Sharing the lessons along the way…

I Get Knocked Down…

I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You’re never gonna keep me down.

Do you remember that song by Chumbawamba from the 1990’s?  I didn’t really, or at least I didn’t think I did.  Apparently, it was still in the recesses of my brain because it popped into my head this morning while I was brushing my teeth.

I had to look it up to know what decade and band, but had the primary tune and lyrics enough that I could brush my teeth to the beat.

I was thinking about the difference between my life circumstances just one month ago and today earlier this morning.  I was marveling at how much more stable emotionally I feel than I did.

March 2014 really was one knock in the head after another, but today, it doesn’t seem as crazy as it was feeling as it was happening.  I kept going forward and functioning no matter what, but it was hard to recover from one thing, before the next, and the next would happen.

In many ways, the events of March liberated me and empowered me.  The events certainly reminded me that I am never likely to be down for long.  Most of that is because I don’t like it there.  My closest friends nor my dog are all that comfortable with me being there either.

Additionally, I am often in the midst of these types of events wondering to myself what I might learn from it and what opportunities it might actually pave the way for in the coming days or months.  I received some validation for simplifying and then making plans based only on that simplified version of the plan.

I didn’t fight any part of anything that happened.  Not because I was too tired or too apathetic. But because they were all circumstances out of my control that required me to let go instead.  All of them left me at a fork in the road where I could have fought against the changes.

I decided my energy would be better spent developing a plan to move forward instead.

We can grieve while we move forward.  We can still feel whatever we are feeling along the way as we move forward too.  I didn’t fight the sadness and loss when it was time to let Amore go.  I didn’t question any relief I might have also felt about it.  I didn’t fight the fear or relief about choosing to let the fight with Medicare go.  I went with it all.

It has taken me a couple of weeks to process all of it enough to see these things.  Duke and I are the two musketeers now and really seem ok with that.  We have established our own little routines and rituals that are different from the three musketeer days, and they are working for us.

I will catch you up on physical matters soon, I promise.


Duke is my Co-Pilot

Duke new roles collage

I am very fortunate that one of my jobs happens to involve my dog Duke.  The other one allows me to be sitting beside Duke on my computer at my house.  Being with Duke seems to be about the only thing making losing Amore somewhat easier.  We are together now nearly all the time.

Almost immediately, I was able to recognize just how different it is with one large dog instead of two.  For nearly 13 years, I often struggled as a single dog mom to manage two big dogs.  It was important to me that they get what they needed—a schedule with walks, attention, rules, etc.

I can appreciate the ease of one, now, after all those years with two.  I am still quite shocked by the difference during walks, as I get ready to go somewhere with or without Duke, feeding times, medication times, having company, and well, just about everything really.  It potentially allows me more flexibility as it is much easier to take one dog that two wherever I might want to go.

While I can see and appreciate the differences and the advantages, it still all feels wrong without the big goofy one.  My hope is I can continue to focus on those positives anyway as Duke and I set up new normal things to do for just the two of us.

I have no intention of missing any precious moments with Duke.  I didn’t miss many with Amore either, and often chose to stay home with them instead of doing something else because I knew our time was limited.

Now, I am more likely to stay home unless he’s coming with me.  Duke already is running errands and going most places with me.  At first, it was for him because he hadn’t ever been great at staying home alone, but now it is really for me too.  I will hold on tightly while I can.




A Simple Update

I themed my 2014 Simplicity back in January.  In those posts, I also shared that there would likely be dog crises, healthcare crisis and other unforeseens that I would do my best to simplify.  My goal was to not allow anything to be a crisis or to become dramatized in my own mind for very long.  To meet this goal, I decided that breaking it down to the nuts and bolts would help make the situations more manageable.

In March 2014, I had both a dog and healthcare crisis.  Both were within two weeks of one another.  First came the loss of Medicare notice (long story, but that postponement at the hearing apparently wasn’t a postponement because the ALJ made a ruling anyway).

This caught me off guard, so it took me a couple of days to be able to come up with a rational plan of action to move forward.  The plan was quite simple when it all came down to it.

As I was putting part of this plan into action, I was also watching Amore go downhill pretty quickly.  I took both he and Duke to the vet to make sure Amore didn’t have a simple, treatable reason for it, even though I suspected there wasn’t anything treatable going on.

Duke had not been eager to go to work in the week leading up to this, so I had him checked out too.  I was concerned that Duke knew something I didn’t about Amore, and was torn about leaving him home by himself.

Turns out, he probably did (he’s sharp like that), as he got a good check up at the vet, and has been happily going to work since Amore died.  The alternative theory was that he might be tired, and not as interested in going to work anymore.

After all, he is almost 13, and has worked there for nearly four years, and this was a possibility I was open to considering if he continued not wanting to go.  This certainly complicated part of my other plan to deal with the healthcare situation, so I started to generate some alternatives to the original plan.

Watching Amore get worse was a bit more challenging to simplify, particularly since it was touch and go for a few weeks and very emotional.  The weekend before St. Patrick’s day, he had some sort of neurological incident followed by a collapse.

At the same time, his external vascular tumor also was hemorrhaging, and he couldn’t quite coordinate one of his hind legs to get up.  Then it was pretty clear that it was time for me to let him go even though he was doing his best to rally.  It became a simple decision, but certainly not an easy one.

Nothing about the month of March has been easy for me, and I will not be sad to see it be over quite honestly.  I have done my best to simplify all of it, however.  Duke is adjusting well to being an only dog, so that is helping me to adjust to having only one dog.

My focus is Duke now, and making sure he and I enjoy the time he has left here, and that seems to be keeping me going.

Goodbye Sweet Amore


Words continue to fail me in my efforts to share with you about the loss of my Amore.  Amore went to run in the fields forever on Monday, March 17, 2014.  We sent him off with as many stories from the adventures he, Duke and I had during his nearly 13-year life span, as I could remember over the weekend.

I have never had just one dog, and Duke has never been an only dog in a household.  Together we are trying to figure out how to play our respective new roles with a gaping hole in our hearts.

I have a lot of information swirling about inside my head from the last few days.  It is all useful and necessary, but one tidbit isn’t necessarily related to the next tidbit.  Except in my world this week.

For example, I know all about the anomaly found in an organ of mine during my recent surgery, and also know what foods dogs should have to help them with anal gland issues.  I know about the errors and problems with one of the assignments my students have to do, while also know the difference between a social security overpayment waiver and reconsideration forms.

I also know that WVU has never beaten Kansas in men’s college basketball until today and that it is oak pollen season here in Florida.  I learned that a puddle of antifreeze under your car is almost always a blown hose and the difference between a short sale in real estate versus an as-is sale.

I can tell you the difference between the trade in value of my car and the private sale value, and in the next breath tell you that the University has a great tech support team.  If we talk long enough, I might even share with you the medication used to induce childbirth, treat eczema in toddlers or perhaps I would share with you why they say my car insurance went up again despite my excellent driving history.

After the trip to the veterinarian with both dogs yesterday, I can probably tell you all about the different formulas of food they have for different disease processes and that a four pound dog actually out “sang” my  crazy dogs through the day they spent in the back kennels.  While they were doing that, I was making up repetitive songs about ordinary things that seemed to really entertain a toddler in the car.

My car blew a hose as I arrived to the veterinarian to drop them for the day to be seen, so my car spent the day at the mechanics.  I learned that three of the five hoses on my car, one by one, have now been replaced.  Only two more to blow.

I still have to research neuropathy in dogs, as it appears my Amore’ dog has some in his feet.  I know about it in humans, so I am eager to see if the process is similar.  That is next on my list while I wait for the later basketball game (UNC versus Duke).

I can only imagine what sorts of dreams I might have tonight.

Once I Knew a Woman…

The Tawny


She was living each day as if it was her first.  She was trying new things, and marking things off her list that she had wanted to do but never took the time to do before she became ill.

There was little that doesn’t spark excitement or intrigue.

The only evidence of her past life in the wheelchair was a titanium baclofen pump, which was visible only if she took off her clothes.  Only then did offer some explanation of what it was for, and only then did she have to acknowledge that past reality.

She could talk freely about the past and the wheelchair, but the story was void of emotion.  She could talk about the homelessness and nursing home experience, but it had become a story that was about some other 30-something-year-old woman.

There was no emotional connection to it, at all.  At least not until the day she toured the homeless program in preparation for her return to volunteer with her newly certified therapy dog, Duke.

She was clueless really that she had separated herself so much from that former life until that day.

It wasn’t really until the pump drama began shortly after that day, that she realized the amount of scarring this time in her life created.  The intensity of emotion was often overwhelming.  The thought of life without the pump was so scary that she would have done anything to keep a pump in her body.

This desperation proved costly for her, but the time spent experiencing problem after problem at least allowed her to acknowledge the trauma and begin to heal it.

Without the pump entirely, she still grapples with the integration of both lives—life with the pump and without it.  Life without the pump is different from how it was before the pump, with the pump, and different still than in the early months of the illness.

David Gaughran

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