Monthly Archives: December 2011

The End.

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Today is the last day of 2011. I feel like I have been waiting for this day for a very long time. 2011 was by far the most difficult year of my life so far. I am neither young enough nor naive enough to believe that just because the calendar starts over that the bad things just go away, but, I am optimistic enough to know that the start of a new year can symbolize new beginnings.
2011 has challenged me in ways that I never expected. My father’s illness and passing were really only the beginning of learning things I would just as soon do without. But, I guess I needed to learn what I have and I am sure that there is more learning to come. For instance, I have learned that I am not as strong as I thought I was, I am not as secure in myself as I thought I was and I no longer think I can handle things on my own. All of that was not fun to learn, I can assure you of that, but, I am glad I know it, because now I know what I can work on.
In the past year, I have gained a deeper understanding of my relationships and that I have some truly amazing people in my life. I have also gained a deeper understanding of another relationship in particular..the one I have (or don’t have) with my mother. While much of what I have learned is unsettling, uncomfortable and difficult to accept, with the amazing support I have around me, I no longer hold myself to a standard that I did not set, nor did I agree to. If I were to write the full story of my life, this part would be, by far, the longest chapter. Maybe someday I will, but, for now, I hold it close to me and only the people who know me for a very long time know the depth of the damage that has been caused, not only to me, but, mostly to my brother. I do not have hatred or blame, but I do have anger, sadness and confusion and some of what I hope to accomplish in 2012 is the further unraveling of those emotions. I hope to clear them out of my heart and mind and find a way to make it all okay in myself. Wish me luck…this has been going on a very, very long time!
I have learned that people can make me laugh, even when I don’t want to (Paul & Jason), that people will listen to my sad story over and over, without judgement or telling me to just get over it (Lisa, Stacy & Pam), that people will offer me good counsel and support just about whenever I need it (Dennis), that people will offer to watch our pets so we can go away without a second thought (Karen) and that people will spend hours with me talking about everything and nothing while floating in the ocean (Lauri & Jake). I have learned that my young cousins being excited to see me is one of the best feelings ever. I have learned that sitting on the cold, dirty ground with a shelter dog in my lap is one of the best ways I have ever spent my time. I have learned that opening our home to one of those dogs, so that she may live a long, happy life is one of the most rewarding (and challenging) things I could ever do. I have learned that there are people who work tirelessly to make sure that more animals have the chance at life than I could have ever imagined and am in awe of this and aspire to be more like them.
Having said all of that, it makes 2011 look not so bad. The truth is that the undercurrent of sadness I feel at the loss of my dad is just under the surface of all of it. My dad was young and he was a happy person, despite the toll Parkinson’s Disease took on him in such a quick time. He was fun to be with and so many things just aren’t the same without him here. I take heart in the fact that we spent a lot of time together in the last few years, but, I would give anything to have more.
As I kick 2011 in the ass out the door, I realize that there are so many things I am grateful for. Things that a couple of weeks ago I chose to ignore or simply could not find. There truly was a period of time where I couldn’t find my gratitude. That scared me and I know my behavior scared some people close to me. And, for that I am sorry. I don’t expect my worry or sadness to just go away, but, I hope to be able to keep an eye on the bigger picture and remind myself that whatever it is, it will pass.
Later today, I plan on writing down all of the things that caused me pain this year. I plan on tearing the paper up into small bits and getting rid of them at 11:59pm to open the door to a more positive 2012. While I do all of this with hope, I know that hope is pointless without doing the footwork. So, along with my husband and my brother, we are doing the footwork to move forward. We are planning to move to Georgia, starting a business, and working to save more dogs lives. In moving to Georgia, we will be closer to my uncle, his wife and kids and starting the next chapter. Moving to Georgia will give at least one of us a clean slate, something that has proven almost impossible here.
2011 will be a year that I certainly will never forget, as much as I would like to. I think years from now, when I look back, this year will remain the one in which I cried the most, learned the most and experienced the most. Maybe one day, I will look back and say thank you to the Universe for showing me so much. I know this now..I may not be as strong or secure as I thought, but I am not giving up on trying. I am not giving up on the good things. As always, I will dust myself off and try again.
Thank you to all of my friends and family who were there for me this year. Thank you to my husband for putting up with me, I know it couldn’t have been easy on a daily basis. Thank you to all of my shelter friends (many of who I have met only once) for inspiring me to try to do more. Most of all, Thank you to my dad for being upbeat and positive until the very end. What a great example of how to live life and I hope to become more like him every day.

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The Notorious ROC.

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Somewhere along the way, Rocco got old. My baby boy is not such a baby anymore. He sleeps most of the time, and when he is not sleeping, he is barking furiously at the interloper, Angie. I look at his face, and I see a different dog. His snout looks longer and skinnier, his eyes are cloudy. His body is covered with old man lumps and his belly sags. The truth is, I never really thought of Rocco as aging, mostly because he has always been so enthusiastic and lively. Rocco is still pretty obnoxious when people come over, but, sometimes he doesn’t even get up off the couch for treats. He stays under his blanket for hours at a time. He is moody. He is crotchety. He still gives hugs, though, and that’s good enough for me.
I have been down this road with 2 dogs of my own and countless family dogs. Watching an animal decline is one of the hardest things in life, but, as hard as it is, I guess it’s part of the deal.
I have never said that I wouldn’t get another dog after losing one. I think it’s because having had dogs my whole life, I know that the 10-15 years we have with them make our lives better. The heartbreak is so strong because we love them so much. I couldn’t imagine not allowing myself to love another dog. Angie has proven to me how worth it loving another dog is, how opening my heart to another personality, another life is worth it. I knew it before, but, watching her grow and change has proven it again.
So, back to Rocco. I don’t think he is going anywhere soon, and I pray that he stays strong and healthy for a few more good years. No matter what, he will always be my baby, my Santorini stinker, my punk Rocco, my rubber dog. Long live the Greek God Roccobella 🙂

Foster Dog Files: Update

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In case you didn’t know, Angie is back in foster care with us. Through no fault of her own and to their great disappointment, her adopters were unable to keep her. We gladly (eagerly?) took her back and she has been here for about 2 weeks again. In that 2 weeks, we have re-built a routine, and re-established our connection. I know I have said it before, but, Angie is truly a special dog…fun and funny, loving and easy to get along with. I guess you could say that about most dogs or any dog that you love, but, I really feel it is a bit different with her. Is it a breed thing? Is she proving what people say about pit bulls, that they tend to be more social and people focused? Or, is it an Angie thing? Just personality traits that are part of her being? I don’t know, but, I do know this: neither Paul or I have ever met a dog like her. We love our own dogs to the moon and back, but, if we were having a doggy Miss Congeniality contest around here, Angie would win hands down. From her effusive greeting ritual to her desire to be as close as possible at all times, she is a living, breathing example of love in action.
Angie has some issues, for sure. But, truthfully, they just make her more endearing. She is clumsy, she likes to chew hair. She can be impatient and demanding. But, when I look at those things in the context of her almost dying, they are easy to take. They make her more alive and I see that she does things because she feels safe. She chews hair during play because she knows she is not going to get hit or yelled at. She throws the full weight of her body against you to be pet because she wants to be as close as possible. She is impatient to get food, any food, because she was starving and she demands to go outside because the alternative is to do her business inside and that would be a step backwards.
I recently read an article in which the writer said that when he started training with his adopted pit bull, it was almost like she was remembering something from deep inside, rather than learning it for the first time. That is how training has been with Angie. She is super-motivated and enjoys the treats, the attention and the mastering of things more than any dog I have ever met. She picks most things up within a few trials, and picked up the always fun army crawl immediately. I am sure that she would excel at Flyball or Agility and enjoy expanding her knowledge even more.
As I write this, Miss Lady (one of her many nicknames) has gone back to sleep with my husband. She woke up, gave me some kisses and decided that laying with a warm body on a cold Sunday morning sounded better than going outside to do her business and starting her day. Angie is pretty much happy to do whatever the humans want to do. If that happens to include treats…even better 🙂
Please share again for Angie. She needs to go to her forever home soon. I know she would take a loving foster home over the shelter any day, but, this girl needs someplace and someone who is all hers. Someone she can start a life with and whose days she can make brighter and more full of laughter. She has done all of that for us and we are so grateful to her for giving us a reminder about the joys of simply being alive.
These are the ads I have done for her, and if anyone is interested, they can also contact me at lorosuzo@yahoo.com.
http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/petdetail/21731210-Angie-Pit%20Bull%20Terrier-Dog-Philadelphia-PA
http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/pet/2754323660.html