The Mystery Of Life Conspires With Sacred Wonder For The Healing Of Hearts

And Sometimes, In Hindsight, We Find Evidence Of This

This picture of Gilbert makes me chuckle and smile. He is actually posing for this photo, with a dramatic, far-away look and cute little 2 year-old bottom lip showing. His green eyes are all but glowing. This stance is one he often makes before making a playful sound and galloping off to play. Photo by C.S. Sherin, 2019.

C.S. Sherin, January 21, 2020; edited 22 Jan 2020

In hindsight, we sometimes realize, that within this existence there seems to be an undeniable, unique and perplexing way that seemingly disparate events, intentions, actions can conspire together, and become a pivotal moment that changes the course of our lives, hearts, and thoughts…from that vital moment, and onward.

Our youngest cat, Gilbert, wanted some attention and cuddle time from me today for a few minutes. This isn’t something he ordinarily will do, unless he has missed morning cuddle time before we get up from bed, which is rare. In sitting with him today, I began to reflect upon how he ended up in our lives in the first place. The second anniversary of our adoption of him is coming up soon, at the beginning of February. My mind wandered back to that day, as I held him and he gazed up at me. This led to me realizing that, our dog, Samantha was the reason that the adoption of Gilbert ever happened. As I realized this, Samantha, who was sitting right against me as I held Gilbert, peered at me with her beautiful universe-like eyes with a quiet, calm receptivity. As I write this, they remain on the couch together, with a respectable foot of space between them.

Two years ago, February, Samantha had been nervously chewing on her feet for some time. We had tried many ways to get her to stop (toys, sprays, CBD oil, Rescue Remedy, massages, Reiki, etc.) As a last resort, Jeff and I made a run to Petco to get her some indoor boots to protect her feet. Upon getting there, we discovered that it was Tabby Town adoption day. Tabby Town is a local no-kill program for homeless cats. We adopted our oldest, Wesley, through the same organization, which is mainly run through foster homes. Normally, I would have been happy to see this. But, we had, a year before, lost our not quite three-year-old ginger cat, Winnie, due to serious illness. We did everything to save her that we possibly could. I had fed her liquid food, and injected IV fluid under her skin for weeks to keep her alive, with the hopes that she would recover. We spent $3,000 in treatments (way out of budget). She simply wasn’t able to recover from the mysterious illness that resulted in an ominous jaundice. We took comfort knowing that we had thoroughly loved her, and given her a good home. Yet, that kind of loss, of a young cat, really has a rough impact. That was compounded by having had other losses of elderly animal companions, a few collective years before that, in a short amount of time. So, when we saw the kitties for adoption, I wanted to protect my broken heart. I didn’t feel capable of opening it to another cat. Yet, we were irresistibly drawn to look, even as I told Jeff that we could not seriously look.

When I think of Samantha chewing her feet back then, it makes sense. She is a sensitive dog, with a tendency to be high-strung at times, who had been through a lot before we met her. She struggled with abandonment issues.

Samantha and Winnie, 2015. Photo by C.S. Sherin

Winnie had been her best friend. From the time they first met, they got on like they had been born together. And Winnie was such a beautiful, sweet, and wonderfully mischievous girl. We were all grieving her. Even a year later, Samantha felt her own, and everyone else’s grief as well. It makes sense now. But, going through it…? Well, we do all sorts of things to avoid grief (when it isn’t actively asserting itself) in order to keep going through life. We turn away from, and close things that we need to, and at times, we overlook obvious coping mechanisms (that are being used to deal with grief), or casually misname them as annoyances. Everyone grieves in different ways, of course. Just as everyone copes in different ways. Some people bite their nails. Samantha chewed on her poor little back paws.

Winnie and Samantha napping together, 2016. Photo by Samara Sherin.

I am mindful of four main thoughts as I process and write this:

  • One, I haven’t been able to talk about Winnie in a public way until now, and it is good to finally be able to.
  • Two, losing a young cat is not like losing a human child, and I wouldn’t, nor would I think for anyone else to compare the two in a real and actual way. At the same time, like many, my animal companions are family, and it is a real and valid loss on its own.
  • Three, my mother lost a baby who lived only three days, and I was born two years later.
  • Four, a friend of mine, who had lost a baby, once expressed to me the inability to adopt an animal, like a cat or dog, because of how traumatic it was to hold and bury the body of their baby. I cannot (and most parents do not want to even) imagine the pain and heavy grief of losing a baby/child. I have experienced other losses and hardships, and I have held and buried six animal companions (cats and a dog) in my lifetime already. All but Winnie had lived within life expectancy… more or less full lives. Through those hard experiences, while I cannot imagine what it is like to live with the loss of a child, I can understand the inability of a bereaved parent to go there, in taking on the lifespan, death, and heart connection of an animal companion. That friend had shared this with me, because I was encouraging an adoption of an animal companion, and I didn’t know what was holding them back. That was something I had never considered. I apologized for not getting it at first, and offered my acceptance and support.

In general, there is no comparison, nor any need to compare losses or other hardships. There is always someone with greater and different experiences of both loss/hardship and joy/abundance than us, and always those with less, no matter what. The reason that I am emphasizing this ethical line is to establish proper context for my process and story. You see, these aspects are in my mind as I write this, because of what has happened to my heart since we adopted Gilbert. Let me explain…

Sometimes we gain insight and true understanding and/or compassion through experiencing something of life ourselves. Until we have that experience we aren’t able to access the insight, compassion, or perspective….even though the capacity for it is within us. Sometimes, we cannot know or begin to really comprehend certain things about people and aspects of life, until we have experiences that build us up and/or break us down into new comprehension, vision, and being. Losing Winnie and later, adopting Gilbert, was one of those life experiences for me.

Samantha’s grief and nervous habit led us to a place where we found Gilbert, all alone, waiting to be adopted. His mother and four siblings had all been adopted in the months before. When I picked him up, he immediately rubbed his cheek against mine and cuddled me. That was not enough to convince us, surprisingly. My heart was too broken. I could not make that decision this time. I could not make the choice to adopt, even if he had just chosen me/us. I told Jeff as much. We left. We drove away, heading into town to get groceries, but both us remained haunted by little eight-month-old Gilbert, alone in that cage. We both kept thinking of him. By the time we got home we decided that Jeff could call to see if he was still there. We had not decided to adopt him, we were only calling to see if he had been adopted or not. And then, we would talk about it. I stood by and heard Jeff’s end of the conversation:

Jeff talking on the phone with the Tabby Town person at Petco about Gilbert:

I am wondering if he is still there….

He is? Oh. You are? Okay. Yes, we are…

Yes, we do.

We will bring a carrier. Yes, we can be there in 15 minutes.

As I listened, my mouth began to gape open, knowing that he had claimed Gilbert for adoption. It was so unlike Jeff to make a decision like this without asking me, without really discussing it. Looking back, I know that he had to be the one to choose. His heart was ready. He was feeling strong, and sensed the importance of Gilbert already.

When we arrived at Petco for the second time that day the woman told us that if had we called one minute later, a man and his grandson would have gotten Gilbert. The man and his grandson ended up adopting a cat that looked almost exactly like our Wesley instead…an older farm cat looking for a forever home, where he could finally live out the rest of his years inside from the cold. At that point, in knowing how close it came to not getting Gilbert, I felt my heart warm and strengthen. I felt the importance of these events that were neither planned or expected.

Jeff and me adopting baby Gilbert, 2018.

What happened in the first year of life with Gilbert, is that he opened up a new dimension of love and healing to me, and my heart and life, and to the rest of the family — but in a special way to me. I have never in my life met an animal companion who is so consistent and persistent in pouring on love and affection every single day, to one person, as he is to me. E v e r y morning that I was home that first year, he would lay upon my heart and neck, nuzzling down, purring, and falling asleep. Having been a Reiki practitioner since 2003, I know powerful healing energy when I feel it. This cat healed, and heals my heart. And, like every animal we have ever adopted, he brought joy, love, humor, and a sort of heart resurrection for each person in my family…our other cats, our dog, me, Jeff and our daughter, Samara. Jeff and Samara exclaim all the time how he is my baby. And, looking at us, you probably would too. He comes to my heart every day, if not in the morning, at some point in the day, and rests there with love and purrs, and if there is time…sleeps there. It is the most soothing thing in the world. And, there has not been one day that he has missed doing this (when I am home). That is remarkable! I wrote a poem about it early on, called “Each Morning.” So, over the course of these two years, I really can see, feel, and appreciate the amount of healing that has come to be, because of this relationship.

About a year ago, in the midst of this process of knowing and loving Gilbert, the panda cat (so much like Po from Kung Fu Panda), I felt the grief for Winnie, but it wasn’t so raw and hard, or heavy. It was tempered by healing. And a realization I never had before, came to me. I now had the faintest idea of how it must have been for my mother to have me after her baby had died. I have a little context now, of how and why she may look at me the way she does. This is something I never considered before. Sometimes I have been annoyed at how my mother raves about me, and thinks that I was born against all the odds, because that is what she felt at my birth. Me? I am just a regular, ordinary, average human born here, nothing special, or…no more special than any other person here. But, yes, it makes more sense now. And my heart has grown tender for her in a new way because of this insight. A little more patience, a little more depth of knowing has grown in me. My heart has opened up to a perspective of who I am, or was, for my mother, when I was born, that I could never have known before. Would things have been fine if I never got a glimpse of understanding? Sure. But, I appreciate learning and knowing more. That is joy and fulfillment for me. Would I like to take paths with less heartbreak from now on as well? Yes. For sure. Yes….and…..

An adorable, young cat who broke my heart did that. And, a little cat who helped me to heal my heart did that.

Life can be odd, and the sacred Mystery of it can be so mind-boggling. We would never wish these kinds of paths to wisdom and understanding upon anyone. We would never wish someone loss and hardship in order to understand our own. I am a big fan of learning from other people’s stories. That is one of the reasons why I tell personal stories. Sometimes, in the telling we can bring new understanding, healing, and perspective to others, while sparing them the pain of actual knowing through experience. We can’t always do this, but when we can, it is so good to do.

Even beyond this intention though, is the wonder and joy I felt today in realizing the far-fetched events that led to bringing such a courageous love-and-peace-warrior-cat like Gilbert into our lives. And, there was also the gentle brush of the sacred upon my head today, in a way, in taking the time to sit with a cat and dog, and allow them to inform me in new ways through their presence.

So, Gilbert wanted my attention today, at an odd time, Samantha gazed into my eyes, and their presences led me to ponder, how all of this happened, and it led to this story being shared.

And yes, we got Samantha her boots that day, two years and some weeks ago…but she didn’t need them for long. As it only took two days for Gilbert to charm and entrance Solomon, Wesley, Samantha, and us humans…so, Samantha stopped chewing on her feet so terribly pretty soon after that.

That would have ended this story nicely, but there is one more thing to say. What I saw in Samantha’s eyes today was that she was still missing Winnie. Of course, she always will. And we do too. But the roughness of it has given way to a softness that grants me a strong and sure ability to send her well wishes and warmth of love, to wherever her spirit traveled to after life on this plane, with more confidence and trust. I told Samantha that it is okay. It is okay to feel ongoing grief for a loved one. And, it is okay to be happy with what is now…at the same time. As much as the human world seeks to compartmentalize and dismiss such things, we are and do hold a great and vast ability to sit with all that is…in honesty, complexity, simplicity, peace, love, grief, and loss.

The two most hopeful things I have discovered in the midst of it all today is:

  • The ability to heal, regenerate, persevere, and to find renewal in the most unexpected ways….even after feeling and being broken, perhaps for the second or fourth time or more.
  • Seeing that events and choices we would most often ignore or dismiss as unimportant or trivial can be a key part of a confluence of waves and movements that are conspiring to help, and even heal us.

That is the kind of hope that makes me certain and rooted in positivity and optimism, even in the face of terrible odds and circumstances. I hope it does for you as well.

As I sign off for today, Wesley, our 10 year old Maine Coon cat is in my lap purring, pleased with my progress today. He and I have been on a long road together of meditation, companionship, loss, grief, love and healing. He has been a part of it all. And he only wants to add this:

We all grieved together. We all love together. Different kinds. Different ways. Just like you, I didn’t know that love would outweigh everything. Now we do. We’ve lived it…are living it. And I am so happy it is with you. Purring, purring, purring….we purr and blink our love without end…evidently this is true, you know, you feel the fire in your heart, you feel our loved ones, living on in there…

~ Wesley Sherin, the ginger Maine Coon Cat

And his words, transmitted, unleash tears in me. I am weeping now. For a little bit. And it is okay, and right, it is love, and honoring of love…it is beauty, folded in love, and flowing.

C.S. Sherin 2020@

Dogs Are Strange, Gross And Wonderful: Part Three

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.

Sammy’s eyes! Feb 2017. Photo by CS Sherin

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.

This is Samantha, 2 years old, not even a week after we had adopted her, Dec. 2013. We can’t get over how her tan color has faded into white in the last six years!

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 with one of her favorite toys, monkey. This is from 2017 when monkey was pretty new. Nowadays poor monkey has no face and his head is inside out. Eek.

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.

The cute way Sammy lifts her ears reminds us of a house elf; 2018.

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.

Samantha hanging with Wesley and near Gilbert, two of our three kitties. I would say that Wesley is kind of in love with her!

All in all, Sammy is a delight and so special, and we are so lucky to have her! Her story continues…

Our dear Samantha, this past August of 2019. We love our walks and hikes together!

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! πŸ™‚

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Dogs Are Strange, Gross And Wonderful, Part Two

Miss Honey on the trail, circa 2010. Photo by CS Sherin

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.

Miss Honey and Samara. This is in July of 2005, not long after we first adopted Miss Honey.

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.

Miss Honey, once she had learned to play and relax in our home as family. Circa 2006

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.

Miss Honey’s joy on an open trail with us. Bliss walks, we may as well call them. Circa 2009

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.

Me and Miss Honey on a trail near the field where she would run to me. Photo by Samara Sherin

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.

Happy Honey dog. Circa 2007

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.

Boris, me, and Miss Honey hanging out together. This is an elderly Miss Honey, and around the time she was diagnosed with cancer in Fall 2013. Photo by Jeff Sherin

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 and me, November 2013, not long before she died.

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!

Poetry: Each Morning, The Unseen Blank Page

CS Sherin May 21, 2019

I awaken.
I arise
each morning.
We all do.
At first seeing,
what is not seen —
is the blank page.
Upon it are wisps,
remnants of elusive,
felt dreams from sleeping.
They haunt the unseen blank page
like vivid watercolor drops that fade
as they dry.
Each new day, when we arise,
pages have already been written…
in dreaming, and other days, and then
we awaken again upon a new page
where we write our lives
by living,
breathing and being.

Blinking eyes, happily taunt-stretched limbs,
the loud yawn of awakening, the guttural
of the flexed stomach releasing…

we may wake up with expectations and a schedule.
We may be woken up by interruptions and demands.
We may arise alone or crowded, or something in between…
and we may want it, or not want it.
We may wake up peaceful and content, afraid and
worried, or neutral, or excited, or confused.

we wake up living
and so
we write upon the blank page
of morning.
Each blank page becomes filled
with feelings, thoughts, actions, words —
the seen and the unseen, and
by choice and by no-choice —
consciously and unconsciously.

For me, in the past year and three months,
ever since a kitten was unexpectedly adopted…
every morning, my blank page begins
with the most persistent shower of
warmth and affection —
a cuddle like no other on my tip-top upper area
of the chest
with a complete nuzzling-in of a little face
deep into my neck, where he
purrs… and then sleeps, if I let him there long enough.
He is soft as a marshmallow
and just as sweet.
He is a being who comes to me
like a patiently timed magnet
instantly attracted — upon my awakening.
I do not write this on my page exactly,
it is a repeating miracle shining upon me
by a little mysterious being
of love, brought here by
my life partner. So,
our pages can change in certain ways
that are beyond us alone.

This young cat’s constancy,
his persevering
affection and gratitude
my page of awakening.
He softens and warms my voice
and has been applying a medicine to
my heart each morning
that it has not known in this way
and sorely needed at this time.

The unseen blank page and
what I write upon it
is up to me…
because it is me…
living and breathing. No one else
can actually write it. Though others
may influence and affect it.
A life partner doesn’t write my pages for me
but he writes beside me, and I with him.
We fall asleep holding hands, waking up
we are next to or near each other.
Yet, everyone too…
because everything
and everyone
are connected to all that is.
We are all connected. If I forget that…
my page can lose its strength.
And if I forget
that I am writing my own life by living it
and that no one else can…
then my page can lose its magic.
That has happened before.
That was
something I wrote on pages of my life
at one time. And…
it is not happening anymore.
I am writing a poem,
as the silence holds
my breath, writing, and
being in spaciousness.
That, for now, is all there is
in this moment
upon the page.

There is one more thing to say
all of this…
shining sunshine upon others
may not write upon their pages
exactly, because it is our own pages we write on.
Yet, what it does, is it
uplifts and warms,
it comforts, relaxes, and inspires, and can
help to welcome in
all kinds of
goodness and healing.

CS Sherin, Wild Clover | 2019Β©

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