#TBT Shelby’s “rough” life

From the day I rescued Shelby, I think she made her life mission to make friends. Oh to be more dog! ūüôā She was such a pleaser. She loved everyone she met – without judgement. She wanted to be loved but she also gave such love.

When we moved¬†to Seattle (home for me and new for her) from New Orleans, I moved into a cute little apt building that had about 8 units. It was perfect! Hardwood floors, tall ceilings, claw foot tub. And PET FRIENDLY! I had no idea how hard it would be to find a reasonably priced place that would let us move in. But moved in we did. The first thing I noticed was that Shelby would love to slip and slide on the hard wood floors. I put some rugs down but my poor downstairs neighbor. Shelby was just the jumper, on and off the bed. ALL the time. She would also love to sit in the window and watch the world go by. In the summer, when I had the windows open, I would worry that she wasn’t smart enough to NOT jump out when she saw a squirrel or a cat.

Shelby at Christmas (2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelby in our old kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon, people in the apt complex came to know me as “Shelby’s mom” as they would hear me yell to and at her. “Shelby stop jumping”. “Shelby, for the love of GOD go potty”, “Shelby no”, “Shelby stop”… I talked with her so much.

The nice man that lived below us was an elderly man who had served in a war (perhaps Korea, Vietnam). He suffered from severe PTSD and never spoke to me. He sat on the stoop outside the apt and while I would apologize for being loud (Shelby going clickety clack with her nails), he never said a word. But he would always pet her. She soothed him. And she wasn’t high strung or bat crazy around Sam. She would sit next to him, while he chain smoked, and calmly accept his petting her back and ears.

One day, one of our other neighbors came up to me in the laundry room and inquired about Shelby. I worried that Shelby was barking during the day while I was work or something but she simply wanted to get to know Shelby better and since she was home during the day, wanted to know if she could take her out. Now as I have said before, Shelby was always a flight risk and I was definitely a nervous mom about letting anyone else watch my dog (my own mother included!). So I tentatively agreed to a trial. I gave her the leash and Shelby and those were the most excruciating and long 15 minutes of my life while she took Shelby for a trial walk. Shelby came back, tail wagging, happy as a clam and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. After putting this poor woman through the ringer, telling her Shelby was bad on a leash, and a flight risk – she came back to report that Shelby was perfectly lovely. I agreed to let her walk Shelby during the week if she felt so inclined. Shelby was around 5 years old then and starting to mellow out a bit.

Shelby and Trinity became fast friends! When I would get home from work, I would ask Shelby what adventures she had. She always wagged her tail. She would run to Trinity’s door but in the beginning, since Trinity had several cats, Shelby wasn’t allowed in their apt. Summer rolled around and in an effort to get to know the neighbors, we hosted a 4th of July BBQ. How happy was Shelby to be outside with all her friends!?!

4th of July BBQ (2005?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer passed and soon came fall and winter. Shelby continued to have great adventures with her buddy. She was welcomed into the house (with the cats) and proved to be a good guest. I started to travel a bit for work and Trinity would keep an eye on Shelby for me while I was gone. Eventually, I don’t know how it happened but Shelby found herself over-nighting in the cat casa! Shelby and Trinity would go to the video store (where Shelby got cookies), to the coffee shop, the grocery store… Everywhere Shelby went, she made friends.

When I flew to LA to interview for the job that I would take that would relocate us to LA, Trinity kept Shelby overnight. Murphy, the cat that had been skeptical of Shelby at first, soon became her best friend. They were able to co-exist happily and peacefully watching the squirrels and other wildlife outside.

Shelby and her buddy Murphy

With mixed emotions, I did make the decision to relocate us to Los Angeles. When I moved into my second apt here in Los Angeles (where I live now), it was like history was repeating itself. Small complex (7 units) and people came to know me as “Shelby’s mom”. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. What a wonderful title to have. What a wonderful job to have.

I am desperately trying to re-define who I am. I was a mom for 13 years. It was what I knew how to do and it was what I did best. It truly is the one thing I am the most proud of that I have done in my 40 years on this earth. I wasn’t always the best mom to Shelby … I stayed out late, I didn’t come home sometimes, I cut her walks short when I was tired or in a bad mood but she was always cared for, she was always fed and she was always loved. And I am truly thankful that dogs live in the moment and don’t¬†remember things in the past that we, as humans, might not be so proud of. While I look and try and figure out who I want to be, I know that I want to be more “Shelby”. I want to live more without judgement. I want to live more in the moment. I want to always stop and smell the flowers, appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds me. It is hard to move forward. The easy thing for me now is to go home and shut the windows, shut out the world. But every invitation I accept. Every walk on the beach I take. Every time I stop and truly listen to the waves crash – I feel Shelby’s paw on my shoulder pushing me forward, telling me it’s going to be OK and that she is always with me. Thank you for sending me a penny last weekend Shelby. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone. I miss you, my baby girl. I think about you all day, every day and I know that you have made a million and one new friends, both canine and human (and probably cats too) over the bridge and you are so loved. Thank you for always being my personal ray of sunshine!

#TBT Traveling with Shelby

I’m not exactly sure when I thought it would be fun to take Shelby on mini vacations, road trips. I know we didn’t do any of that in New Orleans. In Seattle,¬†we pretty much stayed at home or ventured to the Oregon Coast for a weekend here and there. But once we moved to LA, Shelby seemed to be my go-to travel buddy. She had mellowed out and was ‘moderately’ well behaved in social settings (aka restaurants).

I do recall in Seattle taking her to a coffee shop where she would have to sit outside and wait for me. I would never consider that now – but in Seattle, it was safe and no one was snatching dogs. But Shelby would have NONE of that. She suffered from severe abandonment issues and even though she could ‘see’ me through the window, she would scream and holler like she was being skinned. Anyone who has ever heard of the “Shiba Scream” knows what sounds I am talking about. On more than one occasion (because I thought she would get better or get used to being tied up outside) someone would come into the coffee shop and ask who’s dog it was. Usually I would rush the coffee order and get out there to find her calmly being pet and loved on by other patrons. So maybe it was her way of getting extra snuggles. #dramaqueen

Somewhere along the way, I decided it would be fun to take Shelby to Santa Barbara for the weekend. It’s a super dog friendly town and I figured we could¬†explore the beaches and wineries. Sadly my designated driver had four paws so that definitely cut down on the number of wineries we could go to. I¬†let her pick out some toys at Petco, packed her up and we hit the road. We had so much fun! Traveling with Shelby was the best. She was pretty well-behaved when we would go out to eat. She was great in hotels (never barked) and I was able to go for a long run, leave her there and come back and find her still snoozing on the bed. I remember our first trip up to Santa Barbara – we were gone a little over 48 hours and it was the best time. I vowed then to take her on as mini getaways as I could. LA is ironically not as dog friendly as one would think so we had to be creative. San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs … all destinations for us to go and explore.

Shelby was such a good sport. She was always so happy to go. She was so friendly to EVERYONE she met. People fell in love with her. Her smile, her energy, her wagging tail. We had the best times, the best adventures! I couldn’t have asked for a better travel companion. She knew when I got out her travel bag that we were going somewhere exciting. She would do her little dance around the house and basically wouldn’t chill out¬†while I got our¬†things together. On more than one occasion I would yell at her “if you don’t stop, we’re not going anywhere”. Thankfully I never made good on that threat! ūüôā ¬†Also as I would try and load things into the car, she was constantly underfoot –¬†I can only assume this is akin to traveling with a human child.

“are we there yet”?!?
Passed out at one of the wineries

 

Vacations with Shelby were the best!
Our last trip to Santa Barbara after her cancer diagnosis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two years ago I had a job that required a ton of travel and I quickly figured out that I could manage the trips to San Diego by bringing my best friend. They had a doggy daycare there that Shelby would/could play in – from what I was told, she simply followed the staff ALL day looking for pets and snuggles, then we would have dinner out and head back to the hotel. Or we would order room service. There is nothing like trying to eat dinner on a the bed with a wet nose sharking for french fries! But it make the traveling more manageable.

Locally, Shelby and I would grab lunch, go for coffee (in places I could bring her in) or happy hour. Last summer our favorite thing was to go over on Thursdays early afternoon and grab some drinks and snacks. It soon became “Vodka Thursdays”.¬†We had the best summer last summer – not knowing that it would be our last summer. I was off work for 2 months and I got to spend every day with the¬†“love of my life”.

As I pack up my bags this long Memorial Day Weekend (the unofficial start of summer), I do so with a mixture of emotions. There is a huge part of me that really believes I need to get out of LA – even if it’s just for 48 hours. In the past 6 weeks since Shelby passed, I have been going at full speed at work, which has kept me exhausted and distracted. Part of me also feels like I am running¬†away from my¬†new reality. Weekends are still really hard on me. It was our time – even if it was sitting outside in the sunshine and doing nothing, it was our time.

It will be bittersweet to get on the road and drive east without my best friend in the back seat. ¬†Shelby would always put her paws on the console when we first got¬†started on an adventure, we would crank up the Neil Diamond and open the sunroof and let the road guide us … my agenda, my destination; Shelby was just happy to be with me.¬†She didn’t care where we were going. Or when we got there.

But I do believe Shelby will be guiding me this weekend; she is always with me. She is in my heart, she is in my mind, she is in my soul. And while I look at this as an escape, I feel hopeful and optimistic that a little rest, a lot of vodka, a lot of french fries and a pool will be just what the doctor ordered.

 

#TBT Shelby Style

There is something to be said about adopting an adult (or non-puppy) dog from the shelter that wasn’t a surrender – there is no history on them. Oh what I wouldn’t have paid to know what Shelby’s life was like before coming to live with me.¬†Her records didn’t indicate much – not even where they found her. But she was fixed. She was basically house-trained. She had limited manners.

I remember the first night I brought Shelby home. It was a Friday night and I was working in events at the time so I had the day off and had to work that night. Silly me. I figured I would bring the dog home and all would be fine. She would, of course, adapt, instantly to her new surroundings. Because of course, ALL dogs feel right at home in a new space. Oh how wrong was I.

I brought Shelby home (and that was the first she heard of her name since she was nameless when I adopted her). She instantly became a holy terror in the apt. She ran around like¬†a complete bat out of hell. I gave her some water and I think I must have fed her (I was so unprepared – I didn’t even have a leash). I turned on the TV to get ready for work and she stopped dead in her tracks and jumped on the coffee table and then under the coffee table and her ears were back. She was afraid of the TV?!? Psycho mutt.

I left for work and figured, to be safe, I would attempt to ‘trap’ her in the kitchen, just in case. That was when I first realized that she was a jumper and completely NOT OK with being confined to a small space. I put up chairs and blocked her in. Or so I thought. I got home from work about midnight and she was free-roaming. On the couch. Had made herself at home. Fine. That was when I still thought that there would be no dogs on the furniture (how naive was I?).

I took her out to potty (that much I did know that I had to do with a dog) and she took off. Silly me, again, expecting a dog to come back to me that had known me for all of 12 hours and didn’t know her own name! I put some¬†Mardi Gras beads around her neck thinking that would be a make-shift leash and BOOM – broken and she was off, again. I don’t know how (act of God maybe) but I got her back.

The next morning I took her off to Petco to get her supplies (a crate, collar, leash). The parking lot of Petco, she jumped out of of the shopping cart. Thank GOD someone helped me snag her (she was fast). I was losing interest in this quickly. So we got a collar, a crate, and leash. Everything was good but she was a puller. Oh did she pull. I thought for sure she would pull my arm out of the socket.

And the crate. Epic fail. EPIC! She was having none of that. She wouldn’t go in it. Wouldn’t have anything to do with it. She cried. She whined. She sounded like she was being skinned. I put toys in there (she destroyed them). I put a blanket in there (she ate that). It was the perfect size for her but she still messed in there and then sat in poop. She refused to embrace it. For three straight nights – I tried. I put pillows over my ears and I could still hear her cry. I put a towel over it (like you would a bird) and she ate that. She was relentless. So finally, I gave up the fight. And mom and baby slept well. I am not sure when she moved to my bed or when she won ALL the battles with confinement but she did.

For the rest of her life, if you would even utter the word “crate” her ears would go back and she would start to shake. Something, at some point, in her early life had emotionally traumatized her of being confined. When she broke her leg, the only choice was to get a crate to keep her confined while I was at work. I apologized to the neighbors in advance for the crying but it was a necessary evil. After the amputation, they told me to keep her in small room (so I put her in my bedroom) and she tried to tunnel out by eating the door (bye bye deposit).

While I will never know what Shelby’s life was like before me or how long she had lived with a family what I will always know is that she had the best life with me. At some point, about age 10, she stopped running off… she realized, I guess, that the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the road. That she had it pretty darn good – costumes and all. And she taught me the kind of dog mom to be, the kind I hope to be should I ever enter down that road again, and with any future fur-baby, I will shower them with the same amount of love that Shelby got. And Shelby will always smile down on us and be proud of the fact that she taught me how to¬†live and to love…. not the other way around.

 

 

On the left , where I put Shelby when I went out. On the right, what it looked like when I got home.

 

 

Pissed off Shelby
Bye bye deposit … she was trying to tunnel out. Amazingly, she did somehow get out of the room.
The blanket never stood a chance (as placed on top of her crate)

Learning to trust AND love again – more life lessons from Shelby

On one of the Tripawds forum posts, there has been a conversation about grief, how we process it and how everyone is different. Without judgement, we all have a common place to meet and share our stories about our loved ones that have passed and are able to identify other feelings and emotions that may resonate with us. ¬†It was one such post today by one of my “Tripawd” friends that made me stop and think about my own¬†fragile emotional state.

For as long as I can remember, I have had an uncanny way of ‘shutting’ out things that are painful to me. In fact, I shut out the memories. As many know, my father passed when I was 22 years old. I was the ultimate daddy’s girl, an only child, the apple of his eyes. He was the absolute BEST father – always there on the weekends, worked hard during the week but always made time for dinner with his family. We were so close. I was also, in part with my amazing mother but not to the same extent, a caregiver. When he finally passed, my world was shattered. I was lost, without a cause or purpose. I quit my job. Stayed in my room for 6+ months, slept all day. Emotionally and physically checked out. This was LONG before FaceBook or anything of the sort. I don’t know how it happened but I finally picked myself up, slowly, and found my new life. ¬†Cancer took my father and it has taken YEARS for me to even consider supporting cancer research fundraisers because I was SO angry that the medications couldn’t save him. He passed at 55 years old.

About a year after he passed, I moved to New Orleans. I needed to get out of Seattle and find a new life. I didn’t (and still don’t) share many details of my father. I keep that very close to my heart. But in part is that I have unconsciously blocked out all the memories I really have. I would need to stare at photos to try and recover those memories and even, then hard to do. I mainly remember him as sick but that was such a small part of our story. My mom found some old tapes of his talking to me and as I listened, I didn’t recognize the voice. I felt awful. BUT I realized that it is how my mind/brain/heart copes.

In New Orleans, I met, who I thought, would be the man I would marry. I was happy. But when he broke my heart in a million pieces, I vowed NEVER again. “Better to have loved than loss” – so not my motto.¬†He had had a dog. I begged for the dog, for joint custody, for anything. But ultimately, it was too painful to be around the dog and not be a family together.

Enter Shelby Lynne. I knew I wanted my own dog. But in retrospect, I think in part, it was a replacement dog for the dog of my ex. I thought it would be a good idea. I was alone in a city that I had only lived a year and had very few friends. Shelby was a holy terror the first weekend she was in my home. I truly almost returned her but I was too embarrassed and feared they wouldn’t let me ‘trade her in’. ¬†Our bond wasn’t instant. She bolted the first night I had her and I couldn’t get her back. I tried to crate train her – epic fail. Somewhere in her life before me, she had became fearful of enclosed spaces (which made it¬†even more odd that her last few months, her favorite place was my tiny bathroom). People told me to ‘let her cry it out’ – the dog was relentless. She cried – non-stop for over 12 hours. I said, no dogs on the bed. That lasted a day. I said no dogs on the couch (also a week). It soon became clear who ruled the apt!

But still, while I loved her, I didn’t fully feel bonded with her. The ex came back (as they always do) about 6 months later and I let him back into my heart and home. And he brought his dog for a visit. What was fascinating to witness was his dog, who had always adored me and I had bonded with, came up to snuggle me and little Shelby was having none of that. What happened was two dogs – meeting for the first time – not understanding why they BOTH couldn’t be top dog in my¬†world. At that moment, I chose to comfort Shelby. She was my baby and my connection with her was stronger. (Which was great since the ex went MIA 48 hours later).

So it became me and Shelby. That was my world and it worked. I’ve dated other people, had other relationships over the years but I always keep people at arm’s distance. I don’t trust anyone – truly – 100%. In my mind, I can’t risk getting hurt and letting someone get close to me and then disappear and die (like the ex and my dad). I am so fearful of loss that I keep my heart so guarded that it’s virtually impossible to get in there. Except for Shelby. Without being aware, I did open my heart up again. I did love completely and in ways that I didn’t think that I could. And it felt amazing. She was there when my heart was broken again and again. She was there when I lost my job. She was there every anniversary of the passing of my father. Shelby truly taught me that it is OK to love and to lose and you can survive.

Am I still sad? Yes, my heart breaks for Shelby every single day. I long to feel her fur, carry her in my arms like a baby, ask her if she wants a cookie (those ears!!!). I lost my father when I was 22. I got Shelby when I was 26. I struggle with my own personal identity – not being a caregiver for the first time in a really, really, really long time. It’s a whole new life/world for me. And it scares me.

Will I trust again? Will I love again? Only time will tell. But Shelby will always remain the true love of my life. I feel so lucky to have found my ‘heart dog’ so early in life and to have had her show how to really live and how to ‘be more dog’. Right now, I plan and try to live like Shelby … in the moment, in the hour, in the day. Too far into the future scares me. Too much in the past makes me sadder. And I need to share her stories because I fear (as with my father) I will forget those memories as my body/mind/soul try and heal.

BUT I thank you Shelby, for the life lessons, the gifts and the love … I will do my best to make you proud as you watch over me till we meet again. I miss you my little snuggle bunny…

Keeping watch on the apt

 

She loved to destroy her babies in my bed

Four weeks today … one month ago, Shelby earned her wings

How is it already 4 weeks? How is that even possible? What a surreal month it has been. I think I have been in a constant state of numbness from paralyzing fear of the unknown, to some relief of not being an intense caregiver (and the guilt that goes with that) to utter and complete sadness. The tears have subsided but the pain absolutely has not. Shelby is with me every day, every waking minute.

I had initially wanted to put together a video montage of her photos for June – which will mark one year when she broke her leg (and I need to stop beating myself up for allowing her to miss the car and fall and thus break her leg) but then I decided I wanted to have it done for one month.

I have been in hibernation for the past month. Basically silent on FaceBook, Twitter and other social media outlets. I felt that it was important to mourn, properly, the loss of my best friend. I also felt that it would be insensitive to the love and happiness we had if I jumped back into my life too soon. I know that is a human thing and that most people wouldn’t judge me and even if they did – F them.

But I feel that it is time for me to start to live again. I have been running more, which is good for my heart and my soul. I have been slowly getting my eating healthy again and not just having wine and cookies for dinner. My pants are starting to fit again and I feel healthy. I feel guilty for healing but I have to believe that Shelby would not want me to be sad for the rest of my life.

As I looked through Shelby’s photos for her video, I decided it should be called “Shelby’s amazing life” and what a life she had. She was spoiled beyond reason. She always had plenty of toys, cookies, beds to chose from. She had the beach at her paws. Snow from when we lived in Seattle. Parks and mountains were her playgrounds. She was so loved by everyone who met her. What a lucky dog. Time and time again, people have said to me that if they were to come back, they wanted to come back as Shelby because she truly had the best life. And I loved to remind her of that when she would pout – I would ask her to tell me “how your life sucks”. Silly monkey. My little muffin!

There is the void that will always be there. And there will be ups and downs as I continue down this road. I am definitely not ready for another dog in my life. I am trying to figure out who I am. I am in a new decade of my life and while I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of being alone, I am trying to see this as a gift, an opportunity to further develop. Shelby trained me well. She trained me to live in the moment and as long as I don’t think too far ahead, I am stable.

I know my girl is creating havoc over the bridge. That little devil. She was the feisty one. I know she is making tons of news friends and I know that she is watching over me every single day. I still hear her breathing in the apt at night. I still open the door and look to her beds (which have remained unmoved) and to the bathroom but she’s never there.

So today … as I relive the last 48 hours together in my mind and remember our extraordinary life together, I also celebrate our amazing love story … I love you, Shelby girl. I miss you every day. And I will always remember your smile.

 

She loved her toys!