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

Author: mom2shelby

Mom to 13 year old Shelby - Jack Russell/Shiba Inu mix. A rescue dog that was born in New Orleans. Shelby is a spirited, smart and happy little dog who loves to run, play, go to the beach (we live in LA) and ride in the car! She is my best friend and the true love of my life!

5 thoughts on “Learning to trust AND love again – more life lessons from Shelby”

  1. Thank you for sharing Alison. We have many similarities. May you continue to learn that love and loss are a yin and yang, and while the pain hurts, it is worth it. We survive. And we become better for it.

  2. I agree,it is hard to go through loss, but our life with our pups was worth it. We passed a car the other day that was hauling a Lab. I gave my husband the sad look. He said something about if I get another dog, I will most likely outlive that dog also. That scares me! Then I look at what I had with Ty. I want that un breakable bond again. Eventually. Take your time to heal Alison. Be good to YOU! You came to my mind when I read that article the other day about current loss bringing back unresolved past grief. To lose your Dad when you were barely an adult yourself had to have been tremendously painful. Then a move to a distant city. Wow, a lot of change in a short time! By the way, your ex is a fool. I can tell the great, loving, giving heart you have just by how you cared for Shelby. I am sure he realizes that by now. You will get there, you are a strong woman. Watching over you is Shelby Strong! Love from, Lori and Ty

  3. Alison,
    I SO understand where you are coming from. My Rosa Rae was my girlfriend, my daughter, my best friend, my everything, my heart. For many of the same reasons that you were brave enough to share with us. Trust me, if you follow Shelby’s lead you WILL love again. In your own time. No rush. Just trust that it will happen in good time.
    Martha and the Oaktown Pack

  4. I agree with all the above comments. I know Shelby will lead you to the right one eventually. Your heart is still mending and it will be when you are ready not anyone else. Only you will know that. I agree with Martha its in your own time and no rush. Do things that you need to.

    Michelle & Angel Sassy

  5. I’m the ex who broke her heart. I was an awful person and felt bad about this for years. I was in my mid-twenties and a total idiot. That was nearly 20 years ago and I’m a different person now.
    As you all know, Alison is a wonderful person and if you met her, you would instantly like her thoughtful and kind nature. We are friends now and I apologize nearly every time she mentions it. I know she’s hurting and although I may never make things right between us, I can be the best friend to her that I can be and support her through this awful time.

    It’s my hope that she will be happy and find love again. We talk quite frequently now and the joke is that I would like to dance at her wedding. I mean it too, even though I’m a horrible dancer. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.