Archives for posts with tag: Love

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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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

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