A year ago today I experienced a day that was so incredibly moving and healing that I still cannot find the right words to express it. This post is long overdue and a year later I will attempt to write about this day.
I had a milestone birthday last year and I wanted to do something special to celebrate it. So I fulfilled a dream that had been on my heart for a long time, got on a plane (two to be accurate) and flew halfway across the world to Australia, along with Bernd, to spend that special day with seven senior dogs. It took a lot to make this dream come true and one of the key persons who played a key role in it is Lisa Domeny. Lisa is one of the most inspiring people I am blessed to know and she is the “leader” of Team Golden Oldies. Lisa adopts senior dogs and because most of them have had a traumatic past, not many want to adopt them. Lisa gives them a beautiful forever home and when they cross over the rainbow bridge, they know that they were very loved by someone who was with them till the very end. She shares stories about these dogs on her Facebook page and she also writes beautiful children’s books about each and every one of them. If Lisa had not agreed to open her home and share her beautiful senior dogs with a total stranger whom she only “knew” via social media, this would never have happened. The warmth, hospitality, kindness and love that we experienced in Lisa and Ian’s home was so precious, the memories of which warm my heart on many a cold and dismal day (and this although Lisa was in great pain due to a back issue she had). It is also something that merits a post of its own.
When I decided to visit Lisa, she had eight senior dogs. Two of these eight dogs were quite sick and one sadly crossed over to the rainbow bridge a few weeks before we were there.
I believe that God speaks to us in many ways and He can use the most “unusual” people (or in this case creatures) to touch and heal you. This post is about seven beautiful senior dogs who touched my life and brought healing in ways that were and still are indescribable and incomprehensible.
Meeting Mollie Moo Cow was something I had not even dared to hope for. She was very sick since a long time and had days when she couldn’t even get up. I do not recall how often I thanked her for ” waiting for me”. I met her on three consecutive days and two out of them she spent lying on her bed and watching everything or just sleeping. But on my birthday she even accompanied us to the cul-de-sac late afternoon (Bernd carried her up the steps because she couldn’t walk up). We sat on the grass watching the “boys” chase ball and she chose to come and lie down with her head on my lap. Mollie Moo Cow showed me that no matter how old and frail you are, each day is a gift where you can make a difference in someone’s life. She taught me that it does not matter if on some days you cannot do much but on the days that you can, you give all you have to make a difference. This lovely old girl brought me an indescribable peace. She reminded me that each day is a gift not to be taken lightly; that we are alive for a purpose and that God uses whatever we have to touch lives. Months later she passed away shortly before we celebrated our silver anniversary. As I had mentioned on a post then, she had helped heal wounds and gave me the courage to take the step to renew our vows.
One of the special gifts that Murphy B Bear has is the hugs that he gives you! You have to hug him to understand the magic and warmth that he radiates when you hug him, the way he stands still and you have the feeling that he is listening intently to that small voice within you that you didn’t even know existed. Yes those hugs are different, the warmth and love radiating from this beautiful boy something very special. Murphy B Bear reminded me that it doesn’t matter if we don’t have the words to comfort a hurting soul. Sometimes all we can do is hug someone and just be there physically for them to lean on, hold them for as long as they need. And that this can sometimes be much more healing than words of comfort or helpful advice. Murphy B Bear – I will so miss your hug on my birthday today!
And then there is mischievous and full of life Marlie, who had lost a leg to cancer a few months ago. This has in no way diminished her zest for life and she is quicker than any other four legged dog and some two legged humans. Her speed and agility has also earned her the position of president of PEA (Poo Eaters Anonymous) but that is a story for another post. Marlie reminded me that a handicap is no reason for pity or for holding you back if you want something. She reminded me that life goes on even if you lose something precious; that life can still be very exciting, colourful and fun. Looking at Marlie I could not help wish that I could bring her together with Jaden. She would certainly keep him on his toes and chase him around the garden till he collapsed with exhaustion. And then she would probably be disappointed that he’d given up so easily. Thank you Marlie for inspiring me with your zest for life.
Sam, the beautiful gentle golden boy with those amazing eyes that see right into your soul. Sam is one of the founding members of Team Golden Oldies and he is the golden retriever that I had always hoped to have. (Don’t get me wrong. I love Jaden but he is nothing like the dog I had hoped to have!). Sam is gentle, kind and loves to cuddle. He is so loving and gentle that Marlie runs away with his toys but he doesn’t complain and doesn’t dare to get them back. Sam seemed to sense that I had always wanted a dog like him – he would come over and lie down with his head on my lap every now and then. He especially did that when we took a group picture with the team -he lay there patiently, not begging for cuddles or pets, just lay there with his head on my lap.
And then there is Leo, the only Labrador in this team of golden retrievers. Leo spent all his life chained outdoors and was never allowed to run free. And now all he loves to do is run and chase balls. One has to stop throwing balls for him because he would run after them till he collapses. The fact that he is much older does not stop his enthusiasm for chasing balls. When Lisa adopted him, he was a bit on the chubbier side and needed to shed some weight. When we saw him, he was very lean and fit. Lisa had put him on a diet of more veggies but the main reason for his weight loss was the fact that he could finally move, run and be the dog he was always meant to be. In some way he reminded me of myself: I spent a major part of my young and teenage life with my head in books, was not encouraged to pursue sports since academics was seen as my strength. I was an obese child which also meant that even if I wanted to try my hand at sports, I was ridiculed because of my size. Years later when I could finally decide for myself, I found my love for sports. Today, people often tend to say that I just cannot sit still and am constantly on my feet. I love to
exercise, to run and walk. If allowed to I would probably spend the whole day on my feet. You will rarely catch me sitting in a corner and reading a book nowadays 🙂 Sometimes I think that there is a part of me trying to catch up with all the sport that I missed as a child. Leo reminded me that it is never too late to start moving; to find out what one was always meant to be and to do it then. He also reminded me that when one has found one’s calling, it doesn’t make sense to waste time thinking about the years one has wasted on things that were not one’s calling. Living life to the full in the present is what matters, not wasting the present by dwelling on the past, no matter how awful and trapped one was in that past. Looking at Leo running behind the balls was a reminder that my past does not define who I am today.
Zoe is also one of the founding members of the Team Golden Oldies. Due to her senior years, she does not hear very well. She also tends to keep to herself and is not one to come forward for cuddles or pets. So you can imagine how happy I was when I was sitting at Lisa’s table surrounded by Sam, Murphy B Bear, Marlie, Mollie Moo Cow and I suddenly felt someone nudging my knee from under the table. And there was Zoe who had decided she wanted to check me out. Gentle and quiet Zoe showed me that you can be old and not hear very well but you can still hear with your heart, see what others cannot see and be part of a conversation or a group. She was very much part of the group when we all went up to the cul-de-sac to watch Sam and Leo chase balls. And here again she came to me a couple of times for a pet, which for me was very precious since it came from her.
Poppy is a very special girl. She is the youngest of the Team and is around 6-7 years old. Poppy is a puppy farm girl and spent most of her life on a puppy farm where dogs are held in terrible conditions for breeding purposes. Most puppy farm girls are traumatised but Poppy is probably one of the most traumatised dogs. Under Lisa’s patience and love Poppy is taking some major steps forward and is today much further than she was a year back. But I digress.
Poppy was completely shut down when she arrived in Lisa’s home. I have followed Poppy’s story from the day she came to Lisa; her story has moved most of Lisa’s readers and so meeting her was indeed very special. I had absolutely no expectations meeting her – I just wanted to see her even if it was from afar. Poppy’s story is a beautiful reminder that some of us cannot “just forget” our past and move on (like maybe Leo has). When dealing with trauma and abuse, there are no comparisons. We all need our time to deal with the wounds of the past and everyone has the right to get or take the time they need to heal. Poppy is a reminder that when it comes to healing, sometimes we take one step forward and two steps backwards. And that it doesn’t matter when we do that, it is not a reason for discouragement. Looking at the tremendous progress that Poppy has made shows me how much courage one sometimes needs to trust again after one has been badly abused.When we met her she was still very wary of anyone new; did not allow anyone other than Lisa to touch her and did not trust any males (other than Ian) at all. So it was a big birthday gift when Poppy allowed me to pet her briefly and did not run away immediately.
What transpired the next day was a big step in my healing process. We visited the team again just before leaving. And Poppy not only allowed me to pet her again, she even allowed Bernd to pet her. This was something that caught us all by surprise since she is particularly afraid of men. She even seemed to enjoy being petted by Bernd. As I have mentioned in my posts, Bernd and I have not had an easy road. There has been much hurt and heartbreak along the way. Looking at the way someone as traumatised as Poppy was allowing Bernd to pet her told me that if she trusted him, so could I. This was a major turning point in our relationship – one that led to our renewing our vows a few months later.
A year has passed since that memorable day in Arakoon, South West Rocks. So much has happened since and so much is happening now. I will be celebrating my birthday in a very different way than I had planned or imagined. Covid-19 has brought normal life to a standstill. Today is Day 3 of the Lockdown in Bavaria.
And yet there is so much to be thankful for. One of them is that I could spend this day last year with the Team Golden Oldies. It was that day a year ago when I was sitting on the grass with Mollie Moo Cow’s head on my lap; surrounded by Murphy B Bear, Marlie, Zoe and Poppy; watching Sam and Leo chasing balls; Lisa and Ian sitting on the bench….that is the day I learnt what contentment is. I remember sitting there and thinking that if I didn’t live another day, I wouldn’t mind because I was content with all that I had and with what God had given me. So whenever I am stressed or disturbed, I tend to close my eyes and think about that day one year ago. And it brings me peace and contentment again.
Thank you Lisa for the precious gift of that day – it has carried me through the year. And it will carry me through hopefully many more years.
And no matter what the world looks like today I know God will make a way, my future is in His Hands and He has a good plan for me.