Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pepper - a bright new star in tonight's skies

With Pepper on her last walk today
Jenny and I arrive at the Animal Humane Society (AHS) a little before noon today. We asked for Lynn the vet tech supervisor who was expecting us. When she came to greet us at the intake area I asked her, “Can we take Pepper for a walk outside?” “Of course” she replied. She took us to the back. As we are walking back there she tells us that several of the staff have fallen in love with Pepper. Pepper isn’t in her kennel. Lynn suspects one of the staff has taken her for a walk or is giving her another bath. We find Pepper in the ‘tub room’ with one of the AHS staff. Her eyes are watery. She hands us a pink collar and tell us that she has made Pepper a name tag. She goes back to Pepper’s kennel to get the tag … on the front it reads ‘Pepper’ and on the back it reads ‘I am loved’. As we get ready to go outside to take Pepper for her last walk the woman breaks down and cries. Lynn, the vet tech supervisor gives her a hug. Tears are streaming down both Jenny’s cheeks and mine. Lynn turns around and there are tears in her eyes too. It’s amazing, yet not surprising to me … how a living being like Pepper can touch the hearts and souls of so many and bring us to together.

Jenny and I go outside with Pepper for her last walk. More tears fall as we take turns getting down to Pepper’s level, hugging her, kissing her, and telling her how much we love her. We spend about 10 minutes outside as Pepper enjoys the sunshine and sniffing all the bushes.

The moment Pepper crosses over rainbow bridge she is surrounded by loving hands and hearts.  There isn’t a dry eye in the room. The kindness and compassion shown by the staff at AHS was simply amazing … multiple times we heard ‘I am so sorry for your loss.” I think in my heart Pepper’s passing symbolizes something much greater than any individual loss. She represents to me the importance of the work we collectively are doing in animal rescue. Pepper will continue to live on in my heart, in Jenny’s heart and in the hearts of so many others.

AHS is graciously doing a private cremation for Pepper and will call me when I can pick up her ashes. I have her pink collar and her brass name tag that reads ‘Pepper’ on the front …. ‘I am loved’ on the back. Yes, Pepper … you are loved; you are cherished; you will forever be remembered. I will be creating a memorial garden in my backyard … the ashes of Pepper and Cass will be sprinkled there along with the ashes of my beloved pets who have crossed over rainbow bridge … Splat, Shen and Shadow.

A friend and mentor and someone who taught me so much about animal rescue when I first got involved 5 years ago, sent me an email this morning that touched me … thank you Mary Ann for your compassion and wisdom over the years:

It is hard to see those animals who have had such a tough life go but I believe that is why they come to us.  Their memories are of the kindness and love of the moment, not of what they have not had.  Most carry no grudges and we give them a gift that relieves all pain and suffering and sadness for them.

No fun - but a part of rescue that should be recognized as one of the most important things we do.

Most folks have no idea what rescue entails - not even the people in it.  “

Jenny and I left AHS --- our hearts hurting and carrying Pepper's spirit with us. Together we realize the importance of continuing to work to save the dogs of Leech Lake reservation. We also left AHS today with Cass.  The kennel was too small for him so he got to ride on top of Ahnung’s blanket and as a ‘free’ dog in the back of my Honda Element which he thoroughly enjoyed. He was a perfect boy. We stopped at Bubbly Paws, then hung outside Panera Bread in St. Louis Park for a little while …. We are now at home and he and Ahnung and sleeping soundly in my writing studio. He follows me around everywhere and he has wiggled his way deep into my heart. I know my heart will once again be ripped into a million pieces when I will have to hold this sweet boy in my arms tomorrow as he goes on to heaven. I know I will always have a piece of Cass in my heart. Maybe Cass will take a piece of me and my heart when he moves on tomorrow. For now, I cherish every moment I have with him.

Cass - hanging out in
St. Louis Park after a bath
at Bubbly Paws

Pepper - you are loved and will be forever remembered

The time is approaching for me to be with Pepper ... to hold her paw as she crosses over rainbow bridge. Tears have started falling. Jenny and I went to see her (and Cass) yesterday ... to check on them and to give them some loving. As always, we end up getting more love back from these precious creatures than one can even imagine.

Yes, this is the hardest part of animal rescue; it is the part that makes me feel like my heart is being shredded into pieces ... truth is, I don't ever want it to be easy for me. Every animal deserves to be loved, to be treated kindly and to be remembered ...

Pepper, you are loved by so many. You have touched the hearts of so many, and you will forever be etched in my heart.

I found the following poem on the internet. Pepper will be a bright star in the summer night skies tonight ... and tomorrow she will be joined by another bright star when Cass joins her up in heaven.

I'm Still Here

Friend, please don't mourn for me
I'm still here, though you don't see.
I'm right by your side each night and day
and within your heart I long to stay.

My body is gone but I'm always near.
I'm everything you feel, see or hear.
My spirit is free, but I'll never depart
as long as you keep me alive in your heart.

I'll never wander out of your sight-
I'm the brightest star on a summer night.
I'll never be beyond your reach-
I'm the warm moist sand when you're at the beach.

I'm the colorful leaves when fall comes around
and the pure white snow that blankets the ground.
I'm the beautiful flowers of which you're so fond,
The clear cool water in a quiet pond.

I'm the first bright blossom you'll see in the spring,
The first warm raindrop that April will bring.
I'm the first ray of light when the sun starts to shine,
and you'll see that the face in the moon is mine.

When you start thinking there's no one to love you,
you can talk to me through the Lord above you.
I'll whisper my answer through the leaves on the trees,
and you'll feel my presence in the soft summer breeze.

I'm the hot salty tears that flow when you weep
and the beautiful dreams that come while you sleep.
I'm the smile you see on a baby's face.
Just look for me, friend, I'm everyplace!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shadow side of animal rescue

About two months ago I received an email from Karen Good, founder of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue (where my sweet girl Ahnung was originally rescued from) ... it was a plea to her fellow animal rescuers in the community to help with a situation:

"Dear Friends:  Do we have any ideas how to help the poor dogs out of Cass Lake- Leech Lake Reservation?  (Karen then references the email she receives from a woman named Lisa). She (Lisa) has been trying to  do this on her own for past 6 months and could use our help. Ideas?

Could any one volunteer from the Cass Lake area to clean the impound kennels and walk dogs?

Thank you all- I know how she feels- it is exactly how we felt here at Red Lake before we got all your help. We just have to help these Cass Lake dogs- I heard about them from other people, and their dire need right now.

Thank you for any ideas or help for them.

Sincerely, Karen, RLRR"

In Lisa's email to Karen she shares the following ".... They are so poor up there they don't have access to computers and such. I bring up food and bones when I come. Anything to help them. This place is so disgusting it's cold, dark and they sleep in their own feces. I think they get out of this small kennel maybe 10 min a day if lucky.... I would appreciate any direction or guidance you could offer me. I can't turn my back on what I see up there, but I can't do all this myself anymore. Karen you are very well known and respected by the rescue organization for all you do and have done. So I'm asking the best of the best for some advice."

A couple days later Karen sends out an email that a volunteer Jenny F has agreed to organize an effort to assess the situation up at Leech Lake reservation. I have always had the utmost respect for Karen Good and will forever be indebted to her for saving and bringing my sweet girl Ahnung to me. A plea from Karen is all I need to drop whatever I'm doing and to respond (Karen was the recipient of the Kare11 Volunteer award ... click here to watch a video of the incredible work she does, and to see Ahnung's TV debut!). Jenny and I begin communication about the dogs up at Leech Lake reservation and a new partnership is formed to help these dogs suffering horribly up at the reservation. The impound only has 10 small kennels. They have no access to a veterinarian. When the impound is full the dog who has been there the longest is shot. The current animal control officer up at the reservation is an amazing and compassionate person. He has done so much for the dogs in the short time that he has been there .. desperately reaching out to rescues and shelters in hopes of finding homes for these dogs. He does not want to have to shoot another dog. He has also drastically improved the living conditions of the dogs in the impound.
Boots who had a broken pelvic bone
He had surgery at AHS and is recovering
in a foster home for 8 weeks

As a board member of the animal welfare coalition Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare (MnPAW) I suggest to Jenny that we work with the coalition to help save as many dogs as possible. Foster-based rescues are very limited in the number of dogs they are able to take. We need to work with the Animal Humane Society (AHS) here in the cities (last year 36,000 animals passed through their shelter doors). They are one of the founding members of MnPAW and will be the shelter that can help the most. I arrange for a meeting for myself, Jenny, Lisa (the woman who originally sent the email to Karen G) and AHS (we meet with the Director of Animal Services, Kathie, who is both an animal rescue/welfare colleague and a friend ... and Jen F, the Community Relations Manager). Open, honest dialogue and discussions begin and two hours later a foundation is being built. 

Since the original email that came out from Karen in late April, 34 dogs have been transported down from the reservation: 19 were placed with five different rescues (one rescue took in a pregnant St. Bernard who had 11 surviving puppies) and 15 were taken in by AHS/MnPAW. My friend Vicki who is with Act V Rescue & Rehabilitation took in two dogs (Boots and Buddy) with injuries. Buddy had a gun shot wound to his shoulder and Boots had been hit by a car. Vicki took him and saved this sweet 6 month old border collie mix from having his leg amputated. AHS took in another dog (also named Boots by the impound up at Leech Lake) with a broken pelvic bone. He had surgery and is now in foster care with AHS for 8 weeks and then will be placed up for adoption. 

On June 18th, Jenny and I and another volunteer (John) drove up to Leech Lake reservation to transport 12 dogs back to the cities: 9 went to AHS/MnPAW and 3 went to a rescue [click here for pictures from that trip]. Of the 9 dogs, six have already been vetted (including being spayed/neutered) and adopted; one is in their behavior modification program and just yesterday we were informed that two of them (Cass and Pepper) have some serious health issues. Pepper has arthritis, incontinence and most likely some metabolic disease; Cass has a large firm mass under the tongue between the mandible bones along with a smaller mass in the upper lip. I consulted with my friend Vicki (who is a vet) about both Cass and Pepper and also talked to my vet at Lake Harriet Veterinary. Letting them go would be the most humane thing to do. I knew that in my gut, but needed to also hear that from people I respect deeply and who are also vets. Even though my head knows it's the right thing to do, my heart still breaks. Pepper struggles to even get around. They are both around 6-7 years old. All of yesterday I was haunted by both Cass and Pepper.  All I could see were their faces, their soulful eyes. My head knows that we can't save them all ... my heart still wishes we could. 

Pepper will go on to rainbow bridge on Thursday. Both Jenny and I will be with him when the time arrives and we will hold his paw. And I have asked for his ashes as I would like to create a memorial garden/space in my backyard for the dogs who touch my heart and bless me with their soulful presence.

With Cass, I have made arrangements for him to come stay with me for 24 hours. I have friends who will take care of two of my dogs (Missy and Mister) so that I can bring Cass home with me on Thursday. I want for Cass to experience the comfort of a loving home before he crosses over rainbow bridge. He and Ahnung will get to lounge in my big backyard and just bask in the sun. Then on Friday I will bring Cass with me to my vet (Lake Harriet Vet) where I will hold him as he gently crosses over the bridge [thank you Lake Harriet Vet for donating your services and for your kindness and compassion]. I have cleared my calendar for Thursday and made arrangements for Missy and Mister to be with friends (thank you Laura and Diane) so that I can give Cass all the love and attention he deserves. He was in a home up at the reservation where he was not wanted. They dropped him off at the impound and somehow he got out and walked 7 miles to find his way back home, only to be taken back to the impound. These incredible spirits and souls love humans, despite the abuse and neglect they endure. If I can just give Cass a glimpse into a world where he matters and he knows that he is loved and cherished, then maybe, just maybe it will make it easier for me to let him go. Or maybe not.

Thank you Cass and Pepper for blessing me with gift of your soulful, pure, innocent presence. Thank you for touching my heart. On Friday night when I look up in the night skies, I will know that the skies are a little brighter because of two new stars. Just know that you are loved and you are special and you matter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unconditional Love ...

I've been spending time reflecting on what love is. There are many forms of love. In the English language we have one word for love. It doesn't suffice for the many kinds of love that one experiences. I love how Ancient Greek has four words for love: eros (passionate/romantic love), philea (friendship love), storge (family love), agape (unconditional love).

My spirit and my soul are drawn to the word agape -- unconditional love. With some serious health challenges over the past couple years I have found myself reflecting a lot on life, on what my purpose on life is, what matters to me ... ironically, I believe that my health challenges are a blessing. Yes, i'm only 46 years old and on top of other health issues I have recently been told I have a rare heart disease; a degenerative heart disease with a not so good prognosis. My therapist asked me 'So how am I dealing with it? How am I feeling about it? Where am I carrying or holding all the emotions?' I strive, on a daily basis, to find and experience peace. For me peace arrives when I can not only love myself, but love others, without condition, without expectation, without strings attached. Truth is, I find peace when I surrender to God, to my Higher Power, to the Divine Being and energy.

I pray that I can simply live my life in loving service. I am grateful for the many loving souls who have crossed my path and who walk this journey with me as I listen to the calling in my heart to make this world a better place for the animals. I cherish the many forms of love that I receive.

The following poem speaks deeply to me and is such a beautiful reminder to me of how I want to live my life.

Love without condition
by Sandy Stevenson

I love you as you are, as you seek to find your own special way to relate to the world. I honour your choices to learn in the way you feel is right for you.

I know it is important that you are the person you want to be and not someone that I or others think you 'should' be. I realise that I cannot know what is best for you, although perhaps sometimes I think I do. I have not been where you have been, viewing life from the angle you have. I do not know what you have chosen to learn, how you have chosen to learn it, with whom or in what time period. I have not walked life looking through your eyes, so how can I know what you need.

I allow you to be in the world without a thought or word of judgement from me about the deeds you undertake. I see no error in the things you say and do. In this place where I am, I see that there are many ways to perceive and experience the different facets of our world. I allow without reservation the choices you make in each moment. I make no judgement of this, for if I would deny your right to your evolution, then I would deny that right for myself and all others.

To those who would choose a way I cannot walk, whilst I may not choose to add my power and my energy to this way, I will never deny you the gift of love that God has bestowed within me, for all creation. As I love you, so I shall be loved. As I sow, so shall I reap.

I allow you the universal right of free will to walk your own path, creating steps or to sit awhile if that is what is right for you. I will make no judgement that these steps are large or small, nor light or heavy or that they lead up or down, for this is just my viewpoint. I may see you do nothing and judge it to be unworthy and yet it may be that you bring great healing as you stand blessed by the Light of God. I cannot always see the higher picture of Divine order.

For it is the inalienable right of all life to choose their own evolution and with great love I acknowledge your right to determine your future. In humility I bow to the realisation that the way I see as best for me does not have to mean it is also right for you. I know that you are led as I am, following the inner excitement to know your own path.

I know that the many races, religions, customs, nationalities and beliefs within our world, bring us great richness and allow us the benefit and teachings of such diverseness. I know we each learn in our own unique way in order to bring that love and wisdom back to the whole. I know that if there were only one way to do something, there would need only be one person.

I will not only love you if you behave in a way I think you should or believe in those things I believe in. I understand you are truly my brother and my sister, though you may have been born in a different place and believe in another God than I.

The love I feel is for all of God's world. I know that every living thing is a part of God and I feel a love deep within for every person, animal, tree and flower, every bird, insect, river and ocean and for all the creatures in all the world.

I live my life in loving service, being the best me I can, becoming wiser in the perfection of Divine truth, becoming happier in the joy of

Unconditional Love

Karen Good of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue -
this woman exemplifies what unconditional love is
as she continues to work tirelessly for
abandoned, abused and neglected animals.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Rose

A facebook friend posted on their wall the photo on the left with a Rumi poem:

"I am your moon and your moonlight too
I am your flower garden and your water too.
I have come all this way eager for you,
without shoes or shawl.
I want you to laugh, to kill all your worries, to love you, to nourish you.
Oh sweet bitterness, I will soothe you and heal you.
I will bring you roses. I too have been covered with thorns."

Many of us have deep wounds from childhood. This poem and the image of a rose was exactly what I needed this morning. Like a rose I learned to protect myself from predators with thorns. This coming Thursday I start a writing class at The Loft Literary Center. It's a class titled Healing Memoir:

"Addiction. Loss. Poverty. Trauma. Dysfunctional family. Heartbreak. Illness. Hunger. Betrayal. Secrets. Chaos. As writers we are called to create art out of the human tragedy by sharing our story and divulging the gritty details in order to impart wisdom and insight, and to inspire others toward their own healing path (to benefit others). As writers of creative nonfiction, we meet the challenge of revealing our pain and suffering in writing and facing ourselves on the written page, while simultaneously crafting that pathos into a compelling story. How do we know where to take the story once the confession is on the page? In this class we’ll discuss what distinguishes the successful healing memoir from those often referred to as "self-indulgent” or exposé. We’ll explore the differences between personal (private) healing writing and public (publishable, sharable) writing. We’ll look at the role of voice in memoir, distinguishing the voice of experience from the voice of innocence and how each fits into the memoir as a whole...."

In my last class at The Loft I wrote a piece titled 'The Rosary' ... I reflect more on the class and how I chose the word rosary in a blog posting. The somewhat finished piece touches on many of what is listed in the description above: addiction, loss, trauma/sexual abuse, heartbreak, betrayal, secrets ..... In my piece I also reference the rose:

"The rose is a perennial flower shrub of the genus Rosa. The sharp objects along a rose stem are commonly called “thorns” – they are in fact, “prickles”, outgrowths of the epidermis. Thorns, on the other hand, are modified branches and deeply embedded in the woody structure of the plant. Both prickles and thorns protect the plant from predators. Historically, the rose has been a symbol of love, beauty, war and politics. According to fossil evidence they are 35 million years old. Red roses hold the ideal of love and also represent courage. Red and white roses combined are a symbol of love and unity.
My father’s life was like a garden of roses. The cross of the rosary broke free leaving only the beads in the palm of his hand. The beads, a garden of roses. His death brought pain to those left behind. Like a rose protecting itself from predators, those of us left behind grew more prickles, more sharp objects and ways to protect our bleeding heart.
Leo was the cross that fell to the floor. Masked behind the garment and a rosary, he was supposed to be my protector. Decades later, I saw him for what he was - Judas Iscariot. I wonder if my father did too, the day he dropped the cross."

Writing for me has become an integral part of my healing. It's amazing to me how at 46 years old I continue to discover the level of pain and hurt buried deep within me from childhood hurts and trauma. I write for myself and for my own healing ... I have also learned that as I share my pieces in my writing classes that I am not alone, and that in my willingness to share my journey and my healing process that I open up the door for others in their journey. And as others share their journey with me they help me in my healing process.

 Excerpts from The Courage to Heal: A Tribute (by Ellen Bass):

"... Deciding to heal was a choice. The first one
we ever clearly made. We didn't decide.
The alternatives just became too painful.
We cried every day. We only cried once
but it went on for a year. We never cried ...

... Our hearts aching in our hollowed-out chests
and down our empty arms.
We thought we would not survive.
Like stroke patients, we had to learn everything anew.
We saw how it had seeped into the corners of our lives likes smoke.
Nothing was untainted, except the tough kernel we were born with,
the seed of who we could have been, could still be.

We reclaimed our bodies, inch by precious inch.
Feeling our own skin, astonished, like touching a newborn.
We tried our trust, like experimenting with drugs.
We went back to school. We took a vacation.
We spoke the truth. We did what we wanted.
We learned to sleep. We ate when we were hungry.

We woke in the morning, willing. We wanted
to be alive. We were hungry for all we'd missed.
We took it with eager, patient, or tentative hands
but we took it. We made a cup of tea
in our own kitchen and drank it at a blue table
on which we'd set a small bouquet of daffodils."

Monday, June 6, 2011

A reason to smile today ...

Two days before I went to the hospital for my heart surgery I received the following email on my Pet Haven email account from some kind stranger who stopped to help a dog:

"Hi Marilou, a couple folks suggested I contact you about a dog I found May 12. 

This was during one of our big rainstorms.  My husband and I were heading up to Cambridge when we saw a dog laying in the dirt on the side of the road about 1/2 mile from my house.  I made my husband stop to see if she was OK.  She got to her feet but wasn't bearing weight on one of her hind feet.  She was soaked.  She wouldn't fit in our truck and my husband had an appt. to keep, so he continued on his way and left me standing there in the rain with the dog.  The poor thing followed me home in the pouring rain, on a sore foot, 1/2 mile with just encouragement - no leash, no collar.  Once I got her home I dried her off as well as possible with some towels, gave her a bowl of water and a piece of cheese.  Then I called my vet.

Because she may have been injured my vet (East Central Veterinary in Cambridge) said I could bring her in and they'd scan her for ID and hold her a little while.  I opened the door on my van and she calmly climbed in and settled right down on the back bench seat.  This girl is incredibly mellow and cooperative.  When I got to the vet's I just looped a leash around her neck and she quietly followed me into the clinic and laid down on their floor. 

The dog is large and very overweight.  A cute little face on a polish sausage shaped body.  Maybe 70 pounds or so.  She's mostly black with a white muzzle and some white socks.  She has a long tail and short drop ears.  Maybe a lab mix with border collie or springer spaniel?  Maybe some shepherd?  You know, your average country mixed dog.  She has sad soulful brown eyes and seems very trusting.  The whole long walk to my home she kept turning to watch every car that went by, as if looking for her owner.

East Central Veterinary Clinic kept her for a day, then turned her over to Marlene at Animal Control in Isanti.  The dog's legal holding period is up but Marlene is going to keep her 2 or 3 days longer as the phone number listed in the local newspaper's Found ad was incorrect. 

The same day I found the dog I put flyers about her in about 50 mailboxes within a 2 mile area where I found her.  I put ads for her online at Animal Humane Society's lost and found page,'s classifieds (lost and found) and's site.  The Isanti County News and Cambridge Star ran Found ads for her.  I notified all the veterinary clinics in the area.  We also put 4 signs up along the routes leading to were I found her.  If the owner is looking for this dog, I can't imagine how they would have missed all of my notices.  I have been checking lost dog ads and haven't seen anything close to her description listed.

I talked with Marlene at Animal Control yesterday.  Nobody has contacted her claiming to be this dog's owner.  Marlene said she is doing well and is very sweet.  She smiles and gives kisses.  Marlene also thought the dog was very sweet and named her 'Smiley' because she smiles and gives kisses. 

I put an email out regarding this dog's plight to some folks I know involved in various types of animal welfare/rescue and 2 of them referred me to you.

If this poor dog needs help, can you help her?  Can you take her in?  Thank you for your time and attention."

How could I not respond to this heartfelt email by a woman advocating for this sweet dog. I emailed "V" back. Unfortunately at Pet Haven (the rescue I am involved in) we had no open fosters. Fortunately Pet Haven is a part of an animal welfare coalition in Minnesota ( and I spoke with my contact at the Animal Humane Society (AHS) and we agreed to bring this dog into AHS through the MnPAW partnership ... essentially it means that if AHS is unable to place the dog up for adoption that the rescues/shelters within the coalition will be contacted to work on placing the dog.

I emailed "V" that I was heading into the hospital for a heart procedure and wasn't sure how reachable I would be. I found myself thinking about this sweet dog the day after my procedure while I was in my hospital room and communicating with "V" and the animal control officer. I couldn't bear the thought of such a sweet girl being euthanized.

So after multiple emails and phone conversations we made arrangements to meet at the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society over lunch today. When I walked into the AHS intake area lobby I was greeted by Smiley and a huge warm hug from "V". I remember the phone conversation I had with "V" where I told her that I would find a way to help Smiley through the network of rescues and shelters that are a part of the coalition. She cried ... tears of joy. Smiley was blessed to have crossed "V"s path that rainy day and to have a beautiful spirit advocate for her. Smiley truly has the most soulful eyes. I got down to the ground and hugged her. She immediately wanted to show me that she knows how to shake ... and yes, she can shake with both her right front paw and her left front paw. As we are discussing the logistics of a dog coming into AHS through the coalition (MnPAW - Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare) a woman in the lobby stops by ... she falls instantly in love with Smiley. She had just dropped a bird off that was injured to AHS. She's been thinking about adopting another dog and Smiley reminds her of a dog she once had. Five minutes later she's calling her husband who says it's up to her if she wants to adopt Smiley. She returns to the lobby and tells us she is adopting Smiley.

Twenty minutes after I arrive at AHS and being greeted by this dog who was once on death row at an Isanti animal control simply due to space issues (saved first by "V", then by a kind-hearted animal control officer who simply could not euthanize a sweet, loving girl and kept her beyond the legal holding period) .... I am now saying goodbye to Smiley, giving her a hug and watching her walk out the door with her new mom. She's off to live on 20 acres with two other siblings. 

"V" had left AHS before the adoption was final. I called her to let her know that the woman she met wanted to take Smiley home. She shared the following email with me ... I am reminded today of why I am so involved in animal rescue and in the power of working together ... 

"OMG!!!!!!!  This really went through?!  My little Smiley has a home already!  I am so happy and so excited and so relieved.  You might remember I told you it just gets me how the life and future of these animals hangs by little threads of fate they have no control over.  Well, today those threads of fate worked to Smiley's advantage.  Who would have thought the person that really wanted her would walk through AHS doors while we were all there?  What a great story.

I really liked "B".  She seems like a person that takes pet ownership seriously and forever.

My sister and I both felt she could offer Smiley a terrific home.  Thank you so much Marilou for making this happen.  And thank you so much for letting me be a part of the happy ending.


I am touched by the animals we rescue (who in turn rescue us) ... and I am also touched by the incredible  human beings like "V" who cross my path and who advocate on behalf of these beloved beings.

Thank you Smiley for giving me a reason to smile today. 

Update from Smiley's new mom:
"She is doing really good. She follows me everywhere. The other dogs are fine with her. She is so sweet. I even brought her in the shower and bathed her. I feel very lucky to have her."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy to be Home!

I am so happy to be home! I am also so grateful for the love and support I had as I went through my heart procedure this past Tuesday. What an incredible team of friends who helped me in caring for my 3 furkids and also supporting me while I was in the hospital ... my friend Vicki picked me up at 5:15 Tuesday morning to take me to the hospital and to be there while I was undergoing the procedure and to keep my family and friends up-to-date. The procedure itself only took 2 hours as my heart was cooperative and started firing off irregular heart beats right away, making it easy for them to locate the source of the problem. There was an area in the right ventricle of my heart that was causing the problem so my doctor burned that area in my heart. I remember getting loopy as they wheeled me out of the prep room and into surgery. I remember seeing all this fancy equipment and voices ... and then the lights went out for me. When I awoke I was being wheeled back to recovery. Everything seemed foggy to me. I remember someone saying that the procedure went well. It was hard for me to form sentences or to talk. I remember seeing my friend Vicki waiting for me in recovery as my bed was wheeled into the room. My chest was hurting and my heart felt like it was on fire. The nurse asked me how I was doing ... i mumbled that I felt a lot of pain in my chest. I remember seeing my doctor and he said to give me some pain meds for my heart which they injected into my IV. Shortly after they injected the meds the right side of my body started to tingle and get numb. I asked the nurse "am I supposed to feel tingly sensations?" She asks, "where are you feeling it?" I replied, "in my right arm." She calls my doctor back who then asks me to squeeze his hand first with my left hand then with my right hand. I squeeze hard with my left hand. I can't feel my right hand - it feels numb and weak. "Squeeze as hard as you can" my doctor says. In my head i'm saying "i'm squeezing as hard as I can." He asks me to lift my right arm, my right leg. I can't lift them. I am overwhelmed with emotions. I am just coming out of the anesthesia, my heart is still burning with pain and I can no longer feel the right side of my body. Vicki is holding my hand and rubbing my head. The nurse is lovingly asking me how i'm doing. Tears start to fall. What's happening? Did I have a stroke? I can't stop my tears. I am grateful for my friend Vicki and the nurse who gently wipe the tears from my eyes and continue to comfort me.

My doctor says he is going to have a neurologist come in to see me. In 5 minutes a neurologist shows up. He asks me to do a bunch of things. My left side is strong but I can barely feel my right side. I want to just cry. I can answer his questions. My brain seems like it's working fine so why can't I move the right side of my body? Why do I feel so weak? He tells me that he's going to send me down for an MRI of the brain/neck. In less than 10 minutes I am being wheeled down and within minutes have been transferred over to the MRI machine and am laying face up, motionless, for 45 minutes as I hear loud noises, feel my body vibrating and feel contrast being shot through my veins.

I am wheeled back to recovery where I remain for about an hour before I am taken up to my room. The pain in my chest has dissipated -- the drugs must be working. My doctor reminds me that they burned my heart so it's not surprising that I feel pain. I start noticing sensation in the right side of my body slowly coming back. The neurologist comes to tell me that the MRI comes back negative for hemorraghing and stroke. I am so relieved. He is able to tell the sensations are starting to come back and tells me that it could be my body reacting to the drugs. He tells me, with a smile, your brain is normal and I can give you a certified copy of that so that you can show that to your friends! :) It takes a little while but eventually the strength and sensation return to the right side of my body.

When I am up in my room the nurse tells me that I can get up to go to the bathroom. I have been laying still for several hours and the entry site on my leg that they use to get to my heart should now be clotted. I slowly stand up from my bed and shortly after I am up my nurse looks at me with concern and says 'you're bleeding. I need for you to sit back down on the bed'. I look down at my right leg and my gown is drenched with blood, there is blood on the hospital floor and my leg has blood dripping down. I didn't feel anything because there is still some numbness in my right leg. The nurse has me lay flat on my back. I'm feeling lightheaded and somewhat nauseated and like i'm going to pass out. The nurse applies pressure on the incision to stop the bleeding and they start fluids on me again. After that little bleeding episode I am back to bed rest and am told it will be another hour or so before they will let me try to stand up again. It doesn't surprise me that I had bleeding problems again ... they tell me it's uncommon to have bleeding problems but unfortunately I seem to fall into the category of the minority .... fortunately they only went through a vein (and not an artery) so stopping the bleeding wasn't too much of an issue.

As the day went on I started feeling much better. I regained full sensation of my right side, the chest pain completely went away and I had no more bleeding episodes. I was also told that my heart was beating in sinus rhythm, meaning normal rhythm. There were only occasional PVCs, which is 'normal.' I was able to sleep for 5 hours straight.

My cardiologist came to see me the next morning to check on me. He's such a great doctor and I feel so blessed to have him on my healthcare team. He said I gave him a scare with the  numbness on my right side and he was concerned that I had had a mini-stroke. I thanked him profusely for everything and for helping me get back to my normal heart rhythm so that I can now sleep through the night! For me this is the greatest gift after not having uninterrupted sleep for 2 and a half months! I will go back to see him at the end of July for a 2 month followup. We hopefully have one of my heart issues resolved for now and he said he will just  need to keep monitoring me closely for my other heart issue (left ventricular noncompaction - LVNC).  I ask him more about what we can do for the LVNC and if it is progressive. He says it is progressive. Eventually the structural weakening in my left ventricle will lead to weakening of my heart. There are also other things he said he needs to watch for such as arrthymia in the top chambers of my heart which could lead to strokes; he also needs to closely watch for electrical problems in the left ventricle of my heart which is more concerning that electrical problems in my right ventricle. I ask him how long will it take for my heart to weaken? He tells me it won't happen overnight ... "a year, two years, maybe ten, maybe more ..." The key is to stay on top of it. In my head, I say to myself ... this all sounds so familiar with the journey i've been taking to deal with the cancer/pre-cancer in my breast.

For now, I am simply grateful that the electrical problems have been resolved. I am grateful for the incredible people I have in my life ... and of course, my beloved animals (Ahnung, Missy and Mister) ... I am grateful to be able to put my head down on my pillow and fall asleep.