Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas to Mom in Heaven

To my dearest Mom,

As another year draws to a close, it has been a terribly sad and lonely one without your love and warmth to fill up our lives. Hope is a commodity that is in short supply this holiday season for us, but we do our best knowing that your spirit and your eternal love sustain us through these most difficult times.

Dad misses you so much, even more than I do. What I miss most are your hugs and kisses that smothered me in the gentile warmth of your love. Dad misses his soul mate and his one true love. We have learned to lean on each other for support, and not just Dad and me. We have been blessed with the love and support of so many family and friends. While their love is a healing salve, it is no substitute for you, Mom. You were always our sunshine in the gloomiest days and the coldest winters.

I love when Dad hugs me and kisses me, but it just isn't the same as you. Even though I'm just a dog, I've learned through this hardship that there really is nothing like a mother's love. There is just something uniquely tender and comforting that makes it so special.

I'm sure you will be pleased to know that Dad will be going to California for Christmas to visit Riden, Gi and Gram. I will be with Karen and Cole for Christmas, and I'm sure to have lots of fun playing with Cole and helping him with the toys that he gets from Santa. I love that little guy; he's just like my two legged brother.

Dad and I will miss you more than words can even express this Christmas, but we live to feel your spirit come alive whenever we see the Red Tail Hawk, knowing that your love is still with us.

Merry Christmas, Mom.

Love always and forever,

Harry and Dad

Send me letters from above
Send me strength, send me love
Such sweet love
Sing me songs that echo in my head and in my heart
That's where you are
And I don't know if you feel me here
I can tell you one thing is clear
I will feel you
- Vertical Horizon

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Spirit and the Red Tail Hawk

It's hard to believe it is already November, with Thanksgiving and the holidays right around the corner. Time just marches on, and Dad and I do our best to get through the days, the weeks and months. There have been many times that we sat down to write an update to our friends, but either nothing was there or I would get distracted, mostly by those pesky squirrels, but sometimes just by one of my toys. I do my best to keep Dad occupied, so I encourage him to take me on lots of walks when we have the time. I think it has really helped him. I know he has told me on many occasions that I am the best four legged therapist he could have hoped to find. I never thought it would be possible for Dad and I to be closer than we were from the time he and Mom picked me when I was just an 8 week old puppy. However, we have grown closer these past 9 months than either of us could ever imagine. Our bond today is unbreakable, and I know that it will stay that way.

Motivation seems to be the hardest thing for Dad to recapture. While I have seen improvements in him, he continues to slog through the days, like he is on a long uphill march. I still greet him excitedly when he comes home in the evening, and he always smiles when he walks through the door and sees me with my tail wagging. I get so much joy seeing Dad come home from work, and it's not just because I know we are going to go for a walk. It's because I miss him during the day, and I know I will put a smile on that otherwise gloomy face when he sees me. There is an element of power in being able to provide a moment of spontaneous happiness out of the routine.

It was on one of our many walks together a few months ago that something so ordinary would affect Dad in an almost transcendental way. We were on our regular evening walk on a particularly beautiful New England early fall evening with the setting sun casting a burnt orange glow across the sky. Frequently, we meet several of our neighbors and their dogs during our walks, but on this occasion it was just us. Dad often gets lost in his thoughts on our walks, and he becomes almost meditative sometimes. I, on the other hand, am on a mission of course, and not just to take care of my personal needs, but to also investigate new smells and chase the squirrels and rabbits that trespass on my playground.

What was also noticeable about this evening was how quiet it was. It felt as if the entire neighborhood had gone away on vacation and we were the only ones there. When we got to the playground area, Dad as usual let me off my leash to run around with my ball and smell all the new scents on the trees, in the bushes and in the grass. It's never boring because I find something new every day. Dad seemed especially contemplative - he said even less than his usual few comments. I just assumed he was taking in the beauty of the evening, which is his wont at such times. I don't pester him to play when he is distracted in thought like that.

Since I already knew that Dad was not in a mood to throw the ball, I just walked up next to him and sat by his side quietly. No sooner did I look up to see what Dad was looking for when the most majestic Red Tail Hawk swept low above our heads and landed on a nearby oak tree. Without losing site of the hawk, that was now perched on one of the high branches of the tree, Dad said to me, "Harry, your mom is with us. She's come to let us know her spirit is present." And then he said, "I love you, Dena, and I miss you so much." I immediately felt Dad's mood change from somber to calm. I sensed a settled feeling in him that had not been there since Mom was with us. He continued to stare up at the hawk until the sun set and it was too dark to see anymore.

Now as a dog, I am more acutely sensitive to Mom's spiritual presence than Dad. I feel her with us much more frequently and easily than Dad, but on this particular evening, I could tell that he felt the strongest spiritual connection to her at any time before or since then. Some of you may think these are the ramblings of some New Age Golden Retriever who was influenced by his mom from California, but many Indian tribes associate the spirit with elements of nature. Those who knew Mom know she had a powerful, beautiful and warm spirit. She touched the souls of so many people in her short life through her infectious personality and selfless ways. It only seems natural to Dad and me that Mom would make her spirit known to us through the Red Tail Hawk.

When I think about us
I see the picture that we made
a picture to remind us
true love will never fade
  - Mark Knopfler

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thank You

It has been quite a while since I have been able to collect my thoughts and muster the motivation to return to this blog. First and foremost, Dad and I would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers, and their kind words of sympathies and condolences. You can't begin to realize how much comfort you provided us. We were awestruck by the outpouring of sincerity from so many people we have encountered through this medium, and many we never even knew. Thank you so much.

It has been a difficult and painful time without Mom here, especially for Dad. I miss her very much too, but I know her spirit is with us because I can feel her presence wherever I go. There are times when Dad senses her spirit also, but they aren't as frequent and acute as my feelings. Humans may be analytical and intelligent, but dogs are perceptive. Dad tries very hard to be brave, but in private he has his moments of bitter sorrow. I don't feel like I am betraying his confidence by admitting this to anyone either. How do you even begin to know what normal is, when the person who was the center of your universe is taken from you so soon?

I do my best to try to comfort Dad, and to keep him busy. It isn't very easy though. I can make him laugh sometimes, but the laughter we share is often fleeting and shallow. Maybe it's just too tall an order for a Golden Retriever to try and compensate for the love and joy that Mom gave to everyone around her. I know how much Dad appreciates my efforts though, and I will continue to lavish my love and affection on him. God knows, he needs it.

I wish I could say that I will write more frequently, but I can't make that guarantee. I will promise you, however, that I will try my best. One thing that I have learned from being with Dad is that grief is a non-linear process. It advances and recedes like the tides. Just when you think you are making a little progress, it will strike, either by an event, or a thought, or even at times for no discernible reason, and it will set you back again. It is a reminder - that lives in the shadows - of all that you have lost.

Dad and I would like to thank everyone once again for being so supportive in our time of need. You have all been incredibly kind. And then there have been those who have and continue to be truly outstanding. In no particular order, we especially wish to thank Dad's cousins Paul and Gladys, and Rosalie and Jimmy, who were with us in our time of greatest suffering and need. To my friend and sitter, Karen, and her friend Kendra, and Mom's cubicle buddy, Amy, who successfully raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research and walked 26.2 miles on Mom's behalf in the Avon Walk for the Cure, you ladies are amazing. To Sue and all of her incredible friends from the San Diego Golden Retriever Meet Up, who sent us so many cards and beautiful notes of sympathy and kindness. Dad and I sat on the bed and read each card and every note in them. Dad was deeply touched not simply by the thoughtfulness, but mostly by the love you showed for Mom. We also would like to thank Annemarie and Leila for the love and support they gave to Mom throughout her battle with this horrible disease. Lastly, we would like to thank Chaplain McGillicudy whose spiritual and emotional counsel has been a source of great comfort and support for Dad.

The outpouring of love and kindness that we have experienced from so many people has been humbling and so much appreciated. But it is equally a reflection and testament of the love and gracious spirit that Mom so freely shared. Mom taught us the most important lesson of life - there truly is a circle of love.

The world is too big to never ask why
The answers don’t fall straight out of the sky
I’m fighting to live and feel alive
But I can’t feel a thing without you by my side
Send me out a lifeline

- Mat Kearney

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dear Robert and Harry

Dear Robert and Harry,

I have told you this hundreds of times in the past, but I want you to know again and again how much I truly love you and how much I loved our life together. You made my life full and brought me incredible happiness. Though the time we shared was much too short, our love is timeless for you are my soul mate. It was not luck that we found each other either; it was destiny because I always knew you were out there. When we finally did meet, I knew I had found my one true love.

I also want you to know that I am still with you. I have left my physical body, but my spirit is beside you. I see how much you hurt, and how overwhelming your grief is, but I am present in your times of despair. I pray that you find peace in my love for you. Death is merely an obstacle - it cannot conquer the love we share. Just remember, it's okay to cry.

When you feel that wave of grief begin to pull you under, I want you to feel the love that I am sending you and wrap yourself in the comfort of its embrace. When you see the Red Tail Hawk perched high in the tree above that will be a sign to you alone that I am with you. In time, you will sense the presence of my spirit, and you will know that my love lives on inside you.

As for you, my beautiful Harry, I love you too. I have never loved a dog the way I love you. You brought so much joy into our lives. I need you to take very good care of your dad now. He needs you very much. Be good to him and shower him with your unconditional love. Teach him to be aware of my spirit because I know you sense me there with you.

My darling Robert, I will never stop loving you. Our love was meant to last more than a lifetime, so this is not goodbye because my love still burns for you and my spirit will always guide you and watch over you. In life, you were my world. In you I found peace and true happiness; that is what love is all about. Though you are separated from me now by this dimension we call death, we will be together again because we are soul mates. And when that time comes, I will take you gently by the hand and lead you to this new place where we will once again be together and we will never be apart. Just remember, it's okay to cry.

With all my love forever,

Your Dena

And I'd give up forever to touch you
Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be
And I don't want to go home right now
 - The Goo Goo Dolls

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

The house is so quiet without you here. And though everything is still in its place, just the way you left it, a feeling of emptiness hangs throughout the house. My toys are still spread all around the place, but I'm not as interested in them as I was before. All the birds and the stupid squirrels come by your bedroom window to see if you've left them something to eat, but they leave disappointed. And the squirrels don't seem to get me so excited anymore. Even the sunlight that streams through the living room windows just doesn't seem to shine as brightly as it used to.

When you were here our house was a home. It was just you, Dad and me. There was laughter, there was fun, with lots of walks and playtime, there was lots of cooking, often with table scraps, but mostly there was happiness, lots of happiness. That happiness is now gone, replaced by a hollow nothingness - a gaping void. How could this happen so quickly?

Without you here, I now cling to Dad's side. I know he needs me now more than ever, and I need him too. He still pets me and hugs me, but there is something more desperate in his affection. I almost feel like I am his life boat. I remember when you used to kiss me; I felt your love wash over me in a warm embrace, from my big wet nose to the tip of my tail. I love Dad, and always will, but now I feel this heavy burden to protect him and care for him. That's my job though, and you don't have to worry about that, Mom, I won't let him down.

I remember when you and Dad came home from your appointment with Dr. May, and Dad's face was ashen. That was the day when our lives changed. I would listen to your conversations, and could see the abject terror in Dad's face. I heard you talk about clinical trials, radiation treatments, and I didn't know what all of that meant, until I heard the word cancer. Now I felt Dad's fear.

Cancer is a wretched disease, and one that we share in common with our humans. It robs us of our loved ones, and leaves in its wake shattered dreams and broken hearts. It strikes without prejudice or conscience. It is malevolent and an equal opportunity killer.

You were so brave, Mom, a true profile in courage. We lived in fear, while you looked cancer in the face, and never once flinched. Your "journey," as you would describe it, inspired all those around you. Your doctors, your nurses, who adminstered your chemotherapy, all of your colleagues at work, your friends and especially Dad and me were humbled and awed by the dignity, poise and grace with which you always carried yourself. And for an all too brief time, everyone thought you had beat breast cancer. We thought we could return to our normal life once again. Tragically, just one week before Christmas, you were diagnosed with a recurrence of the disease that was now Stage 4, having spread to other parts of your body. Dad clung desperately to the hope that you would soon be accepted to one of the clinical trials for the new PARP inhibitors, but it was too late, the cancer had spread so quickly. Yet even as your health began to fail, you never lost your determination to fight the disease. And as you battled for your own life, you worried more about your loved ones, especially Evan and Riden, Gram and Dad, and of course, me.

You also touched the lives of so many people, and not simply during your struggle with illness. You had a special way with people - and dogs too - by being genuine, kind and sincere. The generosity of your spirit was boundless. You always knew that the simplest gestures were the most meaningful. And that is what drew so many of us to you. You made this world a better place, Mom. You left behind a beautiful and gentile footprint for the rest of us to honor and emulate.

I'm sorry to tell you this, but I worry about Dad. He struggles without you here. Our walks are accompanied by an inescapable sadness that seems to follow him wherever he goes. He wears the visage of a man with a broken heart, whose dreams have been crushed by one of life's random acts of cruelty. He fears what the future will bring without you by his side. "Harry," he said to me, "our North Star is gone. How will we ever navigate through life without her?" Mostly, Dad stares out into space and just thinks. He doesn't share his thoughts with me most of the time, except for when the tears come, and then he just hugs me and says, "Thank you for helping me, Harry."

Dad said there is no reason or explanation for what happened. He said he could only arrive at one conclusion. As he gently rubbed my head, Dad said this: "I guess there are times when God needs to recruit angels to help Him do His work in heaven. And in this instance, Harry, He found an angel on earth in Mom, and He needed her more in heaven. I just wish He could have kept our angel here with us a lot longer."

Mom, I love you so much and I miss you terribly. I will cherish your memory always and will love you until the end of time.

With all my love forever,

Harry and Dad

And in the end,
the love you take,
is equal to
the love you make.
- The Beatles

In loving tribute to my darling wife, Dena.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bath Time

Mom has been complaining for the past few weeks that the house was starting to smell doggy. I'm not sure what exactly she means by that, but I don't think she

meant it as a compliment. I don't understand what the fuss is all about because I don't smell anything unusual, and I'm the one in the family with the best sniffer.

When the weekend came, the weather was actually pretty nice, so Dad and I went for our morning walk and played a little football too. I love the weekends! I was even more surprised, and almost giddy, when Dad and I got in the car and went for a ride. A little while later, we ended up in a place called Southie, which is the term Bostonians use to describe the neighborhood of South Boston. As we got out of the car and walked around the side streets of triple decker houses, I suddenly realized where we were heading. Rut ro! Dad was taking me to BYOD (Bring Your Own Dog) for a bath. I resisted, and quickly went into my sit position as he was walking me to the store. Unfortunately, Dad won that contest and faster than Big Pappi can get to second base, I was in one of the stainless tubs having my bath.

Now don't get me wrong, I love the water, especially when I can either swim in it, or lay in a puddle, but I'm just not fond of being lifted into a 5'x3' tub and getting soaped up and rinsed down without any privacy. Do you know how mortifying it feels to have people and other dogs watch you as you're getting a bath from your dad?

Fortunately, the indignity only lasts for about 20 minutes and then I got my revenge by shaking all the water off me and spraying my dad. He was only slightly less wet than me. He's a really good sport though, my dad. After drying me off and combing my now glistening coat, he went and bought me a bunch of my favorite treats. They are delicious! I could easily eat the whole bag just on the ride home. And speaking of home, when I got back to the house after my bath, my mom was so delighted with how soft my coat felt and how nice she said I smelled, that she let me jump up on the bed with her. So when you think about it, I guess bath time isn't so bad after all.

Talk to you soon.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


As you all know living in Boston has its challenges, one I've noted is the human need to wear gloves. You are such fragile creatures. I on the other paw love love love the cold, ice, snow and rain.

I recently discovered the art of finding and eating ice/snow balls I find on my walks. They are very refreshing....just think maybe some beef or chicken stock flavoring would be nice....sorta like a shaved ice.

Ok back to I walk here and there I see them all over....just one sad one no mate. Thought ya'd like to take a look.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Snow Whiskers

It's winter in New England, and the snow is falling again. This weekend there was another storm that passed through our area and dropped about 10 inches of snow, with some drifts about 18 inches deep. I love the snow, and I especially love to play football in the snow. One of the best things I enjoy doing, however, is making snow whiskers. I have the most fun sticking my face in the snow, while I'm looking for my football, and coming up with my whole face covered in the frosty white stuff, and looking like ol' dog winter.

My blogging friend Sierra Rose from Northern CA, loves to show off her snow whiskers, so I wanted to show her that I get to do the same thing here in Boston. I've never tasted snow from the high Sierra's, but I can tell you that New England snow tastes pretty good. It often has that nice briny taste from the moisture that gets pulled in from the North Atlantic. If Sierra Rose ever wants to try a taste of some New England snow, I would be happy to send her some in the mail, although I think it would probably melt by the time it got to her.

All this talk of snow, has me excited to go out and put on some more snow whiskers. I think I'm going to have my dad take me for a walk now. I'll send some more pictures later.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Thinking Ability

For weeks now I have been hearing talk of the holidays. Everyone seems to have a different viewpoint........none wrong, just diverse.

Our views are what Dena says make the world go round and hopefully makes us all more willing to listen, and then possibily broaden out our viewpoints, whether it be a simple acknowledgment of anothers view, or maybe a deeper understanding of each other.

Here is the thing with any event, holiday, occasion. When the words OBLIGATION or EXPECTATION come into play, somehow the joy of giving or doing is taken right out the picture. Don't get me wrong, we all have obligations and people expect of us daily, if we didn't none would have jobs, friends or family. We are responsible to other living creatures on this planet, but we have choices as to how far WE go and this should come with no amount guilt or regret.

This all being said I'd like to speak about gifts. Gifts are a special treasure that we can bestow on those we love and care for. Some people are super talented buyers/givers...they pay rapt attention and remember what others like, then wait for the opportune time to deliver. Robert and Dena are blessed to have several who are - shall we say - gifted in this way. Dena says Robert buys the most amazing, meaningful and beautiful cards she has ever seen. She is blessed. Gifts do not have to be large or expensive, just have meaning. Dena has received used garage sale finds, which she has loved more than something brand new. The point is the thought. I love getting new toys and treats....they spoil me so.

Personal old-fashioned mail is HUGE. Think about it...a card or letter can be a huge gift.
  • a person thinks of you, gets paper and ink out...maybe goes to a card store... it takes thought, feeling, and a huge effort to find the perfect words to express what is needed at the time, then ya gotta buy it 
  • the time and effort to compose thoughts or simply sign your name
  • address it
  • a stamp....ooops off to the post office and oh BTW  mircle of mircles for 44 pennies a man will take this gift anywhere in the US and all of our territories....CRAZY beautiful
  • your receiver gets the most amazing, thoughtful, gift ever, surrounded by all of the time and effort it took to accomplish the goal... but do they know this?
OK here is the issue that comes in. Some people expect! They expect a birthday card, Christmas card, a gift, a call, a visit, whatever, and they expect it on time and if the whatever is late or lost they still keep asking. Do they want because they have always been indudged and ask because they feel are forgotten? Do some need to show others how loved they are to others? Or is it pressure to make the good giver always feel a sense of obligation? This makes the joy of giver deflate and lose its intended power of happiness.

I've decided that I will take some of the things I have been hearing to heart. I live without letting others make me feel obligated to lick a hand, lay on their feet to warm them, or even chase a ball just to retrieve. I plan to live unselfishly, doing kindnesses for others within the limits of my ability and desire to give without expectation or obligation.