Sharing the lessons along the way…

Posts tagged ‘Project PUP’

One Year Ago…

Just Keep Smiling

Dear Duke,

It has been a year since you crossed over Rainbow Bridge, and I have done my best to honor your lessons and your legacy.  I cannot lie and say that I didn’t spend some time feeling lost without you, but I did my best to keep moving forward no matter what was happening in my heart or in my world around me.  I have off and on felt lost in the past year without your presence– in ways I cannot describe to humans who have not experienced their soul mate.

Your sister Ruby and I have bonded quite a bit since you’ve been gone, although she doesn’t seem to understand when I try to tell her about soul-mates.  She has her own lessons to teach me and I have grown quite fond of her unique ways, as I try to discern exactly what those might be.

Some days, I am not sure I don’t need you to keep going.  Some days, I am convinced that somehow you would know exactly what I should do next.  Some days, I know you could help someone better than I can or even a whole team and I can.  Other days, I feel confident that I am honoring everything you and your brother taught me over the years.  Other days, I am encouraging those who knew you to do the same.  Other days, I stay busy enough to not feel my heart aching quite as much.

At work, you are everywhere.  A plaque hangs in the lobby and a stone hangs in your courtyard—both with your picture in remembrance of your service.  Pictures of you are in my office and you will forever be in my Lightning Hero Award video.  I started volunteering with Project PUP because you no longer can.  Therapy dogs are at work nearly every day of the week because you cannot be.

I am certain I miss your presence more than anyone or anything else’s I have ever lost in this life so far.  So much so, that I can hardly believe it on some of my bad days.  I want you to know that I am doing my best to take care of your “guys” at work and encourage them to honor your service in the way that they treat themselves and others.

I trust that you and your brother are doing exactly what you most love to do over there, and I hope you have joined up with Maggie, Sadie, Zeus, and the many others you both helped to foster who have moved on from here.






Tribute to Duke, et. al.

I have written a few things since my letter to Duke, but nothing that seemed “post-worthy” here.  I babbled about feeling such gratitude for grieving with such a large number of people and how that made it suck just a little bit less.  I wrote about randomness and Ruby and the empty spaces in my heart.  I wrote about having a bit of a delayed grief reaction after being in control for a month, then a monsoon fell out of my eyes.

A few weeks ago, we had a tribute to Duke at the Homeless Empowerment Program with some of Duke’s favorite people that was so touching and so special for a variety of reasons, and I really wanted to share about it.  I simply had no adequate words to convey adequately any emotion or thought I had about it.

duke tribute cake

Here is what I know now…

Every day, I get up and keep moving forward.  Every day, I see others through the eyes of Duke.  I have made major purchases with Ruby, have had fun and have laughed a lot.  I have cried, with a sadness and longing that is palpable for Duke’s physical presence.  And, I have realized that every day I get up is a tribute to Duke and Amore.

They taught me to live in the moment, love and love some more if for no other reason than I can, to have fun, to laugh A LOT, cry, feel whatever I am feeling, and move forward into the next moment.  They taught me far more than that, but for now, if I am doing all of those on a daily basis, then I am honoring their memory.

lobby  plaque

For me, the commitment to those boys so many years ago at the Animal Control doesn’t end just because they are no longer physically here.  The connection was so much more to us than just being a committed dog mom.  The tribute will live on through me, Ruby, Koko and hopefully anyone and everyone else who was lucky enough to have learned life lessons from either of those silly boys.


Dear Duke…

Dear Duke,

I felt the need to write you a farewell letter.  Many times, both in my head and through tears, I have composed the start of this letter since you said your goodbyes to us Friday.  I awoke lost, without my alpha dog on the first morning without you beside me in bed, waking me up by flopping over to spoon and cuddle as I waited on coffee and the snooze alarm, but then remembered all that you have taught me over the years about dealing with loss, challenges and hard times.

Through my terribly sad fog of a brain, I knew that it was my turn (on my own and with all those whose lives you have touched) to take care of all that you have helped with so much over the years.  You have not only been my favorite and most talented co-therapist in this life, but also my grounding source, my sounding board, and my motivation for being a better human.

You literally helped me up when I fell down, and you knew my soul better than any human ever could.  You reached me when I had no longer allowed anyone else to try.  You picked some of my new friends as you helped me to create a new and better life after wheelchairs, homelessness and nursing home, and you kept me moving forward no matter what.

One could argue that you were “just a dog” but it would be a huge and tragic missing of the mark, for who you were to me, and to so many whose lives you were honored to touch was so much more.  You were magic.  You were magnificence.  You were the epitome of any definition of love, selflessness and giving.

The veterinarian told me that your neurological status at the end should have made you miserable, nauseated and dizzy.  No one who made it to say his or her goodbyes Friday morning saw that.  You wagged, you smiled, you let us all cry and tell stories about our life with you, and you did not complain.  Until the end, my son, you were the epitome of all that is good, right and holy in this life.

Because of that, I know it is important that I have not only “gotten” the life lessons you have spent so many of your last 14 years trying to teach me, but also that I pay those forward whenever I can with a loving, giving, self-less spirit in which you taught them to me.

You would want me to stay grounded, stay focused, and continue creating my own life and to create opportunities for others to create better for their lives.  You would want me to make sure your “boys” are doing the same in your honor at work, and that the staff and friends who loved you do the same.

It has truly been an honor to hold your leash as you trail blazed your way into the hearts of those at work, and as you made every single person who crossed your path to feel loved, special and whole.  You could see that they were worthy of that, whether they could or not—I see that too, but only because you taught me how to see it.

While I am terribly sad and feel a bit lost trying to imagine a world without you physically in it, my heart is so much bigger because you picked me for you and your brother.  My life is so much richer and my world so much fuller than I could ever imagine because you opened me up to it.

I would not trade any of the tears I shed, and will continue to shed as I grieve your absence, for never having the opportunity and the privilege to share so much of my lifetime with you by my side.

My soul mate dog, it was your time.  I will always love you and appreciate all that you were to me and to so many others. You have given so much, and now you can rest.  We will take it from here.

me kissing dukie at hep

Sunday Sum Up #22

Catching you up on the past week is best summed up by smiles generated by Sir King Duke at the Homeless Emergency Project (HEP).

Most of the rest of my time was spent grading my students’ assignments and interacting with them online as we start our holiday break tomorrow-ish.  I am in a mad rush to finish grading today, so that I can actually break!

Duke and I spent some extra time at HEP this week.  Holidays are pretty hard to take when you are living at a homeless program.

Duke and I like to think we helped ease some of that in the past week and plan to do the same next week.

Catch Up 22 Collage

Google My Dogs

photo (18)

For grins and giggles one day last week, I did a search on Google.  My search words were, “Duke the dog homeless emergency project” and was surprised to see that my dog Duke was there with hits spanning two pages.  Of course, not all the search hits were him on both of those pages, and some were because of his mention here on my blog, but I thought it was pretty cool much came up at all.

If you know me or are a regular follower of my blog, you know that my two dogs—Duke and Amore— have been such wonderful helpers, teachers and companions during their 12 years here on this planet with me so far.

Our story has been printed in the Tampa Bay Times, Dunedin and New Port Richey Patch, Project PUP’s newsletters, and the HEP newsletters.  They are both painted on Murals for Mutts’ murals in St. Petersburg, Dunedin House of Beer and Skip’s.  They are also supporting characters in my book, because they have been supporting characters in my life.

One of my dogs, Duke, has worked as a therapy dog since May 2010.  We visit the Homeless Emergency Project and there, he has become somewhat of a rock star.  Staff and clients keep treats handy for his visits, and he loves the attention and the treats.

Duke, unlike his brother, loves to have constant attention and he seems to know who needs him the most in a room full of people, so he goes there.

Because of my history with HEP as a homeless outreach therapist and resident, it is even more special to me that Duke and I go back there together.  Because of my desire to make a difference in as much of my corner of the world as is possible in my lifetime, I love that Duke has touched so many lives during his working time.

While I haven’t mentioned much outside of walking my dogs in a power chair as I cope with my current situation, it goes without saying that my dogs continue to keep me grounded, sane and moving forward despite the challenges.  My biggest concern with my decision for removing the pump was honestly my dogs.  They motivate me to keep trying harder and inspire me to both move forward and be present.

Of course, they will live forever in my heart.  But I was happy to have them painted on murals to immortalize them, and now it is even nicer to know that when the murals fade or business ownership changes, that they are also immortalized in cyberspace.


Finding Presence

In recent days, I have often lost my presence.  I keep catching myself completely immersed in my thoughts and completely unaware of what is happening in the present moment.

One of my greatest gifts right now is taking my dog Duke to work at the Homeless Emergency Project (HEP).  He and his brother have taught me all about the benefits of being present and not living in the past.

Yesterday afternoon, I took Duke to work.  We sat in on a psycho-educational group and then hung out with some veterans from one of the veteran’s programs.  Each moment, I was present.  Duke was full of himself yesterday and spunkier than usual, so I had to be.  Even more than that though, I lost all track of time talking with the veterans.

You may recall my post on how you know when you have found your passion.  Losing track of time while doing it is certainly on the list.  The same has happened week after week since we’ve been going there.

When you go into one of HEP’s programs, you cannot take your pets with you, so Duke is often a welcome sight.  I was fortunate enough to get my boys (dogs) back after my stay there in 2004-2005, but most aren’t so lucky.  Duke helps them through that loss the same as Sammy did for me.duke in a tie 1-23-13

Just like the rest of us, sometimes the folks living in the HEP programs get stuck in their own heads with no awareness of what is happening in the moment.

Duke and I help them to find their presence.  As soon as they see Duke, he becomes their focus.  The moment with him is now.  He often insists on it with his incessant pawing to be petted.

After coming home later than I had planned, I realized how much more focused and present I was feeling.  I had a different perspective on several stressful situations in my life.  Duke helped me find my presence while he and I both helped dozens of people find some as well.

I thought that made for a pretty good afternoon.

How do you know when you have lost your presence?  What does it take to get it back?

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