I do not even know where to begin to gather my thoughts for one of the most emotional, happy, epic weekends of my life. I knew the gathering would be great. I knew we would all get along. I knew it would feel like we had known each other a lifetime.
But I did not expect to feel as rejuvenated and healed as I do. It has been over three years since Shelby went to the bridge. Some of the darkest days of my life are behind me but that pain still slightly nudges my heart. So on a huge leap of faith – and 100% out of my comfort zone – I bought a plane ticket to DC from Los Angeles over Memorial Day weekend. Others did the planning of where to stay, what to eat, where to go… but all I had was a rental car, little Jasper Lily and some new friends I met at the airport.
From the second I met Tina and Clare, I knew it would be an amazing weekend. We just clicked and instantly got along. I accepted the help of holding Jasper while I got the car (asking and accepting help are still so foreign to me). It was so much easier to get a car rented when you don’t have a dog pulling your arm out.
We drove hours to get to Richmond but it felt like nothing. The conversation was easy and comfortable. Meeting more friends once we arrive, we grabbed some food, checked into our house and then there were four (and one little curious dog). Of course no trip is without drama so Jasper found herself on the receiving end of a mousetrap and for an instant – I panicked. But she was fine, albeit a bit shaken up but like a trooper, she shook it off.
Gathering at the party the next day and meeting Sally is up there on that list of one of the top ten moments of my life. Hannah passed days after Shelby and I always felt our bond further connected us as I knew Hannah (like her mama) would look after Shelby (as her mama looks after me). To see the Tribute Leash in person was powerful, moving and healing. I added Shelby’s ribbon … purple and blingy … to the leash and tied the white ribbon on as she is an angel now.
And thus our day began … people arrived, pups made friends, memories were shared, bonds were made. But it was a day of joy and celebration. Yes, there were tears but it was so much more. It felt safe and I felt comfortable. In ways I didn’t know I would. I felt “at home” and at peace within my community.
While I will always miss Shelby, my emotions about the day can be summed up as “grateful” and “gratitude”. Obviously, I never wanted Shelby to die or to lose a leg or to have cancer. Of course not. But had our journey not taken that trajectory, I would not have had the chance to meet these amazing souls. Those that comforted me, believed in me, lifted me up and have watched me grow. I have never felt judged in this community. I have always felt safe. I have felt protected and loved. ALL of which was all I could have hoped and done for Shelby in her last 8 months. I always told Shelby that she was safe and she was loved and she was protected and I would always fight for her.
As the weekend ended, Sally reminded us that this weekend is much like our relationship with our dogs … there is simply never enough time. But alas, we all had to go back to our homes, our real lives and reality. I was so hopeful I would be able to articulate in a blog how much this weekend meant for me and I simply don’t have the right words other than “thank you”. My heart is full. My mind is open. I am ready for the next chapters of my life.
I wrote in our last blog about my return to running and racing and how that felt like a step in the right direction. This weekend pushed me even further onto the other side of grief. I felt at peace. I felt calm. I felt the guilt (that I still sometimes feel about Shelby’s journey) leaving my mind more and more. I felt … quite simply … like a dog! I was living in the moment – each and every moment. WHAT AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE!!!
So with the angel riding shotgun in my heart and the sidekick at my side (who was brilliant and I’ll update her blog too)… I returned to LA with a full heart, a full belly and full of hope. That the best days are yet to come. That taking risks out of the comfort zone make life worth living. And as I stated at the beginning of 2017, I was really ready to start living again and living is what I am doing.
I had no idea how much this weekend would really mean to me. I had no idea the profound impact it would have. Adding Shelby’s ribbon wasn’t as sad as I thought it would be and I accept that. I accept that she will always be my heart dog and the love of my life but it is okay and it right to love and smile and be happy again.
So again, thank you to every soul that took a chance on me, has allowed me to be vulnerable and feel safe with my emotions, that has pushed me to grow and see the glass as half-full. And to Shelby … for being the best co-pilot in life a girl could ask for. She guided me through my 30s… much like a parent guides a child growing up. Shelby was always the alpha but she taught me well. She taught me to love. To trust. To live. And I am finally doing all of those things!
What a weekend … I love you all more than you will probably ever know.