Monthly Archives: January 2021

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Annie Is Winning ….

Winter is upon us! A blanket of snow has covered Norfolk for many weeks now, and we’re gearing up for a winter storm tomorrow which is predicting an additional 12-18 inches of snow.

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Being the winter lover that I am, I’m still getting out a few times a week to walk Dodger or Annie.

Both Dodger and Annie run with abandon through the woods, stopping to poke their noses in snow drifts, and ever so often chomping up a mouthful of snow when the mood strikes. One of the differences between them is Annie usually brings a ball on her walk while Dodger does not. I suspect it’s the retriever in her versus Dodger who just wants to show off his border collie agility skills.

Both dogs, in my humble opinion, are super-duper smart. Sometimes when I get lost in my imagination and debate who would be valedictorian in Kelly’s World of Dogs, it’s a tough choice. For example, look at how Dodger sits and stays in the car until I tell him to go:

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I know the picture isn’t that impressive, so you can watch the video of Dodger showing off his “stay” skills here.

But in one way Annie has outshone my other beloved canine buddies simply because of how she approaches her ball on our walks.

Annie has a bazillion balls to choose from when we start. Usually, there’s already a few out in the yard, and she’ll scoop one up and bring it to me. I throw it, she chases, and then we continue our walk until the process repeats itself.

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Sometimes, I’m not fun enough for Annie and her ball. When that happens, she’ll set her ball on the ground, push it beneath a log, under an upturned tree, off the creek bank, etc., and then work like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel trying to get it back.

You can watch Annie show off her digging skills here.

Most of the time, she’s successful. She’ll scoop up the ball again and be on her merry way.

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Every so often, though, the ball is lost. It gets taken upstream, it gets pushed into a deeper hole, or sometimes a mole absconds with it. The last one is pure speculation, but it’s the only reason I can come up with for why sometimes her ball vanishes.

I also think it’s hilarious to imagine that a gang of moles have an underground network of tunnels in the Barbour Woods waiting to steal Annie’s ball.

Nevertheless, Annie tries to get her ball back. But after a few minutes, she decides, no, that’s okay. I’ll continue on without it. And then she does! Tail wagging, happy smile, Annie takes off into the woods, leaving the lost ball behind. I don’t think she actually misses it for even one second.

Here’s the weirdest part about Annie and her ball – nine times out of ten, she’ll find another ball somewhere in the woods! We’ll be walking along, me marveling at the beauty of the Barbour Woods, Annie zooming down hills, over tree stumps, and tackling over-sized sticks, and before I know it, she returns to me with another ball in her mouth.

Is it the same ball as before? Nope! Does it matter to Annie? Not at all.

We continue our walk, she occasionally lets me throw the ball for her to chase, and eventually we return to where we started.

Annie and her ball are an excellent primer for learning how to let go: Leaving something behind can be so hard, yet Annie does it with aplomb. She never knows where that next ball is going to show up, yet she almost always finds it.

What are we unable to let go of?

What could be waiting for us up ahead when we do?

A life lesson for us all, I think.

Looks like Dodger is going to have to up his game!

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My Greatest Achievement in 2020 (Debatable)

Meet Koda!

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I snapped this picture in the Norfolk Library on November 10, 2020. Naturally, I posted it to the Dogspotting Facebook group to which I belong. The sole purpose of the group is to post pictures of dogs we’ve never met before and share their awesomeness with others.

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A few days later, over four thousand people had liked this photo.

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I didn’t have much to celebrate in 2020, but I will always have Koda.

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Thinking about Death in the New Year, 2021 Edition

Now that it’s 2021, it’s time for my annual death meditation. This is my fifth year in a row of imagining how I would live if I knew 2021 would be my last year on Earth, and thanks to the gut-punch-then-kick-me-while-I’m-down year that was 2020, thinking about my death this year has been quite different from past death meditations.

I experienced a staggering amount of loss and grief in the last year. It started early on with learning about Faith’s liver tumor in January, followed by the loss of Oscar Meyer Weiner Dog a few weeks later.

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In February, we lost the incomparable Eve Thew, one of my first (and dearest) friends in Norfolk.

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In March, the whole world changed as COVID-19 spread and we, humans, made it significantly and substantially worse than it had to be. Heath and I had to temporarily leave our Norfolk housesitting job, which meant I had to say goodbye to living with my beloved Smudge and Faith for the foreseeable future.

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In June, my father went into the hospital after an acute attack of his nervous system by his own immune system. The doctors diagnosed him with Guillain-Barrè syndrome. While in the hospital, he also suffered a heart attack and contracted pneumonia. When he was released a month later, it was to come home to die.

My father died in the early morning hours of July 19th. Eight people attended his funeral, and nine people attended his burial three months later on a freezing cold and wet day in late October.

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Four days after my dad died, Smudge unexpectedly collapsed. The vet recommended immediate euthanasia. I said goodbye through video messenger because that was the only option I had.

Then, on November 14th, I said a final goodbye to Faith. I had moved back into our Norfolk housesitting home on November 12th. All through the summer when I visited Faith, I asked her to please hang on until I moved back. With all the loss this year, I didn’t think I could handle losing her, too, and not being there.

On November 12th, I brought an overnight bag to get me through until the weekend. That Saturday, the 14th, Faith and I woke up together. We sang our going down the stairs song, which I created one morning while walking down the stairs back when we took care of four dogs – Tobey, Smudge, Faith, and Moon – and their tippy tappy paws provided a nice accompaniment. It goes a little something like this,

We’re going down the stairs

Without any cares

Not wearing underwears

It’s time to eat some food

We hope that it is good

If not, then we’ll be rude

Faith and I had a nice morning together. I snuck her lots of extra turkey slices every time I went into the fridge, because I thought she was looking a little thin. We went for a walk about around the pond and up and down the driveway. I even snapped a picture to send to her human mom and described Faith as being “very frisky on this chilly day!”

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I then went over to our apartment to pack up the rest of my belongings since I had only brought that overnight bag for the first few days.

When I got back to the house, Faith watched me make five trips back and forth from the car. I set my belongings on and around the dining room table. That’s our staging area for whenever we leave or come back to this house. Faith has watched me do this unpacking at least a dozen times in the past.

She died less than three hours later. It was like she knew I had *finally* moved back to the house and she had fulfilled my request to please hang on until I got back.

As Faith lay dying, I lay next to her. Heath sat by her head. We both put our hands on her, giving her all the love we could. I stroked her little ears, scratched her head, and petted her back. I told her my favorite stories of our time together. I told her that she would be with Tobey, Smudge, and Moon again very soon.

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I thanked her for the chance to love her and to live with her these last four years. That she brought so much joy and happiness to my life. And that it was her little face, more than Tobey’s or Smudge’s or Moon’s that I fell in love with at first sight on the TrustedHousesitters.com website that made me say to Heath, “Look at how cute this dog is! Let’s apply for this job.”

Losing Faith after losing so many other people and dogs this year was right in line with how awful 2020 was. At the same time, my love for and loss of Faith has instilled in me the mantra I want to take forward into 2021. We spent a perfect last day together. We filled it with love and fun and some of our favorite activities.

I didn’t know when I woke up on Saturday morning, November 14th, that it would be the last time I woke up with little Faith asleep next to me on her dog bed.

I didn’t know it would be our last time singing down the stairs.

That it would be our last parade up and down the driveway.

That it would be the last time I said, “let’s go to bed,” and then wait for her to walk up the stairs with me.

I didn’t know that my life would change (again) forever that day.

And it didn’t matter that I didn’t know because I enjoyed every single moment of that day with her. I loved her. I appreciated her. I thanked God for letting us be together again.

So, as I think about my own death and what, if anything, I would do differently if I knew 2021 was my last year on Earth, I think about that last day with Faith. I take that day with me going forward. That day with Faith will serve as my guideposts for how I want to live in 2021 – quality time with those I love, enjoying the quiet moments of our lives, and knowing and expressing just how grateful I am to be there.

Hello, 2021. Welcome to my year of Faith.

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