Monday, October 21, 2013

Welcome all who come ....

Ahnung in early 2009
My sweet Ahnung came into my life at a time I needed her. In the short 5 years I was blessed to have her be my guide and to walk along side of me she taught me so much. She continues to teach and guide me from the spirit world. My heart was ripped into a million pieces that Sunday afternoon ... August 25, 2013, when we set her spirit free. Yet she continued to guide me even in my darkest moments. She taught me how to embrace even the darkest moments and the deepest pain. She taught me how to make friends with Grief .... how to invite her into my home and to set up my guest room for her. She taught me how to Be with her in a new way ... how to listen with my heart, how to notice the signs all around me, how to be comfortable in the silence .... to know when to ground myself and when to bend and flow. She taught me to simply trust ... to trust our journey. She also taught me that there is a greater purpose for why I am here ... why she was here .. and why she led me to Ishkode (ish ko day) ... we all have a purpose, a much greater purpose for why we are here ....

She taught me how to welcome all who come ... even when, quite frankly, I wanted to slam the door shut on Grief who insisted on arriving at my door step with many suitcases. Thank you Ahnung for teaching me to make friends with all who come ...

This being human is a guest-house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture.

Still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi

Ahnung - Final Celebration (August 25, 2013)

Ishkode (means 'fire' in ojibway) .. continuing Ahnung's work

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Letter to Grief .... miigwech and safe travels

Ahnung - photo by Sarah Beth Photography (August, 2012)
Dear Grief,

It's been almost 7 weeks now since you came to live with me in my guest room. There were days I wanted to throw you out .. there were days and weeks I locked you in the room, pretending like you weren't there. But you were there, and every time I opened up the door, the pain in my heart was unbearable. You reached out your hand to me and reminded me of the words you said to me as I prepared for the loss of my Ahnung:

Ahnung is in your heart. You are One. She is in your blood. She is in your bones. She is in the Earth. She is in the Air you breath. She is the Fire inside of you. She is in the oceans, the rivers and lakes, the rocks. When she is gone, she will live on in you.”

and then just days after Ahnung's spirit left me, you said to me:

"When I visit you in waves know that I come with your Ahnung. Ride the waves with us. Open your heart … in the cracks and shattered pieces of your heart, let the light in, let the water in …  you must also let the sharp edges cut you. Sink into the waves. Hold onto me, hold onto Ahnung. One day I promise you, you will ride the waves with us and I will leave you. You  will learn a new dance and a new way to Be with Ahnung.”

Dear Grief ... it has been a journey, and not an easy one. I know the journey isn't over but there is a new path I must embark on. I was learning to Be with Ahnung in a new way. I was learning to feel her presence and to notice her in the earth, the rocks, the oceans, the birds, the squirrels .... and now, she has led me to a little puppy from Leech Lake Reservation who is to carry on her work ... she has led me to Ishkode ('fire' in ojibway ... ISH ko day). Ahnung is asking me to take a new path. So dear Grief, with a renewed fire in my belly, and the spirit of Ahnung in Ishkode, it is time for you to move on. I know you will return, and you will visit me. And when you do, I will welcome you with open arms, and we will sit by the fireplace and have some tea. Miigwech (thank you) Grief for teaching me to Be with you ... miigwech for teaching me to keep my heart open, so I could heal my heart.

Safe travels dear friend ....

Ishkode - October 16, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ahnung's gift to me .... Ishkode (means 'fire' in ojibway)

Ishkode (ISH ko day)
I headed up to Leech Lake last Thursday ... my first Leech Lake Legacy spay/neuter and wellness clinic without my Ahnung. There was a heaviness in my heart as I packed on Wednesday night as memories of my sweet girl came flooding in my heart. She has been the fire and the inspiration behind Leech Lake Legacy, a non-profit I co-founded to help the animals and pet owners of Leech Lake Reservation . But I could feel Ahnung telling me I needed to go. It had been over 6 weeks since she crossed over to the spirit world. She left me 2 weeks after our last clinic in August ... my gut tells me Ahnung orchestrated the timing of everything that has happened. She knew I needed to be surrounded by a community of friends and so she guided me to continue on with her Final Celebration of Life party on August 25 at the Animal Humane Society ... where we celebrated her life and where I held her, surrounded by friends, as she took her last breath and I felt the weight of her head fall into my arms. I promised her I would embrace the grief, as painful as it was, because I knew it was what she wanted me to do so that I could keep my heart open. And so the journey through grief has been a very difficult and painful one, but every step of the way I felt Ahnung with me and she has shown her presence to me in different ways.

So on this last trip up to Leech Lake I brought Legacy with me because I needed to feel her presence with me. I look at Legacy and he reminds me of the joy he brought to Ahnung and their playful relationship. We arrived at the Country Inn at Walker on Thursday around 4:00 pm. I checked in and unloaded my car and decided I needed to go for a walk along the same path Ahnung and I had walked by Leech Lake. It was a beautiful fall day. On the one hand I was excited about our next clinic and being up at Leech Lake Reservation and being around a loving community ... on the other hand, I ached for Ahnung and needed to just feel her with me. So Legacy and I went for a walk. "Just Be with all the emotions ... don't run." Ahnung has continued to guide me from the spirit world and to give me the strength to continue the work she began.
Leech Lake
We continued walking ... as the trees opened up and we could catch a full view of Leech Lake up above us I saw what appeared to be a large bird flying towards us. At first I couldn't tell what kind of bird it was. It flew closer and closer to us. In moments, the bald eagle swooped down and hovered right above us. There was a momentary pause, and in that instance all I could feel and sense was Ahnung. 'I'm here." And the eagle flew away. There was no beginning or end, or life or death in that moment. We were One. I said outloud, 'miigwech (thank you) Ahnung' ... and my heart was filled with her spirit and I knew I was exactly where I needed to be ... continuing the work at Leech Lake Reservation.

Legacy and I continued our walk and then headed to meet the others at the Leech Lake Tribal Police headquarters to set up and prepare for our 6th spay/neuter and wellness clinic at Leech Lake Reservation. On Friday, day 1 of the clinic, around noon time we had our first surrendered pup brought in. A Leech Lake resident arrived with two puppies. I happened to be out front at the intake desk when the pups were surrendered. My heart stopped momentarily when I saw the puppies .. one
Ishkode (then Athena) getting checked out by Dr. Heather
of them in particular reminded me of Ahnung. I also knew all surrendered animals at this clinic would be given a name beginning with the letter 'A' (Jenny Fitzer, the other co-founder of Leech Lake Legacy set up a system of naming surrendered animals each week with the same letter of the alphabet so that we can track them through the process as we transfer them to our partner shelters/rescues to be placed up for adoption). At the moment I felt Ahnung's spirit again. The pups were given wellness checks and their initial vaccinations by one of our volunteer vets, Dr. Heather. Both were covered with ticks. Was Ahnung trying to tell me something?

On Friday I would take the little pup out (she was named Athena) ... the resemblance of little Athena to Ahnung was remarkable: she had the same markings and even has a little white tip on her tail and a white splotch on her back. Over and over again throughout Friday and into Saturday I was being asked if I would be taking her home. I kept saying 'no'. My head said there is no way I could bring a puppy into my home. I wasn't ready to take on raising a puppy yet I didn't know if Ahnung was trying to send me signs. On Saturday, Karen Good (Ahnung's rescuer and a Red Lake elder from Red Lake Reservation) was at our clinic. She too asked if I would be taking baby Nung home (that soon became her name at the clinic).
Ishkode and Legacy
I said I just couldn't. She looked at me, and with the same wise elder look she gave me when I first met her in 2008 and also met Ahnung, she said calmly and purposefully, "Ahnung is giving you many signs. Marilou, I would seriously think about it. Sometimes it is no longer our choice." Later that night, I introduced Legacy to baby Nung. I trusted Ahnung would guide me .... Legacy can be temperamental with some dogs and I have to watch him with new dogs he meets. He and baby Nung hit it off within minutes.

That night in my hotel room I tossed and turned. Ahnung, please guide me ... please let me know what I need to do. And then the thought occurred to me that it was in October, 2008 when I first met Ahnung up at Red Lake Reservation. I didn't remember the exact day in October. I got out of bed and looked up the first photo I took of Ahnung in 2008 .... October 10, 2008. I felt chills run through my body. It was exactly 5 years ago. Ahnung was clearly leading me to the puppy. I could hear her telling me I needed to name the puppy 'fire' in ojibway.
Spending time with little Ish at the clinic

So Sunday morning I brought baby Nung home with me. Her name is now Ishkode (ISH ko day) which means 'fire' in ojibway. There are striking resemblances between Ishkode and Ahnung not just in appearance but in personality. I know Ishkode will have her own unique personality ... but she, like Ahnung, has those wise soulful eyes. And when I hold Ishkode, I feel Ahnung's presence even stronger. I didn't plan on bringing a puppy home, but apparently Ahnung must feel like Ishkode must walk alongside of me so that we can continue the work we are doing at Leech Lake Reservation. So sweet nung-nung, I am sorry I kept resisting the idea of bringing little Ish home .. I am sorry I needed you to send me more signs. I needed to be sure that this is what you wanted me to do. I hear you sweet girl and I will continue to keep listening. I had always wondered what Ahnung looked like as a pup .. well, looks like she has given me the answer.

There will be many more stories forth coming ... Ahnung's spirit continues to live on, both in Legacy, Ishkode, me ... and in an entire community of people. Miigwech Ahnung for continuing to guide us all from the spirit world.

If you would like to follow along in the continued journey of Ahnung's spirit and Ishkode (and Legacy), follow us on Ahnung's facebook page:

Ahnung - July, 2013
Ishkode exploring the backyard
Ishkode's first trip to Woody's Pet Food Deli

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My first Leech Lake Legacy spay/neuter and wellness clinic without Ahnung

Ahnung and Legacy - March, 2012 (1st clinic)
I can't help but feel a heaviness in my heart as I pack and get ready to head up to Leech Lake Reservation for our 6th spay/neuter and wellness clinic. This time I won't have Ahnung by my side, at least not physically. The first Leech Lake Legacy clinic was held in March, 2012 (less than a year after we began our efforts to help animals and pet owners at Leech Lake Reservation). She has been my co-pilot and my inspiration and has been with me at every clinic ... March, 2012; August, 2012; March, 2013; May, 2013 and her last clinic was at the end of August, 2013. I have never driven up to Leech Lake without her with me. I have never stayed at a hotel and not had her with me. I know she is with me in my heart and in my spirit ... and I will bring her baby brother Legacy with me instead .... her spirit is in Legacy and I will continue to do the work she inspired me to begin. Tonight, I just want to share some photos of my sweet girl from previous clinics ...

Always in my heart sweet girl .... you will be coming with me as I head up to Leech Lake tomorrow ... in spirit form and in the hearts of so many others whose hearts and lives you have touched and transformed. And thank you sweet girl for leaving sprinkles of your amazing way in your little brother Legacy. He makes me smile :)

August, 2012 clinic

Hanging out by the intake desk at the August, 2012 clinic

Going for a walk at the August, 2012 clinic

Getting a kiss from auntie Jen (August, 2012 clinic)

Walk break with my sweet girl (August, 2012)

March, 2013 clinic - temps were sub zero!!

Her comfy blanket in our hotel room in Walker 
May, 2013 clinic
Gearing up for the educational session (August, 2013)
Belly rubs from Cecilia and Ben (August, 2013)
August, 2013
Rally course with Little Ben and Kate (Aug., 2013)
Leech Lake Legacy education team - Aug., 2013
nung-nung .. hopeful for treats (Aug., 2013)

Belly rubs ... May, 2013 clinic

Friday, October 4, 2013

Leech Lake Legacy Magnet fundraiser

Here's an easy way to to help Ahnung continue her Legacy of Love .... Ahnung was the fire and the inspiration behind Leech Lake Legacy. Consider purchasing a magnet to support her efforts (along with Legacy) to help her friends at Leech Lake Reservation!

All proceeds go directly towards helping animals and pet owners on Leech Lake Reservation through our various programs: transport and assistance in re-homing strays and surrendered animals, spay/neuter and wellness clinics and educational/outreach programs.

$3.00 for postcard size magnet (4 x 6) and $1.00 for the smaller size of the Rez Dogs Rock magnet. If you need the items to be shipped please add $1.00 for S&H.

Magnet style and size