Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thoughts on Surviving Grief


I think everyone wants to know how to make the pain stop after losing someone dear. I have had a lot of experience in this regard in recent years, suffering a number of human, canine, and feline losses. I don’t think you can really make the pain go away. You might be able to distract yourself for a while or become numb for a time but the grief is still there. What does ultimately help is the passage of time.

So how do I cope? I realize that the love I shared with the one who is gone is proportionate to the pain I feel after their passing. In a twisted way the pain is a gift that I have because of the depth of love and relationship that was shared.  And with the especially meaningful relationships the grief morphs into a wistful longing of what was and keeps the memories fresh. The sharp pain does subside. It is replaced by these memories. I carry them with me and they become a part of who I am. I never do lose that hollow spot that they filled in life but the images help to keep them close to me so that they are always with me.

Each of these passings of a loved one takes a piece of my heart with it. You would think that after a while my heart would be all used up. This is not the case. I learn something about love each time and am able to love again and again. My heart and love have the capacity to grow. I hope that my emotional heart is getting bigger. I know it’s not getting any smaller.

Duncan-Best Smile Ever

Duncan was this soul mate and best friend for me. When he passed, it was all I could do just to drag myself around and do the bare necessities for days. My heart physically hurt for days too. My world seemed so empty. At every turn, he wasn’t there when he should have been. Two and a half years have gone by. The sharp pains are gone. I function and go about my life and enjoy it. I am happy. Life is good. Have I stopped thinking about Duncan? Not for a day. He is a part of who I am. He goes with me everywhere.

For me this relationship was with a dog. That is the case for some. Others have this experience with different beings. Anyone who was a major presence and part of your life might have the same effect.

Why do I write this? Because I am wallowing in grief? Definitely not. I write so that those experiencing something similar might take some comfort in it and so that those who don’t understand might gain some insight.

The ultimate gift, given and received, is taking that love and honoring it. Love is never wasted. Cherish it and put it to good use by continuing to spread it around.


One of the Greats

Baby Dakota

Dakota was a surprise from the beginning. The plan was to adopt a smaller dog from the shelter as he would be living in an apartment. This is one of his baby pictures. He appeared to be a small terrier type dog, maybe with some Yorkie in the mix. He belonged to my brother who was in college at the time.

Dakota Bear

This is Dakota all grown up. We never did decide what his heritage was but he ended up weighing 70-75 pounds and was quite large. Just goes to show you never can be guaranteed what you will end up with. We wouldn’t have traded him for the world though. His body was not the only thing that was large. His personality and spirit were as large as they come. He would only ever really listen to my brother. Every one else was second best. He adored my brother and thought the rest of us rated slightly above strangers when it came to respect. Dakota did love us though as evidenced by the wag of his tail against the floor when he saw us.

Dakota and Duncan

Dakota would come to visit us whenever my brother did and they both even lived with us for a couple years. Above are Dakota and Duncan when they were one year old. Oh, the fun they had! It was always quite the sight.  By the time they were done, the furniture had been rearranged across the room and the cushions were spread liberally around. Look at the pure joy on Duncan’s face.


Dakota lived the good life. He went to so many places with my brother. Walks across campus, too many area parks to count, to Lake Erie beachs several times, and to so many other places. I remember one excursion we took to Mentor Headlands beach early in the spring when it was still cold. It resulted in me having a discussion with a ranger about why dogs were not allowed on the beach when no one else was there but babies were allowed there in diapers when we knew they were not potty trained. He agreed with my line of thinking but there was still a warning ticket involved. Dakota also was a regular attendee at the annual Buzzard Sighting Day in Hinckley for a number of years. 

As the years passed my brother’s family grew, first with a wife, and then with a beautiful little girl. Dakota was a part of it all as he should have been.  I continued to stay close with Dakota. Whenever my brother and his family traveled, several times a year to visit other family members, Dakota would stay with us. We looked forward to and enjoyed these visits. It gave Dakota a chance for a sleepover with the “cousins” and an opportunity to spend time outside in the pasture with the other dogs.

Dakota always had a mind of his own and was up for an adventure. One time during the night he took half a chocolate cake off the counter and ate it. We were extremely fortunate that there weren’t any adverse reactions. He had to sleep in his crate from then on. Another time I was putting him in the pasture with the other dogs but he had a different plan. He decided he wanted to take a walk through the woods towards our neighbor’s house. As I  called his name, he looked over his shoulder as if to say “so long, I have something else to do” and kept going down the trail. I had to run back to the house for a leash and then take off after him. I caught up to him as he ambled along. He looked up and his reaction was oh, hey you’re here. I  put the leash on and put him in the pasture with no further incident. Dakota loved the pasture. When he was done, he was done though. He would stand at the gate and bark one woof about every 10 seconds until we put him in the house. We always joked, Dakota does what Dakota wants. We just gave him guidelines.

He was highly intelligent but with attitude.  Another time when he was staying with us, my husband told Dakota to do something that he didn’t want to do. Dakota flung his crate door open with a paw so hard it slammed open and shut and open again.  He stomped into his crate, plopped himself down and gave a loud annoyed sigh. His version of letting us know he was not happy with our behavior.

I remember another time I  incurred his displeasure too. He thought I was a liar. He was staying with us for a few days while my brother was in North Carolina. It was the day my brother was returning to pick Dakota up and I told Dakota this. It turned out my brother couldn’t come that day due to heavy snow. As evening approached Dakota kept looking at the door and out the window, waiting for his ride home. I finally had to tell him “he’s not coming today Dakota. ” That earned me one of his withering looks as he went and laid down on his bed. I learned that day to never say something I wasn’t absolutely sure of because Dakota would call me on it.


It has been my experience that the more challenging dogs have deeper bonds with us. The effort put into the relationship multiplies and is returned exponentially. Dakota was one of those dogs. He was loving and fiercely loyal. His big presence leaves a big empty space with his passing. Dakota left us today at 15 1/2 years of age. Run free once again sweet boy.

Beginnings and Endings


Last weekend was beautiful, and quite possibly fall’s last hurrah so we all made the most of it. I took the opportunity to walk around our woods. The dogs kept an eye on me as they were outside enjoying the weather too. You can see that watching me is very serious business by the intense stares.


This is the path the dogs watched me amble  down. Not many leaves remained on the trees but the grass was still green and the sun was shining. Actually I took a stroll down the path to go visit Roxanne, who now resides in the doggy cemetery, after her recent passing. You can read her story elsewhere on this blog.


And this is the trail from the edge of our woods back up the hill towards the house. It is covered with a lush carpet of moss. I know from taking the class, Mosses and Bryophytes, back in my college days that this is a Polytrichum moss. They are very green and ornate.

Wood crib

As I pass the wood crib I am comforted by the piles of wood that will keep us warm this winter. We have yet to turn our boiler on for the year. In the fall we try to heat with wood. Our goal is not to turn the boiler on until December 1st. This goal has varying degrees of success depending on the severity of cold and our degree of motivation. During the dead of winter we still burn wood but it is a  supplement to our central heating system. It seems appropriate somehow as our home was built in 1830 and we use this archaic method of warmth for a significant portion of the heating season.

Baxter on the Dog house

Here is Baxter watching  my return. Of course my walk through the woods begins and ends with dogs. As it should. This is a metaphor of my life. Life is good.




Gifts from Mother Nature

Harry Lauder

Mother Nature was indeed kind to us this weekend. It was such a beautiful day of mid-November on Sunday that I took a walk around our property to check on the progress of the plants. The garden area is still quite spectacular. The plants have the “bones” of the garden as backdrop so even with the lesser array of blooms it is still pleasant to look at. The fountain and sandstone beds anchor the plants. In this shot above I especially like the dappling of the sunlight on the fence and the way it is reflected on the surface of the water. The fountain pump has been put away for the year so the fountain functions as a reflecting pool for the time being.

                                Snapdragon Snapdragons

These snapdragons were all volunteers. That’s one of the reasons I love them. Plant them once and you can enjoy them for a few years afterward too. I also appreciate them because they bloom so prolifically and for so long. I have seen an occasional bloom even in December! And the white snapdragon is growing from between two sandstone blocks on the side of the flowerbed. These tough little plants show tenacity. Hence the phrase, bloom where you’re planted. Mother Nature planted these and they took advantage.


The hydrangea continue to put on a show as well. Their foliage is at least as impressive as their blooms which are not too shabby themselves. Large green leaves provide a lushness that is fading in the garden at this time of year.

November Rhododendron

A few plants do appear to be confused by the unseasonably warm weather. They are taking advantage of it as are we. This rhododendron has several blooms. I took advantage of this warm spell too. I dug up some daffodil bulbs and moved them to new locations. Then I took a book and sat on the patio to read in the sun. Then friends and family came over and visited while enjoying time outside. Life is good. This is Ohio in mid-November. What a gift!

Roxanne and the Big Ride


What a beautiful smile! It is what I will remember about her. Roxanne lost the good fight yesterday. Run free pretty girl. I miss my dog.

Roxanne passed peacefully at home.  She was laying outside in the sunshine on a beautiful 70 degree late fall day of Indian Summer. A dog couldn’t ask for better and neither could we. She was 15 1/2 years old and we were blessed to share 10 1/2 of those years with her. She had been failing again recently. This had happened two times before this year so I thought she might rally yet again. We joked that she would be with us forever. You will be with us forever, old girl. But now you are young again.


To tell the truth, I expected her to give us more trouble on her way out of this world. You couldn’t exactly say she was an easy dog. I guess it was her last gift to us. Roxanne was one of our Sheltie Rescue dogs. She was the first foster dog that we kept after our Rescue had been in operation for two years. It was because she was deemed unadoptable. Lucky us! I do feel lucky. She had been adopted once and returned because she barked and lunged at kids and bicycles on her walks and the adopter had been an older lady who couldn’t handle it. Didn’t seem like that big of a deal as rescue troubles go. So she came to live with us. That behavior had been just the tip of the iceberg. She could give a serious “nip” when you were leaving the house. She didn’t like the way I sneezed and would lunge at me and hit me in the thighs every time I committed this grievous act. When I ran the blender there was more lunging and nipping, sometimes actual bite attempts with varying degrees of success. She would come running from other rooms of the house to exert control and set her world in order. This resulted in her nickname, which I used frequently, of Roxilla. Over the years it became a term of endearment. Even in her later days if you accidentally put your foot down on her as you got off the couch, she could inflict a healthy nip. We didn’t think that anyone else would exhibit the proper level of insanity to keep her so with us she stayed. You may wonder why? Despite these “drawbacks”, she was a very sweet and loving girl. She thought she was working and doing her job to keep everyone in line and under control. She was listed as a sheltie and came through our sheltie rescue but I always wondered if she was infact a tricolor border collie with working instincts gone awry? She didn’t exactly look like a sheltie. Didn’t matter. We loved her and as part of our family we chose to put up with what we could not change.


Roxanne came from a shelter in West Virginia. Her story, as I remember it, is that her owner was a truck driver and made runs to Mexico. He ended up in prison and Roxanne ended up in the shelter. I think the trucker had family in West Virginia. We always joked that she was used to running drugs. Especially with the way she would vigilantly watch people from the car window. Who knows?! That girl did love to ride in the car. When my daughter was in high school we would take Roxanne with us to pick my daughter up from her fast food job. Roxanne knew where her “pup” (as she thought of my daughter) was. Roxanne stood on the car seat watching through the car window and the restaurant window, looking inside to watch my daughter work behind the counter. She stood on the seat watching and trying to encourage my daughter to come and get in the car. Her eyes followed my daughter everywhere she went until she was safely inside the car for the trip home.


We all considered Roxanne to be my daughter’s dog because they had such a special bond. That dog loved her Livvi! And the feeling was mutual. When my daughter was older and had her driver’s license she would take Roxanne with her in the car to run errands. That elicited big smiles from both of them. Of course Roxanne would stay in the car and watch, eagerly awaiting my daughter’s return. Even in her last months when she was slow and hobbled by arthritis she would come running as best she could when she looked up and saw my daughter was here for a visit. What a special bond. I get tears just thinking of it.  Of course I am getting tears a lot right now.


As recently as a couple months ago Roxanne would on occasion go out to the pasture and spend some time outside enjoying the sun and fresh air with the other dogs. Here you can see she was still alert and watching all the goings on around our place. Always in control, that girl was!


Yet again I am amazed that even with five dogs still left in the house, it seems empty now with her passing. Of course that girl lived large and had a big presence. Now she will live forever as is her due. Until we meet again sweet girl. She is probably riding in a big truck in the sky and looking down while thinking “will you guys get up here where I can keep an eye on you!”

The Earrings, or Remember to be Kind


These are my “Remember to be Kind to People” earrings. That’s what I think whenever I put these on. I will purposely wear them if I know I am going into a situation that is trying or where something may happen that will annoy me. These earrings have super powers that cause me to be kind. Or so I pretend.

Does anyone else do that? Assign thoughts and powers to inanimate objects? I have done it for years. In college I had an opal ring that I would focus on during exams and draw wisdom from the universe. Logically I know these claims are all in my mind. But they are useful if only because they help me focus my thoughts on matters at hand. A talisman if you will.

Back to the earrings. They had auspicious beginnings. I bought them on Harry London Day. If you would like to learn more about Harry London Day, read here  That special day is all about sharing and relationships and love. Each time I put them on, I remember the joy that day brought. I want to be responsible for spreading joy and love. And so I wear the earrings. Each time I put them on I think of them endowing me with the power to always be kind and conduct myself in a manner so that people know I care about them. If I know I am going to see a person that I find tries my patience, or into a situation that may be stressful, on go the earrings. And as I go throughout the day I occasionally remember that I have them on and check to make sure that I am behaving in a tolerant and thoughtful manner.

Although it seems silly to bestow earrings with characteristics that they obviously do not possess, if good comes of it, then it is indeed a magical thing!