Present Tense

The Story of Mojo

mojoWe lost our dog Ember in May.

I wrote about her death after she was hit by a delivery truck in our driveway.

I wrote about forgiving the driver.

I wrote about how I handled her death and held her body and buried her in the center of my medicine wheel garden.

I haven’t yet written about the solo, 3600 mile, healing pilgrimage that I made to sacred places in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana after her death.  But, I will.

I’m not overstating it when I say that her death and the circumstances surrounding her death were some of the most painful and transformational events of my life.  There was something mystical about it.  Here is the next chapter:

On June 1st, while I was wandering around Badlands National Park, breathing in the energy and working on clearing my heart of the oppressive grief that I felt, 5 puppies were born in Colorado.  They were Jack Russell Terriers from the same family as our dogs Chili (also a devastating loss in 2013), Junior and Ember.

My friends Darlene and Mike, sent me photos of the new puppies. They were also grieving Ember’s loss along with us.  She was ‘their dog’, too as she had come from their kennel.

I had no desire for a puppy anytime soon.  The wound was still too raw. I wanted to take plenty of time to allow the grieving process to unfold.  I knew that healing would happen with time.  We would be a one dog family for a year or so.

When these puppies reached about 6 weeks, Darlene told me that one of them, a little boy, had a heart murmur and needed to be checked out by a cardiologist.  Many times puppies will outgrow a minor heart murmur and so I wished her well and didn’t think about it again.

A week later, she had an appointment with a specialty clinic in Denver to have him checked out. Driving to the clinic, she was caught in traffic.  An accident had closed the freeway and she wasn’t able to get to the appointment.

Frantically, she called a terrier owning friend who recommended another specialty clinic north of Denver with a great cardiologist and she was able to get an appointment.

At that clinic, they were told that “Dipstick” as they’d started calling him due to his black tail, was in congestive heart failure. He had a large hole in his heart.  Surgery, costing thousands of dollars was the only thing that would save his life.  He was 9 weeks old.

They admitted that they just couldn’t swing that amount of money for the pup.  It was a horrible decision to have to make, but the cardiologist was so taken with Dipstick, she said they would do the surgery, no charge.   Out of the blue.  Just like that.  They said, “we’ll save him”.

And they did.  As soon as he was out of surgery, his BP and heart rate were normal. He was up and eating within 24 hours.  A miracle.

The docs said the hole was so big that they couldn’t fix it laparoscopically; they had to open him up and use sutures to close the hole in his heart.  The entire team was in the operating room, watching and rooting for “Dippy” as they called him.

I had no idea that all of this was happening, other than being told that he needed this surgery and that this group of wonderful angels had offered to save his life.

I was telling my husband this story and told him that once he was healed, they would place him in a good home.  He said “Did you raise your hand?”  This comment was from a man who fought me on every single puppy that I’ve brought home.  Who declared loudly after every pet loss, “NO NEW DOGS”.

I hadn’t spoken one word about a new puppy after we lost Ember.  It was still too painful for me and I knew what his reaction would be.

So, the next morning, I meditated on this.  I had decided that we should wait on another puppy. I was hoping for another girl dog.  I didn’t think we had taken enough time to grieve and adapt to our new normal.

But, as I sat in meditation, I heard this: “You all have a hole in your heart and so does he.  You can heal your hearts together”.  Truly.  That is exactly what came to me.

This little dog was full of magic.  He had such a strong spirit to survive for so long with a hole in his heart.  His spirit reached out and grabbed a group of veterinarians when they saw him and propelled them to do a wondrous and compassionate and extraordinarily generous thing.  That is some very good mojo.

I have no doubt that part of that strength and part of that charm came from Ember’s spirit visiting him.  I see Chili’s sweet, wise soul in his eyes.

Mojo saw his docs last Thursday and they declared him cured.  Fixed.  Ready for a long and vivacious terrier life. I’m told some of them had tears in their eyes when they saw how lively and happy he is with his strong, healthy heart.

There is something mystical about this story.  When I weave it all together and see the unseen forces working to bring this pup to us, I’m in awe.

Had he not been sick. Had Darlene not missed the first appointment.  Had I not sat in meditation.  And yes, had we not lost Ember.  Life is so uncontrollable and mixed up and perfect.

He will come to live with us very soon.  He has to.  Spirit wouldn’t have it any other way.

August 28, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Goodbye Ember

ember blogMy heart is in a million pieces …again.  Loss has attached itself to me like a tick that is hell-bent on teaching me some sort of lesson or sucking out my life’s blood by taking everything that is precious to me.

Yesterday, I lost my feisty, beautiful, bright light of a dog, Ember when she was hit by a delivery truck in our driveway on the farm.  She died immediately and with her, I could feel some of my soul empty out of me and into her, leaving another void that can never be filled. She would have been 3 years old in a few weeks.

The pain I’m feeling as I write this is acute and dizzying.  I feel foggy and dull, other than the stabbing throb in the pit of my stomach.

The Buddhists teach that in the end, we lose everything and everyone that we love.  That is just truth.  This is why they teach so much about loosening our grip; to be wary of becoming attached.  Attached to material goods, ideas, money, status and yes, those we love. And most of us love our pets as much as we love our humans; in my case, even more I think.

One minute, we were out picking asparagus and the next, she is dead.  Just like that.  We’ve all heard the saying that life changes in an instant, but until it’s laying in front of us in our driveway, we don’t always grasp it.

My dad died similarly two years ago.  He went in and had lunch with my mom, went out to do yard work and in an instant, he was dead in the back yard that he loved.  I guess there is some comfort in knowing that neither of them suffered and they were enjoying themselves right up to their final breath.  But I miss them both with an ache that is searing.

I miss my dad in that I can never call and seek his advice.  I am saddened that my mother continues her earthly journey without him by her side.  She misses him desperately.

Ember’s loss is still so new, such a raw, open wound.  I got up this morning to one very somber dog, who also misses his companion.  Making up one dish of food, seeing her empty crate, and her collar on the counter.  No barking and scrambling to be fed and get out the door.  Too calm; too somber.

Yesterday, we were all outside, my husband, two dogs and probably a couple of cats, when I heard the Fedex truck starting to come up the driveway, I knew the dogs would run that way.  I shouted “Fedex” and for some reason began running toward him as well.  I NEVER do that, but I KNEW what was happening. I could feel it before it happened.

We live on 10 acres and so it was some distance for me to cover and I can’t possibly keep up with terriers, but as I ran, I saw a flash of white on the driveway and I knew.  I knew she had been hit and then I knew EXACTLY where to look on the driveway as I approached and I saw her, motionless.

I KNEW she was gone.  As soon as I got to her.  There were no visible signs of trauma. The driver had no idea that he’d hit her.  He knew that we had two dogs, he’s at our house at least once a week.  He said that he saw our other dog, Junior.  Didn’t see Ember.

My husband sent him away angrily.  I feel compassion for him; I know that he suffered with this all day yesterday. Knowing that he killed my dog.  He didn’t mean to, but he was driving too fast and was distracted or something.

I’m doing my best to not second guess and flood my mind with ‘what ifs’ or ‘whys’.  Shit happens.  Good shit, bad shit, life shit.  We never know why. I believe that when my personal Fedex truck comes along and removes me from Earth, all of those questions will be answered.

For now, I grieve.  I know that Ember burned very brightly in her short time on Earth.  She was fiery as they come, and quick and loud and boisterous and demanding and loving and hysterically funny and I loved her with a fierceness that she returned to me.  She crammed a lot in during a short time.  She helped me through some other difficult losses and though I have no idea how we go on after losing her, I trust that we will.

Today, it’s one foot in front of the other.  Making sure our other dog, Junior is loved and cared for, as he is mourning the loss of his second lady friend.  We are resilient, yet so fragile.  That is life.

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Goodbye, Miss Chili…..


Our dog died yesterday.  The pain of losing her is acute; like a cleaver in the middle of my chest.  I can barely breath, let alone talk about losing her.  I can only write.

Chili was 11. Too young for a 10 pound Jack Russell Terrier to leave us, but it seems that she had cancer that shut down her liver.  Very quickly.  She was dead in 3 weeks after extensive medical intervention.

This was not what I had planned.  I figured we’d get at least 15 years out of this wee one.  I was diligent about her health and her diet.  Those who know me, would probably describe it more as fanatical.  I was determined to keep her with me as long as possible and to stretch her lifespan to the limits.

But, here I am.  Learning the lesson again that in this life, we eventually lose everything that we love.  Nothing lasts forever.  We are finite on planet earth.  All of us.  All of our dogs.  All of our loved ones. God, that hurts.

For the past 3 weeks, I reverted back to my control freak persona.  I just KNEW that despite the doctors being completely baffled as to how to treat her and their warnings that her prognosis was grim, I could fix her.  Diet, supplements, love, acupuncture, fluids, love, exercise, love, fresh air, hope.  I didn’t eat, I barely slept, I Googled every medicine and supplement and every possibility of what could possibly be wrong with her.

She got weaker and yellower from the jaundice.  Her life force was ebbing, but I powered on.  “This will be the day she turns around”.

She had one last good day on Thursday.  We loaded her and our other dog Junior in the car and took a drive around Lake Leelanau to see the colors and the lake.  We stopped at every park and boat ramp and she trotted out and stood in the lake.  She stood and savored the water lapping at her belly.  We chuckled at how much coaxing it took to get her to come back to the car.

That was it.  She knew.  She gave us a good day to remember and said goodbye to the water that she loved.  Dogs are smart and intuitive. Their connection to the universe may be a little more well-tuned than ours.

We are human, hear us roar.  We can FIX THINGS!  Can’t we?

This was the first time that I had the courage to be present for a pet’s final breath.  I held her all night on Friday and said my goodbyes and so I was ready to help her pass.  It was peaceful and a relief to know that she wasn’t suffering any longer.

Chili was a dog that always looked me in the eye and told me exactly what she needed from me.  She was ‘my’ dog.  I knew that that bond required that I be there for her at the end.

She is buried in a lovely spot, under an oak tree, near our barn.  I’m having a very hard time letting her go and I know the pain will dull into pleasant memories in time.  It always does.  It’s a lesson we learn every time we love.

October 27, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 71 Comments

My annual realistic Christmas letter

Dear Friends and Family:

Another year has passed and I hope this holiday season finds you well.  As I write this,  Junior our 1 year-old Jack Russell terrier is resting comfortably on the couch after a harrowing night of vomiting that had me scrambling for paper towels and carpet cleaner.

Junior joined the family about a year ago and his habit of eating anything that won’t eat him has certainly kept us on our toes in 2011.  His diet includes wood, rocks, rubber flip-flops, whole rodents, styrofoam, bones, animal poop, and the latest, large amounts of wild bird seed.  Apparently, bird food isn’t proper dog food.  Who knew?

He’s blended into the family nicely and he and Chili are best buddies, when they’re not fighting.

The four of us (two dogs, two humans) squeezed into the SUV twice this past year and made the long road trip to Michigan, to visit my parents and family.  The second trip was an epic 4000 mile test of our patience, that took us from Colorado to Battle Creek, Michigan and on up to northern Michigan to visit friends in Traverse City.

We then decided to take the northern route home; the furthest north we could get and still remain in the U.S. of A.  So, we crossed the mighty Mackinac bridge and explored the Upper Peninsula of my home state of Michigan.  Dee was glad to have me along to translate ‘yooper’ for him.  After a couple of days, my response to everything was “yaaaaah, suuuuure”.

Back in colorful Colorado, we embarked on an expensive re-do of our leach field (for you city folk, that’s part of our septic system).  The front yard was torn up for most of the summer, causing great concern for our neighbors, who stopped by regularly to inquire as to when we might cover the unsightly ditches in our yard.

Our health is good; in fact, I don’t think we’ve had one doctor visit this entire year, which Dee attributes to his new habit of popping a Flintstones vitamin every night before bed.  I have been on bio-identical hormone treatment since last summer to smooth out the rough edges of peri-menopause and help me transition into old age in a far less shrew-like manner.  Dee said he didn’t think there were enough hormones in the world to accomplish that.

As I write this, my beloved and beleagured Detroit Lions have a chance of making the playoffs this year, which proves to me during this wonderful holiday season, that miracles do indeed happen, although I’m pretty  sure that it will only turn out to be a small case miracle as the rest of the season plays out.

We hope your year was as mundane and lacking in drama as ours and that you will embrace and enjoy this holiday season.  Maybe next year, we’ll have something to brag about, like a new compact car or something.  Oh, wait, 2012 is an election year…and we all know nothing gets done in an election year.


Jane and Demos

December 5, 2011 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


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