When all seems lost…

A print of my golden SD, Hope that I am selling to fundraise for her successor.

Hopeprint 124

 

Quarterly, bloggers are invited to participate in the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. This time the Carnival is being hosted by Cyndy at Gentle Wit with the chosen topic Achievement.

It is now the last day for submissions and I have been sitting on this topic for a month. To be honest, I am having a pretty rotten time. I’m sick. I’m depressed. I’m fed up. I have no desire to think about Achievement. But I will try.

 

It’s been a bit over a year since my dear, faithful Hope died of cancer. We were partnered for six years and with her assistance I achieved so much. I transitioned to independent living in my own apartment. I built skills and learned techniques to make my way in this world. We grew as a team. As I learned to metaphorically crawl, walk, and run she was right there with me. I was given the confidence to take risks because I knew I was never alone.

The last summer before her death was the absolute best. Together we ventured further into the world than ever before. My mindset transitioned from being ‘in treatment’ to ‘living life.’ I was excited to see success from my years of treatment as I began to take the bus and make small ventures into the world with only Hope to assist me. I planned outings just to ‘practice.’ People would ask when I reported back if I ‘had fun.’ Umm, NO. Fun would not be the word I would use. These trips made my head feel like it would explode. Accomplished…definitely!

As an artist I was thriving. I was enjoying my classes, the days at the art studio, and had a professional development plan in the works. I  courageously introduced myself to the world by submitting to shows, exhibiting in galleries, and even attending my own openings. My goal became to ‘Be the best ME I can be’… living a fulfilled life in spite of my challenges, and in spite of others judgements. Hope was a great example –she never had any problems just being HOPE!

Then wham… within two weeks my perfectly ordered existence was demolished. Honestly, I didn’t even know the extent at which she helped me until she was gone. It felt like I’d lost a limb and my connection to this world. My family, best friend, constant companion, and my independence all suddenly gone.

The past year has been a game of limbo. Dealing with the grief. Trying to find new ways to make it in this world without her assistance. Then came the applications, waiting, rejections, disappointments, fundraising, and everything else involved in finding a new partner. A year later all bets are on a puppy. Yes, he shows promise, but there are so many things that could go wrong; it’s frightening.

An origional Monoprint I created as a tribute to my golden retriever, Hope.

Hopeprint 125

This is one of the unfortunate realities of choosing a service dog lifestyle. At some point we all face the loss of our Partner. Unlike most medical devices, they can not be cloned perfectly duplicated in mind and spirit, nor would I ever want my girl to be. Sometimes I do wonder if it is worth it to stake so much on a mortal being with a relatively short life expectancy. The pain and setbacks when a partner dies is intense.

At the same time, I know Hope made me a better person and gave me a chance at a a much better life. With her, I knew ‘Achievement‘. Where I go from here is a great unknown, but at least I now know the potential my life holds.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.                 ~Anne Lamott

Remembering Hope

September 15 marked the one year anniversary of Hope’s crossing of the Rainbow Bridge.

For the past week I have been fighting to find the words necessary for this post. It’s just been so hard to write. Instead of agonizing over this anymore, I am just going to leave it at this:

Hope left a mark on my life and many others she came in contact with. She was a species in herself–one of a kind. She LIVED with her all and embraced life every moment of her existence. She taught me how to LIVE. Even now she’s left a marker on my life. I feel the Essence of Hope around me and it pushes me forward…because I know she would want me to continue to LIVE with my all.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all. ~Emily Dickinson

I love you and miss you my dear, crazy girl!

 

Life after ‘Hope’

It’s been nearly a year since the loss of Hope. Looking back the signs came on so suddenly–most of her summer was full of fun and adventure with my brother, sister, and niece visiting. More than anything Hope loved her people and each day brought people and adventure.

I suspect the mass growing in her stomach already caused discomfort, but she was such a stoic dog and there were no signs until she randomly started vomiting her meals in August. At first we thought it was another food intolerance because she did just fine on bland meals until switched back to kibble. My vet thought the same as all standard tests came back normal. In the end the endoscopy reported a cancerous mass blocking the stomach exit, trapping whole kibble whereas the blended diet was passing through.

It all happened so fast. Less than two weeks from diagnosis she was gone–a little over a month since the symptoms started. She kept her HOPE attitude until the end, and I was allowed time to say goodbye. She even de-stuffed an indestructible toy in her last days. My friend Kara came out to support me as I helped my best friend cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Loosing a pet is extremely painful for anyone. They love you when you feel unlovable, they listen when you feel ignored, they forgive your faults without grudge. To them you can do no wrong. With an assistance dog partnership, it is even more. Hope was my best friend, family, and constant companion. She was also my eyes, my ears, my sense of stability and safety.

With her I ‘learned to walk’ and enter the world as an artist, as an adult, as an individual. I relied on her to assist me in making my way in this world. When she was yanked from my side, it really felt like I lost an appendage. I knew she was trained to assist me, but I had absolutely no idea how much I relied on her until she was missing. We worked in tandem–a nonverbal give and take, ebb and flow. Much of our relationship was a subconscious mutual trust. I cared for her and she cared for me.

I know there will never be another Hope. My new partnership will be different. It will take time to develop our own language and get to the point where we can finish each others sentences. I liken it to loosing the leg I learned to walk on; then having to relearn walking with a prosthetic. I am not saying my next partnership will never be as ‘perfect’ as Hope. Anyone who knew Hope also knew she had her flaws challenges. They made her enduring and maddening at the same time. The next dog will have different strengths and different quirks. I don’t want another Hope. She was one of a kind.

This print run has meant so much to me because it is my memorial to Hope. It also allows Hope to push me forward in hopes of a better future. After her death my artistic process came to a standstill. I didn’t paint, I barely drew, and my printing press was covered with dust. It took this project to give me the push I needed to keep going. Its been a very therapeutic process as I remember her with fondness–the good times and difficult times. We went through so much together.

As the anniversary of her death looms, I find myself facing another wave of grief… I still miss my Hope soo much.

Quick Update

I’ve been exhausted and struggling to write here as we approach the one year anniversary of Hope’s passing. Instead of pushing to make that topic my next blog post here, I am just going to do a quick update. There is lots going on:

I believe I have reached my 10% mark for my fundraising goal! I am unsure at this moment what the exact total is, but I believe I have now passed $750. Thank you everyone for your continued support.

Maple Leaf Life featured Hope and me on their blog about the goings-on in Maple Leaf Neighborhood. Thank you Mike and Cloud City for continuing to get the word out.

Prints were sent out last Tuesday and the next batch will be sent out either this Tuesday or the following. Plus I think I figured out how to use the email updates. I hope so. If you ordered a print by Monday, Aug 8 but have not received one, please contact me. I want to make sure you get your print!

I am continuing to stretch into this era of social networking. I have a list of things to figure out to make this go further (facebook, twitter, some widgets I need to figure out how to install). These things do not come naturally to me so I am slow and it gives me massive headaches. If you are a networking natural, feel free to network for me to your hearts content. I will always appreciate that as I slowly catch up!

Finally, I did get up to Brigadoon last week to meet with Denise and meet a puppy prospect! That is another story in itself. Boy am I behind. I will include a photo here as a teaser…

I am exhausted and emotionally drained. I think I will be taking a break today and possibly tomorrow. Apologies to those who are awaiting an email. I fully intend to respond as soon as my brain begins to cooperate. Until then I will sew more cat blankets for the kitty rescue. The kitties don’t even care if they are cut crooked and have jagged seams!