Friday, December 15, 2017

A Year of Loss and Grieving

Buddy and his sister, Holly, cuddling. They were always wrapped up beside each other. 


I don't know how to explain it. I can't. 

It's been a year of loss. But why it happened this way I'll never know. 

It started with a divorce. Niblet, my ex-husband's 19-year-old cat started pacing the house, howling. He wouldn't eat or sleep, he just kept...searching. Animals don't understand divorce and I've learned that cats have a unique way of grieving, which I will write about at a later time. 

My nephew and his wife died in a horrible accident. I was his nanny while I was in college. They died before I could meet his lovely young wife. 

My 15 year old chocolate lab, Buddy, was poisoned by the neighbors who parked in front of my driveway, barking at my granddaughter and I, taunting us as Buddy died in my granddaughter's arms. He was my service dog. He was gentle, goofy, fun. He never barked. It was an act of cruelty beyond comprehension and it was made clear to me that it was all done because I told my neighbor I would not hire him to mow my lawn. (When we moved my boxes out of the house we found my lawnmower in pieces with the gas tank filled up with water.)

Silly old Bud. He was the leader of the pack. So playful and funny, but always protective and he never left my side--until that one night when I left my home.

Yes, I do believe cruelty to animals should be a felony offense. 

A week later, my Flemish Giant rabbit, Katie, was dead in her hutch, paralyzed, with antifreeze all over her paws (I don't keep any chemicals anywhere near my animals). She was so deeply loved and adored by everyone. 

Katie with her friend, Layla Lou.

She had been to the vet for her checkup the day before. The vet was angry. She knew something was wrong in my neighborhood and said so in her sympathy card, but you cannot force the police to respond when they choose to look the other way.  

Such a loving creature. Katie, you are beautiful. 

My family and friends arrived in the middle of the night, packed their trucks and moved me out of my new home. I had only been in the home three months. I didn't even have time to unpack because I was still painting and redoing the floors. According to a speech made by the local sheriff, crime has increased in this county 90% over the past two years. It would have been nice to have that information before I moved to that neighborhood.

Holly, Buddy's sister, was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Chewy, my chihuahua, was fine. Then we moved again and everyone became sick. Chewy suddenly developed a previously undiagnosed heart murmur, which turned into previously undiagnosed heart disease. 

Niblet was lighter than he was as a kitten. He was dying. We raced through a hailstorm to get him to the vet and ease his pain. Lightning hit a tree and started a fire. A tornado touched down nearby, but we made it to the vet and my granddaughter and I held him in our arms as he died. 

Niblet was handsome, playful, and huge! He loved his humans. The vet never did figure out why he died in spite of all the tests. He just stopped eating. 

Mama dog, who belonged to my grandchildren, was acting strange after they moved, too. She seemed traumatized. She was also chasing the cats. I had a dream that if she stayed in that house she would die. I asked permission to adopt her since I didn't have a cat any longer. I found a new house and moved. I left the movers with a family member and returned home to pick up Mama dog. There had been a horrible thunderstorm and the animals were already wound up from the moving. 

\
I tried, Mama dog. I heard you. I really did try.

When I walked through the door I felt as if I had entered a war zone. I couldn't find one of our living animals, but Samson, my daughter's giant cat, was dead. Samson was featured in a post about the "mystery drawer." I tried to take care of him before my daughter saw him. 

We will always love and miss you, Samson.

My son-in-law found Mama dog. I never had the chance to say goodbye to her. He returned and we buried Samson's remains together.  

Then I had a dream. My granddaughter was spending the night, and as she cuddled in my arms we fell asleep watching a funny movie...and I had a dream. I had a dream of a woman on a hospital bed with tape on her eyes. There was a wheelchair beside the bed. I was walking through the room trying to comfort the family. I woke up screaming.   

It seemed like only days later when Chewy died. It was painful and traumatic. I gave him Rieki every night, but could not relieve his pain. 
Chewy was a fighter. He wanted to live. He was also so loving and kind. He could sense when another animal was sick just by smelling their bodies. 

Two weeks later, my younger sister died. As I walked through the hospital room trying to comfort her family I realized I was living my dream. She had tape on her eyes. Her husband was in a wheelchair beside her bed. I cannot explain. The words are in a knot in my throat. 

Two weeks after that, Holly died in my home. She collapsed in my granddaughter's arms. I pulled her onto my lap and she died there. I held her in my arms. 

The vet warned me it would happen that quickly, without warning. She was tired. She had lost her pack. She felt alone. I think she just gave up when Chewy died. She loved him so much. She loved them all. She needed them, and she knew how much they needed her. 

My favorite picture. I love your gray haired face my Holly. So beautiful. Love you forever. 

Some day I will write about my blessed little creatures and say goodbye, one by one. I will write about animals and grieving--I have learned so much about animals and grieving. 

But not now. It's too painful. Too much. 

I still dream about them, though. Nice dreams. I see them together, running through fields, running through the New Mexico desert, chasing each other. I see Chewy smiling in his sleep. I see the dogs following Katie around the backyard, sniffing her, wondering how a rabbit could possibly be so big, then sleeping by her side. I see them all in my dreams sleeping side by side. 

I will revisit them when it's time, but I've been writing this blog since 2007 and it's time to continue on with my stories of the mountains and the birds, the insects, the buffalo, antelope, deer, elk, and everyone else who crosses my path. 

All of my love Christina, Erik, Holly, Buddy, Holly, Niblet, Chewy, Katie, Mama dog and Samson. I cannot say goodbye. I won't do it. Until we meet again I will see you in my dreams.  


Buddy, Holly and Chewy soaking up the Texas sunshine. 


(Cross-posted on Blessed Little Creatures.) 







Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Rising When We Fall...

Stormy weather in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. 
Photo taken in December, 2011, copyright by Darla Sue Dollman.


“The greatest glory in living 
lies not in never falling, 
but in rising every time we fall." 
– Nelson Mandela





Learning to Love

Nelson Mandela, 1998. Photograph produced by  produced by Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency/Wikimedia Commons.

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
--1994, from his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom"


Saturday, December 2, 2017


"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

--Psalm 23:1-6, The Bible, KJV


Rest in peace, Buddy, Holly, and Chewy. Find each other and walk again beside the still waters. Chase butterflies, watch the sunset, and think only of our time together. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Light It Up Blue: World Autism Month

Since April is World Autism Month, I’ve decided to #LightItUpBlue with Autism Speaks to increase understanding and awareness of autism. The issue is deeply personal to me because I have friends who are mothers of children with autism. It’s highly likely that you know someone with autism too since the CDC estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in every 68 children in the United States.

Autism refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

Autism’s most obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Autism Speaks encourages parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.

Bluebonnets in Texas. Light It Up Blue in April to help increase awareness of Autism.

The “Light It Up Blue” campaign is about more than awareness -- it is about increasing understanding and acceptance of autism. This includes advocacy and support for people across the entire spectrum throughout their lives. It also includes advancing research into personalized treatments for autism and related conditions. I encourage you to test your understanding of autism by taking this quiz!

Certain medical and mental health issues frequently accompany autism. They include GI disorders, seizures, sleep disturbances, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety and phobias.

You can help make a difference too by taking the Light It Up Blue Quiz to see how much you know about autism.

If you’re moved to do so after visiting AutismSpeaks.org, please show your support for and understanding of the challenges faced by individuals with autism by sharing a photo to #LightItUpBlue for Autism Awareness Month too.

Also, check out Autism Speaks’ nationwide calendar of autism-friendly friendly events and activities in April.

(This post was sent to me by Autism Speaks with the request that I share it on my blog, and I gladly complied.)