Thursday, August 6, 2015

Those Eyes

I have found on this journey of life that often times we cannot understand where we are going until we see clearly from where we have come. And often times it is while walking this transitional path that we experience the most pain and the most healing. And on the other side of the pain is where we learn to truly see, to truly love.

Saying good-bye to my sweet Shadow definitely made my heart tumble, hard . . .Sliding down into the slope of grief  I felt a myriad of emotions, one's that I never expected to experience quite so strongly.

Yes, Shadow and I were inseparable for years and it is to be expected that I would grieve the loss of my dear friend.  Yet something inside of me told me there was more, more to my deep pain and more to our story.  This wasn't just a story about a woman and her dog but something that held greater significance . . .

It has been weeks since I last ran my fingers through Shadow's plush black fur,  the days rushing past have given way to reflection.  And I have found with the arrival of each new day less tears and greater joy than I have ever felt in my lifetime. All because of a little dog named Shadow.

This picture which first caused my heart to ache, now brings great and unexplainable peace. Shadow was always there, always near.

Sometimes the answer to our prayer is forever before us, yet we are unable to see. . .

The significance of Shadow's life was revealed to me one day not long after his passing.
One morning as I drove around town my mind began to wander; the rows of corn blowing in the summer breeze rushed past my car.  I lowered the window, letting in the mid morning sun and began to pray.  My thoughts shifted back to Shadow and suddenly out of nowhere I felt the Lord's nudging, and with it He said, "Did you not ask to come to know my love?" Instantly I knew.

Along my journey my prayers have changed dramatically, but more recently there has been one constant prayer; to come to truly know the depth of God's love. There is freedom in knowing that kind of love, that kind of acceptance. However, my childhood preconditioned me to only understand conditional love, and all it's chains. Unconditional love was a foreign idea, though I wanted to come to understand it, and understand it fully. Our perception becomes our reality and our reality is not always based on truth; my reality had many chains.

I have sat at this computer trying to put to words something which cannot be understood by the mind, only by the Spirit.  How can I possibly explain what God did to my heart in those next moments?  How He transformed my perception and answered my hearts deepest prayer? How He gave me eyes to truly see what was right there all along? How can I possibly explain what I knew in an instant?

As I sat at the wheel, tears rolled freely and suddenly I knew Shadow's life, along with the timing of his death was no mistake. Our time together was an orchestrated event ordained by my heavenly Father. Shadow was more than a dog, he was gift (and a venue) for me to taste God's adoring love.

Over the past few years  I've blogged about the lessons I've learned from my sweet ol' Shadow.  He taught me about faith, but the greatest lesson to be learned came after his death. With adoring eyes, Shadow taught me about being faithful to his master, yet it was in those precious moments in the car that God revealed to me Shadow's greatest lessons came by way of his unconditional love. The truth was, Shadow's greatest lesson was not how to be faithful to God, but about God's unwavering faithfulness to me.

As his legs became weaker, Shadow never wavered in his love for me. He'd look at me with such a sweet expression and stayed by my side until the end. His deepest desire was always to be near me; he lived up to his name.  Ironically, while I thought I was watching over him, I have come to realize that it was he who was watching over me.  The love in his eyes caused me to love him all the more. And so it has become with the Lord, I love him because he first loved me.  He is forever faithful, always there, always near, cherishing our time together.

My heart reflects on all that God showed me those few moments in the car and I rejoice!

"Did you not ask to come to know my love?"  Ten simple, yet profound words that forever changed my heart and my vision. 

All because of the love of a little dog named Shadow, forever precious in my sight. Forever loving and forever loved.

"Everything we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Final Ride

The passing of my best friend in the whole world leaves me here with no words, only emotions that cut so deep they leave me feeling empty inside. . .And I wonder if words alone can possibly display the depth of it all.

When I took my sweet ol' pup, Shadow, in for his blood work I didn't dream I'd be saying, "Good-bye" to him four mornings ago.   Shadow's health had been a daily ebb and flow; with some good days and some bad. On the good days, which came miraculously after my last blog post, he enjoyed an occasional car ride and a walk or two once again. He LOVED his walks, I even spotted him trotting (with an occasional stumble).  It did my heart good to see him so happy once again. A time or two I caught him rough housing with our other dogs. (He did so knowing his legs would eventually give out). He seemed happy. And I was happy. That time together was a miracle given to us. And I honestly give credit to the many prayers sent up by my friends and family. I too had laid hands on Shadow and prayed. With a gentle and quiet amazement, I witnessed the shrinking of some of the tumors on his body and knew he would be "fine".  And fine he was, for a season. . .

Then came the slow tide that turned the good days into "not so good days," and eventually into bad days. How I wish I had not been so distracted with my own life, and some how could have known just how limited our days truly were. Deep down I knew we were living one day at a time and each day was a gift, but life and responsibilities still called to me. And now I wonder if perhaps I did enough to express my great love for him; to show him my appreciation for his faithfulness to me.

Did he know that my "pill-ing" him was done out of love? Did he know that helping him up the stairs, on the days he needed it, was done out of love? Did he know that the little non skid socks I put on his feet was done out of love? Did he know that the special food I gave him (and fed him from my hand) was done out of love?  Did he know that even giving him fluids under the skin was also done out of love? Did he know that even my frustration came out of my love for him? He never complained, but did he know?

Change has never been easy for me. And this change, this life without my Shadow has turned my world upside down. The questions of whether I did enough or perhaps did too much haunt me, the sadness drips over me. And with each stream, my heart is torn a bit more. Will my heart ever mend?

I had many pictures of Shadow printed, some older and some recent.

I look them over and over again  and one picture stands out at me. It breaks my heart.


 I took it, not realizing the significance of it until it was in my hand.

Shadow was always with me, followed me from room to room and spot to spot. Some days I would give him a pat or a hug and go about my business, grateful he was there. Other days I barely noticed, but was still comforted by his presence. Even towards the end of his life as mobility became more limited, he was always there. And I have to wonder if I was there enough for him. My family tells me I did more than enough, but my heart wonders.


The last couple of months when I let Shadow out to go to the bathroom he would sneak around to the front and stand by my car. I would find him there, his head tilted as if saying, "Can we go for a ride." And each time I would beacon him back inside. He would slowly saunter up the sidewalk his head down, his pace slower. Once in a while we'd go for a ride, but was it enough?

One day I found Shadow resting by the car. The breeze blowing across his face and his nose to the wind. He loved smelling the air and I loved watching him. I gathered my camera and hoped to somehow capture the moment on film. To some how stop time and forever hold that moment in my heart.



I wish I had seen it for what it was, to see the aging in his face and eyes, perhaps I was in denial. I knew his time was short and that we were only given one day at a time, but I didn't dream that it would end so abruptly. We had a special bond, and I was certain he would give me an indication of his suffering; some acknowledgment that it was time to go. Perhaps a whimper or a time when he could no longer stand. . .  And in my perfect world, he would signal to me with his sweet eyes that he was ready to say."Good-bye".  But life is not perfect and things don't always go the way we plan.

But I have to wonder now if the signs were there and I just couldn't see them. My heart breaks.

I made an appointment with the veterinarian to have him re-tested so we could see just how bad his levels had become regarding his kidney disease. I knew they would be worse, and deep down I feared we would be getting very close to "the time,"  but I didn't dream that it WAS the time.

When I grabbed the leash to go, Shadow slowly lifted himself and walked to the door with me. He made a pit stop before I helped him into the car. On the way there he laid upright on the back seat, taking in fresh air from the lowered windows. He gave an occasional cough.  As we walked to office he slowly turned and looked back at the car, which he never did before, and continued walking with me, a faithful gentleman to the end.

Once inside I placed the little non-skid socks over his paws so he wouldn't slide on the linoleum.My once majestic pup, which others always made over, was now wearing socks and his weight was down 5 lbs. . .

We waited and soon were ushered into a room. Dr. Ling entered and I could see the concern in her eyes. "He looks like he doesn't feel good at all, " she said. I explained everything that had transpired since his last appointment (two months prior) and she asked what I wanted to do. We agreed that blood work would be wise to determine where we stood.  While we waited for the results I sat on the cold floor with Shadow, placing his head on my lap. I stroked his beautiful soft fur, which had started to become dull. I lifted his face to mine and he looked away. There were no precious kisses from him and no eye contact. His body trembled and I knew time was short, but still had no idea of just how short.

When Dr. Ling came in with the result she began with the numbers, which meant nothing to me. So I asked, "What exactly does that mean?" My fears were realized. His kidneys were shutting down.

Inside I screamed, "NO!!! Not yet, not now!" But outside I stayed stoic and asked if she could come to my house to euthanize him. I wanted him to be at home and comfortable. She explained she was swamped and could not get away from the office. So I asked,  how long I had.  Quickly and firmly she said, "He needs to be euthanized as soon as possible. He is suffering." How could I have missed it? Was it because he still longed to be with me as much as possible? Was it because he never complained, other than turning away from his food? Was it because he still enjoyed his car rides? How could I have not seen it? Another rip in my heart.

The tears could no longer be contained. This was not how it was suppose to be; he and I alone.  I asked for some time to call my husband and son for support. My husband was out of state and I could hear the devastation in his voice as we talked. Thankfully my son was able to come. The next few moments, how ever long or short are a blur to me. I had to keep myself together for fear of completely becoming undone. I loved on Shadow as much as I could, but you cannot stop time and eventually I knew I had to do what needed to be done, though inside I too was dying.

As I write these words, the emotions run raw and the pain cuts deeper than I have ever felt before. To have to end the life of the one I love was by far the most difficult thing I have every had to do. Shadow was more than a dog to me, he was to me as air is to lungs. He was my confidant, my sweet and loyal friend. Though I rescued him 14 1/2 years ago, he rescued me. He showed me unconditional love, he loved me when I was even the most unlovable. He taught me lessons about faith and about God. He shadowed me where ever I went and he became a part of me. He reminded me that love can overcome so much, but in the end it was my love that had to say, "Well done, my good and faithful friend, you have suffered enough."   It was my love that had to be strong enough to let him go. . .

With tears running down her face, Dr. Ling inserted the needled into the IV catheter. "You know you are loved, " she said.  I placed my hands over his eyes and said, "Good night Shadow. I love you," (as I had done so many nights before). I did not see death fall over him, simply sleep. He breathed one last deep breath and fought no more. He was indeed a gentleman to the end.

I wish I could sum this all up in a nice and neat package with a great lesson to share. But I don't have one. . . other than to say love sacrifices.  And I believe Shadow hung on as long as he could because he was so faithful and loved me so very much. Ultimately, as difficult as it was, it was because of my love for him that I had to let him go- even knowing that a part of me would die with him. They say time heals all wounds but it will never change the love I feel for that sweet ol' friend.

He's just a dog some would say, but to me, he was so much more. To me he was comfort, companionship, joy, peace and consistency in a forever changing world. Perhaps I gave him to much credit, but I don't believe so. I believe he was a gift and I believe in his own way he believed it too.

To love deeply means to also hurt deeply. But to have it any other way would be far worse.

Good night my sweet friend, Shadow,  I will love you forever.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

You've Got This, I've Got you


       As with any good story, there's always a lesson to be learned. There have been many lessons in my life; some obvious and some not so clear. The lessons I have learned (and am still learning) from my sweet ol' pup, Shadow, are transparent.

     His legs now wobble and his back has become swayed.  He moves slowly, yet still follows me from place to place. And when commanded to stay, he will have none of it, for he is my little shadow.   To look at him one would not guess his age. His coat still shines  blue black and is soft as silk. It flows in the wind, Majestic. There is something magical about his old age, as if his years transcend time, for in him there is much wisdom. His eyes meet mine and I know. 

     Like a lion's mane, his coat is his crowning glory. Though,  I still find the cursed tumbleweeds of fur floating about. I hate the tumbleweeds.  And yet I love the tumbleweeds.  His face is splattered with patches of gray which are now highlighted by his wise sweet old eyes. Eyes that look straight into mine, into my heart.  He is forever watching, forever loving.

      Shadow's health is declining, and little by little my sweet ol' pup is deteriorating.  He is now a senior. Where did the time go? It doesn't seem possible that it was fourteen years ago that I gathered the little furball into my arms and took him home to be mine. Now, like any senior, he has a pill box filled with daily prescriptions.  And his new food turns him away. My heart breaks. He looks so sad.  He watches me as I watch him through the glass door. Our eyes meet and somehow I know. I know I am reading the last chapters of his sweet little life. 

     He stands sniffing the air, his head up and his fur flowing in the breeze. He turns and looks back at me before taking another step. "I am here," I whisper through the glass door. His legs move unsteadily as he steps off the patio. I watch him, he turns and watches me once again. The bounce in his step is gone. Days of chasing balls and going for walks have passed away. I wonder what pleases him now. He turns and stares at me, watching me and I know.

     As I move about the kitchen he slowly walks out of sight. But when I open the door, he is not there. I call for him but he can no longer hear without my whistling or a clap. We communicate through body language now. I slip into my shoes. And after searching the yard I find him on the driveway. He is standing next to my car, waiting.  He looks longingly at me and I know. 

     Car rides used to make him sick when he was tiny, but as he grew he came to love them. It was our time together. He would breathe in the fresh air through the open window, his head held high, his legs strong. We'd drive to the walking trails.  He loved those walks.  I loved them too.   As I look at him standing there next to my car my heart aches. The last few car rides I've helped him into the car and instead of standing and pawing for an open window he laid down.  Now,  he looks at me with his head tilted and I know.

     This morning as I helped him off the high bed (which I helped him onto last night) he was slow to move. I steadied his legs as he got down.  I walked to the stairs and called to him with a wave. He knows me well.  He walked to me, looked below and hesitated. I reached for his collar and we began slowly down the stairs together.

     Once down a few steps,  my son's new puppy scampered up to Shadow. Shadow hesitated. The puppy jumped nibbling at his legs. The puppy is a nibbler and a nuisance to my sweet old friend.  I shewed the nibbler and said to Shadow, "You've got  this, I've got you." I continued holding onto his collar and patted his head. Once again together we headed down the stairs.

    At the bottom,  I hugged his neck, burying my face in his plush fur, "You have NOT been replaced Shadow. And I will protect you.  Don't give up on me. I still need you my friend."  
He licks my face and I know. 

     As I type these words, his head rests on my toes, with an occasional lick.  I cry and pray, "Heal him if you will Lord. But I know he is old and will not live forever. How can I do it Lord?  How can let go of the one who has known me so well; the one whom I rescued, but truly  rescued me?" 

I can't bare to say the words, to think the inevitable. I pray again, this time asking for more time. I don't know how long we have together but I want MORE.  Tears run hot down my cheeks. How will I know when it's time? How will I then be able to say good-bye?  I pray for strength and that the darkness would not swallow me up when that time comes. Saying goodbye is never easy. It hurts, and dare I say what many know? Sometimes losing a pet can be one of the deepest sorrows of all. So I pray some more. I cry.  My toes take in the warmth of his fur. I hang on to the moment, wishing it to last forever. 

 And then I remember the words, "You've got this, I've got you."  
This time they are meant for me, and I know. 

      I know:
Shadow's story, our story is coming to an end.

      I know:
Pets are a gift from God and they teach us the unconditional love He has for us.
They bring great joy AND with it, great sorrow.
Though we rescue them, they often rescue us.
And though I am Shadow's master, he watches over me. 
And just like God, Shadow finds great joy simply by being with me. 
He longs to walk with me, so does the Lord.
I know:
That God has taught me many lessons through the life of my sweet ol' friend, Shadow.

And I also know that when I can't do the impossible, 
God will continue to hold me, whispering to me,

         "You've got this,  BECAUSE I've got you."

Thank you Lord for the lessons you've taught me through my sweet companion, Shadow.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Shadows of Life

                                                                       Google Image

The scent of rain swept through my bedroom window bringing with it a booming percussion off in the distance. Slipping out of bed I began the sprint to close the windows throughout the house. My sweet pup Shadow followed closely behind, his whiskers tickling my calves. It is not unusual for him to live up to his name and shadow me where ever I go, but this night he stuck to me like glue. If I turned left, he turned left. If I turned right he was almost there before me.

I climbed back into bed as the rain began and was accompanied by rhythmic thunder booms. My beloved pup did his usual pawing at the side of the bed, his request to come up. There was a time his limber legs would allow him to hop up on his own, but those days  have passed.  I dropped to the floor and wrapped my arms around his backside helping him onto the bed. He found his spot but could not relax.   Pops of lightening grabbed for his attention and caused his breathing to became a raspy pant. He slowly lifted himself up and stood over me, looking at all the shadows as they snapped upon the walls.

I lifted the down covers and called to Shadow. He stood looking out the window and then at the dancing walls. I pulled him close covering him completely with the dark comforter, careful to give him room to breathe.  His breathing slowed yet was still elevated.  With each flash of light his head popped out from under the covers.  I spoke softly while wrapping my arms around him.  As the rain began to soften, his head would drop to the pillow and his heart rate would slow, but with each new flash of lightening his anxiety would rise again.

For over a half an hour I tried to reassure him but to no avail. It was merely a thunder shower, not even a true storm. As I began to feel sleep deprived I felt frustration rise within me at my inability to comfort him. Sadly he could not perceive the situation as I could. I knew that we were safe, yet flashes of light and the shadows on the wall became a huge distraction for him. His focus had been drawn away from my comforting words, and it saddened me at how afraid he had become.

And then hit me; how patient my master Jesus is with me when I too get distracted by the perceived storms in life. How quickly I run into the arms of fear rather than faith.  How easily I can look to the dark shadows, all the while God is calling me under His comforting shelter. Under His wing I am protected from all that threatens me, real or false. And when I DO draw close to him, I can almost hear the soothing rhythm of his heartbeat. It is there that I find true rest on even the darkest of nights. Oh yes, how easily I can focus on all the shadows of life instead of the safety of the Shadow of Almighty God.  How much trouble I could save myself if I would simply would run (or crawl) into the open arms of the one who loves me like no other.

Once again my sweet ol' Shadow reminded me of God's great love for me (and for you).  I pray the next time the thunder booms we will run straight to the Comforter of our soul and pay no attention to the dancing shadows of life.


Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,

Friday, July 25, 2014

Drinkin' from the Toliet Bowl


     God's been speaking to me a lot lately about being thirsty. Dehydration both in the physical and in the Spiritual can be deadly. Yesterday I heard a familiar sound but couldn't put my finger on it, so I went to investigate. There in the spare bathroom was Shadow drinking out of the toilet! It seems someone left the lid up and forgot to flush. Yuck. I thought to myself, "He needs water and he's thirsty." But when I went into the kitchen there was a full bowl of clean water. I shook my head at how crazy he can act.
     But once again God spoke to me, showing me that often times when we are Spiritually thirsty we too choose to drink from the toilet bowl. We choose it over the fresh living water of God's word. Oh the toilet water might taste good at the time, but in reality it can be filthy and lead to further dehydration of the soul. And then there's our 16 year old cat, Fred, who whines until I turn on the faucet so he can drink fresh running water. To him his water bowl is just not "clean" enough, even after I have just filled it. Cats are known to be finicky. It seems to me however we can learn a lot from both Fred and Shadow. Clean fresh water is essential for the body and the Spirit. And there is only one whose "living water" will satisfy even the driest of bones.
"Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~John 4: 13-14

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." ~Matthew 5:6

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Waiting for the Walk

     The look in Shadow's eyes spoke far more than the tilt of his head. How many times had I seen that expression in his eyes?  How often did he stand staring, waiting for my signal, alerting him of his turn; the time to walk once again? And how many times have I acknowledged him while running out the door with a mere nod saying, "I'll be back?"

    Before the arthritis invaded his joints, Shadow and I adored our walks together. Early morning was our favorite time,  before the world came to life. He and I would take the short car ride to the walking trails near our home.  I'm not sure what he enjoyed most, the walk itself or the fresh air blowing against his snout during the drive. As we walked he wore with pride my keys around his neck. Their jingling gave rhythm to our walk. There also seemed to be an extra bounce in his step those days. Our walks together were treasures.  I came to know Shadow's mannerisms and became keenly aware of when he was thirsty or tired. The pace of our steps were often in-sync, rarely did he tug or pull; he simply was content walking next to me.  And I was thrilled to have him there.  I thoroughly enjoyed the gentleness of those mornings, just he and I, and God's creation. Those mornings always set the tone for a much better day.

     The last couple of years I've been helping a lady care for her little dogs. Daily I feed them and walk them. They are sweet and I thoroughly delight in our time together.  I love the feel of the warm breeze and watching the loons and other wild life as we meander around the lake together. Recently I began helping other friends with their dogs as well. This takes up a bit more of my time. But each time I return home, there are my two loving pups, waiting to greet me at the door; ready and willing to lavish me with their unconditional love.

     The other morning after walking one set of pups I came home for a quick lunch. And rushed back out the door for another appointment. As I turned to say goodbye to Shadow there he stood, my gray faced pup, head tilted. He waited longingly, as if to say, "Can I come now?"  His expression tugged at my heart as I gave him a big hug. I felt like such a traitor.

     It was true. I had been spending far more time giving love and attention to other's pets. But sadly the last time Shadow and I walked down our street his arthritic joints slowed him down. We had not walked far when he began limping.  He never whimpered, yet I worried he was in pain. It was in his faithfulness to me that kept him right on walking. He was thrilled just to be with his master. My heart broke as I watched him limp back home and I decided then that our days of walking together were coming to a close.

    As I drove to my next appointment, I pondered about  how wonderful those times were.  I kept thinking of the longing in Shadow's eyes, the confusion, as he stood at the door waiting for me just to give the word. I never meant to betray my sweet old pup, but something about his expression that day really nudged at me.  Like a gentle breeze I felt another nudging; another's whisper.  I sensed the Lord's voice, "Shadow is not the only one whose heart longs for you."  Once again God. in his kindness, had revealed another lesson from Shadow;  the Lord's love for us is far greater and he too stands waiting at the door.

     Like Shadow, He longs for our time together, it is a treasure to Him.  I began to ask myself, "Do I get as excited over my walk with Him?"  I wonder how often he finds me running out the door with nothing more than a mere nod in his direction.  Yet the Lord is gentle and will never force us to love Him. He simply desires that we would take delight in our walk with Him as much as He delights in us. So He waits.  Like Shadow he continues to wait patiently, longingly.

      Thankfully He walks beside us daily, even when we don't acknowledge Him.  The journey of our lives is a gift from our Master. He yearns for us to know that walking beside Him is also a gift.                                       

   How precious is the path for those who daily walk beside their Master.

                                                                                                                                                                                                         "You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for ever more."  ~Psalm 16:11

                                                                                                       (Google image above)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

To Live the Life of a Treasure Hunter

You've heard it said, "Live as though today is the first and last day of your life." But how do we put it into practice? Why is it that people who are living with a terminal disease can appreciate life so much more than those of us who go through our usual day to day existence?  What reality snaps within them that allows them to appreciate the flight of a butterfly or the strength of an ant so much more than before their diagnosis?  Is it because they are able to now appreciate the gift of life that they have been given; even if only for this moment?  The butterfly has not changed its flight, nor has the ant its stride, yet simply the perception of them has become new. I long for that kind of vision, to appreciate LIFE, every bit of it. Of course I'd prefer not  to have to come face to face with death in order to do so. But if we are truly honest, we all are terminal; we only have this moment. The next moment is a mystery, and life can change in the blink of an eye.  Yes, what a gift to see the world with the awe of a child, to capture the beauty within the mundane, to give thanks for the pain, because even in the pain there is life.  

                Lord, on our journey together, no matter how long or short it may be, please open my eyes. 
                                               I want to find it to be a beautiful view, every step of the way.