Sunday, December 27, 2015


Christmas was difficult for me this year for numerous reasons none of which are of interest to anyone but me.

Difficult Christmas's have been my annual December 25th tradition.

I made the decision to stay home in my safety net with my five furry creatures.  I stayed in my jammies the entire day and moved from the bed to the sofa, not moping or feeling sorry for myself, but simply because that was my choice.  Five dogs followed me from room to room and never left my sight or side. I grabbed ahold of this blessing and kept taking one breath after another.  Never did they nag, nudge, bark or demand anything.  They just knew that something about this day was different and they would adapt to it.

I sat on the sofa for what seemed like hours with Rainie's head in my lap.  It felt warm and safe and a love I longed for and needed desperately. I traced her forehead with my finger, lingering on her closed eye lids.  Then I would lift her ears and caress them.  She would lay her sweet head in my hand, then look up at me to see if I was alright ~ a supreme comfort.  You see she was trained to be a service dog.  Not for me but for one then another warrior, both of whom rejected her in the most horrible ways.  She ultimately lost a leg.  Her skills have not been wasted however and her love of assisting when I need her is most exceptional and exquisite. Perhaps in some way she knows in a way people never can.

Last Christmas Day I spent in the ER with a severe Panic Attack that required an EKG, etc.  It had become a tradition.  The Christmas before that and the one before that held the same.  But this time it was different.  I felt confident that I could pull this one off without any adjustments to my ambulance, no calling friends and no interrupting family celebrations, no fear.  I just knew that if I had an attack I could get through it.  And at one point I did feel panic welling up inside of me and called a dear friend and she talked me through it.

I watched movies and sent text messages to many.  I survived the day.  I ate traditional Mexican tamales and sipped a cocktail.  I was alone.  I survived.  I did it.  I was proud of myself.  But the knowledge was still inside that there is nothing sadder or more lonely than being alone on Christmas Day.

The only people I saw all day was a young family. Mom and dad were walking down the street with their children as they watched then try out a new bike and skateboard. They were smiling and laughing and taking pictures.  I did that once.  I remembered.  In an instant, I caught that ever present lump in my throat begin to surface and redirected my thoughts to my furry guardians.

The next morning I wrote on facebook to my friends that I had survived the holiday with intermittent, unrepentant napping and a family of five dogs, all specialists in their own areas.

Almost immediately a gentleman responded back,
"The Warrior in you took a nap and now has woken."  These words, almost literally, knocked the breath out of me.  Yes, he was right.  He was very right.  Alone I smiled a huge smile,  I, the warrior for others, found myself a warrior for myself.  And I had indeed awoken.

And today I write.  And tomorrow I write and the next day.  A burden has been lifted and I will waste no more time worrying about things over which I have no control.  I will breathe and rejoice that I am alive and blessed with a few close friends who are there for me no matter what and love me for who I am and some friends I have never even met.

Thank you Mark for helping to wake me up with your words.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to have been a part of Rainie's life and her healing. Her head in my hand brings a peace I have seldom felt. Each breath she has taken has been a gift. Watching her surviving and thriving from what could have taken her life to where she is today has been a true gift to me.
It is with deep joy and sadness that tonight she will meet her new family and tomorrow leave for Dallas. This has been an agonizing decision and one definitely not taken lightly. But it is a decision that is in HER best interest. She will be in an amazing home and become a therapy dog for the husband and wife (retired) who recently lost their golden retriever therapy dog, Faith. She will potentially work with homeless children in a READ program and the parishioners in her church are all waiting to snuggle her. Their home is empty and since Faith passed, Rainie (soon to be called by her original name ~ Gracie) will provide a love and strength to mend their broken hearts.
A friend in Dallas had told me about this couple months ago and their need for the love and devotion of a special dog with special needs. After much thought, communication, and many tears, as well as guarantees and promises of many photos and updates, the Rainie Service Dog Trust and the Trustee (me) will turn over little one tomorrow to her caretakers. According to the Trust I remain owner for the remainder of her life! If at any time they are unable to keep her or other circumstances might occur, she would and will be returned to me.
So Bon Voyage precious girl. You will forever and always have a huge place in my heart! I love you. God bless you, as you have blessed me. I am a better person for having had you in my life!
And to all of you who have emotionally and financially supported her, please accept my deepest gratitude and appreciation. For she is thriving and has been and will continue to be under the best possible medical care! And yes, I have spoken to her veterinarian and multiple other amazing references.
Words to my Rainie/Gracie, from APPRECIATE LIFE'S SIMPLE PLEASURES ! "It's about the legs you DO have. Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you." ~ Lao-tzu
You have taught me everything!

Monday, October 12, 2015


Some wounds just don't heal.  That is until Gracie walked into a hospital room! It was then that I learned that you don't need sight to see who loves you or who needs love. To see Gracie is to fall hopelessly in love.  She has a healing power that more often than not is inexplicable. Her love and the love from others for her is absolute.  This affirms my belief that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose.  It is up to us to discover what that purpose might be. Sometimes we will never know. It is then we discover that it is sufficient that it occurred. 

With Gracie little by little, visit after visit, patients have learned to walk, speak, and face the battles that lay ahead of them. Many have been flattened by life and in her presence they begin to inflate again. In the beginning many patients wanted to remain in that isolated place where no one could hurt them, but they soon realized that if they did so, no one could love them either.

A Gracie fan wrote me that meeting Gracie is on her bucket list.  How dear is that? It reminded me that you cannot live someone else's dream. You have to find your own.

I believe the most genuine and loving gift I have received from Gracie is  that worrying about something is almost always worse than the outcome.  These years, minutes, and moments I have shared with Gracie are treasures cherished beyond words.  For they are real and filled with love.  No pretenses, nothing false, only a feeling that there is nowhere and no one I would rather be with at that moment. Her patients and warriors have felt the same way. 

As I write, I sit with her and stroke her soft fur.  I inhale her fragrance, her bravery, and her love.  I want to always remember these moments for what they truly are ~ moments of clarity about what really matters  and what doesn't.

The little things really are the big things.  I have carried around pain and anger and disappointments forever it seems.  One moment doesn't change everything. But for me, with Gracie as my teacher, I see that there really is no other choice but to be brave.  Because of Gracie, I have learned everything necessary. She has seen me through some of the darkest days of my soul. 

As another Gracie fan wrote, "Oh Patsy!  What a true miracle she is. You and she are an unbeatable  balance and formula.  God knew what he was doing in joining the two of you."  

Gracie allows necessary tears to flow, not only mine, but literally hundreds of others, with all that she gives. How blessed are those who have had the opportunity to hold her close and learn these lessons. Blind love can most assuredly heal. Gracie has relieved my fears time and time again simply being by my side.  She has been a testament to perseverance and prayer.  Many at the end of their rope, found Gracie to be the knot to hang on to. And then there have been those that can't yet feel life.  But remembering Gracie perhaps one day will.

She has taught that we should all take a leaf out of her book, her story, and take each day, each moment, as it comes.  We are all far too busy rushing around consumed with busyness and technological devices, that we miss the beauty and messages right in front of us.  Gracie has taught many to take one day, one second at a time and to pay attention to the messages in their lives.

Gracie is my daily smile, reminding me that love needs no eyes to shine, teaching that you really don't need sight to see who loves you or who needs love.

This little 28 pound angel has brought me out of depression time and time again and has given my life great meaning.  Another far reaching accolade. "Sweet Gracie, I wish I could get my hands on that sweet face and give you a big kiss.  You are such a trooper. Even from far away you are giving two veterans, my husband and myself, such happiness."

My heart has found its home. I know without hesitation that everything that we do and everyone that we meet are put here for a purpose. There are no accidents. We're all teachers, if we are willing  to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts, and not be afraid to take a risk or to wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.

Each of us on this earth has the opportunity to find and to give his or her unique gift.  Whether this gift is quiet or small or large and furry in the eyes of the world it simply does not matter.  It is in the finding and giving that brings a light into times of darkness that make it such a special offering.  I have offered Gracie to hundreds struggling to hold on one more moment.

We are all survivors of one sort or another.  And perhaps the reason we're on this earth is to help ease the pain of others.  And in so doing we are ultimately helping ourselves.  Holding Gracie's leash and watching her over and over again become the catalyst for a patient's or a warrior's healing has consistently made it clear that this is indeed why I am on this earth.

"All , everything that I understand, I understand only because I love." ~ Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


The blessings I have received from caring for and loving rescue dogs, as well as people, have been presented to me as an offering and a gift.  I am a  better person filled with love, patience, and purpose. A person who understands that being driven to help other beings originated from the wounded and broken heart of a little girl who never felt or knew love.

From my dogs I now know a comfort and love that I had never felt from anything or anyone else in my life. I feel quite certain that this is odd to some of you.  And this I understand and respect. But it is so in my case.  

While I write, I am surrounded by Rainie, Kelsie and Remy. The peace and love they exude is palpable. I find that I can breathe easier. I feel the tension leave my shoulders.  I find my jaws relax, as I watch them inhale and exhale so quietly.  They sometimes change position, reminding me to do the same.  I am consistently amazed as they offer this unique kind of meditation.

A friend wrote and told me dogs remain faithful and that their gazes have a steady loving accepting effect on me.  She said that I am the companion of Kelsie, the human whose hand steadies Rainie, and whose heart sustains Gracie, Remy and Hope. Upon  deeper reflection, I ask could it be the other way around?

Five innocent angels all needing my love, attention, calm and receptive presence.  I must focus and stand firm!

In the midst of a life filled with chaos, tension and struggle, I have learned to ask myself where calm and peace lie for me.  The answer is easy.  All I have to do is look down beside me. 

I don't have to dream of what love is further.  I see it. It surrounds me.  I feel it, just as I can see colors and light and shapes in clouds and in the tide coming in and out and never ceasing, with a calming and receptive presence.
In this place I can focus and stand firm and rejoice in the purpose of my life. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015



On the eve of Gracie's 12th birthday I find myself reflecting back. 

When I was a very young child I felt something was missing. The answer came I learned later.  I had missed being loved. I knew I was different and that something wasn’t the same as other children.  I was allowed few, if any friends. I dreamed my dolls, at least the ones I was allowed to play with, were my friends.  I would talk to them, tell them my deepest secrets, and hold them close when no one else was there for me, which was most all of the time.

Today, I find my head filled and cluttered much like a pot, basket,  or jar, with words that define my work and my life, lost hopes and dreams, and dreams I never knew I had that have come true and those that most likely never will.

In writing Gracie's book, I pull from a place in my memory of my first dog, Blackie. I was about three or four years old and had repeated a bad word my father had said.  My mother, seething and ranting with anger, took a bar of soap and ‘washed’ out my mouth.  Not understanding any of it, I ran sobbing out the back door and into the yard. As I sat on the back steps, my cocker spaniel, Blackie, ran to me.  He jumped into my lap and laid his head on my shoulder. I held him and cried for what seemed like forever. It was the first time I had felt someone, or something, loved me. I could never have imagined that that moment would have led me to a lifetime of devotion to all things dog!
Looking back decades, I remember that moment feeling a comfort and love that I had never felt from anything or anyone before.

From that day until today, dogs have understood and been there and balanced me when I didn’t think I could take another step. They have taught me phenomenal lessons about life, pain, sorrow, healing, grief, but most of all about unconditional love.  I have never known or felt that feeling before from anyone. I sometimes feel ill equipped to even write or attempt to explain it.

What I do feel equipped to write about is, quite literally, a lifetime of pet therapy and how lives are changed, moments of grief softened, smiles brought to faces that had seconds before been vacant.  Spilling out into my writing now, it is easy to see why I sincerely see the reason I was placed on this earth.  There is a place deep inside of me where I feel the same, or similar emotions, as do my patients.  I have wanted them more than anything on earth, for a while with Gracie, to feel the comfort, acceptance, and grace I felt when Blackie taught me what love is all about simply by his presence. I don’t have to dream of love any more. I see it.  I feel it just as I can see colors and light and shapes in clouds and the tide coming in and out and never ceasing.

Moments with Gracie are treasures beyond words. They are gifts I will cherish forever.  For they are real and filled with love,  No pretenses, no falseness, only a feeling that there is nowhere and no one I would rather be with, as I write and sit with her by my side.  I inhale her fragrance, her bravery and her love.  I want never to forget these moments for what they truly are ~ moments of clarity about what really matters to me and what doesn’t. I have carried around pain, anger and longing, disappointment and regret for too long.

With Gracie I have learned there is no other choice but to be brave.  As a complete stranger said, “Gracie has determination beyond the world.” Her warriors and patients have given her her eyesight back…and she now  sees with her heart. And she has taught me to cherish my life moment by moment. And it is this I hope to share in her book with others. BECAUSE OF GRACIE is in the rewrite stage.  It has to be top priority until it is completed.

Ernest Hemingway said, "There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."  This is where I have found the answers, and where I have found grace and peace and a lifelong mission fulfilled. For when I began to follow my heart, the world conspired to help me ~ because of Gracie. 

What has been so powerful in Gracie's influence?  Time with her drowns out pain in her patients and her momma, as often those of us flattened by life begin to inflate just a bit in her presence. A paw extended can bring clarity to an ordinary moment. She has been an extraordinary dog, serving extraordinary people. 

As for me the day she came into my life, I was challenged to live with forgiveness.  Perhaps this is what forgiveness looks like in the ordinary moments and encounters of my life.  From Gracie and our warriors, I have learned what it is like to weep, what makes us fall and stumble and then somehow rise and go on.

Happy 12th Birthday little one.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Throughout Gracie's life, there has never been a single doubt that whenever she has been present something quite extraordinary and beautiful has taken place.  Whether with a stranger or friend, young or old, lives change, messages are whispered, and the fine art of living in the moment becomes a special occasion of inexplicable importance.

Gracie for over eleven years, without provocation or vision, has provided answers to pain, suffering, fear, anger, angst, loss, celebration and jubilation.  She has been an angel, a prayer that walks into difficult and sometimes unfathomable and deeply painful situations, providing answers to endless questions, for what have seemed to be no explanation.  Twenty seconds with Gracie is sometimes all she needs to find that breakthrough.  In that moment and place in time nothing else seems to matter.  She mystically exposes an opportunity and provides an opening for suffering to exit and for light and laughter and even an unexpected clarity and peace to enter.  She is and has her entire life been a gift to hundreds and hundreds of individuals, who have needed her more than they could have ever imagined.

I have no answers as to why.  I only know that when a little boy, the son of a wounded warrior, gazed into Gracie's sightless eyes for what seemed like forever and then looked up at me in wonder and said, "Look she has snowflakes in her eyes," my perception of life assumed a different meaning.  

There sometimes are no easy answers as to why we are on this earth and what our sacred mission is.  I have been blessed, as I know what my mission is as I have held Gracie's leash and watched the miraculous and the inexplicable occur.  Gracie has been in the right place at the right time for those who have needed her the most.

On the eve of her 12th birthday, I reflect back over our lives together and all of the miraculous moments I have been blessed to witness and be a part of.  This year I have seen her through the removal of her remaining eye and two critical spinal surgeries.  She still marches on, although a bit wobbly, and teaches me that each single moment on this earth has been and is a tremendous gift and blessing to be faced with joy.

What I previously deemed as having extraordinary importance has taken a back seat to simply being with Gracie and exploring the inexplicable, the beautiful, the mysterious, and watching moments of grace unfold.

Unpredictable tales of love surround her, as I page through hundreds of photographs that provide a visual narrative. Memories surface and her stores beg to be told.  For within these snapshots, questions are answered and the 'why' and the 'how' hold no meaning. That they happened is sufficient.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


For a couple of months I have begun laboriously working on Gracie's book ~ GRACIE, LOVE IS BLIND.  I began writing it 11 years ago.  The middle of last year I decided it was time to pull all the scraps of paper with notes that had been written following, or during her work with the wounded warriors and critically ill patients.  All of this currently is in piles and piles throughout my office.  And so I began.  Putting her life in chronological order was and still is not easy.  Sorting through all the pieces of Gracie's life has been a tremendous journey.  The book is no where near completion.
I tell you all of this because for the past couple of months, I have felt an incredible urgency about completion of the manuscript.  I couldn't then and can't now explain it.  Perhaps because I was afraid I would lose her before it was completed.  Or perhaps because I feared I couldn't  put words together that would define the brilliant light she has been in so many lives, not the least of which has been mine.  Or perhaps  it was as simple as how do you define love?  
I still don't have a clear reason behind these feelings, but today I sit in a silent agony, for tomorrow my littlest angel goes into surgery for the second time in a week for the second herniated discs in her neck. I don't want to go into specifics, for quite frankly right now it is too raw. 

I am praying, people across the country are praying, and people across the world are praying.  I ask myself time and time again what is it about this wee angel that has brought so many people together to pray for her life to be saved.  People from Japan, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the list goes on, are writing and apologizing for their lack of skills in English.  But the message is loud and clear. They all love Gracie and her amazing mission on this earth.  A little dog that was born with little and deteriorating vision, has lost an eye, and has fought her own battles with additional health issues. She is now 11 1/2 years old.  One week and two days ago her back legs stopped working.  Two days later her front legs went out.  During a complicated surgery, she began to bleed profusely and the second of the two discs was not able to be operated on. Tomorrow is basically her last chance.

Needless to say her book has been put on hold for the time being.

My recent thoughts about Gracie and reviewing her life are varied. People want to cheer on the underdog, and all of us can in one way or another relate to that. We do not want something so innocent suffering.  It causes us to suffer. For her entire life from 7 1/2 weeks, when I stopped her from being euthanized, she has had the will to survive.  The will to survive in the midst of chaos and desolation.  She has been a rose, a tulip, in the snow. 

Looking back, quite literally all of Gracie's moments are treasures to me. She has made me more keenly aware of other moments in my own life.  This I look at as an unbelievable gift. 

In her book, I will be able to share with the world the joy that is Gracie. Gracie's lifelong mission has been one of providing hope and perseverance through all of her many challenges.  And this she has done with grace. And again I ask why have people worldwide have found such inspiration and love in this little angel.

I believe she has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration on how to treat other people.  She gives of herself without reservation or judgment, despite her own issues, with blind faith.  And isn't that how we should all be?  She loves without fear.  Blind, she will bump into something, shake it off and keep on going.

Everyday of her life she has given so much love.  And everyday that I have had her, I have made abundantly certain that she knows just how much she is loved. Her face, demeanor, and spirit speaks  an international language of love and perseverance.  Her scars are evident.  Scars people relate to both physically and emotionally.  But in her, they witness the overcoming of these differences.  With Gracie there is a picture of trust.  Her scars are a lesson to all of us, that no matter what the stumbling blocks, we must keep on going. 

So I will now revisit Gracie's past and future, if we are so blessed, with a different focus and perspective.  A healing story is anticipated, an awakening story, as I unravel the threads of her life that have bound her to so many, many loving caring people across this planet.

Tonight I ask for prayers for Gracie, the surgeon, and surgical team tomorrow, and I ask for healing for this little angel on earth who has been a healing force for so many, to include her momma.  I ask for saving grace.
"But eyes are blind.  You have to look with the heart."
~ The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Saturday, March 7, 2015


This morning I went to the Emergency Animal Hospital where my little Gracie has been for almost a week. I have gone every day to see her.  She is not improving.  She is in pain. She is attached to tubes and monitors and on pain meds and IV fluids.

Two days from now a decision will need to be made.  Do we face another surgery so she has a chance at walking once again, or do we end her life?
Ending her life. Three words full of  agony. I have had her for eleven and a half years.  And now I am to make this decision after I speak with her surgeon on this coming early Monday morning.  I will learn if surgery is not possible due to her fragile condition or if surgery is possible and success is unknown.  And of course there is the positive side that surgery could be done and be successful.
How do you make this decision? How do you end the life of some beautiful little soul that is imbedded in your heart and has been since she was seven weeks old?  'Heart Dog'...they call it.
Gracie saved my life once upon a time.  And truth be know, several times. She has been an anchor for wounded warriors who could not face a tomorrow.  Now when I need her the most to hold me up, sustain me, look at me from her sightless eyes and tell me everything will be alright, she can't. 
How do I count the hours until the conversation with the vet?  How can I take another step, another breath?
How do I know if I will ever hold her close to my heart and hear her breathing in my ear?
How do I stop the tears?
Will I ever hear music again?
Will I find laughter ever again?
I want to hear her bark to go outside and search for squirrels, and lie in a sunbeam, and race to the fence to bark at the dogs next door. I want to see her standing by her feeding spot, twirling and whirling for breakfast and dinner.  I want to feel her next to me on the bed, as she coos in contentment. But most of all, I want her to live.
Eight days ago she was perfect.  Today she cannot walk and is fighting for her life.
Today I sat by her cage at the specialty hospital and laid my hand on the top of her head.  I gently rubbed her ears, the spot she likes the best.  I whispered to her and I softly sang a prayer to her and I told her I loved her more than anything on earth. I sat there for two hours. I didn't want to ever leave.  I was afraid. 
The doctor and the nurses and the receptionist and everyone saw my face covered in tears.  They all said they were sorry.  Said, as if it is over and there is no hope.  "The doctor will evaluate her on Monday to see if she can withstand surgery."  This was of no comfort.  If she cannot withstand surgery, there will be no other choice and the music will end in my life.
There was no one else in the lobby except one man about my age who had pulled into the parking lot at the same time I did.  We exchanged a few words.  He saw the sadness in my eyes, and I saw it in his.  His dog has cancer in his leg.  We were called to the back to visit our babies.  He came out a little before I did and sat and waited for me.
As I came down the long hallway with tears and fears streaming down my face, this stranger, this complete stranger put his arms around me and held me, as I sobbed into his shirt.  He said he was sorry.  He asked if I was okay to drive and if no one had come with me.  I told him I was indeed alone. He wanted to know if there was anyone he could call to come be with me and make sure I got home safely.  I told him no there was no one.
He walked me to my car and told me he would be praying for Gracie.  Being alone and afraid is what my life has been like forever.  But for a moment the warmth, safety, understanding, and genuine caring of this stranger, holding a woman he had never met, provided me comfort and the ability to realize that someone else on this earth cares in the same way I do. Our souls touched in a shared fear for our beloved and cherished dogs.  As he said "there is no greater love."  That I know for a fact.
Thank you God for this stranger and the depth of his compassion and caring.  I know we were brought together for a reason.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


We all have thorns to defend us against the world!  Yet it is more than apparent that time and time again Gracie has walked into places, spaces, and faces and the thorns seem to disappear.  They are replaced by memories of moments when life was easier. Times when laughter was the norm and memories of peaceful, happy times return and bring untold treasure back to lives. Fears and complications vanish and suddenly people find they are in a place where nothing else is important but Gracie's gift she so generously gives. In her presence, many have learned how to breathe again.  In the exhalation the stress and depression and lost of joy seems to vanish.
As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said in The Little Prince, "The thing that is important is the thing that is not seen." For many of us, our wounds are not visible and we keep them tightly secured inside. But for those whose wounds are visible it is a little harder.  Are they judged? Are they shunned?  This is where Gracie's journey begins.
They are so many lessons to be learned from this little dog.  She has had little to no vision her entire life, yet has found joy in simply being alive.  She has one eye removed and was a trooper.  She has had chronic health issues and adjusts and adapts and keeps her joy of life flowing. Dan Zadra said "Surround yourself with people who believe you can." I would include Gracie in this. It is her mission on this earth to bring light and laughter and love to everyone she meets. 
What living with her for almost 12 years has given me is having been blessed to watch her at work with her wounded warriors and to realize the strength in the words of Emily Dickinson when she wrote, "To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."  I see this in Gracie.  I have never seen it in another person or creature.
What an amazing gift and blessing she has been and remains to be to this world.  These messages we should all pay attention to.  For in them is brilliance and light.  If Gracie could talk, she would tell us to get on with this business of living in the same way she does.  By sharing, by caring, and by opening our sightless eyes and minds to what really matters.  What makes the day worth living and what puts its mark on this world.  Love and joy at simply being given this one breathtaking gift of just being alive.
Lewis B. Smedes wrote, "We get control of our lives, ultimately not by willpower, but by surrender.  The final secret lies in amazing grace."
Gracie was aptly named. For she is grace personified.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


What is fear anyway?  How do you handle it?  What do you do with it? How do you make it stop? Or do you hold it close and tuck it inside a teardrop?

Right now I am afraid.  Afraid for my little 11 1/2 year old blind PBGV who is having an MRI and then immediate surgery after.  Hundreds and hundreds from around the world love her, adore her, and are praying for her.  She has been in my heart since she was 7 weeks old and within hours of being euthanized, because she wasn't perfect. Born with an eye issue, she wasn't able to be sold or bred so the only other answer was to eliminate her.  What compassion and love of life.

I stepped in and said 'No', she is mine.  And 'she will be a soldier's angel'.  And that she has been, for nine years.  She has also been my angel time after time after time.  In turmoil, I have turned to her.  In happiness, I have turned to her and in sadness I shed tears into her neck. I have scratched her neck and snuggled her neck and slipped bandanas around her neck and loved smelling the special Gracie fragrance found only in her neck.

And it is her neck, that has held all of my tears and joys, that is the issue at this time. As I write this, she is just coming out of the MRI and going into immediate surgery to decompress discs 6/7 and 2/3 in her neck. Three days ago her front and back legs just went out. Herniated disks. I don't mind admitting I am scared.  She is older and anesthesia frightens me ~ always has, whether people or pets. And I am not in favor of  being out of control. But I 100% trust her doctors. They are special, extraordinary, caring, compassionate human beings.
So today I trust.  I trust the doctors and a higher power to bring her through this and back to me. Gracie has been the soldier's angel for a decade.  Now retired she is my angel.  With all of her issues, blindness, removal of an eye, chronic urinary tract infections, and more, I melt like jelly just looking at her. To me, she is a light like none other. I treasure her and cherish her.
On the way to the specialty hospital this morning, I remembered the hundreds of times she and I drove to a rehabilitation hospital to work with patients. I remembered the hundreds of warriors she helped come back to reality from war.  I remembered her racing around my house as a puppy with a torn lavender filled eye pillow, flinging it all over the house so joyfully.  I remember her carrying the sofa pillows to the back yard. I remember her finding a lost turtle in the garden and sitting barking by its side till I came to the rescue. But most of all I remember loving her like nothing else in my life.
She brought me through a personal hell.  She made me smile when I didn't think I would ever smile again. She has taught me what unconditional love and acceptance is all about.  But most of all she taught me to never give up no matter what, to love deeply and sincerely, to cherish the little things and the extraordinary moments that come and go before we know it. And she has taught me acceptance of disabilities and to keep on keepin' on through  pain to the other side! And her everyday lesson could be summed up in these words....."what is the big deal about being perfect?"

This morning I sang her favorite song to her, trying to choke back tears, as I drove her to the hospital. "Jesus loves me this I know. For the bible tells me so.  Little ones to him belong.  They are weak but he is strong."  

The phone should ring shortly.  I should be patient.  I should be strong.  But truth is the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes are winning. Aren't I supposed to be the strong one?  Dealing with wounded warriors with multiple amputations and burn survivors should have made me strong.  

Maybe it did, in just a different way.  Oh to hold her close once again.


Friday, February 6, 2015


Someone said we are given memory so we can smell roses in December.
 I had expected it to be on the front page of the Sunday paper, condolence calls, and flowers at the front door.  But there were none, nor were her life’s accomplishments in the obituary section of the paper. 
No one’s life was better for having known her, but mine.
 She was the epitome of beauty.  When she and I took long walks, cars would stop to just look at her.  Her eyelashes framed her large eyes as she followed every move I ever made. 
She wasn’t social or exuberant and her favorite place on earth was inside the house.  It was the only place she ever really wanted to be.
Her first two years she spent confined to a cage, barely big enough for her to turn around in.  On weekends she was left alone in the dark.  She hated closed in spaces and longed for freedom.  I took her into my heart and home to find that she would take great delight in blessing my home with large branches, huge dirty footprints, and a dead rat.  The sofa cushions would become toys and were often found in the back yard.  Her beautiful white fur would decorate the shrubbery like Halloween decor.
She spent her last winter, as I had hoped she would, chasing birds and sniffing the air with contagious enthusiasm and energy.
Lulu taught me patience, tolerance and that good things come sometimes in very large packages.  She hated cameras and being left alone.  Despite her 145 pounds she was unobtrusive and preferred to stay in the background.  She was terrified of thunder and hated the long hot days of summer. 
The lid of the toilet had to be open and the kitchen countertops needed to be scrutinized for possible leftovers. Many a sandwich disappeared if I had to answer a phone call.
Lulu and I went through 4 vacuum cleaners.
She would have loved today.  Bright, cool, crisp and blue skies. 
I watched her being born and held her just minutes later on New Years Day.  I gave her her first bath.
Once I admitted her into my life, I’ll never forget her.  I sometimes sense her in the kitchen nudging the pantry door to remind me that suppertime is close.  I always felt safe with her around.  When in truth, it was more likely Lulu who felt safe with me around.
I am glad she knew no harm would ever come to her ~ ever again. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015



Entering the rehabilitation gym full of people I hear someone, referring to a patient, say, “Just shoot me if I get that way.” 

Where does that mentality come from?  Is it fear, impatience, selfishness, or apathy?  I’m just not sure. The one thing I do know is that it is not from a place of love, reality, compassion or respect.  It is not all about us.  It is about the patient, the person, this real person struggling to heal, to take another breath, to look forward to seeing his grandbaby again, or to return to his or her spouse, struggling to walk or talk.  It is about many things.  These patients didn’t ask to be in this position or even this place. 

It is also about our parents or family members who sacrificed and raised us, as best they could.  It isn’t about our inconvenience; it is about what is right, honorable, and the proper thing to do.  Has caring for a family member or friend become so obtrusive to our lifestyle and precious time that we have lost something vital to our very existence? 

How terribly sad!  I think of Gracie, my therapy dog, by my side that isn’t able to see, and yet in her darkness she quite simply loves and accepts people, people she has never met before, just as they are, with all their foibles, deformities, idiosyncrasies, and tribulations. 

Why can’t we be the same?  Why is there is so little tolerance for imperfection in our society? Why is it we have been conditioned to seek only perfection? 

We are all who and what we are intended to be.

A pearl begins as a defect.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015



I had intended on taking Gracie to the rehab hospital on a beautiful October Sunday morning for her first therapy dog in training adventure. She was only twelve weeks old, and I didn’t expect much. In fact, I didn't know what to expect.  But we had to start sometime and this seemed as good a time as any.  I had intentionally selected Sunday, because it would be less crowded and distractions and stimuli for her would be less. I wanted her to just walk the halls and visit with staff and perhaps family members of patients. Many of the patients had day or weekend passes, so it seemed a perfect time. 

I prayed all the way there that she wouldn’t be stressed by being sightless in a new environment with all the strange sounds and smells. Little did we know what lay ahead.

Dressed in her pumpkin bandana, Gracie entered the recreation gym and was instantly requested by a physical therapist to come into the center of a circle of twelve patients, all in wheelchairs, doing stretching exercises. They seemed bored, uninterested, and simply doing what they were told. No one smiled or spoke.  As we walked into the circle of wheelchairs, Gracie showed no fear, no trepidation, nothing but enthusiasm, as she charmed each patient one by one.  As she went from wheelchair to wheelchair, placing her front paws on the padded arm of each chair, she got pats and snuggles and stories of their dogs at home. Smiles came to faces and conversations were started. It was clear a career had begun, a career that would end in hundreds of lives being significantly changed for the better.
Next assignment on day one, Gracie was requested to visit with a patient to assist him with focusing on manual dexterity.  She was placed, at the therapists request, on a bed with a wounded warrior with a traumatic brain injury just flown in from Iraq days before.  She loved it when he laughed at her antics.  The  staff told me it was the first time he had shown any emotion at all. She snuggled into his neck, lay quite still and in her own way told him everything was going to be okay. It was then that he moved his arm to put around her and pet her. Again a huge accomplishment, as therapists looked at each other in amazement.  He whispered and asked if she could walk beside his wheelchair to the front door of the hospital, because he wanted her to meet his wife and surprise her with Gracie and the news that he moved his arm. His only arm. He asked when she would return and kissed her nose goodbye 'until next time' !

We went back into the hospital with the intention of packing up her thing and getting ready to leave.  It was then that word had spread and Gracie had a request by a nurse to visit with a despondent cancer patient. They sat together for what seemed a very long time.  Words were not exchanged, but Gracie snuggled and snuggled into this young woman's side and silent messages were sent, each to the other.  Tears ran down the face of this patient and Gracie seemed to sense it and snuggled in even closer.  This little one who normally was vivacious and more than energetic quite simply sensed what was needed and provided it.

No one could tell that she was unable to see.  On leash, she stayed right by my side and danced and twirled on her back legs, causing everyone to laugh.  This was the best medicine possible. I kept telling her what a good girl she was and how proud I was of her.  I could tell she was getting tired, and as we were leaving a patient with Parkinson’s wanted ‘kisses.’  Gracie was more than willing to oblige.  He told us all about his puppies waiting for him at home and how anxious he was to see them again, but in the meantime asked for Gracie to return to see him. 
It was as we were leaving that the young cancer patient, who was despondent just minutes before, called us to her side and whispered softly, “I have fallen in love. I love her. I love Gracie.”
Not bad for day one of a journey of a lifetime!

“It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special.” ~ Thessalonians 1:4




Monday, January 12, 2015



It isn’t always easy living with a PBGV.  Nor did it take long to realize it is impossible not to fall in love with one.  Their delight in the smallest detail of life can turn a bad situation into a tender moment.

Gracie can demolish five rolls of toilet tissue, retrieve the Kleenex off of the night stand, and drag the sofa pillows to the yard before you know it.  But when she puts one paw on my knee, slides up beside me on the sofa and then turns over onto her back, I became putty in her paws.  She has been a treasure, a delight, a blessing, a trouble maker and a clown all in one. But most of all she has been an inspiration to hundreds of others.

She has made me smile when I don’t feel like it.  And she manages to chase the blues right out of the door.  Her sheer delight in watching me open the back door, just for her, is such a joy.  Bouncing up and down, ears flying, feet elevated from the floor by at least five inches, she tears out the door on some clandestine mission of grandiose importance known only to her. 

It became abundantly clear from the time she was 10 weeks old that she was to become an angel, as she worked with stroke survivors, cancer patients, seriously ill children, and America’s wounded warriors returning with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries and Military Sexual Trauma. 

Mark Twain wrote that “Every great poem begins with a lump in your throat.” This is how it began with Gracie.

Gracie has taught me repeatedly that life is a spiritual journey, and sometimes all you have to do is show up and have a little faith that something completely amazing is possible that day.  Then when it does,  you are no more in control than a feather in the wind.  Gracie’s journey began with a single step to a place where she has the power to change a life.  To give a moment that will be cherished and remembered forever.  The simple and honest act of taking Gracie to work with our wounded warriors brought meaning, depth and poetry to hundreds who needed it more than they ever realized.

Gracie’s story spread to the wife of a warrior.  She shared Gracie’s work with a friend whose husband had just been killed in Iraq.  She was severely depressed and had spoken of suicide.  The more she learned about Gracie and ultimately met her, her life turned around.  She rescued a yellow lab and now takes him to visit the wounded warriors. A single huge step had been taken.

A friend of mine had asked to see photos of Gracie with the warriors.  I sent her an assortment.  She wrote back thanking me and the next day wrote back again to tell me how they had touched her deeply and that she couldn’t get them out of her mind.

I understand this!  To be witness to Gracie’s intentional motivation of loving and being loved, it isn’t difficult to understand why people respond to her as they do.  The responses of the courageous young men and women to Gracie are overpowering.  These are young men and women who laid their lives on the line, took the bullets and fought the fight and paid the price.  Yet in the presence of this twenty eight pound dog, they turn into children with their first puppy.  They hold her head gently in both of their hands and look into her sightless eyes with love, a deep and special love.  They may never see her again, but for that moment they connected to something greater than themselves.  For that single moment, that cannot be explained, they felt loved back, totally and completely. They may have lost limbs, vision, eyes, and more but at that time and place they feel love.

Gracie, as should we all, sees past the outward appearances of people. She touches hearts in a way that defies all logical explanation.  And yet somehow it is explained clearly.  This intense and unconditional love is what we should all strive for but seldom do.

Tom Davis in “Why Dogs Do That’, says, “There are no strings attached, no riders, or special stipulations; there’s no fine print, no expiration date, no statute of limitations. They (dogs) love to a depth and degree that few of us, I fear, reciprocate.”
I find myself remembering Gracie’s and my time with the soldiers in snapshot like moments.  Struggles, tears, fears, courage, and smiles are often too powerful to fully comprehend.  But they come back to me, much like the photographs did to my friend.  They are forceful, strong, intense, turbulent and ardent.  Never to be forgotten or taken for granted.

None of us remember days.  What we do remember are those moments, those snapshots that cause that lump in our throats to surface and the tears to come.  The gasping moments, when we unexpectedly see the face, or hear the voice of a loved one or see a flower blooming on the side of a cliff that literally takes our breath away.  A wise and cherished friend once told me that every one of us has that sad place deep inside of us.  It is from that place that hope and peace and grace surface.  And for me it is compassion.  For, as my friend told me, out of compassion passion emerges.


“Let’s not make such a habit of hurry and work that when we leave this world, we will feel impelled to hurry through the spaces of the universe using our wings for feather dusters to clean away the star dust.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

Saturday, January 10, 2015


I remember one day quite clearly when my precious little Gracie, was not responding to my calling and calling her to come inside.  I must have had somewhere most important to be, or that was my perception.  I kept getting more angry and more agitated that she wouldn't come in.  I gave up and started searching the yard.  Finally, I found her with her collar stuck in the wire handle of a heavy hanging basket that had rooted her to the ground. I felt so badly for yelling and getting mad, when she couldn't do a thing to help herself but sit and wait to be found.

At one time or another we are all unable to respond because we find we too are rooted to the ground, immobile, stuck, unable to go in any direction. We are all waiting to be found, waiting to be rescued.
Sometimes I feel that way when I sit down to the computer to write and enter a new dimension with words.  Most likely I have to find the lump in my throat and then the words pour out of me, unfurling like a flower. I refuse to be distracted.  There is always something that needs tending, something else to do, but for me there is never going to be another moment that inspires and excites me like right now. Watching Gracie stretch out on the rug in my office, sigh and take a deep breath, I search for words to string together like pearls, words that say what I feel and see. She has found her safe place and is content just to be close to me. For me Gracie provides a state of calm, stillness, and a place that grounds me to the present moment and feeds my soul. She reminds me to be grateful for what I have. And it is at this place, I begin to write.

Getting to this place isn't always easy.  There are what I call crazymakers who do not understand my passion for creative writing and my need for space and peace.  As Julia Cameron says, "Crazymakers expect special treatment and discount your reality.  Crazymakers pretend you're crazy."  When I finally grew to understand this, I realized that who I am around effects who I become.  I have learned the most from my soul mates and kindred spirits who keep me being the best that I can be so that my soul can do the most for this world. Just a few carefully chosen words in a text or email from a dear friend saying, "What you do makes a difference" are all I need to hear to feed my soul.  I am inspired by inspiring people.
This is when I try to create beauty in a place where there isn't any, a place where there is only sickness, pain and fear.  When I get grounded or stuck and feel like I need to be found, I realize we all need to push past the pain and understand that our lives are not dependent upon one moment of happiness after another.   For it is through moments of being stuck and suffering that we develop a kind of grace and our own pain opens us to a place of peace and love for others that might never have been there otherwise. For me personally, I know this to be true.
So I write and put meaning into whatever it is I might be doing.  This quite simply requires that I set myself aside and make someone else happy. I disregard and step over those who try to fill me up with a story they can control. I have found that I must get swept away, trust the mystery, trust the journey and have faith. 

Yes, I have suffered.  Yes, I have endured pain and through it all I have come to understand that at the end of the tunnel serenity holds out her hand and leads me to a new and better place.  It is at this junction that I, just like Gracie, have been found and I am no longer stuck or immobile. I have been given the mind set and the gift to touch lives.  Maybe that is the work of my angels.