Saturday, August 26, 2017

Finding the Quiet Voice Within

 I have always been a quote girl. I love reading a simple sentence or two and having it touch the deepest parts of me creating a spark that is a reminder to me of what I hold true. I have a Pinterest account and most of what I have saved on my page are quotes of all kinds each one meaning something important to me whether is a deeply profound thought or just a surface one.

I feel like the quote above is very symbolic of where I am at right now. I feel like I have been running  from myself for a long time. To stand still in the quiet is immensely painful for me right now. It has been for a while.  A part of me yearns for the routine of a comfortable life. The other part of me wants to run from it all.

I seem to struggle a lot where no struggle is necessary. I learn everything the hard way.  I exhaust myself.  I just want to shake myself and scream because I can be so difficult. My life doesn't need to be so hard. Why do I make it this way? Why do I make what should be simple so darn complex? I am tired of the back and forth between so many pieces of my life: do I believe this or that? Do I want to do this or that? I just want to be still. Can I learn to be still? Is that even a possibility for someone like me?

I deactivated my Facebook page a few days ago. I did it out of the blue because I knew that I needed to save myself and I had to begin by removing myself from electronics as quickly as possible. I have been here before - many times I am afraid to say. I have been thinking about deleting my account altogether, but I hesitate to do so because I keep in touch with a lot of people I otherwise wouldn't through Facebook. Not being connected makes me feel afraid. Like life is going to leave me in the dust. I wonder though how much of my life I will actually get back if I deleted my account? I spend so much time "just checking" Facebook that it takes away from my real life. I spend so much time looking at the glossy images of the best that other people's lives have to offer that I forget to live mine. Plus, I am really sick of the Facebook ads that pop up on my screen and the junk that has seemed to creep in over time.

The truth is I have been really struggling with "doing life". I was talking to Bob not too long ago about how the simplest tasks such as making a meal for my family, or deciding what to do on any particular day, or even just getting out of bed in the morning cripple me with anxiety. I feel like I am living with a gray veil over my head. It is making me foggy. This veil must have been creeping up on me for a long time because I didn't see it coming. I have just felt the immense weight of it in the last few months as my mental health has deteriorated drastically. I have had bouts of depression before, but I can usually work my way out of them. This time has been different and it seems the more I struggle to get out of this funk the heavier the weight of the veil feels.

I feel guilty for being in such a funk. I feel like I have no right to be depressed. I have a good life with much to be thankful for. What do I have to be depressed about? Depression doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care about wealth, health, happiness. It doesn't just grab hold of those without a lot of goodness in their lives. It doesn't just grab the poor or the meek. It doesn't just grab the pessimists.  It can grab hold of us all.

Before I go out and seek professional help there are some things that I need to try on my own to try and get a sense of myself back. I feel like I am a stranger in my own body these days. I feel lost and tired and anxious. The littlest things overwhelm me. I would say that they almost set me off into a panic attack - that is if a panic attack is a quickening of your heart, a tightening of your chest, and the feeling of an inability to get a deep breath.

Since talking with Bob I have been really trying to think about what makes me happy. What am I doing/how am I living my life that makes me feel the most at peace? There have been days in my life that have felt just perfect. Not that they were perfect in the sense that everything went exactly as I planned, but they were perfect in that I just felt that my mind, body, and soul were living in unison with my core Truth - even if only for 1 day. I want more of those days.

I crave those days because those days are the kind of days when I feel truly alive. I am not worrying about this or that. I am not thinking about the past or the future. I am living in the moment. Those days are my heaven on earth.

I have just been so preoccupied with the noise and weight of depression that I haven't been able to hear the voice of me calling me back to myself.  I just need to listen to the quiet voice within and follow her lead. She has all of the answers I am seeking. She will bring my back to myself.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

With Each Passing Day

Snuggling with Lily on our of my most favorite things about him was the way that he curled his giant paws. 

With each passing day the shock of losing Sammy seems to fade just a bit. With each passing day the flood of sadness that would overtake each of us at sporadic points throughout the day is becoming more like a trickle. This doesn't mean that we don't feel sadness and that we aren't still gutted by his loss, but what seemed completely unmanageable almost two weeks ago has changed into something that can be lived with. (Most likely because we have no other choice.)

One of my favorite pictures of Sammy hangs front and center of our refrigerator and my heart still stops a beat when I look at it from missing him. It still doesn't seem real that he is gone from our lives for the time being. I still keep waiting to see him around the house although even that is happening less and less.

I know I tend to kvetch a lot about stupid stuff. I tend to get pissed off over things that I shouldn't. I think at times I tend to come off as an ungrateful pessimist, and perhaps sometimes I am. But underneath my hard shell I really am a grateful person even if it doesn't seem that way. I am grateful for so much in my life. I really really am.

Sammy was a testament to that. That dog taught me so much about what it means to be carefree and thankful for the simple pleasures in life. Bob and I hadhave a running dialogue about all of the crazy and silly things that dog did and how happy seemed to be just living life in a place where he was loved immensely and unconditionally. He was always making me laugh or smile. Every day he did that. He seemed to live life in the moment all of the time. And every day I was thankful for the opportunity to love him and be a part of his life.

We still talk about Sam every day. Someone will usually bring up a story about him. Instead of crying  we laugh now as we share these antidotes with one another. I didn't get to know Sammy for long, but I did get to know him pretty well.  I know that he would not want us to be heartbroken over him not being with us in body. I know that he would want us to be in a place where we could share all of the cool stories we have about him with one another and have those memories bring a smile to our faces and not a tear to our eyes. He will always be with us in spirit through those memories.

Sammy will always have a place in our family. He will never be forgotten. I was afraid when he first died that he would be, but with each passing day I know that this is just not true. You don't just forget animals that you loved immensely. In fact, I would argue that you don't even stop loving them. When they pass away they just become a part of you. When they leave this earth a piece of them stays here with you in the form of your memories with them and they take a piece of your heart into heaven with them.

For the first few days after Sammy's death I swore I would never get another rescue again because there is just so much unknown about them. There are too many things that could go wrong with them such as uncertainty about their past in terms of their experiences, medical history, age, etc...

But with each passing day I know that I would adopt a rescue again for sure. Sammy brought so much joy and love into our lives that I could not imagine not giving another dog a chance to be loved and cherished unconditionally. In time, I am certain that the right dog will come along, not to replace Sammy because that could just never happen, but rather to open our hearts just a little bit more just as Sammy did.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Birthday Girl - Miss Elizabeth

Today is Elizabeth's 11th birthday. She wanted to spend her birthday in Ohio with extended family as she misses having the ability to do so since beginning our life living as nomads. Bob and I were able to grant her wish as we didn't go out to Ohio as a family this summer, but are doing so in groups of two. (Andy and Josh went out for the month of June. Elizabeth and Bob are there now. Sarah and I are planning a super quick trip to Ohio at the end of September so that we drive to NY with my mom and dad to see my grandparents.)

From what Bob and Elizabeth have told me she spent her day just as she wanted to. She and her cousin, Leah, went to Fun-n-Stuff to ride rides and play games followed by lunch as Swenson's. (A favorite Ohio burger joint in our family). She then went back to my in-laws for cake and presents. In the evening she drove up to see my sister's family and had dinner and watched movies with her cousins and my parents. (She originally wanted to go to the drive-in movie theater, but it ended up being closed.)

Over all, I think she had a good day. I know she was torn about not being with the 6 of us on her special day, but we promised that we would celebrate her birthday when she got back to Oregon.

I am proud of Elizabeth. She is a firecracker. She is a dare-devil and very high spirited. She is also one of the most thoughtful people I know. She is always looking out for the underdog and the left out and including those people. She has heart of gold especially when it comes to her sister. I imagine that it isn't easy having an older sister who is abled differently, but Elizabeth handles it all with grace.

She is no longer a baby. Nor is she a little girl. She is slowly becoming a young lady. Watching her blossom is a gift and a privilege.

Although there are still days when I go to bed worn out from her antics those days are growing fewer and farther between. There were many years when her daring spirit would wear me out completely, but now I watch her fearlessness with amazement. Not many people are willing to take the risks she does. Not many people see something they want to do and jump into it without giving it a second thought like Elizabeth does. What I once considered a negative attribute I now consider an extremely positive one. I am glad that she is who she is and who she has always been from the moment she was born.

Life certainly is much more exciting with people like Elizabeth around. I just wish there were more of them.

Happy Birthday, my dear!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

100 Different Thoughts

Since Sammy's death my mind has been flooded with 100 different thoughts each going in its own direction sometimes with no relation to the other thoughts.

  • I think about Sam constantly. I asked the kids last night if he was constantly on their minds. Andy said that while he does think about Sammy throughout the day is in only in passing sporadic moments. Like me, Joshua and Sarah have him constantly on their mind too. 
  • We all have slipped up and said something to allude to the fact that Sammy is still alive. I called his name on accident after I called Lily's to see if he needed to be taken outside too to use the restroom. Each of the kids have referred to the dogs that we have instead of the dog we have. We have looked at Lily and called her Sammy (not that the two look anything alike).  
  • Andy, Sarah, and I have dreamed about Sam since his death. I do not remember my dream. I only know that I woke up with wet eyes because whatever was happening in my dream with him caused me to cry. Sarah and Andy's dreams were pleasant. 
  • Someone gave us a poem that talked about rainbows being the connection between heaven and earth - our dog and us. Yesterday when we were eating pizza 3 rainbows appeared on the ceiling of our living room as the sun hit one of Andy's card boxes. I didn't care what the cause of the rainbow was I just knew it was a rainbow and that Sammy was with us. It was very much what I needed.
  • I worry about Sammy. Is he okay? Does he have friends where he is? Is he lonely? Is he happy? Does he miss us? Does he remember us? I don't want him to miss us or be lonely. I want him to be content and happy. I want him to be having fun. I want him to be in heaven, but I am not sure that heaven exists for our pets. Does it? I never really gave that idea much thought. It keeps me up at night - that uncertainty - that there might not be a heaven for animals. But then again, why wouldn't there be?
  • When I think about the heaven thing one thought I keep going back to was that once Sammy had died and we were with his body I knew that he wasn't there any more. I knew that what we were crying over was just the vessel that contained him, but that the essence of him was gone. It was a weird feeling to know that one minute he was with us and the next minute he wasn't. Shouldn't that confirm that heaven is for our animals too? I still feel uncertain about it and that uncertainty is driving me crazy. 
  • I have been bringing Lily just about everywhere with me. Every errand, every walk, to bed with me. I try to keep her as close to me as possible because she is a link to him. She was what he loved most and when I am with her I feel like I am kinda with him.
  • I feel bad for Lily. Because I am completely rational human being (not really) I actually sat her down and talked to Lily like I would a human being and told her that Sam had died. I told her that he wasn't coming home. I told her that he had had bone marrow cancer. I wonder if she knew this. I thought I had read somewhere that some dogs can smell cancer. Did she know he was sick? Did he know he was sick? And if so, for how long?
  • I wonder what that feels like for animal to one day be a part of a pair and then the next day not be. I wonder if they understand what is happening or if they always wonder what happened to their partner. What a terrible feeling that must be. 
  • Part of me thinks that Lily knew  that Sammy died because after he had died she immediately got up and walked away from his body and sat down near the door as if she was ready to leave the room. She is such a smart dog that maybe I should give her more credit than I do about how much she understood/understands what is happening. 
  • I have yet to wash the blanket that is sitting in front of my washing machine that contained the blood from Sammy's nose bleed. There is quite a bit of blood on the blanket and I just couldn't wash it before today because I didn't want to eliminate another physical piece of Sammy J from this house. I am washing that blanket today. It is time and I will most likely cry as I put it in the washing machine. I will keep that blanket for the a long, long time stains and all as it is one of the few physical reminders of a dog I love(d) with all of my heart.  I know this sounds so gross and ew and completely crazy. Just rereading it has me thinking I have lost my mind, but this is where I am at in my grieving process and I am doing my best to honor where I am instead of trying to push it away. 
  • My head keeps telling me that he was just a dog, he was just a dog, he was just a dog...but my heart keeps telling my head to shut the h#!@ up because he wasn't just a dog. He was a member of our family. His absence is felt throughout this house in ways I never imagined. 
  • Sammy's ashes should be ready in the next few days. I hope that I am really going to get his ashes back. I fear that people who cremate animals don't really do so and instead take advantage of people who are mourning. I fear that I am going to get fake ashes back or some other dog's ashes back or a mixture of a number of different dogs' ashes back. Cremation requires a level of faith and trust in a system that I am just not sure I have. 
  • We are going to put Sammy's ashes in a box along with his collar, leash, and dog bowl. I am going to the craft store today to buy that box. On the outside I am going to ask the kids to write their favorite memories of Sammy. Bob and I will do the same. 
  • Those people who have shared their own dog/cat/animal stories with me via Facebook or my blog have been comforting in ways I didn't think possible. I loved the stories that each took the time to tell me.
  • I cannot imagine my heart ever healing. I have grieved before and I know that with time the scab will form over this open wound. Eventually it will become a scar. Walking through that process is like walking through the pits of hell for me. I just want to numb my pain. I want to build a wall around my heart so that I don't hurt anymore. But I will not allow myself to do this. I need to sit in this fire and feel its heat and know that this hurt only means that I loved Sammy exactly as he deserved: deeply and with everything I had to give. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

But We Love Them Anyway

Yesterday was a hard day in our home. Thoughts of Sammy were constantly on all of our minds. I think we all kept thinking we would turn around and see him. He had this way of popping up throughout the day with his tail wagging, mouth smiling, eyes twinkling. "Hey, Sammy. What's going on?" is the phrase that was repeated multiple times each day in our house as we would give him some love.

While everyone is taking his death tremendously hard it is Josh and Sarah who feel the grief his death has left behind the most. Joshua who tries very hard to keep his emotions in check and close to him has been unable to restrain his grief as it cuts him so deeply. Sarah is also mourning in ways that I did not expect. Her grief pours out of her in a wave of hot tears that stream down her face in regular intervals throughout day and night.

My grief has rubbed me raw. I see shadows of Sammy everywhere - all throughout the house, in the car, in the places we go. I forced myself to take Lily on a walk yesterday to Sammy's favorite watering hole because I knew that if I didn't the pain of that place would grow infinitely more hurtful. Bob and Sarah came with me. I don't know what I expected to feel or find, but all I felt was the empty ache of a dog that I wished could be there, but was not, and the echo of memories that would never be repeated again.

Josh is afraid of forgetting Sammy. He is afraid of forgetting all of the details that made Sammy who he was. The way his ears felt, the heaviness of his lion-like paws, the way your fingers would get stuck on his belly fur because it was so long and fine that it would get tangled up. He is afraid that we will forget the feeling of his God-awful breath on your face and how it made you want to gag. He is afraid that Sammy will just disappear.

And truth be told we most likely will forget the small details about him as time marches forward. But I think that each of us will remember the small details that mattered the most to us as individuals and together the 6 of us will always be able to remember all of him as we pull together our individual memories.

We began to make a list yesterday of "Sammyisms" a.k.a. 'Things I will remember about Sammy'. It's kind of an insurance policy if we do forget some things. It's a great list that is already 3 pages long. He was just that kinda guy. He was the memory maker, the adventurous spirit, the risk taker, the sweet gentle boy. He was just Sammy. Unduplicatable, unique Sammy with a quiet disposition, but a large than life personality.

As I went through my day yesterday I was trying to think if there was anything else I could have done to save him. Should we have brought him home for one more night? Should we have asked the vet to wait one more day to see if he would improve? Was she sure that it was bone marrow cancer? Maybe he wasn't really as sick as I thought he was?  On and on the questions rolled about in my mind.

And the answers came to me slowly and surely. If we would have brought him home he would suffered because he would have become dehydrated. He hadn't taken a sip of water on his own in 48+ hours prior to his death and was being given IV fluids to keep him hydrated. If we truly loved Sammy bringing him home wasn't an option because even though it would have made us happier it would have made him more miserable. When Sammy arrived at the first vet's office on Monday he had blood work done that showed that he had zero platelets in his body. Zero. His white cell count was low too. When his blood work was redrawn on Tuesday night he still had zero platelets despite having been given medication to boost his count. His white blood cell count was even lower than they were on Monday which the vet said was unbelievable since it was so low then, and he was becoming anemic. (Anemia is basically suffocating from within as your red blood cells become low in hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout your body.) Yes, it was cancer. I knew it even after both vets told me it was and even after I did some research on the symptoms myself. And he was sick. So sick. I know this may sound morbid, but I am glad that I took those photos of him so sick because then I will have proof that he really was a sick boy in the event that my mind tries to play tricks on me and tell me that he wasn't so sick and that we shouldn't have euthanized him because maybe he could have gotten better. He just went down so quickly. Literally one day he was his usual happy self and the next day he wasn't.

When the vet came to administer the medication that would take his life he didn't move. Didn't raise his head. Didn't seem to feel the sedative and then the cold saline solution before the lethal cocktail of medication was supplied to his failing body. His eyes were closed, he was snuggled up with Lily, and had 12 hands holding and rubbing him. He was surrounded by those that loved him deeply and whom he loved deeply in return. I have to believe that he was at peace. I have to believe that putting him down when he did was saving him unnecessary pain that was bound to come as his body shut down on itself.

I don't know how long it will take for the loss of him to not feel like an open wound, but rather a scar. A scar whose pain isn't active anymore, but a visual reminder of a searing hurt that was once on fire. I think this pain will take a little bit longer to scab up because it is our family's first loss of a pet. Firsts of anything are always the most memorable.

I had the thought yesterday as to why God took Sammy and not Lily. Lily is very, very loved. Please don't get me wrong. But Lily has lived a very posh life for her (almost) 7 years. She doesn't know what hardship is like. She only knows what it is like to live a pampered and spoiled life. If God was just and fair it would be Lily he would have taken first and allowed our family to love on Sammy for a few more years and spoil him the way he should have been spoiled his whole life. But after some reflection, I knew that I had to trust God. If Lily died first Sammy wouldn't have been able to live without her. Really. We couldn't take Sammy anywhere alone because he didn't know how to function without Lily. He truly couldn't live without her. And I know that Sammy appreciated the life that we gave him, probably more so than Lily ever has, because he knew what the not so good life looked like and it made him so grateful to have found his own Garden of Eden with us.

Per the kids request, we had Sammy cremated. We will keep his ashes until Lily's future death and then we will bury them together.

Which brings me to the point of this whole long post:  Almost every animal that we ever take into our homes and lives will die on our watch. For the majority of us it won't be almost every animal it will be every single one. And yet we will do it time and time again. No one thinks about their puppy growing old and dying when they bring it home. I don't think many of us who have rescued animals think about their animal dying either. We just bring them into our lives because the gifts and love they shower on us is so strong and so good that the grief and heartache we experience when they die is worth it. Deep down, even though we hardly ever acknowledge it, we know that we are staring down the barrel of a limited number of days with an animal that we love with abandon despite the heartache. They become a part of our family. They become a part of our very being. They have personalities and feelings. They make us laugh and cry. They sometimes make us mad and sad too.

 This love isn't a one way street. Our animals love us without abandon too. They love us despite all of our faults and shortcomings. I don't think there is a purer love than that of an animal for its human family.

They live with us year after year creating memories with us.

And then they die and they leave their mark in the form of a scar across our hearts, but we love them anyway. Because loving them is a far greater reward then never having loved them at all. The intense hurt that we all feel now just shows how deeply Sammy was loved. The depth of love is shown in the reflection of the depth of our grief.

I asked Sarah last night as she lay in her bed crying if she would rather we not have adopted Sammy at all in order to save herself the heartache she is feeling right now. She responded without a second thought that adopting Sammy was one of the best things we have ever done despite the hurt she feels right now.

I couldn't have agreed with her more.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

In Loving Memory of Samuel Jennings: ? - 08/08/17

Swimming in the river at Tillamook National Forest. 

As a kid I loved animals. Just loved them.  But then something happened and there was a time in my adult life when I wasn't an animal person, but especially a dog person. I couldn't understand how people could live with pet hair on them, on their furniture, in their cars, etc...I didn't understand how people could be so coo-coo about their dogs. I mean they were animals for Pete's sakes! People are crazy about their animals. They just seem lose all sense of rationality when it comes to their animals. I know you non-animal people know exactly what I am talking about. 

And then Lily came into our lives and then I became one of those crazy people. 

The kids had always wanted a second dog, but our house and yard in Ohio just wouldn't allow it. There wasn't the space, but Bob had promised them that once we had moved into a bigger house he would buy them another dog. As a family we talked about whether or not to get another puppy as we did with Lily or if we wanted to adopt a dog and give that animal a life like Lily - the kind of life it should have had all along. 

You see - Lily has the ultimate dog life. She is loved immensely. Is played with (when she is willing to play because she is a lazy beast dog) and loved on every day. She is given the best dog foods. She is taken just about everywhere she can go with our family. We have conversations with Lily. We have conversations with others about Lily and the crazy things she does. We baby her.  She is treated like a true member of this family, and because of this our family is convinced that she truly thinks she is a human being.

 Like I said earlier, we are that crazy dog family now. 

And so we got the fateful call that Bob was given a job in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We moved into a house almost three times the size of our house in Ohio. The kids started asking for a second dog almost immediately upon our arrival and Bob knew that he had to make good on his promise. We talked about whether we wanted to get another Golden Retriever and quickly decided that we did.  Luckily for our family Bob's boss and his wife were a part of the El Paso Golden Retriever Rescue organization. His boss' wife came to Bob about a special needs rescue that had just been brought in. It would need a special kind of home because it had some issues. Bob brought this news home to me, but he wasn't sure he wanted to take on a special needs dog. But over the course of a few weeks T. would bring news of Sammy to Bob. Finally, I was able to pull up his information on the rescue's website and I knew immediately that Sammy was meant for our family.  Bob needed just a bit more convincing, but not much. We contacted the woman in charge of the organization, filled out an application, had our home visit to see if we were a good fit for a rescue dog, and were then on our way to El Paso to meet Sammy. 

From the moment we saw that timid and shy boy we knew that he was the one for us. There were other dogs available for adoption, but we quickly dismissed those dogs because it was Sammy we wanted. 

From the little background information we were given we knew Sammy was found in a local pound and that someone there saw him and brought to the rescue organization. He did not know how to walk on a leash, was deathly afraid of doorways, cars, loud noises, and was people shy. We were told that he was most likely kept with at least one other dog because he seemed to find comfort only with a buddy. (Which is why the rescue organization would only adopt him out to a family who already had a dog.) It was believed that he was kept on concrete most of his life by the wear and tear on the pads of his feet. It was clear that he had never been on a leash, so he was most likely never walked. And because of his immense fear of cars it was most likely that he was thrown out of a vehicle at some point. It was believed that he was between 3-5 years old based on the wear and tear of his teeth, but his face betrayed hints of an age beyond that as he had gray whiskers surrounding his face. 

And that is all that we knew about Sammy. 

We brought him home and he seemed so afraid. Of everything. I cannot imagine how scary life was for him not only living in a home where he was not taken care of and possibly abused, but also to have been in so many places so quickly: the pound, the rescue facility, and then our house. 

It took him about a year to a year and half to fully come alive. But slowly, ever so slowly, he did. And our family was blessed to live with the sweetest, most loving, care free, boy in the whole wide world. 

Sammy loved us truly, but his whole world really revolved around Lily. He loved that her with all of his being. I think it is fair to say that he worshipped her.  He followed her around the house pretty consistently. If she left a room he would leave a room. If she went outside he would go outside. If she got in the car he would get in the car. And so on and so forth. 

I would like to think that he was so happy-go-lucky because he was so happy to finally be loved. That he had had a pretty bad life and was just so thankful to be living in a place where he was loved and cared for. He hardly barked and once he got settled in a bit he seemed to smile all of the time. He was so chill. He wasn't the smartest dog in the world that is for sure, but he was hands down the sweetest and that is what matters. 

Sammy was with us for 2 years 3 months and 6 days. And then we had to make the decision that breaks any animal lovers heart: we had to put him down.  Bone Marrow Cancer, in the course of just 4 days, wiped our dog out. By the time the last day of his life came he had just about nothing left to give. His breathing was labored at times, he hadn't eaten for days, he wasn't drinking (but was being hydrated via IV), he could not get up on his own without gentle assistance from either us or the vet. He had a nose bleed that lasted almost 24 hours. He had a fever. 

When we went to visit Sammy yesterday after Bob got home from work he was not the same dog anymore. He was a dog who looked like he had spent the last 4 days of his life giving everything he had to try and stay alive against a disease that was trying just as hard to kill him and he had lost the battle. The vet called shortly after we left her office and said that she had just run his blood work. She said that he was getting worse, not better, despite all of the stops they had put in place to save him - if only for a couple of months. I told her that it was time. I had asked for a sign yesterday, a clear sign that would allow my husband and I to make the decision to end our dogs life if that was what was best for him, and I got it. After visiting with him and talking to the vet I knew without the shadow of a doubt that Sammy was asking for us to let him go. And because we loved him so much we knew that we needed to do what was best for him and not us, we gave him his wish. 

The 6 of us and Lily gathered around Sammy last night and spent about 30 minutes just loving on him and kissing him and talking to him. Lily lay by his head almost the entire time. She had her paw over his all the while she laid by him and kept it there until his heart stopped beating. 

In that 30 minutes that we had with him he put his head up about 4 times. One of those was to look at Lily. Two of them were after we kissed him. And the last time, he looked around at each of as if taking a picture in his mind, put his head down and fell asleep. The vet came in, administered the sedative and then the lethal injection. He was gone with seconds. Just like that. 

We stayed with his body for as long as we possibly could. Feeling his paws, touching his soft ears, rubbing his belly. We all sobbed over his body as our hearts were cracked open. 

It doesn't seem fair. This boy who had such a tough go at it was only given 2 years of an amazing life. But as Bob, the kids, and I looked through pictures last night we saw how happy he was with us and how much life he got to experience in those two years. I know that he knew that he was loved. And he returned our love in spades. 

How I wish we could have had more years with him. That's what we planned on. We still had a lifetime of living let to do with him. 

We came home last night and the house just felt wrong. It felt wrong the night before too when he was admitted into the ER vet, but this time the wrongness clung to us because we knew it wasn't a temporary feeling. We knew that this feeling was here to stay. 

It's funny how empty our house feels. It is amazing how much room this four legged creature took up in our hearts and lives that now that he is gone all that is left is this empty space.  We are all shell shocked and weary. These next few weeks/months are going to be very, very hard for all 6 of us. 

As I was sitting with my pain last night I wondered to myself if loving him was worth the ache. Would it have been better if we had chosen to never have any animals? Does the grief outweigh the goodness of it all? And a voice resonated within me that yes, loving him was worth the ache and I would do it all over again even if I knew the outcome ahead of time. 

He was truly a gift to us. And we were a gift to him. He showed us that every day in the way that he lived his life as one big thank you. Never once did I not know that he was thankful to be with us. He lived his life with grace even up until the very end. 

Thank you, Samuel Jennings, for allowing us to love you. Thank you for showing us what unconditional love looks like. Thank you for letting us know when it was time to let you go. You will never ever be forgotten. You will always be a part of us where ever we go. We'll see you again on the other side.   

Us visiting Sammy for the first time at the house of the woman who was fostering Sammy until he was adopted. He was so afraid of us and just wanted to run upstairs. 

Meeting Lily for the first time. 

He's not too sure of us at this point, but we are sure of him. We knew right away he was the one for us. 

Coming into our house for the first time. 

Look how timid he looks. 

He hated going through door ways. He would stand like this outside a door way for a while and then sprint through the doorway. 

This is by our front door. He wants to come outside, but he's not sure he wants to navigate that doorway. In the beginning we would just leave the doors open for him when we were outside so that he could come out on his own time when he was ready. 

From the very beginning he loved Lily. She was not so sure of him as he took some of the attention and love away from her. 

First smiles. 

Learning to let loose. 

Always following his gal. 

This was one of the first times he rolled onto his back to allow us to pet his belly. 

I love his smile. 

Never far from his girl. 

Camping with bob and the girls in NM

Finding shading in the heat

Hiking with us in Soledad Canyon. 

The great Imperial Ridge stand off. 

At Nana and Papa's in Ohio. He made the road trip with us from NM to OH two years ago. 

He already mastered the art of being a mooch. Lily taught him that quickly and well. 

I know these next two pictures are bad, but this was a huge snow storm that we had in NM. Sammy round around like a nut in the snow. 

Sitting with his other girl just chillin'

How can you not love that face? 

Snuggling with Lily. 

I have no idea why he loved to sit this way splayed out like this, but he did. The first time I saw it it cracked me up. Who does this?! Only Sammy. 

I always wondered what he thought about when he was contemplating life. 

These next few pictures capture a day swimming on the Rio Grande. 

He was always trying to get Lily riled up. He would run at her at full speed and then seconds before knocking into her he would zip past her brushing her hair. She would get so aggravated with him that she would chase after him, which of course was exactly what he wanted her to do the whole time. 

I think these were taken at Elephant Butte in NM. 

Something got his attention here. 

This portion of desert was right at the end of the cul-de-sac on our street. We would frequently take the dogs out here to run around and explore. 

There was this bird that was freaking Lily out on our patio in NM because she is a big baby. The bird wasn't doing anything but hopping around and investigating Lily. Sammy was having none of that. Seeing his lady friend in "distress"  he came over and ever so gently picked up the bird in his mouth. We told him to put it down, and he did. I was taking this picture because he was sniffing the bird never in a million years did I think he was actually going to put it in his mouth.

Here are the two of them looking through the fence at the bird that was now safely out of Sammy's mouth. 

You can see the bird through the fence. 

Road Trip! Sammy and Lily debating over who got to sit on the seat next to the kids. 

Durango, Colorado and the best grass we have ever been on. 

Sammy pooping on the beach. This kid loved pooping on the beach. I always carried a bag in my pockets because we quickly learned that the water touching Sammy's heinie was like a muscle relaxer to him and he ALWAYS pooped on the beach and I was ALWAYS running around trying to make sure that I got to it before the waves did and made life no fun for us all. Once he got it out of his system he was fine and would run around the rest of the time on the beach without incident. This was the first time we were took him to the beach before we knew what affect the water had on him. Andy is checking him and probably yelling for Bob and I to come and help him. This is classic Sammy. Lily doesn't poop on the beach. Just Sammy. 

Sunning at Lake Trillium, Mt. Hood, OR

Playing on the beach with the girls at Olympic National Park. 

Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Watching over his family. 

On his last day. We had a chance to spend about 90 minutes visiting with him yesterday in the early evening. He exhausted as you can see in this picture. His body was tired of fighting this cancer which had already wiped him out. His eyes would remain closed like this for most of our two visits with him yesterday. 

This was one of the last times he opened his eyes. His eyes seemed devoid of any of the life he had shown us over the course of these last two years.  Lily had her paw on him almost the entire time. 

I am so thankful that Lily got to be with him when he died because he loved her so much. His eyes are closed as they were almost the entire time we spent with him. I know that he felt loved and secure when he died. That is all I could have hoped for.