My Little Man

He is my sugar-faced little man. It seems like just yesterday, he was my little boy.

Serious and uncomfortable with the camera,

it all melts away for Daddy.

Our Bella picked him out as a puppy and raised him right.

They were inseparable.

There has never been a human or animal he did not befriend.

In his grief at her passing, he chose a wild child named Yogi.

He does his best to keep our hooligan in line. No matter their size difference, Jackson always wins. Or Yogi always lets him.

He tolerates the foster puppies that Yogi welcomes with joy. And yet, they gravitate to him like a cranky old grandfather.

He is treated with deference.

He is cat-like. Independent. Solitary. Never a hugger. For years, he would find his own quiet spot in the house and always slept at the foot of the bed. Away.

Now, at 11, he is different. He wants to be near. I find him sleeping on the pillows by morning.
He welcomes kisses.
He insists on greeting everyone with a toy and dares you to chase him.
We always let him win.

His ridiculous gaping smiles…

have turned to hilarious toothless grins.

He snores. He imposes his will with relentless stares. And he is sweet beyond words.

He is my sugar-faced little man.

And I hope he is with us forever and ever.

What I miss

What I miss…

Your barking at dog photos I am editing on the computer or videos on TV.
Chasing those TV dogs around the back of the set to see where they go.
Not having to get up every five minutes to retrieve the tennis ball that my beloved retriever purposefully rolled under the furniture (fetch is for humans, too, I guess).

Your schedule of demands beginning with breakfast barks and followed by lunch cookie barks, dinner barks, and bedtime treat barks.
Your refusal to be shut out of any room – ever – including the bathroom.
Your sneaky counter surfing. (No, I am not believing it was Jackson.)
Your love of butter wrappers.
Tug of war with Jackson (you always let the Little Man win).
Your sleeping body always under foot.

Your presence in the garden.
Endlessly pulling sticks, bark, and dirt clods from your mouth.
Holes in the drywall (I left one unpatched to remember you by).

Curling up with Daddy on the sofa.
Crawling into my side of the bed.
Your snoring.

Your sweet sugar face.
Your long, beautiful lashes.
Your fuzzy paws.
Your soft curls.

I cannot believe it has been a year.
Not a day goes by that I do not say good morning and goodnight to your photo.
I still cry when I think of you.
But now I can smile, too.

I hold you in my heart because I cannot hold you in my arms.
I miss you, sweet Bella.
I miss YOU.





Learning How to Surf

“Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” ~ Jacques Prévert

Happiness forgot us for a bit. With the loss of Bella, the house feels quiet and empty to us, and to Bella’s “brother” Jackson. From the moment they met, they had been best playmates and friends.


Only a year separated them – and we hoped nothing else ever would. But sometimes, the universe has other plans.

You can’t will grief away; it takes its own time. But wallowing in it never banished it faster. So, while we mourn our loss, we have to put Jackson’s needs first. And today, he needed some happiness.


We took him on one of his favorite adventures – an early morning hike and swim in the river.


And along the way, we met and made a new friend; her name is Riba.


A few years younger than Jackson –


a powerful ocean-trained swimmer,


and a mighty shaker,


she could probably show him up if she wanted, but they were well matched in personality and play.


When the heart is heavy, create good times and new memories, and eventually, happiness will find you again.


“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn


My Summer With Bella

I read, with sadness and empathy, the stories of the people or their companions that I have befriended here as they journey through terminal illness. I am privileged to share in their passage, however painful, and to support them as best I can. Yet, I have not been able to write about my own journey with my beloved Bella.


Maybe it is because I am a private person. Or perhaps it is because I’m told that my happiest stories help to lift others’ spirits. God knows that we could all use a little of that. More likely, it is because – by writing about it – it would become all too real.

My Bella had cancer. Inoperable, and, despite all efforts, incurable.


My only requirement through treatments: that she be happy, no matter how unhappy I was for her.


And when she stopped being happy – of just being Bella – then it was time.

Today, it was time. After a long and difficult night, she looked at me and said “no more drugs, no more doctors, no more.” And my heart is breaking – for her, and her “brother” Jackson who will be lost without her.


Nine is too young. She got robbed. But still, nine was rich, and full, and wonderful.

My first rescue dog from Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue – a Golden puppy. A rarity in rescue.


And while an adult dog comes with so many blessings, there is nothing like the bond created through potty training, sleepless nights, and half eaten walls – something she never quite grew out of.


Always in trouble from the start, she was smart and willful.


She did everything with complete abandon,


whether it was catching a ball or guarding the backyard from marauding squirrels. So it should be no surprise that her tumor would first appear as a Grade 3.

As a puppy, she was always busy. She could never settle at night. So I would curl up with her on the dog bed and whisper quietly to her while gently stroking her leg and paw until she fell asleep; a ritual that still works – even today.


I left my job a month after her diagnosis. Not because of it, but maybe because I was meant to have this time with her. Without it, her day would have come much sooner. So many appointments and medications and special instructions. I could never have managed it with work. It bought us some time to prepare, accept, and appreciate all the more.


My summer with sweet Bella was a precious gift of time and love. And today – of departure.


Fly free sweet girl. And say hello to Pookie, Bear, Tribble and Valentino.
You are so loved.