Sunday, August 11, 2013

Four Years Later - A Letter to Randy


                                                                                                            August 11, 2013
Dear Randy,

I cannot believe it’s been four years today since you left this earth.  I still think about you every day.  I miss your crazy sense of humor and your generosity and your smile, even in the midst of cancer.  I miss telling you about my day and I definitely miss the things you did that I can’t or don’t want to do – from dealing with electronics to paying bills to yard work.  And I could go on and on (and often do J)

It’s hard to ask others to help with the things I can’t do, so generally, I try to hire people to do things around the house.  Sometimes, I ask friends or neighbors for help and they are almost always more than willing to help and are very kind about it.  But everyone is busy with their own lives and not necessarily tuned into my needs – imagine that?  And when I feel like I’m intruding into their lives, I miss talking to you about that L.  You were such a good listener – you should have been the chaplain!

My life is much the same as when you were here, but different in a few ways.  Since our sweet Sophie is in heaven with you, I have a new puppy - Ellie Rose – rescued at a little over two weeks old.  She is five months old now and the light of my life, along with Lucy.  Usually there are a few foster dogs here as well.  You and I never thought about fostering or I think we would have done it, especially when you were healthy.  Without you, having a few extra dogs definitely seems to be right for me.  I’m pretty sure you would approve (well, except for the bed sharing!).

I focus a little more on my health, for several reasons.  I tell people that you often said, “Drugs should be for recreation,” so I worked to get off of prescription drugs.  I try to eat healthy and exercise and avoid chemicals whenever possible.  Some people may think I’m a little crazy, but thankfully, it works for me!

I’m volunteering as a chaplain at the Cancer Institute at UAMS, because it holds a special place in my heart.  They may not have saved your life, but they were part of giving you a little more quality and quantity, as was MD Anderson.  I will always be grateful to Dr. Colman and to Dr. Hutchins and their teams for what they did for us.

I’ve traveled some, but it's just not as much fun without you.  You were such a good travel agent and companion.  I hope to go to Rome next year while Amanda and family are there.  You probably know I am Nick’s godmother, which has given me so much joy.  I love staying connected to Amanda and the rest of the Wilcox family, especially because of your love for them and vice versa.  It is really important to me to stay close to the people who knew you and loved you.  I don’t see all of them as often as I’d like (even the local folks), but I appreciate them more than they will ever know.

I am thankful to God for the 25 years we had together and for the very positive impact you had on my life.  I will always miss you….  I will always love you.

Karen

Monday, July 1, 2013

Teary, but grateful...


Not sure why, but feeling pretty weepy tonight.  Part of it may be the new foster dog - Dumas.




He looks so much like Sophie, with a little blockier head, of course, since he is a boy, and a few white spots.  What a sweetheart he is. That's all I can figure, as it's been an otherwise good day, as most of my days are, thank God!  Cannot believe anyone left this gorgeous boy at a shelter.  Again, maybe that's a reason for the tears.  I am generally pretty positive about things, but the way people treat animals really gets me down at times....especially when one of them looks so much like my sweet Sophie girl.

All the other dogs are adjusting to Dumas.  Clover, the white pit mix foster loves him, but she leaves on Thursday.  Ellie Rose adores him and Lucy....well, Lucy is adapting and will love him in a day or two!

Of course I know that there is great mistreatment of many people in this world - babies, children, old folks and anyone who is "different" or cannot defend themselves.  It is all sad.  But I tend to concentrate on the positive most of the time.  Then sometimes it gets in my face and I just can't.  Or it stirs up those wonderful old memories buried in my heart.

So, tomorrow will be better.  Dumas will bring so much joy to us over the next month and I will be so in love that giving him up will be painful, but know it will be worth it for this great guy.  He is house broken and seems very well-behaved so far.  Who wouldn't want this guy in their lives?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gone to the Dogs? That's not all bad!


I have been so very blessed to have wonderful, caring friends in most stages of my life.  I couldn’t have made it through some of the toughest times in my life without these dear friends.  And I’ve met an awful lot of nice people along the way.  But even with a lot of wonderful people in my life, my most recent volunteer experience has blown me away.  Since last August, I have been fostering dogs in Arkansas for Rescue Road.  These dogs end up riding transport north to New England to Last Hope K9 Rescue.  There are foster parents on both ends and adopters on the New England end (where they don’t have so many dogs, due to their strict spay and neuter laws).  We rescue dogs from kill shelters and also those who are abandoned – generally boxes of puppies abandoned at a few weeks old or less, generally requiring bottle feeding to survive. You might ask who would do such a thing?  I’m not sure I would want to know them personally, but I’ve learned that so many people are cruel to animals that it’s frightening for our world.

As foster parents, whether in Arkansas or Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont or Connecticut (or other states), we rarely know each other personally.  A few of us have met, but we mostly do not know each other’s political or religious beliefs or even sexual preference.  What we do know is that we all love dogs and are all intent on saving as many lives as we can.  We share our experiences and dog stories and pictures on a Facebook page open just to LHK9 fosters and adopters.  It’s where we seek advice about a particular issue or where we just encourage each other and share our love for individual dogs we may have fostered or for all of the dogs in general.  There are pit bulls and Labradors and Shepherds and mixes.  There are babies and seniors, some healthy and some not so much.  There are often dogs that have to undergo heartworm treatment and some who are recovering from injuries inflicted by downright mean or at least very negligent owners.

Last Hope also pulls dogs from other states and sometimes, dogs left in very bad situations.  Just this week, there was a skinny, scared dog chained to a Brooklyn, NY fire hydrant.  Again, who would do such a horrible thing?  A kind Department of Sanitation employee found her yesterday morning and sent pictures to his friends.  This went viral on Facebook and in e-mails and Last Hope agreed to take in this dog.  Yesterday, she went to a local veterinary office to spend the night and receive medical care.  Today, Last Hope co-founder Rachele Huelsman and adoption coordinator Lindsay LaRocca drove from Boston to NYC to rescue Liberty.  She is now in a 48-hour quarantine, required by Massachusetts’s law for every dog who crosses the state line.  Along the way, they posted pics and Miss Liberty seemed to be completely trusting and comfortable in her new situation.  Us crazy dog people are following her and relishing in the miracle of her life.  If you want to be inspired, just like the Lady Liberty: My Freedom from Trash to Treasure on Facebook.
I wanted to write about this not just because of the amazing dog rescue stories and people, but because of the unique relationships we have for each other as human beings who share a common goal.  Some of us became Facebook friends because we’ve shared certain dogs or experiences and we have learned to respect and care for each other even more because of this.  Or we may just connect on the Last Hope Foster page, but we do everything we can to encourage and support each other.  I have never seen so many on Facebook postings as I do on this page.  The love is obvious and not just for the dogs!

So, we may be very different people with possibly little else in common, but our love for these animals binds us together in a very special way. It is truly an inspiring thing and one I sincerely wish could be duplicated in more relationships and life situations.  In a world where differences cause us to spew hate and venom and/or tacky Facebook postings or worse toward those who disagree with or are different from us, a lot could be learned from this dog rescue group.  As a start, maybe Congress could take a lesson!

Want to be part of this amazing group?  If you’re in Arkansas, check out Rescue Road on Facebook – we desperately need fosters, for a few weeks at a time.  Also, go to Last Hope K9 Rescue to watch how it works.  A lot of dedicated people put in a lot of time to make all this happen and I am thankful for all of them (Melanie Stapleton, Chelsea Cameron to name a few in Arkansas and Rachele and Lindsay, plus Hannalore Allison Tice, Tina Muther-Hicks and Jill Monahan, along with others in Massachusetts).

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Addictions to be thankful for....PUPPIES!

I  am so thankful for so many things.  One unexpected blessing of the last few months has been the foster puppies that have shared life with Lucy and me.

Having had seven different puppies at my house, I can testify that they help ease any sadness that happens to be lying around.  When I started fostering (after Sophie had been gone for three months), I still had many moments of grief for my best girl ever.  I can honestly say that I still shed a few tears occasionally and always will miss her, but having had some puppies around has definitely eased that pain.  Most of these puppies have reminded me of her (all have LOVED their food like she did) and all have shown complete and total love, which has filled up my heart. And yes, the sneaky moments still hit when I miss Randy desperately and seeking out a puppy or two to snuggle is very comforting.  I think he would approve.

I would highly recommend this "therapy" for any of you who might be in the market for a little extra love, due to any reason.  It may be that the holidays are not going to be what you want them to be (I don't think the Norman Rockwell family exists anymore) or that you've lost a precious person or animal in your life or...well, you name it.  Snuggling with puppies and knowing you are an important part of saving them? There is just nothing like it (and I think it's been good for Lucy as well!).


There are many good foster organizations in the Little Rock area.  I am working with Rescue Road, 
whose mission is to redirect happy, healthy, adoptable dogs in high-kill shelters into other networks to find their forever families.

Normally, I foster for two to three weeks, then "my" dog(s) travel north and find their forever homes, thanks to Last Hope K9 Rescue.  With my latest pups (part of an abandoned litter at only three weeks old), I am keeping them longer, since they can't ride the bus north until they are nine weeks old. 


Many friends have asked how I can give them up.  I won't lie to you.  It is hard.  I cry my eyes out for the first few minutes after I put them on the bus.  But knowing I helped save them and that they are headed to a new home (and never to a shelter again), plus knowing there are more who need me - all of this makes that time of sadness well worth it.  I finally came to terms with the fact that all they need is someone to love them and care for them for a lifetime...and that doesn't have to be me!



Fostering has filled my heart with so much joy and I am so very thankful.  If you'd like to get in on this incredible opportunity, please e-mail melanies@rescueroad.org.


Wishing you so many things to be thankful for...  Happy Thanksgiving!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Stop the World!! I want to get off!


At least until after Election Day….

But alas, that would probably not be long enough as Rush Limbaugh would still be doing things like blasting “Sir” Paul McCartney for not serving meat to his band (I’d put a link here, but you can Google it and see for yourself).  I’d say eating lots of beef has worked out nicely for Rush, but I’m trying not to be sarcastic in this post  (and it will be so hard J)

I am tired of whether we eat at Chick-Fil-A or not because they’re against gay marriage (and several other things).  I would never rush out to do what Mike Huckabee tells me to.  In fact, I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A and hardly ever have.  Previously it was nothing to do with their politics – I just try not to eat any fast food, because I think it lacks nourishment and is overpriced in general.  That’s a luxury I have because I’m not employed full-time and don’t have hungry mouths to feed at home (well, except for a dog!).

But I digress.  I am just so tired of all these people who are so sure of what is a sin and what is not and how God will judge us or not.  For the record, I did a search at BibleGateway.com on some “sins” and here's how many times each is mentioned in the New International Version (NIV):

Homosexual(ity)                                    1 time
Glutton(y)                                                7 times
Gossip                                                        8 times
Drunkenness                                           9 times
Sexual Immorality (in general)        23 times
Lust                                                           31 times
Divorce                                                    33 times
Murder                                                    80 times
And so on…

Now, I’m not saying God dislikes our behavior based on how many times it occurs in the Bible (however the murder mentioned 80 times gives that thought some credence). I think He pretty much doesn’t like anything we do that doesn’t glorify Him and His Son and/or help others.

I am guilty of many sins each day.  However, I try not to get brought down by that, but instead be thankful for  the ability to ask for forgiveness!  I also try to focus on these particular Bible verses:
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  Matthew 22:36-38 (NIV)
Of course, I still fail, as I don’t always love God with all my heart, soul and mind and probably don’t often love any of you as much as I do myself!  But, I keep trying and keep being thankful for the wonderful gift of grace (mentioned a whopping 125 times in the Bible!!).  Here’s my favorite:
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
This strikes me as interesting – the gift of grace is nothing about which I can boast. This also tells me that none of the sins I don’t do are anything I can boast about.  I probably don’t commit them because I’m not tempted in that way or don’t have that opportunity.  I believe that to be true for most people.  So if I judge another for something I don't do, but keep mum about the sins I do, does that make me holier than them?  I'm thinking not.




This all ties back to what I was first thinking about - all the hate and lack of love in the world.  It makes me sad, even though I am guilty of it too.  It’s so easy to vilify those different from us, whether it's by lifestyle, birth, social class, religion, political party, etc.  I keep remembering the craze of a few years ago about “What Would Jesus Do?”  (WWJD).  I don’t see that mentioned anywhere these days, whether it’s over the presidential race, homosexuality, abortion, etc.  I’m thinking we should concentrate on what Jesus wants instead of  “What is Chick-Fil-A/Starbucks/Boston/President Obama (insert appropriate name here) doing?"
Just what I’m thinking about on this hot August day….

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Missing Sophie...and Randy...and my dad

It's been an emotional day, especially this evening. A month ago tonight, I came home about 9 p.m. and found my sweet Sophie girl in distress. My struggle many times this last month and again tonight is hoping that she wasn't that way too long before I got home. I can't believe she's been gone a month. I miss her so much and guess I always will.

Then, there's missing Randy. A few nights ago I had my driver's license out of my billfold and close to my Mac to pre-check in for a rental car next weekend for my trip to Massachusetts and Maine. At church last night I noticed my DL was not in my billfold.  I came home and couldn't find it anywhere by my chair. There is a basket under the table by my chair that has all the sympathy cards and notices of memorials from when Randy died. (I keep it there, but don't look at it very often). Since I thought the DL maybe fell in that basket, I went through it. That was an emotional experience and pretty much sent me to bed in tears. (I did find the DL though, in a different spot!). I miss him so much and guess I always will.

Today, I decided to work on the office again - there is SO much stuff to go through and instead of attacking all at once, I've decided to do in small pieces. So, today I did some sorting and shredding and I went through a basket (why is it always baskets with me?  Randy would be laughing at that!) of cards. Many were to Randy when he was ill and others were birthday cards (his 60th, my misc), some Christmas and some when I retired. There were several from Sophie to me (thanks to Randy and my mom). So, this was all somewhat emotional as well.

And, last  but not necessarily least, it is Father's Day and I went through pictures of my Dad, to post on Facebook. So, there were many good memories, but it also reminded me of how much I miss my dad and those days.

Why are there so many sad things in life? I am not denying that there is much joy, for which I am ever so thankful, but there is also sadness in missing those we've loved and lost. I guess there will always be sadness on this earth and we just have to live with it. I can tell you that I look forward to heaven when there is no more sadness. What a glorious promise that is!


"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Remembering Sophie

Well, as most of you know by now, I lost my dear sweet Sophie on Thursday night. I knew, since she was a "big dog," that she wouldn't live much past 13; however, I did not expect to lose her before she turned 11 (in August). I have tried so hard to feed her well (organic dog food, organic or grass-fed human treats, etc.) and take good care of her, hoping I could get her to 14. But wouldn't you know it? That nasty cancer that took Randy from me early also took my precious baby girl way too early. Or, that's what they supposed at the ER vet - it appeared she suddenly had a mass in her chest that was causing her breathing to be very labored and affecting her circulation (pale gums, cold paws). We talked briefly about surgery to see if it might be on the spleen, but I feared she was already too weak, and the sweet Tech told me he felt the same. So, I decided to let her go. She'd been in the back having x-rays and on oxygen, so they brought her back to me and it wasn't five minutes before she stopped breathing in my arms.  They administered "the shot" just to make sure she didn't struggle, as she had gasped for air a couple of times. And with that, her short, but exuberant life was over.

My heart is broken. I loved Sophie like a child (now I don't have children, so I don't really know, but I can't imagine loving anything more. Please bear with me if you have children and know this is not true). At least, she was my child. And, as I've warned my friends ever since Randy left this earth, she was also my connection to Randy, as they adored each other.

Now it's just Lucy and me and we're trying to figure it out. I cry and Lucy licks me and we both just sit around looking at the house and wondering when Sophie is going to come into the room. Every time I go in the kitchen, I realize she's gone, as otherwise she would be right there with me, hoping some nibble of food would find its way to her mouth or the floor! Life is pretty sad right now. I know it will get better, but I'm trying not to rush it.  I know I have to grieve for this girl and for her link to Randy. I'm thankful for Lucy and for my friends who are crying with me and giving me time and space to deal with this.

The good news is that she had an incredibly good life. I've been going through pictures and posted an album on Facebook. She did a lot of traveling in her short life, including the farm in Weiner, all over Arkansas (state parks, etc.), around Oklahoma (state parks), to Houston several times (when we were going to MD Anderson), to the Outer Banks in May 2005 (her first beach trip), to cabins on Missouri lakes and to Fort Morgan Beach in Alabama for the last three Aprils. She loved to go, she loved to eat, she loved to be loved. She was always excited about living her life. She was also very attuned to my moods. If I were angry (and possibly saying a bad word about something), she would come over and force herself on me, like "now mom, you don't need to be upset." Of course she would also do that when it was even close to time for dinner!

She loved people, even when they didn't love her. She was friendly with other dogs and when they weren't, she ignored them. She loved going to the vet more than any dog I've ever known (something to do with the treats, possibly?)! She welcomed Lucy into the household, although I know Sophie always knew she was the first place dog in our home and in our hearts. She was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime dogs that I was blessed to have.

Rest in peace, my sweet girl. I know you will enjoy being with Randy again. Don't ever forget how much you were loved on this earth.


Sophie
The Best Dog Ever
8/18/2001 to 5/17/2012


(5/22/12:  I went to my vet today. They had reviewed the report from the ER vet and felt like it was a mass that bled out, which is why it happened so quickly, without any warning.  I hope and pray that she wasn't suffering long before I got home.  I feel pretty guilty about being out having fun when she was home sick.  I know it's not rational, but it's just reality.)