Healing another piece of my heart

Santa Barbara, CA. A place that dreams are made of … you can see the ocean and the mountains all in one day. It is one of those places along the west coast that is truly magical.

And it was one of the best places Shelby and I ever went on vacation. Seven years ago, I packed Shelby up and we took our first of many “spring break” adventures to Santa Barbara. It was when I really discovered that dogs make the best travel companions. We always had such a great time and Santa Barbara is very pet friendly. Dogs on the beaches, dogs at outdoor cafes, dogs all over.

When I got the dreaded diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma in 2013, I knew Shelby and I would have to go back to Santa Barbara. I cleared it with her doctors, delaying chemo for a couple days, and off we went. I knew deep in my heart it would be our last trip together. It was a bittersweet and painful trip. Here is what I wrote about that trip. https://mom2shelby.tripawds.com/2014/09/25/tbt-our-last-vacation-together/

After Shelby passed, I refused to go anywhere near Santa Barbara. It was simply too painful. In fact, I went out of my way to avoid even driving THROUGH Santa Barbara for fear of an epic meltdown. It broke my heart but I always got that sinking feeling in my gut when thinking about Santa Barbara. Sadness and never joy. No one knew I was actively avoiding the place I loved the most (with Shelby).

Not even my running coach who suggested offhandedly that I run a “one-mile” race up there in June. Now faced with confronting my fears or disappointing him, I really had two choices – well actually just the one – I had to face the fear. Because life is funny like that – you can try and avoid all the crappy stuff but in the end, you really have to face it or it will hold you back forever.

Scrambling, I threw together a Santa Barbara “spring break” getaway for me and Jasper. I knew I wouldn’t do any of the things Shelby and I did (no wineries, not the same hotel, not the same restaurants) and I would create new “joy” and “memories” with Jasper. Easier said than done. As I drove into town last week, I got that sinking feeling in my gut. I started to tear up. I drove faster. I shook it off.

We got to the hotel and it was fancier than Shelby and I had ever stayed (funny how that works now that I have a more ‘grown-up’ job). Right across from the beach and the wharf. And with the first sunset, happy memories were made!

Not to say there weren’t moments of “oh I bet Shelby would have loved this” but there was pure joy. There were no meltdowns. I was brave and happy and I was good with that. You are allowed to be sad and  you are also allowed to be happy (again, wise words from my coach). What’s funny is that I usually use ‘getaways’ to “escape” my reality but this trip was really about confronting my reality and moving forward.

So what did Jasper and I do?! Well, we went to the botanical gardens where we saw BIG squirrels, redwoods, poppies, views of the coast. We hiked in the forest. We played on the beach (side note – Jasper appears to love every beach we go to except the one in her own backyard). We walked through town. Someone called her a chihuahua which I am pretty sure I was more offended by than she was. (no disrespect to chihuahuas but my dog is not one). We saw a pelican up close and personal. We went on a sunset sailboat cruise. We ate great meals. And we ended our vacation with Jasper “free-ish” on the dog beach without me attached to the other end of the leash and she didn’t run off.

It was a great trip! Oh and that one-mile race, yeah, I’ve got this. I ran the course while I was there and I believe I can do it!

Another piece of the heart healed. Shelby loved me SO much and I know she would want me to experience joy. It is why she sent me Jasper. We both had to work for it but it is safe to say, we are pretty bonded and pretty good travel buddies! Now if only we could have no barkies in the hotel room…. ahhhh… a girl can dream!

Till next time Santa Barbara!

Our first trip to Santa Barbara!
Shelby wasn’t a water dog usually but Santa Barbara was a place to play on the beach.
wine tasting!
It’s a dog’s life! Shelby loved the beach and the sea so, so much! She was so happy!
At the botanical gardens (which were 100% dog friendly). I asked her to smile by the poppies!
Cuddles in the forest!
Jasper finding her zen at the beach on my lap!
Jasper’s first time on a sail boat (and probably mine too)… watching the sea lions in the water.
Beach sunsets are the best! Truly heaven on earth.
My girls … the love of my life on the left and the sidekick on the right. I didn’t pose either of them for these photos but I am blessed to have/had curious dogs to travel with. So proud of them both!