Sunday, September 5, 2010

Heart Dogs




I was never much of an animal person. Not intentionally....just never had any...at all. My folks weren't keen on animals in the house...or how expensive they could be. So we just never owned so much as a hamster. My lack of interaction with dogs became sort of a fear of them later in life as much as an "I don't really like dogs" sort of attitude. I recall a friend of a roommate coming to spend the night and she brought her small dog. I used the no-dogs-allowed in our apartment building as an excuse to send her over to another friend's house. Sheesh. I just didn't like dogs.

Then I married a man who from the get-go dreamed of having a dog...a Labrador in particular...a Yellow Lab to be exact. For the first ten years of our marriage, whenever he saw a Lab, this usually reserved- to-the-point-of-being-boring-man would say "Woof!" No matter where he was or who was listening. I sensed that a dog might bring out the best in him.

I'm not even sure what happened to make it finally seem like I couldn't put it off any longer. Maybe if was the fact that I realized he would never want children. I didn't either...if truth be told, so I thought a dog might fill the gap I felt existed in our marriage. I said ok...get a dog...have your Lab...but he's got to stay out in the yard...and no dogs on the bed! I regretted the ok as soon as I said it.

In June of 1992...something amazing happened in my life and I would never even come close to being the same again. He was 8 weeks old, weighed not much... And chewed on everything in sight. He got into the trash, ate my shoes, piddled on the carpet and was a general handful. His name was Buster and he changed my life. I was referred to as Mommy and I was never alone again. It took me a few months to open up my heart to this little, yellow guy, after all I had never loved an animal before... but when it happened the world was a different place from that point on. And limit him to the yard and no getting on the bed? Fahgettaboutit. Never happened.
My first husband was a well-known jazz musician and he was gone 6 months out of the year. I loved my time alone....but I didn't like being lonely. Now that I think about it...even when he was home I was lonely. But Buster was always by my side in a way that only a dog can be....and he taught me how to be a better person. With him came patience, humor, sweetness, unconditional love and puppy breath. I was hooked. I was completely and totally in love with a much younger guy who never kept score, never judged me and who lived for the moment I walked in the door. A year later we got his Chocolate female counterpart and I had a family. Buster and Josie...oh yeah...and what's his name.

With the addition of Josie it was very different experience. I had a year as a dog-mom and I knew what that meant. When we picked up this little brown girl I was in love immediately. Buster had taught me how to do that. I named her after the feisty heroine in the novel I was writing and she proceeded to rule the roost. She was 10 weeks old and she took sticks right out of Buster's mouth, hid his toys (or at least it looked like that's what she was doing) and in general told him how it was gonna be. The sweet, gentle guy that he was....let her have her way. He never got rough with her. The first time we put her in "Buster's Pool" he sat beside it and looked at me as if to say..."Uh...mom...you've GOT to be kidding." They slept next to each other for 11 years. She would whine and look out the window if he went somewhere without her, and years later when she lost her sight, he would get between her and any other dog we passed. Buster and Josie....those 3 words were really one word.

When what's-his-name ran off with what's-her-name I said give me the television and the dogs and be on your merry way. He left for Barcelona and I left the t.v. on for the dogs. During the emotional few months that followed the end of a 20 year marriage...I had my dogs. They slept with me, got me outside when I would have preferred to stay behind closed blinds, smiled at me when I used my Mommy voice and when I cried Buster would actually worry. Even if he was in the other room or sound asleep, if he heard me crying he would literally get in my face. More than once he wiped my tears away....with a big Labrador tongue, his tail wagging telling me it was okay. He was the man in my life now and he seemed to know it. I can't even begin to imagine going through what I did without these amazing creatures by my side. Josie began to lose her sight when she was nine and for the next six years keeping her safe and secure was one of my main goals in life. Even completely blind she was such a happy dog...she was my girl.
Two years later I met Logan and he and the boys opened up their hearts and their home to me and my two dog-kids. You know a man loves you when he takes in you, a slowing, aging old boy and a completely blind girl. He understood they were my children, he understood they were where all my maternal instincts had been devoted for many years...he understood these two were my heart dogs.

Six years ago I lost Buster suddenly. On Sunday evening he was fine....by Thursday he was gone. I was there with him at the Vet and I stayed with him almost until the end and then I got overwhelmed...and scared. I had never experienced anything like this before. Logan took my place. I couldn't do it. Needless to say I came to regret that decision, but it was done and Buster Man had a guy who loved him very much seeing him through to the end...his head on Logan's lap. Josie looked for him for days. My big yellow guy was gone. A week later, on my birthday, I received his ashes. No finer gift.
And just a little over two years ago, Josie, who lived to be 15 years old, told me she had had enough. I knew I would know when it was time and I did. This time I stayed to the end. Logan, Tate and I sat on the floor with her and she went on to the Rainbow Bridge with all three of us touching her and telling her we loved her. That's exactly how I want to go, thank you.

So now I know. Now I know what it's like to receive pure love. Pure. Love. And I know what it's like to be devoted to an animal. To have a place inside me come so alive that it never dies...even when they do. What an amazing gift God has given us with these beautiful, warm creatures we are privileged to spend our lives with. And still they are here with me. Not in some weird, macabre way, but in that way that you are not the same because they were here. Their collars hang casually at the end of our balustrade and once in awhile I touch them and am reminded of the amazing personalities that once wore them. I am so thankful for them. In the last couple years of Josie's life she would find her way to the bedroom at night and search out her blanket. I would sometimes say out loud "Good night, Miss Josie, Mommy loves you" so she would know I was there. Now I say it out loud once in awhile to remind me that she is there.

And so life goes on. I have had moments, though, when I am sad about one thing or another and thoughts of these two come to me and I feel a moment of surprise that I have actually been able to go on without them. But I honor them even today when I teach. In Collage Camp quite a few members chose to do a piece with an image of the dog or cat (or horse) they had loved and lost as their theme image. Such beautiful work was done.  And so their legacy lives on.

Thank you Buster and Josie for all you have done for me. I will never stop loving you. And one day when my Father in Heaven welcomes me home and all my family is there to greet me...they will have to wait for their embrace, because Buster and Josie will get to me first.

Happy Dogs. Healthy Dogs. Heart Dogs.



27 comments:

pattyb said...

where is the stupid box of Kleenex when I need it?! Wow Kc....thanks for sharing that part of your heart! So glad you and Fiona now have each other! And Thank GOD for men like Logan!

canngil said...

Beautiful thoughts! So much joy in our lives with our pets. My husband and I just got our pictures taken for our church directory with our Buddy and Sasha--no kids, they were too old and too busy to get their pictures taken, so we took our babies. They keep you company, they keep you young, they keep you laughing...

brendalou said...

Oh my gosh, setting here with tears in my eyes. Every word you wrote was perfect. Described my love for my animals, past and present perfectly. Thank you.

Lovey said...

Oh my Goodness...KC...with tear filled eyes and a humbled heart I read this post of love, sadness, and a life renewed. My...I know that your two babies will always love you and I believe that you will see them again. I'm almost speechless from reading this heart touching post KC. May you find all the joy and love you deserve in our time here on earth...till we meet in our Heavenly Home...There's a lot of love for you in us too! Never forget that...

bdbrecheen said...

OK girl~
I am balling as I have replaced my dogs for my lack of children and I am still moved to tears when I think of them.
When you come to Amarillo you will get to meet my "My Three Sons." Jonah, Brutus and Sam, my 3 yellow labs. You will fall in love with them, everyone does.

Nancy Krampf said...

Oh yes Sweet Baby Dog, was memorialized in your Collage Camp. This was such an important turning point in my life.
Both the loss and then the grieving, working through an art form new to me , you helped me find the artist that had stopped working because this grief.

Thank you so much KC for this gift.
I am now on my way , working at my new found hand stitching, dying fiber art and am blessed.

The Lord works in mysterious ways.
And I am grateful He sought you out and connected us, two women with similar stories , that needed each other.
xx0xx0x0x0x00000x0x0x0 NancyK

Janet Ghio said...

What a touching post. I can hardly see my keyboard through my tears! I have loved and lost several dogs and I am sure they are all waiting for me on the other side!! I have Sparky now, he's 10--I am thankful for every day I have with him!

Lynne said...

You captured it all so beautifully... I lost the love of my life - a golden retriever named Liberty - 2 weeks ago. She would have been 15 this month. But I know that she will live forever in my heart... that is one of the best things about dogs - they never really leave you.

Glenna @ Hollyhock Quilts said...

I am absolutely convinced that God sent us dogs to learn how to love. Not just the way we love them, but the way they love us. Purely, unconditionally, without reservation. Just as He does. And is it any wonder that the name we use for them is God spelled backward? Thanks so much for sharing---

Diane said...

Oh, KC, I'm crying. For sure these two will greet you at the Pearly Gates.
Hugs, Diane

Kathy said...

First - a warning... may I just say a warning would have been good to know. Sheeshk! I've forwarded to blog to everyone I know who has ever loved a dog. This was beautiful, articulate, and soul stirring. Thank you. - Kathy

Rhonda said...

KC, you've made me cry twice now. Your heart felt passion is everywhere, your writing, your art, your love and passion.

I'm a dog Mom, no children, and I get so upset when people make fun of me while I dote on my dog. I lose respect for them, their insensitivity stays with me.

It's nice to know other people as yourself, isn't it? My eyes are finally clearing up from the tears.

Bless you KC, you share life well.

donnaj said...

brought tears to my eyes. Just last wk on a bad night, one of my dogs walked up to me, put a paw on each shoulder, looked at me, licked me once then walked off. made my night. Only us dog lovers get it!

KC Willis said...

Reading your comments....my turn to have tears in my eyes and a grateful heart.

Susan said...

Lovely, tender and amazing thoughts. I have two goldens, love them sometimes more than people.

Lisa said...

lovely post KC. we are about to welcome our third dog..a puppy for my 8 year old into our lives in two weeks. they make a huge difference..inconditionally. I was a vet tech for many years and had 6pets as a single woman in my
20s. there is no greater loyality than the love of a dog.

karlascottage.typepad.com said...

A dog's love is so unconditional and devoted. I'm sorry for your loss.

Healing Woman said...

You pretty much summed up the way I have always felt about dogs. I just know that if I ever had one, I would have loved them like you do. Very sweet post.

Marcia Antle said...

Oh KC, that is a great story. I just cannot imagine my life without critters, they are just so special. And now you have Fiona, she is a sweetie pie too. Hope you are doing well. Loves, Marcy

PS: Getting those dogs was another example of "that's my Jesus, right on time"????

marie said...

Such a beautiful post!

Your blog is inspiring...in so many ways. I'm so glad to have found it.

Have a blessed day!

vikki said...

~♥ Whadda beautiful post! I cried when I read it, knowing exactly how you felt & still feel their love. I just posted about our 12 year old shepherd, that we will meet again someday... just the other day on my blog. It has been over 5 months & still get very weepy over him! They are the best! I keep reminding myself it has been better to have loved & lost, than not have loved at all. Even tho it is soo hard to let them go... love. the post above of how God sent us our pets to love & the name we use for them is God spelled backwards! they are our 4 legged children... our lil' fur angels! thank*u for sharing & caring... take care with hugs & blessings, vikki xoxoxo ♥~

Jillayne said...

So true KC, so very true. They worm and wriggle their way into our lives and hearts until we can't imagine living without them! I have loved and lost a few very special animals over the years and thinking of them can still make me cry as if they had only just left. Family is a big word and encompassess all those we love and have loved us back. My pets have always been family - I talk to them constantly and they talk back to me, and I am grateful for having known them.

Sam Poole Designs said...

Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and touching post (hugs)!...even though I had to fight back the tears! Dealing with the loss of our furry friends is one of life's cruel moments that we never really get over. We share every feeling with them which we may be too scared to ever share with another human being. I look forward to the day I am reunited with them..but for now there will always be a wound that never healed in my heart. Treasure the moments you share with them. Sam x

Jan Vermillion-Thomason said...

i remember when i posted about my Ben dying in my arms, my studio dog, that readers said my post made them sob.
i didn't really get it - not really - until i read your post.

i am sobbing as i write this to you, kc, because i know the pain you have felt in having two such dear children and then losing them to death.
i was there with ben and have been there with other rescue dogs that we have taken in.

it hurts in a way that i don't think one can really understand unless they themselves have lost a beloved pet.

my heart breaks for you at the same time as i thank you for your beautiful words.
i feel like i knew buster and josie.

blessings,
jan

honstuff said...

As I started reading this post, I was filled with joy and a smile on my face. As, I finished it, my heart was sad and joyful, polar opposites, but that's how life is. My daughter has a black lab and a chocolate labe, who is a pistal. He destroyed a whole couch...a beautiful expensive couch, but she and her boyfriend still have him and love him. Shelby and Gunner are my Grand-dogs and I adore them.

I have three basset hounds and I had to leave the comfort of my bed, after this reading, and go out into the living room, where they have overtaken the couches, so that I could hug and love on each one of them. I cannot imagine my life without them, but I know, from past experience, that the day will come when I will not want to get out of bed for the pain that loss brings. Thank you for putting, so eloquently, into words how such a simple thing can change your life so much. Hugs...

rctees said...

Your writing is wonderful and you have truly touched my heart...As a fellow animal lover (one that has lost the loves of my life) I do feel your pain.

Thanks so much for sharing you story.

Lisa said...

Oh, KC....Wow...
Hugs to you and I'm off to squeeze mine just a little tighter. It is so true that even when they are gone, they are still here.
My wish is that the whole world would know the unconditional love of a pet and there would be no more suffering - for them or us.
You've got it right. ;)