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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The past and the future

Many dog-lovers have traveled the road that I'm on now. I lost my heart dog, K, and I am trying to regain my footing. K and I had a very special bond - she was truly my best friend. When I learned that she had osteosarcoma, I literally collapsed, and I couldn't visualize how I'd go on living after she was gone. Somehow I have gone on, although it feels as if I've been in a trance-like state.
Almost a year ago, K had a birthday. In retrospect, it seems as if I had an inkling that it would be her last even though she wasn't old. She and I had multiple celebration adventures. We hiked, we played fetch, and she played with R in mountain lakes. I treasured every instant of them, and K did as well.
I knew that I'd eventually invite a new dog into my life after K passed. I thought that it would "help my heart to heal". Indeed, six and a half weeks after K died, Shyla arrived. She is sensitive, smart, and incredibly loving. Her spirit and resilience are incredible.  I already know that Shyla is going to be a special part of my life for a long time. I also believe that the hard socialization work that we're doing now is helping to build a deep bond between us.
Shyla is a chocolate Lab and so was K. I've always adored Chocolate Labs. When I first saw one as a young adult, I declared that he was the most beautiful dog that I'd ever seen. Ever since then, when it's been my choice, I've always chosen a Chocolate Lab. Fortunately, each dog has such a unique personality that the physical similarities among my dogs are no big deal for me.

By the time K was about 2 years old, she and I were seasoned partners in life. We moved in sync and could anticipate each other's actions and moods. In contrast, because Shyla is a young dog and new to me, we are still getting to know each other. Shyla is a naive puppy, through-and-through. I have to supervise her carefully, and she surprises me every single day with some off-the-wall behavior that I didn't expect. I took this photo when an unexpected case of the zoomies possessed Shyla, and my shutter speed wasn't fast enough! I love the blurred and crazy effect - just as "zoomies" should be!
I've laughed every single day since Shyla arrived, and I smile when I look in her eyes. I spontaneously tell her that I love her when she looks to me for reassurance as we navigate the big new world that can be scary for her. I'm ecstatic that she and I have so many adventures to look forward to.

But, I have to admit that I don't think that my heart will "heal" from losing K anytime soon, even though Shyla is wonderful beyond words. So, I'm in a funny in-between state of reveling in getting to know my new puppy's spirit and remembering my best friend K. At least once a day, a memory of K hits me so hard that I stop in my tracks and tears fill my eyes.

Today, I remembered how K loved to put her head on my shoulder and then let out a long and contented sigh. I'd always answer her with a contented sigh of my own. We both knew how lucky we were. A bond like ours leaves paw prints on a person's heart forever.

Yet, at the same time, my heart is falling for Shyla. What a goofy combination of emotions - grief and optimistic happiness - to have mixed up inside me.

I think that R is falling for his new sister too. They like to snuggle up together for naps, and I watch with deep tenderness.
Thanks for reading this post... I wanted to write it all down so that I could read it in the future when I am further along in this journey. I also thought that my thoughts about this transition time might help someone else who is recovering from a loss as deep as mine.


  1. Don't forget K had a paw in seeing Shyla made her way to KholWOOrado ;-)

    Her spirit is there inspiring Shyla - yet allowing Shyla's self to emerge as well!

  2. To love deeply, will also mean at some time we will grieve, have great sadness, happy memories, and thoughts that some days can be overwhelming.K will always be with you in some way , each one is unique in their own way, and they cannot be replaced.But with Shyla, her bond with you will grow,she is beginning to gradually fill that huge hole,and your words will surely be a help to anyone who has lost. Fond greetings, Jean.

  3. With the prospect of losing my heart dog sooner than expected, I watch your transition with interest. I had the opportunity to know and love K in real life, and I look forward to meeting Shyla ... when my schedule isn't so silly. I LOVE< LOVE< LOVE that picture of the pups snuggling. Beyond sweet!

  4. Thank you for sharing. MOM often tells me about her heart dog, Pete, a Black Lab Great Dane mix. I'm OK that he was her heart dog. He was incredible. And MOM teared up when she read what you wrote about you and K and her head on your shoulder and the sigh. Pete and MOM did that too. I know I will not be Pete and that's OK. I am a better dog because of their relationship. And I am her song.
    We love that last photo.

  5. Oh the last picture is one that will be in my head forever. R is so handsome and to see his big mug protectivly lying over his new little sister.....well, it is a heart shaker....todays post is beautiful and like a song form your heart. thanks.

  6. I remember when Bunny first came here. Treat was a perfect walking partner and she wouldn't rest if we didn't go for a walk every day. If the weather was too bad to walk, she'd be so disgusted with me. She was so good at walking with me that I could walk two other dogs at the same time and never know she was there. By contrast, when we got Bunny, she had never been on a leash before. My stars, it was like walking a kangaroo. I came home in tears after almost every attempt because it was a frank reminder that Bunny wasn't Treat and wasn't going to be. Bunny and I found our own things to do, though, and somehow, that sadness that followed me and reminded me that Treat wasn't there slowly ebbed away. I couldn't tell you exactly when it lifted or when the comparisons stopped, but at one point, it did. I still have sad days and miss Treat once in a while, but Bunny has become pretty darned fantastic over the years. And I tell that story every once in a while to remind myself that Bunny wasn't perfect, because someday, far from now, I'll have to start again and it's much easier if you're not comparing the new dog to perfection, even though it's very hard to do!

  7. That's a completely normal way to feel.
    When I lost my first heart dog, a Mastiff named Sadie, I was broken. I had many other dogs after her, but didn't connect with any of them on the level I had with Sadie. I was almost ready to give up on dog owning. But then Nola came into my life. She's everything and more that Sadie was, and sometimes I think Nola is Sadie, reincarnated. Silly, but true :).
    That last picture is just too precious
    Amanda and Nola

  8. Losing anyone is so darn hard and they are never gone, but we are strong and we go on and fall in love with another 4-legged wonder and the process starts again. Yes, it's those all of sudden things that you feel in the heart, moments that are so rough, the tears come,the memories, etc, but we are strong, and we go on holding those beautiful. wonderful memories in our hearts forever! So know that many of us know these times, the confusion, the sad and hold you in our thoughts and prayers.
    Take care,
    Lucy (silent MOD, Troy, Ohio)

  9. Ugh, you write so beautifully about your companions. I started reading this blog just as K had passed, so I'm now going through to re-read all of your entries with K in them - what a gorgeous friendship!

  10. I don't know if our heart every really recovers after losing our heart dog, we make room for another one, which helps, but at least for me I always feel a little bit of pain, it's why they are our heart dogs because they take a little piece of it with them:) sending you hugs:)

  11. First, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your note on my post about Cosmo. I went back and read every post about your journey with K. Though I shed some tears, ok, quite a few, I want you to know how much it helps to read about all you went though while still enjoying every moment you had together. Your photos are beautiful and so are the stories about all the pups. In this post, love the zoomie photo and the last one with R and Shyla is precious. It looks like they are adjusting beautifully. I can't wait to read more.

  12. Ann..from..Outer Banks of NC..said...Tears of sorrow and tears of joy.....losing someone you love is so so hard....but memories keep you going(that is why K's love stands out no matter where you are)...and her spirit is your light and your healing....Hope is so sweet and it can hold so many dreams...your journey through life is an opportunity to grow and learn...that is why there is R and Shyla and the Runner for support and companionship...."all things wise and wonderful" know you is to love you....and all of us do...HUGS...

  13. I think you hit it on the head. Each dog is so unique that we form a unique bond with them. With that, it means no one is going to replace what we loose. However it does mean we go on to develop new memories with a new cast of players. I have 2 new dogs since loosing my blond lab, I adore them, but 6 yrs later, I still miss my lab as I should I think. She was one of a kind, as K was.

  14. It is OK to feel the loss and pain from K's absence at the same time you are captivated and overjoyed with Shyla's entry into your life. It is the bitter with the sweet as most things in life are. That is why chocolate covered almonds are passed out to mark special occasions in some cultures...a recognition of this duality.

  15. Beautifully said and well put. I've been there before and you described it very well. I've even gotten stuck in the middle ground for years before and didn't even realize it. All I can say is baby steps and one day at a time. It's all we have to get through anything. Love to all of you.

  16. It's always a good idea to get your thoughts down and we're hoping that things get easier for you in time.

    Shyla is lovely and little ones are always great for taking your mind off things!

    take care
    Clive & Co

  17. Hi KB, I know exactly what you mean. You've been to visit our blog today so I can totally relate to your feelings. Every loss is a heartbreak but it's the knowledge of that love, that dear sweet love for our pet, that sends us forwards to once again enjoy life with a cherished pet. Enjoy life with your loved ones. K would want it. No worries, and love, Carol (and Stella and Rory)

  18. You could not have said it any more perfectly, KB! The picture of R and Shyla snuggling is priceless.

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly

  19. What a beautiful post! There is so much I want to say but am not sure if I can put it into words.
    Everything you feel, the mixed emotions, is normal. But I can't think of a better person for Shyla to have for a partner because I know you will love her...your heart is big enough to love her unconditionally.
    It will all be okay, and K will be proud to know you aren't "alone" now.

    Puddles and mum

  20. Damn it woman!! You always are able to clean out my tear ducts.... Really, such a beautiful post though!

    We know that Shyla will never replace your heart dog K, but she is doing her job... And that is to sneak right in and take up a little piece of your heart. That little piece that K left open so that you could love another... I'm glad she fits in that space beautifully!

    Obviously R agrees too. That picture melted my heart this morning.


  21. The wonderful thing about the human heart is how it can expand to new loves whilst still mourning old ones. K will always be special, as is R and as Shyla clearly will be!

  22. It is a strange mixture of feelings, KB - and it is perfectly normal to feel like this. I met my now husband's chocolate lab Buster back in the spring of 2000 - and I was immediately smitten beyond words. So much so that when we lost him in 2008, we waited a few weeks for our hearts to mend and then we searched for our now special boy Indy Bones (my son actually picked him out and was the first to hold him, they had a VERY special bond). I know that you and Shyla are going to form that same kind of bond - but K will never be far from your thoughts.

    That pic of the two of them sleeping together is just priceless! Dog sighs are my favorite thing to hear (and feel) :):):)

  23. Oh, KB...Your post today has really hit home for me. My heart dog was my DeeDee and also her two daughters, Angel and April. Many of our followers still remember April and her sudden loss. Life does go on for those left behind and will continue to go on. We learned of Benji's cancer just a month before losing April. Does it ever stop?'s the price we pay for loving these animals so deeply and completely. K will be in your heart forever and there will always be tears when you least expect them. But then you look at Shyla and all is right with the world.

  24. I love this post. I once thought Calhoun would be my only heart dog until I met McIver. While McIver doesn't live with me anymore and only visits every so often, it's like we've never been apart. I know I'm lucky to have 2 heart dogs at all but to have them at the same time and they are 2 years apart. Given that it tore my heart out that they didn't get along- ironically, I'm pretty sure I'm setting myself up for a HUGE emotional breakdown at some point. However, I am a different person for having these boys in my life. I truly am.

    I love your insights!

    Mamma Heartbeat

  25. I know what you mean. I felt like I couldn't breathe when I lost my Shadow to cancer. I was completely devastated. It was an unexpected diagnosis - she was fine otherwise. She and I had this incredible bond where we would just look at each other and know what the other wanted. It takes time to heal from that loss. I think the comfort I had was in knowing I at least had the BEST time with her for almost 14 years.

    My dog Blueberry doesn't replace Shadow and she and I are working on our own unique bond. Just like you and Shyla are doing.

    Thanks for writing this post. I am sure your future self will be grateful for it as well. :)

  26. I'm catching up and seeing that there's lots of good stuff going on in your life. I love the silly photos of R a few posts down.

    Going from a loss to a new relationship with our animal friends brings a mix of emotions. At times, I have felt like I was betraying Willow by loving Java so much. But each animal exists in a different time of my life and with their various personalities, they have managed to bring me what I needed in that space of time. Each one becomes intertwined with a version of me, a version of my life, and they are uniquely special because of that.

  27. Very good written and I understand you. I can still hear Novas barking when I´m coming with the car..
    K will always be watching you and Shyla will be tight with you.

  28. When we lost Spencer at age 4 I, too lost my forever dog. My first and forever. Rex came along the next summer, and I remember laughing at his curious antics and returning his endless love with tears of loss running down my face...missing Spencer so much. However many dogs I will love in my lifetime (and I hope there are many) I will never love another quite like I loved Spencer...and love him still. That said, the bond I have with Rex is unlike anything I've ever had, and two years on together he has his own cherished place in my heart. Not smaller or bigger, better or worse. Just different. Somehow the sharp edges of pain are smoothed, and while the hole remains it fills somewhat with sweet memories and gratitude of the gift of the one who's gone.

    Thinking of you these days,

  29. Dear KB, I so related to this post because(you may remember)when I lost my Sadie dog almost three years ago, I didn't think I could love again. Of course we still had Reggie but he wasn't my dog, my heart dog-just a sweet companion. Now I've got Hunter, who like Shyla is a clown and he has Bichon Blitz's-like zombies. I don't quite understand his whining or some behaviors but know as time moves on and he gets some manners, we will bond closely. I love him although we've only had almost five months. I think there is a touch of those heart dogs, we've had, that flow into our new dogs-I can see a bit of K in Shyla and a sweet love of Sadie when I look at Hunter.
    Hugs today and thanks for sharing.

  30. Thank you for sharing - those were beautiful thoughts.


  31. You are human KB and you are going through the gamut of emotions after a loss. With the invitation of bringing Shyla into your world, you are bound to flip flop with these would be very strange if you didn't...hugs to all.

  32. Its been a year and I cried over losing my girl Rudi just this morning--And at that same moment Sheba came and got into my lap reminding me of how life continues and that she's there to give comfort and joy and a much needed lift when I need it--Just like Shyla is doing for you.

  33. Dear KB,

    Over our lives we have been lucky enough to share them with several loving dogs who seemed they could never be replaced. Indeed, they still have left a hole in our hearts. There are moments we still miss them. There are moments tears still come to our eyes...but it doesn't still the deep love and companionship we have with Hawkeye. If anything the relationsships we've had with both our dogs and horses have taught us so much about living with and loving our four legged friends.

    Each one we give a piece of our heart takes that piece and keeps it even when it leaves us. But our hearts are big enough that enough remains to share again with another.

    BrownDog's Human


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