Friday, July 16, 2010

Mid-Life Growing Pains ~ Going Through The Changes and Gaining Confidence...

"My topic is about transitions or the stuff out of which life is made, liminal and archetypal situations. The word liminal refers to being over the threshold but not through to the other side. It comes from the Latin word "limen" meaning that place in between. When you're in a transition zone, you're neither who you used to be before you got into this transition, nor have you crossed over that threshold to where you will be settled next...There is always an ending of one phase of your life in order to develop and grow into another phase."

Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimmage

by Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen 

2010 will always be remembered as the year I was catapulted into a whole new reality, spent a lot of time sad, a lot of time scared, and seeping in, around the edges, feeling a kind of joy and even triumphant as I've learned more than I ever thought I needed (or wanted) to know.

My mother passed away in December of 2009 after 5 very heartbreakingly hard years of cancer. She passed ten days before Christmas and the world shifted on its axis. I remember dear May Sarton who became a very special friend to me in the last 3 years of her life writing in one of her journals about becoming an orphan at 50. May, like I, was an only child. Her mother had died some years before but her father passed when she was 50 years old, and no matter what kind of relationship you have had with your parents, when the last one dies (my father was much older than my mother and had passed more than 20 years before), no matter how old you are you really do become an orphan. It is a very strange phenomenon and, I think, indescribable unless and until you have gone through it. 

Too, I loved my mother very much as she loved me but we had had a very challenging relationship throughout most of our lives, gratefully finding peace at the end, but when she passed the family dynamic changed all around me. I was not prepared for this. I lost a mother and most of the family members I had grown up with for a number of reasons. It was a shock and the sense of loss was multiplied tenfold. My mother was the hub of the wheel in our family and after she was gone people kind of drifted off in various directions. I felt cut off in ways I had not ever imagined or thought possible so that in addition to just losing my mother I felt like I was on a raft set out to sea with no land or people visible in any direction. Later I thought that perhaps we have to feel that alone to truly look inside and discover what is there, who we are, who I am as a woman in my own right, not determined by the thoughts, feelings, experiences and judgments of the people around me. It is disorienting, freeing, terrifying, but necessary if we are to move forward. 

In January of 2010 I sold my town home and bought my first home on my own at 55. I was elated, excited, a fenced back yard for my dogs in an older sweet cottagey home in a quiet neighborhood, just perfect! Unfortunately as I was getting into the house there was more work to be done than had been imagined and the inspector didn't quite give a full report or the best most precise picture of what was to come. The toilets had to be replaced, most of all the whole roof had to be replaced, and there were various and sundry other things that had to be fixed that I hadn't planned on or expected. Now here's the thing...

I am embarrassed to say that at 56 my three children, 33, 30 and 27 know more about the practical things of the world than I do and are leading exemplary lives. As a divorced woman, a woman who got married when many women were still staying at home with their children, and we were homeschooling besides, my husband took care of everything. I was shocked to learn how little I knew (and know) but I went from my parents home to my married home and the larger more practical aspects of living in the world were always taken care of by my parents and then my husband. For the 11 years of our separation and subsequent divorce after which I got alimony for awhile there were still people in the picture who helped quite a lot including my dear ex-husband who is a wonderful man, and my mother who helped with a number of things. I never felt alone or like I didn't have someone to fall back on at least to ask questions or advice. So in Dr. Bolen's terms when my mother passed, my relationship with my husband finally severed in any financial or practical way, I looked out at the world terrified, excited, with a great deal of trepidation, and felt, a large part of the time, like Alice down the rabbit hole, replete with strange creatures all around me (roofers, plumbers, and whatnot) and I was signing contracts which I read over until my brain almost exploded and thank God my realtor and best friend were there to help me with that. 

It was exciting moving into the house and I do love it dearly and for the first few month just kind of drifted around in a dream going la-la-la I have my very own first house at 55 years old. I loved watching the dogs run and play in the big back yard (okay, the pugs more waddled than ran) and I began planning the garden. Here comes the first big Uh-Oh...

If you look back many entries at the January through March entries you will see pictures of the house, the huge Magic Ship that sits at the back and which I had painted wild colors, the flower boxes I had built (big ones) all along the back of the house and deck, and an area surrounded by a bright pink picket fence for my -- sigh -- English Cottage Garden. 

I am slumping in my chair as I write this...

I am a cottage gardener who typically has very large gardens replete with flowers, perennials, flowering trees, herbs all over everywhere, bulbs by the thousands, old-fashioned roses everywhere, and much much more. I had planned to turn my very large back yard, over several years of course, into a little garden paradise. That was winter. There were no leaves on the trees. While I was sitting in front of a crackling fire looking out the many windows of my studio overlooking the back yard my mind went wild as I ordered seeds and bulbs and sketched my dreams into what I hoped would be reality. 



By early spring I was planting like the Whirling Dervish of Seeds, singing la-la-la-la-la as I planted the flower boxes with seeds and bulbs, planted perennial hibiscus, and had whole garden areas mapped out. Mid-Spring the trees started leafing out and I thought, "Oh, isn't that pretty." By late spring my whole back yard was as if covered entirely by a canopy of gigantic old trees hanging and sweeping across the landscape. To wit, I live in a virtual forest when you step out the back of my house. I had a large part of the back fenced with a privacy fence for the dogs and also for my rather reclusive tendencies, but my property extends down to a creek with woods all around. That should have been my first clue. To say that the trees were like a canopy over the very large back yard doesn't quite give you the picture. Let me paint one for you. When I carried my wee little Babs, my precious little pug that I recently lost, out into the yard to go potty because she was deaf and blind, it could be raining (and I don't just mean sprinkling lightly) and we wouldn't get wet. You see what I mean? No sunshine at all. Nothing will grow in most of my yard, all of my carefully planted seeds in the thousands either didn't sprout or were so pitifully spindly before they just up and died that I could barely stand to look at them and kept apologizing as I went by.

Never mind the fact that because I DO live in a forest with a creek in the back in coastal Carolina with temps oh, say, around 100 degrees with 1000% humidity and the mosquitoes are past bad, I mean I've lived in other areas of the country and I've never known anything like it, you simply cannot walk out into the back yard without being eaten alive. Literally. A friend of mine walked out there and he said he had never seen them so bad. We are a water city with the ocean on one side, a river on the other, and a running creek at the back of my property. I believe that my mosquitoes perhaps called every mosquito in the Western Hemisphere to move into my back yard. Even wearing Off or this new contraption you hang on your person and it has a little fan and it is GUARANTEED to cover you head to toe and narry a mosquito will touch you only made my mosquitoes laugh. Nobody told them that the abovesaid sprays and contraptions were supposed to run them off, in fact, I believe I heard one of them say, "Surely you jest." I thought that was rude and uncalled for.

I cried. Yes, I'll admit it, I cried like a baby. With a room full of things to plant that didn't have a chance I was crestfallen. I have found a sunny area here or there and planted a few things but I can kiss my garden paradise goodbye. The whole yard would have to be a shade garden and the mosquitoes would eat the meat right off my bones before the first plant made it into the ground. And I'm not especially fond of most shade plants anyway. 

Then, one night, I became so overwhelmed and terrified I didn't know what to do with myself. All of the things one has to know to physically and practically be a home owner -- I don't mean painting and decorating and the fun stuff -- I knew nothing about. My learning curve has been so steep it would make Mount Olympus look like a molehill. Finally, after living terrified and depressed for weeks I finally started getting up and learning things. Bit by bit. I was trying to build Rome in a day and it just doesn't happen that way. And I will make mistakes. And some will likely be doozies, but I will learn from them. And I will get scared again and I will cry again and I will feel despair, but -- but now I know that I can learn what I need to learn, I can ask for help, I can find the people I need to do the things that need to be done if I can't do them myself, and one way or the other everything will be alright. Or as alright as things are for any of us in life. 

So here I am on the threshold, still in a liminal time, but I truly believe that if I am still teetering on the threshold I am coming closer to tipping over to the other side. By the time I'm here a year I will have lived through all of the seasons, I will have learned this house, know more and fear less. And there is something very empowering about that. 

It can be done. It will not be easy. It will be scary. It will be overwhelming, but it can be done. So now in a house full of dogs and parrots, with a forest out back, and a few flowers growing out front and things coming together inside and my fiber studio re-opened with fiber projects being done every day and a book underway I begin to feel like I will be alright. Of course you might not want to ask me that tomorrow, but right now I'm alright. And I also know that when I don't feel alright that those feelings will pass and I will be alright again. 

Today is a good day. I am incredibly grateful for all that I have. I am blessed to have my sweet little animal filled home and the pug snoring on the arm of my chair, and I will just keep on keeping on and follow the road wherever it takes me. I think I'm very near to crossing the threshold and moving on to the next phase. Yes, I'm fairly sure that I am, and it feels good.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Loving Babs ~ The Wee Little Girl Who Stole My Heart, Changed My Life, and Blessed Me With Her Presence...


I am dedicating this blog entry to our beloved vet. Dr. Bradler, and her wonderful husband Mark, who have cared for our animal companions for nearly 20 years and who have shown such grace, strength, and love all of these years, and who, in the end, made the experience of Babs passing out of this life and into the next a beautiful, peaceful, and deeply spiritual experience, even through all the tears. I treasure them, as we all do. I have never known an experience with a vet like we have with Dr. Bradler and her husband Mark who assists her and is always with her as they come to our home to visit and care for my sweet little ones, and I thank them both from the bottom of my heart. 

To Dr. B, and Mark, with love always, and more admiration and gratitude than I could ever express. Many thanks and much love to you both...

My wee tiny girl - And I had
to lighten the picture so you
can see her. She looked like a
tiny black blob in the picture

I have had dogs all of my life and a great variety of breeds and interesting mixes since my canine companions have come almost entirely from the Humane Society or a breed rescue as in the case of our big sweetheart Weesa, a Newfoundland who came from Newf Rescue many years ago. I didn't know much of anything about pugs except that they were those curious little beings whom people who were owned by them would tell all and sundry that they were not really dogs but little alien beings, or something unusual and certainly at a far more highly elevated level than the normal canine species, but anything, anything, but a real dog. They were certainly a more highly evolved species and should be treated as such. I found this curious and amusing. Those funny people, I thought. I'd never seen any breed specific dog owners who acted quite the way that pug people seemed to act. They were, I thought, kind of odd people who dressed these little creatures up in all manner of embarrassing outfits and even more surprising to me was that these tiny little creatures didn't seem to mind. As long as a treat is involved and a soft bed to nap in, most of the day, you can do almost anything to a pug.

They tickled me but I never thought about having one. Then came the day that I met a man who is one of my dearest friends of many years now, and he had had two pugs. He was completely smitten and told me funny stories about these curious little souls who clearly were not dogs. Not at all. I was fascinated.

Years went by and one day I found myself thinking, as I had for some time, that I wanted to learn more about pugs and I came upon Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue who actually covered my geographic area. I thought, "I'll just take a little peek." Ha! 4 pugs later I can tell you that you can't just take a "peek" at a pug. As soon as you see one you have to have one. At least that's what happened to me.

I thought I would look them over, think about it, research them for awhile and perhaps get one "someday" but the very moment that I clicked on the page with the rescue's pugs for adoption a funny little black face peered up at me. It was an elderly little lady named Babs. I think it might have been about 3 seconds before I was writing an e-mail to the rescue. I had to have her. I was completely smitten. And I couldn't take my eyes off of her. It was love at first sight.

Then came the requisite background check and while her foster parents were driving a few hours to bring her it was understood that a house visit was in order before they would actually leave her with me. I was a nervous wreck. Would the house be clean enough? Would I be okay? Would they approve of me? Would Babs? They walked into the house carrying a tiny little black creature who looked like nothing I had ever seen. A picture doesn't prepare you for the fact that they will charm the socks off of you the minute they first enter your presence, and turn your world on it's ear. Once they told me that it looked like everything was in order and she could stay with me I heaved a great sigh of relief, took her in my arms and kissed the living daylights out of her. As the woman from the rescue was leaving she looked over her shoulder, laughed, and said, "Be prepared, pugs are like potato chips, you can't have just one." I didn't know that she meant that literally. The next month Sampson came to stay and 2 months later a chubby funny little girl named Coco waddled in the door and into my heart. Harvey came 9 months later and they would probably have kept coming but the rescue cut me off! I had become, like many before me, a "Pug Addict." And I can tell you right now I will have them all the days of my life.

I have opened my heart and home to pugs and have dedicated myself to doing whatever I can to help the rescue along the way. As a fiber artist 20% of all of the proceeds of my fiber art will go to this wonderful rescue, and the rest into a fund to care for my wee little soulmates. I take the elderly or disabled because they have won my heart, the love trumps all the difficulties that may come with them and they have brightened my world beyond measure.

I live in a house full of senior citizens, and the only downside is that you fall madly in love and the end comes too soon. I had three years with my tiny precious Babs, and she passed away and over The Rainbow Bridge a week and a half ago. Our dear vet came to our house with her wonderful husband and I held my little girl, kissing her, stroking her, and telling her how much I loved her as she completely relaxed in my arms and then passed on through the portal to a land I cannot see or know. The loss cut so deep that I have actually tried to write an entry about her seven times before finally writing this one. I have been too grief stricken to get past the first few words without crying, but in the end writing a tribute to my tiny black girl was more important than my own broken heart. And I owed so very much to this little girl, both in her life, and death, she taught me a great many things that I would never have learned otherwise.

 What did Babs teach me?

The day Babs arrived, Aug. 15, '07

Babs taught me that you can be a very small person on the outside but have a huge heart and make a very BIG impact on someones life. She taught me about love in a way that no one and nothing ever has. I have often said, known, believed that dogs are the only unconditional love that we will ever know in this lifetime. Babs helped me understand this on a far deeper level. I adore my parrots but their love is conditional and they will bite the hoo-ha out of you if you make them mad. While I am allergic to cats I think they are beautiful, amazing creatures and one of the most fascinating companions you can have. And yes, they can be quite affectionate. On their own terms. IF they feel like it. Cats are independent, know that they are far superior to their humans, and can look with disdain at anything in their surroundings that they consider lesser than themselves. You know, something like a dog. Cats can love you dearly, but they will let you know when they don't approve of something and they may have to ignore you for awhile before you straighten yourself out and admit that they are right. They always have the upper hand. I only wish I had a little bit of what they have. They are so sure of themselves.

Babs showed me that adversity is nothing to complain or moan and bellyache about. She was hard of hearing when I got her and over the first year and a half I had her she went completely deaf and then blind, but did that stop her? The home that we had when she came into my life was very small. She liked to have her bed down in a little nook at the end of the hall, with Coco's bed right next to her, only a few feet from the kitchen. Completely blind she knew exactly how to leave her little nook, walk a little way down the hall and turn into the kitchen and go right to her food and water bowls. She knew when it was treat time and without being able to see or hear it coming she would stand up and waggle her whole little self. When I was heading in her direction, still too far to hear footsteps, and she couldn't see anyway, she would stand up and wag her tail and lift her head in my direction, white blind eyes that could see in a way past "seeing," a much deeper way, a way that transcends physical body and lives on a highly sensory plain that allows amazing gifts to unfold. Babs did not complain as her body began to change and become more limited, she simply adapted and did the best she could without complaint. This lesson has sunk in deeply, especially since she has left my hearth, home and this earth entirely. She leaves behind volumes of lessons and information it will take me awhile to understand and digest, but some memory surfaces every day of this brave tiny soul who ambled about as best she could, never held back for a moment because of her "disabilities."

Babsie taught me that love continues to grow as the body goes, and she became ever dearer every day that I had her. And she helped me grow towards what I would need to do for her when the time came. I don't know that it is fair to say most people, but I think it's fair to say that a great many people don't want to adopt seniors. They worry about the medical bills which certainly are a consideration. But most of all they worry about what all of us who have seniors do, that we will come to love them so dearly, that their loss will cut so deeply it will be hard to survive their loss. And that is certainly the case. But greater, for me, has been the knowledge that I can take these seniors into my home, love them with my whole heart and being, and know that I have given the best, most loving home in their last years that I possibly can, that they will be well fed and get the vet care they need and deserve, and, yes, when the time is right, to be prepared to let go, a thing harder to do than I ever imagined. I knew it would come for them all one day, in their own time, but Babsie was the oldest, and at 15 1/2, blind, deaf, and becoming increasing unwell, with the best effort of my vet and myself, with all the love I could give her there came the day that it was time. My heart was breaking. I cried all day long, but when it was time I pulled myself together as best I could because in those final moments it wasn't about what was hard for me, it was about what was best and most loving for her. And so the end came. It was time.

Babs was not a morning person. She looked
grumpy a great deal of the time, but it was

all show. She would melt into me and soak
up all the love she could get when I scooped
her up into my arms and hugged and kissed
canoodled her puggery self...

The Final Days...

When Babs came to me she had suffered a collapsed trachea, not unusual in pugs, and I had to give her Albuterol twice a day to help her breathe. It worked pretty well until the last couple of months of her life. As she began to have a more difficult time breathing Dr. Bradler put her on medication to help the COPD that was making it harder and harder for her to breathe and to try to help her release the build up of fluid in her lungs. For the first week or so she seemed markedly better, but by the end of the second week she was going back downhill again. Not as bad as before, but not good. I continued to give her her Albuterol and we were going to give her a week or two to see how she did before following another course of treatment. Before that time came, her time came, and it was shockingly evident in those final days how fast she went downhill. I was terrified that I wouldn't know the "right time" to make the decision but Dr. Bradler told me that I would know when the time was right.

I carried her about in my arms loving her and crying. One day when the rest of us got up -- the dogs usually want to go out somewhere just before or after 6 and she would always be up and moving about waiting to be picked up and taken out and if I didn't get there fast enough she would be yowling to beat the band until I got her -- I let the other dogs out into our big fenced back yard but Babs wasn't awake. I knew that if I didn't get her out she'd likely have to go as soon as I went back to lay down again for an hour or so so I gently picked her up and carried her out. She peed and I brought her in and she went immediately back to sleep. Normally when we get up the 2nd time around 7:30 or 8 she would need to go out again too, but for the last few days of her life she would never wake up this second time, in fact it was more like 1:00 in the afternoon when she started moving about a little and I would scoop her up and carry her out. Until the end she never went to the potty in the house, and amazingly, she ate and drank well up until right before she died. In fact she was eating a little when Dr. B and Mark came to see her for the last time, but she was panting heavily and her tongue was swollen and blue. She was not getting enough oxygen and she was starting to stumble.

The day before she passed I was beside myself because she slept all day long, I could not rouse her, and I thought, "This is it." I really thought I would go in and find out that she had crossed over, but this wouldn't be the case. At 11:00 that night I left a message on Dr. Bradler's machine saying that I thought her time had come, that she had slept all day, barely moved, and I was frightened and heart-broken. Amazingly, after I called the vet, and after she had not moved all day she got up and started walking around. I picked her up and carried her outside. I had a 6' leash for her and we were like a carousel with me at the middle and Babs circling the circumference. She seemed quite secure in that she would go in a definite circle, always with just enough tension on the leash that she felt safe. When she had done what she needed to do she would stop dead in her tracks and just stand there until I picked her up. She waggled her little self when I did, and I kissed and cuddled her and told her that she was my beautiful Princess all the way in. Even in the last few months of her life, until those last weeks, I would laugh when I took her out because she would go hippity hopping around her circle like a little bunny rabbit. That last night she moved slowly, went to the bathroom, stumbling a little, and when I carried her in she actually ate a little and drank some water, but then went back to the incessant heavy panting that upset and worried me so badly that I realized when she finally did calm down and go to sleep that my body was rigid as a board and I don't think I had barely breathed at all. I knew the time was near but I still couldn't get my mind around it.

The next day was awful. She was up to go out both times early and paced and paced and paced breathing heavily ongoing. I couldn't hold back the tears as she paced and staggered and struggled to breathe. I called Dr. Bradler and said, "This is it." The time was arranged. It was 2:00 in the afternoon when the decision was made and Dr. B. and Mark would be there at 7:30 that night. I called my daughter Rachel who had been here to help tenderly

I will never forget, for the rest of my days, how incredibly loving and gentle Dr. Bradler was. She sat on a chair very near and asked me if I was ready. I said, with a heavy heart, that I was. She took a little time then to go over with us everything that might possibly happen as she was passing away as her body relaxed and when through the stages of crossing over. A heavy towel was placed on my lap in case she let go of her bowels as her body let go. It was time.

Dear Dr. Bradler came close, and Mark beside us, and she explained how the first shot would allow her to drift off into a pleasant sleep like one does when an anesthesiologist gives the anesthetic before surgery. This would soften and gentle her way through the transition. The thing that struck me, that caused a deep sea-change in me, in my agonizing over what was to come and thinking that I just could not let go was that after hearing her, seeing her, holding her as she struggled to breathe, and paced because she hurt and felt too unwell to really rest, I felt her whole body completely relax in my arms. She was very much at peace, relaxed, and out of any pain or discomfort. I stroked her, kissed her, and told her how much I loved her as the final moments of her life slipped by. The last injection was given and as I cried and held her close Dr. Bradler reached out to me and said, "She's gone honey." By now Rachel and I were both crying, my body shook with sobs, the whole room was filled with so much emotion it was as if a cloud had surrounded us and for that moment in time we were in a sacred space in which her blessed little soul could slip out of her body and into the next dimension. In the midst of pain that cut so deep that I could not breathe there was a peace, a calm that came over the whole room. She was gone. No more would she struggle for another breath, feel any pain, she had gone to a place where a small girl was no longer blind or deaf, she had crossed The Rainbow Bridge as is said about the land that our lost animal companions go to, and for a brief moment I imagined her frolicking about, unfettered and free, happy and joyful, with other little pugs who had crossed over to play with in beautiful fields full of wild flowers, blue skies, sunshine and rainbows never-ending. It was a beautiful thought and I took great comfort in that.

I have had so many people say to me, since that night, that they didn't see how I could let go, that they just couldn't, that it would be too painful. It was painful, terribly painful, but if we really love them we are here to be their guardians, to do for them what they cannot do for themselves, to release them from the pain and suffering. It is not about we who are left behind, it is about -- and only about -- the well-being, comfort, and letting them go from this life to the next where they will suffer no more. To let go is to love so much that our own feelings are of no consequence. Only the deepest love can allow one to truly say to their beloved companion, "It's time for you to go, it's time for you to take that journey home, and I will be with you every step of the way." And so I held her as she passed and I experienced, truly, for the very first time in my life, that amazingly, truly indescribable moment when for one final second she was still my wee little Babs, looking up into my eyes, and then relaxing and drifting off to sleep in my arms, and then gone from her body. Dr. Bradler said, "She's gone," but I already knew. I had felt her leave. And that moment has changed me forever.


I had not given any thought to what would happen next. I'd had someone come and dig her grave in my little shade garden area that afternoon, inside the pink picket fence, with stepping stones to cover her grave until I could find something beautiful to plant over it, the mound of dirt was next to the hole. I had one of the long cotton seersucker  dresses that I always wear to wrap her in so that she could always feel her mother with her, or so it gave me comfort to think, but before we carried her out Dr. Bradler had us do something that was so beautiful I will never forget it. She said that the other dogs needed to understand that she was gone, that they would be deeply affected by a member of their pack passing and then gone. She had each of the other pugs be brought in so that they could sniff her, and know, and they did. The most touching thing of all was the my big dog Moe, a lab-doby mix whom we had adopted at 3 months from the Humane Society and who was now 16 1/2 himself, and, much to my chagrin did not seem to care for the pugs and had even gone after them at times,  nearly giving me a heart attack and causing me to go "all 'Dog Whisperer' on him," stood riveted nearby as she was put to sleep, and he laid down right next to her and even put his paw on her as she lay on my dress and didn't want to move. He seemed deeply upset that she was gone and if you ever doubt that the other dogs in the household don't know, or care, or understand, you've only to witness this. Tears just streamed down my face as my big old boy lay steadfastly next to the body of this tiny little girl who was gone from her mortal coil.

Finally Mark picked her up after Dr. Bradler wrapped her in my dress and we all walked out to her graveside. She was laid in her grave very gently and then buried, solemnly, quietly, and with Dr. Bradler on one side and my sweet daughter Rachel on the other, we all held one another and cried while she was settled into her final resting place. It was hard to even breathe, I didn't know what to do, but even then Dr. Bradler knew just what was needed. She turned to me and said, "Now tell me a funny story about Babs." And we all laughed as I told funny little things about her, and Dr. Bradler and I laughed about her last vet visits. Even as sick as she was Babs did NOT like to be held and examined, given shots, have her nails clipped, her teeth scaled, or be treated in any way needed and she would literally scream at the top of her lungs and darn it if she didn't sound like she was talking, and what she had to say I'm too much of a lady to repeat here! Ha! She was outright cussing at them! And so dark fell and we came inside, a mixture of tears, heavy hearts, and a sense of relief that I would not have to hear here struggle to breathe ever again. She now rested in perfect peace somewhere beyond this world, and it was right, it had surely been time, and I had to let go.

Grief is a funny thing. Actually as sad as I was those first days I felt mostly a kind of relief and calm because it was so heart-wrenching in those final weeks, trying hard to see that she got the right help, our dear vet trying, as I prayed and cried and carried her around, gasping myself over each labored breath. I think my own body relaxed for the first time in a long time. And then, well, these times will come of course, I walked out in the back yard with the other dogs to check the garden and I stopped dead in my tracks. I was looking at the little area that was "Babs' area," the place I always carried her out to ever since we moved here in early February. The place where I stood at the center of the carousel and she circled round and round until she found her little spots, hippity hopping around and around like a little bunny, almost with a smile on her face. But it was silent, empty, and Babs was not there. I broke down and sobbed harder than I had since she passed in my arms. I fairly howled in pain as the loss cut deep. Only then did I understand, in the depths of my being, that my tiny little black girl, the pug who started it all, was gone. The absence of her presence has left a huge hole in the tapestry of our life here, and it will never be quite the same.

And yet... I came back inside with Big Dog Moe and the three other little pugs, Sampson, Coco and Harvey. They all crowded in near me and looked at me with great concern as I wept, and then, slowly, as I calmed down they seemed to relax. Sampson curled up on the chair with me, the other dogs crawled into their beds all around me and we all fell asleep. She was gone, but they are still here, and together we move forward from here.

And so I have experienced this loss for the first time. Each time it will be heartbreaking, and I wonder how I can handle another heartbreak like this one, but I knew when I signed on for life with the seniors that this would be what I would face, loving them through the rest of their lives, and then seeing that they had safe passage from this life to the next. It is my job, my duty, my honor, and I would have it no other way, heartache and all. And she will always be in my heart, the Grand Old Lady who started me on a journey that would change my whole life. I can't help looking at her funny little face and smiling, and my fiber art shop is dedicated to her, and in her honor I will donate 20% of all profits ongoing to Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue, and put the rest of the profits from my fiber art into a fund to help care for the other little seniors who come into my heart and home. Babs led the way. I hope I can do justice to her memory, and I will love her and miss her all the days of my life.

I love you tiny girl. Always and always and always...

Maitri, mother to the little ones, and blessed by them all...