Empathy

When I wrote last week’s blog post Rainbow Bridge  I never expected in a million years the response that it received. It wasn’t just me hubby had people coming up to him in work, telling him that they couldn’t read it without shedding a tear or that it said what they felt but had never been able to express it. I had followers on Instagram contacting me about their recent losses and long ago losses too. On Facebook it was the same, with many people contacting me or leaving a comment. . It was emotionally hard as I am very empathetic, so when people start to get tearful when they are talking to me, it makes me cry too. But when I wrote the post I was half expecting it to stir up a lot of emotions because I had been in such a mess as I wrote it. I have to be honest I never did a final check on the post to look for errors, mainly because I found it so upsetting to read, it was real and raw. I haven’t even gone back to look at it now to refresh my memory before writing this one. I just can’t do it, I have already been in tears today twice over the dogs. It is always just bubbling away under the surface for me at the moment, although to look at me or to see any of my social media posts you would never know.

I am so touched that something I have written has moved so many people. I thank each and everyone of you who commented or messaged me. It was very hard last Thursday as I had no idea how it would be received. I had no clue if people would think I was wallowing, being self indulgent or a drama queen. That people would think that I should pull myself together and get on with the rest of my life. I promise you I am not self indulgent, wallowing or being a drama queen. I just write about life and my experiences. I try to give a voice to those feelings that we push down and don’t let anyone else see. I take a chance that people won’t reject me or ridicule me because I try to talk about things that many would rather brush under the carpet. Although there have been several articles regarding the death of a pet in National newspapers it is still treated with some degree of disbelief by those who have never had an animal / pet in their lives. 

The whole point of my post was for you – whoever you are, know that it is ok to feel whatever you are feeling, to express your grief ( and it is your’s and no one else’s) anyway that you like. That these feelings are totally normal. You are not weird, you aren’t wallowing in your grief, you aren’t an attention seeker and you are certainly not being a drama queen. You are hurting and it will take time to process all that emotion. Hell I am only 8 months on and there are days where I can barely keep it together. Days where all I do is cry. Days when I feel guilty when I know rationally I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I just wanted you to know you aren’t going mad, I honestly thought at times I was losing it. All of those feelings, even the uncontrollable rage that even surprises you when you roar, is totally normal. It is the beast called grief and it doesn’t have to be something that you go through alone.

As I touched on in my blog post even when you have suffered from a significant bereavement such as a partner / child / sibling / parent / friend, people who haven’t been through that kind of grief can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the feelings of loss and pain. They may see you red faced, tear stained and see your grief but that is soon forgotten because it has no direct impact on their lives. The next time they see you, taking the kids to school, going to work, getting the shopping – all things you have to do despite the pain and grief they assume you are “better”. They don’t understand that grief goes on forever. They seem to think that grief has a timeline and by a certain amount of time say 6-12 months maybe sooner if they are real dicks, you “should” be “over” it. How do you explain that there is no getting over it? You are just getting through each day the best you can. There will be good days, bad days and the worst kind of days.  Life will probably never be the same again. But there will never be or has there ever been for anyone who is grieving a time when they are over it. Getting Over It has to be the most grotesque phrase ever. Followed by Time is a great healer. There is no healing from grief, you carry that pain forever.

I had people contacting me about dogs they had lost thirty years ago during their childhood that they still mourned for.  Others told me about their recent losses that they just couldn’t process or that in the proceeding days before my blog post it had hit them, after thinking that they could keep going and carry on as normal. I was quite honest when I spoke to them and told them Jay and I have very little memory of January and February this year.

 We know we got Dembe, we know he was tiny but ask us to recall anything significant like where we took him on his first walk. What the date of his first walk was, his first bark, his first growl all the stuff we would normally remember and we draw a blank. It’s not because we didn’t care about it, purely our brains were overloaded processing what had happened when we lost Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I am so glad that I started the Dembe Diaries blog and his diary that I base the blog on, so that in years to come I can look back and see all those things in black and white that my brain was unable to absorb at the time.

 I do remember Jay barely spoke in the first 4-5 days after it happened. It was quite stressful as I went into list mode, trying to control everything because my anxiety spiked. His anxiety spiked because I was making so many demands on him all the time and obviously he needed to have some control in his life too. It was very difficult trying to get him motivated to help me sort the house out ready for Dembe’s arrival. Especially as we couldn’t stand being in the house as it was just full of reminders of how empty it was. We did cry together and we did talk about our babies, all of our babies. But the pain and grief was hard because although it has happened to both of you (or all of you) it is also an individual thing that no one can make better or take away from you. People grieve in different ways. Just because Jay wasn’t breaking down in tears every 5 minutes like I was didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting or struggling to cope. You only had to take a look at him, ashen faced, tired and so very quiet, grief and pain was written all over him. For a few days I was worried that he was going to drop down dead from a heart attack or stroke he looked so ill.  

Grief is weird one minute you can feel like you are doing ok and the next minute it feels like the world is imploding. There is no rhyme or reason to it, you are carried on its current and it takes you wherever it pleases. There is no control of it, it controls you initially, even denying you sleep when it wants to. Both Jay and I suffered from terrible insomnia in the 7 days after Mollie and Frankies passing. We would find ourselves downstairs in the middle of the night watching crap on the TV whilst eating chocolate biscuits and drinking sugary tea in the hope we would just pass out from a sugar overdose. I remember one day within about 20 minutes of each other we both left the electric shower on, when we left the bathroom, returning to it a few minutes later, neither of us could work out why we had left it running. We had no recollection of leaving the bathroom.  Life really was being lived on autopilot, all we could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and get through another day.

I want to tell you that things do get better, the grief becomes less overwhelming.  I feel like I am finally starting to live life again instead of just simply going through the motions. I am not saying that in 8 months you will also be feeling better, it could be less time it could be substantially more time. But there will come a time when you let a breathe out and know that you are starting to be you again.

Up until about a week ago the last time I listened to music and enjoyed it was 29th December 2018. That was the day that Frankie passed away and I had been listening to my Sinead O’connor LP. I didn’t play any music for a couple of weeks. After that time had passed, I tried but I found the noise too much and overwhelming. I had no emotional connection to the music. I would rather be in silence or have the TV on low in the background.  For the last two weeks I have played music non-stop. I have sung at the top of my voice and quite possibly scared the neighbours. I have found the joy in music again. I haven’t played my Sinead O’Connor LP, I think that one will take some time. I may not play it again for several years, I’m not setting myself a target, I will let it happen, I won’t force it. One day I will sing something from the album and it will be like an ear worm that won’t die until I play it. At the moment anything from that LP makes me sad.

We have also started planning things for the future. We have booked  a short break in the UK next year and we will be taking Dembe with us. It is very exciting. This will be the first time since 2006 that Jay and I have had any sort of holiday. It is only 3 nights away but it will do us all some good just to get out of the house and away from the day to day. I am nervous as hell as I have become a real homebody since becoming ill. Other than stays in hospital I haven’t been away from the house in 13 years. It is hilarious to me that I am getting a bit anxious thinking about it when Jay and I have travelled to Sri Lanka, USA (Florida), Antigua, Paris, Menorca and various places all over the UK for weddings / christenings. I know that we can do it, it is just my world has been so very small over the last 13 odd years.

So please be kind to yourself, wherever you are in your journey with grief. Everyone does grief differently, there is no one size fits all. What works for you may not work for anyone else.  Remember living life does not mean that you have forgotten those who are no longer with us. At some point things will get easier, you will reach a new normal. It is not a journey you have to do alone. If more of us start talking about grief and how it affects us we will educate those who have never experienced it and maybe create a little more empathy. The world could really do with more empathy at the moment.

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Rainbow Bridge

I have  called this blog post Rainbow Bridge as all pet owners will know what I am talking about and can make the immediate decision whether or not to read this post. If you decide to skip it, I understand . I can’t even read the poem Rainbow Bridge without breaking down and turning into a snotty, red faced, tear stained mess. So if you decide from the outset that this post probably isn’t for you, I get it. I will just reassure you that I will not be talking about Frankie or Mollie’s passing at the start of this year. That shit is just too raw still to deal with and I would prefer to spend the remainder of the day functional rather than being the snotty, red faced, tear stained mess I know I will become.

 
The blog post is called Rainbow Bridge because I want to talk to you about the very real depth of grief losing a pet, any pet can cause you. A grief that you can feel embarrassed about because you didn’t know it was possible for your heart to physically hurt so much and you not keel over and die. A grief and depth of feeling that unless you have lived the experience you can not begin to even comprehend what the other person is going through. And a grief that you feel you have to hide from the world as grieving over an animal is still seen as self indulgent, selfish, weak, being melodramatic. A depth of feeling that is so strong that it even takes you by surprise.
 
We are in this country ( the UK ) crap at dealing with other people’s grief, even when they have lost a child or a partner. We seem to assume that once a person returns to work or starts doing normal things again that they are ok. Many people seem to think that there is a set period of time that a person should grieve for and after that time has passed, all that emotion and sadness should just turn off. If they don’t you are seen to be wallowing or attention seeking. A lot of people just don’t seem to understand that grief is not a linear journey and that it never ends. You will always be dealing with your grief one way or another. Time is not a great healer, there is no healing for grief, there is a just getting used to it. What initially in the first days, weeks and months seems all encompassing does slowly reduce in size but it never leaves us. It is something we carry always.
 
Those of you that aren’t pet owners may be surprised to read that it is exactly the same for those who have lost a pet. I really hate using a the term pet as I feel like it diminishes their status. But until someone comes up with a better word, I will have to use the one that is universally understood. Most people these days understand that our pets are more than just “pets” they are much loved members of the family within their own rights. Which is why it cut me to the core when somebody recently clumsily said to me ” You were so lucky to get Dembe when you did to replace…” she stopped herself continuing with this statement as I think she realised how awful what she had said sounded. 
 
There is no replacing a beloved cat, dog, guinea pig, hamster or horse. The same as you can’t replace a mother, a father, a child, a friend. Each one of those like our pets are unique. So why people use the dreaded replace word I have no idea. I’m glad it was said recently to me rather than just after it had happened because I don’t think I would have been able to control myself. I may have got physically violent because it was just so insensitive. Now because there is a little bit of distance from the event and I am not caught up in the overwhelming emotion of it, I can understand that it was clumsy and not ever meant the way it sounded. Why do I know that? This person has recently lost her mother and father in the space of a couple of years. She knows there is no replacement for them, she is also a dog owner and knows they can’t be replaced either. Had she said this in January I wouldn’t have been so forgiving.
 
When I found myself in the position of losing Frankie and Mollie within 7 days, having lost Willow 55 weeks earlier, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to carry on without them. The pain, the grief was just so overwhelming. The house had already felt strange after Frankie passed and then when Mollie was no longer here, it seemed so cold and empty. I missed the feel of their fur, the warmth of their bodies, the noise their paws made on the laminate floor. The pools of water Frankie liked to dribble all over the floor after having a drink. The barking, the farting, picking up the poo, the bonio (dog biscuit) crumbs. Everything that had meant being a dog owner for the last 15 years had just been suddenly snatched away with no warning. Everything seemed so bleak and miserable. You will never know how much you will crave a cuddle with a dog ( or any pet ) until you suddenly are no longer able to do it. 
 
That was the hardest thing to cope with in the days that followed their passing, that I couldn’t stroke a dog, be licked, have a tail wag. Jay and I spent every minute that we could out of the house because being in the house just magnified our loss. We were lucky in the respect that a week after Mollie passed away we brought home Dembe. I dread to think what life would have been like without him. I know some people will think that far too quick and that they don’t feel that they could take on another dog / animal whilst they are still mourning their loss. Everyone is different and there are no rights or wrongs in this situation. Had there not been any puppies available we would have had to wait, it is just the way things happened. We felt at the time and still do that it was written in the stars. The breeders had the same surname as the breeders of Mollie and Travis. Dembe’s mum was called Willow, it all seemed like it was just meant to be.
 
Did having Dembe stop the grief? Of course not. In some ways it complicated things because initially I was terrified that Dembe was going to die. My anxiety went up through the roof. It had been a very long time since we had a puppy in the house and it all seemed very alien to us. So whilst trying to come to terms with losing my babies – which they will always be to me no matter how old they were, I had a new baby to deal with. It some ways it was also good for us, we threw ourselves into socialisation and getting lots of experiences under his belt. That meant we had to leave the house and see people. We invited lots of friends over to get them involved. I don’t think for us any time would have been the right time to bring a puppy into the house. Our lives had revolved around our Weimaraners and this was such a massive change to our life, it will probably take us years to get used to it or our heads around it.
 
What did surprise me was the way the people seemed to think once we had Dembe that the grief would just suddenly disappear – as in the replacement theory. There were good surprises as well, people that I had only ever known on facebook sent flowers, cards, gifts. We had so many messages from people. Even though at the time it was hard to read them, not because there was anything wrong with them but just because they were so kind and thoughtful. I heard that Jay’s boss broke the news to his colleagues at work and a couple of them burst into tears because on the previous Saturday the poor man had also had to tell them that Frankie had passed away. No one could quite believe that life could be so cruel. I still don’t believe it but I am happy that Frankie and his mum / best mate are together again.
 
Initially I felt like we had to hide the fact that we had been looking at puppies and we had visited Dembe, paid the deposit two days after Mollie had passed away. It wasn’t because we didn’t love her, I have been crying on and off as I have been writing this. It is because Jay and I are realists, we knew the dogs couldn’t go on forever. Mollie was 14 and quite deaf, Frankie was losing the use of his back legs, had arthritis in his hips and spine, he hadn’t been able to wag his tail for months and was a huge 41kg, 12 year old dog. He had lived far longer than anyone had expected. Even before we lost Willow in 2017 we had been discussing when we got a dog in the future what breed it would be and what his name would be. We had always said we would have a boy, due to the fact both girls had spay induced incontinence after being spayed as emergencies. We said a Labrador as Mollie had always had a thing for black Labs, she adored them. We never knew why but if she met a black lab on a walk her face would light up and she would play bow. The Weims were as much part of our decision making process as we were, as we wanted their blessing. I know none of them would have wanted us to live our lives without a dog.
 
I saw a Meme not long ago that said Dogs fill your life with many happy days and the one worst day of your life. It is pretty true, although the worst day is the worst day when you have to say goodbye, the not so worst days follow, where you have to face life without them and hope that Rainbow Bridge is true and that one day you will all be together again.
 
In Loving memory of 
Travis Morris
Mollie Morris
Willow Morris
Frankie Morris
 
Not a day goes by that I don’t mourn your loss. Not a day goes by when I don’t talk about at least one of you to Dembe. You would have loved him so much.
 
Travis
Mollie
Willow
Frankie
 
Everyone thinks they have the best dog ever,  none of them are wrong.
 
Dembe

Time for a change

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time you will have noticed this week that on both platforms, Blogger and WordPress that my blog sites have had a makeover. 

The reason behind the change was two-fold, firstly it was just time for a change and secondly it was time to move forward. Both platforms used photo’s of Frankie as part of the blog. My Myasthenia kid page had a photo of Mollie and Frankie from the summer as its banner. Every time I went on the page it was a very real reminder of everything we have lost and the grief I feel. The time both Frankie and Mollie have been gone can still be counted in weeks, I still feel very sad most days. When you are with your dogs like I was 24/7 for the last 11 years they become a massive part of your life. It was like losing two members of my family, the family I have made with Jay. Still having them on the Facebook Myasthenia kid page and as a huge part of both blog platforms felt wrong. Although I will mourn them forever it was time to move forward and the new chapter of our life is now with Dembe our yellow Labrador. Not featuring him when he is a major part of my life felt disloyal to him. So hence the change.

I’ve known since the day we lost them both that the day would come that I felt strong enough to update the look of my blogs and Facebook page. I needed there to have been enough time passed that I wouldn’t feel guilty for changing things. It still took an awful lot to change the banner of my Facebook page associated with this blog. I wondered if people would think it was too soon or that I didn’t care about Mollie and Frankie. No one has said anything and deep down I knew they wouldn’t but you are still very conscious of how things may look to other people. 

The blogs were a spontaneous decision on Saturday night, when Jay was working late. I hadn’t like the look of blogger for ages and I needed to change the banner of the WordPress sites. I had taken a lovely photograph of some tree’s a couple of weeks ago and thought it would make a nice banner / background. I love Woodbury Common it has strong emotional ties for me. Every dog we have ever owned has been walked there, it was where I would go to forget the stress of everyday life before I became too sick to walk the dogs. To have that represented on the blog and it being my photograph gives me a sense of pride.

I also needed to change my Google Avatar. The photo had been a black and white one of me and Frankie. It is one of those things where every time I saw the photo I would hold my breath and wait for the pain in my heart to start. I have now changed it over to a lovely photo of Dembe. I wanted to start to look forward as I have been feeling a lot better of late. More like me and not totally bogged down in my grief. 

It has taken time for me to accept that I am allowed to look to the future and how our life with Dembe will be. Being an only dog he is even more the focus of my attention. He must some days wish that I would shut up as I talk to him constantly. He is the thing ( along with Jay ) that has got me through these last few months, who has forced me to get out of bed, to socialise when all I wanted to do was go to bed and just not have to deal with the world. Although it has been really hard on occasion I have made it through 100% of my worst days and that is an achievement.

The final thing I changed was my profile photo on my social media accounts. For a year possibly more it had been a close up photograph of Frankie’s nose. People always ask me about it as it was a cute photo but when you have just lost a faithful companion it can be really difficult emotionally to talk about it and people assume that he is still with us. I then have to say that he isn’t and that compounds the hurt. So I have changed this over to a photo of Dembe because when I speak about him I don’t feel sad. 

It took longer than I thought it would to change all the stuff. Whilst updating all my social media accounts I realised some of them were out of date and they still talked about Mollie and Frankie. So it was sad updating them but I do need to do this. I will never forget them they were a massive part of my life. They the three of them saved me when I was grieving for Travis our first Weimaraner and then when I became sick. I don’t know if I would still be here without their love and affection. Dembe has done the same shown me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that it is ok to be sad as long as it doesn’t dominate every waking hour. 

So I hope you like what I have done to the blogs etc I think you will agree it was time for a change.

Dembe aged 24 weeks

Dembe

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that sadly I lost, well we lost our beautiful Weimaraners 7 days apart at the end of last year beginning of this year. I let you know that we had also got ourselves a beautiful yellow Labrador ( he has a bit of fox red in him as well). I haven’t really spoken about him much here, not because he is some state secret but because mainly my blog has always been about the Weimaraners and because our lives have changed so completely with losing them and having Dembe.

 Mollie

 Frankie

Willow

Our lives have always revolved around our dogs and they always will. With the Weimaraners our lives were quite restricted, when left they would destroy our home ( chewing furniture, banisters, carpets basically anything they could get their teeth into) and sing to the neighbours. It meant if they were ever left we would have to pay for a dog sitter or beg friends to come and sit with them. They were fine as long as they had someone with them they just had awful separation anxiety when left alone. We could have taken the easy way out and given them up / rehomed them. If you ever look on websites for dogs you will always find Weimaraners on there 6 months to a year old who are being rehomed because they can’t be left alone without causing damage or noise. It breaks my heart. 

We decided as that as we had wanted them we would have to adjust our lives accordingly. It meant no going out together as one of us would have to stay home, ( they also destroyed the car if left in that with Willow eating the handbrake one day!). They dominated our lives for 15 years but although it may seem like a huge hardship they gave us so much love and so much companionship for me I never saw it as a hardship. We loved them dearly and due to that love we were prepared to put our lives effectively on hold for the time they were with us. Those years went past in the blink of an eye. The hardest part of those 15 years was some people just not understanding that our dogs would always come first and that we would miss events because of not being able to leave them. 

Now I am not slagging of the Weimaraners, a lot of their problems were caused by me and Jay. I fell ill 3 months after Frankie and Willow were born and due to the stress of me being ill and genuinely not being well enough their training was rubbish and so was their socialisation. They also got attacked several times when they were puppies by other dogs, so they became nervous aggressive. Walks became so stressful it was easier to walk them at 5am, which then became 4am which then became 3am. Jay would then be up for a few hours and then would go back to sleep getting up time would depend on whether he was working that day or not.  Evening walks would have to take place in dark on the common like the morning walks so that they wouldn’t bump into any other dogs. It was stressful, we were always worried about dog owners who had no control over their dogs who would let them get up in Frankies personal space despite us telling them he was nervous aggressive.

When Willow passed away in 2017 things got easier, mainly because there were only two dogs to control and the fact that she would whip the others up into a frenzy. We missed her greatly but it would be a lie to say that things didn’t get easier. Frankie no longer reacted to dogs out on the walk, he stayed well clear of them but you no longer had to worry that he would get aggressive due to his fear. Mollie was always really good with all dogs and we never had any problems with her. 

With Dembe it has been a clean slate, training started from the minute he arrived home and has been consistent. We don’t get dictated to by him when he goes out for a walk, where as the Weims would start crying and pacing due to being creatures of habit. For Dembe we have deliberately kept his walks unscheduled, so he doesn’t know and therefore doesn’t start acting up demanding a walk. He fits in with us not us with him. We don’t love him any less or any more than the Weims, we just decided that we wanted some of our life back.

The change in both of us has been immense. Jay used to suffer terribly with fatigue, we put it down to his methotrexate for his psoriasis and the stress of looking after me and the dogs. In reality now we know that it was night after night of broken sleep. Being awake for a few hours in the middle of the night from 3am until 5am then going back to sleep was destroying him. He never wanted to do anything or go anywhere because he was always so exhausted. Who can blame him he was dealing with extreme sleep deprivation. What I haven’t said is that when he was on an early shift ( quite often he would have had a late finish the night before so he wouldn’t have gone to sleep much before 11pm) he would get up at 3am and that would be him up until he went to bed that evening. 

Jay is now up every morning by 7am, 7.30am at the very latest. If he is on a late night we get to do stuff all together before he goes to work at 12pm.  We have a cup of tea and have a chat and then we will take Dembe out. Depending on how I am feeling or where we are going means that sometimes I can join the boys using my mobility scooter. Dembe is limited at the moment as to how much exercise he can have so that we protect his joints . Currently he can have 20 mins a day in just over a weeks time he can go up to 25 minutes as it is 5 minutes for every month of his age. 

Jay and I would be lost without him but we have really struggled to accept over the last 10 weeks that he is actually ours. That probably seems a really weird thing to say but I think because he came into our lives during one of the most traumatic periods we have lived through, although we loved him immediately there was almost this feeling that he didn’t belong to us. I would forget he was in the house with me and he would bark and I would jump out of my skin. His care was never, ever compromised it was just we were overwhelmed with grief and all this love we had for this little ball of fluff. 

He seemed so very little when we first got him home at 8 weeks, despite the fact his weight has increased by at least 10 kg and he has got so much bigger he still seems very dinky to us. After having three huge Weimaraners for over a decade I am guessing anything would seem tiny.  He is a very affectionate dog, he loves cuddles and kissing. He really loves Jamie and they have a little routine that when Jay gets into the car he looks into the back and Dembe smothers him in kisses. For me Dembe is my little shadow, I can’t go anywhere without being followed. He has also started to pick up on when I am unwell and adjusts his behaviour accordingly. We are not at the stage yet where he will happily lie on the bed with me all day but he will snuggle up next to me on the sofa. When I had a migraine Sunday afternoon and went to bed at 6pm he came up with me and settled down with his head over my feet. Just like Frankie used to. He also likes sleeping curled up on the top corner of my pillow. He gives me a little kiss goodnight when The Archers theme tune comes on at the end of the programme and settles for the night.

Without him Jay and I would have fallen apart. We have both really struggled mentally and physically over the last three months. I finally have started feeling more like my old self again but I am very quick to tears. Anything about Rainbow Bridge and I am gone. If anyone posts that their dog or cat etc has passed away I break my heart. The pain is still very raw but I am able to function in the world where as initially I felt so disconnected and as if I was trying to work on autopilot. 

I have neglected a few friendships because I have just been overwhelmed by the grief of it all. I know some people just wont understand at all how you could be so upset by an animals death. Believe me you can. I wish every night the last image in my head wasn’t Frankie passing away or seeing Mollie unable to walk or lift her head due to the catastrophic stroke she suffered. I had to stop watching this weeks episode of the walking dead when the heads on spikes mouths were moving despite them being dead. Frankie’s mouth muscles twitched for the whole time I lay on the floor with him after he passed away. It was too much and sent me straight back into flash backs of losing him. I was quite proud of myself being able to write all this without sobbing but I have fucked that up now.  I hope some day those horrific images stop waking me from sleep and stop being the last images in my head before I fall asleep because I do know happiness despite being so sad.

Without Dembe I wouldn’t be here, it is as simple as that. I could not have carried on under that weight of grief. I am not saying that to be melodramatic but for a few days there I wanted to die myself. My heart hurt and no one except Jay understood what I was going through. I have never seen Jay look as ill as he did during those 6 days that we had no dog in the house. When Dembe came home the colour came back into his face and it forced us to start living again. He is our miracle boy and our saviour. Even when he is being a wee shitebag.

If you would like to find out more about Dembe he has his own blog at http://www.thedembediaries.com 

Solace in creativity

Last week I wrote of my guilt at being happy, although I received lots of supportive comments, my emotions are still all over the place. The last week or so I have cried everyday over Mollie, Frankie and Willow. I think that is why I have been trying to occupy every minute of every day lately through some sort of creative endeavour or to get out of the house, so I can’t sit and brood.

I am beyond exhausted, last week Jay was on holiday and we spent the week catching up on jobs that have probably been outstanding for 12-24 months. Obviously I am very limited in what I can do and with Dembe ( our nearly 16 week old yellow Labrador pup) it is very difficult to do things together. We made a massive dent on the list of jobs that need done but as anyone who owns a house will tell you, one job soon multiplies and becomes another 4.

We have sorted out our bathroom, its been in a state of almost done for around 10 years I kid you not. Little jobs needing done but neither of us having the energy or inclination to get it completed. I finally cracked and decided a week before Jays holiday enough was enough and it would get completed. Initially it was just that the grout and silicone sealant would be redone. That however has evolved into the bathroom being redecorated – overdue as I believe it was last done possibly 5 years or more ago. Which then means that before the walls are painted the woodwork gets repainted. So the thing spirals. All because I can’t spend any free time doing nothing because the minute I do the sadness overwhelms me.

I have been working hard on the creative side of things as well. For a while I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t know if I would ever be able to do anything again. Both days that the dogs health suddenly declined I was sat at my embroidery machine. I blamed myself for not paying them enough attention. To not sew or give myself a  creative outlet was a way of punishing myself. Because as I stated in last week’s post I love to make myself feel guilty.

So I thought I would share my makes with you. I am limited with how much I can type this week as my shoulder (right) is grinding away and popping out, my wrists and fingers are also playing me up. So typing is uncomfortable.

I have been making this one for a friends granddaughter. This will get turned into a cushion at some point over the next few days, depending on when my shoulders and wrists / fingers decide to cooperate.

I’m not happy with either the hedgehog or the sheep as I rushed the hooping and as a result they have puckered. However these two will be turned into cushions for our home and I was desperate to see how this design stitched out.

I love the highland Cows design, this was from the same Etsy seller who designed the sheep and the hedgehog. This one will be a cushion for us. I am toying with putting this design on one of my blank sweatshirts.

 

 

The Charlotte cushion is a Christmas present for my niece – you probably think I am bonkers but I like to work well in advance in case my health suddenly declines. That way I don’t feel stressed out in December trying to make lots of gifts to a deadline of when Jay will drop them down to our relatives.

The owl Cushion – I bought this design around Christmas time. Due to the dogs passing I never got the opportunity to stitch it out. So I had a go a few weeks ago. I am really pleased with how it turned out. 

The Evie cushion was for a friends Granddaughter. This will be the last one I stitch out of this design as it has been poorly digitised. Every time I stitch it out I have problems in the same place. I have invested in a new unicorn design now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made a job lot of doorstops, many of these will be gifted during the year or at Christmas. These doorstops have washable covers as the bottom has an opening that has velcro to fasten it. Inside I have used cat litter ( clean obviously) to weigh it down. I place the cat litter inside a ziplock bag and also use an elastic band so it has two forms of closures to stop any leakage! I enjoyed making these door stops, it made a nice change and was a challenge for me after making so many items the same on the run up to Christmas and with making cushions.

As I haven’t posted a photo of Dembe on here for a few weeks, I thought I would share this with you. 

This is me and the little man. He sleeps every night with his head on my pillow. Most nights his nose is touching my head or face. I love feeling his breath against me. He is such a loving little chap. Without him I’d have never made it through the last 10 weeks.

The guilt at being happy

Those of you who read last week’s blog post will be happy to know there have been no further Sula Drop “incidents” since the one described by last week’s post.

Guilt is something I deal with on a daily basis. I feel guilty about most things. I feel guilty that I can’t do as much as I used to in the house due to my medical conditions. I feel consumed with guilt that our lives haven’t gone the way that we had planned them to go. At the moment I am being eaten up with guilt because for the first time in week’s I feel happy. I worry that people will think that I didn’t love Frankie and Mollie or didn’t love them enough because now I love Dembe.

I catch myself sometimes in a negative cycle of self talk telling myself that it is not possible to love another dog so much already if I truly loved the other dogs. I know that what is amazing amongst human beings is our capacity to love even when in the depths of despair. The love I feel for Dembe is different to the love I had for Travis, for Frankie, for Mollie or for Willow. Each of those dogs I loved differently but with the same intensity. I never felt the guilt of having Frankie and Willow after Travis passed away because they were born in the house, although Frankie was sold and came back to us. So I don’t get why I am struggling with the guilt of having Dembe?

Is the guilt stimulated by the fact we had to go out and buy him from another breeder? Rather than him be born in our spare room? I feel it acutely at times. Just looking at Dembe on occasion will reduce me to tears because looking at him reminds me of what we have lost. 3 dogs in the space of 55 weeks. That is a lot of loss to deal with, on top of the human losses we also suffered. 

I also feel guilty because my anxiety levels have dropped since Mollie and Frankie passed away. I knew that they weren’t long for this world even though you hope in your heart they will last just a little bit longer. Frankie had rapidly declined over the space of the 12 months and I am now pretty sure that the inner ear infection Mollie had in the summer was her first stroke. Purely because the symptoms the day before she passed were exactly the same.  Both dogs were spoilt rotten in the last 12 months of their lives. They really enjoyed themselves. We had hoped Mollie would have a good six months after Frankie passed but it wasn’t to be and that breaks my heart. In the days after Frankie passed I made such a fuss of her, plied her with sausages like they were the elixir of youth. I feel guilty that perhaps I didn’t see how much she was grieving for her son. The vet certainly felt that the grief was a contributing factor in her catastrophic stroke. 

My anxiety levels have dropped also because Frankie was having some quite bad mobility issues. At night I would never sleep very deeply because I was always listening out for him in case he fell or he couldn’t manage getting back upstairs after going down for a drink or to let himself out into the garden. Because Dembe is younger he doesn’t get to roam around the house at night or even during the day. He can’t yet manage the stairs so he is confined to my room at night by a baby gate.

I would talk about the day that we wouldn’t have the Weimaraner’s anymore and it always seemed like some mythical date in the future. Even though I could see them ageing and losing condition I must’ve practised cognitive dissonance because on another level I couldn’t believe we would ever lose them. They would live forever in our little bubble, being loved and returning that love tenfold.

Now I get anxious about loving Dembe too much in such a short space of time. I still look at him at times and have to remind myself that he is mine. I wouldn’t be without him, he is a devoted pup who loves Jay and I equally. Today at a friend’s place Jay was training Dembe in the garden and Dembe was so totally focused on him. All this little dog wants to do is please us, be loved and be fed the occasional piece of cocktail sausage when he has been a good boy. If we had tried to do the training with the Weims they’d have put two fingers up and walked away. We loved the Weims for that, they were so independent, free thinkers, the hooligans we used to nickname them – in a loving way. The relationship we have with Dembe is so totally different, he lives to please and be told he is a good boy.

He has a lot of traits like the Weims had, he is almost like a mish mash of all their characters. He reminds me a lot of Frankie the way he is such a mummy’s boy, the way he herds me ( nudging the back of my leg with his nose) when following me into another room. The way he has to be with me the majority of the time, although Frankie would have never climbed into the shower with me, Dembe does this frequently. The girls however would regularly poke their heads around the side of the shower when I was in there. Willow was the most adventurous and would come in and have a drink! She was the water baby out of the three, she would run to the pond on the common and dive straight in for a swim. She always looked like a human when she was swimming due to the way she held her head out of the water. I always imagined her with one of those 1970’s  swimming caps covered in flowers. 

I am glad that we decided to change breeds after the Weimaraners.  Weims will always have a special place in my heart, too many years involved with them not to. I have owned 4 plus 18 puppies were bred from Mollie over two litters. Life without them is strange. However my eyes have been opened to the world of Labrador’s now and although I know each dog has a different character, I love Dembe’s character. I can’t get my head around the differences in breeds of dogs. I was quite ignorant before and just thought all dogs were pretty much the same. We have gone from hose pipe / shower averse Weims to a dog we can’t stop getting wet at the slightest opportunity. In the shower no problem I’ll join you mum, got the hosepipe on ? I need to chase that and bite the water. He has us in stitches every day.

I guess guilt is just part of my makeup, I have always been this way. I feel guilty about stuff I haven’t done. I think it comes from a sense of always being in the wrong, even though that is untrue I always felt that way. I always doubt any decisions I make for fear of getting it wrong. Now I am trying to break that habit, I know the guilt is just a stage of grief. I have been through it with every dog I have ever lost. With Travis for years I felt guilty that we had given up on him – despite being told his kidneys were failing and that he had less than 12 weeks to live. I felt the same way about Willow, not noticing how poorly she was quickly enough – neither of us did and the vet told us how stoic our dogs were and didn’t show any signs of illness until at death’s door. I felt guilty after Willow had a closed Pyometra despite taking her to the vets in the preceding weeks saying that there was something wrong with her. I felt the same guilt when she had breast cancer, even though the vet told us he was surprised that we had felt such a small lump.

See how the guilt eats at me. Even when I make the right decisions for my dogs or discover something early the guilt starts that I could have been better, spotted it sooner. It is a pattern I am trying to break but its hard when this has been your thinking pattern for over 40 years.

Although I was terrified of what people would say about us buying  Dembe so soon after Mollie & Frankie passed away, even though I knew it was absolutely necessary to preserve Jay and my sanity. Unless you have lost two dogs within a week you aren’t in a place where you can judge. You never know what you would do until you were in that position. I now no longer care what people say about it. 100% it was the right thing for us. 

Whilst I struggle with the guilt of loving him so much,  I am a work in progress. I am learning to deal with the guilt of being happy again.

Getting back to normal, if there is such a thing.

Around two days after I wrote my last post “Washout” I ended up contacting my doctor and was prescribed antibiotics. I had been running a temperature for around a week and I just wasn’t feeling any better. 

 
Wednesday morning (30th January) I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like someone had smacked me in the face with a shovel. My sinuses hurt, my teeth hurt and I felt violently sick. As I quite often get migraines like this I decided to try to get back to sleep, it didn’t work. As the morning wore on the pain was increasing where as my migraine attacks last 12 hours at the same intensity I had to concede that this wasn’t a migraine, I had sinusitis and probably a chest infection. When I described my symptoms to the gp she agreed and I was given a 7 day course for amoxicillan. No wonder I had been feeling so awful.
 
After 3 days on the antibiotics I was feeling almost human again. However as usual the antibiotics did a number on my innards which required me to take at least 6 imodium a day. The diarrhoea was so bad it left me feeling drained and triggered off very painful spasms causing me then to have bowel adhesion pain. I stuck with them until the end of day 5, after that I just couldn’t do it anymore. 
 
I could cope with the exhaustion levels if my pain levels hadn’t suddenly just ramped up. Out of nowhere I am back to having extremely cold legs which have to be warmed up by a hot water bottle or by sitting on my electric throw. When going out in the cold and believe me it’s not that cold for this time of year, yesterday it was between 6 and 7 degrees Centigrade, I was in agony with my hands despite having my arthritis gloves on and my legs were aching despite having leggings on under my jeans. I had just gone through a really good period, pain wise and had barely been touching my oramorph which I use for breakthrough pain but as of two days ago, I am taking it every 4 hours when awake to try to knock down the pain levels I am currently experiencing.
 
At the moment there seems to be no happy medium temperature wise. I am either hurting due to the cold or stripping off my layers because I am suddenly boiling hot. So hot that I am sweating. An hour later I am back to freezing again and this cycle repeats itself throughout the day. I wish I knew what I could do to combat it. It’s not like the flushes I was getting before taking the red clover, black cohosh and the sage leaf supplements which have done wonders for my hot flushes. This is a temperature regulation issue. And temperature control is part of the autonomic nervous system. I guess it’s just adding in another element of fun.
 
On a happier note Dembe is settling in very well, you can read about his adventures at www.thedembediaries.com I publish every Monday letting everyone know what he has been up to over the previous week. I don’t know where I would be without him if I am honest. It is exhausting though looking after a puppy when you compare looking after adult dogs who are independent and happy to be left sleeping for most of the day.
 
Dembe is very close to me but I wouldn’t expect any different, he and I are alone together all day ( around 11 hours) bar Jay coming home for 30-40 minutes at lunch time. Dembe loves Jay too, you only have to witness the furious tail wagging when Jay comes through the door to know that. But he is a mummy’s boy at heart. He loves nothing better than curling up at the end of the sofa and sleeping, as long as I am at the other end. 

 
 
 
When I get onto my sewing machine or embroidery machine, he sleeps on the bed I made him in the kitchen. Due to feeling so rotten, not a lot of sewing has gone on. However I did manage to finish this birth announcement cushion, which is a gift for a friend to celebrate the arrival of his daughter. By the time this blog post is published the gifts recipient should have it.
 

 
I am really pleased with the cushion as the feet are from one design and the text is from an inbuilt text on my embroidery machine however I had to get the placement and size of the text right so that the cushion looked balanced. 
 
I used a product called Sarille, which is a type of interlining mainly used on curtains. I saw in various groups lots of suggestions for using wadding behind embroidery designs that were stitch dense and being sewn onto lightweight fabric. I had loads of the Sarille lying around from when I used to do my subscription box. It has given the cushion a nice bit of body at the front and it has also ensure there is minimal puckering. 
 
It’s the first bit of sewing I haven’t had to force myself to do since Frankie and Mollie passed away. For a while there I didn’t know if my sewjo would ever come back or if Dembe would sleep enough for me to manage to get anything done. Jobs are taking me longer as I now tend to wait for Jay to be home before sewing anything. Embroidery is different as I can get up and move away ( when the machine / thread is behaving), so I can keep an eye on Dembe. He is very used to me doing bits of embroidery, he  will lie on his bed in the kitchen and go to sleep. Puppies do sleep a lot although when they are manically running around, chasing their own tails it can seem like they never sleep!
 
I have also managed to get two other bits of embroidery done today, birthday presents for March. I do like working ahead so that I don’t feel under pressure. Whilst I am in the mood to be creative I tend to go for it. Its only in the last few days that I have felt the creative juices starting to flow again. That has as much to do with getting over the infections as it does with dealing with the grief losing the dogs caused. 
 
Its taken 4 weeks for me to feel anywhere near normal and it is still very raw. I am managing to go days without crying where as in the beginning I was lucky if I could go an hour without breaking down. 
 
I am finding it very difficult at the moment to motivate myself to write this blog, mainly because the dogs, our Weimaraners featured in it from the very beginning. They are what kept me sane and kept me going, when it would have been incredibly easy just to give up and not fight anymore. It is taking some getting used to being without them. It’s a new normal and it’s going to take a while to get used to it.