I find it so hard to comprehend that it was almost a year ago (this weekend) that Shelby and I took our last road trip together. There was a part of me that “knew” as a mother always does, that it would be our last trip. And I tried SO hard to enjoy it, be more dog, and live in the moment and not think about the ticking time bomb, also known as hemangiosarcoma. Shelby didn’t know she had cancer. We were going to – as we always had when the going got rough – escape our reality.
I hadn’t been to Santa Barbara in almost 2 years since I had been up there with an ex. It was ALWAYS mine and Shelby’s place but I ventured up there with T with false hopes of a for-ever love becoming a reality. Obviously that didn’t happen and it was always too painful to go back but I wanted to take that place back as mine and Shelby’s special place. We had spent many weekends there over the years, going to wineries, going out to eat, hanging by the beach… Shelby loved it almost as much as I did!
So we packed up our stuff and hit the road. Shelby, at this point, hated riding in the car and I later learned that was probably because her broken yet repaired bum leg still bugged her. I was the ultimate nervous mommy … venturing two hours away from our ER vet but they assured me it was safe to take Shelby. Nonetheless, I found ER vets in Santa Barbara!
The weather was perfect and as soon as we hit the outskirts, Shelby perked up. We stopped for a picnic lunch and headed off to our favorite winery. No one noticed the slight limp on Shelby OR the shaved fur. They all remarked that she acted and looked like a puppy. She was almost 13. Shelby was the life of the party – as always. EVERYONE was drawn to her. Her personality, her smile, her positive energy.
We hit up a couple wineries and then headed to check into the hotel. Of course there were a million stairs UP to the room so I carried Shelby up them to avoid any strain on her leg, joints, body. She was always great in hotels. Never barked. Made herself at home. Never insecure or weird. I unpacked our stuff, took her for a quick walk and we headed into town for dinner.
Dining with Shelby was always an experience. She was a begger but she was “usually” pretty good about boundaries but she liked to ‘visit’ other tables so I had to keep her on a super short leash and even put her on my lap from time to time. It made it harder to eat or drink but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was the best!
We headed back to our hotel and had some wine out in the courtyard and that is where I truly lost it. I think reality kicked in about what we were dealing with. I was scared. I was saddened. I didn’t see how I could go on without Shelby. I didn’t know what that life looked like (I still don’t but I go through the motions each day).
The next morning, Shelby wasn’t feeling 100% … I could see it in her eyes so I got us packed up early and was ready to head back. But I wanted to take her by the beach one last time. It was her favorite place and mine too. So I got out our blanket and we shared it. Well actually, Shelby took the whole damn thing and I was mostly on the grass (the things we do for love). And a peace came over her. She settled. She seemed calm. She seemed to be taking it all in. She was ‘one with nature’. Until she started to pant (her usual signal that she’s had too much), we just sat and listened to the ocean and the breeze.
We drove back to LA and as soon as we got back, she was fine. She settled back into her home and her routine. And then the next week, we started chemo.
So next week, I’ll go on my first vacation in over a year when I travel home to Seattle for the wedding of my two dear friends. I am excited to celebrate their union, their love, their commitment. Last year at this time, I didn’t know how I would swing their wedding in October if Shelby was still with me. I knew it would have been an inner struggle with my devotion to the love of my life and my devotion to the one man (aside from my daddy) that has always had my back.
I still don’t know if I can go back to Santa Barbara. The memories of ALL my trips with Shelby are too fresh in my mind. She was the BEST travel buddy. Many photos I have framed around my office and apt are of our trips up there and they serve as constant reminders. When I think back to this trip a year ago, I force my brain to go to the happy place – not the dark place. I find myself living too much in that dark place right now – too many regrets, too much guilt, too much sadness. Shelby wouldn’t want that. Shelby has moved on. She lives in her moments and she has a new life … and I am not in it right now and that hurts me so much. I wish, wish, WISH we could still be together. But she visits (more and more now since I think she knows these next months are going to be very hard on me), as I hear click, click, click of nails on the floor when there is no dog on the floor.
I desperately want to run away, escape reality but the funny thing about running away, you always have to come back and that same shit is still there. So next week, when I leave Los Angeles, I’ll look at it as a respite from this world and part of my healing process…because ..till we meet again, my Shelby Lynne … my soul mate … my one true love… you are truly fur-ever in my heart!