4.8.14 – 4.8.18 – Four Years an Angel

Four years an angel! So much has happened since Shelby’s last angelversary. I re-discovered my passion for racing and running. I took that part of my heart and soul back and am moving toward new goals (bigger than ever before). I traveled to the east coast to meet many of the wonderful people who supported us along our journey from diagnosis, to amputation to passing to grief. We have lost others (too many) to the same bloody cancer – hemangiosarcoma – and others to other cancers and old age. Life goes on.

But does it? It most certainly does but those left behind have to work the hardest. I feel like this past year, I have really started to “heal” and by really heal, I don’t mean that I don’t miss Shelby. Of course in a perfect world she would still be by my side with her same silly antics. It always amazed me that as a tripawd- she could still dash around the apt as I tried to put her leash on her. She had some speed. She could still get into the trash and make a mess. And she could still sit on my lap – perfectly posed – surveying the world around her from her ‘throne’.

Shelby was about 25 pounds so definitely not a small dog but she always seemed small in size but large in personality. She was smart, she was crafty and she was the alpha for sure. I always say “who rescued who”? One of my first memories of Shelby was when I met her at the shelter in New Orleans. A little dog with no name that had come in as a stray. I got in her cage and she crawled into my arms and my life – basically staking her claim. How could I not take her home?

Shelby was happy from day one. She was always happy. She always smiled. I miss that so much.  She licked my tears when I was sad. She would place her paw near or on me to let me know she was there. She was always up for a good snuggle/cuddle. She knew how much I loved her and I knew how much she loved me.

The memories have started to fade … at least most of the bad ones – the 8 months or so that we were fighting cancer. That is good! I can better remember the good times now. The trips we took. The runs we took. The best – before I was really a runner – would be running around Greenlake in Seattle and Shelby would run along side me and jump and try and bite my arm. I have no idea what that was about and to this day, it brings a smile to my face. People would look at us as I would try and shake this 25 pound crazy dog off my sleeve. Or watching Shelby see a cat on a walk and the fur on her back would go up like a mohawk and she would do her “Ferdinand the bull” impression, back kicking grass and dirt thinking she was a bad-ass. Or the time I put a slice of pizza on the table and got up to get a  glass of water and that pizza was gone. In a second. And no guilt shown.

Shelby was fearless… she had no guilt ever with any bad choice she made. Trash all over the floor? She was proud. Curtains destroyed? Pride. Tunneling out of the bedroom by eating a hole in the door? Found her on the couch like a champ.

She was mischievous and curious and happy. And the true love of my life. My soulmate. My heart dog. She taught me so much about love and accepting love and joy.

I miss her so much – truly – but I am also truly happy with who and where I am in my life right now. I have made it through so many “firsts’ without her by my side and I am not broken yet. And I won’t be. I believe with all my heart I did everything in my power with the knowledge I had at the time to do the best for Shelby from the day I rescued her from that shelter. When I find myself feeling guilty about the love I have for Jasper Lily, or the fun we have, or rather, the fun Shelby and I never got to have, I pause and and remember, my co-pilot resides in my heart at all times. She IS experiencing the joy, the adventures, the journey. And above all … she would want me to smile and be happy! Life indeed does go on and today, I choose peace and joy instead of sadness. Because that is what the love of my life would want for me. #loveofmylife #fureverinmyheart

Our last 48 hours together … bond as pure as you can find.
Shelby’s ribbon on the tribute leash. It took me a while to make it but I am so glad she has one now.
My love!
One of the first photos ever of Shelby!
Beach girls! We loved the beach!
Our first Yappy Hour in New Orleans! She always let me hold her like a baby. From day 1.
And how I will always remember Shelby … fearless, queen of the world, happy (ears up) and smiling! Love of my life.

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!

Happy Birthday Shelby Lynne

Dearest Shelby,

Yesterday would have been your 17th birthday. This is your 4th birthday over the bridge and I hope each year you get a bigger cake and more sparkles and more tiaras. I know you have made, unfortunately for the humans left behind, new friends. I hope you are still welcoming each and every one of them with your big smile and your cheery disposition.

We miss you down here on earth. The sidekick is good and she keeps me on my toes. Could you possibly send her a little message to stop destroying paper products? She seems to love to attack brand new rolls of toilet paper.

She doesn’t quite ‘trash dive’ as you used to. Perhaps she knows that is a firm no no. I can’t say I miss coming home to seeing coffee grinds all over the floor when I would forget to close the pantry door.

She barks – a lot. You were such a quiet girl. I think I only heard you bark once or twice in your sleep. I recall how when the doorbell would ring, you would look at me as if to say “you gonna get that”?

She has learned to snuggle and cuddle. Do you remember how we had snuggle and cuddle time? Even in the end … there was something special and heartwarming about being able to be close enough to feel your body next to mine. We were so in-sync. I always knew where you were. You always have to be close to me, on the couch, on the floor, in our bed. The sidekick puts herself to be so early it’s almost like I live alone most nights. I miss watching TV with you. I miss looking over and seeing you sleep next to me; peacefully.

I saw your doppelganger today when I went for a run. Remember sweet Milo? He’s still kicking. He must be close to 16 now. He was only a year or so younger than you. He moves slower but still seems happy. Whenever I see him, I feel like that is a sign from you.

I heard you last night. People might think I am crazy but the sidekick was no where to be found and I heard a sound like something dropped on the floor by my feet. Like a movement of some sort. Thank you for visiting! Of course I knew it was your birthday and we talked about you yesterday.

I miss you sweet Shelby Lynne … I really do. BUT I know we will be together again and I know you are forever in my heart and with me always.

So happy birthday my darling girl … I love you … to the moon and back and for all infinity!

Farewall to the purple bath mat

Over the weekend, I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to get new linens for my super tiny bathroom. My purple towels had seen better days and I initially thought I was going to replace them with new purple towels.

But when I got to Home Goods, there were few purple towels to be found. And thus began a new chapter and new design of my bathroom.

For those that don’t know the story about the significance of the purple bath mat, here is the blog post I wrote about it years ago https://mom2shelby.tripawds.com/2014/02/20/from-the-bathroom-to-the-bedroom/

When Shelby came home from her amputation, she took up residence in my tiny bathroom. There is barely enough room in there for me let alone me and a dog. It became her “safe space”, her “den”, her “home” and it confused and baffled me. She would come out, eat and then go back in there. She was put out when I was in there. She refused to budge. It was about a month that she took over my bathroom but the purple bath mat became her special spot to go.

In her last few days – after months of not being in the bathroom – she was back in there and that was one of the reasons I knew something was terribly wrong.

When she passed, that purple bath mat became more than just a bathroom mat to me … it was something that reminded me of Shelby and brought me comfort and smiles in the darkest days. I don’t deal well with change – at all. So for the past four years, that bath mat has remained. Jasper has also occasionally found comfort on it when there are fireworks or loud booms at night but she usually flees to under the bed.

It makes perfect sense to me – in the way my mind and brain works – that I would have to emotionally process something as insignificant as a new “look” for the bathroom. There have been tons of other changes to the apt over the years since Shelby passed. When I got a new couch, I grieved the loss of the old couch too as it was a place that Shelby and I would have snuggle and cuddles on. A place that she was not allowed on post surgeries but found a way regardless. A piece of furniture that I had shared with her almost her entire life.

But I was sad to wash the bath mat and put it up and away. I am not quite ready to get rid of it yet (I am strong but not that strong). So for now, it is out of sight but not out of mind.

Oh and I also got a new laundry basket this weekend too … only time will tell if Jasper reacts positively to that (so far she is shunning it). Jasper loves to sleep in my dirty clothes basket.

Change is good. Change is inevitable. It is all about how you can manage and navigate. Life has been a roller coaster since the end of August and I do my best to “be more dog” and take one moment, one breath, one step at a time.

And always embrace nature … as Shelby loved to do!

Grief is a funny thing

Grief sneaks up on you when you least expect it. When you are moving forward in your life and think that you are finally over the hump. Over the biggest hurdles. Life is good. You have good friends. You have a good support system. You have a fun little sidekick. You live at the beach.

And then bam … grief not only stops you in your tracks but knocks you off course and down about 150 notches and 28 years …

Twenty-eight years ago when I was 15 years old, my father, my best friend, my idol, was diagnosed with terminal lung and brain cancer. He was given less than one year. He lived 7. Four years ago – my soulmate Shelby was diagnosed with terminal hemangiosarcoma.  She was given 1- 3 months. She lived 8.

Last week, my spin coach, my mentor, my friend … passed out while cycling with a client. He was rushed to the ER. He was diagnosed with a heart valve issue and I found out Sunday that he would be undergoing a procedure to replace the valve and make him well again. He is 60 years old. In better shape than 95% of the country. He’s an athlete, trainer, could kick my booty any day of the week. How could this happen? It was, of course, genetics.

But it has stopped me in my tracks. From the second I found out on Sunday,  I have been riddled all sorts of emotions. Relief for finally hearing from him. Fear for this is major surgery. Sadness because I know his life will change for several months (his life is cardio/exercise and he will be on a break). I had to see him.

I went to visit Monday before his surgery. While he was in good spirits… he looked frail. It stunned me and what is even more, it stunned me that I saw my father in him. The wave of emotions I had from dealing with my father in and out of hospitals came back in a rush. I held it together for him as we really aren’t that close and then this becomes an “about me” thing vs. an “about him” thing. But I was terrified.

And until I got the news that he went into surgery and came out … I was useless. I was anxious. I was pacing. I was doing the same things I did when Shelby was ill. Until I got the message he was in recovery… I was not going to be calm.

I got the news at 2 a.m. I thought I would fall back to sleep but I did not. I needed more. Because with Shelby, I could go visit her anytime. With my dad, the same.

With my coach… well, he needs space and time to process all this and peace and quiet. And I am not family.

The last 48 hours have been a roller coaster for me. Between tears of joy and tears of sadness… memories of dealing with my dad are coming back. And dealing with Shelby.

And through this … what strikes me as the hardest is that I don’t – once again – feel heard or valued for my emotions. I have heard “he’s just a spin coach” to “he’ll be fine, this is a standard procedure” to “I don’t know why you are so upset – he’s in the recovery room”.

Because when I was 15 years old and facing life without a father – no one understood that. No teenager goes through that. This ‘not being heard’ thing is really hard and really familiar. PTSD is REAL. The tears are genuine. The absolute love and adoration I have for this person is undeniable anymore.

Over the past year of our working together… I have slowly started to see that I have looked to him like a father figure (not sure he would appreciate that as much since he likes to think he’s a young spring chicken). But the relationship has been confusing to me on many levels; why do I value HIS praise on my workouts more than my own praise? Why do I look to him to guide me along in life at my age of 40something? Why do I always need to make sure he “sees” me in class? Why do I need to be in his presence many times a week and how do I miss someone SO much that isn’t even gone?

Because …I feel like I have been given a second chance with a father figure. Someone who can see me as an adult. Appreciate the choices I have made in my life. And be proud of me. Where I can and never am of myself.

So yeah… the grief is real. PTSD is real.  At this point – I want to get through a day without tears. I want to sleep well. I want to make good choices (food and exercise). I want to soothe and calm myself with love and compassion not chocolate and wine (not to say those both aren’t in my future for the weekend).

And I want to be heard. I need to be heard.  It might not make sense to other people but this man is one of the most significant people in my life right now. He is a mixture of tough love (lots), fun, education and has helped teach me so much more about self-love than I ever though. He is my trail guide in life … helping me navigate the ups and downs and the pauses.

I have no idea how much I mean to him (I think I mean something since he let me come visit in the hospital) but I would like to think he cares a little bit about me on a level deeper than a running coach.

And so … as he has told me a million and one times … I must practice patience. He will recover from this. He will let me visit when he is ready. He will call me when he is ready. He will lean on me when he needs me. And that will be the best feeling … but until then, I send him all the prayers, the positive & healing energy in the universe and I ask that my daddy and my Shelby watch out for him. Because many people (especially me) need him to get better. His impact on this world is profound. He has been right about every thing he has ever told me – from fitness training to emotions. So I have to trust that this too shall pass… As hard as life feels right now.

So thank God for the sidekick … thank GOD for the penny I found earlier letting me know that Shelby and Daddy are with me … and thank God for the tools that I did not have 28 years or 4 years ago to know in my heart of hearts … that life will go one and things happen FOR us … not too us.

The 80s! A girl with her daddy and her dog!
Me and the love of my life!
Me and my daddy when I was in college!
Mother’s love … best friends forever! One month before her diagnosis.

East Coast Tripawds Party

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.

Baby Shelby … her first day home.
Me and my best girl… at our favorite spot!
Always a happy girl! I love you Shelby Lynne!


The Journey Back to Running

Last weekend I ran a half marathon again. 13.1 miles. For fun.

The last race I ran was a full marathon (26.2) in September 2013 while Shelby was at the vet recovering from having her spleen out and we were waiting to hear the diagnosis (it was hemangiosarcoma).

But let’s backtrack a bit. The summer of 2013 was tough on both of us us. Shelby broke her leg. I lost my job. I was trying to re-train for a marathon that would hopefully re-qualify to me to get back to the Boston Marathon that I had completed in April of that year that ended with the bombs going off in a terrorist attack on our country. I had sought out a race that would give me an edge (downhill) and hopefully get me there. But when Shelby broke her leg, my training came to a halt. Despite having an entire summer off because I was out of work; my heart wasn’t in the training. I didn’t put in the miles or the speed work or anything I had done prior to get me to a qualifying time.

The weekend before I left for the race, Shelby had her emergency spleen-ectomy. I really didn’t want to leave town and run this race but her surgeon assured me Shelby was in good hands and safe at the ER vet. My friend went to sit with Shelby while I was away but obviously, my mind was no longer on this race.

I didn’t re-qualify. I didn’t give a shit. I finished but don’t remember the time. It was a miserable race.

I got home and got Shelby from the vet and started my new job. Shelby was fine from her surgery. Eating like a champ, being “Shelby”. The new job was amazing and I loved my new team. High on all that and thinking we dodged another bullet, I recall calling my mom and saying, it is all going to be okay.

Until I got the call that evening. Shelby has hemangiosarcoma. “She has – at most – 1 to 3 months to live. You can try chemo. It might extend up to 8 months”. – the vet told me.

From happy to hysterical tears – the kind where you cannot breathe – in minutes. And I had to put on a happy and normal face at work the next day. I could not bring drama or sadness into a new job. I had to go at this alone.

So I did. Shelby started chemo. I stopped running. She was my life and my focus for the next 8 months. We went to Santa Barbara one last time (deep down, I knew it would be the last). She was not feeling great. She was limping still and we hadn’t taken her leg off yet. So in a matter of 8 months, my dog started chemo, lost her leg, fought cancer and then we had to say goodbye. Everyone knows how the story ends.

And the runner in me … well I basically ran to not get fat. I ran to escape reality. I ran to feel something. But they weren’t good runs. They weren’t strategic runs. They were chaotic, and rushed and probably not safe for my body. I didn’t fuel for them. I didn’t stretch for them. I didn’t give a crap.

After Shelby died … I could not run. Weeks went by. I could spin because I forced myself to be with my friends but I was dialing it in. Then I started to run again (again for fitness not for fun). I would run to burn the calories I would eat. That was it.

But running – the one things I loved to do most – was no longer fun for me. It was heartbreaking. I would stop mid-run and literally lose my shit and not know how I was going to get home because I would be crying SO hard that I could not breathe.

Slowly, as my heart started to heal, I tried and tried to re-claim my life. I looked up half marathons to train for. I figured I had lost most of my distance fitness and I wanted to run a half and then maybe consider a full. I made spreadsheet after spreadsheet with training schedules. I quit them all. I had a half-dozen races picked out and none happened.

Last fall, I started at a new spin studio. I met a teacher / coach who immediately saw in me what I didn’t see in me anymore. That I was an athlete. I told him, I don’t race anymore. He said you could run a 3:25 full marathon. You have the strength and fitness. I laughed.

I went to him at the end of last year and said, can I do a 1:40 half marathon in 8 weeks? He said no. But in 6 months, maybe. The truth hurts. But he was right. So we started training. He gave me drills and I did them. He had me run a 5K, a 10K and hills and track and spin classes that were hard as F. He pushed me to limits I didn’t know I had. He rarely told me good job. He always told me go harder.

Going into Saturday’s race, I knew I wasn’t going to get my 1:40 so we adjusted the goal. He wanted to push the race back but I needed to do this race. To prove to myself this wasn’t another thing I didn’t complete. There was a lot riding on this race that he didn’t even know. Even I didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t about racing but about completing to get to the next journey of my healing.

I ran a 1:50 half marathon. Not my best – not my worst – right in the middle. There will be weeks to figure out what went astray but I am 100% sure it was a mind over matter thing. It got hard and I couldn’t push past that. I learned a lot about me in this race.

Am I happy with my time? Not really.

Am I happy that I finished? Hell yeah!

Because this race took me over the hump. For me – to continue to dwell on what my life was in the past (pre-cancer), is for me to not let it go. And to fully let it go,  will allow me to fully realize my greatness and my potential. So last Saturday, I say goodbye to the pain. Goodbye to the past. Hello to the future. Shelby’s spirit is with me daily.

As I recover from the race and plan my next one … I am keenly focused on pushing through the tough. There will be bumps in the road but when push comes to shove, I need to push a little harder. In running, racing and in life. A lot of that requires me to “stop talking about the past” because by talking about it, I am still living it. It is a bold next step for me. Someone who likes to define anniversaries, milestones, past memories … but I need to push forward. Like training for a race, I am training my mindset to be open to the greatness that is to come.

No doubt about it … Shelby’s loss profoundly changed me but last week was a huge step in reclaiming a pastime that I used to love. I cannot wait to try again. I will see my 1:40 goal. I will run another marathon. And then … I will run Boston and there will be no drama at the end.

Because I am physically and emotionally stronger than I was six months ago. Because in the end … I will allow myself to feel and receive greatness. Because living life the fullest is all there is. And our spirit / angels are always with us … so for sweet Shelby … I love you to the moon and back and for all infinity!

Mother’s Love!
Baby Shelby!
Love that face … love those ears!
We loved to cuddle before work!
Just a pup and her alligator!
The long road home …


4.8.14 – 4.8.16 Three Years An Angel

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!

Baby Shelby!
On the dog beach at one of our favorite places!
Our last night together… a mother’s love… and her love for me.
This face … I miss her so much!
Happiest dog in the world! her first portrait in New Orleans!
On the top of the world at the beach! Happiest dog ever! Shelby was always happy!


34 Months an Angel and too many months my guardian angel

This is Shelby’s blog but today I want to write about my other angel – my original guardian angel. My daddy passed away 20 years ago today. Twenty years. I need to let that sink in for a little bit because it seems to surreal.

What was I doing 20 years ago? Well I was just 22 years old, having graduated from college the prior May, moving back to Seattle because my father was in ill health from the cancer. We didn’t know how much time he had left but I knew I had to be where he was.

The back story: 

My father was diagnosed with aggressive brain and lung cancers when I was 15 years old. I was in high school and scared to death. Teenagers didn’t deal with death or sick parents. My dad was only 48 years old. He was given one year to live. We started fighting the tumors and the cancer with with radiation and chemotherapy. Treatments back in the 90s were not as advanced as they are today so the memories I have of my father are being sick, tired, in pain. But my God he was a fighter. He was going to fight that cancer with everything he had. And he never, ever, complained.

And so I grew up pretty quickly. My mom, bless her heart, still had to raise me me (very strong-willed as I am today) and became an instant caregiver to her ailing husband. We were a family and we were ALL IN to fight. And we fought in some of the same ways I fought Shelby’s cancer – with positive energy, positive thoughts, and hope. In fact, I recall when going through Shelby’s treatments and vet visits, having flashbacks to what my father and our family went though – in and out of hospitals, doctors visits, medications on a schedule.

And that one year came and went and dad was still with us. He started to get better but the cancer never fully went into remission. We watched it and fought it was it came back in the esophagus.  That was removed and the treatments began – again. My daddy’s body was tired and he was aging but he was still fighting and had the same sense of humor he always had. And the same love for his family. The cancer was a bit dormant for several years and then a fall down the stairs (most likely triggered by a seizure) landed my father in the hospital unconscious. I don’t recall if it was a coma or not but it was serious enough for me to fly home from college.  It was the start of my last semester at college. My dad woke up to the sound of my voice and my touch but he was far from well. At the urging of my mom and family, I went back to college to finish. It was what my dad would have wanted.

My dad recovered – sort of – from the head trauma and while recovering, we discovered the lung and brain cancers were back. This part of the story is a bit fuzzy for my memory as I think my mom tried to shield me from the dark news in order to allow me to focus on my education. When graduation was coming up, it was apparent my father might not be able to travel to see me graduate. I didn’t want to walk at my own graduation. I just wanted to get home to my dad. But a friend of ours agreed to travel with my mom to assist with my father. For that I am forever grateful because my father, ill as he was, was able to see me get my college degree. Something he himself did not have even though he went on to be a high level executive. He was so proud of me. He was always SO proud of me! It would be the last milestone in my life that he would witness.

After graduation, I moved back to Seattle. My dad was still declining in health but fighting hard. But come January of 1997, days after his 55th birthday, things changed for the worse. Within weeks my father was in the hospital, then hospice (where I remained in constant denial about what was happening). And then, on February 7, 1997, my father took his last breaths surrounded by his family and his dog.

Life after death:

To say I was forever changed is an understatement. I was 22 years old – barely an adult. Barely a plan in the world for my life and I got thrown into adulthood really quickly. I had to make adult decisions. My mom did the bulk of the work but I still had to be present and aware. I spent days, weeks, months in a deep depression. I would cry. I was so angry. I turned my back on those close to me. Life was unfair. I wished, on more than one occasion, for the universe to take me too.

See, my dad was my hero. I was the quintessential “daddy’s girl”. I am an only child and I was the apple of his eye. I am of course very close my mom but there is nothing like a girl’s relationship with her daddy. My daddy and I had the best adventures, the private jokes, secrets shared. My dad wrote me notes and letters while I was at college telling me how proud he was of me, how much he loved me. I have all those letters saved.

I am going to be 43 years old at the end of this month. It is a very real reality that I am 5 years shy of how old my father was when he got sick. But I am also very aware that I have a very healthy mom and other longevity in my family. I work hard to be healthy – not only because I live in LA and it is what we do – but to live a long and healthy life. I don’t need to know what caused my dad’s cancer (was it the smoking, the time on a Navy boat with atomic waste, environmental factors???).

Twenty Years Later:

I would like to think my daddy is proud of the woman I have become. I fight for what is right. I fight for those that cannot speak. My father was nice to everyone – no matter who they were. He volunteered at a soup kitchen. He gave back to his church and his community. He was the dad that other girls wanted to be around because he was so inclusive. I would like to think that part of my dedication to a career in philanthropy stems from the examples I witnessed growing up.

I love my dog(s) with my entire heart. My daddy also loved his dogs … his dogs (and me) were his everything. I would like to think he kept Shelby as safe as he could for as long as he could before she went to join him. I like to think that he was there to greet her and help her find her new way. It was in the darkest times when I lost Shelby, I was able to find comfort in knowing in my heart they were together. But it was a familiar journey through grief and with age, I was better able to process and work through my grief. It was not easy. But I knew deep in my heart, I had done it before and I could do it again and I had two angels keeping an eye on me this time.

I will forever miss my father. Like I will forever miss my sweet Shelby. But I will always try and be grateful for what they brought into my life … how enriched my life was because they were in it. The memories fade … I don’t have all the details of our life together but I can always look at the below photos and I can feel and remember the connection.

Forever in my heart … Sam … 1941 – 1997. 

The 80s! A girl with her daddy and her dog!
Daddy with baby Misty (probably the 80s)
Family! 1991 or 1992
When Daddy drove out my new car to college (1994).
Our 2nd to last Christmas. 1995
Me and Dad at my college graduation in 1996
Me and Dad at my college graduation in 1996



Shelby … the most unbarking dog – ever!!!

Oh Shelby … you never really found your voice OR you just made good choices and never used it but I do miss the silence of our life together. The new little one barks, barks and then barks some more. I remember when I used to have workers or the cleaning person come into my home and Shelby would greet them, tail wagging, eager for love and play  and then would go about her business. Not little Miss Jasper Lily … she barks and growls and no matter what – will not relax until she has a pig ear firmly in her mouth (yes, I do realize I am rewarding bad behavior but you try listening to barking for over an hour). It is what moms have to do. I totally get why moms reward kids with candy or toys at the store now. In a heartbeat!

Three years ago this month, Shelby lost her leg. It was the worst of times, the best of times, the hardest of times and I found that strength within that I didn’t know I had. I think the amputation was harder on me – not because I was scared to see what Shelby looked like without a leg – but because I was always worried I would hurt her. I put her in a bubble and carried her up and down the stairs, long after the time she needed to. I tried not to panic and freak the F out the first time she lost her footing and toppled over. I tried not to call the vet every 15 minutes once I brought her home (was definitely unsucessful in that endeavor). Tried to manage the line between tough love and real love. I still remember the 3rd or 4th night that she was home and neither of us had really slept and I had worked all day. I was running on fumes and I needed sleep more than I needed food. I was a single parent trying to do it all. So I shut her out of my bedroom – knowing there was nothing in the house she could hurt herself on, turned on some soothing tunes and prayed for sleep. And we both did. And it became our routine. And then she took over the bathroom as her ‘healing den’ and slowly, our new normal became safer, happier, calmer and more loved.

I miss that sweet girl every single day but I am filled with gratitude this new year … almost to her angelversary in April, the third one. I am struck by how time has moved so fast and so slow at the same time. I am struck by the person I am today and the person I was then. I am amazed by the strength that I have and it was probably always there.

When Shelby passed, my life stopped. Things that I loved seemed less important, friendships, running, eating healthy. I went through the motions in life … I existed to get by. And slowly, things came back into focus but not with the same passion. I started to eat healthier because it was what I had always done. I started to hang out with friends again but it always exhausted me – I preferred the solitude and even more so once I got Jasper. And I began to really run. Not just for fitness but for goals. For me. Because I am worth it. I found a new spin class, new spin studio, new teacher that has inspired, motivated, and challenged me in a matter of months. He has helped me find my value again. I am remember who “Alison” was and who she wants to be.

I am now eating for health. Spending time with friends because I really want to enjoy it. And running because I have a goal. Will I hit that goal this year? Maybe not. Will I run marathon #13? Yes. Because at the core of life … I am worth it. Because at the core of it all, my spirit is back. I have love to give. I have a life to live. And Shelby is never far from my side.

She has been tossing pennies right and left as she watches from over the bridge reminding me that she remains the first and best cheerleader of my life. The non-barking but toughest dog I have ever known. She destroyed countless pillows, curtains, shoes. She challenged my patience. She made me the person I am today.

I will never not miss Shelby. It is a part of my soul and part of who I am. You don’t go through your 20s, then 30s and enter your 40s the same person and not recall who was there the entire time. Friends and boyfriends have come and gone but Shelby’s love for me was always the same and always true. The truest love I’ll never know again but as my bond with Jasper grows, I see there is room in my heart for two great loves. Jasper is learning to love and trust more. Shelby seemed to have that down from day one. Jasper is cautious in her affection and her fun. Shelby gave lovies and always had fun. Jasper is reserved with her smiles and Shelby always had her mouth smiling broadly! Shelby had the best smile, the best snuggles, the best time. Jasper is getting there and I know that as our time grows, our love will as well.

It is a different time. I am older and wiser. I am not sure I would have had the patience for a “Jasper” in my 20s. She needed so much to come out of her shell and I was still a bit selfish. Shelby did right in sending her to me. She gave me a purpose and a focus till I could re-focus on me and remember to love myself.

To give love is to accept love. To love yourself – fully – is the greatest gift one can give themselves and yet one of the hardest ones. This year, 2017, is about love. And peace. And gratitude. Because life is a gift. Our time here is so short … not as short as our furry friends but short. We must continue to make it a life worth living and life that we love.

So thank you Shelby. I honor the greatest love story there ever was … the one that we shared. For 13 1/2 amazing years!!! I love you Shelby Lynne… to the moon and back and for all infinity.

Day 3 home from her amputation … she finally rests!
Carrying her has done amazing things for my biceps! 🙂
Please notice the shredded curtains (Shelby’s fine work).
Baby Shelby!!!
Snuggles .. the best .. ever!