My darling Shelby … how is it even possible that it has been three years since you crossed the Rainbow Bridge? So much has happened and I feel like my life has moved on and I feel both happy and sad about that. The time we had together, the adventures, the experiences … they seem a million light years away and almost as if it never happened. But the love I have for you and the moments that I still turn around and expect to see you and your velvet ears is still very real to me.
I know the universe and experts say there is no time limit on grief. It’s what we tell people here when they first lose their pet and are forced to live on in the darkest of days where light seems hard to come by. And there really isn’t.
But if I were to calculate the time it took me to “really heal” … to really even consider starting to live again, it was over 2 1/2 years. It was really until January 1st of this year that I decided that I had to live again. That I had to find the Alison that was hiding under the umbrella of grief, the Alison that was slowly making this “grief” some sort of self-fulling prophecy and denying herself LOVE, HAPPINESS and LIFE.
Because hiding was the easy choice. Running away from reality was the easy choice. Denying that this was what I was doing was the easy choice. But when I forced myself to look within my heart and my soul, I discovered this wasn’t what I wanted. This didn’t serve me. It was making life harder not easier. So I told myself to “let it go” and that that was not how my story was going to end.
It has not been easy. I miss my best girl every single day. I miss the chats we had, the cuddles and snuggles, the simplicity of a dog that just “got me”. Shelby was never a dog. She was a soul mate. Even though I raised her, it was really her that raised me. She came to me in my late 20s and left me in my early 40s. There was an entire decade of life and living that I did – all with her by my side. From New Orleans back to Seattle to Los Angeles … Shelby took it all in stride. It was so easy. I never had to worry if she would adapt because she just did. As long as she had me by her side.
Our life was not without drama or challenges. Shelby had a horrible fear of abandonment; I could never tie her up outside a coffee shop without her doing her “Shiba Scream”, alarming all guests that she was being horribly attacked. Yet as soon as someone sat down to pet her, she would calm her jets. Oh Shelby … I always said you would sell me out to the highest bidder!
And the chocolate incidents – yes, more than one. For a smart little dog, she could never really remember not to get on the counter, eat of of the trash or get her nose into something she should not. That dog had 9 lives for sure. Every bullet dodged until the last one… the one that we could not. The cancer.
Shelby was a fighter (much like her mama used to be). When she broke her leg, she healed like a champ. When we found the cancer in the spleen, she healed like a champ. Even when we took her leg, ultimately, she healed like champ. Shelby was an amazing Tripawd – she had spunk, she had personality, she had the best “tripawd stance”. She still loved her cookies, her toys, her cuddles. She found safety in my arms (after she eventually gave up residence of my tiny bathroom).
And three years ago, I made the hardest decision I had to make as an adult. I had to let her earthly journey end. I wanted to beat another battle, win another fight, find another life but Shelby was done. She was tired. She was ready. And so, on the beach by our home, the place we spent so many days and evenings sitting and feeling and smelling the ocean breeze, I said goodbye to my soulmate. My heart broke that day – in ways I never thought was possible. I knew I would heal because I was a fighter but I had no clue how much of me I would lose in the process. After one year, I thought I was healed. I was not. After two years and a full year with the new little dog, I thought “I’ve got this”. I did not.
But lots of other things changed in my life last year and I started to see that my destiny was not going through the motions and doing the same thing over and over again. There were challenges, there was a lot of self-doubt, there was hesitation. But there was also the glimmer of hope … for the first time in a really long time… I wanted to live.
What an amazing feeling!!! Why put off living? What is the purpose in that? Dogs don’t do that. Shelby (and the new little dog) woke up every morning thinking “life is great” and “what adventure will I have today”? Even if it means sniffing the same grass and eating the same food (the dogs – not me). But just to be awake is a gift.
So this spring, I will journey to meet so many wonderful people who helped me through this journey and experience of growth … a path I am still on daily. Those that never gave up on me even when I wanted to. And those that didn’t know my story but have come to know me through the new little dog that will serve as Shelby’s ambassador on our journey next month. To say she had some pretty big paws to fill was an understatement. But the love I have for her … despite all her weird quirks … just proves that everything in life happens for us – not to us. And for a reason; even if we don’t know the reason at the time.
Three years ago I said goodbye for now to my best friend but she has never left my heart. Her favorite bed has been reclaimed. Her toys are still nestled away and I can still smell her scent on them from time to time. I am still not ready to go to some of “our places” yet but I am also no longer ruling that out. I am open to the gifts and what life will throw at me.
I miss Shelby every day of my life and I always will. BUT I have learned to love again in the process and that is the gift that Shelby continues to give me. Because dogs live in the now. And if Shelby were here (or as she watches over me) she wants me to be happy. She doesn’t feel jealous or sad that she never got to ride on an airplane or a boat. She got to go to wineries and picnics and beaches! Shelby had the best possible life a dog could ever ask for. And knowing I played a small part in making her life amazing warms my heart and soul and helps ease my grief.
And for Shelby … mama loves you to the moon and back and for all infinity!