Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Kona - Our Beautiful Chocolate Lab

Soon after losing our beloved dog, Jazz, the topic of getting another dog came up.   At first, the thought of losing another dog was just too much to bare and my husband and I said it was just too early to think about. After a few months, we spoke about it and agreed that having a puppy would be too difficult for the two of us.  When Jazz came into our family at eight months old, we had two sons at home that were such a big help. With only my husband and I at home now, we had to think about the dog and what was fair to him or her.  

Then one day, I read this poem:   

Before humans die, they write their last will and testament, giving their home and all they have to those they leave behind. If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I’d ask…
To a poor and lonely stray, I’d give my happy home; my bowl and cozy bed, soft pillow and all my toys; the lap, which I loved so much; the hand that stroked my fur; and the sweet voice that spoke my name.
I’d will to the sad, scared, shelter dog the place I had in my human’s loving heart, of which there seemed no bounds.
So, when I die, please do not say, “I will never have a pet again, for the loss and the pain is more than I can stand.”
Instead, go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope, and give my place to him.
This is the only thing I can give…
The love I left behind.
 – Author Unknown

Not long after reading this poem, a post from a friend on Facebook caught my attention.   She was moving and was looking for a new home for her furry five year old Chocolate Lab/Chesapeake Retriever dog.   I knew the dog and how friendly she was and immediately responded letting my friend know that if she had trouble finding a home for her that my husband and I would consider it.   My friend was hoping to find someone that lived in the country because that is what the dog was used to so I just trusted that if it was meant to be, then God would make sure it happened.   
It wasn't long after that my friend asked us to take her for a week to make sure it worked out.   Like any good dog Mom, she wanted to make sure that my husband and I got along with the dog, make sure that the busy road we live on would be a good fit for the dog, and last but not least, make sure that the dog was good around our granddaughter, Rosslyn.    As soon as she came into our home and as I suspected, John and I were in love.   Her name is Kona and she is full of life.   She adores John and loves to greet him at the door when he comes home from work.    Just like Jazz, she eagerly awaits her nightly rub down and patting.   
Even more so than Jazz (which I never thought was possible), Kona loves the water.   Even if she hears John turn on the faucet outside to water the garden, she comes running through the house to get outside.   We have set up a kiddie pool outside for her to play and chase her tennis ball.    Several times a week, we take her for a hike that has a river that she can swim in. Just as soon as she hears the waterfalls, she is on a mission to get into the water.   John and I just watch her and smile as she plays around.   She enjoys picking up a sock or shoe and brings it to you as you get home.   She has me back into walking at least an hour a day.   Most days, it is more than that and not only do I feel better physically, but mentally as well.  Many people tell me how lucky she is to have us, but we are truly the blessed ones.  
In case you are wondering, we did adopt Kona.    She has been with us for almost two months now and the life she has brought into our home cannot be denied.  You know she is more comfortable when she has started to get into things.   We made the mistake of leaving a ham steak on the counter after cleaning up after dinner one night.    After a few minutes of relaxing with my family, I heard a crunch crunch noise.   She had the whole ham steak gone.   Thank God, she didn't get sick.   
Our granddaughter loves her and really enjoys playing fetch with her.   Kona loves to play with a frisbie that Jazz had and has her own special favorite squishy orange ball.    We taught Rosslyn to give her commands and Kona is great about listening to her.   Rosslyn really enjoys placing a treat down and making her wait to be freed before getting it.    
As you can see, she is loved.    I know that Jazz would be happy to see us enjoying her.   She doesn't make us forget him; in fact, she has helped us to remember all the great memories we have of him.   He left a huge gift behind and that was his love.   Kona is now basking in that love and our hearts grew a little bigger from the moment she entered our home.    
                                                    Our Kona - a beautiful girl!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Our Family is Growing

When our children were born, all my husband and I ever wanted for them was their happiness.   On June 13, 2015, Michael married the love of his life, Courtney.    From the moment she entered his life, we knew that she was the one.  

They have a story all of their own and we are happy to see what their future holds.   In the meantime, it is our prayer that they enjoy everyday they have together and grow in both love and happiness.    Please enjoy a few priceless moments and memories of their special day.   

                                                    Our sons, Michael and Andrew
                                              Michael smiles as he waits for his bride
                                       Our granddaughter, Rosslyn, and the ringbearer
                                                  The beautiful bride, Courtney
                                               Time for Mom to pull out the tissues
                                                   Sharing their personal vows
                                                       More tissues for Mom
                                              Gorgeous day for a gorgeous couple
                                   My husband, John, my sweet mother in love, and I
                              Andrew's wife, Christina and both my Mother and Sister in love

                                   After 31 years of marriage, this man still takes my breath away
                                                      Michael and Courtney
                                                       The Bride and Groom
                                                            Their first dance
                                                         Seating Arrangement
                                                          Gone, but never forgotten
                                      A beautiful tribute to the ones that are watching over us
                                                        Courtney and her Dad
                                              Michael and I dance to "Mother Like Mine"
                                                       The "Shoelywed" Game
                                                This game was a big hit for the guests

                                              Michael and his Grandmother/Godmother
                                    The love of my life dances with the love of Michael's life
                                                                The cake
                                                  Will they smear one another's face?
                                                                   All smiles

                                                              There they go!

Congratulations to Michael and Courtney.    We love you both and wish you all the happiness and blessings for your life as husband and wife.    

Saturday, February 7, 2015


One of the hardest things to explain to children is the loss of a family pet.   With each pet that we lost while our children were growing up, heartache would follow.  To help with the heartache and healing process, we encouraged our children to treasure all the special memories they had of their beloved pet.   One of the ways they did that was to write stories about their pets.   Not only did this help them remember the great times, but it also helped us to see how they were responding to their grief.

When our dog, Chloe, passed away at three years old due to cancer in 2000, it came to a shock to all of us.   Our youngest son, Andrew, took it especially hard.   He drew pictures of her constantly and wrote a letter about how much she meant to him.    He wrote about how there are things that always go together such as peanut butter and jelly, lobsters and steamers, and swimming together with her at Ayers Lake.   He spoke about losing a sister when he lost her and asked God to take care of her because he couldn't any longer.   It broke our hearts, but we were thankful that he could express himself.  

That same year, we adopted a eight month old black lab mix.  He came from a family that had purchased two puppies together, but realized that having two was far more than they could handle.   They had named him Tazz.  When my husband went to the shelter in Stratham,  Tazz immediately responded with his tail wagging.   He asked us to meet him the next day so our sons could see him and see how they all would get along.  We all fell in love and we left the shelter with our new black lab puppy.   His name didn't sit well with any of us because it sounded like a devil, however, our sons were concerned that he wouldn't know his name if we changed it drastically.   The name, Jazz, was born when he continually danced around us and we could hear his footsteps everywhere we went.

Jazz did have some training when he came home.   He was housebroken and knew commands such as sit, down, and stay.   As new dog owners, we weren't completely sure how to make sure he continued to stay trained so we hired a dog trainer to come to our home and help us.    Jazz did great, but more importantly , we learned how to work with him to make sure he minded.   With two sons at home, we were told to make sure we all did the same thing.   I won't say that it wasn't hard work, but we loved our new addition to our family and worked hard to make sure he knew we were in control.

On January 25, 2015, we lost our beloved Jazz.   He was 15 1/2 years old, having difficulty getting around, and had taken a few falls down our stairs.   When he took a real hard fall on Saturday afternoon and was having trouble getting up afterwards, we knew that it was time to say "good-bye".    Our home isn't quite the same; our routine of taking him for walks is all mixed up and the house is eerily quiet.   As much as I know it was the right thing to do for him, our hearts are broken.  

Talking about Jazz has been good for my husband and I.    We have been talking about our favorite memories of him, looking at pictures, and attempting to help each other with the grief that comes from losing a pet.  The grief is real; it's hard, and it hurts.

To help myself just like we encouraged our children to do when they were young, I thought I would take my own advise and write about him.    There are so many memories and it would be impossible to try to talk about all of them, however, I will do my best to give you an idea of how special Jazz was.  

Jazz loved to be next to us every single second.   He would have been perfectly happy to sit on our laps all day even though he weighed between 60 and 70 pounds.   If you went outside for just a minute even if it was to get the mail or take out the garbage, he wanted to come.   When we would come home even if we were only gone for five minutes, his long tail would wag so hard, he would split it open on the walls and dishwasher.   In fact, this was the reason the vet recommended having his tail amputated.   He still found a way to wag his stumpy tail though and we were thankful he didn't have sores on his tail all the time.

Jazz loved the water.   One of my favorite memories of him was when we went to Back Lake up in Pittsburg.   We took a day trip to visit Garfield Falls which is a short hike and beautiful waterfalls to explore and swim in.   John, Michael, and Andrew all jumped into a swimming hole which was really the only way you could get in without going through the waterfalls.   It was especially cold so I stayed back with Jazz.   He wasn't going to have any of it.   He wanted to be with them and swam with all his might to get to that swimming hole.   The falls continually pushed him back, but he never stopped trying.   I was actually getting concerned about him because not only was the water cold, but he was exerting himself to the limit.   My men finally got out so Jazz got out too.   He was exhausted, but as soon as they got out, he went and stood right next to them.   He never left their sides for the rest of that day.

When my husband was hurt in 2003, Jazz was a saving grace to him.  He would keep him company and would follow him around making sure he was all-right.   You can never tell me that dogs don't know when their owners don't feel well.  Jazz helped him through a difficult time in his life and gave him something to keep him busy while he was recuperating.  

Jazz had a routine of getting up as soon as my feet would hit the floor in the morning.  He could be anywhere in the house and would hear me getting up and would run to the bedroom door.   He knew that it was time to get rubbed down and taken out.  When my husband would get ready for work in the morning, Jazz waited patiently until my husband was putting on his socks.    John would pet him before he left for the day and as soon as he left, he knew it was time to eat his breakfast.  While we were training him, we would make him sit and he would have to wait for us to say, "free" before he could eat.  There were some hectic mornings that I would get busy and forget to free him.   He never moved until he would hear, "free". Another routine would happen when John came home after working.   As John would drive in, I would look at Jazz and say, "Daddy is home". He would run to the window and stand up on the windowsill to watch him coming in.   John would take the time to rub his ears and face when he got home and Jazz knew it and loved every second of it.  

Another trick that we trained him to do was to make sure that we went into the house first after coming back from a walk or just taking him out.   We would make him sit and then we would open the door.   If it was myself, I would tell him, "Ladies before gentlemen".  He also knew that if he listened, a treat would be sure to follow!

There were times when he would definitely get into trouble.   For instance, if he decided that he wanted to go chase after something,  he would run off.    When he would come back, all any of us would have to do is to point to the corner.   He would sit there with his head down because he knew he did wrong.  It actually used to make me laugh to watch him come across the yard knowing that he knew as soon as he came in, it meant the corner.

Jazz also loved to ride in the car.   It didn't matter where we were going, but he really loved trips to the bank or coffee shops.   He knew these places had treats especially for him.  

As I sit here today, I look over to the spot where he would lie down.   He isn't there, but the memory of him is.   I watered our plants earlier this week and looked at the windowsill with all Jazz's scratch marks on it.   In my mind, I can see him looking out the window and if any of us was standing there, he would move to be right next to us.   The spot where his food and water dish is empty, but I can still cherish him waiting patiently for me to say "free" before he ate.

Jazz was our dog, our pet, and a part of our family.  There are some people that may tell you that they wouldn't have a pet because of either the work involved or how difficult it is after they are gone. I'll take every scratch mark, every chewed up towel, and every mess he made all over again.  He made us all happy and brought more life to our home. I pray that he knew how much joy and love he brought us.    

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Circle of Life

Friday, January 16, 2015 started out just like every other Friday morning.   It actually began the day before when I realized that three years before on the same date I would be spending the last day on earth with my Mother.  As my day went by, I would glance at the clock and realize that this was the time that her siblings came to say their good-byes to their sister.   I thought of the time when I ran out to get her a iced coffee from Aroma Joe's and purchased it with a gift card that I still have in my pocketbook.   I thought about her last sip of that drink and how much she enjoyed tasting it.  Then, as I went to bed I knew that three years ago, we had our last few hours with her.   I didn't sleep three years ago at that time and early on Friday morning, I was wide awake just thinking of her last minutes with us.   A friend on Facebook wrote about how she remembers the anniversary of when her Mother died and someone told her not to think about that; only think about the good memories.   She responded with, "Why would I ever want to forget?  Every moment of her life was important to me and helped me to become who I am today."  Her words really touched me.

I did finally get to sleep and woke up to my husband putting coffee on and starting breakfast.   As he left for work, we hugged and I thanked God for having another morning with him.   Another thought of my Mother touched my heart as I thought of how much she loved my husband and was so happy for the two of us.   I got ready for work and headed out.  I stopped for coffee and thought of how much she enjoyed her coffee in the morning.   I took a sip and smiled as the words slipped out of my mouth with, "Ahhhhh", just like she did when she took her first sip in the morning.

My son, Michael sent me a text in the morning asking me if we would mind watching Rosslyn, our granddaughter for a few hours that night.   Mind; are you kidding?   We love having her and then I smiled again thinking of how much my Mother loved watching her grandchildren.   John came home and we made hot dogs together.   As we sat down together to have dinner, we held hands and said a prayer.   I closed my eyes and opened them watching Rosslyn squeeze her eyes tight to say a prayer.    All I could do was smile and think of how my Mother would love to see the expressions on Rosslyn's face at times like this.   After dinner, we all went into the livingroom and played together.    Whether it was feeding her baby, pretending to go shopping, or dancing the chicken dance, we laughed all night with her.   It was such a perfect way to spend the evening. Just after 9:00 pm, the phone rang.   It was my sister-in-law sharing that she had just become a grandmother to a beautiful baby boy about a half hour earlier.   I had tears in my eyes as I congratulated her, told her we love her, and thanked God for another priceless gift of a baby boy to our family.  

As I got ready for bed last night, I couldn't help but think of the day and all it brought.    January 16th will always be a day that I remember as the day that my family said good-bye to my Mother.   Even though that day three years ago brought so much heartache, today it brought so much joy. Ironically, it made me think of the song, "The Circle of Life" which was one of my Mother's favorite songs from The Lion King that we were able to see together in New York City.   It's the Circle of Life and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love.