Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday for Mari

I've spent the last 2 years with M&M Mondays and, following Millie's death, the last 7 months with Maggie on Mondays. So even tho Maggie is gone, I still think of her & Millie every Monday. It's bittersweet.

 In the meantime, I have been back to working on the book:

So I thought that I would honour their memories by posting a little something from the book each Monday. First a bit about how the book came to be. I had originally intended to do a book of M&M Mondays where I would upload the blog posts to Blurb & voila, you have a book. But then there was a HARO query from Jennifer Skiff asking for dog stories for her awesome new book The Divinity of Dogs, coming out this October. While M&M's story ultimately didn't make the cut, I'd read it to John Morgan. The next morning he called & told me to check my email. He had sent me the cover of the book. He said, "I did the book cover for you, now YOU just have to write the book." And so I started writing & quickly realized that I had to start at the beginning. I would never have been able to take on M&M if my other dogs, Barkley & Remi hadn't taught me what to do for them. I wrote a bit everyday and then I moved from the River House to my little Lake House and didn't touch it for several months. Now I'm back on track!  I'm a couple months away from completion, I think. In the meantime, here's the story that sparked the cover:

Maggie & Millie, two senior sisters, came to me via AARF, a rescue organization in Richmond, VA. It had taken a year and a half to be able to even think of getting new dogs after my mother-son duo died within 6 weeks of each other. I’d had Barkley for almost 16 years, and Remi, her son for almost 14. I was astonished at how my grief could bubble up at inopportune times so long after their deaths. But I missed the companionship and the petting and all of everything that goes with having a dog. I had looked at a few lab-mixed dogs, but I would just crumple when they were so glaringly unlike Barkley and Remi. And then I saw these two labweiler girls on Petfinder, and I just knew I was taking them home with me.

Not much was known about them. They were older, estimated to be 7-8 years old, and had been dumped on a busy Richmond highway. When I got them, they came with a host of health issues; some age-related—arthritic and unable to walk up stairs (which made me think they’re way older than 8), and some others like allergies, an infection, and skin problems. Millie in particular, seemed the worst with itchy skin that she had scratched her fur off and had bald patches.

Friends and family members, some more vocal than others, questioned my adopting two aging dogs. Why was I putting myself thru the pain of the inevitable?  Even I was expecting that they were coming home to hospice care with me. “What are you getting out of this?” a friend asked. “I’m not doing this to get anything, I’m doing this to give. These two need to have a quiet, loving home where someone cares for them before they die. I don’t want them to have been abandoned and left to slowly die away the rest of their lives.”

Because I got these girls late in their life, I didn’t know their personalities, likes, dislikes. I had to surrender and be quiet, and pay attention to them and their behavior. I had to learn from them, vs. trying to teach to them.

 They were already on a grain-free diet. I continued that and added wild Alaskan salmon oil, probiotics, and digestive enzymes. And then every night, I would settle in to watch TV, and I would sit on the floor and massage and Reiki both girls. More than the physical ailments, I was acutely aware of their emotional well-being. It broke my heart to think that someone could abandon two elderly dogs on a highway. Who could do such a thing?!

They look so similar, that it was hard to tell them apart at first. But I soon discovered not just physical differences, but personality differences, as well. Maggie is a cheerful girl who wags her tail if you look at her. Thump, thump, thump! Goes her tail!  She was much more approachable and attached herself to me very quickly.  Millie, on the other hand, was . . . for lack of a better word, grouchy. She never wagged her tail and was cautious around me. I continued to massage and Reiki them daily. They were both in pain, but I surmised that Millie must’ve had some sort of injury because her lower back was so restricted and her tail hung down limp. I continued to work on her and finally was able to release some restrictions around that area. Low & behold, she regained her range of motion with her tail! It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy, it was that she was in so much pain. She couldn’t wag her tail. By continuing to work with her, and giving her consistent, caring touch, she began to respond. One of the sweetest things to see is when she’s asleep and she wags her tail in her sleep!

Chloe Wordsworth, creator of Resonance Repatterning, tells a story about a friend who was helping Mother Theresa with some orphans in Bosnia. She kept asking why Mother Theresa wouldn’t let her go to the front lines to help get the children. Finally Mother Theresa replied, “Do you notice your face? You are so sad when you see these children. They don’t need your sadness. They need to know that their sadness is over, and that they are coming to a safe and loving place.”

I kept that story in the back of my mind as I received these two dogs. They’ve lived a whole lifetime before me, and who knows what they’ve experienced. Because I didn’t know, they taught me what they knew. I could tell by their response that someone had loved these girls. They weren’t aggressive with their food, they weren’t skittish when I brought a hand to them. They lay on the floor and let me step around them and over them. It didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t be house-trained. They are. Their first owner must have been right-handed, because I discovered that they are leash-trained. I am left-handed, but they correct and position themselves over to my right side. When I first got them, they would not enter a doorway before me. Someone also taught them good manners; they don’t beg for food, and any food bits that gets dropped on the floor, stay there. 

When I travel, I take the girls to Mystic Pet Resort, owned by my friends Lena and Gareth. The girls are in love with Gareth. They respond to him in a way that makes us both think that their first owner must have been a man. Lena said that she thinks their first owner died and they got passed on from there. I think that’s very possible.  Gareth said, “All dogs want is to be devoted to a master.” They really do have a devotion, and I often say that dogs put the “un” in unconditional love.

Reading this story is a more condensed version of the blog. And it is not in the book like this--but you'll see! LOTS of photos for you in the book, Mari! I'm forever grateful to you & AARF for M&M. THANK YOU! And THANKS to John Morgan for the kick in the ass encouragement to get back to writing.  :-)


Kathie G said...

This is so touching! It's stories of love, such as this, that are a beacon to animal rescuers when hopelessness creeps into our hearts. I look forward to the book. All the best - Kathie, AARF

Hali Chambers said...

Hi Kathie! Thanks so much. And THANK YOU for all your work. You make the world a better place for our furry friends! :-) H.