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The “Healing” Power of Dogs

This past week I had the privilege of speaking before the National Veterinary Associates who held a conference here in Buffalo. An established relationship with a friend that I met during our active years at the Junior League of Buffalo, Bethany Botzenhart who knew our story, asked me to speak about our dogs. She knew the power of healing these dogs gave us from following along on my Instagram account poodlewalker1.  Bethany is a strong reminder that our associations are truly life enhancers.

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I spoke about this blog. I spoke about how I use to write Christmas letters which were always filled with laughter with stories of everything that has always mattered most..faith, and family.

It helps to look back and see that even going back to my first posts confirmed that our life was deeply rooted in our Catholic faith. Those deep roots saved us.  We needed to dig deep into our faith. We are so thankful our faith was in place. Faith does not prevent the tragedies in life but it is there to catch and save you.

Our dogs were also there. No matter how trivial it may seem…our dogs gave us immesureable comfort.

These crazy dogs Rory and Lucy held us together in a very real way. Yes, a standard poodle and a cockapoo. One a better listener, more attuned to our emotions, more obedient, with her only desire to please. The other is the one we call “Baby”, she is the one we give belly rubs and attracts children on our walks and to our home. They are quite a team and proof that size and breed doesn’t matter.

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Here is Natalie with Rory at the Farmers Market in Buffalo not long ago. They are both natural beauties and reminders of all the beauty found in nature.

The dogs became our buffer, our way of coping of the painful reality of what has happened has really happened. Each of us, my husband, son and daughter needed those dogs more than we care to admit. Each of us has an unique relationship with each dog. When we needed time to grieve alone, a dog was grabbed before entering a room. We needed their comfort. We needed to touch, and feel and we needed to pet them.

There is no question that dogs live a selfless life and dedicate themselves to their pack. They look to serve their master and are constant companions in our home.

Dogs are life coaches without trying. They are certainly not our whole life yet they make a house a home and add wholeness to our lives.

It would be so easy to stay in our house and close the shades but the dogs depended on us for walks. Going outside and walking in all kinds of weather was incredibly therapeutic. The dogs reminded us how to breath in the outside air, how to look around, pay attention to all the little details on walks, the sights and smells, and the simple joy of walking. One foot in front of the other and looking up at the big magnificent sky.

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Natalie with Lucy.

 

The most important benefit of walking was connecting again with our wonderful neighbors who are not only familiar with the dogs but also shared in watching Natalie grow up and flourish before their eyes. There was no barrier for people to stay away from us because we were out sharing hugs and compassionate conversations. To eliminate the awkward barrier was crucial. Those dogs made sure no one stayed away and our hearts are so filled with gratitude to all the examples of beautiful friendships and neighbors.

The dogs added an enormous feeling of life back into our homes. They helped us feel alive again. When you hear the dog toys squeaking, the paws pattering across the hardwood floor and the loud barking every time the mail carrier, UPS delivery or someone passed our house..you can’t help but feel on alert.

Dogs will always listen. I think that is why God created them with such big ears. Dogs never tell you what you are doing wrong, they simply enjoy that you are there. You are present. That is enough. Dogs connect us and without Lucy we would not have visitors like our dear friend Sylvia who we joke doesn’t need vaccinations because she has received so many dog kisses slobbered on her face.

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Sylvia is a frequent visitor due to her friendship with Lucy.

I get a kick out of all the vocabulary words they know and how dogs know exactly what we are saying. Dogs even enjoy when we pray the rosary. Sure, they lay at our feet quietly and know that peace is filling our hearts.

Our lives will never return to what they were and our wound is so deep, yet we know Natalie touched so many by her smile and laugh, her kindness, her joy and her discipline and willingness to help others. We all miss her in different ways.

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The dogs are looking out the front window ready to bark at any passerby.

 

It’s crystal clear to us now the more you focus on how temporary this life is the more you focus on what is important. Value life. Value each day. Love your family. Keep it together. Draw your strength together during good times and bad. Marriage is sacred. Be there. Be present. Be loyal like the dog.  Show you care, be kind to each other, don’t blame each other, be gentle. Love. And above all else..Hold onto your faith. Celebrate the life rather than the death because the fullness of life is with God Our Father and Our Blessed Lady forever.

Oh, and you know that old expression, “Live each day like it’s your last?” I think we learned that from dogs.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Trish

My Top 5 Memories of the Summer of 2016

One question I do not want to ask is “Where did the summer go?” I realized that when I was working and did not plan anything special. Summer would fly by and before you know it you would run right into Fall without feeling refreshed. Summer was always a special season for me as a child and thankfully one for Natalie and our other children Evan and Caroline. We formed new friends, new memories, new talents, went new places, but mostly enjoyed our favorite sport…swimming. Nothing better in my book than an outdoor pool.

The summer of 2016 was too hot. We simply had too many humid days. It was too dry. It was tough on farmers and even keeping our flower pots watered. But, like everything, we have a choice to complain or make the best of it. With the lack of rain, the lawn did not need mowing for 6 weeks! This was the summer that we had central air conditioning installed which was an exceptionally wise move.

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The Hotel Hershey was a real escape and treat.

There are certain things about summer that are tried and true. I know that swimming outdoors is a must do. The Farmers Market, the Canadian beaches right across the boarder, and the inspiration of other peoples gardens are guaranteed to-do’s.  This summer, Caroline and I had a glorious stay at the Hotel Hershey and so enjoyed the gardens, museum and pool. Hershey was a place I visited with Natalie, at her urging, and it is beyond a cherished memory.

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I like to look at other people’s yards and get ideas for flowers and pots each summer. This one belongs to my friends Mary Louise. Love the elephant pot.

I think it’s important to reflect back and celebrate the season that we have just completed before we move onto the next. I choose to make this summer memorable. I choose to not let it go by and regret that I did nothing special. It can be as simple as making strawberry jam.

Here is a list of what made the summer of 2016 special to me

  1. Birthday Dinner. This year for the first time, I gathered together 3 girlfriends who share June birthdays. We had a memorable night in beautiful Lewiston, NY and the laughs we shared and our shared attempt to be brave in a life that has thrown us all deep pains is a tradition I want to continue next June. The thing is, even if you only have a yearly dinner with friends, the year goes by and it’s something to look forward to and it’s better than ever taking the time to be together.

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    A group of friends who share birthdays in June.

  2. New Places. My last entry showed you that we explored Montreal, Quebec City and we also visited the Thousand Islands. Seeing new places and experience different cultures helps us gain new perspective plus it deepens family bonds.

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    For the first time, we visited the 1,000 Islands. I had no ides we shared these beautiful islands on the St. Lawrence River with Canada. Here I thought they were all in NY State. Traveling expands our awareness.

  3. Babysitting Clover. Caroline watched a cockapoo for a month and allowing another dog into our home for a month added simple joy. The joy of watching an adorable dog lie on her back for a scratch, jump on your lap for some extra coddling, whip a squeaky toy around the house and simply making friends with your dogs and having a new dog join you on your walk…was a highlight of our July. Dogs are so simple, so childlike, and such reminders of the simple joys available to us all on a daily basis if we just pause to realize it.

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    Here she is far right, our new friend that joined us for a month …Clover. Dogs are a perfect reminder of the simple things in life are the best…cuddling, playing and walking.

  4. Olympics. I’m not sure if anyone watched and tweeted out the stories about the unraveling stories and thrilling performances by the athletes all over the world as much as I did!  I mean, c’mon…what is better than watching the highest level of athleticism, learning about the host city, meeting the athletes unclose and personal, and seeing the human spirit just gets me every time. Thank you to Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps. Simone Biles, and Usain Bolt. The 100 meter freestyle when Simone Manuel and Penny Oleksiak tied, and watching Kerri Walsh Jenning and April Ross win the bronze like it was a gold will stay in my memory bank.

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    I’m a big fan of the synchro swimmers, here is Anita Alvarez from Kenmore, NY !! and Mariya Koroleva.

  5. Blueberry Pie. Using fresh blueberries, and making a simple pie served warm with vanilla ice cream with your family…ummm baby….that’s good stuff. It’s the pie Natalie always made for us. I am simply continuing her tradition as best I can.IMG_6071

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    Natalie always would prepare homemade meals and treats for her family and friends. I push myself to make and do more for others in honor of her beautiful example.

    Summer doesn’t have to be the only season to make memorable. Let’s set some goals for the Fall now. I think the peach festival is the first on my list. Thank you for reading.

     Sincerely, Trish