Saturday, August 15, 2015

Life's journey - uncertainty, trust, intention, purpose, passion

It's been a while since I have written for my blog. My blog ... my writing ... was such an important part of my journey as I prepared for the eventual crossing over to the spirit world of my soul dog, Ahnung. We are approaching the 2 year anniversary of when I held my sweet girl, surrounded by friends and a community, as she took her last breath and set her body free. It is time to begin writing again.

The pain, the grief of losing Ahnung was so deep but my sweet girl taught me so much about living, watching, listening ... Being. Letting Go. And that first night without her I wanted to run from the pain; my heart felt like it was being put through a shredder. That night, I prayed that my heart would stopping beating so I could be with my Ahnung. I wanted to drink again. I wanted to numb a pain I didn't know what to do with, but then I kept 'hearing' and experiencing and feeling Ahnung's presence and energy and wisdom .... asking me to simply 'Stay. Be.' 

And I promised Ahnung I wouldn't run from the pain and the darkness and the demons that would rear their ugly head (alcohol, old ways of coping ...). My prayers changed, 'Ahnung, I need you. Teach me to feel you when I can't see you. Teach me to listen and to keep my heart open.  Teach me to be okay with standing still, closing my eyes, and trusting, that yes, this pain shall pass. Teach me to ride the waves of grief, to make friends with grief, to honor and embrace that which hurts me and scares me ... Teach me to simply trust, to let go, to Be Okay with having you ripped from my life ... my heart ... just 5 short years after you came to be with me. This chapter has ended, but you tell me, there is still so much more to come in the Book of Life.

It has been a journey. The waves of grief almost drowned me but I could feel Ahnung's energy and presence every step of the way. She was my life jacket and my guide through the darkest moments. 

On October 11, 2013 (just 6 weeks after Ahnung's crossing over to the spirit world) and on the 5 year anniversary (October 11, 2008) when I met her for the first time at Red Lake Reservation .. I believe she guided a puppy to me. There were many times I remember saying, 'Ahnung, I wonder what you were like as a puppy.' Ahnung was around 2 years old when she came into my life in 2008 (many thanks to a dear friend and a Red Lake elder, Karen Good, of Red Lake Rosie's Rescue). She had just had a litter of 8 puppies and we soon found out she had heart worm, lymes, coccidia, no front teeth (apparently grinding it down in search of food), and pellets in one of her nipples and in her chest. Karen told me the day she introduced me to Ahnung, 'There's something special about this one, Marilou.' And exactly 5 years later, Karen happened to be at Leech Lake Reservation with me when this puppy was surrendered by a Leech Lake tribal member. The puppy looked so much like Ahnung. I did NOT want a puppy nor was I ready to bring another dog into my household ... but there were too many signs I couldn't ignore: she was the first surrender, she looks just like Ahnung, the day the puppy is surrendered happens to be the exact day (October 11) of when I first met Ahnung. There were actually 2 puppies surrendered but I felt an immediate bond to this one puppy. I had my other Leech Lake rez dog Legacy with me and he does not do well with all dogs so I told myself, if Legacy doesn't like this puppy then I can't bring her home because my commitment is to Legacy. The first time Legacy met this little puppy, they immediately bonded. I am sure not a coincidence .. the work again, of Ahnung. 

As I struggled with what to do, I received guidance from two elders. Karen Good (Red Lake elder) said to me, 'Marilou, sometimes it's not up to us' .... and a friend who is a Leech Lake elder said to me, 'Pray to Ahnung. Ask her to guide you.' 

I didn't feel ready but I asked Ahnung and it was clear I needed to bring this puppy home. She also guided me to name this puppy 'fire' in ojibwe, and so I did .. I named the puppy, Ishkode (Ish-ko-day). 

It became clear to me why Ahnung brought Ishkode (aka 'Ishka') to me and why she wanted me to name her 'fire.' This puppy was a bundle of energy and full of fire. She made me laugh (and yes, made me scream in frustration as she would drag gutters off of my house, dig her way out of the yard, drag shovels and dog houses around the yard ...). Ahnung gave me 6 weeks to grieve, and then she dropped a puppy in my lap. It's almost 2 years now since Ishka has been with me and there is no doubt she has her own personality but there is without a doubt Ahnung's energy, spirit and wisdom sprinkled and in her being. 

I now know why Ahnung brought Ishkode to me. Yes, to help me in my healing journey and to bring joy and laughter into my heart again .. but now I realize that it is also because Ishkode needs to continue the work she began up at Leech Lake Reservation. Ishka needs to continue her work of being an ambassador dog for reservation dogs, to help in healing, and to be a voice for her people ... so Ishkode and I are now working towards becoming a pet therapy team. 

There is a new chapter beginning in our Book of Life. This chapter reads, 'Ishkode: Igniting the fire of passion and purpose.'

In a volunteer capacity, I have been actively involved in animal welfare for the past 9 years. My work and passion have now expanded to being a voice not just for animals but for tribal nations. Ahnung has guided me to take on a new role as Vice President of Community Healing Programs for The Native America Humane Society and with Ahnung's guidance and the fire of Ishkode, my hope is that I can be of service to tribal communities and indigenous people and their animals.

Stay tuned for Ahnung's work to continue, through the spirit and fire of the little Leech Lake rez puppy she chose .... may the adventures begin!! :)

Ahnung - photo by Sarah Beth Photography

Ishkode - October, 2013
Ishkode - August, 2015
Ishkode and Legacy - rez buddies


  1. Hi,
    I have just discovered your blog "by chance"...beautiful post! Will be spending more time reading it and will also visit the websites of the Native America Humane Society and Red Lake Rosie's Rescue. My name is Marie-Louise and I am writing you from Nova Scotia.

    1. Thank you Marie-Louise for your very kind words :) ~ Marilou