All Dogs Go to Heaven

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One of my favorite songs is Into the West by Annie Lennox. The lyrics are, at times, gut wrenching and most often leave me with tears streaming down my face. It's haunting yet beautiful. I put this song on last Saturday as I aimlessly walked around Encinitas by myself trying to settle on the fact that my Roo was no longer with me. 

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep? 
What are these tears upon your face?
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

 

I'll never forget the last few moments as we sat on the warm blanket the vet technician had laid down for him, his head cradled safe in my arms. A friend had told me the last thing to go was their hearing so as I watched the Veterinarian inject the liquid that would inevitably take him away from me, I buried my nose in his ear as tears streamed uncontrollably down my cheeks and whispered over and over again, " I love you. Thank you for all you did for me. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you..."

And just like that, my sweet Roo drifted off to sleep for the last time, until his body was limp and he was gone. 

I looked up at my friend Oliver who dropped everything and drove down from Irvine at a moments notice to sit with me as I said good-bye to my best friend. Tears poured from his eyes too. Rocky touched many people's hearts. I knew that already. 

Rocky, or Roo as I so often called him, was more then just a dog. He was my best friend. He was my family. 

It's hard to explain what this kind of bond is like to people who haven't experienced it before, but in honor of my sweet boy and the love and life and protection he infused into each day for the short time I had him, I must try. He deserves that. He deserves so much more then that. 

Most people know that Rocky came to me on the heels of a cancer diagnosis that was vague and scary. The irony of that is not lost on me. God works in mysterious ways but also very obvious ones too. 

What people don't know is Roo and I didn't bond right away like I sometimes lead you to believe.  

I knew he was my dog the moment I saw him but he made me work for his trust because he had been severely neglected in his former life. 

I'm certain that God planned for us to meet just that way because as much as Roo came to me to help heal my heart through a traumatic time, I came to him to help heal his too. 

Roo was a special dog. Everyone, accept for maybe my neighbors who he built up a bit of a territorial thing against, loved Rocky. 

We couldn't get through a walk without someone coming up to us and asking to pet him and commenting on how sweet he was. But they didn't even know the half of it. 

My Roo was a gift. A miracle. The most incredible blessing. 

Roo was diagnosed with an advanced form of a very serious lung condition two weeks ago and as much as I want you to know the details of that, I'd rather you hear the details of his greatness instead. 

Roo was stubborn. It was one of my favorite things about him. He was strong willed and knew what he wanted, just like his mama I suppose. When he wanted something, he wasn't afraid to tell me with a serious stare down or a deep guttural bark. Sometimes we'd just stare at each other until one of us gave in, usually...almost always, me. 

Rocky had a sense about me. After I proved my worthiness to him, he watched me like a hawk, never more than a few feet away from me. Unless he was sun bathing on the front porch. My Roo loved the sun. Even then he had one ear alert, following my every move. 

One of my favorite things he did was guard the door of any room I was in. He'd walk in, even if it was just the bathroom, assess the situation and then turn around, sit down in front of the door and stare out. If I was standing at the bathroom sink brushing my teeth, his butt was sitting on my foot as he made sure nobody took me by surprise. It always made me laugh so hard but deep down, he made me feel so loved. So safe. So cared for. 

After I put him to rest Saturday, I came home and walked through the front door to pure and utter silence. I'd never again hear him jumping off my bed or the couch or the infamous sound of his collar and dog tag clanking together as he ran to see me as if it was the greatest moment of his day. I'm pretty certain it was. 

I stood in my entry way and felt a vulnerability I hadn't felt in very long time. Where was my boy to greet me? What would I do on those darker days when he'd make me get out of bed to take him on a walk? He'd act like it was for him but I knew it was really for me.

 Who would understand the physical pain I was in like he did and rest his head on my left hip in times when it was almost unbearable?

Who would gently lick away the tears and make me laugh when I was sad or hurt? 

Who would teach me about patience and slowing down and simplicity and stopping to smell the roses?

Who would dance with me as I cleaned the house or sit right behind me as I was cooking waiting for anything to fall on the floor? 

All of these little things were a part of our special bond. He just understood the things I needed. Things I never told him out loud. Things I rarely told anyone out loud.  

These are the situations where I truly don't understand God. Why would he take away something that he knows I need so badly? 

But at the same time, I feel so fortunate to have had over a year with my sweet Roo boy. All of our day to day moments and our great adventures will never be forgotten. I'm certain God knew I needed him just when I did and knew I was strong now, enough so to make it without him. I like to imagine his soul was needed for someone else going through something so grave that only my Roo boy could take care of them just the way he took care of me all last year. He's good at that. 

So, my Rocky was more than just a dog. Rocky was my best friend. He was my own little personal family. 

And now he's gone. And that hole he filled is empty and aching pretty bad these days. 

My sweet Roo boy, you were the greatest gift I've ever recieved and I hope you are running through fields of kibble and pain free once again. 

I hope you come to visit me in the breeze that kisses me cheeks and dries my tears and on long coastal drives as I sing loud to all your favorites. 

I hope you know just how much I love you and just how brave your fight was. I know it was for me. You tried so hard to be here for me. I'll never forget that. 

Until we meet again my Roo boy...

You're only sleeping. 

Broken-heart, closed heart, open heart, full heart

"She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible.
She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings."

- Ariana Dancu

The title of this post actually came to me back in August of 2015 while I was on a cool, early morning run on the beach. True to form, out of seemingly nowhere, these four words echoed in my head and I couldn't shake them. I felt this overwhelming urge to stop and sit on one of the cold, sand-covered rocks and gaze out at the ocean when suddenly warm tears began to slide down my cold, wind-kissed cheeks, and these words came to me: broken-heart, closed-heart, open-heart, full-heart.

I sat there in a bit of confusion because I knew well enough that my heart was not full and it was barely even open. However, it no longer felt broken and I could feel the light slowly start to creep back in as I continued to process not only the events of the following two years but more importantly, what lead me down that path to begin with. So, to feel such a connection to these four words left me a little dumbfounded. 

However, there was an unexplainable deep knowing that this was something I was supposed to write about and when I got home I sat down at my computer and typed out the title thinking the words that needed to be shared would immediately follow. Nothing came and I grew more frustrated. Most of the time when this happens words to accompany the title follow shortly there after. But month after month nothing came. But something inside told me to be patient and nine months later they finally came and it all made sense.

The other day, as I was cleaning out my room, purging myself and my life of anything that I no longer felt belonged , I stumbled upon my wedding dress. Something I thought I had gotten rid of months ago. It was tucked under some clothes that were stuffed in a garment bag I kept under my bed. I pulled out the short dingy white Nicole Miller dress we purchased four years early at Nordstrom and stared at it, waiting for the inevitable sadness to come but the strangest thing happened. It didn't. I paused and scanned the room, feeling as if some kind of joke was being pulled on me. Where was that familiar heaviness? Where was the deep sadness? The tears?

A smile slowly cracked from my lips as I cocked my head to one side.

"Huh?" I said out loud to my four-legged companion who was curled up in a ball on the floor by my bedroom door. He looked back at me with his usual indifferent blank stare. "So this is it." I said. 

I pulled the dingy white dress off the hanger that accompanied it in the garment bag under my bed. "I wonder if it'll be different if I put the dress on?" I asked Oliver. He cracked a single eye open and gave me a look that said, "shh, can't you see I'm sleeping?" I smiled back at him with a look that said, "Yes, but I don't care."  I slide out of my tattered jean shorts and mint green 'The Moon Made Me Do It' crop tank top, throwing them in a pile on the floor. I stood there, naked, clutching on to my past with both my hands.

Nothing.

I unzipped the back of the dress and slowly, one foot at a time, stepped in. beginning to work the dress up to my hips. 

Still, nothing.

I gently worked the dress up and over my freshly tan hips, being extra careful as I pulled the dress over my rear. All those squats have added a little extra junk in my truck and with one gentle tug, I had the dress up and was sliding one arm at a time into the arm holes and carefully zipping up the back. 

 Nothing.

I hesitated as I lifted my gaze, waiting for my past to finally catch up and for the flood of tears to come rushing out.

Nothing. 

It was like staring at a long lost friend in the mirror. Someone who I thought I knew so well yet today, is only a distant memory. If I could only go back and tell her what I know now. If I could tell her how brave and courageous she really was. If I could tell her that she needn't do anything she truly didnt't want to do. That love, real love, didn't look or feel that way. I wonder if she would have ever gone through with it? I wonder if she would have ever said yes? 

A smile broke loose and spread across my face, as coincidently, the sounds of Sia's 'Wild One' echoed in the background and I stared my past down in the mirror. Laughter broke free, quietly at first until a thunderous fit of wild giggles erupted from deep within and suddenly I was dancing with my past, wildly across the living room floor as Oliver looked on in a mix of pure confusion and terror. 

So this is what it really means to be wild and free. And for the first time, the title of this post had words. After months of waiting, her transformation was clear:

Broken heart, closed heart, open heart, full heart.