Be Brave Enough To Live Creatively, And Tune In To The Good Strength Of Our Many Ancestors
C.S. Sherin, January 6th, 2020
Hello 2020, hello you! It is a new year, and a new decade! Wow. Time certainly is interesting.
I have taken this New Year transition as a time to clean out clutter, and to dust out and mop away the grime and accumulations of the past year, and years. Doing that felt so good! New Year’s cleaning and organizing, both literal and figurative, is a way to show up for myself at a time when our world and environment is presenting a lot of stress and overwhelm. The act of cleaning, organizing and such, clears the way for my life a bit, and creates clean, fresh new energy to work with, in the midst of everything else. I highly recommend it!
And while I am not one to take on “New Year’s Resolutions,” I do see this time is as good of a reason as any to review, assess, drop and renew any goals, to-do lists, tasks, and focus for the coming months and year. It is a great time to ditch things that aren’t working in favor of more energizing pathways and ideas.
This really can be a good time to assess where we are, and where we want to head in the near future. There are many things to take stock of: work and work goals, personal issues and goals, relationships and friendships; politics, rights, and welfare; lifestyle, and preferences vs. habits in how we use our time, energy, and other resources. In re-evaluating and assessing these, we may determine that the course we are on is good, and/or…that we need to adjust or completely change course (in various ways) in order to do justice to who we are now, and the circumstances we currently find ourselves in.
For me, that has meant easing away from social media, and discerning what personal and social activities I most want to end and continue.
Genealogy research has become one of my favorite hobbies and work over the years. I am keeping and investing more time to that right now. Also, I will have news in the coming year about a new book I have written, that is in the works! That is another something that I am keeping and investing more time to. These are two personal items I take with me now, to develop for the near future…and that feels good!
However, this certainly isn’t a comforting time in this world. There is so much unrest and severe injustice that persists at crisis point. There are so many countless urgent needs banging at our doors, and even within our own homes. All the while, the media and powers that be spin e v e r y t h i n g — large, medium, small and minute — to their own taste and motives, damned be what is in the interest of the common good of all beings.
It is so easy to despair, to give up, to feel overwhelmed, to be confused in the midst of all the challenges we currently face at large, in addition to personal ones. It is too easy to fall into an ongoing complacency and numbness about all that needs to change, but never does….in addition to the empty, inhumane, and futile and faulty manufactured systems that dictate our daily and weekly routines most often. These are temptations that I hope and trust we all can overcome and discard going forward.
In reality, each of us has the power to claim what is good, loving, and just within: ourselves, within our personal lives, and as we navigate through our daily and weekly routines — no matter who is dictating overall structures. We may not have the power to end and change all that is wrong in this human world…but, we do have power within — who we are, how we think, act, and what we choose each day. Is this always easy? Certainly not.
However, in persevering for and within our own: inner sovereignty, compassion, wisdom and recognition and gratitude for all that is worth living and loving — in this life and world — we open up to a deeper reality, and truer approach to life and living. Easy can often be boring and predictable. Taking the courage needed to be real and true to our own being, heart and soul, and its connection to all that is…that is a real and worthwhile adventure in this life. Let what and who you love, and most wish to invest in, be your compass.
For whatever reason, my personality is such that I am perpetually oriented to a universal and global awareness. My aims and goals have long been centered on awareness at the collective level. I accept that this is simply a part of who I am. Not a lot of people around me walk around with this ongoing mindset. So often, there are few outlets other than writing and teaching, to express this viewpoint that I operate from. A simpler way to say this, perhaps, is that I am a big-picture person.
My heart and mind seek to see and foresee the overall. This is why my professional gifts have been centered around: spiritual care, healing and holistic wellness, research, creativity, educational information and tools, and justice issues. This is why I enjoy providing astrology reports for individuals, family members, partners, and parents and children. And why I enjoy so much genealogy research, and research and archives in general. These aspects always tie in to a bigger picture of the past, present, and most likely future (relating to the collective), and bring many benefits and opportunities for expansion and healing.
One thing that genealogy is lacking though, I realized yesterday, is our relationships and lineages alongside other beings of this Earth…like animal companions, and the roles they play and have played in ours and our ancestor’s lives. As I wrote in an earlier three-part series here, animal companions and other beings of this Earth that aren’t human, have the power to save and change us and our lives in beautiful and essential ways. That and they are a hidden and powerful part of our family trees! Also, the relationships and lineages of the trees and other central beings and elements of this Earth in relation to our ancestor’s lives is overlooked and made invisible.
If you are familiar with the show, “Finding Your Roots,” on PBS with Henry Louis Gates Jr., then you know the incredible power of history revealed through family tree research. And, that power has the same impact in watching someone else discover some of their pivotal historic origins as it is for the person experiencing it. In “Finding Your Roots” so much important history is revealed about the facts of slavery and freedom in our United States history, and the ways in which so many ancestors rose above adversity, cruelty and hatred in the human world — against all the odds. Therefore, there are so many hidden strengths we can look to that live on within us. If, we find ways to clear the mind, make time for, and tune in to those truths carried on within us.
For my family tree, I seek to clarify and clean away what was painful, harmful, and muddy…in order to highlight and claim the hidden beings that contributed to my unique and hidden strengths, and those within my loved ones. I seek to share the most accurate family tree I can, to uphold the bigger picture truths of our melded lineages.
I start this decade with the desire, and actions, to contribute to generational wellness and healing. The actions may be small, but they accumulate…they count for something and have healing power. And with that big-picture view, I see what is also missing, and left unsaid and unnamed…like the lineages of animals, trees, land, rivers, and herbs that supported, informed, and so many times, saved our ancestors along the way. Which also leads to thoughts of the dances, the music, and the friends who also led the way, and made the difference for our ancestors, and their survival.
Along with an appreciation and actions for genealogy at this time, I see the importance in recognizing and naming our spiritual family and spiritual ancestors as well. These are all other beings, besides immediate family, who sustain and support us along the way, seen and unseen. Not all can be named. Yet all can be given acknowledgment and thanks in our hearts and minds each day. That becomes a foundation for a strength — a sustaining bond — between us and all that has been made invisible.
Our Family House Elf — Who Happens To Be Disguised As A Dog
C.S. Sherin, posted and updated October 3, 2019
This story will conclude this short series (part one, part two) about some of the dogs of my life and heart. The funny thing about this conclusion is that our current dog’s story hasn’t ended, thankfully, and sometimes we are not sure if she really is a dog…
Right after Miss Honey died was a rare instance, where we felt the need to adopt a dog pretty much right away. In most cases the best approach is to give one’s self and family plenty of time to process and grieve before taking on the responsibility of introducing and caring for a new family member. Yet, there are exceptions….there are times when waiting isn’t for the best. I have learned to trust my instincts in any number of ways, and this was one of those times — I was getting a gut feeling to begin looking, a week or more after Miss Honey had passed on. Part of this had to do with honoring Miss Honey. We had rescued her from the county shelter, an adult dog with behavioral and health issues, who enriched our lives forever. Christmas time was approaching, and we wanted to go to the same no-kill county shelter to see if there was a dog there that we could rescue — in her memory.
I looked online and found a picture of a dog with eyes like universes. Her name was Sammy. On December 23rd of 2013, with my daughter, I drove up to the county shelter to visit her. We had no expectation of adopting her that day, as it was Christmas time, and there are certain restrictions and requirements for adoption usually. So, we went only to see if we clicked with her. If we did, then we would consider filling out an application for adoption, if possible.
The shelter had been given some love via donations since we had last been there in 2005. It was a lot nicer in the shelter, but it was still cement kennels for the dogs — pretty standard. The two women working there were eager to show us Sammy. But first, they wanted to tell me her story:
Samantha had been among just over 40 dogs that were rescued from a serious hoarding situation. The dogs were being kept in an unheated shed in the winter. One of the older female dogs had somehow gotten out, found a couple walking in the neighborhood, and had led them to the shed, where the couple found all the dogs. All those poor dogs were neglected and had never been socialized. The county rescue handled the situation, and it took them a long time to process all the dogs. Samantha was one of the younger ones. The older ones were in rough shape with strange behaviors. The younger ones had more of a chance to recover and bounce back. They found that Samantha, though young, had lost enamel on many of her teeth from being kept in a kennel. Once Samantha made it to the shelter, one of the volunteers fell in love with her and adopted her. The volunteer lived on a farm of sorts where Samantha was socialized and remained very close to the woman — going everywhere with her. Samantha learned to get along with horses and chickens as well as other dogs and cats. Two weeks before we got to the shelter, the woman who had adopted Samantha surrendered her to the shelter. This was because of a divorce, change of residence and job, and the inability to be home with Samantha.
After telling me Sammy’s story, the shelter worker let me walk back through the kennels to where Sammy was. I was surprised to see an enormous dog bed pillow in her kennel. She looked depressed, but lit up when she realized that we would let her out with us into the main room. She was wearing a beautifully knit rust-colored sweater that hung on her skinny frame. As we sat down in the lobby with her she stayed close to us at all times, moving back and forth and all around to get pets. Those two weeks in the shelter had left her in the aftermath of abandonment, and the trauma of being in a kennel. She was thin, but generally healthy, bright, and so pretty! Her eyes are a mixture of white, blue and brown, and are absolutely filled with beauty.
All in all, we clicked. I told the shelter workers that I would like to apply to adopt. They were very happy about this…for Sammy and all involved. They went through the paperwork with me, and then they began checking on it to move forward while we were still there visiting. After a while they surprised us very much by saying that everything checked out, and that we “can take her home today!” I exclaimed that, “I didn’t expect this right before Christmas at all!” They explained and agreed that things don’t usually happen this fast, but that it did this time and that — it is meant to be! We were dumbstruck, and so thrilled to be taking Sammy home with us for our first Christmas in our new house (we had moved that past summer in 2013). Jeff was surprised, but quite happy. He had welcomed dogs back into his heart, this one included.
Now this is where we started to realize that Sammy wasn’t a usual type of dog. Before we left with Sammy, the shelter worker said that they would help us load up Sammy into the car. I was a little confused about that. What they meant was that — they would bring out all of her belongings! Samantha came with a bag of clothes, a bag of toys, and a dog bed that was big enough for a very large dog. Sammy is a petite medium-sized dog. Miss Honey was a medium-sized dog, but larger than Sammy is. It was wild seeing all the things packed in with her…all the love her former person left with her, we could tell.
She came home with us, bearing much pain and grief from loss, abandonment, high expectations for companionship, and dysfunction and suffering from her origins. We embraced Sammy with compassion and joy, deepened by our own grief, along with the wish to bring goodness to her and our family — at a time of year that can be challenging for many of us anyway.
How Samantha responded to being in a household that includes three cats: The moment she set paws in our house, the cats wanted to inspect her. She laid down on her back by Boris to let him, and all of them, know that she would not only respect them, but would be submissive to them, as needed. This was an incredible gesture — so smart! The cats approved. She forged friendships of various sorts with all the cats.
And, she went on to tune in to us, and as she did, she went out of her way to be a clown and to make us laugh. That is what I most remember, is that we were laughing all the time. And I remember being aware that she was facilitating a lovely way for us to process our grief (and perhaps her own), with play and laughter. What we discovered is that Sammy is a comedian and healer. She is the most funny and odd dog that we have ever known. She is also the prettiest!
That first Christmas she met my mother and my siblings. Everyone lit up when they met her — and people still do. There is just something about her energy and beauty, combined with her eyes, that is uplifting. The one thing that everyone also did was to feed her. She had all but starved herself at the shelter — so we made sure that she was getting the nutrition she needed to be well. It turned out that she had some really strange eating habits. She didn’t want to eat if we weren’t by her. And, she would take scoops of food in her mouth and carry it near to wherever we would happen to be in the house, to eat it. It took at least three years to get her to stop moving her food (she does it very rarely now), and to sit in one place to eat it.
Like most dogs, Sammy adores toys. Back then, even with the belongings she had with her, she felt like she needed more. So, in the first two years of her life with us, she would sometimes steal. If one of us would come in the front door in the winter, she would steal one of our gloves or a hat as we were taking it off. She would grab it and run off with it…and if we ran after her, all the better. That kind of stealing was harmless and pretty funny. Later in life now, she simply grabs one of the toys from her big basket of toys to celebrate someone coming home for the day. She doesn’t seem to need to steal hats, gloves, socks, or paper anymore.
She did also make tiny ventures into more serious attempts of stealing a few times. One time, my niece came to visit, and had a little stuffed animal in her purse for some reason. Samantha was not above sticking her nose into a purse to claim the stuffed animal as her own. We stopped her, but also had to put the purse up and away from her. Samantha wasn’t above stealing a stuffed animal from Samara’s room either. Samara is past the age of having a bunch, but there was one small bunny I had given her back in 2013, and, well…Samantha has that in her basket now.
Sammy also took on some of the mannerisms of the horse she knew at her former home, we think. She snorts like a horse quite often, for instance. She also seems to have fond memories of chickens and chicken eggs, judging by her responses to each of these at different times through the years.
Although she is quite different from our Miss Honey, Samantha is the perfect and fitting spiritual descendant for her in our family. Miss Honey was a Beagle-Terrier mix. Samantha, we found out via a small DNA test, is a mix of Toy Fox Terrier and Italian Greyhound, and a mix of other breeds as well from each side of the family…but those are the main two that are most immediate. Some of the Terrier traits can make a dog hyper and reactive on a leash. Miss Honey was, and Samantha is. We are constantly working on that issue. There is a general shape to their faces, as well, that is kindred. They both, in their own ways, desperately needed a home and family — and were/are able to bring great joy and healing to that home and family. It all feels like a continuity, like with our cats.
Rescuing and adopting animals is a part of our family, and our family’s legacy. If we had the means do it and sustain it on a bigger scale, we would!
With Samantha there are many tales to tell. The grossest…let’s see…how I can say this the most delicately? We discovered that we need to separate her from the kitty litter at all times. She is not to be trusted by kitty litter. If you can’t figure out why, I won’t tell you. Suffice it say, the reason is absolutely disgusting…yet a part of dog nature. As mentioned in Part One and Two, there is always the rubbing in dead things type of gross that crops up with dogs from time to time, followed by a bath of necessity. These are small annoyances, though.
Of all the things about Sammy, I would highlight that she is the most affectionate, personal, fun, and loving dog I know. And…there is also something really strange about her. Not bad-strange…just different and enigmatic. Sometimes she doesn’t seem like a dog. She seems like….a person? a seal? a fairy? an alien? or….like a house elf! Yes, maybe that’s it. She’s a free house elf, of course — she came with her own clothes! And, oh, she loves clothes, but only in cool and cold weather.
In the days before J.K. Rowling introduced us all to house elves, and, particularly, Dobby…I would have said that she is most like a helpful house spirit — like a brownie, elemental, fairy or something. But, in reading about and seeing Dobby on the big screen, I would say that she definitely has some kind of house elf energy! She has magic about her, and sometimes, when she looks at us humans with a long steady gaze, so many of us feel that she is more than a dog, and is trying to tell us something important…if only we could understand.
It can be unnerving and mysterious! It has happened to me, my husband, daughter and many of our friends and family who sit with her.
It wasn’t lost on me that both she and Miss Honey spent exactly two weeks in that shelter, and then they came to live with us. They both experienced an abandonment scenario that scarred them for life (Sammy has never fully healed from being left, and still is scared we will leave her), and they both came to us as adults, with great need, and lots of love to give. And where Miss Honey only tolerated the cats, Sammy respects the cats, and has some real cat traits herself.
Our cats are kind of doggish-cats and our dog is, well, cat-ish. This comes from the Italian Greyhound side of her, it seems. This also makes me think of Shaun and Aubrey (from Part One) and how my experience of dogs, from the beginning, was a merging of cat and dog energies. It was meant to be…
Sammy likes to cuddle in our laps, stands on the back of furniture, hates getting wet, and likes to be pet like a cat. She even cuddles with cats sometimes. Still, she really loves a playful dog as well, but prefers being the only dog at home — that is for sure.
A funny story: about a month ago I was walking Sammy in the neighborhood and a couple across the street were pushing a double stroller of little boys that looked like they were around 1.5 years old. One pointed at Sammy and said, “Doggie!” The other boy looked long and hard at Sammy and then said, “No, that’s not a doggie. That’s a weird kitty!” Then they laughed. I also thought that was strangely insightful, and hilarious.
All in all, Sammy is a delight and so special, and we are so lucky to have her! Her story continues…
Right now, she is happy and cozy, on a pillow wrapped in a big blanket as the weather gets chilly this October. Me working from home is what makes life right for Samantha. She actually can’t bear to be left for more than 5-6 hours at a time. It isn’t always easy to accommodate her needs, but it is worth it. We understand the kind of harm that she experienced early on. We understand the needs she has and why. Thankfully, we are able to meet them.
It is my honor to be here for her, and my joy to tell a little of her ongoing story to you. I could actually write a book about Samantha — but now is not the time! So, I’ll wrap this up. Thanks for taking the time to read these stories. I hope you enjoyed them.
Until next time…find a dog to walk and hug if you can. And, live for your dreams, and honor your heart! 🙂
The Story Of The First Dog I Ever Rescued As An Adult, Miss Honey
Sept. 26, 2019
Dogs are embodied joy. Most of the time, when I see a dog, I smile. Most dogs live in the moment with a sweet intensity and playful enthusiasm — it’s irresistible. Dogs are loyal and depend on consistent schedules and their pack/people. Dogs can be such good teachers and wonderful friends. While Shaun had introduced me to some of this, Miss Honey brought me full on into the depths of dog magic and love.
At the end of 2004, while being self-employed at home, and actively caring for a 3 year old daughter and a few cats, I found myself longing for a dog. Our most recent adopted cat at the time, Boris, wanted a dog. I could just tell. Boris was a doggish cat that would greatly appreciate the right kind of dog. My experiences with Aubrey and Shaun probably helped me to have insight into that part of Boris. Doggish cats are certainly the best kind of cats, being a wonderful blend of cat magic and dog wisdom and tendencies — like fetching, the adherence to and need for consistent schedules, and a sense of loyalty and duty. Boris was just such a cat. Having a dog would answer a need in him, and in me. And, this was an opportunity to adopt a dog into the family that my husband and I created together as adults.
I hadn’t had a dog in my life since high school. My father-in-law had a dog, and that fueled my heart’s longing for one to a certain degree. The obstacle, at that time, was my much loved and appreciated life partner/husband, Jeff. He grew up with dogs, and loves and adores them. And, he had a faithful companion, a dog that was his, while growing up. His dog, Gomer, was a Chihuahua-Corgi mix. In all the pictures I saw, from the time Jeff was in middle school and after high school, Gomer was by his side. After Gomer died, Jeff felt unable to open up his heart to a dog again.
Despite this obstacle, it came to be, that my longing for a dog was greater than Jeff’s resistance.
I was looking online at shelters both locally and regionally. I was searching for our dog. I assured Jeff that I would tend to the dog’s needs. He made clear that he would have no part in it.
Some of the private, loving moments of life are shaped, saved, and blessed by beings other than us.
At the beginning of 2005, Jeff’s father died suddenly. He had known that we were looking for a dog. By the middle of June 2005, I had narrowed it down to two dogs at the no-kill county dog shelter, about a half-hour away from our city. One was a little Pug mix named Buzz, and the other was a Beagle-Terrier mix named Summer. I showed our daughter, Samara, and Jeff, the pictures and they agreed that both were cute, and a good size for our family. Jeff especially thought that Summer was adorable, but with a guarded sort of appreciation.
Samara and I drove out to the county shelter. It was a tiny concrete building, just off the freeway. What a sad place it was! A tiny reception room, and through the door a concrete room of kennels with a door outside to a barren fenced-in yard that was sizable. The dogs were all so desperate, sad, and needy. I could barely stand the heartache of their collective pleas, expressed with incessant barking when they saw perhaps someone would take them home. Two people were working who clearly cared deeply for the animals. What the shelter lacked in warmth or comfort was overcome by their dedication. They were eager to introduce us to Buzz and Summer. My heart went out to all the dogs waiting for a home, and I said little prayers for each of them, as I readied myself to perhaps adopt.
Buzz came out first. Buzz was well named! We never actually got to see his face. He was like a tornado, twirling through the room, in tight excited circles. I knew immediately that the cats would not recover from that kind of a dog energy, and we probably wouldn’t either! After Buzz, out came Summer. She walked into the room slowly, and looked at the people working there. She then walked up to me, lowered her head and leaned it against my legs. I spoke with the people as I held her head, and rubbed her satiny soft ears.
She had been brought in by people who said they had found her at another small town’s golf course. She was wandering there. The shelter worker added that this may simply be a story, and that sometimes people surrender animals without admitting that that is what they are doing. One clue, the worker mentioned, was that they had suggested her name was Summer when they brought her in, which the shelter added as her name. Summer was estimated to be 5-7 years old at that time.
I knew, as we sat and petted her, that she needed us, and we needed her. I made the offer to adopt her. Unfortunately, she had just been brought in, so we were forced to wait two weeks, in case someone would claim her. In addition to that hard news, the shelter worker informed me that whomever gets to the shelter first on the first day that she is officially up for adoption, gets her. Back then they opened at 6:30 am.
As Samara and I moved to leave, Summer tried to leave with us. I leaned down and told her that I would return for her. It was so hard for us to leave that day. And for two weeks, our hearts were holding their breath, waiting.
So, it was on my birthday week, in the first week of July, that my daughter and I got up extra early to be at the shelter by 6:30 am to adopt Summer. There was no one else there but the workers, and the adoption was a go!
We re-named her Miss Honey, after the kind, gentle teacher from the book and movie, Matilda, by Roald Dahl. What we noticed about Miss Honey and delighted in, were the following things:
She kept her puppy ears — her ears were like silk. She had the prettiest white eye lashes. And she inherited the Beagle traits of singing, dancing, crooning, and sighing when she feels good.
It wasn’t long before we found out that Miss Honey had some serious health issues. She came to us with Lyme’s disease, a severe bladder infection, and many large and small stones in her bladder, which required surgery. From the x-rays, we learned, as a side note from the veterinarian, that Miss Honey had pellets lodged under her skin, probably from a gun while hunting for small game. It became clear to us that she had been, most likely, abandoned because of her health problems.
In addition to the surgery and recovering from Lyme’s disease, we discovered that Miss Honey didn’t know how to play. In addition to this, she had been traumatized by being abandoned by her people (whether that was at the shelter or near a golf course). She associated getting into a car with being abandoned, and she never recovered from that particular trauma. Even after many years with us, reinforcing that we are her “forever home” over and over and over — the scar and its memory never left. She had issues related to abandonment all her life. Despite this, Miss Honey healed well.
I taught her how to play. And I have Shaun, our dog when I was a kid, to thank for that. I taught Miss Honey how to play by getting down on the floor in the universal position for play in dog language. If you don’t know this position, it is when a dog is lying down with their front legs, with head down, and the back legs are standing, while the tail wags. This position means, “I want to play!” Then, I would play with a toy and gently encourage her to do so as well. I showed her that it was okay, and that she had permission to have fun. At first, if she did join in and start to play, but she would quickly get self-conscious and nervous. Then, she would begin licking her arm obsessively. It took quite a while to get past that stage of fear. The good news is, we did get past it, and she spent many, many years playing with abandon and great enjoyment!
When I first began caring for Miss Honey, and we began those first daily walks, I felt a great joy rise up from my being. It was so healing to have a dog in my life again. In fact, Miss Honey is responsible for much joy, insight, learning, and healing for me and my life — and for my family. I had gained the most loyal, faithful, loving friend, in dog form, that I had known. She held joy and connection for me alone, in some ways. Some would say that I was her Alpha, but really, I was her rescuer, teacher, adopter — and she was mine in many ways.
You may be wondering how Jeff was taking all of this, given that he was resistant to getting a dog…
Well, after about three months of me taking full responsibility for all of Miss Honey’s needs…and after Jeff also witnessed how Honey was utterly loyal to me, something in Jeff shifted.
Maybe it started when we were in a large field, and I went as far across it as I could, and Jeff and Samara held Honey until I waved my hands in the distance. As they let go of Miss Honey, she raced to me at full tilt, wanting only to be at my side, floating on the air with a beaming smile, and a lolling tongue of joy. Jeff’s heart melted. Well, all of our heart’s melted! In witnessing this love, it awakened great love and joy in him, and good, sacred memories. The pain of loss and grief was still a part of him, but it warmed into a continuity of love, translated into the present.
Jeff expressed such adoration in seeing the love that Honey had for me. For me, this was something new. I hadn’t had a dog bond to me like that before. It is humbling, healing, and a great responsibility. The beautiful part is that I was ready for it, and was able to be responsible to and for that beautiful dog.
The bond between me and Honey gave Jeff room to feel more, and open up his heart, without all of it edging in on Gomer’s place in his heart. Witnessing the bond allowed his grief to soften.
One day, I walked into the living room, and found Jeff lying on the floor by Honey, playing with her, and just the faintest hint of tears were in his eyes. It was on that day that I knew Jeff’s heart was open and healing. From that day on, we shared the care for Honey equally. And since that day, Jeff has told me that he always wants to have a dog in his life.
The other thing you may be wondering about is how Boris and Miss Honey got along. Well, he fell in love with her, of course. Miss Honey, for her part, only tolerated the cats for my sake. But, with Boris she was different. She respected Boris. He could lay by her without her wanting to leave. He could play by her. And when she got out of line, he would tap the top of her head like a drum roll with his paw — so fast, and not quite hard, that she would flinch and blink her eyes. When he did that, then she would shape up and stop causing rifts between herself and the other cats. It was funny, and just what she needed on some days.
I think I have covered how dogs are wonderful in this story, but maybe not so much the strange and gross. For the most part, Miss Honey was a lovely, loving dog. She was never trying to be funny. And she certainly wasn’t the kind of dog that thrived on being strange or gross, but she had her moments…but nothing outrageous.
Miss Honey did like to rub the top of her lower back where it meets her tail under chairs. She would rub back and forth like a bear rubs his back against a tree. She would do this without ceasing whenever she thought we weren’t around or wouldn’t notice. She also broke into a whole container of freshly baked gingerbread cookies that were sealed with a sturdy plastic lid. We came home to find the plastic lid torn, and most of the cookies gone and in her belly.
Once, she was going to vomit in the living room on the carpet, and Jeff ran to her and cupped his hands, of all things, under her mouth. His two hands happened to hold the exact amount that came out. That was certainly gross, weird, and strangely hilarious. I certainly will never forget it. Even Miss Honey seemed a little weirded out by that. And of course, rolling in nasty dead things is a given for any dog, so I won’t go into that. She did it. They do it, and it serves a purpose from their ancestral past — but in the present, it is just nasty.
At Christmas time, we quickly learned that there could be no wrapped sweets under the tree. My mother had left freshly made Divinity candy wrapped under the tree for my mother-in-law. When we returned from an outing with them, we found that Miss Honey had ripped them open and eaten all the Divinity candy! She was a dog who loved treats, and had a terrible affection for sweets! We certainly didn’t try to let her have actual candy or chocolate, but it sure was challenging keeping her away from it.
A fond memory for my husband, daughter and me is the day that we all went for a neighborhood walk with Miss Honey, and we decided to give her full reign. We let her lead us all around the neighborhood — wherever she wanted to go. She meandered for a while. And then, for a straight 8 blocks, she walked faster and faster, with more and more purpose and vigor. After about a mile of walking, we laughed and laughed to find that she had led us to the back of a local strip mall, and specifically to the back door of Coney Island. The smell of hot dogs, chili, and fries were intoxicating for her. We relented and got her a hot dog without the bun. She eagerly ate it. We also tried to keep her diet healthy, and that was not a repeat practice, though she wished it was. Still, we gave her plenty of healthy treats and good food.
It was always bliss to go for walks with her everywhere, and to see her dance with joy to get home into a warm, happy house. After dancing, she would sing that Beagle croon of happiness. What a dog! She would actually dance with us when we would have little dance parties at home too. She was such a respectful, obedient dog in many ways. But, not because we had disciplined her, because she was filled with the beauty and gratitude of new life…
One of my fondest memories of Miss Honey is when Samara’s kindergarten teacher let me bring Miss Honey for a show and tell. The children all sat in a large circle on the ground as Miss Honey and I came in. Samara’s place in the circle was empty as she stood and introduced Miss Honey and talked about her. As we were welcomed into the room, I let Miss Honey off leash and she immediately went to Samara’s empty spot and sat still in the circle, just like all of the children. Everyone was delighted and amazed by her willingness to sit and be with them like that. And the teacher explained that it takes a lot of time to get a dog to listen and obey like that. I didn’t interject at all or correct the teacher, but I knew that Miss Honey wasn’t doing it out of obedience or anything I placed upon her, she did it out of love. She was a beautiful teacher and friend.
Sadly, in early October of 2013, Miss Honey was diagnosed with an aggressive throat cancer. We applied the care of medicines to extend her life, while keeping in mind her need for quality of life. She continued to make the effort to run, walk, ask for table scraps and even continued to try to sneak-eat cat food. I told our youngest cat of that time, Wesley, that Miss Honey was having a hard time. Wesley went to her and licked her ears and rubbed against her. Boris would lay by her side, more and more. She was also old — she had trouble seeing, and had arthritis. Jeff went out of his way to give her little treats that she adored and that were easy to eat in the last months. He would give her small mixtures of cream cheese and peanut butter with the medicine. She loved that.
By the beginning of November (2013), it was clear that she needed to be euthanized. She began having trouble breathing, and began choking at times. We had never had to euthanize an animal companion before, and we were maybe waiting a bit too long, feeling afraid of having to do that.
My oldest sister, Kelly, who would die of cancer about five months later, said to me that November:
“It’s never an easy choice…they are family. I love you, whatever you do — she knows you love her, and you have given her a wonderful life…always know that. Love you.
~ Kelly Burns
Miss Honey didn’t want to leave, but she also became miserable from that wicked disease.
You know, there are never enough kisses, hugs, affirmations, or walks to express the depth of love that is really there.
After Thanksgiving of that month, Miss Honey was euthanized, and we witnessed that it was a peaceful, merciful death. It was terribly hard for us to say goodbye to her, and it was a blessing to be able to let her go peacefully. Right before she was euthanized I fed her little chocolates, which she gobbled up happily. Jeff and I both held her together as she gently left her body, and then we both ugly-cried.
There is no easy way to say goodbye to those we love…whether they are humans or other beings we share our lives with. But, sealed in the goodbyes are memories and love that lasts lifetimes.
This sacred dog story is shared with you because I feel the dogs wish for me to share them. Some of the private, loving moments of life are shaped, saved, and blessed by beings other than us.
Dogs are still mysterious to me. Even in all that I learned with Miss Honey, I still don’t totally comprehend dogs. Though, I do now respect and adore them, as I do cats, and other animals.
Well, this beloved dog story leads to my current dog story….stay tuned for the dog of my current life, and her story, next week!
I originally wrote this piece for Mother’s Day, but I don’t want to limit this thought and action to one day. This is for everyone, and for every day.
This is a time of emergency on many fronts, and I have found myself returning again and again to the spiritual and mental/emotional aspects in order to remain well, so that effective activism is still possible. Consider the following:
Mother’s Day (just a couple days ago) is a painful day for many people. The reasons why are numerous: a mentally ill and/or abusive mother, a mother who died too soon, wanting to be a mother but not being able to, a cold and distant mother, and many other complications and tragedies related to “mother”. And many have wonderful experiences with mother, the woman. Yet, the mother energy may also have taken the form of a sister, grandmother, aunt, friend, or single parent father.
I want to make something clear: it is necessary for us to reclaim healthy mother energy for ourselves — no matter what the actual mom and motherhood has been. We need to realize how we may have found healing and understanding of the healthy and loving mother energy from others — regardless of their age, gender, or relation to us. There are many ways that we can now welcome and honor the positive, life-giving love of healthy mother energy and being, which this world needs so badly.
Giving birth is sacred. And, there is no real need to literally give birth to a living being in order to be a mother to someone. This is also sacred. And it crosses imaginary lines of gender and species. Everyone is capable of mothering, being a mother, and providing mother blessings to others. We need this energy now. We all have the capacity to provide fierce and healthy mother energy to ourselves and others — and the Earth as a whole.
This is sacred, mighty energy that is the foundation for everything that is real and good in this life and world! This is a way of being and sharing that teaches, nourishes, protects, guides, sustains, and risks all to protect and promote health, growth, right action. This is the energy of both unconditional love and transformative love. Together they provide wise and fair discipline, while weaving inspiration and practical goodness throughout — in the midst of both hardships and ease.
At this time in history, women and girls require a special acknowledgement, protection, and respect. Women and girls are under attack at this time. Honoring and wielding this healthy mother energy for all who need it, is more important than ever.
This is the mother energy that refuses to cling, smother, or treat her children as something to live through or own. This is mother energy that refuses to rule by rejection, manipulation, or cruelty. This mother energy is a truly radiant energy that promotes and sustains: health, sustenance, and a consistent presence. The true mother energy can be terrifying in its knowing and seeing, and an absolute life-line in its ability to comfort, teach, persevere and instill goodness in her children — while respecting their unique expressions, needs, privacy, space, and paths.
Mother energy is also the planet, Mother Earth — Terra Mater, and all of her ecosystems, biodiversity, diversity, and balance of beings. This energy is also under attack and in great danger at this time. We are called now to hold in our minds, hearts, and actions ways in which to honor, act with, and preserve healthy mother energy.
It is essential that we stand up for and take concrete and practical actions to protect female rights, so that they always have say over their own bodies, and to honor females as equal — with equal rights and equal birthrights. In truth, mother Earth gives the birthrights to all beings born here: free, clean, accessible, and healthy air, water, and soil; shelter, quality of life, well-being, abundance, balance, space and freedom to be, live and grow; and health. Corruption and greed is what pollutes, destroys, monopolizes, and monetizes it. Just like females, the Earth requires our concrete and practical actions to ensure protection and preservation of her biodiversity, biosphere, balance, and health.
Mother’s Day and healthy, loving, strong mother energy is for everyone. The potential for this mother energy is in everyone. We all carry the capacity for true loving mother energy that has the power to sustain and nourish life, and encourage it further: with love, wisdom, and natural magic. Men and boys just as desperately require this energy and the preservation, respect, and protection of it. Men and boys also have the capacity to respectfully and positively wield the healthy mother energy.
I have posted two pages on my website that support the mental/emotional and spiritual aspects required in order to face these challenges, and to wield the healing and healthy energy of mother for self and others.
Speaking personally, I need to practice mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in order to be more effective in my activism. It helps me, and stands for what I believe and seek. This is why I share, in hopes that it will welcome, help and support others. Here are the links to these pages: Heart Mantra and Loving-Kindness Mantras.
May my mother be free from bondage and suffering. May my mother be well. May your mother be free from bondage and suffering. May your mother be well. May the mother within be free from bondage and suffering. May the mother within be well. May our Earth mother be free from bondage and suffering. May our Earth mother be well. May all that is be well.
Adaptation of the Metta Meditation (Loving-Kindness mantras)
NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) designates this week as “Mental Illness Awareness Week,” with a goal to promote “CureStigma”, which illuminates the needless stigma people with mental health issues face in our culture.
Mental health and mental illness are important, huge issues in our world. There are so many aspects we need to address, I cannot begin to elaborate on it all here and now. All in all, we need to create systems that are healing and healthy for people, communities, and nature — and dismantle the corrupt, abusive systems, which contribute to trauma and mental health disruptions.
From a personal perspective, mental illness shaped my early life, as my father was mentally ill. In fact, he was a sociopath and/or narcissist. You can be sure there is a stigma to those words. And this is the first time I have said it in public. The repercussions of his mental illness, and the actions he took while mentally ill, are still felt in my life to this day. It has always been hard to deal with, whether he was present and alive, absent and alive, or now absent and deceased. In short, he was a product of an institutionalized infancy (state orphanage till the age of three) and institutionalized systems, like the military. Many institutionalized systems that care for children can create narcissists and sociopaths.
Beyond that, I faced my own mental health issues as an adult. I had a traumatic childhood, and faced unfriendly peers and teachers in elementary and middle school. As a young mother , I experienced a trauma that caused me to have PTSD, which I saw a therapist to treat. That was the trauma that was the tipping point of traumas, a culmination that started in childhood. A couple years after that, I became severely ill from Lyme’s disease. It was not diagnosed right away, and I ended up not being able to work for three months.
This caused what the doctors diagnosed as mild depression that was joined with IBS, anxiety, and panic attacks. After slowing recovering, and having taken the medications and therapy that I could from western medicine, I sought deeper and more empowering methods to heal my inner wounds and traumas.
That started me on the path of spiritual work like reiki, and holistic wellness in general, which I applied to myself before sharing it to help others. Looking back at all that I went through related to the spectrum of mental health to mental illness, I can tell you some of the key things that really helped and made a difference for me. We are each unique, and we each find our way to health and wellness in our own ways, but perhaps some of the following things we have in common. Here are four things that helped me the most as I climbed out of the dark abyss, known as a mental health crisis, back in the early 2000s:
I asked for help. I knew my brain chemistry had literally changed from the trauma and illness, and that I couldn’t help myself this time, no matter how independent and private I love to be. I asked for help, and I needed it. I went to my doctor. I went to a therapist. I took an antidepressant for a period of time, and it helped. I was dedicated with a strong desire to find myself and climb out of the dark abyss I had fallen into of panic attacks. The most important and helpful thing that the therapist told me is that: my reactions and mental health crisis had to do with things happening to and around me that weren’t normal or healthy. Therefore, my reaction was healthy and normal, and my mental health crisis was a part of that health. That was a big relief, and goes a long way to removing the stigma.
I read a book that helped me to see that the terrifying panic attacks that made me feel like I was dying a horrific death were actually an opportunity to connect with a deeper and truer part of myself. The panic attacks were an opportunity, it said, to face fear in order to rise up stronger. That book is called, Riding The Dragon by Robert J. Wicks. Books, dancing, and music have always been lifelines for me. That was one of them.
I found life-giving support from people who know, love, and support me — people I trust and feel safe with. For me, that was my husband, sister, mother, and a close friend. The faces of the people in our lives may change at different stages in life, yet the important thing is to find at least one or two people, who are safe, healthy, loving, supportive, kind, and honest. When there is no one that comes to mind, that is when finding help and community through support groups and counseling can be the best alternative.
I used the free tools that I had been taught as a teen and young adult. I had an unusual childhood, and not all of it was bad. I had some unusual, stellar, rebellious-in-a-good-way mentors, friends and family who taught me skills and tools that serve anyone well: breath work exercises, exercise/walking daily, singing, dancing, meditation, yoga, art/creativity, retreat, positive visualizations, prayer, healthy diet, avoiding toxins and chemicals, and spending quality time with loved ones, animal companions, and in nature.
The truth is, mental health issues affect everyone.
We are all on a spectrum of mental health to mental illness, and it fluctuates according to our experiences, environment, and many other factors.
There are few if any people I know who don’t experience some kind of mental health issue in some way, at some points in life. Grief, genetics, disasters, violence, war, abuse, corrupt and broken systems, institutions all play a part in how our brain chemistry balance fluctuates, and our in our ability to manage in insane conditions.
What helps me to speak up now is knowing that I was lucky to have the help and the tools. I was lucky to find a way through it. I was lucky to know I needed to ask for help.
Now, like too many other Americans, I don’t have and can’t afford health care on a regular basis. I may not need it now, but that doesn’t mean I can count on that always being true. I am proactive, and use the holistic tools that have served me well. But that isn’t always enough.
We cannot remain silent. Not only do we need to dispel the stigma of mental illness, we need healthcare and insurance to serves a higher purpose of wellness with ethics, inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency.
If you struggle with mental health issues, the stigma of it, and in needing help but not being able to afford it, you are not alone.