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What’s one more dog?

I’m not going to pretend that loving Jackson has been easy. Those of you who know us well, know of our many struggles. Physical, mental and emotional. I am not doing all of the Instagram posts to make anyone think I am this awesome dog mom or to think that it’s all fun and games until the end when they deteriorate. Our story is quite the opposite, in fact.
I share this with you because when I was struggling with Jackson in the early days and even just a few years ago, I only ever heard these amazingly happy rescue dog stories and it made me feel guilty and bad.
There were times I wanted to give up on him. There were things he did that made me feel things about a dog that I had never felt about any animal. That made me feel like a horrible human being. I am not going to give you a storyline of all of the trials and tribulations because that could be the size of a novel. Let me just say this…at his worst he attacked me in my sleep on Christmas eve. I know I can be judged either way here and trust me, I have been and I have had lots of concerned people give me advice, but, now isn’t the time for that and all these years later, I have learned that not giving up on him is one of the best things I have ever done.
Our story began one day way back in 2004. My mom and a dear friend that is no longer with us, Katy, had started a company called the Bone Yard. The Bone Yard offered pet gifts and Katy and my mom were at the Pet Expo in Novi spreading the word about their new company. Scott and I went to show our support. We had no idea what we were in for.
To set the stage of where we were in our lives…We had two dogs at home. Both had special needs. I was in school full-time and I also worked full-time.
Three words… Last Chance Rescue.
There he was barking his head off, emaciated, stressed, bloody and missing hair in several places.
Dammit.
Someone was sure to want this guy, right?
We left our name with the coordinator of the rescue and said we would take him if nobody else wanted him. We hung out with him for about an hour and just couldn’t seem to pull ourselves away.
I talked about him all day. I called my cousin, who I thought was going to talk some sense into me. I thought she was going to say “Sam is old and needs extra attention. Hank has health issues that are very expensive and high maintenance. You are in school and work full-time. You really shouldn’t take this on right now.” Nope. She said “What’s one more dog?” She never met him, but, she knew I was supposed to have him. She is no longer with us today. We lost her two years ago. I think about her every time I look at my boy. She knew he had lessons to teach us.
I couldn’t sleep.
I called the rescue in the morning. Yay! He has a home.
Not so fast.
Thanksgiving. Ring…ring…
“This is so and so from Last Chance Rescue. You said you were interested in Jackson? He attacked the couples dog that he went home with and they have returned him.”
I will spare you the conversation Scott and I had before we called the rescue back and made arrangements to pick him up at a hardware store in Howell the next day.
We picked him up. It was odd that they didn’t check us out the way that most rescues do. We didn’t even have to do the paperwork that they had warned us we would have to do when we told them to call us if he didn’t get a home.
In the car on the way home he picked up toys and threw them in the air like a puppy. He was so much joy packed into an emaciated pitiful body.
Later we figured out why the adoption process wasn’t a process at all. He attacked my senior dog Sam, but, she retaliated and showed him who ran the house. He unveiled a whole host of things that would make him extremely hard to adopt out. Including oddly placed aggression. Later we also uncovered some health problems that many people choose not to treat, but, opt to make the “humane” choice. We decided to treat.
One more dog will…
Break your heart.
Stress you out.
Strain you financially.
Take up all your time.
Keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Wreck your plans.
Frustrate the hell out of you.
Make you jealous. (Yes, I am not proud of it, but, I was jealous of Jackson at one point because Scott often chose him over me and their relationship together was easy.)
Gross you out. (Perianal fistulas caused some pretty disgusting stuff. Sometimes I was horrified to have him around the furniture or in my car…again, not proud.)
Hurt you. Physically, mentally and emotionally.
But, the truth I see now about what he really is…
A professor.
A spiritual guide.
Pure unconditional love.
A best friend.
An entertainer.
A healer.
An inspiration.
And he is my soul mate.
Last week I started feeling like I wasted so much time. I wished I had always felt the way I do about him now. I felt like if I had only felt this way earlier, he could have had a better life for longer.
What I realize now is Jackson was a different dog then and I was a different person. We changed each other. And that happened exactly the way it was supposed to. Struggles are meant to be and they are just as beautiful a part of the journey as are the joyous times.
Animals are here to teach us. But, I realize now, we are here to teach them too.
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What I See

I have recently come to terms with the day I will have to say goodbye to Jackson. I have done this many times over the 11 years that we have been blessed enough to share a home with this beautiful soul. He hasn’t had an easy life and it certainly hasn’t been easy being his mom. That’s a story for another day.

My boy is declining in physical body and, in fact, has been since the day we got him. He is a fighter, though, and he has defied the odds.

I love my dogs. That is no secret. Some might call it obsessed. Some people think that my judgement is clouded and that I can’t see the writing on the wall. I can feel the pity they feel for me when they think I am in denial of what is happening to my baby. Strangers give us the looks too. Like they feel for me, but, think I am being selfish for keeping this physically broken down hound on this earth. I assure you I am not selfishly or desperately hanging on.

I see something that you cannot see. You couldn’t possibly. You don’t know him like I do. You may know his physical body. I know his soul. Selfishness is the furthest thing from what I am when it comes to Jackson. The sadness that is felt when your buddy is deteriorating before your eyes can’t be compared to anything else. The fear of how he will pass, when he will pass and if it will be peaceful visits you when you least expect it. The well meaning words you play over and over in your head that came from people who love you can leave you questioning your own sanity. Watching their functionality dwindle is like having someone reach in and squeeze your heart and throat as hard as they can. All of that could be alleviated if I did the “humane” thing.

I used to pray every day that he would go in his sleep so that I would never have to make a decision for him. Now I pray every day that Jackson lives out his days on his own terms and that I have the strength and courage to make that happen for him. He calls the shots now. He will decide when the curtain closes. He will tell me when and if it is time to make a decision. My fear and pain will not dictate his fate.

The day I brought him into my life was the day I committed to providing what he needs until he leaves this earth. Doing the “humane” thing at this point would really just be about my pain, not his. That, for me, feels selfish. If you really think about the word “humane”, when talking about this topic, in this way, it is selfish.  The word itself has the word human in it, not canine.

Part of having a dog is knowing that you are going to suffer. Parts of it are going to suck. They get old, smelly and incontinent. I have had human relatives who ended up the same, but, I would bet they wouldn’t tell you they wish we would do the “humane” thing. I am not talking about pain at the Kavorkian worthy level. I am talking about shit that comes with getting really old. Pain and suffering is just part of being alive.

 

I am not oblivious to people’s well meaning thoughts and concerns. They just don’t see what I see.

You see his bones that no longer carry muscle mass. You see a white face that is sunken in and eyes that are tired and always seem to have eye boogers. You see him lose his balance and have trouble navigating even flat terrain. You smell him coming from a mile away even when he has just been bathed. You see rotten teeth and growths on his body. You see patches where his hair has fallen out and his neck that has been shaved where the hair won’t grow back. You see dandruff and feel fur that is no longer soft by any stretch of the imagination. You hear his bark that is weak, but, takes all of his energy. You pat him on his head with only your finger tips because you don’t really want to touch him and I don’t blame you. You aren’t his person. You aren’t emotionally invested the way I am. He wasn’t purposefully put into your life. I am his person. He showed up in my life so that I could be his person.

2015-07-21 21.42.17What I see is the present being that he is. The soul that came to this earth to teach me. I see the dog whose physical body isn’t too far off from the condition he came to us in as he was starving, bloody and missing hair. I see the dog that has endured shitty health problems, and unknown and an obviously traumatic past and a stranger blasting him over the head with his cane in his very own backyard, yet he still loves unconditionally, hunts and protects relentlessly. I see past the clouds in his eyes and into his soul. He tells me he is not done. He is tired, but, his work here is not complete. He tells me his body struggles, but, he does not want to be preserved, he wants to live. He wants to see and do things. He tells me that even though he can’t physically do what he once could, he still has enjoyment in what he can do and though it might make me sad to see that he can’t participate in some things, he is coming to terms and finds joy in observing and reminiscing. He tells me that just because he falls down, doesn’t mean he wants to quit. He tells me that just because he gets out of breath doesn’t mean he wants to stay home. He assures me he is happy and tells me to be happy too.

Jackson is going to leave me. It is painful to say. My pain aside, I will uphold my commitment until he has finished teaching me what it really means to live in the moment and love without condition. I am grateful for every single moment I have with him. Rest assured, he is too.

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Who are you listening to?

What in the world does it mean to have a best body?

I was in Target this afternoon and saw Us Magazine’s cover this week. It has Jennifer Lopez on it and the title is Best Bodies.

It struck me. What the hell does that even mean? How many women and young girls see that cover, compare themselves and then dismiss their body as less than?

How many guys see that and a million other covers over the years and compare the women in the real world?

I realize this sells magazines. But, here’s the deal.

They are strictly talking about looks, so, call that shit out. Looks aren’t the only aspect of what makes a body awesome. And who the hell are they to tell me what body looks best? How many people believe them?

Think for a minute about who the people are that are telling us who’s hot and who’s not. They are getting paid a whole bunch of money to figure out how to use our insecurities to make us “need” to buy stuff.

It’s simple really. They get us to think we need things by making us feel like we are not enough.

If we all felt secure in our own skin, it wouldn’t be good for a lot of industries. In fact, marketing to us would have to take on a whole new approach. The more confident and secure I am in myself, the less money I spend. When I am confident and secure, I don’t need anything outside of myself to feel good. I don’t feel like I need to fix things. Media doesn’t get to me.

I know that if I feel like something needs fixing, it isn’t about spending money.

You don’t need a magazine to tell you who has the best body. YOU have the best body. So do I.

I am not always in love with how every part of my body looks, but, that isn’t all a body has to offer. Ironically, when you honor it for all it has to offer, it looks better too.

My body is constantly working to correct itself. Even when I am not nice to it.

My body takes me places even when it is screaming for rest. It deals with what I give it.

My body constantly looks for balance and has systems to keep brining me back to balance all while dealing with chronic illness. Your body is doing the same thing even if you don’t have a chronic illness.

You know the things you do to treat your body poorly. Guess what? It’s so forgiving that it works to counteract your carelessness. It is working to counteract the environment. It is built to live. You cannot live while comparing yourself to bodies on magazines.

I encourage you to honor your body for being the best body you will ever have.

If you are sick and tired of the rules of how to look and what you need to do to get there sign up for the Unruly Rules for looking good, feeling great and living happy. It’s free and you can sign up below. No BS. Just simplicity.

Keep the conversation going. Comment below.

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The Gift of Body Hatred

I have had chronic pain almost my entire life. It started between the ages of 12 and 13. It has been over 30 years.

I was sexually assaulted the first time when I was between four and five years old. I went on to be sexually assaulted multiple times as a young teen and as an adult I was assaulted by an acupuncturist after he had all the needles in place. I trusted him and believed he could heal me. In fact, I trusted each person who assaulted me.

Being that there are other women in my life, I can say that I grew up hearing lots of so-called “harmless” body judgement. It’s just the way life was. It’s just what women did. It wasn’t unusual to watch the Miss America pageant with my cousins while judging the contestants bodies, hair, clothes and makeup. We were pretty skinny kids back then. It wasn’t long before I was saying the same judgmental things that we would say about the beauty contestants to myself. I was comparing my worst to the beauty contestant’s best. A best that we picked a part looking for flaws.

It’s not surprising that I grew to hate my body. From such a young age my body caused me mental and physical pain. I blamed my body for my assaults. I grew to a point I blamed my entire being for my physical illness and pain. I thought I deserved it. All of it. The assaults. The incurable disease. The pain. The struggle.

So why in the world would I see this as a gift?

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Happy No-resolution New Year’s

If you have been following for any amount of time, you know I can’t stand new year’s resolutions. I won’t get into why other than that they don’t work and they generally make people feel bad about themselves pretty quickly.

What I do believe in is looking back on the year and reflecting on what went right and what you have accomplished. Spend some time with the things that make you feel good about yourself. Then, what didn’t go so well? What mistakes did you make? What lessons did you learn from them? Is there some area of your life that you keep getting in your own way? If you aren’t sure, is there an area that you keep making the same mistakes or you just feel stuck? This is a good area to enlist help in. Do that in 2015.

I don’t think this should only happen annually, though. Especially if you have a vision you are working toward. I like to check in with myself on Sundays before I start the week. How I did the week before is my key to what needs attention the next week. Keep it simple and shut the critical voices in your head up while you are doing it. Don’t let them have a say in what your next week is going to be like.

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