Archives for posts with tag: Animal Rescue

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!

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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

One of the sweetest souls I’ve ever met came into my life this week. Ralphie is a darling little yellow lab, about a year old, who was scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter. He’s been badly abused, has a large gash on his head and eye that our vet now believes to be some sort of chemical burn, and one of his front elbows is severely dislocated. When the shelter initially emailed me to literally beg for Ralphie’s life, my brain and heart were battling over the decision to save him. Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue is dedicated to saving older Retrievers and Ralphie is not old, and we already have mounting vet bills that we’re struggling to pay. And yet I couldn’t get his photo out of my mind. I threw caution to the wind and responded that we’d take Ralphie and he’d be one of our honorary Daisy Dogs under the age of six, or as we lovingly call them, Rosebuds.

Ralphie's Shelter Photo

I was not prepared for the impact Ralphie would have on my heart upon his arrival. It was hard not to burst into tears when I looked at the wound on his head and eye and the way he hopped/limped when carefully lifted out of the car by our transport volunteer. But what struck me the most was Ralphie’s amazing spirit and his truly joyful disposition! I expected him to be perhaps a little fearful and guarded after all he’s been through – but Ralphie LOVES everyone and his smile is infectious! After he arrived in Charleston, I immediately took him to our vet where he had x-rays and a complete exam. The only sign of fear that he showed was crossing thresh holds – he’s absolutely terrified to walk through doorways. I shudder to think of the horrors he’s survived and can only imagine what has happened to him. Like any other young dog, he’s curious and energetic – so he had to be sedated for x-rays. Afterwards he laid his head in my lap and looked up at me with such love and trust, he melted my heart.

Ralphie laying his head in my lap

Next on Ralphie’s agenda was an appointment to be neutered. After a day’s recovery, I picked him up and took him to our ophthalmologist and orthopedic surgeon for evaluation. The good news is that he does have some sight in his eye, but will need surgery to see if the eye lid can be repaired so that the eye can be saved. Our orthopedic surgeon is going to try to relocate his elbow during eye surgery. So we are optimistic about his chances for making a full recovery. Of course, Ralphie doesn’t really care about any of this – all he knows is that he’s a happy dog and he just copes with his physical limitations.

So Ralphie has now been to four vets in three days – he’s been neutered, has had x-rays, a full eye exam and has been poked and prodded – through it all he continues to love everyone and displays a true zest for life! When I posted his story and photo on Facebook, we received an outpouring of concern and support – but what really got me thinking was the intense outrage and dislike (dare I use the word hatred?) for whoever caused this sweet boy’s injuries. Don’t get me wrong, I think animal abuse is one of the worst crimes imaginable – I can’t even comprehend how anyone could cause such harm to such an innocent loving creature. And yet, Ralphie displays no signs of distrust and I’m quite certain that if confronted with the person who caused him harm, he would forgive. Perhaps not forget, but surely he would forgive.

Dogs have an amazing capacity to forgive. And perhaps this is another valuable lesson they are here to teach us. It’s perfectly natural to instantly feel anger towards those who harm innocent animals – or anyone else for that matter – but aren’t we perpetuating the problem by spewing hatred? I have no idea what could possibly cause someone to commit such unspeakable acts of cruelty, but I have to believe that these people are deeply disturbed, unhappy and miserable in their own minds. To commit such violent crimes is surely a cry for help – deep inside they must be screaming out for someone to love them – even if they, themselves, don’t realize it. I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t speak from that view point, but I can speak from the heart and I truly believe that dogs want to teach us unconditional love, compassion and yes, forgiveness.

Ralphie is now in a loving foster home and all he knows is that life is good! He adores his girl, Maddie, and is learning what it means to be part of a loving family.

Ralphie and Maddie

Instead of being united by intolerance and judgement, it’s my hope that animal lovers and advocates can be united through love – our love for these amazing animals who are such a gift in our lives and love and forgiveness for those who have lost their way. There is a very real vibrational difference between vengeance and justice – let us continue to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves, but let us make sure we speak as these precious creatures would, with love and forgiveness. Our world is in desperate need of healing energy – perhaps dogs are sent to guide us to a more loving place in our own hearts.

many blessings,
Melissa

If you would like to follow Ralphie’s story, we’ll be posting updates on our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/DaisysPlace Donations towards Ralphie’s vetting, can be made on our website, click on ‘be a link in our Daisy Chain’ www.daisysplace.org

It takes a courageous heart to love a grey muzzle. This morning as I write this, my heart is aching for my friend Sharon who has loved and recently lost two precious grey muzzles. I, too, know all to well the pain of opening one’s heart to these precious gifts from God, to watch them blossom after years of neglect, only to lose them much too soon. They often come to us with guarded looks of fear, they are hesitant to be loved, some have known love in their former lives only to be condemned to death row in high kill shelters simply because they are old, left to sit for days scared and alone in a cage not understanding why they have been abandoned, others have never known love. I’m not sure what is worse, those that have known the love of a family and then are thrown away so carelessly, or those poor souls who waited patiently throughout their lives waiting for someone to love them in return as they so freely gave their love.

My journey to loving and saving these amazing creatures began the day I saw my beloved Miss Daisy almost four years ago. I didn’t think my heart was ready to love again after just having lost my precious Sophie Bear, a 10 year old ‘chowbador’ to cancer, but one look in Daisy’s eyes and I knew Sophie sent her to me. I’d never adopted an older dog before – the love and pure joy she brought to my life in a very short time is hard to put into words. I could write page after page of the moments we shared together in seven short months and still not be able to adequately express all she gave me, quite simply she filled my heart each and every day. The day that Daisy went to the rainbow bridge was the day I knew my life calling – to love and save as many of these precious souls as possible. The night before she left me, we sat quietly on the couch and Daisy gently put her paw in my lap and stared into my eyes with a love that is hard to describe. After she was gone I realized she was telling me that all was well and to keep my heart open, she had to leave me but she knew she was loved and cherished and that was all that mattered.

Today’s post is dedicated to another very special grey muzzle, Jake and his courageous forever mom, Sharon. Breast cancer survivors are warriors who wear pink, I’m beginning to think that those who open their hearts to a grey muzzle should be known as warriors who wear grey – and wear it courageously! Sharon is one such warrior.

Sweet Jake

Sharon adopted Bella, her first Daisy Dog (a foster dog with Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue). After fostering Bella for several months, she knew she couldn’t let her go and thus became, what we in rescue lovingly refer to as, a ‘foster failure’. Bella was a big exuberant grey muzzled black Lab mix (the canine equivalent to Mae West) who captured the hearts of all she met! I say ‘was’, because sadly Bella went to the rainbow bridge at the end of last year.

Now Jake on the other hand, was not exuberant by any stretch of the imagination. I first met Jake when he came to us from a small rural shelter with his ‘brother”, a beautiful yellow Lab. Jake was ‘just a big old black dog’, definitely part Labby, most likely mixed with some chow and various other breeds. It was clear that Jake had always lived in his brother’s shadow, he was shy and timid and very slow to warm up to people. Of course, Jake melted my heart immediately. One day a very wealthy lady came to one of our Daisy adoption events and met Jake’s brother, she later called and said she wanted to adopt him and had heard he came into rescue with another dog, (he was in another foster home as we didn’t have any available that would take them both) and that she would adopt him as well. My heart soared thinking that these two sweet old souls would have such a great life together for the rest of their days! And they did, for a short time. They lived on a large estate and were ‘living the good life’ for all intents and purposes. Until the day I got a phone call from someone at our vet’s office telling me that Jake’s adopter wanted to put him down. Apparently one of the staff at Jake’s new home had given bones to the two dogs along with a small dog who resided on the property – and then left them all alone. Anyone who knows dogs, knows that giving dogs (especially large and small together) bones and then leaving them alone is a recipe for disaster.

Jake was blamed for attacking the smaller dog and going after the bone. I was outraged that this had happened and most of all that the adopter had not called me as it is stated in the adoption contract that Daisy Dogs are never to be put to sleep without first contacting the rescue. I immediately went and picked up Jake and this was to be the beginning of the ‘real’ good life for our sweet boy!

After several weeks in a temporary foster home, Jake went to live with Sharon. She was only ‘fostering’ she kept telling me, but of course, we both knew that Jake had found his forever home. Bella welcomed Jake with open paws, and with the love and patience he received from Sharon, Jake began to slowly come out of his shell. It started with a little bounce in his step and over time he began to literally dance with joy whenever he saw his mom! This big old ‘black dog’ had finally found the love he deserved and he was no longer scared or timid – he lived life to the fullest and filled Sharon’s days with love and joy. Jake was finally ‘home’ and he knew the real meaning of the word for several blessed years.

Last Friday Jake jumped out of the back of Sharon’s car after a routine trip to the vet and gave out a small yelp of pain. Sharon took him back to the vet on Saturday morning where he spent much of the day under observation. He was presenting a variety of symptoms and at first the vet thought he might have a spinal injury. He wasn’t eating and was having a hard time standing. Sharon took him home armed with IV fluids and kept a careful watch over the weekend, with our wonderful vet calling and checking in via phone throughout.

Yesterday, just four days after the first indication that there was something wrong with Jake, I was at our vet with one of my grey muzzles, Magnolia, who’s being treated for Lupus. Our vet told me that Sharon was on her way back in with Jake as he still wasn’t doing well. I went out to the parking lot where Jake was sitting in the back of Sharon’s car while they drew blood – I joked about the ‘curbside’ service that he was receiving and Magnolia went up to give him a nose nuzzle. Jake actually stood up to greet Magnolia and I took this as a very good sign. Sharon and I stood there chatting for a bit with the vet techs and she decided to have some xrays done to try and determine the cause of Jake’s discomfort. At that point I had to leave as I was running late for a class and still had to get Magnolia home. I gave Jake a hug and kiss and told him to stop scaring his mom – then I hugged Sharon and told her to call me as soon as she had the xray results. It never dawned on me that this would be the last time I would touch Jake’s soft fur or look into his big beautiful eyes, so filled with love and trust.

An hour later I checked my phone while sitting in class – and there it was, a text from Sharon telling me that the xrays showed a large tumor in Jake’s liver and that he had joined his sister Bella and my beloved Daisy and so many other grey muzzles at the rainbow bridge. My heart filled with sorrow – and anger, anger that he was gone so soon, anger that these amazing creatures wait so long to tell us when something is wrong and yes, anger at myself for leaving. And then I realized that my heart was also filled with gratitude, gratitude for Sharon and all the others who have the courage to love these precious grey muzzles in their golden years – and gratitude to Jake for teaching us all that it’s never too late to open our hearts to love.

Run free dear Jake, although you are gone from this earth, you’ll always live on in our hearts – especially in the heart of your forever and ever mom, Sharon.

many blessings,
Melissa

Synchronicity:  the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality

It’s really amazing how the Universe works when we’re on the ‘right’ path.  And I use the word ‘right’ meaning, whatever it might be that is in alignment with our true selves.  What is right for me, might not be (and probably isn’t) ‘right’ for anyone else.  You know you’re on the right path when things just seem to click, life flows instead of ebbing, people come into your life who enrich your experiences and so forth.  Whenever I veer off my right path, I feel as if I’m swimming upstream –  in mud.  Nothing works.  Sometimes I ‘get it’ immediately and step back to evaluate, other times I keep pushing and trying to force things to work out the way I want them to – this never works as it means I’m out of balance and not listening to that inner voice that keeps me focused and on my right path.

When we’re on our right path … it’s a truly delightful journey! Yes, there are still bumps and in the road, but  the Universe sends us people and situations that we didn’t even know could exist – that’s when the magic of synchronicity is at play in our lives!  The only way to have synchronicity is to step back and ALLOW … you can’t force it, you can’t even will it to come, you have only to breath, relax, let go and listen to your inner voice.  It will never steer you wrong, but you do have to ‘listen’ with a quiet and open heart.  You know it’s not there when you get that ‘ick’ feeling.  Sometimes your brain is telling you to go one way but you know deep inside that isn’t the path for you.  No matter how much it logically makes sense, it’s just not going to work out if  you have to force things.  Where there is internal conflict, there is never synchronicity.

As some of you reading this might know, my path has led me to Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue.  I didn’t plan to start a non-profit rescue, nor would I necessarily have chosen it if I had any inkling of what it would entail on a day to day basis.  However, I know with every fiber of my being that this is my right path.  Although it’s often hard, heart breaking work (with no monetary rewards), it feeds my soul in a way that is hard to describe.  It’s also a bit of a sticky subject with my husband as it’s not on his right path and he feels – rightly so – that it takes a lot of my energy and focus away from my own business and producing an income.  And let’s face it, unless you’re a trust fund baby, all of us need to earn a living these days! So I work hard at balancing rescue with my jewelry design business and the rest of my life.  It doesn’t always work out the way I intend, but again, if I listen to my own inner voice, things ‘just happen’ as they are meant to – synchronicity more often then not brings exactly what I need at any given moment to let me know I’m on my right path.

Odin - a very special Daisy Dog

I could share any number of examples of synchronicity at this point, but the following illustrates it beautifully.  About a month ago I was asked to take a large husky-shepherd mix into rescue.  Odin was featured in my blog “Compassion Leads to Balance“.  His dad was moving and couldn’t keep him and his housemate Rheba, a 9 year old Lab.  Now keep in mind, Daisy’s Place is dedicated to saving older Retrievers – Odin doesn’t have a bit of Retriever in all of his 110 lbs.  I agonized over what to do, Daisy’s Place was full with no open foster homes, but something kept bringing me back to his picture and his dad’s heartfelt pleas to save him.  For those of you not in rescue, let me explain that I get literally hundreds of these emails a week, so this was not an unusual situation.  I have no idea why, but I just knew I was meant to save Odin – and Rheba.  The minute I stopped listening to my brain which was screaming “what are you doing?!?!”, a foster home magically appeared that was absolutely the perfect fit for Odin.  I also found a loving foster home for Rheba.  There’s more to this story.  A few weeks later we had a ‘meet and greet’ where our fosters bring their adoptable Daisy Dogs so they can have the opportunity to meet potential adopters.  One of my fosters brought her Daisy Dog, Violet – and the minute she met Odin she exclaimed “he looks just like my Valentine that I adopted from the shelter 9 years ago!”  As soon as I got home I emailed Odin’s former dad and he responded that yes, he had adopted Odin from the same shelter at exactly the same time Kate got Valentine – 9 years ago – they were siblings separated at the shelter.  In that moment, there was no doubt, Odin was meant to be a Daisy Dog!  I’m not sure where this story will go from here, but I do know that synchronicity led me to save Odin and just looking at his sweet face fills my heart with joy!

Embrace your journey and listen to your inner voice, stay on your ‘right’ path – you’ll know when you’re exactly where you’re meant to be – synchronicity will whisper in your ear and enrich your life in ways previously unimaginable!

blessings,

Melissa

I’m beginning to think that I should rename my blog to “Everything I know I Learned from a Grey Muzzle” as it seems these amazing creatures have so much to teach us if we open our hearts – and obviously, they are a constant inspiration to me!

I’ll keep today’s post short and sweet – I received the following photo and text via email, I’ve seen it before but it always touches my heart.  Having loved and lost many precious animals in my life, I know that if they could speak the words, they would each tell me to keep my heart open after they are gone. Each of my beloved fur kids bring so much love and joy to my life and when they leave, it’s always much too soon.  I truly believe that when they make their journey to the rainbow bridge they send the next one who needs my love and care.  The love that I shared with each of them is honored when a new bff (best fur friend!) comes into my heart and home.

It takes a courageous heart to open again after losing a beloved animal companion, but the rewards are invaluable.  As we open our hearts, the healing begins.  Those that are gone are never forgotten, they live on in our hearts and memories forever.

In memory of my beloved Chloe, Rosey, Sophie, and Daisy – and in honor of all the precious souls we couldn’t save and who never knew love on this earth.

Blessings,

Melissa

The other night I attended the first meeting of a newly formed spiritual growth book club.  I was so excited as this is in perfect alignment with my commitment to choose balance and get back on my spiritual path!  The evening was everything I had hoped – a group of like minded individuals (ok, I’ll spell it out in case you’re wondering – all women!) – all of us seekers on this magical mystical journey we call life.  We discussed the first chapter of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, a powerful book that I read many years ago and obviously need to re-read as I’ve seemingly forgotten – or have chosen to ignore (hmmm … that is a topic on all its own!) – the very valuable messages contained on each page.  At some point in the evening, talk turned to the issue of ‘trust’ and the law of attraction.  The idea that if we trust we’re safe and all is well in our world, then it will be.  But when we start worrying and living in fear, the Universe will reflect that back to us and give us examples of how we’re ‘right’.  Being a big believer in the law of attraction, I started reflecting on my own experiences and issues with trust.  When, I wondered, did I stop trusting that all is well in my world?

I was reminded of a time when I first started dating my husband.  I lived in the city and never worried about locking my door – I would leave my front door open with only the screen door (unlocked) for ‘protection’ and never gave it a second thought.  And just in case you’re wondering, this was before I had four large dogs!  At the time it was just me and my little Cairn terrier and my cat.  One day Micheal came over and was aghast that I had just left myself ‘wide open’ and didn’t I know that it was dangerous and any number of horrible fates could result by my carelessness?  Little by little, I started ‘protecting’ myself – first I started keeping my front door closed and locked, then I added a padlock to my gate and so it goes.  Now I live in a big house with a 7’ wall surrounding our courtyard, an alarm system and four large dogs – and guess what?  Not only was my car broken into last year, but I was robbed – in the middle of the day!  An intruder entered our courtyard, came into my studio while I was no more than 10’ away in my yoga room, and walked off with my purse, smart phone, an envelope containing hundreds of dollars in donations to my rescue – Daisy’s Place, other misc. items, and most importantly my sense of security!

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming my husband.  But I do know that once we open our minds to fear and the seed is planted, slowly over time we begin to have that fear validated as we start to believe that the world is a scary place.  Everywhere we turn there are examples of crime, violence and natural disasters of every sort imaginable.  But this has always been the case – so why then did I choose to start believing in fear and how did I lose my trust that all is well in my world?

I hate to admit that this sense of anxiety and fear extends beyond my safety at home – it has somehow seeped into many aspects of my life.  Another example is that I often find myself paralyzed with fear while driving on the freeway.  When did this happen???  When I was younger, I’d hop in my car and drive hundreds of miles, in inclement weather no less, without giving it another thought.  At one point in my life, I even went flying in an A4 (the jets that were flown by the Blue Angels) – I couldn’t wait to climb up and get strapped in and soar up into the clouds, thrilled with each ‘loop-de-loop’, plastered in my seat as we ‘pulled’ 5 Gs.  I had complete trust in the pilot – and the Universe!  I think back to those carefree days with a mixture of longing and disbelief.  Again, I ask myself, what happened?  How have I become so fearful?  When did I lose my trust – and most importantly, why?

Precious

As often happens when we’re ‘seeking’, we start viewing the world in a different light.  Yesterday I picked up Precious, a sweet little chocolate Lab mix, from our vet’s office to take her to her new foster home.  To give you a little background – this adorable little girl was found wandering about 3 hours away from Charleston.  She was picked up by animal control and brought to the shelter – what we in rescue refer to as ‘the scary place’ for you can only imagine how terrifying it must be for these poor animals to suddenly find themselves locked in a cage with hundreds of other scared animals, barking, crying and meowing. Precious spent almost two weeks at the shelter and nobody came to claim her so she ended up on the ‘put to sleep’ list.  I had a volunteer pick her up, where she was driven an hour and a half – with a strange man – to meet another volunteer (again, a stranger) who drove her the rest of the way to Charleston.  She was then taken to the vet, checked out and then she got in the car with me.  As I sat talking to her and reassuring her that she was safe, I looked over and Precious had this big smile on her face.  Her tongue was hanging out, her ears were perked in anticipation and she seemed truly joyful, content – and you guessed it, trusting!  I was once again reminded of the many valuable lessons these amazing creatures have to teach us.  If this sweet dog can be so trusting, not knowing where she is or where she’s going, why then, can’t I do the same?  I can’t begin to imagine the terror she’s gone through in the past several weeks, and yet, she hopped in that first volunteer’s car with total trust and an open heart.

Thank you Precious for reminding me that the world can be a safe and loving place, I have only to trust and believe!

many blessings,
Melissa

Most of us that are on any sort of spiritual path (even those of us who are prone to veering off from time to time!), know that one of the best ways to maintain balance is to practice gratitude.  Sounds simple, right?  All we need to do is to take a few moments each day to remind ourselves of just how blessed we really are – and yet, at least for me, this is sometimes easier said than done.  January is always a difficult month for me.  I find it very hard to get motivated after all the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  As a jewelry designer, my business comes to a stand still in January.  This is a time that I ‘should’ be recharging my batteries, indulging in hours of ‘play time’ in my studio, exploring new creative outlets and letting my creative juices flow.  Instead I’m often paralyzed with anxiety and find myself stressing over ‘not enough to do’.  I’m a deadline worker – and yes, I’ll admit – a procrastinator.  If I have 20 things on my to do list – and they must have a deadline – I’ll get them all done and manage to clean out my closets, too!  BUT, if I don’t have any impending deadlines, instead of being grateful for the free time I’ve got, I find myself floundering – and stressing.  Will I ever have another trunk show?  What if I don’t have any new creative ideas?  How will I pay my bills next month?  And so goes the little voice in the back of my mind.

January Daisy

Today I walked into my courtyard and was greeted by this beautiful, cheery gerbera daisy!  We’re having an unusually warm (70s plus!) January and it feels more like Spring than the dead of winter.  Just seeing this happy flower made my heart do a little dance and I was reminded of how grateful I am to live in Charleston – and just to be alive and able to experience this simple pleasure!  Then I started thinking of everything else I’m grateful for – I get to wear sandals today and I don’t have to bundle up in winter clothes, I’m meeting a good friend for lunch and we can dine al fresco, I’ll be able to take my dogs for a nice long walk and enjoy the sunshine … you get the picture, acknowledging my gratitude for this one lone flower in my garden, started an avalanche of things to be grateful for in my life.

As I sat looking at this daisy, my creative muse returned and now I can’t wait to get started on new pieces for my Daisy Collection!  I’m taking a metal smithing class and am anxious to get back into my studio to start working on a copper daisy pendant.  And, I’m feeling gratitude – gratitude for this creative inspiration that has reminded me of two of my passions – jewelry design and Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue!

I’m the first to admit, we all need a gentle reminder now and then, to count our blessings!  It’s easy to get bogged down with stress and worry and to focus on scarcity rather than abundance.  What are you grateful for today?

with blessings and gratitude,

Melissa

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the meaning of compassion lately.  Being in rescue, I find that it’s often easy to condemn others for their actions, i.e., giving up their animals, without really putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.   Animal advocates are a passionate bunch, with huge hearts and boundless compassion for the animals they are dedicated to saving.  BUT, I’ve been noticing lately that there is often a real lack of compassion for other people – mostly for those who are giving up their animals.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people who just don’t care about the animals that they commited to caring for – and I’m not making excuses for them.  However, I’m receiving more and more pleas from people who just have no place left to turn.  Those who are losing their homes and are forced to move – unable to take their beloved pets with them, those who are ill and can no longer care for their animals, victims of divorce, the list of reasons is never ending.  As a dedicated rescuer and dog/cat mom, it’s tempting to judge those who are giving up their animals.  I used to say, “I would NEVER do that, I’d sleep in my car before I’d give up my fur babies!”

And then one day, I asked myself “How do I know what I would do if I found myself in such dire circumstances?”  This simple question has helped me open my heart to those who need my compassion – and surprisingy, has helped me gain balance.  When we are constantly judging others and passing condemnation, it’s easy to start seeing the glass as half empty.  I’m constantly amazed by so many in rescue who say over and over, “people suck”.  And yet, these animals that we are so very dedicated to saving, know nothing but unconditional love, they have much to teach us about compassion if we only pay attention.  My life has been so enriched by the many generous, loving and caring people who have crossed my path because of rescue.  Once I decided to start having compassion for those who were surrendering their animals, this too, changed my perception and my daily experiences.

I reecently received an email from a man who was in dire financial straights, moving and couldn’t keep his two 9 year old dogs.  Again, tempting to immediately pass judgement and think “why can’t he find some place to live that will allow him to keep his dogs?” – instead, I emailed him back and told him I would do all I could to help.  Unfortunately, the timing was really bad – he was moving in a matter of days and I didn’t have any open foster homes at Daisy’s Place and it was a holiday weekend so boarding was full.  With a very heavy heart I emailed him back that he’d have to take his dogs to the shelter, but that I would do everything in my power to find a place for them before they were put to sleep.  One of his dogs was a beautiful, BIG (110 lb) teddy bear – a husky/shepherd mix of some sort, and thus didn’t even fall into the parameters of being a Daisy Dog (we save Retrievers).  I began emailing other rescues to see if anyone could take Odin, the non-Retriever, but no luck – all the resues were full.  I had already determined that I would save Rheba, Odin’s 9 year old black Lab companion, but time was running out.  The man emailed me that he had taken his two beloved dogs to the shelter and that he knew it was just a matter of time before they would be killed – most likely a few days.  He told me how he cried when he said goodbye to them and he prayed that I could find a way to save them, but he understood if I couldn’t.  I broke down sobbing when I read his email and I just couldn’t get Odin out of my mind.  I emailed the shellter and told them to hold both dogs – I would come and get them within the next few days.  I had no plan, other than to save these two precious souls who had obviously been so very loved.

Odin

Once I met Odin there was no way that I could send him to another rescue!  He’s an adorable, sweet, happy dog and he – and his previous “dad” – touched my heart.  Both Odin and Rheba are in loving foster homes and are doing great.  I’ve emailed photos to their dad to let him know that they are safe and loved.  I know that this man needed my compassion, and I in turn, was given the gift of being able to do something to help another fellow human being – and his dogs.

Being compassionate helped me find my inner balance and that joyful place that feels so much better than judgement and condemnation!  As we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. today, let us be reminded of his words ” Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

many blessings,

Melissa