Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Women, Hate and Election Depression

Never before have I felt “lesser” because I am a woman. I do today.

Back a year or so ago, when Donald Trump announced he was running for the United States presidency, I thought it was awesome. I mean, FINALLY! An election season with some reality-show flavor! No more stuffed shirts blathering about the national debt. Lots of colorful sound bytes (“You’re fired!”) and PLENTY of “SNL” skits. Oh, the “SNL” skits! I joked how I hoped Trump would win the ticket so the fun could go on and on and we could all enjoy Hillary Clinton eat him alive during the debates.

Then, shit got real.

It stopped being funny last night.

Leading up to election night, I felt frustration with my beloved media for stirring up the pot in what we media professors call the “agenda-setting effect.” This is when media outlets decide what issues are important and emphasizes those, whether or not they deserve such emphasis. I thought the whole “uh oh, Trump may be gaining ground” prognostication was more hype. I mean, HOW could America vote in a neophyte? A sexist, homophobic, xenophobic bully with absolutely no experience? I know people hated Clinton, but this? I mean, come on!

Image result for images of woman powerHow wrong I was. How wrong the media and the pundits were. I watched a bunch of them on CBS last night, trying to come to terms with what just happened, and the shock on their faces said more than their bumbled words.

In any race or game, someone wins and someone loses. I get that. That’s the nature of it all. This whole “everyone’s a winner! Here’s your trophy” mentality isn’t good for anyone and it enforces the creation of a group of entitled snowflakes who can’t tie their own shoes.

So yes, I get that someone has to lose. And I get that there are and will always be the Republican/Democratic divide and arguments (until the country wises up and widens the pool from just these two groups, but that’s another topic). But this! This is beyond the typical party issues and arguments. This is bigger. This is very different.

Last night, America voted in someone who I honestly can’t figure out or understand. What I do understand is the cruelty, negativity, hate, sexism and racism that flowed forth so rapidly—and was COMPLETELY excused and accepted by the public. I was naïve to believe that being a woman in this election would help Clinton. It brought her down. If she was a man, do you honestly think she would have been subjected to such ridicule or held at fault for a spouse’s actions?

This opened my eyes to the fact that the gender divide is real, and it’s ugly. Bullies win, and win big. I thought that as a woman, I could do whatever a man could. Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps the country isn’t as advanced as I hoped. Perhaps the #repealthe19th hashtag trending earlier this season should have clued me in.

What scares me even more is that people may now feel entitled to be cruel, hateful, bigoted, misogynistic and sexist and have it excused because that’s just “being honest.”

This has been called an f-you to the Obama Administration, a cry by the “trodden down white man,” a middle finger to the establishment. But call it what it is, people: a permission slip to be an asshole.

I’m not being a “sore loser” because my team didn’t win. I didn’t vote for my team because the leader had ovaries. I went with my choice because it is congruent with who I am and what I stand for. Not everything, but a lot. Just because I’m liberal doesn’t make me a baby killer or a lover of death-row pardons. So of course I’m shaken when the team that did win is one that stands far and away from the issues I hold true and important.

I told my kids this morning that our team lost. My daughter looked incredibly shaken and asked “are we going to war?” THAT is what upset me about the loss last night. The fact that Trump has inspired fear and distrust in us and especially in our children. He glorifies the “you’re with us or we’ll kick your ass” mentality that is such a problem with society today.  I reassured my girl that no, we are not going to war. I reminded her that while the country voted in someone who does not believe in what we believe in and does not espouse the values that we do, that does not mean we have to agree with everything he says or does.

And we are a strong gender that does not deserve to be treated as anything but equal. We should not have to still be fighting for equality, nor should we have to stomach hashtags that promote the abdication of our basic rights to voice our choice.

“And as a woman, you CAN do whatever you set your mind to,” I told my girl, even if now I’m not sure I believe it myself. And that is depressing.

I told her that we can still stand for what we believe in and above all else we value love and respect. We respect ourselves, our family, our friends, our community and our world. We treat others how we want to be treated. We encourage compassion. We don’t judge and we don’t fan the fires of hate. We can disagree and still love someone. We don’t always win, but we always try and we don’t get bullied into believing what we don’t feel right about. Hate is never OK.

Yes. That is right. Hate is never OK. I hope this election turns out better than I fear. I hope it’s not a complete and utter return to darker times. I hope that it doesn’t encourage others to become the worst versions of themselves.

But above all, I hope that it does not boil us down into a civilization of ugliness and hate.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Tree Doesn't Lie

Written June 12, 2013

Many times during the week, I go for a walk after dropping my girl off at her classroom. Down the street from the school is an amazing, awe-inspiring tree. Towering over the single-story blue house, the tree is proof of what I don't want to know.

Time is passing.

Throughout the months of this school year, I have seen the tree in all of its lush green glory of summer, its bejeweled red of autumn, the stark beauty of leafless limbs in winter. And now, lush green glory once again. Full circle.

The school year is over. We've made it through the year. And now, it's time to move on. Like it or not. Deny it or not. The tree doesn't lie.


Today was the last day of school. I could smell it in the air. It's like students and teachers emit some kind of summer pheromone or something. It changes the way the school looks, the way the students act, the way teachers behave. It's something that has not changed since I was in school. Even without a calendar, I would know it was the last day.

As I walked in the door of K2, I saw the kids all curled up on the reading carpet, watching a movie. "Mary Poppins." And immediately, I remembered the summer all those years ago I sat in our local movie theater parking lot, watching an outdoor screening of "Mary Poppins" as my girl, still with a few months of growth time left before she was born, kicked and jabbed my ribs.

And now, about 20 minutes later, here she is, on the last day of kindergarten, watching the beloved classic. How did that happen so quickly?

I'm living a cliché right now. I cannot bear to say or hear  "it goes by so fast" or "blink and they're in college" one more time. I may smack them—or me—across the face with a wet sock if it doesn't stop. How can kindergarten be past-tense? How can I have a first-grade student? How is it possible it was just yesterday (cliché!) I walked her in the door that first day? How can it be over? 

This stunned sense of time speeding up is nothing novel to anyone, and especially not for parents. I once heard that as we age, there's a part of our brains that stops functioning properly when it comes to processing the passing of time. It actually does seem like time goes faster as we get older. My sister and I have birthdays three weeks apart. The time between her day and mine seemed to last three years when I was a kid. Now? I can barely get a "happy birthday" out of my mouth before it's my turn to receive such well-wishes.

Having children taught me to be in the moment much more than I ever have before. Babies force you to do that. There aren't many things you can do when nursing a newborn, or changing a diaper, or bathing a toddler. You have to focus on the task at hand. For a perpetual multi-tasker like me, the shift to present tense was welcomed, and rough, all at once.

But now, I'm glad I learned such a lesson. This year went so fast, my only consolation was to remember the times I dialed in and paid attention to what was happening. And even with that tool in my arsenal, I still felt shocked and unprepared on the last day of school. I fought the urge to bumble around campus, grabbing any parent I could see and screaming "Where did the time go?! How did my baby grow up so fast?! Someone hit me before I continue spouting off clichés! Here's my sock!"

As the final bell rang and a red-eyed teacher came out of K2 bidding her students goodbye, I looked at all of them and wondered where we would be next year. I hoped my girl would be with some of her good friends. I hoped we'd have a good teacher who would really  inspire a love of books and reading in my firstborn. I mourned the daily routine of kinder drop off (didn't I curse that chaos every day since September?), the faces I wouldn't see every day in the classroom next year, the beautiful simplicity of kindergarten and all of its glitter/paint/glue/crayon glory.

But as I wrote at the start of the year, today's ending is tomorrow's beginning. If we never left preschool, we would have missed out on this amazing, growth-filled year. The good friends we have today would have been missed, as would the lessons we learned, the skills we acquired (counting to 300! Writing! Reading a handful of big words! The ability to memorize the fact that seahorse daddies carry the babies in a pouch!). If my girl stays in kinder, she will miss all of the glorious gifts awaiting her in first grade.

And she can't wait to open them all. Summer already is something she must get through in order to FINALLY land in first grade. I bite my tongue when I feel an Eeyore moment coming on. "Oh, I really miss kindergarten" is more apt to come out of my mouth than hers. The last thing I want to do is create a child with my sentimentality issues and inability to painlessly embrace change. But I'm so good at it!

So on this last day of school, I gleefully greeted my girl, mirrored her excitement that she gets to move on to the next grade and then drowned my sorrows in our traditional ice cream date to celebrate the last day of school.

I have the whole summer to enjoy my kid. I can deal with her being a first grader in August. For now, she will be a kindergartner. And she will, like it or not, always be that sweet baby who jabbed me continuously through my first viewing of  "Mary Poppins."

Kindergarten Graduation, With Bob and Frank

Written  June 10, 2013

Daily, I pass by the fence gating the kindergarten playground as I make my way back to the car after morning drop-off. And more times than not, I remember peeking along the edge of the fence on the first day of school, watching my daughter sitting alone yet totally confident, eating her snack, her pink sequined hat shimmering in the sun. My heart broke a bit as I saw my baby girl on that first day of kindergarten just nine short months ago. On some days, I can feel that first day as if it just happened. On others, I would bet money it occurred a lifetime ago. Most days, I can recall with diamond clarity how everlasting this kindergarten year appeared at its inception, how graduation seemed decades in the future and how, once I settled in to the new school and routine, I never wanted it to end.

And yet now, it's done.

Tonight was kindergarten graduation.

While I know graduating from preschool into kindergarten was a much, much bigger leap for me and my daughter than is this milestone, this is still a change. And you all know how well I stumble over those. It took me until Thanksgiving at least—OK, Christmas—to wrap my head and actions around the fact that this was not preschool. I had to adjust to new drop-off practices, new standards of behavior inside the classroom (yes, I'm talking about me, not my kid), new expectations, new faces. My girl didn't break stride transitioning from preschool to kinder. And yet I took my own sweet time getting to where she stood.

But I did it. Finally. I fell in with the kindergarten rhythm, I made friends of my own and a work routine that meshed well with the school schedule, I adored my girl's teacher. My girl loved school and never once did she beg not to go. I volunteered as much as possible in the classroom, but especially in the third trimester. I knew all of the students, helped them tie their shoes and put Band-Aids on their cuts, even read a story to the class a time or two (oh, how I loved that!). As the calendar pages ticked off, the more I found myself helping out in class. I knew I was holding on to every precious moment I could. I knew my frantic efforts to stop time were comical at best. But I didn't care. I didn't want it all to be over.

All along, I told myself that kindergarten graduation is just a great little ceremony, nothing more. But of course I was wrong.

In October, at the school's annual festival, I won the silent auction raffle for the front row seats at tonight's event. That may go down as the best use of $35 ever. My family staked claim to these seats in the packed auditorium as my girl, adorned in a lopsided graduation cap, walked across the stage and stood right in front of us. All 28 students lined up, looking so proud and pinchably adorable. I wanted to burst out laughing and sobbing all at the same time. I could see how, in about 10 minutes, I would be watching these same faces walk across a stage at their high-school graduation ceremony. I think I had some minor tachycardia at the thought.

Tonight, instead of a quickie production with the teacher saying something nice about each student, handing him or her a diploma and calling it a day, the class launched into a series of musical numbers, complete with choreography. When my girl belted out Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," but with the lyrics changed to "First Grade First Grade," I honestly understood that cliché "bursting with pride." Up in the top row stood my girl, taller than any girl and 99 percent of the boys in her class, throwing her hands up in the air, singing at the top of her lungs, ignoring her ever-falling-off cap. This, the same child who had to be coaxed into saying hi to anyone not that long ago. Now, she was performing in front of a live audience:

Yet it was the sight of nearly 30 kindergarteners swaying to Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" that cemented the moment in my soul.

Back when I was about six months pregnant with my girl, my husband and I took a "babymoon" vacation to the Bahamas. For a week, I slathered my belly with sun block, lounged on the sand, floated in the warm ocean and felt nothing but joy for this tiny creature growing inside of me. We listened constantly to Bob Marley on that trip, eating these addicting curly fries and drinking virgin pina coladas. I was unquestionably, insanely happy. No worries, just joy.

Nearly seven years later, I hear that song again, but out of the mouths of babes. My babe. The one who seemed to weave some sort of magical spell over me even while in the womb. I suppose that's what all babies do to their mothers.  But it's magical nonetheless when it happens to you. Seeing my girl coming into her own—growing up!—as she sang the song that linked me to my pregnancy and my joy brought me to tears. Happy tears, yes. But tears.

Things change. I couldn't stay pregnant forever. My girl could not be a baby forever. And she can't be in kindergarten forever. This is all good, all normal. Don't worry. Every little thing is going to be all right. So I repeated to myself over and over.

The graduation ceremony, including the Broadway-worthy tunes, lasted well shy of an hour. And yet it felt like so much had changed! This year, the year I entered with such anxiety and anticipation, was done. It's on to the big-kid playground, full days of instruction and a new teacher. First Grade, First Grade!  Nothing monumental really, but somehow, very significant.

After a reception of cookies and milk on the playground (how can it be that she won't be spending recess here anymore?), we took too many photos to count and then gathered up the team and headed to a local restaurant for a celebratory dinner. All the while, I kept stealing glances at my girl. Yes, she physically grew inches this kindergarten year. She blossomed into an independent and self-confident person. But most of all, she began tasting what this big, huge world can offer her. And I think she likes it.

With this graduation, she dipped her toe in the water, sensing what awaits her as she steps into the deep end. With this graduation, I see her stepping away from me. Little by little, each milestone brings her closer to herself, and further away from me. That's what we want as parents, isn't it? To create these beautiful creatures who go out into the world and make it better. We help our children grow up, and out. Yet why do these milestones feel like tiny little heartbreaks? The heartbreaks of parenting are so intertwined with the joyful milestones, it's often hard to tell them apart. Maybe that's why tears at events such as tonight's are tears of joy, and sorrow. Tears for what is gained and what is lost. It's hard to pry these things apart.

But then again, don't worry. Be happy. Every little thing is going to be all right.

That's the choice we can make. Focus on the heartbreak of the little girl growing up, up and away, or be happy she's able to grow up and you can play witness to it. And pray she won't go far away, and that every little thing really will be all right after all.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Oh, Sweet Annie

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
—Dylan Thomas

The sight of her collar, worn shiny with age, sitting on my bedside table instead of resting around her neck is physical proof of the reality I can't accept.


Annie is gone.

My mind wrestles with this fact alongside how she died. We, like so many others, had to make the decision to put her to sleep. This brought up a whole new dimension of grief and pain that I did not experience when we lost Owen just eight short months ago. Whereas Owen's death came about quickly and rather surprisingly, Annie's was years in the making. She had numerous health issues stemming from her inflammatory bowel disease. Age took its toll on her hips, balance, hearing, eyesight, cognitive function and bladder (oh, how it affected her bladder!). On paper, Annie was a geriatric mess. In life, she was beautiful and perfect. At nearly 17, my German shepherd/Husky mix was a canine phenom, living on an on and on.

So how can she now be gone? It is implausible. After almost 16 years together, the absence of Annie is felt like a missing limb, a knocked-down wall, a leveled building. The feeling of something missing is actually tangible. I hear her constantly in the house; the tweeting of the birds sounds amazingly like the jingle of her dog tags as she loped through the house, the kids dropping a book on the floor resonates through the hardwood as did Annie's body when she would plunk down and sleep, the pile of blankets under the table looks just like her body when peered at from the corner of my eye.

I've never had a dog with me this long. In fact, I don't know this family, this house or this marriage without her. Annie came first, before every other single thing that shaped and defined my life for the past decade and a half. And now not having her here has thrown everyone into a misguided orbit. 

It was in 1997. Wedding planning was underway with a fierce determination. Only a few more months to go before I would marry this amazing, selfless man I met jumping off the Matterhorn (true story. I'll share that one later). Between picking out cake flavors and twirly white ribbon embossed with our wedding date, P and I kept busy looking for a place to live. He worked in one county, I worked at the far end of the neighboring county, so we needed a middle ground. As a result, we wound up living with our parents so we could save up the money it would take to find a decent home fitting our needs.

One humid August morning while house-sitting his folks' place, P went out to get the paper. He called to me, and I looked out the front door. There knelt my future husband, all 6'5" of him, with his arm around this filthy, flea-infested dog with giant ears that stuck out on either side of her head like handlebars. All I really saw was love. That moment, much like the first time I saw both of my children, became etched in my brain, sharper than any photograph and more vivid than any video. It's a permanent picture on my soul. At that time, in that moment, I knew it. My life was changing.

We were responsible. We took her to the shelter (and she literally sat down and had to be coaxed in. My heart broke and I sobbed even harder) and waited for someone to claim her as a lost dog. When no one did, her time ran up at the shelter. We had nowhere to live, no money, a crazy wedding to plan. And yet, we didn't hesitate to get Annie out of the shelter and make her ours.

For the next 16 years, she was constantly by our side. She was just that: a constant. We got married—she was there. We bought a house—she was there. We had a baby—she sat by me in the bathroom as I waited for the two pink lines to appear on the stick, and she nuzzled me as my knees buckled under the force of a contraction. We lost my dad—she licked away my tears. We had another baby—she became his giant black toy. Annie was so much a part of us, we didn't know an us without her.

In the early days, I would watch her gnawing on a rawhide or prancing after birds, and feel amazement that someone did not want this dog, someone left her on the streets to die. How in the world could anyone have gotten rid of such a gift? She was my first rescue, and she cemented in me an unending passion for rescuing dogs, and for singing the praises of these pups anywhere and everywhere I could through my career as a writer.

Annie defied the odds and shattered the life expectancy charts for larger dogs. I mean, she was literally 120 years old or more in people years. I bragged about my ancient dog to anyone who would listen. It became a goal, keeping her healthy and alive to the next birthday. Throughout those years, Annie had many, many health episodes that convinced me the end was near. But she always rallied. I just saw her as this medical marvel.

 But slowly her age crept up to her. The arthritic hip gave out. Her hearing disappeared. She became disoriented and would howl in fear at times. And let's not even detail the severe urinary incontinence and dementia-caused urination that destroyed my carpet and every area rug I owned. (But what worked like a charm were disposable training pants, size 4T-5T with a hole cut out for the tail, by the way.) The changes came about gradually enough that we rolled with them, making them our new normal.

I knew the years were gaining on her. I just ignored them. As long as Annie was pain-free, eating and drinking, she was fine. We no longer went on hikes or walks due to her lack of mobility, we never left her alone for more than five hours, we accepted the fact she didn't want to play anymore, we fed her the only (crazy expensive) food her stomach could handle, we gave her supplements and medications. Anything to get another healthy week, month or year. And we did. Annie may not have done much more than eat, pee, get brushed and sleep (and barrel her way into the pantry to eat the kids' snacks) toward the end, but that was fine by me. Just having her around was enough. And she was happy. Spoiled rotten, pampered and happy. The risk of keeping her too long for selfish reasons was not lost on me. But I figured I could love her enough to fuel her another year or more. After all, look how far she had come!

I wasn't ignorant to the signs of Annie growing very old. I saw them all. But until she was in obvious pain, I didn't want to obsess about losing her. When she hit bottom over Memorial Day Weekend, it amazed me how something I feared and expected for years could still slap me across the face when it finally arrived. Annie had another, what I thought, stomach issue. Howling, pacing and anxious. Once she threw up and got her medicaiton, she seemed better. Until the middle of the night. Then it was more pacing and howling, demanding to be outside all night, pacing, pacing, pacing. Was she in pain? Obviously uncomfortable, she refused to settle down for hours. Worry eroded me and I had a feeling this time was different.

But the next morning, when she ate some corn and chicken, it seemed we once again dodged the Grim Reaper. Annie was alert and not in obvious pain, and drinking a ton of water. (Maybe too much water?) I relaxed and scheduled her a checkup with the vet.

Hours later, plans changed. Annie began pacing through the house, vomiting bile, refusing to eat or drink, howling, demanding to be outside. I had not seen her urinate in hours. P and I tagged teamed the watch, but Annie wanted to be left alone. At around 3:30 a.m. in what soon became the longest night ever, Annie just looked at me with this expression of intense exhaustion, confusion and utter desperation.

I saw that look before. With Owen.

I prayed for the sun to rise so we could get her to the vet. I prayed that if her time was now, she would lay down on the carpet and just go to sleep in peace. I feared she would do this outside and die alone, suffering a horrid death without me by her side. I worried how I would have the strength to be by her side. I worried I waited too late to make the decision to end her suffering. I panicked thinking about how much she might be suffering. I fought for years to never agree to euthanization so long as Annie lived happy and pain-free, despite the dozens of age-related nuisances. And to be honest, euthanasia scared the crap out of me. I had a bad experience with it a dozen or more years ago, and I was unable to accept it unless my dogs were basically comatose and two breaths away from going anyway.

But as I watched Annie pace the backyard in a labored style of walking, I knew she would not go gently into that good night and I would be forced to re-evaluate my fears in light of what was best for Annie, not me. Dylan Thomas would have loved my dog. She fought and fought the dying of the light, pacing and pacing, as if she feared the moment she rested her head, she would be done.

As it turned out, that's exactly what happened.

We rushed her to the vet in the morning. My heart and soul knew we would be taking her out of the house for the last time. Those middle-of-the-night thoughts clarified what was up until now a theoretical chat. Annie was in pain. No, she was not quite comatose. No, she was not yet two breaths from death. But she was dying. And she needed me to help her.

Annie walked into the vet's office, struggling with each step but on her own. She had lost another 7 pounds practically overnight, clocking in at a mere 30 pounds. Years ago at her prime, she was 57 pounds. The anxiety and pacing continued until the vet walked in and gently coaxed Annie onto the floor.

And there I saw her just sigh and go limp. She did not make a single attempt to move again. She was done. This was pretty comatose, my husband said through tears. My heart shattered as I watched Annie lay as still as death. The vet's hands gently moved over Annie's body, commenting on what we all could see: Annie was dehydrated, exhausted, possessing absolutely no muscle, in pain. Her body was consuming itself. Her kidneys most likely had given out. That can be like a light switch, said the vet. The body can operate, often times quite well, with just a sliver of kidney function. But once that is extinguished, it's over and things progress rapidly and painfully.

"She is trying to tell you she is done," said the vet. "We are looking at days."

As a journalist, I am trained to ask why, to pose the difficult questions. My training didn't fail me. I peppered the vet with any query I could think of—what else can we do? Will it work? How can this be fixed? Is she really dying? Why? On and on I asked (some stupid, some obvious, some insightful) questions, and the vet answered. I can't tell you how grateful I am to her for being so honest, so kind and so gentle with us, and with Annie. I don't know how many more ways or times I could ask the basic question: What else can we do? Basically, we could choose to do bloodwork to confirm the vet's suspicion that Annie's kidneys were gone, we could test to see how extensive the internal damage might be, we could insert a feeding tube, start an IV, put her in the ICU, hook her up to life support. Which may or may not extend her life, and what kind of life would that be anyway?

"We have to think of quality," said the vet. "And what Annie would want, not what we want."

"But maybe she just needs some fluids," I fought. I suppose Dylan Thomas would like me, too. "Maybe she needs to rest from walking around all night."

But why did she walk around all night? Why was she in need of fluids? Why was she not peeing? Why was she losing weight by the minute and vomiting bile? What was the underlying reason that caused all of this? It's not like she just hiked 12 miles and fell to the ground, exhausted. Something caused her to ceaselessly pace and pant, as if she was couldn't stand still long enough to find comfort, as if she tried to outrun her pain, or the dying light.

Resting on the floor of the exam room, Annie looked like she was already gone. Her eyes unfocused, her body so emaciated she looked concave, her fur dull and coming out in tufts. In my heart I knew she was ready, but stayed for us. In her youth, Annie was nicknamed the Emotional Sponge. She hated to see me unhappy or angry. Even if I raised my voice in an animated recreation of some conversation I had earlier in the day, Annie would panic, climb on my lap and lick my face until my attention laser-beamed on her. It got so bad P and I could never argue in front of her for fear we would give her a massive heart attack. But that was Annie. She needed to make everyone happy.

So why was it a surprise she put her own health and comfort aside in order to be here for us? To do what would make us happy? I vaguely remembered telling her to stay with me on Tuesday morning as she came back around and began eating. I knew she tried so hard to do that, at any cost.

The vet counseled us on doing what was best for Annie to help her cross over with dignity, in safety, without any pain or fear. A death faced slowly from kidney failure or organ breakdown would be none of those things, the vet assured us. I know no vet enjoys euthanizing a beloved pet; this one gave me all my options for further treatment but said euthanasia is what she recommends. My mind still bucked at the reality on the floor in front of me. I willed Annie to get up and prance around the room, wagging that bushy tail of hers and barking at the moon. But then I realized it had been years since she'd done any of that.

I cried so much, my eyes swelled. For someone who has been schooled to keep emotions in check, I unselfconsciously sobbed as I asked Annie if she was ready. P teared up as he told me that's what she's doing right now—telling us she is ready to go. Last night's episode was Annie begging for us to help her, to fix this, said the vet. As loving guardians, that's our job. It's the final gift we can give a dog that gave us so, so much over the years. I never really believed any of that before this day. A small part of me still wanted to rush Annie to the ICU and demand every life-sustaining measure possible.

But the bigger part of me knew that at best, that would only prolong the inevitable. Annie was dying and there wasn't a thing I could do to stop it. All I could do was stop her suffering. I couldn't fix anything else.

We gave our consent to the vet, who cried and hugged us and assured us we were doing what needed to be done, and what would best honor the dog we loved beyond words. Annie's eyes met mine as she was carried in the back to insert the catheter, and they seemed so confused, so blank. She never tried to move. We all gathered around Annie when the tech returned her to the room, putting our hands on her and surrounding her with love. Her eyes looked less scared, more resolved then. Even my toddler felt the spirituality of the moment, as he stood quietly by Annie's head, watching. I embraced her sweet face, whispering constantly into her cherished ears. I love you, thank you, we all love you, you are the best dog, we love you, we will be OK, it's OK to go, we love you, we love you, we love you, we love you.

The procedure was shockingly quick and uneventful. Annie tensed ever so slightly—so slightly I may have imagined it—as the fluid went in, but that was it. Her breathing, shallow to begin with, just stopped. No shudder, no sigh, no moan. Just there, and then not. I almost panicked as I waited those unending seconds between the shot and her passing. I didn't know if I was strong enough to feel and be witness to her last breath. But I knew she needed me, and I needed to be there.

So I stayed.

And then she was gone.

I knew it even without the vet gently telling me Annie's heart had officially stopped. With my head resting against Annie's, I felt her rise above it. It didn't feel empty, but rather bigger, enveloping, rising. My heart physically ached as I sobbed, feeling such pure white grief I didn't even allow myself to feel when I lost family members before. Somehow, holding Annie as she crossed the bridge opened me up and this flood of past, long-held grief for all I have lost came out.

I thought I was the one giving Annie a last gift, helping her die circled in safety and love. And yet it was she who gave to me. Again.

The tech cradled Annie in her arms before taking her away, whispering to me "you did the right thing. Annie knows you love her." Putting your dog to sleep is such a war of emotions. Yes, cerebrally you know it's the right thing. In your heart, it's not so easy. You feel responsible. But my fear of waiting too long and letting Annie die a pain-filled death that I could have prevented overtook my fear of ushering in the end.

"You just helped her write the final page," said the vet. The book was already done, and I just helped her tag "the end" on it.


Back home, our third dog Ralphie, now an only dog, came up to me, sniffed my pants and issued one, long, pitiful cry. I too wanted to throw my head back and howl in grief. The loss felt deeper than I expected, which was shocking considering I just lost Owen in September. I'm not ignorant to the fact that this grief is connected to the unspent grief of other recent losses. I get that. But I also get that the hole carved out of my heart was bigger and deeper than I expected. I constantly look for Annie sprawled on the floor (usually right in the way of foot traffic). The house feels haunted by her presence. Her half-finished last meal is in the fridge, and her uneaten pain pill is still nestled in a spoon of peanut butter on top of the microwave. I can't throw them out. It's too final.

Now weakened by grief, I let guilt and doubt and fears invade my mind. Did we make the right choice? Was it even a choice? Did we wait too long and did she suffer? Should we have tried harder and given her a chance to rebound yet again? Should we have let nature take its course? Did we give up? Did I even listen to the vet telling me that Annie was dying?

In time, I know I will see this was the only way that book could have ended. I will see Annie' s declining health with objective clarity, not shaded by my own will to believe Annie was right as rain. I will see how lovingly and beautifully we helped her get to the next level, with no pain and no fear. I will see that she died with as much grace and heart as she had in life. Until then, I will lick my wounds, feel the sadness stab me every time I think I hear the tinkling of the tags on her collar, and miss that bossy old girl with every cell in my being.

I knew dogs could become a part of the family, but I didn't know how much they could become a part of me. I feel so lost now that this dog, who was a part of us before there even was an us, is gone. Annie was my once-in-a-lifetime dog. I even named my firstborn in her honor, that's how much she meant to us. Annie opened up my world, helped me be a better parent, showed me how to love unconditionally and, in the end, how to sit with my sadness.

People always said it was so nice of us to rescue her all those years ago and provide her with this loving life. But we were the ones who were rescued. While my faith has taken a beating these past few years, I hang on the hope that Annie is whole, healed and young again, romping around lush backyards chasing rabbits, playing with Owen and barking in joy (and at all of the annoying younger pups she feels she must police). And I hang on desperately to the hope that one day, I will see her again and have her jump up on my lap, shoving her big furry face in mine and licking away the tears. But this time, they will be tears of happiness.

Oh, my sweet Annie. How I love you. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gunning for a Change

“It's very dramatic when two people come together to work something out. It's easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition, but what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.”

― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Who knew Mr. Rogers would have such words of wisdom to help us deal with this week's tragedy?

In light of the Sandy Hook massacre, the airwaves have exploded with people for and against gun control. This is not a surprise. Even President Obama toed the line during his recent, emotional media address when he said, " And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

The senseless shooting of 20 children and six adults at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., was bound to reignite the debate about guns in America. On both sides, people are screaming. Get rid of all of the guns! Protect the Second Ammendment! Guns are ruining America! Guns are the only thing keeping America safe! And on and on it goes.

But as the president said, we need to put politics aside and figure out a way to keep shootings like this from becoming a regular occurance. Even Mr. Rogers agrees that we need to put away the weapons—metaphorically—and figure out how to remedy what's wrong in society.

I do not like guns. I do not own one nor do I want one. I will not let my children own toy guns or play video games that involve shooting people, characters or animals. I do not believe in hunting. We have been so desensitized to violence and weaponry that we no longer respect their power or their consequences. Children do not understand the ramifications of violence, and our society does not reinforce them, either. We are raising our children in a world that looks civil from the outside, but reeks of barbarity deep down. 

Petula Dvorak, my former editor at my college paper, wrote an excellent column at the Washington Post detailing how it's impossible to protect our children in a gun-loving and gun-accepting culture.

"We worry about the hormones in their milk, the violence in 'Spongebob Squarepants,' and yet this country tolerates the existence of a military-style assault weapon built for no purpose other than killing lots of people on a battlefield — fast."

Guns will never be abolished. Even if the government tried to take away all of the weapons and made owning guns illegal, there would still be guns. Prohibition didn't work, and there are still plenty of drugs around. So I'm not suggesting we toss out the Second Amendment, but redefine it in light of the modern world. In 1791 when it was passed along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, the world was a very different place. Advanced weaponry was a musket and gunpowder. Access to guns was limited. Militias were necessary. Times have changed.

I am fed up with gun advocates screaming about how their Constitutional rights will be violated if we add some definitions to gun ownership. Look at it this way…Someone vandalizes a church, and so now it stays locked when not used for services. Does that not infringe upon the Constitution and violate my First Amendment rights to practice freedom of religion? Does it not "prohibit the free exercise thereof?" Of course not. Nor does placing limitations on the Second Amendment. It's time to address the problem.

Usually, when a threat is identified, we react. Sept. 11 changed the way we travel by airplanes forever. And we welcomed the changes because it was done for our safety. But things didn't stop there. Someone tried to use his shoes to explode an airplane, and now we must take off our footwear as we pass through airport security. Same holds true for bringing liquid on an airplane. Can't do that anymore, thanks to the action of one person. Since 1996, there have been 52 school shootings in America, resulting in more than 320 deaths.

But what has been done? What changes or modifications have been made? None. It's time to change that.

Let the Supreme Court define "arms." Our Founding Fathers could not fathom such weapons of destruction as the semi-automatic Bushmaster Patrolman's Carbine M4A3 Rifle, available at your local Walmart. I admit there may be a need by some to own guns. But semi-automatic assault weapons? No one other than law enforcement and the military needs anything of the sort. And most certainly not for "personal protection." The general public owning these types of weapons is problematic. And who needs 19 guns at home for protection? No one.

The creation of required safety and skill classes taken by everyone applying for a license or purchasing a gun should be mandatory. As should the regular renewal of said license only with the completion of refresher courses. Getting guns through private sales or through gun shows without proper screening protocol needs to be illegal.

Yet even if we remove the more violent weapons, institute stricter ownership rules and mandate educational stipulations, we are still left with a burning question: WHO gets the guns. Background checks, you say. Sure, that will work if you are convicted of a crime. But what about those who have yet to get in the system? Or the ones playing on a different field mentally?

All too often, shooters in mass killings such as the Sandy Hook slaughter are mentally unstable. Who knows why these people (usually young, white males) decide to murder innocent people as an "answer" to their own tragic issues. Many times, we will never know. Keeping guns out of their hands is key. But as we saw with Sandy Hook, the alleged shooter, Adam Lanza, used his mother's legally purchased guns to kill children. How can we stop that?

By making some of these weapons impossible to own, by anyone.

Let's not forget, there's something else we can do. We can start at the source. Our country has demonized mental illness as shameful, something to be ignored, ostracized or hidden. Help offered can be unaffordable, unfathonable or unavailable. Why not start reforming the way we identify, treat and support those suffering from mental illness so we can prevent the escalation of problems that all too often result in what we witnessed Friday in Connecticut? Liza Long wrote an excellent blog about her struggles with her teenage son's mental illness. Getting these  people the help they need at a young age is crucial.  


There are no easy answers to this complex problem.  I pray those in power will put aside the lobbyists and the money and the extremes and look at the facts. I  hope that they dig down to the source of this infection and figure out a way to at least start the healing so more school shootings do not occur.

Throughout the long days since Sandy Hook Elementary School made headlines, I have been swallowed up with shattering images, horrific news, heartbreaking stories. As has America as a whole. When we see the evil that destroyed a western Connecticut town and so many other areas before, we have to wonder what our world is becoming. It's beyond depressing.

And then, the wisdom of Mr. Rogers found me once more, and I felt comforted, even a bit hopeful.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

So that's what we can all do now in this dark hour. We can seek good.

I choose to look for the helpers. I will focus on the heroics of the Sandy Hook teachers, the community that is rallying around its wounded, the compassion of parents nationwide and the countless others who say prayers of peace for all those affected. And I will focus on the helpers in government, like our president, who will hopefully be the ones who will find solutions to these tragedies so that someday, the term "school shooting" is extinct.

Long live the logic of Mr. Rogers. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Car Wrecks and School Shootings

Written Dec. 15, 2012

Almost one year ago to the day, I totaled my car as I drove my children home from an appointment. Traveling on a rainy freeway, I hydroplaned, spun out and crashed into the center divider. In the moment, the shock and disbelief of it all kept the incident from being too frightening. Until I heard my kids shrieking in pure panic. I turned and saw my daughter, her eyes huge with terror, screaming. Then the fear slapped me. My children are in danger, I thought. My children are not safe. They could have been killed. Gone. In the blink of an eye. One minute we were talking about ice cream, the next, slamming into concrete. It all nearly changed that quickly.

Paramedics arrived, and a trip to the hospital followed. After a long, long day of tests and observation, we were all allowed to walk out of the hospital with very minor injuries. It was nothing shy of a miracle. The head of trauma surgery at the hospital reiterated how lucky we were. Amen to that.

The next morning, sore and bruised, I awoke to the sounds of my children laughing and playing in the family room with their dad. For a split second, I knew I was still dreaming. I knew I had lost my children in the accident the day before. I knew this was the first day of hell, the first day without my heart and soul.

But then I fully woke up, and realized my reality was not that hell, but the opposite. Pure paradise. My children were safe, healthy, alive. And in the next room. I cried tears of relief and sheer gratitude.


All day yesterday, I remembered that moment of utter joy when I realized my nightmare was not my truth. And I physically ached for those parents at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., who were violently thrown into their own nightmares after a 20-year-old shooter terrorized the school and violently killed 20 children and six adults. Twenty children. All of them ages 6 and 7. My daughter's age. Kids just like my daughter. Just like her school friends. Kids who ate cereal for breakfast and looked forward to making gingerbread houses, who sported bows in their hair and shoes littered with scuff marks from hours of playground antics. Kids who wanted Legos from Santa and a dollar from the Tooth Fairy. Kids who bore the stamp of innocence and joy. Kids who would not be going home that afternoon, or ever again.

I couldn't get their images out of my head. Tiny little kids with the world ahead of them. Kids who were just like my daughter.

As a journalist, I was unable to turn away from the news coverage. I digested every update, each revelation in this constantly changing and confusing story. But as a parent, I yearned to stick my fingers in my ears, close my eyes and pretend none of this ever happened. The shooting of innocent children can't even be classified as a tragedy. It's an abomination, an act of evil so pure it's demonic. The journalist in me cried out for answers as to why the shooter did this, but the mother in me didn't want to know why. There is no answer that will suffice, no answer that will ever explain it all. And I don't want to live in a world where something this sinister can be easily explained.

I cried with President Obama—usually the "consoler in chief" in times of national tragedy— as he addressed the media. Never before have I seen a president display such emotion, and never have I seen this president give up his trademark silver-lining speech in light of mass tragedies; instead he adopted a weary, shocked and grief-laden tone, which made things even more grim. He said that these children "had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own." And now, that's all gone. All of it. That gunman took it all away. Not just from those 20 children, but from their families and the entire community as well. One half-hour on a Friday morning in December ruined countless lives and changed a nation.

I counted the minutes until I could pick my daughter up from kindergarten. Getting to her fast enough was my main concern. Never have my arms physically ached to hold her as they did yesterday. When I arrived at her classroom, I felt more excitement than I did picking her up after her first day of kindergarten. I grabbed her tight, holding my son in one arm and my daughter in the other. I breathed in the scent of her hair, felt her smooth cheek against my palm, laughed as she ran off to chase her friend. Today would not be a day for scolding or cranky answers. Today was a day for cuddling on the couch and ice cream, for staying up late and eating French toast for dinner. For thanking God over and over for these little ordinary treasures like silly "poop" jokes and sounds of "Mommy, I love you."

I imagined over and over again what those parents felt as they received calls from the school, rushed to the chaotic scene, waited in agony to receive news about their children. And then receiving the worst news of their lives. The day those children were born, no one could have ever imagined their lives only had a six- or seven-year window. No parent, gazing into her newborn's squished and rosy face, would ever think a madman could snuff out the brilliant life just now beginning its journey. And at the second safest place they know: school.

And yet, that's exactly what happened. My mind bucks at this reality, refusing to accept it.

Parents across the nation felt unbelievably shaken and eroded as news of the Sandy Hill shooting permeated the media. As the president said, he absorbed the events not as the commander in chief, but as a parent. I did not view the scene with a journalist's trained eye, but with a mother's heart. I thanked God four dozen times in an hour for letting my girl enjoy an average, safe school day. I felt icy fingers of fear poke my gut as I considered how easy it would be for a travesty like the Sandy Hill shooting to happen in our own backyard. I prayed for those parents.  I questioned how in the world this could have happened in the first place. It hit the trifecta of terror: random shooting, elementary school children and 11 days before Christmas. The pain is an abyss felt by parents nation-wide, but especially and unthinkably by the parents of the slain 20.

As the news continues to unfold and the victims' names are released, we learn more about the children who were killed…and the teachers who did their best to protect them. Ever since I walked my daughter to preschool on that first day, I knew I was entrusting that teacher with the most precious creature in the universe. I am sure all good teachers feel this burden and are empowered by it. It seems many of the Sandy Hook instructors were, as they died protecting their students or risked their own lives to do so.

This morning, I woke up and enjoyed a peaceful half-minute before I remembered what happened. Yet on the heels of that crushing realization came bliss. Bliss that my children were in the family room, laughing and playing with their father. That nightmare was not my reality. There is evil in this world, there is injustice and there is darkness. But for today, I grabbed hold to the ray of light found in my children's laughter. That gave me hope and strength to send off as a prayer to those parents in Newtown, who will forever be changed, and who will forever be in our hearts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sweet Owen

                                                                                                                              Written Sept. 10, 2012

His bowl of last night's uneaten dinner is still in the refrigerator. I can't bear to throw it out. His collar is on the table where my husband placed it after he took it off his neck. His hair is still sprinkled all over the floor like snowdrifts.

But Owen is gone.

I keep looking outside on the patio to see him sunbathing in the grass or pawing at the back door, his ears pricked up and looking like the world's largest rabbit. But he's not there.

Dogs have been a constant in my life since I was 7 years old. And we've lost a few. But Sweet Owen is MY first dog to go. And it has slammed me to my knees, unexpectedly.

Everyone loses a beloved dog; everyone I know has. Why did I think I would escape this pain? Owen has been with me for so long, how will the days look without him? 

I'll be honest: Having three dogs, three part-time jobs, a psycho mortgage and two kids was often quite hard. There was always a living, breathing being needing me, or a deadline or a due date demanding my attention. Some days, that just taxed me. My most difficult days were the ones where a dog would pee on a box of blocks, or throw up in the house, or a kid would grab the markers and redecorate the couch or decide it was an awesome day to remove a filled-up diaper by himself—and these usually revolved around days I had to teach class or submit a feature story to a magazine.

But at the end of every day, I loved my dogs. Especially Owen. He was our first special-needs dog. In 2001, I had just launched my own freelance business, and I thought the time was perfect for adding to our family of three. Annie, my sweet German shepherd mix who found us in 1997, needed a buddy. But after months of searching every animal shelter in a 30-mile radius, I could not find the dog of my dreams: a female, black Labrador-mix puppy. Instead, my heart and mind wrapped around this anorexic-looking, teenage, male, white German Shepherd mix with anxiety issues. I will never forget how, at the first visit in the shelter, he bounded around his concrete kennel, looking all the world like a silly clown. Then, when I went back a week later, he was moved to a kennel far off the beaten path, and he appeared to have given up. Curled up on the floor, he looked up at me with his perpetually worried brown eyes, but didn't lift his head.

"How about we stop this nonsense and go home now," I asked him.

And that's just what we did 11 years ago Sept. 5. We met Annie and my husband at a nearby park, prepared to call everything off if the dogs didn't accept each other. One sniff was all it took and the two were bonded. Well, Owen was bonded to Annie, his idol. No matter where he went from that day forward, as long as Annie was with him, Owen was just fine.

I can remember having doubts about this poor pup with an obvious abuse history. Could I handle it? Would I fail him? A few days later, when Sept. 11 happened, I sat on the couch with both dogs right next to me, watching the horror unfold in New York City, and I realized I could handle anything this poor pup could throw at me. There were worse issues in the world.

For the next 11 years, we did just that. Handle anything. Owen had his problems, but what dog doesn't? He had massive anxiety, feared men in baseball hats, freaked out over fireworks, marked everything outside and way too many things inside, shed like an oak tree in autumn. But he was mine. As my niece once said, "Do all of your dogs have issues?" Yes, yes they do. I have a soft spot for the underdog.

In his youth, Owen was a constant source of merriment. We socialized the pants off that dog, helping him see that people can be nice and loving. He soon began to think that everyone should love him. I remember one time I had a repairman come to the house, and I asked, "Do you like dogs?" Sure, he said. So I opened the back door, and both Annie and Owen rushed in, bounding for the guy. The look of fear on his face was almost comical, especially when it evaporated after both dogs showered him in kisses and tail wags.

This dog, who we believe was part Whippet, could chase down a rabbit like no one's business. Unfortunately, they often didn't survive his attempts at playtime. When staying over at "Camp Grandma," Owen once caught a small rabbit in my folks' yard. He tried to play with it, but you all know how that turned out. So Owen went and got my mom, leading her to the deceased rabbit on the grass. He looked at Mom, then the rabbit, then back and forth, as if to say, "My toy broke! Fix it! What happened?!"

Owen wasn't partial about his playmates, either. He loved to nab possums off the wall, and some of those nocturnal creatures were nearly as big as he was! Owen could leap and snatch one off our 6-foot fence, not a problem. In fact, one time, he leapt so far, he wound up in our neighbor's yard, peeking his large rabbit ears into the door to say, "Hey, dude, I need some help here!"

Oh, and was he fast! When we first got Owen, he was a runner. Now that was scary—especially when he and Annie played Escape Artist one Christmas at my in-law's house. But soon, he learned that he had it good here, and we could leave the front door wide open without Owen stepping foot on the porch. The first time we took him to the dog park, he got spooked and took off running. Well, a spooked, running dog is nothing but prey for the other dogs, so Owen ran the perimeter of the park, with about two dozen dogs chasing him. He rushed to me, jumped into my lap, turned to the other dogs and then growled, knowing he was safe in my arms.

As he got older, Owen got crankier, less willing to play and happier to just hang out outside. He still loved a good rawhide and a spoon filled with peanut butter, but his dog park days weren't something he enjoyed anymore.

Unlike Annie, Owen never once had a single health issue. Aside from vaccinations and dental work, Owen didn't require any medical intervention. But his health changed this past weekend. Literally overnight. He began coughing late last week, which isn't anything that unusual. Something in his throat perhaps? He acted his normal, cranky, bouncy, goofy self. But when this coughing didn't clear up after a couple of days, I figured a trip to the vet was needed. It didn't seem to be an emergency; my mom came over Saturday and Owen bounded in the house, jumping on her and giving her kisses. (What a great kisser that dog was! Hugs, not so much. But he loved to give kisses.) Then Sunday, he just looked sick, within hours. His breathing took on more of a panting quality, and he didn't want to eat his dinner. I grew more anxious, thinking, "could he have kennel cough? Pneumonia? Could it be his heart? He is getting up there in age. But Annie is nearly 16! Owen is still a pup compared to her."

I set the alarm early so I could call the vet first thing, but when I walked into the living room at 7 a.m., I quickly realized it was over.

Owen was stretched out on his side, just like he loved doing on the grass, paws crossed. He mirrored Annie's position on the carpet just a few feet away. He was looking right at her, most likely the last thing he saw on this earth. Seeing him right there next to Annie, looking so peaceful, broke my heart. So many nights in this heat, Owen wanted to sleep outside on his own. I thank God I didn't put him out there that last night. It's one of the only things I don't feel guilt over.

I suppose feeling guilt and regret are normal when something happens unexpectedly to someone you love, to someone you are responsible for. Normal or not, I am consumed with such emotions right now. Every good thing I might have done for him, from rescuing him from the pound to taking him to agility classes, is eclipsed by the guilt I feel. Should I have called  the vet sooner? Should I have encouraged him to stay inside more? Was I too annoyed with him when he would wake me at 3 a.m. to go outside and chase possums off the back fence, or when he would pee on a toy or basket of clean laundry (I mean, really?)?

 I feel guilty because life has gotten so much more complicated than it was when I first brought Owen into our family. Did I let the crapstorm of life overshadow what really matters? Or did I appreciate him enough when he was here? Was I nice enough? Did he know how much I loved him? Did I spend enough time with him? How often is this fear muttered in the dark hours after someone dies? Too often, I am sure.

 I am consumed with the woulda-coulda-shoulda thoughts that often do nothing but eat holes in our heart.

I know I loved him, and I know I did right by him. I know no one, not even Mother Teresa, would be pleased and joyous when a dog pees all over freshly folded laundry, or when the whining of an anxious, possum-wanting dog wakes a finally sleeping newborn. But right now, waterboarded by grief like I am, I only see my failures and shortcomings. 

I am so grateful Sweet Owen went on his own terms, in his home and surrounded by all of us who love him. I am so thankful to him that we didn't have to make that dreaded trip to the vet for "the shot."

But most of all, I am so grateful he was with his Annie. For as much as I know he loved me, he lived for Annie. I am trying to take comfort that she was a source of peace for him as he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

I once heard that there aren't dogs in heaven. That's crap. How can a place called Paradise be such without dogs? The movie "What Dreams May Come" features one scene that lifts my heart. Robin Williams' character dies, and as he's crossing a pasture in the afterlife, trying to get his bearings, out rushes his beloved dog, now fully healed and healthy and happy once more, tackling him to the ground and showering him with kisses. It's like that legend of the Rainbow Bridge: Our dogs wait for us over there to help lead us home. 

Sweet Owie, I will see you there, and I hope you're waiting for me with those big rabbit ears and lots of slobbery, on-the-mark kisses. You took a part of my heart with you, big guy. Oh, how I miss you!