therapy dogs

A Deep Stirring of the Heart

A Deep Stirring of the Heart
Just days before Frankie moved on…

I was deeply moved by a post  on author Jon Katz’ blog this morning. So much so, I’m still having tearful moments as I write this.

They aren’t tears of sadness, though some bittersweet. But tears of recognition – of understanding – of having been in this space – and have come away from it profoundly changed.

Jon’s border collie, Red, who so many have come to love, is dealing with an unknown illness right now. A therapy dog who has touched so many lives he is also the spirit dog here at this time marking a passage in Jon’s life.

Having talked with a healer and animal communicator this morning, Jon wrote this:

Kimberly was direct, she told me that my challenge now was to recognize Red’s exhaustion and discomfort, and to give  him the time he needs to rest and to heal.

There was a time in my life when I would not have been able to hear this, I was too broken myself,  but I know Kimberly and trust her, and she simply went to the heart of it with me and with Red.

This stirred my heart with much emotion remembering my work with my paralyzed dachshund, Frankie, who was in a wheelchair, and touched so many lives herself. And without a doubt in every fiber of my being, she came here to help me heal – though I didn’t recognize it at first – and that gift would continue to unfold as we had a shared purpose and mission.

The recognition in realizing I was sensing she was slowing down in 2011 – she was ready to retire. Her time was coming to an end and my life, and our life as I’d come to love it, was about to change. And I didn’t know how I’d go on without her.

But in those last six months, and for months afterwards, the whisper in my heart that didn’t want to surface or admit to was that I too, was ready to slow down and move on. And it was also in learning to let go of what was, and to accept that Frankie wouldn’t live forever, and that I’d be okay.

It opened my heart to understanding more than before that with the gut-wrenching pain of loss, finding our way back to gratefulness of what was, was the whole point of our journey. How blessed I was to have had the opportunities I did with her.

How blessed I was to have this spirit dog, who forever changed my life for the better. It was imperative that I recognize and honor her wish to now retire and live out her days next to my side as I wrote the memoir of our journey.

This too, an enriching gift, of days with her all to myself. To give thanks for all the compassion she not only showed me, but others.

And getting to this place of not wallowing in her passing, but in the bliss that she brought to my life, that her gift lives on… and her spirit fills me each and every time I think of her.

And I’m grateful when my heart gets stirred from a post like Jon’s – a reminder of a time that was excruciatingly difficult, but with time I can now look back and my heart smiles with such joy from the love of Frankie.

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Blue Ribbon Heart Dog

Blue Ribbon Heart Dog

Kylie and Gidget

Gidget is the third dachshund with special needs that has come through our doors. Kylie has loved each one of them.

Almost ten years ago we got Kylie from a breeder in Tennessee. She is an English Labrador – the true breed of the lab, with the square head, bushy tale and stocky body.  I still remember traveling there 3-weeks before Christmas to bring her home.

She was a big ball of super soft fur with the saddest face I’d ever seen. She wasn’t really sad, it was just how she looked — and still looks today — and I think her face truly expresses how deeply she loves.

And oh, how I had it all planned out. She was to be my therapy dog that would visit nursing homes and hospitals. I wanted to find a way to share the love of a dog with those less fortunate after my chocolate Lab, Cassie Jo passed away.

Then Frankie, my first dachshund became paralyzed and if you’ve followed my blog for awhile – well, you know how that story all turned out — it was a beautiful ride.

But Kylie — always in the background through everything. All she has endured with how busy my life was with Frankie and then when I brought home Joie, my second wheelchair dog after Frankie passed away.  And now Gidget.

Through it all she has thumped that big ol’ tail of hers for each little misfit that has come through our door. And she has taken them under her webbed paws and loved them with all her heart.

If I could look inside her, I bet I’d see the biggest heart one could ever see inside a dog. And if there were saints among canines, well, I’d have to say she would be one.

At times, I’ve carried guilt that she didn’t get to be a therapy dog. Perhaps she would have been a good one if I’d have had the time to devote to helping her achieve that.

But in her own way she did turn out to be a special therapy dog – to ankle high wiener dogs who have loved snuggling in her soft coat of strawberry highlights — and pestering her by licking her black lips, which she has never ever really seemed to mind.

And everyday when I rise for the day, open the bedroom door and see her lying on the over-sized maroon chair in the living room, her face with just a bit more frosting, well — that there, my friend, is one of the finest therapy dogs who brings a smile to my face every single day.

It was all meant to be. And if I could award Kylie with a blue ribbon, I indeed would and it would say:  To the best dog sister and friend in the whole wide world.

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A Blossoming Friendship: Gidget’s “Unofficial” Therapy Dog Visit with Miss Marie

miss G and Miss MGidget isn’t a certified therapy dog, nor do I particularly think she would be cut out for that type of work on a consistent basis. But she does love our friend, Miss Marie. I guess you could say that Gidget, at her age, has learned to set her boundaries and is particular about who she is going to spend her time with.

I’ve written about Miss Marie before. A dear lady I’ve been getting to know better, who before this, was always the mysterious woman to me who lives downtown in our small village, in the big white house on the corner. Fascinated by her artistic flair for quite some time I was, and then through a series of events, we have now become friends. I’m so grateful as I love spending time with her.

She was gone for a month and a half as she traveled to see family and to spend some time in Arizona. I admire her get up and go as she just packed up her electric green SUV and drove the route by herself.

I’m happy to have her back again. She is now recovering from some foot surgery. An email came later last week kindly summoning a visit from me, but most importantly, from the little 10 lb. dog, known as Miss Gidget, to accompany me to brighten up Miss Marie’s day who has been pretty much house bound since her surgery. Seems Miss G has burrowed her way right into the heart of Miss M who has had many cats in her life, but never a dog.

For years I’d been curious about what the inside of Marie’s house looked like. And today I got to find out! In many ways, it was just as I imagined, and I was tickled pink that it fit what I had been imagining in my mind for so many years. Eclectic with a twist of artistic flair (of course!), thrown in with 2nd hand shop finds over the years, and a dash of cottage style, I wanted to stay there forever among her treasures and the inviting, cozy atmosphere.

Still a bit weary from her surgery, after we at our Chicken Caesar salads I brought for us, Miss Marie said to grab a chair and come sit by her as she nestled back in bed, propping her foot up on pillows.

As we talked, Gidget napped happily and quite contently in the pink pouch that hangs like a sling around my neck and shoulder, like a little Joey nesting in a mama Kangaroo’s pouch.

Miss Marie, comfortable in her own skin and not afraid to say what she needs or wants. She tells it like it is too and I like that about her. Her laugh is endearing and her wisdom is something I soak up and take into my heart.

I brought along Miss Gidget’s beret  as Miss Marie often wears one now and then. I asked if I could get a picture of them together in their berets. Miss Marie was more than happy to oblige– anything for her little furry friend.

There are times I miss the “official” certified therapy work I did with Frankie, which we did about three times every month for three years.

But in a way, I too, am a bit more selective with my time these days and setting more boundaries. And perhaps Miss Gidget is my reminder of that for me at this time in my life. And I’m so happy for times like these where I can experience the joy of sharing the love of a dog with someone like Miss Marie.

So we may not be an “official” certified team, but our hearts are certainly in the right places as we brought joy to Miss Marie today. And in return, we came home with double the joy in our own hearts.


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