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Tag Archives: Grief

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

Dear Natalie

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Sisters are a blessing. 

 

A Letter to My Sister:

My dear, loving, beautiful Natalie,

Happy Birthday. 10/10 will always be reserved as your day, a perfect 10 as a sister and the most perfect 10 of a person.

It seems like just yesterday we were goofing around on the phone about silly inside jokes and ending our last phone call with an “I love you” But at the same point, though that seems like just yesterday, the heaviness in my heart and the sadness of losing you has not subsided. Not at all. Though these past five months have been an absolute blur, I have read many letters about you. All are beautifully written and all are full of the most genuine love for you. Every single letter says that you had a light that shined so bright, that you encourage people, telling us what YOU did for THEM, and how your faith, positive attitude, and selflessness made you one of the most remarkable people any of them would ever meet.

I often wonder about how you thought of yourself while you were here. Did you have any idea how incredible you were? Did you have any idea how many people love you? Do you know how many sleepless nights have been spent thinking about you, with thoughts consumed with how this cannot make sense, that Natalie- the one who was so reliable, so dependable, so responsible, is gone? Do you know how comforting it was to know that I could always call you and tell you anything? Did you know that you were the one thing in life that I was 100% confident on to be with me through anything life threw me?  I bet you know now, and I can guarantee you do not like seeing the tears and hearts that ache for you. You were the one to offer such good advice. You were the one that no matter how much the world did not make sense, no matter how upside down everything seemed to turn, you offered comfort and reason. But we are all different because of you. We are all better because of you. Do you know how many lives are changing because of you? Did you ever have any idea, that by you simply thinking of yourself less, in turn made others think more of you? Do you know how many people tell me that every day they think about how “Natalie would handle this”, I mean seriously Natalie did you have any idea just how much your smile had an impact on everyones day? I can say with confidence that if you were here with me today, and I told you that this many people love you and care about you and want to live like you, you would say something nice about each person. You would probably have a story about each person, a “Remember When”, or you just simply would not believe that you could change people’s lives just by being you.

If I told you that people were making positive changes with you as the reason behind it, you would just be happy to know that more people are being kind, you would be excited to hear about everyone’s accomplishments. You inspire all of us, Natalie. So many people look up to political figures and label those who run companies “leaders”, but unknowingly, you are the best leader we all know. There are not enough leaders out there like you. There are not enough leaders who are advocates for caring, not enough leaders in kindness, not enough leaders who lead us to be better.  There are simply not enough people to remember birthdays, to send notes to cheer people up, to support and truly care about another. You could have done anything, and you did. And everywhere you went, you made an impact. You changed people because you believed in them. If everyone in this world had only 10% of the confidence and faith you had in each one of us, we would all be the best version of ourselves. You are inspiring people all over the country, people that do not even know you. How lucky am I to call you my big sister. How did our little humble family in Buffalo, NY end up having 24 beautiful years with such a wonderful person? You absolutely are an angel, and although it cuts deep down to my core when I think about how I cannot see you and call you and hug you and just be in your presence again, I feel a passion in my soul to carry out what you would have if you were here.

They say time makes it easier. It does not. There is nothing easy about losing my best friend, sister, role model and confidant wrapped up into one. What time does is it makes it less immediate. But, Natalie, I want to keep you immediate just as you would be if you were around. I will do anything to keep your spirit alive. At your funeral, I made a promise to you that I will live out your generosity, your selflessness, your smile, and your love. You are in every breath I take, every beat of my heart, every choice I make, every kind deed I do, every smile I wear, every sacrifice I offer up, every tear I wipe, and every hug I give. You are the motivation to do better, you are the will to do and become more. You are the most beautiful person I have ever had the privilege of knowing and although I cannot physically give you a birthday present every year anymore, I will give you a gift everyday as everyone who is changing their lives because of you will as well. We will give you the gift of showing you a world as you envisioned it. Seeing the glass half full instead of empty, finding beauty in small things, going out of our way for those we love, sharing words when encouragement is needed, and reminding each other that “we are all human and doing the best we can”. No matter how old I get, I will never stop looking up to you. I love you so much, and miss you and your excitement for life, and the feeling of completeness you gave me. We are all praying for you and thinking of you every single day, and we will never stop. Our family is missing it’s leading light. We are all trying to be the best we can be. Thank you for everything you made me, and everything you are allowing me to become through you.

Your little sister,

Caroline

 

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“It seems that life is always ready with a challenge just when we think everything is going along fine. Please know that whatever comes along, I am right by your side… When you are strong, you will have my admiration… When you are weak and afraid, I will hold your spirit in my heart and send you all the prayers and love I have… When you are overwhelmed with choices, I will be there to support the decisions that only you can make… When you have doubts, I will acknowledge them and  then relight the candle of hope with you”