It’s taken me quite awhile to want to pen some of the more sobering happenings at the Kelly House since I last blogged. I do better when the muse inspires me to write, whether in song or in story form so to come to the table without that help isn’t my favorite. I’ve even had a hard time journalling since September when our family was hit with some changes that have been difficult to process. When I realized I’ve been going though the stages of grieving, I decided not to fight the inability to write or create. I decided to go with the flow and lay the pen down, and my music down, and just try to rest in the fallow ground. Ironically, since I made that decision, I’ve been able to play my instruments again on a more consistent basis; at least a few songs at a time on the days that I can, but I choose not to sweat it if I can’t. If I don’t get to it because I’m planting this year’s herbs and watering the flower pots, so be it. And today I’m finding the ability to tell the story of at least one of the changes that has brought us both grief and joy, so it’s a start anyway.
One of the griefs was the letting go of our beloved chocolate lab, Phoebe, over the autumn and winter months of 2015. We finally had to make the decision to have the vet put her to sleep on December 12th, a cold and rainy Saturday. People say pets are like family members and there is a reason for that – they really can be to some of us. We attach ourselves emotionally to them, project our feelings onto them, take what we think is their feelings onto us. We take care of them hopefully in all the ways they need; take them with us wherever we go, if we can. Lots of us let them sleep in our rooms at night on a comfy cushion on the floor by our beds. Sometimes even on our beds. The bond is a tight one. Pets are such a beautiful gift.
In the case of dog life, my only regret is their lifespan is too short but I’m sure there are reasons for that too. One reason I can think of is we are given the chance to learn to let go of someone we love, grieving as we do – the pain is like losing a human, almost. We learn to go through the valley of the shadow of death – like practice – for when we are forced to say goodbye to our favorite humans. Not that it will make it any easier to lose a human loved one, but at least the releasing process is familiar if you’ve done it before. And then after we passed through the valley of coming to terms with the finality – that we will not see them or hold them again in this earthly life – in time we learn to open our hearts up again and take another chance on love. Not only is this good practice too, it’s essential for a happy heart which contributes to a healthy life.
Saying goodbye to Phoebe was an ongoing process. We were seeing signs in early Autumn of her back legs giving out. Then a shortness of breath developed over the months. Once she was gone in mid-December, we were sure it would be awhile till we could open up our hearts and home to another dog but we knew we would eventually. We thought maybe the following summer, then moved that up to April, then maybe even March. But unbeknownst to me, Stan had already begun to peruse the classifieds in the paper in January. He was missing Phoebe so much and could barely stand how quiet the house was when he came home especially since he came home after the work day before I did. When he found a litter of Labradors that would be ready for their new families in early February, he shared the news with me and confessed that there was an email from Stephen from Fairfield (Moon Creek Labradors) with a picture of a little brown puppy I needed to see. Even as I protested – “I thought we were waiting!” – I made a beeline for the computer and sure enough, there was a photo of a little 2-week old puppy staring at us – she looked so little and vulnerable. Of course, waiting till March or April went out the window for both of us.
We obviously said yes and Stan met with Sonja the breeder when she come to town and put some money down so she would be ours. Then it dawned on us we would have a puppy after 13 years and we are 13 years older then the last time we had a puppy! No daily help from our kids who are now grown and live in their own homes, or from TigerDog who was our Golden Retriever who helped us raise Phoebe when she was a pup. Only us. Could we do this? It helped stave off the panic when we started checking things off the puppy check list and reading up on Labradors again. Our breeders’ website pointed to some great websites and books. I ordered 2 of the books from Amazon. Loved reading about it but wondered if we would have the discipline to raise another dog. We had become a bit spoiled in the free time area in this season of our lives and that was about to change big time. But we kept moving forward as our breeder sent us pictures and videos of the litter – so adorable and helped with the preparation. We started thinking about names – looked some up online – discussed ones we both liked. I even posted on Facebook asking for suggestions – and had a ton of great feedback. We ended up choosing the name Sophia Olivia – Sophie for every day. Even though Sophie was on the 2015 list for the most common female dog names, it still felt right. Then the day finally came when Stan swung by Fairfield with our friend Kevin on his way home from a job in Sun Valley, and brought that little puppy home.
More to come on what it’s been like between then and now more than 2 months later. It’s like having a new baby and toddler at the same time! There are times when Sophie reminds us so much of Phoebe but she is also her own person – er, I mean dog – who is very spunky, alert and intelligent. And quite the chewer. Like I said, more on that in another post. A happy thought occurred to us that before we even had to say goodbye, a new hello was in the making. Sophie’s birth date was December 21st and Phoebe left this earth December 12th. Stan said it’s like Phoebe sent her to us. But we both know that the One who first created animal companions for Mankind is the One who knows us and is sensitive to our needs. Perhaps it was His Spirit who pointed us to a new little dog to help us move forward from out of our loss into the blessing of embracing a new life.