Tag Archives: grief

Si?ab: A Tribute to a German Shepherd #Dog

adultSiab blog
Everything in a writer’s life shapes her writing whether that is joy or sorrow. On Saturday at approximately 9:30 a.m. my beloved German Shepherd, Si?ab Vom Das Massiv, died. My wife and I were with her when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Her beautiful and gentle soul has been a guiding light in my writing and in my life. She was my Muse. It was she who guided my decision to write Death by Dog, a Special Crimes Team anti-dog fighting novel.

For several years, I bred Si?ab to a wonderful working line GSD, Griswold Von Grunheide owned by #SuzanneEviston, a police dog breeder and trainer. They produced excellent pups. Shortly after the sale of the last pup from Si?ab’s last litter I read an article in the newspaper about a German Shepherd who had been beaten nearly to death and tossed in a dumpster in Seattle to die. Fortunately, some kind soul heard a whimper from the dumpster and rescued the dog. He survived. I shuddered and quickly checked the photo of the dog. It was colored differently than any dogs birthed by Si?ab. I inhaled a relieved breath; however, the seeds of Death by Dog were sown.
dbdcover1

Dogs and books have been constants in my life. One of my first memories is of a dog named Trixie, a German Shepherd rescued from the Animal Shelter. After I learned to read at the age of six, I often hid in the attic of our old three-story house next to one of its grimy windows. As the dull light seeped through, I read for hours with Trixie lying next to my leg. For those hours, I was transported from my violence-ridden neighborhood into a different world.

My imagination fired by the stories I read had me scribbling stories of my own. My grandfather, Pap, would have me sit on his lap and read my latest story to him. He suffered through every childish word as if he listened to the next Pulitzer Prize winner.

As spring gave way to summer of my fifth grade year and school edged toward its three month closure my teacher, Mrs. V., made me promise to continue writing during vacation.That summer my family moved out of the neighborhood where I had grown up, yet I faithfully kept my promise to Mrs. V. Though Trixie died a couple of years before we moved, that June my mother took me to the Animal Shelter where I purchased a black Lab. I named him Laddie.

During those long summer days Laddie gamboled by my side as we walked up the grassy slope to the copse of trees at the back of the property where my mother had moved us. He would sniff and wander about, and then return to lie down by my side as I scribbled story after story. By the start of school that fall, I was hooked on writing.

Later in life during those times I found myself either living on the road or homeless, dogs and books remained my constant companions. They stoked the guttering fires of hope; they fueled the flames that burned inside of me. And I wrote.

I wrote articles for newspapers about racism and the horror of the child welfare system. I wrote poems and flung them into the world through the pages of anthologies and newspapers. I wrote short stories and published some of them in small magazines. And always a dog lay next to me.

During the past ten years, Si?ab led me into the experiences of #Schutzhund and #agility.
SIAB_TUNNEL

She followed me as I planted trees and fought back invasive blackberries as my wife and I transformed a neglected farm into a wildlife/wild bird habitat. She trotted next to me as I rode on horseback through forests and along mountain trails; and camped far from city lights.

She never knew a stranger unless he threatened my wife or me, and then her teeth would warn him away. Children mauled her as she lay waiting patiently for her turn on the agility fields. Inevitably, people who met her came to love and respect her gentle soul.

When my wife’s old German Shepherd, Katrina, died last spring, Si?ab spent a lot of time during those first few months comforting my wife. These past few weeks, undoubtedly sensing that her time to Travel to the Other Side loomed close, she spent nearly every waking and sleeping moment next to me as if she knew how much I would soon need those memories.

Now the job of comforting and inspiring me falls to Isis, Si?ab’s daughter. This morning she wrapped herself around my legs and pressed against me; she dispensed kisses and laid quietly on the couch as I drank my morning tea—a job Si?ab always performed to get my day off to a pleasant start.
Start day w Siab

Dogs and books. They have been constants in my world, grounding me; inspiring me. They give me strength and courage to face life and to send out words that I hope will–someday, somehow–help transform the world into a better place.
5 GSDs in a row
Siab Rainbow Bridge

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4 Ways Journaling Heals

light in darkness

With the first anniversary of the Highway 530 Mudslide looming ever closer, emotions are intense.

Words are powerful and can help us deal with emotions. This is why keeping a journal can be a healing process. By writing down the feelings we are experiencing, we can begin to deal with them rather than allowing them to eat away at us on the inside.

This can be especially true of grief. In your journal:

  1. Write a story about the person you lost
  2. Describe a happy memory with that person
  3. Write a conversation you wish you could have with that person. Try to include what you think they would tell you
  4. Describe your feelings
  5. List two ways you can honor the memory of your loved one

No matter how dark

Another way journaling can help us heal is to reduce negative self-talk, increase positive self-talk and help us recognize achievements.

  1. Write down the negative self-talk. (ie: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, and so on)
  2. Now write down five positive things about yourself ( ie: I’m a good person, I help others, I do my job well, Yesterday I phoned my parents because they like hearing from me, I like my hair (or whatever physical attribute you think is positive) and so on.
  3. Write down two ways you will use to improve yourself. Make these very specific and have a deadline for implementing or achieving. Do not use such things as I will lose ten pounds this month. Instead list it like this: I will make three healthy dinners this week. I will not eat bread for five days. I will read one book every month.
  4. On a clean page, at the end of the deadline, write down what you achieved, why you didn’t achieve the entire goal and how you intend to approach it now. BE SURE to INCLUDE ANY progress toward your goal, such as: I fixed two healthy dinners this week. I failed to schedule in enough time to fix the third dinner. This week I will write up my menu for three healthy dinners, go shopping for the ingredients at least the day before the dinner, and I will put the dinners on my daily schedule.

Memories capture moments in our hearts. By briefly recalling a memory, we can help heal ourselves.  When you journal, you can capture your impression of the moment. The way your heart lifted when you watched the sunset; the way the brownie your sister made melted on your tongue; the sweet chocolate taste that flooded your mouth; or the warmth you felt when your spouse embraced you. Life can be rough at times and being able to return to a journal, leaf through it and recall these moments in poignant detail has the ability to pull our souls up from the darkest times, if only for a moment. Just remember:

imagequote sunsets prepare for new day

Journaling helps in the healing process.

  1. We can capture a moment in time; how we saw and felt at that moment
  2. We can release negative emotions in a healthy manner and brainstorm better ways to handle situations
  3. We can increase positive emotions on a daily basis or whenever we need to
  4. We can accept our grief, validate our feeling of grief, and begin the process of healing.

One last word: I am NOT a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, medical doctor or other professional helper. This article is NOT medical advice or even professional advice. I am an author and have found ways to use writing to deal with emotion.

If you are feeling angry, depressed, unable to motivate, suicidal, or any strong negative emotion that lingers, PLEASE contact a professional. Depression is a common illness. It appears in many disguises such as a shortness of temper, a feeling of not wanting to get out of bed, a feeling that life isn’t worth it, not having an appetite, wanting to sleep a lot. It comes to all of us, just like the flu, at various times in our lives. It is a normal feeling, just like when a cold attacks you. However if it won’t go away, just like if that cold or flu lingers, you need professional help to rid yourself of the illness. DO NOT hesitate.

One of my favorite actors was Robyn Williams. But, Robyn Williams was unable to seek help to get through a particularly rough spot in his life, and a bright light left our world with his suicide. Do not remove your bright light. Believe me, you DESERVE help, even if you don’t think so right now.

Are you depressed?

If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from clinical depression.

  • you can’t sleep or you sleep too much
  • you can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
  • you feel hopeless and helpless
  • you can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
  • you have lost your appetite or you can’t stop eating
  • you are much more irritable, short-tempered, or aggressive than usual
  • you’re consuming more alcohol than normal or engaging in other reckless behavior
  • you have thoughts that life is not worth living (seek help immediately if this is the case)

To read more about depression:  http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/aug/12/robin-williams-suicide-and-depression-are-not-selfish

 

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FORGOTTEN AMID THE DEVASTATION: DARRINGTON

Nestled amid the foothills and the mountains of the North Cascades, the small town of Darrington–population 1,405– appears untouched by the Highway 530 Mudslide that obliterated the tiny community of Hazel, Washington at 10:57 AM on Saturday, March 22nd.

Appearances are deceiving. The townspeople of Darrington struggle to meet the day to day challenges of an essentially landlocked area. With their main route of travel, Highway 530, blocked for the foreseeable future, these ordinary people struggle with the extraordinary issues of finding ways to commute the extra two to four additional hours–EACH WAY–to jobs and doctor’s appointments.

And they feel forgotten. What news caster is calling out, “Darrington strong! Darrington proud! The Darrington Do-ers!”?

Nearly everything on the news yells, “Oso strong! Oso Mudslide!”  Yet, the town of Oso was affected only by the loss of loved ones to the mud. Oso is located WEST of the Mudslide, and are not blocked from any of their normal activities.  What they suffer is the emotional loss, just the same as many other towns in Washington: Darrington, Arlington, Bellingham, Puyallup, and even in Montana. Darrington is located EAST of the Mudslide.

It was the tiny community of Hazel that the mud swallowed on that fateful morning.

While the  townspeople of Darrington grieve for lost loved ones, they battle the misconception of the public that money is pouring into Darrington to help them in this time of need. The loudly touted relief of ‘gas cards for commuters’ is not nearly the relief many believe it to be. The sad reality is that a commuting family will receive an initial $100 gas card and it will be reloaded only once a week at $60 from that point on. It does not matter if more than one family member must commute. That is all the assistance they will receive.

In a desperate effort to find more gas money, many families turn to the Food Bank. Last Saturday the Food Bank served 73 NEW families. The Food Bank’s resources, always stretched, are stretched even further. Many of the food deliveries wound up at the HUB in Arlington, a 85 mile trip one way. My wife and I took the journey yesterday to retrieve supplies for the Food Bank in our pick up truck.

Red Cross Counseling is for the immediate families of the victims, mother, father, siblings. Those in our town, stricken by grief for friends and neighbors do not have access to the Red Cross grief assistance.

The retired Veteran who shuttles three friends to appointments at the VA Hospital drives an additional 85 miles one way to get to the point where he normally starts from on that already long and gas-costly journey. Since March 22, this older gentleman has received a total of $150 to help with the extra gas costs. He makes the journey between one and three times per WEEK.

Beautiful thing happened yesterday, though: a little boy was visiting Darrington, having lunch at the Burger Barn, and he and his mother heard the old-timer talking. After they ate, the little boy walked up and handed the older gentleman a roll of bills. The older gentleman handed it back, but the mother said, “You are denying him the right to help.” The older man accepted the donation, and shook the young boy’s hand. After they left I heard him tell his friend, “Now I don’t have to worry where to get gas money for that appointment tomorrow.”

Burger Barn

Many small business owners are wondering if they will survive the coming summer, usually their busy season. If the road doesn’t open, there will be no tourists; there will be no way to host the music festivals, the art shows that bring in hundreds of people from all over.

While the media continues to use the misnomer, ‘Oso Mudslide’, don’t let it fool you. It was the Highway 530 Mudslide.

Words have power. Please, honor the tiny community of Hazel that once sat between the river and Highway 530 and was swallowed by the tidal way of mud, and the small town of Darrington that continues to feel the devastation of being isolated. Please, call the mudslide by its true name: The Highway 530 Slide.

Oso_landslide_(WSP)

 

 

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