A dog gone dog

Sometimes I think we neglect the things that are most important to us, because we forget how short life can be.  It was in Bloomington, 9 years ago when a little “clearance” puppy changed our lives forever.  She was a $75 animal shelter special that someone dumped on the side of the road.  They think she was left because of her Merle coat—the same coloring that attracted me to her in he first place.  Naturally, I called Seth and told him I found this adorable puppy that I couldn’t live without.  He immediately asked, “What kind is it?”  He had his heart set on a golden retriever or a lab…  “It’s a Catahoula Leopard,” I said coyly.  He knew he was in trouble.  After very little arm twisting, Ana (the second half of Indi-Ana) was ours.

It was only a month before our wedding—we were looking to start a real life together—complete with house, dog, and kids down the line.  She was the beginning of our story together.  After chewing up 10+ pairs of shoes, my glasses, our molding—she proved to be a good test for our relationship too.

When I got pregnant unexpectedly, the dreams of having a second dog—Indi—were dashed, and soon our family of three was four.  Ana’s role in the family waivered as Lilly took center stage, but she never stopped getting excited to see us come home, go on a walk, or tug one of her toys.  She was gentle and loyal and loving to a fault.

When we sold our house and moved into an apartment, it was hard on her.  She hated climbing the three stories to the “treehouse” as Lilly called it, and we grew frustrated with her as she had accidents like she never had before.  But when I had my first ectopic pregnancy, I swear she knew I was sad and laid with me with her mussle gently resting on my legs.

When our new home was built, she struggled as we waited for the grasseed to grow in her new backyard.  She hated the mud on her paws and hated not going outside as often, but she made do as we tried to give her extra walks.

When I became pregnant with Gwen, Ana’s role in the Garrison family was further diminished.  The needs of my girls came first, but she never seemed to mind—happily fading into the background but still loving the attention from all of the visitors to our home.

When I had my second ectopic pregnancy, it was a walk with Seth, the girls and Ana that made me feel centered again—like this family of five was all I needed to be happy.  Even though she struggled during the latter part of the walk, I didn’t recognize that her time would so quickly come to an end.  I didn’t realize that walk where she gave me so much peace would be our final walk as a complete family.

That’s the thing about dogs—they give to you when you need them most and never ask for anything but love and affection.  I look back at all the times I shoo’d her away and would do just about anything to have her face resting on my knee again.

As my Grandpa used to say, “she was a dog gone dog.”  Our family will never be the same without you, Ana.  Sorry we didn’t have more time together.  You will always represent the beginning of this Garrison clan.  You made us a family.

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Adopt a Whale

After a fairly awful week at work, I needed some inspiration.  I am a firm believer that that inspiration comes in many forms, and for me, it came in the form of a Beluga Whale.

A random conversation about sharks led me to recall my childhood desire to make the world a better place—one whale at a time.  You see, I had this amazing first grade teacher named Miss Bradbury.  She taught my seven year old self that everyone regardless of size or age or race or gender could change the world.

We watched a “Nick News” story from the one and only Linda Ellerbee about Humpback whales, and I made it my mission along with my class to raise money to adopt a whale, so that scientists could study them in order to prevent extinction. As a class, we chose to adopt “Salt” whose best friend was named “Pepper.”  Humpback whales are named for their flukes and Salt’s fluke was almost all white.  We received monthly updates from Salt and posted them in our classroom.  We even wrote a letter to the President of the United States about our concerns for the environment.

When I received the official response from the White House—a “signed” letter from Bill Clinton and Al Gore, my seven year old self believed I really changed the world.  I was elated.  We did it!

It is funny how much of an impact Salt the Whale had on me that year, but more than 20 years later, I had completely forgotten about Salt and the joy that comes when you are part of a group that makes a difference (no matter how small).

So, as I recalled this story with my colleagues, one of them googled Salt the Whale, and we learned she is still alive and has had 15 calves.  She was last spotted in 2016.  (The last calf’s name is Siracha in case you were interested.) Suddenly, another one of my colleagues started singing “Baby beluga…” and several others including myself recalled the song from the deepest parts of our memory bank and began singing “in the deep blue sea…”. Laughter erupted and soon our mission was clear—we would adopt a beluga whale today.  Thanks Raffi!

The message spread across the office.  We soon had enough money to adopt a beluga whale and started another fund for a baby polar bear.  Smiles abounded.  Joy spread.  Happiness in its truest childlike form erupted.

This morning on Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild, another sign came—a countdown of white animals found in nature, and the Beluga Whale was featured.  Happiness is found in small, unexpected moments of connection, and I found a smile running across my face.

So, adopt a whale.  Give to a stranger.  Share of yourself.  You’ll remember that seven year old inside.

Baby beluga in the deep blue sea

Swim so wild and you swim so free

Heaven above and the sea below

And a little white whale on the go

Baby beluga, baby beluga

Is the water warm

Is your mama home with you, so happy

Way down yonder where the dolphins play

Where you dive and splash all day

Waves roll in and the waves roll out

See the water squirtin’ out of your spout

Baby beluga, oh, baby beluga

Sing your little song

Sing for all your friends, we like to hear you

When it’s dark, you’re home and fed

Curl up, snug in your water bed

Moon is shining and the stars are out

Good night, little whale, good night

Baby beluga, oh, baby beluga

With tomorrow’s sun, another day’s begun

You’ll soon be wakin’

Baby beluga in the deep blue sea

Swim so wild and you swim so free

Heaven above and the sea below

And a little white whale on the go

You’re just a little white whale on the go

Raffi’s Baby Beluga for your viewing pleasure.  You know you want to.

#happiness #adoptawhale #purpose #dontshootbambi

“The purpose of life is to be happy.” – Dalai Lama

This simple and profound quote popped up on my desk calendar today and made me think, why is it so hard to be happy?

So many of us are in pursuit of happiness.  We look for better careers, new homes or cars, travel to places unknown, start families, or even start writing a blog to find ourselves again.  (Hint—that’s me.)  Yet, despite our best efforts, the contentment that we seek always seems out of reach.  Maybe we shouldn’t be pursuing happiness at all.  Maybe the secret is learning to be (happy).

When I was a kid, my dad used to sing this old Bobby McFerrin song at me whenever I was upset:

Here’s a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

Don’t worry, be happy

In every life we have some trouble

But when you worry you make it double

Don’t worry, be happy

Don’t worry, be happy now

The best moments of my life have come in moments of being still and not worrying.  Do you not feel lighter when you lay in the grass staring at the clouds rolling by?  Have you ever stopped to look at the beauty of a fly’s iridescent wings?  Have you rocked to sleep on a boat in the middle of a lake?

I’ll never forget the peace and happiness I felt holding my newborn for the first time-watching her sleep and take breathes in and out in awe of the miracle of life.  My heart had never been so full that I didn’t want the feeling of happiness to end.

The modern life has led us all to believe that we must be doing exciting things and showing them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat to find happiness.  Somehow we have tricked ourselves into believing happiness is something to earn or gain through effort and motion.

I think the pause is where the happiness exists.  Paul told us to “Let it be.”  Our happiness demands that we listen to him.  “Happiness is” Charlie Brown said.  Happiness is being.