Saturday, January 29, 2011

Adrift at Sea

Floating in a leaking dinghy for months on end is not what I’d envisioned for my life after the passing of Erin. Not really sure what I expected during this period of transition but somehow this isn’t it. Nobody really knows or comprehends the depth of their grief until it happens and then all preconceived notions are tossed onto the scrap heap.  Now I huddle alone seeking protection from the elements while the choppy sea washes over me and believe me, I’m all alone and only my creator has the power to rescue me. Family, friends, and trained professionals while able to offer temporary relief are truly incapable of saving me from this raging storm. In the end, it will come down to making a pact with God and agreeing to a peaceful resolution.

The dangers are prevalent in the sea of sorrow while the vessel is barely sea-worthy. It appears that I’m unable to change the course of direction or fight the crashing massive waves due to a lack of oars so I drift along with the tides or get pounded into the rocks lurking below the surface. Neither alternative is very appealing but it beats the option of throwing myself overboard, so I’ll continue to bide my time and count my blessings that I’m still alive. Eventually, the boat will run ashore where I’ll discover a source of happiness and contentment or it will capsize and drag me to the bottom. Whatever fate is destined for me remains unknown but I gladly accept the outcome over this stressful taxing burden placed upon my shoulders.

Unfortunately, I’m evolving into one of those folks who I’ve always felt sympathy and pity for and that is the worst result of this miserable experience. Nevertheless I absolutely refuse to become part of the masses that lack passion for life, the walking zombies who are void of any feelings and the emotionally scarred who lack love for anything including themselves. Personally, I’d rather have my ashes mixed with Erin’s and spread in a designated spot than wasting my time going through the motions of a lackluster life. The loss of a beloved friend can cast one out to sea without warning or proper provisions while the grieving must locate a safe harbor amidst the raging storm or perish trying. To date, I’ve weathered the fury of the storm but battered and disheartened I remain as there’s no shoreline in sight nor any hope of the gales dying down. Memories of my angel Erin continue to fuel my beating heart and although it’s broken, it’s still beating.  Thank you for continuing to uplift me!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lending a Paw to Children

As a certified therapy dog team, Erin and myself had the privilege of being involved in various events with the youth of Savannah and it was always special as young minds were positively impacted. The Islands Library Dog Days Program was designed to enhance the reading skills of children with the belief, reluctant kids are more comfortable reading to a sweet dog than their demanding parents.  Many Wednesday afternoons were spent driving towards the library while a recently groomed Erin let the rushing wind pelt her smiling face in the backseat.  Upon arrival at our destination, it was time to sniff the outdoors perimeter for hints of fellow canines and intruding felines while taking care of nature’s business.  
Entering the library before the scheduled session allowed Erin to greet and say “hello” to the many patrons at the computer stations, browsing the shelves, or idly wasting time. If the onlookers showed a keen interest in dogs, I’d lead her in their direction for a meet and greet where they always wanted to know “how come your dog can come inside?” After this meeting of the public, we made our way to a carpeted room designated for the program where I staked out the area we would occupy for the next hour plus.  Erin’s favorite doggie blanket was unfurled and that’s where I plopped down while my faithful friend sprawled out next to me. Several fellow therapy dogs always joined in on the fun and together we waited for the youngsters and their parents to arrive.
While parents sat in chairs against the walls, the aspiring readers strolled over to a long folding table where books selected specifically for the program were standing upright. Some bashfully grabbed the nearest title while others contemplated their choices until an exasperated guardian implored them to make up their mind in this lifetime. Meanwhile Erin sat impatiently beside me on the blanket knowing the kids were coming our way soon. With book in hand, the children then chose a dog who they wished to read to and it all came down to personal preference based upon cuteness, size, color, furriness, gender, etc.  One at a time, the students ranging in age from five to early teens sat upon the blanket for introductions and then attempted to recite the written words to Erin at their own leisure
The oldest easily read their picture book while beginning readers struggled with every word and that’s when Erin and I guided them to success.  Of course, for most youngsters this was an excuse to lie near, stroke the fur, or pay attention to a furry beast and she was never one to refuse a scratch upon the head, a hug around the neck, or having those droopy ears massaged. While they read, many held a freckled paw, or rested her head upon their laps while hilariously, some said “Erin pay attention” or “Your dog isn’t following the story”. I’d assure them that she’s paying attention and loves this story, please continue.  All children who read to Erin received a bookmark of their favorite color and they absolutely loved them, it was a big deal to collect them all.
Those children who struggled with reading at school or home due to expectations become comfortable around Erin as they realized she’s not judgmental nor will she utter a disparaging remark, all she will do is be a friend and patiently listen. For one hour a week, those that desired to improve their skills at reading lined up to tell Erin a tale. It was a special time as progress was made, parents made positive comments, and enthusiasm grew. To her, these gatherings were about extra loving but to everyone else, she was performing a valuable service to the child, family, and community. Hopefully, her impact will continue to be felt for years to come. I’m very proud of the sway my fur angel made in the lifes of many children, she did very well!!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Broken Within

A fractured heart is not easily mendable after a devastating loss nor do I believe it's possible to make it whole again. While we can all proceed with our lives and discover love in some fashion or another, there will always be an ever present void. Eventually, a layer of scar tissue will build up where the pain exists and the ache will be reduced to a tolerable level but it will never truly disappear. Half of my heart died when Erin's heart ceased to beat and I'm doubtful if it will be fully restored to the condition before she passed away. To pour your love, friendship, and every emotion possible into one breathing creature for so long is a crushing blow when that loved one is not around. It’s one thing to love casually but to love without limitations makes a loss so much more difficult to overcome.

How many people truly love without a net and do so knowing the fall could kill them? I still recall a friend mentioning to me how I’ll be so devastated when Erin dies as she could see how close we were. All I could really do at that time was shrug my shoulders while changing the subject as I’d never really imagined my life without my fur friend and that was a forbidden topic. Years later, as I recall that brief conversation, she was right on target as it has been a devastating loss in so many ways and the fall could easily have ended my life. My will to survive outweights the alternatives so I'll continue to trudge through life searching for answers in this Erin-less world.

In the words of Pink Floyd, ‘Comfortably Numb’ is how I’m living my life these days. Trying to survive one day at a time as I inch closer toward the time when Erin will greet me and eternity will be spent in glorious happiness. Not sure what tomorrow holds and personally I don’t care as it doesn’t matter but today there’s me, a shattered heart, a wounded spirit, and a body that is physically imploding. Everybody should be so lucky to love (human or animal) without boundaries, fears, or hesitation as I did and if the fall kills you, least a chance was taken. The cost of true love is pain and I’m definitely paying the ultimate price but it was so worth it for nearly 12 amazing years with my fur angel. RIP Erin!!!

Life is a great sunrise.
I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.
-Vladimir Nobokov

Monday, January 24, 2011

Angel in Fur

                Angel in Fur

From the beginning to the very end
You were always a faithful friend
It’s impossible to find truer love
As you were sent from heaven above

As a puppy you entered my life
Where you helped ease the strife
Together over the days and years
We shared so many smiles and tears

Side by side step by step
At friendship you were adept
Never once did you fail to inspire
Even as situations became dire

Through thick and thin
You always had a paw to lend
Over the miles across the sea
You never wavered in loyalty

You possessed beauty inside and out
Charm and charisma were never in doubt
That beaming smile lit up the sky
It was so difficult to say goodbye

Wish we had another day
As there’s much love to convey
Yearn for another night
So I could embrace you tight

Soon we’ll be together again
Oh how I miss you my friend
Keep a constant watch over me
Our love’s flame will burn eternally

Erin Oct 1998 – Aug 2010

Saturday, January 22, 2011

European Snow Dog

Erin's introduction to snow came upon arrival at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany. There was no hesitation or displeasure as the white flakes floated downward and covered her from head to tail but after an exhausting day of travel from Savannah to Deutschland with a layover at JFK, she was game for anything but reentering the crate. Born and residing in Southeast Georgia definitely limited her chances of seeing any snowfall other than a few flurries but spending two harsh winters in Europe made up for that deficiency without a doubt. Despite her lack of experience in a winter wonderland, she was quite adept at running aimlessly, chasing her canine friends, pursuing rabbits, and casually relaxing during a heavy snowfall. I'm chalking the fearlessness and instinct up to those hardy Springer Spaniel genes.

One of our neighborhood haunts in Germany, Luisenpark in Mannheim provided a vast open expanse where dogs could run to their hearts content and the assembled gathering of canines fetched balls, sticks, and other objects while avoiding the multitude of children racing down the hill on sleds and toboggans. Erin loved rolling onto her back and squirming with pleasure as she displayed a broad grin and then she'd return upright to shake out the fur-trapped snow. It was great to be a dog in a snow caked land. She always made friends with the foreign brethren and playing tug of war while being pelted by a deluge of snow was great fun for her . An exhilarating game of chase regularly took place with a billowing trail of snow thrown upwards for the trail dogs to inhale, it was good to be the lead dog. Rabbit chasing proceeded year round despite the weather conditions and even a total whiteout couldn't deter Erin from her internal drive.

While she displayed no hesitation about participating in outdoor activities, Erin learned there were limitations and hazards during these periods as the green grass became blanketed by a coat of ice crystals. While trotting along or sniffing her way across a field, often she would sink up to her belly in an apparent bottomless pit of snow. I'd attempt to call her back to my side but occasionally she couldn't move because of newly formed snow boots, so with arms wrapped around her mid-section she would be hoisted out and carried to a safe zone. Snowdrifts we could tolerate but the ice and slush was another story altogether. Hidden ice along our walking routes provided a headache as Erin tumbled to the ground unexpectedly but promptly she would spring to her feet, crack a smile, and look up to say "What the heck?" The slush was a major hindrance to fun as Erin's underbelly became completely soaked if she unfortunately fell through a patch of thin ice or stepped into the pool of icy water while not paying attention. Upon arrival back at out apartment, she would always shake off the excess water and melting snow covering her coat while I'd fetch a towel to dry her off completely.

Erin had an amazing time romping around in the snow and despite her inexperience in the conditions, proved she was a natural winter dog. I can't recall any instances when she was miserable from the sub-freezing temperatures and ever suppressing whiteness. Across 12 European countries, the snow crunched under her paws, her nose circulated the continuous flakes, and her liver colored patches was turned pale by winters wrath. It was a great time in her life, she had endless amounts of fun, and never did she lose that mesmerizing smile. RIP Erin!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Incapable of Accepting Truth

Erin's passing is really surreal to me, I find it difficult to accept the fact that she isn't roaming the earth in a physical state. This entire scenario is my worse nightmare come true but in this dream, I'm not waking up nor do I know when that time will come. So many memorable experiences with Erin consume my thoughts as I attempt to rationalize her absence in my mind; maybe she is lounging in the backyard, at Mrs Lori's house getting groomed, or at the vet's office waiting for me to pick her up. The list of fabricated reasons why she isn't by my side is much better than the dreaded alternative. While my denial of Erin's passing isn't healthy or beneficial in any way, it doesn't matter as long as it keeps me alive for another day. 

The manner and timing of her departure is not what I envisioned in my idyllic picturesque setting though I'm aware no one gets to choose the moment or circumstances of their loved ones demise. Somehow I just believed there would be more time; another romp on the beach, additional hours stalking squirrels, one more evening lounging on the couch, and just another day of being best friends. I realize Erin isn't going to sprint through the doggie door to greet me upon returning from work but that doesn't mean I have to welcome the news with open arms so I'll continue to resist the obvious truth.

Maybe I'm hoping God will realize how much pain this mistake has caused me and he will reverse the damage done to Erin and myself. I'm sure this is all a huge blunder and this emotional breakdown was supposed to be directed at animal abusers and other reprehensible wretches who bring misery to their pets. Certainly my creator knows that I wasn't ready to let her go as we had a few more years together and everyone knows kids (consider Erin my flesh and blood) aren't supposed to pass away before their parents. Life will proceed as before but I'm not fully participating til further notice. Work, eat, write, sleep, etc is the norm and that's okay with me. I don't agree with the higher powers decision to end Erin's life but what can I do. Nowhere to go but up from here!!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reminders Of Past Love

This city isn't big enough and it's doubtful this planet is vast enough to prevent me from seeing signs of a life with Erin. At every twist and turn of my daily routine, a prompt reminds me of time spent with my passed friend. Whether it's a trip to the grocery store, a stroll through the park, or a newly discovered strand of hair, it's unknown when the memory switch will be flipped and my fur friend with be foremost in my mind. It's also unknown whether the stimulus will produce a smile or a tear but an emotional response is guaranteed,

Walking down supermarket aisles is usually an angst filled outing as the peanut butter, cheese slices, frosty paws, etc bring back memories of one happy dog. Visions of Erin sprawled upon her doggie bed happily munching on a frosty paw is a cherished moment and it's impossible to eye the frozen treats without flashing back to happier times. Peanut butter was a staple in the household and definitely a favorite snack of my girl who loved to eat it straight from the jar or frozen in a Kong, believe me it's hard to look upon a jar without remembering Erin smacking those lips. Several other preferred food items ensure that grocery shopping is a stroll down memory lane with my fur angel.

It's easy for thoughts of Erin to manifest themselves whenever nature is involved especially if a stroll takes me through one of her favorite outdoor haunts or a squirrel crosses my path. Many tears were shed in Chippewa Square following her departure as it's a location frequented so often for many many years. It's not difficult to envision her staring upwards into the majestic oak trees searching for squirrels, being doted on my groups of tourists, or sniffing out every inch of the square. She was as much a part of the scenery as the General Oglethorpe statue looming overhead and that plot of land will always hold a special place in my heart. Many other locales cue vivid recollections  including several businesses that befriended Erin for years and these include Gallery Espresso, E Shaver Booksellers, Zunzi's, and Parker's Market. She loved being around her many friends around town and it didn't hurt that they often dispensed dog treats to her.

The house we shared since our return from Europe is one big source of emotional overload and it seems every room, inanimate object, and action has a connection to Erin in some form or another. Discarding of leftovers will occasionally sadden me for a moment as I remember her greedily devouring the chicken, steak, or cheese destined for the garbage bin. The wall adjacent to the shower is discolored and worn by having a dog lie against it for years, as whenever I showered she followed me and plopped down next to the tub. One day I'll repaint that area but for now it's a pleasant reminder of her wanting to be near me and poking her snout around the shower curtain to ensure my existence. A tuft of hair will magically appear from nowhere to declare that a liver/white dog resided under this roof and admittedly this is disheartening as no amount of prayer will return her to me.

There are other avenues of memory stimuli including songs on the radio which remind me of a joyful occasion as well as certain movies and television shows which touched my heart during our years together. My bookshelves are loaded with reads which were enjoyed in the presence of Erin often while she was playing with fur friends, running along the beach, gnawing upon a bone, or sleeping upon my nap. Hundreds of books were finished in her company and every one has a deeper meaning to them. Then there are the unexpected nudges towards recollection such as someone asking "How's your dog" or a vet office in Jacksonville calling to check up on the health of Erin and reluctantly being told "She's passed away." It's not easy to relay the news of her transition but it's definetly gotten easier as time has marched on.

A million sources of emotion surround me, stare me down, and they'll always be near me but I embrace them for they represent the greatest period of my life. Nearly 12 years of memories with Erin are entwined with this world and I love them all. RIP Erin!!!.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pen to Paper

The greatest grief therapy in wake of Erin's passing has been opening up my heart and pouring out the emotions onto paper. Medical intervention, drug therapy, grief counseling, support of loved ones, and religious beliefs are often effective means of coping after a loss but for myself, it's the ability to express myself without limitations. I'm well aware that memories fade with time and get blurred around the edges but the written word will remain intact until the ink disappears from the page.

 I've always enjoyed reading and understand the power of the written word so it's natural that I'd want to convey my feelings via that avenue. Several years ago, a hand crafted Italian journal was purchased to record the adventures of Erin in Europe as those are years and memories that I never wish to forget and it's amazing how the stories transport me back to happier times. Minute details and forgotten specifics reread years later brings out elation and a broad smile as I fondly flash back to the olden days. In the same vein, journaling and blogging about life without Erin will provide a similar response although the reaction may be somber and accompanied by sadness and tears.

Several days after the loss of Erin, I set out to record what transpired in the 48 hour window which covered her getting ill and finally taking her last breath. Despite the pain at recollecting those final hours, I set out to record the final scene and in the most accurate colorful version possible for the sake of future readings. That said, it isn't completely finished and I'm unsure when it will be concluded as the subject matter is too tear provoking for me at this time, so the pocket size journal will remain in storage til my emotional fortitude rebounds. The ending of Erin's life is an area I do not discuss with others as it's a private matter between the two of us but be assured, she was so brave in the face of adversity while her courage and love were beyond remarkable. One can only hope for such qualities at the end of their journey!!

These written words are so therapeutic and healing in many ways but most importantly to reiterate my love and adoration for Erin and how special the bond we shared. While alive she befriended and wooed many along the way but now it's my responsibility to continue her message of friendship and tolerance for the time being. One person at a time is my approach as I reach out to the masses through the internet to disperse her story of excellence amplified and the impact upon so many. The words usually flow without hindrance as it's easy to write when you're passionate about the subject and there's nothing that fuels my flames more than discussing Erin's life. There are often tears and melancholy as the sentences trigger a memory from a not so distant past but it's part of the healing process and something I'm willing to accept. I urge everyone to pursue whatever aids their grieving process while I'll continue to jot down my thoughts about my fur angel. Writing is healing and besides it's much cheaper than a therapist!!! RIP Erin!!!

Keep writing. Keep doing it and doing it. Even in the moments when it’s so hurtful to think about writing. ~ Heather Armstrong

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Worth the pain

Peering into the window of my heart one discovers that I'm still suffering with pain and grief after the passing of my beloved friend Erin. The struggle to maintain control of my life is a constant battle as internal and exterior factors weight heavily upon my shoulders while I try my best to not collapse under the tremendous pressure. I'm unsure if the severity of the grief was what I anticipated in advance of Erin's transition as it's a subject which was avoided like the plague. My mind never allowed foreboding thoughts to surface regarding  her and never did I expect her departure to precede mine, somehow I figured she was to outlive me or we were supposed to cross the bridge together. Our hearts were meshed in life and not equipped to survive alone alas that's the unpleasant situation I'm facing now.

Grieving erodes the body and weakens the heart til eventually the sum of parts cease operation. It's a difficult hurdle to overcome as there's no magical pill, no written word, and no support network that can ensure your survival beyond today, all one has is a desire to live and an urge to witness another sunrise. I've endured life without Erin and endure is an accurate word as the time has been brutally difficult in many ways but I'm still above ground and I'm so proud to be among the living. The hurt and agony will not go away anytime soon, that much I'm positive of but least the discomfort alerts me to the fact....Hey you're alive and you're feeling something. August 16 is when the world became completely void of colors while shades of black and gray emerged from their dark recesses but now somehow I must discover a method of infusing glimmering colors into my life.

Walking down the pathway alone is a terrifying thought and a nightmare come true but this difficult challenge is accepted. While I'm bruised and battered and often feel like throwing in the towel that's not an option as a ray of sunshine will pierce the clouds in future days. Life can be unbearable when a deep loss occurs but it's so worth the pain. 12 glorious years and a million great memories with Erin is so worth the sorrow and pain that I'm currently feeling. The time alongside my fur angel were the greatest days of my life and no amount of internal agony will ever make me regret the decision to include her in my life. It's been said "With deep love comes deep pain" and if that's true, then I must have loved Erin as no one has loved before. The ache and sorrow will fade over time but the memory of her unwavering affection will forever be etched upon my heart.

Erin, I miss you more than words can express and hurting unbelievably but your love was so worth it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat!! RIP Erin!!

Life is eternal and love is immortal; And death is only a horizon, And a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. - Rossiter W. Raymond

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No Dogs Allowed

While living in Germany, Erin and I frequently traveled across Western Europe in pursue of merriment and adventure. As we blazed our way across a dozen countries, the charm and engaging personality of my fur kid was routinely evident in many situations but none was more memorable than her wooing of a hotel staff in Belgrade. After a wearisome day of sightseeing and motoring through Slovenia, Croatia, and into the former republic of Yugoslavia, we pulled into the capital city as the moon shone brightly overhead. Bumper to bumper traffic and my overwhelming desire for food and sleep put me in a miserable mood all the while Erin was dozing off and on. Undoubtedly, she was exhausted as well.

Major hotel chains and other lodging options were clearly visible from the highway and little time was wasted in seeking out a warm bed, hot shower, and room service. Erin remained in the car as I entered the hotel lobby where an inquiry into room availability was made and the computer showed vacancies but then the bombshell was dropped....No dogs allowed!! It was surreal as he reiterated that dogs were not permitted on the premises, Erin had never been denied access before as Europe is super dog friendly. A stones toss away, the same situation unfolded with a manager explaining the no pet policy and offering his sincere apologizes for the inconvenience. Then a third hotel manager broke my spirit and I was near tears as the seriousness of the situation hit home but before the complete meltdown took place, I was to locate one more establishment and attempt to secure a room for the evening.

The next targeted hotel was much posher than the others and was stunning in every facet. Well attired staff approached the car upon arrival and they were informed of my intentions as they eyed Erin sitting in the front passenger seat. Marble floors, water fountains, and upscale shops caught my eye as I strolled to the reservation counter and asked for the manager, whom I pressed for room availability. The only room available was quoted at $400+ and I didn't blink a eye in accepting it as I was beyond desperate with a worn out girl in the car. While he was inputting my information, I surprised him in stating I have a dog with me and as expected, he repeated the Yugoslavian lodging pet policy....none allowed ever. At that time, I offered him double the room rate to accept a dog but he spoke of the rules and how the money is irrelevant. The manager spoke of armed security guards roaming the parking garage and and how Erin would be safe in the car as I slept in the hotel overnight. He was quickly informed that I would Never allow Erin to stay in the car while I lounged upstairs and that I was driving down the highway where we would sleep together in the car.

At that moment it was my intention to lay in the back seat with Erin and huddle for warmth as I'd never permit her to spend an evening alone in the car. After thanking him for his time, he stopped me as I was headed for the door and surprisingly asked to go see my dog and immediately we approached the passenger seat where Erin was sitting up and looking so adorable. The manager in silence just gazed at Erin as she peered upwards at him, both trying to measure up each other. Finally he remarked "that's a fine looking hunting dog" and then he praised Erin for her calmness, beauty, etc. After several minutes, it was explained to me how the hotel hadn't permitted dogs since the city was bombed by NATO in 1999 but he was willing to take a chance on a special dog like Erin. Instead of utilizing the main elevators, we were led to a private lift for our ride to paradise.

The five star hotel's room was opulence multiplied and well worth the money and I'll always be grateful for a strangers kindness but I'm eternally grateful for my Fur Angel who touched and left a lasting impression upon a man's heart. Room service and various staff were wooed by her as was everybody who crossed her path that night. The following morning upon checkout we rode the main elevator down and proudly I showed Erin off as heads turned in our direction. These people had never seen a dog paraded in a Belgrade hotel but that's exactly what was unfolding as we strolled across the massive lobby towards the revolving door. Erin had a wide beaming smile and a show dog gait during this period and it was well justified as a major coup was scored. To this day, dogs are still prohibited but for one evening my angel touched hearts and folks couldn't resist her appeal.

Great job Erin, you were remarkable!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gentle Soul

Erin befriending baby bird

I'm unable to recall a single moment in Erin's many years where she displayed any hostility or performed an act of aggression towards any living creature. Fellow dogs, cats, and humans were all treated with respect even though some circumstances definitely dictated Erin raise her hackles and bare the ivory white fangs but proudly she showed restraint and let me defend her. Snapped at by numerous dogs for no obvious reason and not once was there retaliation but instead she turned the other cheek and looked up to me in shock. In her stead, it was me that felt wounded by Erin's yelping from the nip and quickly I'd lead her away while the accosting pet's owner would be apologizing to my back. It's understood that many dogs won't tolerate others invading their space and there are consequences but it always pissed me off nonetheless as she was just displaying her friendly demeanor.

The carousel of foster puppies that rotated through our home tested Erin's patience but she never lost her temper. Composure and a wide grin were maintained despite having little fur balls crawling upon her head, chewing her paws, and stealing her preferred toys. The only hint of agitation came when an uneducated pup strolled up to Erin while she was snacking on a favorite treat or her head was buried in the food bowl thus the result was a display of exposed teeth meant to intimidate the youngsters and the desired result was achieved. This brief flash of teeth scared them enough to not tempt fate while learning a valuable life lesson. There is no doubt she would never attack another soul as it's not in her dna but was merely displaying an act of dominance posturing.

The trait of tolerance would serve Erin well in her role as a therapy dog. Occasionally, groups of adults and children who were eager and over enthusiastic to greet a dog put my angel in a stressful situation and that was never a good thing. Too many folks crowding into a confined space to befriend a dog can lead to a volatile situation and that even happens when a well trained therapy dog is involved. Obsessive attention, physical contact that is deemed heavy-handed, multiple strangers invading the dogs safe zone and when a dog loses sight of its handler can lead to an unwanted outcome. At one time or another these all happened to Erin and immediately she looked to me for reassurance as she tensed up at the overwhelming scene ripe for aggressiveness. I've often thought a lesser creature would have snapped and bitten someone thrusting a hand in its face or yanking its ears but she maintained control of her emotions throughout it all thus making me very proud.

Erin was always the even-keeled calm force in our family while her ability to forgive those who wronged her was commendable and admirable. Unable to be provoked or baited into action by bullying dogs who desired her attention or possessions, it was me who defended her as she avoided confrontation like the plague. As strangers knocked upon the door, she would emit a warning growl to make others aware of the menace inside but never was there any action taken outside of the audible noise. Erin was forged out of love, affection, and compassion from the day she entered my life while exhibiting the best qualities of man's best friend til the very end. She was a gentle sweet lady with a heart of gold and will be missed by many. RIP Erin!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Heaven on Earth

Erin's heaven on earth 

A thicket is where Erin found true happiness! On the outskirts of a Mannheim German subdivision where Erin and myself lived was a tract of land littered with a few rusted abandoned vehicles and sections engulfed by a waist high briar patch. While these skin piercing thorns were a deterrent to humans, the vast field provided a perfect habitat for rabbits and other four-legged creatures who found pleasure in pursuing them. Erin spent countless hours in chase mode or trying to detect the elusive prey, who knew a worthy adversary when they saw one.

Upon my return from work, Erin would greet me at the door with her tail wagging and face beaming with eagerness. Within minutes,we would be headed out for a stroll around the neighborhood where there was always something new to explore but the thicket was the ultimate exploration destination. As we neared the field, the tugging on the leash increased to the point where I often swore she was going to choke herself. Her intense panting and my arm fatigue determined when she was released and once free, she sprinted into the undergrowth. It was of little concern that a rabbit hadn't been spotted as Erin knew where they lived and she would remain on their trail until one was flushed out.

Visual contact with Erin was lost as she disappeared into the thicket but her location was revealed by the movement of the foliage and the clanging of her metallic dog tags. Often a rabbit would scamper out into the open where I was located and I'd holler for her to come get it. As she darted out, the varmint raced back into the thickness, this game of zig and zag was part of the routine in which neither side gained an advantage. The duration of the chase generally depended upon the weather conditions and my boredom level but it was not unusual for her to spend a few hours scurrying about while I chatted with the English speaking locals or plopped down to read the paper.

During the heart of the German winter and heavy snowfall, a few minutes was often all I could endure outdoors so Erin's fun was short lived much to her chagrin. After these snowfalls, the density of the brush thinned out considerably and all participating parties could be spotted from my elevated point. The coloring of the hares and the dark patches on my girl made them visible in contrast to the layer of snow covering everything in sight.The rabbits played hide and seek while Erin used her powerful nose to locate her target and when possible, I would try to direct Erin to a motionless fur ball but she usually followed her sniffer in another direction. Regardless of the weather conditions or anything else for that matter, she continued her pursuit until I called her name and sometimes that wasn't enough to persuade her to emerge. She would test my patience as she knew the thicket was not hospitable to humans and I wouldn't be dragging her out by the collar so she continued to meander without a care.

Eventually, my liver and white colored friend would reappear from the undergrowth where a huge grin would be plastered across her content face. She was one happy girl as we strolled back to the apartment where she laid upon on my lap for a necessary brushing to remove the numerous thorns embedding the skin and matting the coat. Erin never caught a rabbit but that didn't dampen her enthusiasm for the chase and she approached every pursuit as if it were her first time following those forged trails. Bliss and elation were discovered in that German thicket and it was a place where Erin found a slice of heaven and I sincerely hope that Doggie Heaven has a few hares for Erin to pursue!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Million Little Things

Since you've departed this world I miss a million little things. There's not one aspect of our time together that I don't crave nor is there an individual trait which I don't yearn for. I miss it all.

I miss your love. I miss your friendship. I miss your companionship. I miss your loyalty. I miss your zeal for life. I miss your gentle soul. I miss your playful nature. I miss your relaxed personality. I miss your passion for simple pleasures. I miss your snoring. I miss your messy drinking habits. I miss your tufts of hair scattered about. I miss your tugging on the leash. I miss your clanking of dog tags. I miss your paw shakes for treats. I miss you falling asleep upon my lap. I miss you laying in mud puddles. I miss you squirrel stalking. I miss your head poking into fridge. I miss you toying with frogs. I miss your profile in the rear view car mirror. I miss you greeting other dogs. I miss your circling before lying down. I miss your occasional bark. I miss your blurred tail wag. I miss your toothy grin. I miss your food gobbling. I miss your stopping at familiar doors.

I miss your love of peanut butter. I miss your skill at hide and seek. I miss you chasing prey while asleep. I miss your warmth while we sleep. I miss your floppy ears. I miss your stare downs with cats. I miss you seeking hidden food. I miss your ease with children. I miss your deep hugs. I miss you carrying treats outside. I miss your crossing of legs while relaxing. I miss your paw prints across the floor. I miss your sneezes. I miss your nudging doors open. I miss your head peeking around shower curtain. I miss your licking of lips. I miss you galloping inside as I arrive home. I miss your well worn paths in the backyard. I miss your swimming pool lounging. I miss your ability to make people smile. I miss you pawing my hand for attention. I miss your connection with nature. I miss you following me from room to room. I miss your dislike of veggies.

I miss you shaking yourself dry. I miss you scaling fences as a youngster. I miss your gift of forgiveness. I miss you acting shy. I miss your ears moving as they detect sound. I miss you wooing strangers for food. I miss your leaning against legs. I miss our pillow and cover time. I miss your days at doggie daycare. I miss your skill as a therapy dog. I miss you covered with snow. I miss your incredible memory. I miss your tolerance with puppies. I miss your soulful eyes. I miss you traveling Europe. I miss your gorgeous soft coat. I miss your curiosity. I miss your Sundays at church. I miss your love of people. I miss you sitting on feet. I miss you chewing my books. I miss your friendly demeanor. I miss you never showing anger. I miss your zest for belly rubs. I miss you running along the beach. I miss your dog park days. I miss you missing me.

Erin, I miss everything since your departure but most of all....I MISS YOU!!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Everything for Love

With the passing of a loved one, it's natural to dissect the relationship and to determine if you did everything  feasibly possible for the departed. It's been several months since Erin made the journey from her physical form and our time together has been replaying in my mind constantly as I search for answers to the haunting question..."Did I do everything in the best interest of Erin?" From puppyhood to the moment she took her last gasp of air, those scenes have been rewound mentally as clues are sought to verify whether I was worthy of Erin's devotion and unwavering love. With death comes no more cherished memories to be added to the collection stored away in a recess of the mind so it becomes pertinent that time was not wasted while the deceased were among us.

Pets do not have the luxury of selecting whom they spend their life's with as humans make that decision for them and the least we can do is give them a comfortable existence. When I opted to bring a dog into my life, it was my plan to give that fur friend a life of love and unlimited opportunities of adventure and companionship. Flashing back with pride, I can honestly state Erin had an incredible life full of love, friendship, experiences and travel opportunities. From her early years, she was affixed to my side as we frequented pet friendly locations and parks in the Savannah area. As she matured and developed obedience skills if I made a public appearance, be sure there was a leash in my hand with an English Springer Spaniel at the other end. From living abroad in Europe, service as a therapy dog, church attendee, and a stint as a stage performer, Erin led a remarkable life that few other dogs have.

Employment opportunities, housing situations, social events, friendships, and even religious services were selected based on the presence of Erin in my life and all other aspects of my daily grind were scheduled around my four-legged friend. There are always circumstances and situations that we wish could be erased, reversed or altered but there's no revisions in life and we either accept what took place or feel remorse til the bitter end. In reflection, I feel pride and satisfaction at the life shared with Erin, she was given every opportunity to excel and we had so many years to enjoy each other's friendship. My dedication and commitment to Erin was always strong and can never be questioned as she led a Dream Life. I loved her without limits while providing companionship to the last beat of her heart and I'm so proud of that fact!! RIP Erin!! Daddy misses you dearly!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Toll of Grief

Broken physically, emotionally, and mentally. That's an accurate description of my current state and unless a miracle is delivered, I'm not expecting a change in condition anytime soon. Honestly, I don't understand how I've slipped to this level as many attempts at improving my status has been initiated by myself or at the urging of another. All three facets of my life are in need of a serious overhaul but what society deems necessary steps to correct them have failed. I've seen my primary physician more in the past several months than the previous decade of being treated by him. In the days following Erin's death, I collapsed and fainted twice from the weight of it all and from that point, my body has deteriorated to the point of where it's so disheartening. I will spare you the gory medical details but a person can handle being physically ill only so much before the bottom falls completely out.

There is no magic pill or cure all for what is ailing me because if there was I would have tried it already. Chit chatting with a therapist is of little value in my eyes as I don't need a stranger to proclaim how special my relationship with Erin was or how she'd want me to be happy. I'm well aware of the talking points and nothing would make me happier than to regain control of my life. What the body desires isn't always in agreement with what the mind prefers so a fierce battle takes place but unfortunately for me, both my body and mind are taking a hiatus and chaos is raging inside of me. I'm doing the best I can under the circumstances and trying to stay afloat for as long as I'm able. Many people really don't understand the process of grieving and my words are discounted but my true supporters know what I'm dealing with. My goal of being able to cope on a daily basis without hurting in some fashion is really all I'm seeking at this time. In the meantime, the battle with the demons will continue as they push me towards the abyss but I'll do my best to survive this war and believe me, it's an all out battle for my life. Thank you so much to my family and friends for the continued support and believing in me, hope I don't disappoint you!! RIP Erin!! Daddy loves you!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Attention Hound

Up close and personal is the best way to know someone and that was definitely the motto of Erin. She believed in being near humans and soaking up the love and affection of those around her. Never one to shy away from getting stroked on the head or having those long droopy ears massaged, she preferred human interaction over canine companionship. While enjoying a romp in the mud with her doggie brethren or a game of tug of war, it was laying at the feet of her human admirers and being the recipient of all that undivided attention that fueled her flame. As her fellow canines stayed amongst themselves or remained aloof in a corner, Erin could usually be found within an arms reach of her designated target. This was a primary reason why Erin found herself so popular with the two-legged population.

Often she would rise from her doggie bed and stroll over to the couch where she would shove her snout into my face or position her head directly under my dangling hand, where she would be guaranteed a head caressing. She was never much on licking humans in the face but instead she parted her lips where I planted little pecks all over her mouth area. This is how I remember my grandmother kissing me so this ingrained method of smooching was how I bombarded Erin until a broad smile swept across her face. Her beaming face could light up an entire city block with its radiance of love.

Never was it embarrassing for Erin to wander over to a nearby table or up to another source of amour. If someone gave her the least bit of attention or made eye contact, she'd be over yearning for more and eventually she'd plop down by whoever was loving on her until I called her back. Leave her with strangers long enough and they'd be rubbing her belly or feeding her food off their plates, which  to her was another perk of dispensing love to complete strangers. My girl knew who liked her and gravitated their way for some physical contact but rarely did I get jealous cause if there was anything Erin possessed it was love and she had enough for this entire world.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Grieving Process

My final pic with Erin taken on 16 Aug 2010, several hours later she would depart this world forever. RIP Erin!!

People assume they know how much I miss Erin and ache for her companionship. They truly believe that I should be over displaying grief and because they overcame the loss of a loved one in a relatively short time frame, I should be following suit. If that's you, congratulations on being able to bury your sorrow and head in the sand while you pretend everything is okay with the world. That is definitely not the way I approach life and it's certainly not how I'll survive the departure of Erin from my life. There is a clear cut goal of where I want to be in the post Erin era but it will occur at my own pace and using the most effective avenues for me.

By now I've read enough books and web site articles on the grieving process while speaking to many who have loss a loved one, canine or human and one thing is clear....Everyone has a different path and schedule for healing!!! I've encountered people who have mourned greatly for years on end for their animals while some folks get another animal in the household before the deceased is buried in the ground. Who's to say what is the right or wrong way to mend a broken heart. Personally, I feel there are varying circumstances in every death that makes the healing process impossible to apply to every mourning party.

Most grievers have multiple pets, children, spouses, etc to soften the blow of losing a loved one to death and the passing isn't as tragic meanwhile I personally chose to invest almost every moment of everyday for nearly 12 years with Erin and solely with her. Right or wrong, I opted to make her the center of my universe and fit in the other pieces of my life around our schedule. Many keep everything inside and shut down their emotions while displaying a stoic side to the world. Meanwhile they go home and bawl all night while their friends and family are duped into believing all is right in their life. Myself, on the other hand, I'm a firm believer in wearing my heart on my sleeve in regards to Erin and have no qualms about discussing Erin and her impact upon my life and the love she spread to so many who crossed her path.

The words, spoken and written, are therapeutic in nature and has probably been the most effective means of healing inside.The more people I can reach and shed some light upon Erin's life the greater opportunity for her legacy and life story to continue for the foreseeable future. Understandably, many see her as just a dog who is easily replaceable but my true friends who spent time in Erin's presence know there will never be another friend who will impact me in that manner. After you have devoted every moment to one living creature for over a decade and made most life decisions with that soul in mind, it's impossible to not feel incredible sorrow, grief, anger, guilt and a million other emotions.

My heart has healed greatly since that horrendous August day and I've traveled many miles down the road to where I ultimately will be but please don't rush me or try to impose your methods upon me as I'm surviving this ordeal on my terms. Erin undoubtedly would want me happy and those glorious days are coming again but til then I'll continue to shed an occasion tear and say a prayer for her. Thank you to my friends for their continued support and love!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dangerous Emotions


2011 entered my life as I was sleeping soundly on the couch while the television blared and the lights shone brightly overhead. During my wine-xanax mixer I drifted off to sleep on the sofa as was my intention throughout this course of action. The holiday season has been brutal on my well-being and it's taken a heavy toll on many facets of my life...physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. Yesterday evening, thoughts of Erin and ushering in a new year was really more than my body could handle and unfortunately the bottoming of my emotions took place while I was in a public establishment enjoying a cup of tea. More times than not I'm donning sunglasses and a hat pulled down low thus nobody knows an emotional breakdown is underway in their vicinity.

All I could do was make a hasty retreat to my vehicle where bawling like a baby is the onset of a dangerous downward spiral. I've shed so many tears in my car since Erin's death that the total count of drops is beyond commutation for a mere mortal, all I know is tear stained tissues and napkins are routinely discarded from the car. I know myself too well and what I'm capable of and when my emotions sink to their lowest depths then all precautions must be taken to preserve my existence thus sleep is the best available option. Me shutting my eyes and drifting off to sleep is the most effective means of self-preservation regardless if it's alcohol and pill induced.

I'm well aware of the dangers of mixing various substances but I consider it the lesser of two evils as it beats the other options lurking inside my head. Day by day and even moment by moment is how I'm surviving life and will continue to be my status quo for quite awhile until the sunshine overwhelms the darkness. I'm going to continue to do whatever is required of me to survive the burden placed upon me but if God calls me home in the near future, it's really okay and I'm totally happy with the life presented to me. I'm not suicidal and feel I have much to accomplish in the future so please save me the suicide talk!!

Thank you for being my friend and showing kindness to Erin!! Have a Happy 2011!!