Gosh, it has been a while since my last post on here, and yet….it feels like it was just two minutes ago since I was posting about losing my beloved German Shepherd Curley. So much has happened since then, so many more trials and tribulations, so many more things to deal with. My life seems to have become a utopia of ups and downs, twists and turns, and as Dickens wrote in “A Tale Of Two Cities”, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I cannot think of a better quote to sum up the last two months.
So, where do I start?
After I lost my beloved Curley, I too became lost. I had had a dog in my life for the past 14 years, ever since I had my Toyah in March 2001 from Danemere Animal Rescue. Howie followed in October 2001, and they were the best of pals and my babies. I lost Toyah in April 2008 when she died out of the blue of a heart attack at almost 12 years old, so a good age for a German Shepherd. I then got Curley the following month, and she was 6 years old at the time. I lost Howie in December 2009 at the grand old age of 14 and a half, he had cancer and as I made the decision and booked the vet to come out, he passed away peacefully on his own. At one point I had Curley, Howie and I looked after my ex sister in law’s two dogs Ollie and Meg for 8 months while she lived in Cumbria and moved back here, so I had four dogs in my house!
So when I was told that Curley had a tumour in her tummy and it had burst, I knew that I had to do the right thing and let her go. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emptiness I felt and how dead my house felt without her and without a dog in it. I can honestly say I felt as lost as I did when I lost Frankie, probably even more so, because when I lost Frankie as awful as I felt I had to keep going for Curley. Suddenly I had nothing to keep going for, and I plunged into quite a low state, hence why I couldn’t even get the strength or energy to write for this blog.
I’m sure that many reading this who are not dog lovers or who have never owned a dog must be thinking for goodness sake, it was only a dog! But in the absence of a child, through all the miscarriages I had over the years and losing Frankie, Curley WAS my child, she was my baby, and I could NOT have got through all that without her. She gave me a purpose and a reason to carry on, a reason to get up in the mornings. I had to be strong and carry on for her, because she was dependent on me. When she died, a huge part of me died with her.
Both my husband and I struggled like mad without her. I chose to go out the office to work rather than work from home as I couldn’t bear to be in the house on my own without her. It felt so empty, so quiet…like a ghost house. As much as I love my husband, even when he came home from work the void wasn’t filled. I always said that I wouldn’t have another dog when I lost Curley, but I said that thinking I would have a baby which would take up all my time. I didn’t ask to get a diagnosis of hyper fertility, and I didn’t ask to lose Frankie, nor did I ask for all the miscarriages I had. Having made the decision to stop trying for an elusive baby, I had all this time on my hands, and a ton of love to give. So what was I to do? Giving a loving home to another furbaby was the natural thing for me to do.
About two weeks after we lost Curley my husband and I went to the Dogs Trust near us to put our names down to say that we were looking to home another dog. We had a look at a few of the dogs there, but the ones we liked were already reserved to go to a home. As we left there I said to my husband let’s go to Danemere Animal Rescue, because that’s where I got Toyah and Howie from and I know them there.
Little did we know…..
When we got there I was greeted by the owner Sue, and after we had a chat and I told her I had lost Curley and was looking to home another dog, she asked me what kind of dog I was looking for. I said to her I’m looking for a medium to large dog, perhaps another German Shepherd, Retriever or Husky. As I was telling her this I could see her smiling, and she said, “We’ve got one in that I think would be perfect for you. Her name is Thea, she’s a German Shepherd/Husky cross and she was dropped off here by a single mum who’s 4 year old son was diagnosed with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties, so she couldn’t cope with her and her son.”
She called one of her members of staff, Dan, to go and get her and as soon as I saw her, I fell in love with her straight away. She was 18 months old, quite exuberant, but I could see that with some training she would be a lovely dog. We took her for a walk round the grounds, and after a few laps we stopped and gave her loads of fuss. The one thing we weren’t sure of was her name, we didn’t like Thea. We had a rethink and decided on Poppy. We used to keep calling Curley our puppy, so Poppy/Puppy was very similar and we thought it suited her better.
The rest is history.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
The first two weeks Russ struggled to connect with her and for her to settle in, to the point that he wanted to take her back. She was also very over exuberant when playing with him, which he took to be aggression, but it wasn’t, she was just playing and I consulted loads of dog behaviourists and trainers to make sure, and they ALL said it was just playing. However, I understood it from his point of view, as he wasn’t used to a young dog or dogs in general – Curley was 9 by the time we got together and already established with me. Suddenly we had a young teenager of a dog, and while I was used to that because of Toyah and Howie, Russ wasn’t. Also, because I was just beginning to come out of the darkness I had been feeling I too struggled and I wasn’t perfect by any means, and probably not very nice to live with. But thanks to some calming techniques, my parents having her for 4 days to give us a break to get some perspective and enlisting the help of a lovely behaviourist and trainer called Sandra Raw from the Beech Behaviour Centre in Worcester Poppy is now settling in an absolute treat and Russ is making a huge effort with her and getting much better with her.
I am not exaggerating when I say that she has completely changed my life. I go out walking with her for an hour every morning and over an hour every evening and I feel so much better for it, apart from the odd occasion where I have to spend all day at work at the office or travel for the day for work, and then she goes to my parents for the day, but it isn’t often. I’ve lost weight, I have more energy and my mood has improved massively. I’ve also been more creative, and I wish I could have put that creativity to good use, but homing Poppy and settling her in hasn’t been the only thing to have happened in the last two months, so I found that I developed the dreaded “writers block”.
My beloved Aunty (my Dad’s sister), who is 83, has very advanced dementia/Alzheimers disease and it has been a nightmare for us all to deal with, particularly my parents, who have had to care for her on a daily basis. It has broken my heart to see my wonderful, lovely, caring and glamourous Aunty degenerate so rapidly and forget even the most basic of things and us all one by one. We tried to keep her in her own home as much as possible with carers going in twice a day, but a couple of weeks ago things got much worse when she had a couple of falls, so two weeks respite care at a home was arranged for her. However, she dug her heels in and wouldn’t go, and there was nothing we could do to make her, but she wasn’t safe in her own home anymore. She then had another fall and was admitted to hospital, where she is now, and she won’t be able to go back home. We just have to wait until a place at a care home is found for her.
Alzheimers is such a cruel and horrible disease, and I’m doing my grieving for my Aunty now, as the person she was has gone forever, only her physical body remains. I have such fond memories of her – we used to go and watch Shakespeare plays in Stratford, and go to the theatre and cinema together. When I was 14 we went to see Hamlet performed by the Royal Shakespeare Production Company in Stratford, and a relatively then unknown actor called Patrick Stewart was in it. Little did I know that he would go on to play the part of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I love, and many other parts in films and series including the X-Men films. I remember seeing him for the first time in Star Trek: The Next Generation and marvelling at how I had seen him in Hamlet not long previously. We also went to see Pavarotti live at the NEC together in 1992, we both loved Luciano Pavarotti and Thje 3 Tenors, and when my Dad got us tickets to go and see him at the NEC she said it was a “dream come true” for her.
My fondest memory of my wonderful Aunty Marie was in 2000 when we went to see a play called “Love Letters” at Malvern Theatres, which starred only two people, but anyone who knows me well knows that my all-time favourite actor is the late, great Charlton Heston. He was in this play with his wife which they wrote together, and when I heard that he was going to be performing at Malvern Theatres I just had to go. I knew my Aunty would want to go too, and at the time her friend John was still alive, so I got tickets for us all and he took us in his car.
The play was brilliant, I was riveted to every second of it. When we left the theatre and got in the car we saw a group of people hovering around the backstage door, so my Aunty said to John, “Quick, pull over, he’s going to come out!” Poor John had to find somewhere to pull in quickly, but he did bless him, and me and my Aunty went to the backstage area while John waited in the car. Sure enough, Charlton Heston came out, met the crowd and signed autographs.
How I wish I had a camera on me! This was, believe it or not, in the days before smartphones and before every phone had a camera on it. I didn’t take my small digital camera with me as it stated that no photography was allowed on the tickets, and I so wish I had – it is something I have always regretted. I never got a photo of that amazing night, only my programme which Charlton Heston signed, but I shook his hand and said how much I loved and admired all his work, even the Planet Of The Apes films, and he held my hand and said, “thank you, God bless you”. My Aunty also shook his hand and talked to Charlton Heston, and he gave her a kiss on the cheek! I will never, ever forget this as long as I live, or rather, after what I’ve witnessed in the last few weeks, I should say I will never forget this as long as I am of sound mind, because if I too develop Alzheimers it will strip me of everything I am, just as it has stripped my Aunty of everything she was.
In other news, I am absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for a Butterfly Award again this year in the “Most Inspirational Mother” category. I also nominated my good friend Rev’d David Southall in the “Best Bereavement Worker” category, and I’m thrilled that he too has been shortlisted. The Butterfly Awards are so important to recognise the great work that healthcare professionals are doing to help bereaved parents, and for bereaved parents to come together.
So that’s my update for the last two months, and why I haven’t updated this blog. I have still been grieving, but in a different way, for my Curley and my wonderful Aunty. I think of Frankie every day, but life has gone on regardless, and I have a new life now. I am a mother to a beautiful and wonderful furbaby who needs me just as much as a baby or child would, I am trying to be there and support my parents as best I can, I have my work and I’m trying to rebuild my relationship with my husband.
Usually August is a quiet and boring month. It is a month where I refocus, think about what projects I’m working on and chuck out anything that isn’t working for me. But this August I haven’t had a second to even think about refocusing, and it is already the 21st! But I do have some ideas, some plans and some thoughts about the future direction I want to take.
I’ve done this quite a few times, I’ve started a lot of things and not finished them, but the way I see it, it is never too late to change direction – it would be more of a crime to carry on doing something for the sake of it, something that isn’t working for you, because you started it and because you feel you “have” to do it, rather than re-evaluating and adjusting the road and path you are on. I would rather readjust that path and road a million times, find my passion and the things and projects that are right for me, rather than carry on doing things I’ve started that I don’t feel are working. My husband says I am a master of starting things but a poor finisher, and he is right because in black and white to him and to others I’m sure that is exactly what it looks like. But there is a lot of grey in that for me, and I know it because I am finding my passion. I started “Frankie’s Legacy” as a charity because I thought it was the “right” and only thing to do after I lost Frankie. I felt it was the only way I could keep Frankie’s memory and legacy alive. I now know different. It wasn’t the case at all, and it wasn’t the right road and path for me. I was running myself ragged, and Frankie would not have wanted that. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, there is more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes.
My next entry will focus on those future plans, plans for this blog and my plans for a new one. It will also focus on where I am headed, and the new road and journey I am now on as the mother to my beautiful furbaby Poppy.
One thing I will say though is that this blog will stay, and I will keep writing for it. There may be gaps, some of those gaps may be long, and there may be times that I don’t write like this last two months, but please stay tuned and bear with me, and know that whenever there is a gap, it is for a reason.
Till next time everyone,
Lisa – Frankie’s Mummy, and Poppy’s Mummy xx