Friday, March 30, 2012

Soul Searching

Sweetest Boy,

Oh, how my heart aches for you.

I drafted multiple posts on the 26th, but I deleted them all. Nothing captured and communicated the pain and the love nearly as well as that song does. I told you that I would find you, that we would be together again some day. And not days later, I heard that song for the very first time. I bawled like a baby, and still do every time I listen to it. It is just so beautiful and so true, in the truest sense of that word.

Not one day, not one single day, has gone by without a thought of you. I have missed you and loved you and remembered you and been grateful for you every day since March 26, 2011. And every time I think of you, cry for you, smile in remembrance of you, I think of people who have never had dogs who could never identify with this kind of love. And I think of people who have had dogs but have never had you. I, myself, have had dogs my whole life. There never was, and there never will be, another you. Anyone who knows me knows that I am no sentimental cheese-ball, so I am not prone to overly-sentimental sentiments; but I firmly, deeply, wholeheartedly believe that you and I were always meant to be together. Your soul and mine, like peas and carrots.

This past Monday night, on the year anniversary of your passing, I dreamed of you for the first time ever, at least within my conscious recollection. I was standing next to my bed, and I turned around and you were there. You had a bone in your mouth, the way you always did when I came home and you were excited to see me; though, as always, it was barely visible under your ginormous jowls. You were wagging your tail and your whole backside was swaying back and forth with it, the way backsides do when they are of the 200- pound-variety. I shouted, squealed in excitement, "Bubba???" And I ran to you, dropped to my knees, and wrapped my arms around your neck and embraced you the way I always used to, so that your head rested perfectly on my left shoulder. It was all so, so real, for a split second. The weight of your head on my shoulder, the feel of your furry face against mine, the circumference of your neck in my arms...I had forgotten, and I didn't even know it. In that second, there was the most real remembrance, and in remembrance, utter relief and pure joy. And then I woke up.

When we said goodbye, I told you to wait for me. I told you I would find you. Well, maybe it was I who was waiting that night and you who found me. Maybe it was you who found me all along. I always have described you as a "good soul," and so many people who knew you, friends; family; your doctors, commented on what a "special" and "extraordinary" spirit you were. One friend, upon your passing, said, "Huan was so much more than a dog." An acquaintance, who met you for a matter of seconds at our front door, said, "There was something special about that dog." And I often say, "There are good dogs, but Huan was a good soul." Maybe I--and everyone who knew you--was always hitting the nail on the head without even realizing it. Maybe that's why I inexplicably cried on the car ride to get you when you were just a baby. I was so happy, and I couldn't even articulate the feeling or the reason for it. Maybe it's because your soul and my soul, they found each other. And they will always "find their way back" to each other, just as the song says--no matter the time, distance, circumstance--in this life and in the next, in dreams and in the depths of our hearts--when one of us is lost and "waiting." People always said to me, "Huan is your dog," and you really, really were, because you really, really are--and always will be--part of my very heart and soul in a way that no other being ever could or will again.

Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. As I said on this very day one year ago, "Mama loves you, today and always." xo

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fracture Free!


I had an MRI. It showed splints on both shins, worse on the left (which is where I have had the most pain), and spots that look "either like the healing of old fractures or the beginnings of new ones." Obviously, we know it's the former, given that I waited 15 weeks post-race to run again and have only run a total of nine miles, I think, since I picked back up in January. I really can't believe I STILL have pain to the touch and my MRI is still showing signs of injury this far out, almost five months to be exact. I don't think I really appreciated the gravity of what I was doing to my body. I know I didn't.

PT needed to wait until we saw what was going on with the shins. Now that we know my bones aren't broken, we can begin to work on the muscle imbalances, knee issue, glutes stuff, etc. I already have two appointments for this coming week. I really need to be patient with this work and trust that it will help. I have often felt pretty incredulous about the relatively "easy" work of stretching and the like, since I am accustomed to working pretty hard at the gym. I often wonder if I could bench-press my physical therapist, for example. (Maybe not now, if I am being honest, but there is promise.) I do know, though, that working pretty hard at the gym with these kinds of imbalances is what landed me in PT to begin with. So, in the words of my physical therapist, "back to basics."

Regarding the half in May, I don't know. I need to map out a training schedule and be really careful about running. According to the doc, pain to the touch is OK. Pain while moving is not. If I ever feel pain while running, or doing any kind of exercise for that matter, I have to call the doc. That means boot. No questions or protestations.  Pain while moving means fracture.  Every time I say that, I am reminded that this all started with me bawling on a curb, not .5 miles into a run, unable to even bear weight on my legs. That won't ever happen again.  There's hardcore, and then there's stupid; and the line between the two can be pretty indistinct, though I think I am better equipped to see it now having crossed it in the past . So maybe a half in May. Maybe not.

So that's that. I feel pretty good. And I am on vacation. And--I just have to say--I have what very well may be the coolest, most amazing toddler in the whole wide world. Every day I fall in love with her even more, even though I swear it cannot be possible to love her anymore than I already do. I am even contemplating getting her a dog for her birthday. ;) Her birthday is in the spring. Fitting.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


This is kind of a hard month for me. I am feeling a little broken.

February 15, 2011 was Huan's first seizure. I was bathing Grace after dinner. I guess she was nearly ten months old. I heard violent, loud, banging and thrashing. I ran in the direction of the noise. I had never seen a seizure before. I didn't know what was happening. I remember the begging and pleading in my voice when I asked, "Huan? HUAN?" I don't really know what I was asking, what implicit questions lay beneath the surface. Are you OK? Is that you? WHAT is happening??? I started to cry. And I remember being scared to approach him. He wasn't there. But he was violently jerking back and forth. For a split second, I thought he was being aggressive? (I can't even bear to end that sentence with a period.) Whatever he was being he was doing it at nearly 200 lbs. I was afraid. And I was alone.

I ran and got Grace (yes, I left her alone in her tub seat). I wrapped a towel around her and ran back to the living room. It was all only a matter of seconds probably, but it felt like years. There was water everywhere, some from my soaking wet baby, some from Huan. No more thrashing. Labored breathing. Lethargy. Failure to engage with me or even to recognize me.

I called David at work. He thought I said all of the aforementioned happened to Grace. I don't know why, actually. Maybe my thoughts and words were that jumbled. Maybe he couldn't understand me because I was that hysterical.

My cousin and his wife came to examine Huan. My mother-in law was on her way to watch Grace. I didn't even think to call her to cancel. I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee. I remember Jim's brown leather medical bag when he walked in. I remember Jenni saying it was like Dr. Doolittle's. I remember there was talk that maybe it was just an isolated incident, perhaps even unrelated to the nosebleeds. I remember wanting so badly to believe that. I remember my mother-in-law telling me to keep my coffee date and her getting Jim's cell phone number "just in case" before I left.

I met with my friend that night for coffee. I remember where we sat, what I drank, the stacks of essays at her table when I arrived. I apologized for being late. I am never, ever late. I remember every single thing we talked about. I remember standing at the back door with her still talking for a long time before we actually said goodbye. And I remember what we talked about there, too--as opposed to at our table, I mean.

It is so interesting how vividly one can remember specific moments, times, and occasions that center around some traumatic occurrence. 

I even remember David sent me a beautiful bouquet of red roses at work the day before for Valentine's Day. I took a pic of them on the 15th, the day of Huan's seizure, and posted it on Facebook. I remember looking at that picture after the seizure and thinking, "When I posted this, my world was so different. How can things change so drastically, so quickly?" Up to that point, he just had nosebleeds with an unknown cause. I mean, they were just nosebleeds.

I remember another friend texted me on the 15th during the day and asked me if I was interested in running a marathon relay in order to shed the last few baby pounds. I was sitting at my desk. I think it was right after I took the picture of my flowers on it, actually. I remember being really excited about the challenge. I told her, "Interested. Keep me posted." I remember when Huan died a month-ish later, she texted me to ask me if I still wanted to do it. I remember feeling conflicted, even angry, not at her, but at the mere fact that life was so different now without Huan, so much emptier.

I remember.

And so Project Shed Prego Weight turned into Project Cope with Grief--in a healthy and productive way (instead of curling up into a permanent fetal position). Coping via "grief running" became pretty habitual. Grief running turned into marathon training. Marathon training turned into hip problems and stress fractures. Hip problems and stress fractures meant half-marathon. That was September 24th, 2011.

It is now February, 2012.  I have followed every doctor's order. I didn't run until the first week of January, 2012. That's about 15 weeks of rest. 15 weeks, and even longer than what the doctor prescribed. My shins, particularly the one, is still pretty tender to the touch. Tonight, actually, I started feeling pain while dancing with my daughter. For the first time ever, I actually had pain while moving. I had my sights on another half in May. It is the same race, in fact, for which I trained to run relay one year ago after Huan died. I didn't actually get to run my leg, though, because my team fell apart last minute. I would love nothing more than to run that race this year "for Bubba," only 13 miles instead of 6. I can't imagine anything more fitting. But I don't know if it will be possible. I put in a call to sports med today, and I have a PT appointment next week. (Oh, I have a new knee issue to boot. And speaking of "boot," I may ultimately be confined to one.)

One year ago, almost to the day,was the beginning of Huan's end. The grief was consuming. So I ran. I know that probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense to most people, but I needed to literally move through the pain rather than become crippled by it. And that's the thing, really: it sucks to feel--or, worse, to be--crippled  by all of the same issues, by all of the same pain, one year later, when all I want to do is move. I know this is a particularly bad month. I know things will get better. Maybe this spring. Maybe even in May. Maybe.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bubba and/or Mastiff?

I have drafted at least three posts in recent weeks. They are all saved. Maybe I will publish them. Maybe I won't. Don't really know yet. For now, there's this:

A couple weeks ago, my BFF called me and told me a friend of a friend had an English Mastiff puppy, eight months old, whom she could no longer care for. Apparently she found herself in over her head (she already has other dogs) and gave the dog to a rescue. I hadn't thought about getting another pup yet, but this prospect got me thinking. Ultimately, David and I agreed that if all circumstances were "ideal," we would take him. Well, turns out this pup has "major food aggression issues" and wouldn't be safe with my daughter. My daughter is, of course, my first priority. But I did prepare myself to have another Mastiff, and I even got pretty excited about it. When it didn't work out, I was sad. Sad that I wouldn't have this Mastiff. Sad that I didn't have Bubba. And I was really, really angry that this dog would miss out on a good life with me because its owner was irresponsible. Dogs aren't born with food aggression issues. I could stick my hands in Huan's food, tug on his ears while he was eating, take his bone away, etc. without him even flinching. Heck, he would drop his bone if we told him to, or even if we just gave him a "drop it" kind of look; and he would never touch or take his food until we gave him permission to approach his bowl.

So now I have the itch. I have been on Petfinder daily. I submitted an application to a national Mastiff rescue outfit. And all of this Mastiff talk and thinking and looking really, really, really makes me miss Huan. Today, David, who is very open to getting another breed of dog, said to me regarding getting another Mastiff, "You aren't going to get Huan back. I mean, he was Huan." And I cried because it hit me: Maybe that's what I really want and am looking for, not another Mastiff necessarily but another Bubba. My Bubba. Even my veterinarian cousin remarked in response to all this adoption talk that Huan was an exception and credit to his breed, that even "independent of" me, he "really was something special."

So rather than sadness, I am going to try my best to feel gratitude and happiness and pride for the amazing being that Huan was and for the countless ways in which he blessed my life. Because he really, really did. In the meantime, my adoption app is out there. Whether I am looking for a Mastiff or Huan specifically I can't say for sure, because I don't know how much of Huan was Huan, his breed, and / or my influence. But I know I would do right by another Mastiff--if for no other reason than, once upon a time, a Mastiff did so very right by me.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Do I See a Bubba?

A friend of mine posted this link on my facebook wall. I have watched it dozens of times. It truly, genuinely makes my heart HAPPY:

Tank, the Mastiff featured, is smaller than Huan was (before he got sick), but the mannerisms and behavior are so strikingly similar! The garbage picking, the guilty eyes, the I-Know-I-Was-a-Bad-Boy walk of shame, even the tactic of "hiding"on the dog bed (riiiiiiiiiight)! I feel like I am seeing Huan every time I watch. I wonder if Tank has consumed articles of clothing and various writing utensils, too. Anyway, here's my boy looking a little culpable and contrite:
Bubba and his bed--after he ate most of it.
When I came home one day, I found him like this, with paper stuck to jowls. (His mouth looks open in this picture because he had a bone in it. Bubba always needed a bone in his mouth when we came home. You just can't see it because his mouth was that big.)

Busted, Bubba! (I really thought it would be worse.)
There are, of course, many other instances of similar infractions, but we don't have them captured on camera. Most of them just weren't "cute" in the moment, like the time we came home to black ink smeared ALL over our hardwood floors after Huan apparently ate some pens.

Yeah, I think there is definitely another Mastiff in my future. It's funny how cute paper-jowls and partially eaten dog beds can look. Even black hardwood floors don't seem so bad in retrospect. So thanks, Tank, for that perspective and for reminding me of the utter joy that is the Mastiff spirit. And, for what it's worth, I think that garbage lid looks great on your head.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's a Half!

13.1 miles, 9/24/11, 2:09:04, 9:51/mi. (Addendum: I JUST realized, after posting this, that my time and pace are likely better than what is indicated. My Garmin said I ran 13.25 in about the same time as the race people said I finished 13.1. I just now realized the discrepancy in distances may be attributable to the fact that I ran around this castle / fort on the course one too many times. AND, to add insult to injury, if that's the case, I don't even have a real record of my actual time for 13.25 because I bawled like a baby, hugged David, and stretched for about 6 years before I even remembered to STOP the timer on my watch. BOOooooooo.)

The bad news:

I have a whole multitude of issues going on with my legs, hip and back.

I dropped my iPod in the toilet literally seconds before I had to take off and had NO music for the entire race.

I have no real record of my actual time and pace.

The good news:

I am feeling so much better! I have followed every doctor's order about heat, ice, stretching, and anti-inflammatories exactly. And after not really running for nearly three weeks, the most pain I feel right now, in this very moment, is the good kind of sore, the kind that lets you know your muscles have been awakened after a long slumber. And I felt fantastic for the duration of my run, too, which is really great, given that I didn't know how I would respond to the "don't run through pain" mandate if I did, in fact, feel pain. I was, truthfully, scared, not of the prospect of pain, but of my likely unwillingness to submit to it or of the defeat I would feel if I had to. I am glad I wasn't put to the test. 

The course itself was absolutely breathtaking. And there were all sorts of adorable and gracious people throughout clapping and shouting all sorts of wonderful affirmations. One woman yelled, "I just admire you all so much." A precious, elderly gentleman shouted to me personally, "Way to go, 162! Looking good!" Complete strangers. Just awesome. If not for my iPod falling in a toilet, I may have never heard their beautiful voices. 

My iPod did, in fact, survive.

My time and pace are pretty impressive, all things considered, even though I have no idea what they are.

A few pics to document the journey:
Race chips. David ran the 5K (after working until 3AM and having slept for only 3 hours) because he is a good husband. He also ran a 5K on Fathers Day after not having run since he was a kid. I don't recall his time for that race, but he completed this one in 29 minutes. Unreal.

I don't know how many races are in my future, but I will never  wear a different racing shirt.  My whole life as a runner began with Bubba and a 6 mile "grief run." I am as likely to forget that as I am to forget him.   

Pre-race. Happy?

Nope. Scared bleep-less.

2-ish hours later: the finish line!

HAPPY for sure. Can you tell by my stride? I was already crying tears of joy.

Post-race. That's a beer in my right hand.

Beer again.

The couple who runs together...

I thought I would feel unfulfilled having completed a half marathon with no certain prospects for a full, especially given that the full was my objective all along. The very word half does rub me the wrong way, but not for the reason I thought it would--not because I feel like there is more to be done, but because I feel like there is nothing more for me to do. I don't mean that in a complacent way. I mean merely that I have done all that I can do, and I don't think it's possible for me to feel any more "full" of pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment. This must be what everyone refers to as "runners' high." Euphoria beyond words...