loosely translated meaning ‘the soul within me bows to the soul within you’) and walk away with grace and dignity.

Many blessings,

Melissa

When I first started this blog, I thought writing about various aspects of my life would help me achieve balance.  As time goes by, I realize that I’m most compelled to write about my experiences with the precious grey muzzles known as Daisy Dogs (Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue).  These amazing creatures have taught me so much about life, love, and yes, all too often these days, loss.

While I prefer to focus on the joy they bring to my life – and so many others – there is also the flip side of the coin, knowing they will be gone much too soon.  These furry treasures often come to us with broken bodies and yet their spirits are usually strong and their incredible capacity to love and live in the moment is a gift beyond compare.  We know when we take a grey muzzle into our heart and home they may not be with us for many years, but the amount of joy they bring to each and every moment is priceless.

And yet, there are days like today that I wonder how much more loss my heart can bear.  Yesterday I learned that yet another precious Daisy Dog will be leaving this earth much too soon.  Mercury is one of the sweetest, most loving dogs I’ve ever met.  His gentle manner and soulful eyes captured my heart the minute I met him.  He’s the very picture of what you expect from a Lab – loyal and loving, and yet his family dumped him in a kill shelter when he became inconvenient.   Perhaps it was his age – 10 years old – or maybe their lives changed and they no longer had time for him, I’ll never know  – and even if I did know the reasons I probably wouldn’t comprehend how anyone could abandon such a sweet soul.

Earlier last year my heart soared when Mercury was adopted by a wonderful young couple, Amber and Jason.  I knew instantly that they would give Mercury the loving home he deserved and that he, in turn, would love them with all his heart for the rest of his days.

Mercury hanging out in my studio waiting for his forever mommy, Amber, to pick him up so he can start his new life!  April 27, 2013

Mercury hanging out in my studio patiently waiting for his forever mommy, Amber, to pick him up so he can start his new life! April 27, 2012

Mercury has had the very best life with Amber and Jason – he’s become their cherished fur child.  Late last year Mercury was diagnosed with cancer and after many consultations with vets and specialists, they decided to have his leg amputated.  His recovery was slow and often painful, but through it all there was one constant – Mercury’s love for Amber and Jason and their love for him.  I met Jason at the vet one day not long after the surgery.   As Mercury struggled to stand up on three legs, I saw the love in his eyes as he looked at his dad.  Watching Jason gently lift Mercury into the car and knowing how much he was loved, touched me deeply and I thanked God for people like Amber and her husband.

Mercury surrounded by his favorite duckies (post surgery) - Christmas 2012

Mercury surrounded by his favorite duckies (post surgery) – Christmas 2012

And now, sadly, the cancer has spread to Mercury’s spleen and liver.  I got the word yesterday and it hit me so hard I could barely catch my breath.  Sadly, I know all too well, the pain and anguish that Amber and Jason are feeling.  I want so badly to help them but I know that there is nothing I can do or say that will make this any easier.  I’m heartbroken for them – and for dear, sweet Mercury.  To make matters even worse, they’re expecting their first baby next month.  This should be one of the happiest times in their lives and yet I know they are devastated at the thought of losing Mercury so soon.

And so, in my long roundabout way, I have finally gotten to the point of this post.  I’m often asked “how do I know when it’s time to say goodbye to my beloved fur child?”  There is no easy answer to this question.  I don’t think that anyone, not me or even a vet, can tell someone when it’s time to say goodbye.  The best advice I can give is to listen with your heart – your precious fur child will tell you when it’s time.

Sadly, I didn’t know this when my own sweet Sophie was diagnosed with cancer.  Many reading this blog never knew my beautiful black chowbador – she was pre-Daisy’s Place and in some aspects, the reason I got into rescue.  After she went to the rainbow bridge I was so lost that I needed to ‘do’ something and that’s when I attended my first rescue event – but that’s a story for another post.

Sophie, or Sophie Bear as we lovingly called her because of her thick beautiful fur, was my constant companion and shadow for almost ten years.  She was abandoned as a young pup and Micheal found her while on a jobsite – he brought her home to me as a surprise.  When we were renovating our building downtown, Sophie came with me every day and stayed by my side as I painted what would be our new home.  Sophie never wandered far from me and I never had to worry about her getting out the door for she would always stay within eyesight.  I could park on the street and open the car door and tell her to ‘go home’ and she’d walked down the sidewalk and sit patiently on the front steps while I unloaded.

Sophie Bear 'on the job' during renovation - July 2007

“Did somebody say lunch???” Sophie Bear ‘on the job’ during renovation – July 2007

In October of 2007, we finally moved into our new home after a three year renovation.  Sophie loved living downtown and enjoyed our long walks through the city.  Two days before the new year, Sophie didn’t eat breakfast – this was highly unusual as she was strongly food motivated or pardon the pun, a chow hound!  Given that it was Saturday and a holiday weekend, I rushed her to our vet who immediately referred us to the specialty clinic.  After several long hours we were told that she would need to spend the night as there was some sort of mass on her xrays and they needed to do more tests.  Long story short, we got the call the next day – New Year’s Eve – Sophie had hemangiomasarcoma and it had spread to her spleen.  The vet at the specialty clinic said she most likely only had days to live and asked if I wanted to have her put to sleep – “NO,” I screamed into the phone, “I’m coming to pick her up right now!”

My beautiful yoga companion - January 2008

My beautiful yoga companion, her tail would softly wag whenever I chanted “om” – January 2008

And so began what were the most bittersweet two months of my life.  I read up on everything I could about canine cancer.  We made an appointment with a canine oncologist hoping she would affirm what we prayed for – a miracle that would save Sophie’s life.  When she told us that the cancer was too advanced, we thanked her and brought Sophie home refusing to believe her diagnosis.  I began cooking special food for Sophie, we continued our long therapeutic walks and I started bringing her into my yoga room while I practiced, believing that the quiet, peaceful energy would help heal her body.  I also had a sacred prayer circle of dear friends – we lit candles and surrounded Sophie with love, each praying silently for her recovery.

Micheal and me with our sweet girl after her tummy was shaved for the ultrasound - she loved going to Red's for a burger!

Micheal and me with our sweet girl after her tummy was shaved for the ultrasound – she loved going to Red’s for a burger!

During this time, Sophie showed no signs of illness – her appetite and energy level were good and we began to believe that perhaps we were being granted a miracle.  Until one beautiful Sunday, Sophie and I were out on our morning walk and I noticed she had slowed down … a shiver ran down my spine as I stopped to check her gums.  As I feared, they were pale – the dreaded sign of internal bleeding.  I called Micheal and told him to get the car ready – we needed to get to the emergency clinic immediately.  As we waited for the vet, I kept praying and still refused to believe that I would lose my beautiful girl.

Me and Sophie Bear just days before she went to the rainbow bridge – February 2008

This part is all a bit of a blur, so I honestly don’t remember all the technical terms or exact words from the vet – the upshot is that we were able to bring Sophie back home and the emergency room vet advised us to call the oncologist in the morning.  I spent one last night with my precious girl – she had stopped eating and as I begged her to take some ice chips from me, I still refused to give up.  I slept on the floor next to her as she didn’t want to be on our bed where she had slept by my side for almost a decade.  In the middle of the night she moved away from me and by the next morning she was lethargic and in pain.

We rushed her to the specialty clinic in the morning – her oncologist was not available and we were referred to another specialist.  As we sat in the exam room trying to comprehend our options, everything seemed surreal … I could barely understand what the vet was telling us and finally I asked, “what would you do if it was your dog?”   The response I got was not helpful, something about not being able to give us that opinion – and so, believing we were doing the best thing for our girl, Micheal and I told them to go ahead with a blood transfusion.  At this point, we were frantically grasping at straws to save our Sophie Bear.

This is the critical point in this post – and I can barely write it as tears blur my eyes  – if I could go back and do it all again, I would have lovingly let her go in that exam room.  At the time, I believed with all my heart, that we were doing the best thing for Sophie.  In retrospect, that was not the case.

They told us that Sophie would be transferred to the emergency clinic after the transfusion that evening and we could come back and visit her.  We anxiously counted the minutes and hours and then later that night we were finally able to see Sophie.  I was not prepared for what awaited us – Sophie was in the back, in a cold steel cage, her mid-section was bandaged and she was obviously in extreme pain.  As I sat on the concrete floor stroking her soft fur, I struggled to hold back the tears.   Micheal and I stayed with Sophie as long as we could – far into the night – and finally I knew – it was time to let go.  I looked at Micheal and we both knew our sweet girl was holding on for us, she would continue to fight and struggle as long as we were there, but she was in so much pain we had to say goodbye for her sake.  And so I whispered a quite “ommm” one last time to my beloved Sophie Bear.  It was barely 20 minutes after we got home that the phone call came – Sophie had gone into cardiac arrest shortly after we left and she had gone to the rainbow bridge.

Over five years later, just the thought of Sophie lying there alone in that sterile emergency clinic brings a flood of tears – and it remains one of the biggest regrets of my life.  If I had it to do over, I would have sat with Sophie in the vet’s office and lovingly said goodbye and I would not have put her through that painful and unnecessary blood transfusion.

Of course, I can’t go back and change things.  But hopefully my experience might help others who are facing the difficult decision of when to let go and say goodbye.  As I replay that awful day and night in my mind, I realize now that Sophie was trying to tell me she was ready to go – as they walked her down the hall for the blood transfusion, she looked over her shoulder at me … I should have known by the look in her eyes that she needed me to be strong, but all I could think of was my own desperate need to do everything I could to keep her with me.  Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for our precious fur children is to say goodbye.  It’s not giving up – for it takes great strength to know when to let go with love.

Many blessings,

Melissa

Note:  Thankfully Mercury and his parents have the tremendous support and guidance – and best medical care –  of what many of us (myself included!) now refer to as, the veterinary dream team – Dr. Doug Berger at All Creatures and Dr. Kerry Rissetto, canine oncologist at Charleston Veterinary Referral Center.  Sadly I didn’t know these two incredibly dedicated vets when Sophie was diagnosed, but I’m very grateful to have them in my life now!

Like most new couples, during our courtship phase, my husband Micheal and I would spend many hours talking about our hopes, dreams and plans for the future.  One night I asked him a question that had once been posed to me by a holistic doctor – “if you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you?”  Micheal immediately answered, “food, water, shelter”.  My jaw dropped and I must have had a stunned look on my face because Micheal said “What’s wrong?  Why do you look so shocked?”  I responded that I’d never thought of those things before!  He was dumbfounded and asked what three things I would consider to be most important … my response was “my fur kids, art supplies and music”.  Now it was Micheal’s turn to be flabbergasted – and thus began the union of Form and Function.

Over the years Micheal and I have had a subtle on-going battle over which is more ‘important’, form or function.  I contend that they are both essential and that one complements the other.  He, on the other hand, insists that function plays a greater role because one can’t survive without the bare necessities (food/water/shelter).  Micheal does have a point, however, I choose to believe that to truly ‘live’, form plays an equally important role.  Quite simply, I can’t imagine a life without beauty, passion or purpose.  I believe that in order to thrive, we must do more than merely survive.

As we’ve renovated several old buildings together, Micheal and I have stuck to our form and function roles.  It serves us well and curtails any major arguments often faced by couples undertaking renovation projects.  Our rule is, if it has to do with how it ‘works’, Micheal gets the deciding vote (ie, electrical and plumbing design, structural issues, etc.) and if it has to do with how it ‘looks’, that’s my domain and I have the final say.

At this point in the renovation, function has been dominant - and the objective of providing shelter has been met.

At this point in the renovation, function has been dominant – and the objective of providing shelter has been met.

Form joins Function - now it's more than just shelter, it's a home!

Form joins Function – now it’s more than just shelter, it’s a home!

Although this works well in respect to our renovation projects, in other aspects of our lives – and the lives of many others, I’m sure – the quintessential question still remains:  is function more important than form?  Traditionally, men earned the money, provided the food/ water/shelter and women took care of the house and children, providing all the ‘extras’ – a warm inviting home, clean laundry, delicious meals to name a few – that, in my opinion, make life worth living.  As our world has evolved and more women have joined the work force, either by choice or necessity, the lines of form and function have blurred.

When Micheal and I first got married, we were equal partners in all aspects, including financially.  I had a successful decorative painting business and we split everything equally including the household bills and chores.  As the economy began to nose dive, so did my business.  I also began to get more involved in rescue and eventually started Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue, which consumes a lot of my time and resources.  Thankfully, I was able to transition into jewelry design, but it’s been a slow financial recovery period and when I’m not in my studio, I’m spending the majority of my time saving grey muzzles.  The bulk of the financial burden has fallen on Micheal and although he tries to be supportive as I follow my bliss, this shift has been the source of friction in our marriage.

He gets frustrated with the amount of time I spend on rescue when I ‘should’ (in his opinion) be focusing on building my business. I, in turn, get upset that he doesn’t see the value of what I bring to the table – the beautiful home that I’ve created for us, the delicious dinners I prepare, and the many intangibles that I believe create a beautiful life.  In his mind, function has become even more important because he’s now providing the food/water/shelter.  Now, I must add, I realize that he carries a heavy load right now – money is not flowing as it used to and with my limited financial contribution it falls on him to make sure we have a roof over our head so that I can continue to enjoy my studio, yoga room – and pursuing my passions, most importantly, saving the Daisy Dogs.  And yet, I still believe that what I’m contributing to our life together has as much value as the almighty dollar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be earning what I used to – I’m independent by nature and it’s not easy for me to rely on someone (even my own husband) to provide for my basic necessities.  However, I cling to the notion that ‘form’ is essential to our existence.  I could go back to the corporate world (prior to decorative painting, I made my living as a PR professional), but the very idea sends shivers of anxiety ricocheting up and down my spine.  Without passion and purpose, I’m quite sure I could no longer thrive.  I might be able to exist, but my inner spark would surely flicker and die.

What was once a perfect union of form and function has become a power struggle.  Much like the chicken and the egg, it all depends on your point of view.  I’m curious to hear feedback from any of you reading this – is function more important than form, or are both equal parts of the whole?

Many blessings,

Melissa

My heart has been very sad for a friend who recently had to make the most difficult decision to say goodbye to her beloved fur friend.  This was an especially hard decision given the fact that her dog was not physically ill, but rather he had become increasingly psychologically unstable and aggressive.  Now, before you rush to judgment, please understand that this decision was not made in haste – far from it, this was a decision made only after a very long and committed attempt to work with him on his aggressive behavior.  Trainers were brought in, vets were consulted, a reiki master was hired – in short, my friend went to the ends of the earth and back trying to understand and rehabilitate her dog.  Her other dog sustained multiple unprovoked attacks as did my friend and her husband, and it escalated to the point where they could no longer have guests in their home comfortably given their dog’s unpredictable behavior.  This is a dog who, although he had always been somewhat timid, went from enjoying romps on the beach to being fearful and extremely aggressive (towards people and other dogs) over time.  I know my friend agonized over the decision and tried everything within her power to help her beloved fur friend.  When I learned the news that she had finally had to say goodbye, I was filled with such a deep sadness – I know she loved this dog dearly and knowing her, I was sure she was blaming herself.  I didn’t know what to say to ease her pain, how can anyone make sense out of a situation like this?  The words, “I’m sorry”, just seem so inadequate.

There is an unspoken truth in rescue, that most of us don’t discuss beyond our ‘inner circle’ and that is the fact that almost all of us at one time or another have had to make the gut wrenching decision to euthanize a dog because of aggressive behavior.  It is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make and one I don’t wish on my worst enemy.  I have sat at our vet’s office, saying goodbye to a dog I had vowed to save because he attacked and bit a visitor at his foster’s house.  He was not a ‘bad’ dog, but something had happened in his life that caused him to be fearful and thus, dangerous and unpredictable.  Like my friend, I consulted with trainers and vets and agonized over the decision and even after it was made, I kept second guessing myself.   Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief there is no magic farm where emotionally unbalanced dogs go to live out their lives being loved and cared for – yes there are a few sanctuaries, but the need far outweighs their capacity.  And so, more often than not, a decision has to be made to gently and lovingly say goodbye to these lost souls.

Having gone through this emotional turmoil with a foster dog, I could not even begin to imagine the anguish my friend was experiencing having to make this decision for her own dog that she had loved and cherished for many years.  I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about her and wondering why she had to go through this.  I tend to believe that there is always a reason for the painful experiences in our life – a silver lining or a lesson to be learned.   When I lost my beloved Daisy just 7 months after adopting her, I knew that she was sent to teach me the joy of opening my heart to an older dog – even if it meant she was only in my life for a short time.  As many reading this blog know, Daisy was the catalyst for me to create Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue, dedicated to saving and finding loving homes for abandoned Retrievers (Labs, Goldens and mixes) age six and older.  But what, I kept wondering, could possibly be the reason for my friend’s painful experience?  There couldn’t possibly be a silver lining in any of this.  What was her dog trying to teach her?  Another belief I hold dearly is that these amazing creatures come into our lives with important lessons to teach us.  Sometimes it’s as seemingly simple as unconditional love – often times I truly believe they come into our lives to teach us so much more.  I often say we must listen with our hearts to truly learn what these gifts from God have to teach us.  And again, I pondered, what was my friend’s dog trying to say to her?

As I meditated today after yoga, a thought popped into my brain – it was so random and almost fleeting and I had to struggle to hold onto it before it was gone.  It was almost more of an image than an articulated thought.  I saw in my mind’s eye, my friend – a strong, courageous, compassionate and determined woman – someone who didn’t back down from a challenge, and someone who much like myself, truly believes that if she works hard enough, puts in enough effort, cares deeply enough and wills it TO BE, she can make order out of chaos and make everything RIGHT.  I’m struggling a bit with the words here, so bear with me please.  What came to me in a moment of silence was the fact that sometimes we can’t fix everything, no matter how ‘perfect’ we try to be, no matter how ‘good’ we are, no matter how much love we extend to another, sometimes we just have to let go and have faith that we’ve done all we can do.  We have to forgive ourselves for our ‘failings’ and more importantly, we have to love ourselves the most when we feel we have fallen the hardest.  I think perhaps this is what my friend’s dog was trying to tell her – despite all the love, the dedication and commitment she had given him, he could not be ‘fixed’.  There was something broken deep inside him and it was time for him to leave this earth, to run free at the rainbow bridge.   I’m convinced that he would want her to know that he doesn’t blame her and more importantly he would want her to be kind to herself, to allow herself the same compassion and forgiveness she had given him for so long, despite his behavior.

Every day the majority of us strive to make the ‘right’ decisions, we consciously choose to do our best under any given situation.  And the reality is that no matter how hard we try, there are going to be times that we encounter difficult and often painful experiences.  Sometimes we will triumph and sometimes we have to let go and accept that there are things beyond our control – and we have to learn to be at peace with the fact that we’ve done our best.  Most importantly, we must learn to give ourselves the same love and compassion that we would a treasured friend – whether 2 legged or 4 pawed.

I realize there are no words that can heal my friend’s pain right now, but I pray in time she will find peace and her heart will heal knowing she did the very best she could do given the most difficult set of circumstances.  Perhaps we all need to remember – do unto OURSELVES as we would do unto others.

Many Blessings,

Melissa

As 2012 came to an end I had been thinking a lot of about hidden blessings.  The year was an emotional roller coaster complete with many ups and downs, tears and joy and often joy filled tears!  As I continued to work on choosing balance, I often slid down the slippery slope of placing all the things that brought me joy on the back burner.  Often ‘too busy’ to stop and quiet my mind with an hour of yoga or a relaxing walk with my precious fur kids, I kept charging along for the better part of the year, intent on crossing off everything on my ‘to do’ list before allowing myself the luxury of balance.

In September, everything came to a screeching halt when my beloved grey muzzle, Magnolia, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.  We always think there is tomorrow to spend with loved ones and do the things that are really important, but Magnolia’s diagnosis was a wake-up call for me.  At first I agonized over all the hours I had spent taking care of so many other grey muzzles.  As the director and founder of Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue, there are never enough hours in the day to run a rescue, focus on my business as a jewelry designer and juggle ‘life’.  I spent many sleepless nights thinking about all the times I had raced out the door to take a foster dog to the vet, while Magnolia stood patiently wagging her tail and I promised we would go to the beach ‘tomorrow’.  Magnolia’s illness somehow gave me permission to focus on what was really important in my life, to take a step back and realize that I didn’t have to do it all.  As I began prioritizing, I realized that I am blessed to have so many amazing people in my life – friends, family, rescue supporters – all who wanted to help, they were just waiting for me to ask!

The day that Magnolia was due to have her stitches out after having the mass in her mouth and part of her cheek removed, my husband, Micheal, and I noticed that our sweet Poppy was having issues with one of her eyes.  It seemed swollen and red, so after taking Magnolia to see her surgeon I ran Poppy over to our vet.  After examining her, he immediately referred us to the canine ophthalmologist and several days later we learned that our precious girl has an inoperable bone tumor.  I was devastated to say the least and just couldn’t comprehend that this could be happening – not two of my babies at once!

As the holidays approached, we prayed that Poppy would be with us for one last Christmas.  Magnolia had been going through treatment and was doing well, but we knew that we were on borrowed time with Poppy.  Each day was a gift to be treasured and as I began to really live in the moment I found that there were more hidden blessings than I could even count.  As a jewelry designer, the holidays are my busiest time of year and often the most stressful.  Add to that, the fact that so many dogs are dumped in kill shelters during the holidays, and it’s little wonder that over the past few years I’ve barely had time to enjoy what used to be my favorite time of the year.  I vowed that Christmas 2012 would be different – there would be more joy and less stress!

On Christmas morning as I sat watching ALL of our beloved fur kids enjoying their stuffed toys, bones and various treats, I experienced the wonder of the season that I used to feel as a child.  There are no words to express my gratitude for all the hidden blessings in my life.  To try and list them all would take many pages and be far too long for anyone to wade through.  But I do hope to convey that by slowing down and focusing on what is really important to me, I have finally found that elusive balance I have been searching for over the past several years!  Amazingly, I had my most successful selling season, we saved a record number of grey muzzles the week before Christmas AND I had the luxury of spending quality time with friends, family and my fur kids.

Poppy and Magnolia - My Sweet Christmas Angels!

Poppy and Magnolia – My Sweet Christmas Angels!

I was reminded again of hidden blessings on the last weekend of the year.  Normally the week after Christmas is my time to relax and regroup.  This year, however, I had a trunk show scheduled at Charleston Place Hotel.  Honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to it – all I really wanted to do was curl up on the couch with my fur kids and enjoy a few more days gazing at the tree lights.  I awoke early the day after Christmas and headed down to my studio to survey what inventory I had left after a busy holiday season and tried to summon what little energy I had to make a few pieces for my upcoming trunk show.  Once at my work table, my creativity began to soar and I worked non-stop for two days getting ready.  On Friday morning, the 28th, I loaded up my car and headed off to the hotel.  As I often do before a trunk show, I began my mantra, “all I need to do is be joyful, that is my only purpose” – I’ve found that this helps me to live in the moment and stop focusing on selling but rather to align my energy and open myself to the experience.  The hotel was fairly quiet but the valet told me that 300 guests were checking into the hotel for the big Renaissance Weekend.  Once I began setting up, I was reminded again of how much I enjoyed being at the hotel, the opportunity to meet new people is one of my favorite things about doing these trunk shows.

Just as I had finished setting up, a gentleman walked over to my tables and started perusing my jewelry.  His wife joined him and he began pointing out pieces that he thought she would like.  The moment I saw them together I was immediately struck by the intimacy they shared – they literally radiated love and affection for each other.  Art started handing me pieces and said, “make sure she buys these” and I joked that he should hold a workshop for husbands as never before has my own uttered those words!  We chatted for a few moments and his wife, Barbara, selected the pieces she wanted.  After they had gone I realized that I was indeed feeling joyful.  Yes, I had started my morning with a nice sale, but more importantly, meeting Art and Barbara had lifted my spirits – just being in their presence had left me with a warm glow.  As the day progressed, the hotel began to buzz as guests checked in and time flew by.  I saw Art and Barbara walk by several times and we waived a quick hello.

Saturday flew by in a blur and I got up early on Sunday for day three.  Upon arriving at the hotel, I was greeted again by Art and Barbara.  As Barbara tried on a few more pieces, Art and I chatted and he began to tell me their story.  The two of them began dating in 1960 while in high school.

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Art and Barbara – November 24, 1965

After five years of dating they parted as friends and each went their separate ways (I’m condensing this as much as possible) – after 50 years Art decided to reconnect with Barbara.  He had been divorced for 10 years and as he began his internet search for his long lost high school sweetheart he couldn’t find her as she’d kept her married name.  Barbara had been living in La Jolla, CA for quite some time (Art lived in the Washington, DC area) and had been enjoying a fulfilling life with her children, grand children and good friends as well as being a successful real estate agent.  Art happened upon a cancer survivor’s chat room and discovered several classmates who told him that Barbara was also a cancer survivor and gave him her contact information.  Long story short – Art and Barbara got married in 2011 – after a 50 year separation!  If Barbara had not had cancer, Art may never have found her.

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Art and Barbara – November 5, 2011. Shortly after their wedding!

Please understand that I’m not implying that having a life threatening disease is a blessing, but Art and Barbara’s story touched me deeply and I will always be grateful for meeting these two amazing people.  Seeing the love that they shared was such an inspiration, especially after learning that they had so recently rediscovered each other!  Note to self, do not take Micheal for granted.  I probably should have mentioned earlier, but one of the biggest hidden blessings in the past few months has been my husband’s love and support!

It’s my hope that everyone reading this will take a moment to look for the hidden blessings in their life.  All too often we get so wrapped up in the drama, whether it be a health or financial crisis, we forget to give thanks for all the good in our lives.  By taking the time to count your blessings, life will have a way of working out better than you could ever have imagined!

Wishing you all a Joyful 2013,

Melissa

Anyone who has ever lost a beloved fur child knows all too well the pain when they leave us to cross over the rainbow bridge.  They bring so much love and joy to our lives and leave us all too soon.  If you’re very blessed, you have a lifetime of happy memories to cling to once they are gone.  You have a photo album of precious puppy photos (for the purpose of this blog I’ll stick to the canine types, although the felines are no less important members of our families!)  and then many happy memories as they grew older with you and your family.  You can still remember the triumphant feeling of the first time they went potty outside by themselves, sat for a cookie, or maneuvered the stairs by themselves.  As they began to age, they might have slowed down, but they remained faithful companions – always greeting you with a wagging tail at the end of a long day.  Most likely, for as long as you can remember, they were there for you – providing unconditional love.  And once they are gone, there’s an emptiness in your heart that no amount of comforting words – or chocolate ice cream – can repair.

For those of us in rescue, most especially those who bring the grey muzzles into our lives, there are no puppy pictures to cling to, no memories of watching them grow into their feet or first birthdays celebrated.  Our joy with these precious old souls is measured in moments rather than years.  We never knew them as young, energetic, carefree pups – most come to us somewhat broken and battered, but with an amazing spirit and capacity to love and be loved.  They steal our hearts the moment we lay eyes on their sweet white or grey faces, and we rejoice at the slow wag of their tails as they realize they are safe and loved.  Many ask us, “how can you open your heart to these old souls knowing they will leave so soon?” and we answer quite simply, “how can we not?”.

Today I said goodbye to one of the sweetest, most loving grey muzzles that I’ve had the honor to meet and love.  Otis was dumped at a rural high kill shelter, condemned to die simply because he was old and no longer convenient to the people he had loved and trusted his entire life.  My dear friend Mary saved Otis from certain death, and another generous heart, Linda, assisted her with his vetting (which was extensive), promising to transport him from South Carolina to her home in Florida to live out his years if he didn’t find his forever home.  And yet another friend with a courageous heart, Kim, took him into her home as a foster.  We all prayed that Otis would find the loving forever home he deserved.

Several months ago Otis accompanied us on a weekend trip to the beach.   The main purpose of this was to see how he did on the long staircase leading up to the house as he had previously been in one story buildings and there was a family interested in adopting him, but they had a two story home.  The first night he froze when encountering the stairs – Mary and I offered treats, encouragement and cheering, but no go – Otis was petrified and Mary carried him up and down the stairs.  That first night, being the ‘softie’ that I am, I picked him up and placed him on my bed, he seemed unsure at first, but once I climbed in next to him, he snuggled up close, let out a deep happy moan and slept with his head next to my pillow.  We had several happy cuddling moments in the morning before getting out of bed, and then tried the stairs again.  Still no success.  Later that afternoon we tried the stairs again and this time he ventured down, but wouldn’t walk back up.  That night he slept spooned next to me again, his contented sighs lulling me to sleep.  The next morning I took him out to go potty, he went down the stairs and when it was time to walk back up again I didn’t look back, I just started up the stairs (slowly) and little by little, one step at a time, Otis followed.  I swear I could hear the theme song from Rocky when we reached the top step!  He did it!  Otis was so excited, his tail was wagging and he seemed to have a bit of a bounce in his step!  I have tears in my eyes just thinking of that proud and happy moment.

To make a long story short, Otis never did find his forever home.  The prospective adopters were not a good fit and so Otis stayed with his foster mom Kim and lived happily with his foster siblings, Laverne and Shirley, two little Yorkies.

This week, Otis began to noticeably slow down.  I saw him on Monday afternoon and he wasn’t his usual affectionate self, I could tell he was happy to see me but it was as if it required too much energy to even wag his tail or walk across the room to sit by my feet.  Mary took him to the vet and as suspected, his body was beginning to shut down, broken and tired from years of probable neglect.  He was heartworm positive, was going into kidney failure and the vet suspected that cancer had set in.  Otis underwent a battery of tests although none of us really needed to wait for the results, we knew in our hearts that the end was near.

Mary says goodbye to her beloved grey muzzle, Otis

Early this afternoon Mary called me, Otis couldn’t stand up and she knew the time had come.  I grabbed my keys and got in the car to meet her at the vet before they closed for the weekend.  One look at Otis when I saw him in the parking lot and I knew, Otis was ready to go to the rainbow bridge.  He had known 8 months of love and to him it was a lifetime.  All the pain from his past neglect was erased, Otis knew he was loved and treasured as he drew his last breath.  Mary and I sat on the floor, stroking his soft fur as he quietly laid his head down and closed his eyes.  There is something very sacred about being with these amazing souls as they leave this earth.  Yes, it’s sad and painful and many tears are shed, but it’s also an honor to sit with them as they begin their journey to the rainbow bridge.

As Mary and I stood hugging in the parking lot after Otis was gone, it occurred to me that rescuing these precious grey muzzles is much like entering into a marriage.  From the moment we save them, we make the commitment to love, honor and cherish them.  In sickness and in health, through richer and poorer (most often the later in rescue!) – ‘til death do us part.  It is a sacred commitment and one we rescuers take seriously.  It’s an unspoken oath that we will never let one of these beloved souls go to the rainbow bridge alone.  That is our solemn vow and in return they give us unimaginable love and joy – for as long as we are blessed to have them in our lives.

Run free Otis.  You are deeply loved and will live on in our hearts and memories forever.

Many blessings,

Melissa

I originally posted this back in January – and here we are just three months later with our second Friday the 13th this year!  I’m re-posting for those of you who missed it the first time – enjoy and celebrate Friday the 13th!

 

For as long as I can remember Friday the 13th has always been a lucky day for me.  When I was younger, some of my best dates were had on this day of the year and I’ve always felt a certain sense of anticipation when a Friday the 13th was approaching!  Maybe that’s because I’ve always been one of those people who refuses to believe in bad luck or anything that is ‘icky’ or dark.  (I once had a therapist tell me that all I wanted to see was the ‘pretty’ side of life and that I needed to explore the darker corners of my mind and emotions.  WHY would I possibly want to do that??? – OK, so that’s a topic for another day.)

Back to Friday the 13th … about 15 years ago – yikes! – I read a wonderful book by Marianne Williamson, “A Woman’s Worth”, and in it she describes this much feared day so beautifully:  “We are used to thinking of Friday the thirteenth as bad luck.  In fact Friday the thirteenth was the day the witches gathered.  When the patriarchal system, headed by the early church, began to squelch the power of women, witches were deemed evil, and many great women were deemed witches.  Their meeting time, then, was seen as bad luck rather than as what it truly was:  a time for women to gather and share energy and pray together and heal.”  Those words resonated deep within me and from that day forward I’ve always CELEBRATED Friday the 13th – sometimes with other witches – empowered women! – and sometimes quietly alone, lighting a candle and honoring my inner witch, Goddess and Wonder Woman!

I did this collage several years ago and have shared it with very few.  Actually, I had forgotten about it until today when I was mulling over my thoughts on Friday the 13th and what I was going to write in this blog.  It seems appropriate that I finally throw caution to the wind and expose my inner Wonder Woman today for all the world (or however many might read this post) to see!

My Inner Wonder Woman

If you’re a woman reading this today, I hope that I’ve inspired you to honor your greatness and all that you have to give to the world – and yourself!  And by chance, if there are any of the male types reading this – surprise the witch/Goddess/Wonder Woman in your life by honoring her today, show her how grateful you are for everything she brings to your life each and every day!

Right now, more than ever, the world  needs feminine energy – our compassion, empathy, tenderness, strength and magic!

Blessings,

Melissa

I am exhausted … completely wiped out and I don’t feel that I’ve gotten much of anything done today. I’ve been hopelessly lost in social media hell … I’ve Facebooked, tweeted, pinned and Etsied (don’t know the technical term for listing on Etsy!) and now I’m wrapping up my day with blogging. How on earth does anyone get any actual work done?!? Between promoting our Daisy Dogs (Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue) on Facebook, website and Petfinder and trying to make a living as a jewelry designer (so I can afford to keep doing rescue), I seem to spend more and more time on the computer and in what I think of as ‘virtual reality’. I must confess, maybe I’m just getting old, but I’m not really understanding the point of all this online networking. Yes, I understand that it helps promote my products and our Daisy Dogs – but does it actually lead to any tangible results? I have my doubts at this point. There is just so much ‘out there’!

My day started with such promise – enjoying a brisk morning stroll with my sweet old Magnolia. We wandered through our downtown neighborhood, collected some more gingko leaves as inspiration for my new line of jewelry and then came home to get to work. It all seemed to spiral downward from there. An entire day spent staring at this little screen and I’m feeling frustrated, cranky, stiff and somewhat depressed.

Gingko Leaves - symbolizing hope, resilience, peace and longevity

Balance does not seem to be in the cards today. I’ve got to get ready to go meet with an adopter – what I really want to do is close the door to my yoga room, light a candle and take to my mat, then turn on some inspiring music and actually have time to create!

Sorry, but I have no words of inspiration today, no uplifting stories about our precious grey muzzles or anything else for that matter. My spiritual tank is running on empty. What I could really use is some feedback, dare I ask for encouragement? I’d like someone to explain to me how all this social media works and why we need to do it. Next, I’d love for someone to offer advice on how to find enough hours in the day to Facebook, tweet, pin, blog, etc. AND create jewelry so I can actually earn a living to pay my bills and/or secure forever homes for our Daisy Dogs – preferably both!

Thank you for any insight, suggestions or comments you might have. I’m going to meditate on my gingko leaves for a moment as they represent hope and heaven knows I could use some right about now!

Blessings,
Melissa

Easter Chicks

Easter Chicks

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved Easter! The mere sight of the beautifully colored eggs, fluffy little chicks and cute stuffed bunnies brings a flood of memories from my childhood – the pretty pastel dresses for church, dying eggs with my sister, and the gorgeous baskets we would find hidden on Easter morning. I can still recall one of my favorite Easter baskets, I must have been about five years old, the Easter Bunny was very clever that year and hid my basket in the oven. I squealed with delight upon discovering the basket laden with goodies and best of all a big fat brand new box of crayons – so many wonderful colors all just waiting for me to unleash my creativity!

I don’t have a big sweet tooth, but love Easter candy, too. Not so much to eat, but to look at – all those beautiful colors! I even love Peeps and use them to decorate my Easter table, seeing those cute little faces peering out makes me smile with nostalgia. I confess, I’ve never actually eaten a chocolate bunny – I just never could bring myself to bite off their cute little head, or even a tail!

Although the days of finding Easter baskets in the oven or brightly colored eggs in the grass are long since gone, I still love this holiday. To me, it signifies a time of new beginnings. I consider myself to be more spiritual than religious, but I like the symbolism of resurrection, a chance to begin anew. The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing and the sun is shining – all signs that give me hope for a brighter future.

Today I’ll be celebrating new beginnings with a houseful of good friends and delicious food, a table set with all my favorite Easter mementos and remembering all the delights of Easters past – and the anticipation of good things yet to come. Although my family is thousands of miles away, I’ll be remembering those precious childhood years when my mother always made every holiday special – most especially, Easter – to me, the most beautiful holiday. I wish you all a Happy Easter, a day filled with love, joy, hope and new beginnings!

Blessings,
Melissa

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