Monthly Archives: April 2014

  • Comfortable with Feeling Uncomfortable

    In a lot of my professional development and coaching work, there’s a phrase that comes up frequently: Learn to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. This concept has probably been THE theme of the last several months of my life. In the past, I had always prided myself for doing all kinds of self-help/self-improvement but honestly, these last several months have tested me at a totally different level.

    At the end of April, I attended a training in SF on storytelling for nonprofits. The speaker was a very impressive woman with commanding presence. She was a former broadcast journalist who had started her own video production company, crafting video stories to help nonprofits promote their work. I had just busted my ass speed walking from the Caltrain station to arrive at the classroom on time, and within the first two minutes of starting the talk, she gave the audience an assignment. Think of a story you want to tell. Now split up into partners, and tell your story in two minutes.

    Hold up!!! Are you fucking serious? Already, I’m being subjected to this socially awkward activity? Shit!! I mean, what story am I gonna tell? She gave us a whiteboard list of suggestions like, a pet story or a travel story or a relationship story or a funny story. Goddamnit, really? I thought of my blog: surely, I’d be able to draw from my recent posts…

    Nope. Nada, because ALL of my posts from the last two months have been about Remy, and shit, there is no way I’m going to bring that up to a stranger and lose my marbles in the process. I started panicking. WTF??? Thankfully, the rational, calmer part of my brain started convincing myself: you say you’re interested in communications work. This is what that shit is all about. (In other words, serves you right, dumbass!!) Now, think fast and go!

    Luckily, my partner was some old startup exec, who apparently had his startup story all ready to go at the tip of his tongue. So he volunteered to speak first. That bought me some time. He talked about attending a bunch of hackathons, cobbling together an unexpected/unlikely team of developers, and then forming a startup to solve some medical patient education issue. Done. I had wanted to use his talk time to plan my story, but I actually had to pay attention, so that plan totally fell through. Then it was my turn, and the only story I could think of that was NOT about Remy, was my airplane story with L. Ugh. I wasn’t really confident in that story, but I had zero time so I rolled with it. I got through the story and then sat back utterly relieved. Then, the speaker asks, “Who wants to share their story with the class?”

    Whaaa?? Jesus Christ. Enough already!! Thankfully, a few extroverts piped up. Then, my partner volunteered to tell his story, which basically came across like a company plug. Then the speaker asked, “Who has a personal story to share? …Does anyone recommend their partner’s story?” OMFG, she’s a freaking insatiable badger!!! So I sit there thinking, whatever. I’m in the front row, but I’m not gonna volunteer, and my partner’s not gonna recommend me. Let’s just get through this and on to the meat of this talk. Well, whatdya fucking know? He recommends my story. Yeah. Are you kidding? So then, she urges me: “Come tell your story.” She senses my hesitation and then says, we won’t force you if you wish to decline. Well great. Give me an out that makes me look like a wuss!!! So fine. I agree to do it. She makes me stand up and turn around to face the room full of like 50 people. I power through. And all during, I get dead stares and bored faces. Shit, shit, shit!!! She rings the silly little bell at the two-minute mark, and I’m not even done! I finally wrap it up in 30 seconds. Fuck. I mean, I’m someone who “Elizabeth Doles” every speaking opportunity possible, so this on-the-fly crap was a complete nightmare. It was awful. I don’t even know if people liked my story, but whatever, I got ‘er done. And as perfectionist as I am (I still think about how I could have told the story better), in retrospect, I’m glad that I stood up and spoke. It didn’t kill me, and surely, as I do more of these uncomfortable exercises, I’m desensitizing myself to the annoying anxiety and awkwardness, right? I’m going to overcome that shit, because I cannot be inconvenienced, you know what I’m saying? :)

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  • Off the Wagon

    Yeah, this has been a trying week. I haven’t been sleeping well again: Bubbey’s snoring has hit an all-time high these days, so I sleep on my CB2 daybed now in my office. Even when he wears the nose strips, it doesn’t help. When I reflect back to this past month, I feel so discouraged about the lost time… like already, almost another month has come and gone. In March, I was feeling so awesome: I had been doing that 7-minute workout, I was getting my energy back, I was ramping up with my coaching sessions and professional developments and networking, I was doing stuff with friends… Then, Remy started having issues again, John went home for a week, came back, and bam, she was gone.

    Sure, I had visitors and whatever to distract me and keep me from crying in bed all day, but shit, no matter how you slice it, I’m officially off the wagon… off ALL wagons. I haven’t been to the ranch since god knows when. No 7-minute workout. No spinach smoothie diet. No ukulele. No committed meditation practice. No yoga. No nothing. I even stopped my weekly coaching sessions. I mean, all facets are just stopped.

    I try to rationalize all this loss of momentum. Sure, the loss of Remy is massive. Three weeks later, and I’m still crying at the drop of a fucking dime. I had a job interview this afternoon with an area city. It was an interesting experience– pretty sterile and hyper-procedural to be honest, but whatever. I went to the mall after that, and had myself a bit of retail therapy, and then in the car on the drive home? Tears. Later this evening, I go soak in the hot tub. More tears.

    I dunno what I expected in terms of where I would be by now… I mean, I’d always dreaded her passing, anticipating with fair certainty that I was going to be a disaster afterwards. And then I thought I handled it relatively well when the time finally came, but now I find myself wondering when will I truly get back to normalcy? Am I demanding too much of myself? But I mean, what happens to people who have to still show up at a job and shit? I dunno. Sometimes, my mind is just unrelenting, you know? If I’m not obsessing over what’s wrong with me, I’m obsessing over external factors, other things in the world that I cannot control.

    Recently whenever I’ve looked at myself in the mirror, I see such a tired and aged face. My skin texture is better (thanks to the acne brush on my Clarisonic), but damn, my eyes or something just look frickin’ haggard. What the hell???? And my arms are flabby again. When I tried on a bunch of sleeveless tops today at the mall, shit was squishing out the sides. WTF. I know, I’m doing it again: the goddamn nitpicking. Argh, have I learned nothing from all those positive psychology classes and readings? Don’t expend the energy on the self criticism and blame: get back on the damn wagon! Yeah, that 7-minute workout. Such a minimal time commitment, and it really got so much easier after I started doing it consistently. Well that’s all down the drain. I have not picked it up again since Pamela left the day after Remy died.

    Argh. Maybe tomorrow. Mind over body. Mind over body. I’m so tired and unmotivated, like I need a boost from somewhere, something, I dunno what exactly. I just don’t know. I suppose that’s what signals a funk, right? Some nebulous malaise and lethargy with no real answers. I feel myself slipping in a fits and spurts kind of way: two steps forward, three steps back kind of thing.

    This weekend, John and I are celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary in Yosemite. We’re taking Martin along. Remy was with us for all the other anniversaries. Sometimes, John would even have the pups “sign” my card. But she’s gone now. She really is gone.

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  • Different Realities

    So after I wallowed in self pity earlier this week, crying about how certain friends were lame and didn’t care, I had a conversation with Bubs last night. I had drafted a note in response to my friend’s text, and basically, I tried to explain how hurt I was by his lack of follow-through and investment in our friendship. For some reason, I felt this obligation to be honest, to say something, rather than to just drop him suddenly. Initially, it seemed more adult and mature to share what I was feeling. And yet, when I discussed this with John, he said there was really no point in verbalizing my hurt and disappointment. What kind of reaction did I expect from this person after saying these things? He would only feel guilt, anger, annoyance… he would likely think, “I have a lot going on, so I’m sorry if you’ve felt neglected. Fuck you, then!”

    Wow, really? John proceeded to say that people don’t have bad intention… they just get caught up with other parts of their lives. Why do I feel the need to apply such a scorched earth policy? Yeah, Bubs tells it to me straight. Maybe it is more for me… for my own closure, but he suggested that this could be an area for personal development, where I step away from such a binary view of friendship. Maybe re-classify relationships as dormant or active: people fall in and out of the active phase, but who knows, maybe later down the road we will reconnect and I might even call on them for something specific. Is it really necessary to burn all the bridges?

    Then I REALLY had a meltdown. I mean, what the fuck is wrong with me? I don’t know why I do this. I feel so compelled to speak what’s in my heart, and the consequence is that I’m unkind and just plain stupid. Later that night, I thought about the other times in my life when voicing/complaining about lack of attention yielded really harsh, negative reactions. Years ago, when John and I first started dating, I was so obsessed with our relationship. It was all about John all the time. My good friend N called to complain that I had dropped all my friends, and that I had changed. I grew so angry and irritated with her. Who are you to demand my attention? I’m not married to you. I’ll give you whatever attention I want when I want. There was something about her clamoring that really rubbed me the wrong way, and I refused to apologize for anything. I didn’t even agree with her accusations. The conversation went bad really fast. I was ready to just drop her ass. Years later, I guess she experienced something similar from a few of her friends, and so she called to say that she understood my reaction… But the point is, neither party was really right or wrong, it was a mismatch of timing– of where we were in our lives, of where we derived joy and energy, and things had shifted from the earlier status quo. I realize now that she wasn’t trying to accuse me of anything. She was simply trying to say that she felt hurt.

    A few years ago, when John and I were in couples counseling, I remember that my biggest issue was that he was working too hard– at the sacrifice of our relationship. I didn’t feel he was engaged and paying enough attention. When I tried to verbalize this to him, he reacted exactly as I had done with N and as he suspects my friend would react were I to send my note: defensive, angry, dismissive. He disagreed with my accusations and insisted that he was doing his best. I remembered crying and feeling like he was asking me to back up my statements, to provide proof. It turned into a debate, and finally, the therapist jumped in and said: “She is telling you that she feels hurt. She doesn’t feel valued or treasured. Whether the ‘facts’ uphold the claim or not, this is how she is feeling. She’s telling you that she feels sad and unloved. Those feelings are valid no matter what you or she thinks is the truth.” And there it was: we (both engineers) had gotten so damn hung up on the “facts” and the truth. The therapist finally said, there isn’t just one truth or one reality. Both people for any given situation may have completely different reads on the circumstance, and yet both interpretations are TRUE. Whoa, what???? I was feeling undervalued. He was feeling exhausted and unacknowledged and criticized. We both loved each other very much, but somehow we’d divided ourselves onto opposing camps and more importantly, we had started to question and doubt each others’ intentions. In other words, amidst this heated debate, we’d really started to imagine malice and ill-intention in the other person.

    And so last night, I argued that my intention for the letter was to share how I was feeling. But John said there was really minimal chance that the reaction and outcome would be positive. And thinking about these past scenarios, I can see what he’s saying. I remember that the therapist did say it was important for me to have some way to express my needs in our marriage before things got to a breaking point… a lot of that work involves saying, “I feel” rather than “I think.” And bringing my concerns up lightly without anger and criticism, to include suggestion in what I’d like to see… And then she suggested catching things early before they built up… I know, all these parameters come into play. Sounds frickin’ impossible to navigate, right??? I mean honestly, I still don’t have a clear sense for how to do this, and perhaps this level of frankness is still only reserved for marriage…

    So I dunno. That’s that. I suppose the approach with friends is to build my tolerance and patience for those who are less responsive than I’d like, and to NOT question intention. Perhaps even make up a story that yeah, there’s just lots of unimaginable, crazy life things happening. And then to be grateful for what people can give and trust that they are giving as much as they can. Yeah, part of the ESTJ in me thinks I’m just making excuses for them. Just sayin’. But like John said, consider this an exercise in personal growth: don’t hate, be open, be gracious. Shit man, this “different realities” concept blows my mind. every. damn. time.

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  • The Meaning of Friendship

    Sometimes, I REALLY want to take the “radical honesty” approach.

    I’ve always considered myself to be a good friend. I take a lot of initiative; I invest a lot of time. I think a lot about people I love, and how I can help them. I don’t always have answers, but I nearly always try really hard to find them. When I have parties, a lot of people I invite come, and my friend T says it’s a testament to people really valuing my friendship.

    Lately though, I’ve been feeling pretty alone. Maybe all of this is exacerbated by Remy’s passing, but I dunno: she passed away, and while most people responded immediately, some people are still out of the loop completely. And so I feel frustrated and disappointed. I haven’t had the energy to tell everyone and anyone, and yet it’s just another example where if I don’t do the initiating, no one else does. No one fucking cares.

    Sure, there are different levels of friendship, but god, what I hate most are people who say they want to spend time, they want to grab lunch, they want to stay in touch, blah, blah, blah. And then, unless I coordinate, nothing ever happens. Fucking follow through with what you say!! There were friends too who were mostly email buddies/penpals due to distance. If I didn’t keep up with regular emails, months would go by in silence. I heard from one of those friends today… seriously, nearly two months later. “Hope you’re well.” Really? Do you even give a fuck? I’m not well. at all. I lost one of my oldest and best friends this month, and did you even give a shit to check in, and see what was new? I know all of this sounds so petty and immature, but shit. Friendship is a two-way street. It’s not about me doing 80%, and you just showing up for the good laughs.

    Yeah I know, life gets in the way and in their defense, how the hell are people supposed to know we put Remy down? True but for one thing, if they’d been listening, they’d know that Remy’s health has been up and down for the last year and some. They’d know that Remy was getting up there in age. They’d know that for the longest time, I’ve had a fear and dread of losing her. Am I being too harsh? I dunno, but I’m so upset by this that I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face.

    How much energy have I expended on people, hoping good things for them, wishing them happiness in life, trying to brainstorm ways for them to feel better about their circumstances? And how many have done the same for me. People from college. People from my last job. People who know I left my job last August. Do they give one iota about how hard I’ve worked on this whole journey of self discovery? Not even a line asking how I’m doing, what I’m learning… Sure, life happened for these people: they got married; got preggers; they had kids; they maybe had a death in the family… I know life is complicated, but I made space for these people in my heart and in my mind. And now I realize that it’s wasted space. Why have I bothered to care about these people?

    And yet I hate people who aren’t gracious. And my reaction right now kinda falls into that category. But I’m still upset! Is the answer to 1) voice my displeasure 2) not respond 3) cool off and then continue with the 80/20 MO? I don’t want to behave by ignoring them and being half-ass in my communications, and yet the other options involve more investment and energy. I dunno. I feel tired now. T is coming over for dinner, and she herself had some pretty disappointing job news recently. I’m going to go to the store now to pick up some ingredients for two new dishes for dinner.

    I hate feeling sorry for myself. And a part of me is embarrassed and ashamed that I am feeling all this negativity. But I’m angry, hurt, and disappointed. It reminds me of people who suddenly get rich, they say you really know who your friends are. I’m not asking people to wallow with me in misery. I’m just asking that for once, they initiate a timely, sincere, and genuine check in.

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  • Remy’s Home Now

    I’m not gonna lie: I’ve been a bit of a mess this week. My cousins went home last Wednesday, and I was already chomping at the bit, eagerly wanting to get back on my professional development wagon. But now it’s suddenly Wednesday again in mid-April, and I’m feeling a bit stuck.

    I’m sure part of it is due to Remy. It’s been more than two weeks, and I still cry at the drop of a frickin’ dime. I thought I had processed most of it, especially after I made peace with the actual details of how she was put down, but I dunno. A part of me just feels so much grief and sadness. I have been trying to focus my energies on Martin, on the beautiful weather, on the promises of tomorrow, but I feel so alone without my little Bembo.

    I met with my coach yesterday for lunch. She said I looked so well and rested (ah, the magic of makeup). Honestly, I’ve had trouble sleeping lately. Anyway, my lunch with her went ok: I told her about Remy and then when I got to my status update, I had a whole list of things that I had done since last we spoke. A hefty list, including training webinars and info interview requests and the upcoming: a job interview for an area city (web and communications gig), some meetups, lunch with the personality testing company contact… all good things and yet, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. Last August, I’d left my job to do something different, to move towards living a life that I love… Now, months later, am I closer? In our discussion, my coach suggested expanding my targets a bit more: read the Silicon Valley Biz Journal, look at the big, iconic tech firms here and see what they have with corporate social responsibility (CSR), etc. Her advice was nothing super demanding… I’d considered all those places before, and it probably was a good idea to circle back with some of those contacts, but for some reason, I just felt like my “dream” job was so far away. She said everyone she talks to wants to do nonprofit foundation/CSR work. I know the areas are extremely competitive, and it makes sense because people want meaning in their lives and at the same time, they want to earn a living wage. No 35+ y/o wants to be making $40k a year. I mean, let’s just be real. And I get all of that, but for some reason, yesterday was not the day to realize that the end goal was much farther beyond reach than I had thought. And the idea of circling back with people, of reaching out to more new strangers, of doing that whole “come be my friend” dance just made me feel so tired. I love cultivating relationships, and I’m good at it, but it takes a lot of energy. And then  I thought of Remy again: of how freakin’ little she ever asked of me. No matter what, she always thought I was great. What’s that saying? I want to be the person who my dog thinks I am.

    I’ve never been averse to working hard, to doing my homework. But I think about the upcoming job interview, another social media job application that’s due tomorrow, and argh, it’s so much prep: learning about the organization, getting up to speed on their projects, studying up on the people, making the connections between my skills and strengths and their needs. The supplemental questions for this app that’s due tomorrow…. fuck, man. One of the questions asks, “In 140 characters or less, tell us why you are the best candidate for this position.” Totally logical question given the job, and yet, I am struggling. I mean, forget the elevator pitch right? 140 characters to say to someone, “Pick me to be your friend or to be on your team.”

    I remind myself that if I’m indeed interested in more communications work, all of this is what it takes: ramping up super fast and cranking out content… it’s part of the job. Goddamn, just suck it up and get ‘er done!!

    I’m going to need to write my coach and apologize for being such a buzzkill over lunch. For some reason, I made the dumb decision to pick up Remy on the way home. I know people in my community love my vet hospital, but Jesus Christ, when it comes to death, they really have to get their process nailed down. Seriously. I mean, first there was the euthanasia debacle where once we decided, it took them 30 min to come back into the room and another 30 minutes to successfully inject the poison. Dragged on. Then yesterday, I went to the front desk, paid the balance and then had to wait another 5-10 minutes to get her box of ashes. Come on! I mean, it’s already taking all the strength in me not to have a public breakdown, and then you prolong the process… I dunno if he couldn’t find the box or what. I was standing there for fucking ever!!! As soon as I got back in the car, the waterworks came on. The box is like screwed shut, and it has her nameplate on the outside. My new frame for the Remy print arrives tomorrow, and I’m thinking maybe I’ll just put the box on the highboy next to the print.

    Later in the afternoon, I took Martin to the park, and we ran into the dog sitter. She expressed her condolences, and then asked if I was close to Remy. Huh?? I was taken aback, but I explained that I adopted Remy in grad school when I was living alone. But later, her question really bugged me… like the entire rest of the day. I mean, was it not apparent that Remy meant the world to me??? Did she not notice that I was always the one arranging for dog care; leaving notes and detailed instructions for her medications; researching special harnesses; feeding her special food; taking her to the vet??? She’s a good woman who means no ill will, and I know that in the end, Remy is the final judge. But shit, really?

    So anyway, yesterday was pretty much shot. And now today is already more than half over. I’m going to take Martin to the park, and then come back and crank out this stupid application.


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  • Better Than Expected But…

    It’s been almost two weeks now since Remy left us. My cousins went home last Wednesday, and since then, I’ve been trying to get back to normalcy. Except that normalcy is now a new and different normalcy. I have been sleeping better, but I still find myself getting up in the middle of the night, stepping carefully by my bed so as to not step on Remy. Yesterday afternoon, I heard the doggie door and for a split second I wondered whether it was Remy or Martin climbing through. When it’s time for breakfast or dinner, Martin hardly even let’s me know that he’s hungry. He’s always been the patient one, waiting for Remy to sound the dinner bell with her monkey noises.

    I find myself doing weird mental games too. Like the other day, I was thinking about how fortunate I was that someone turned in my new iPhone after I’d left it at the comedy club. I was so stressed about losing it, and yet, if I could trade that stupid phone for having Remy back, even with all her middle-of-the-night wake-ups, I would. I know, why does my brain make these kind of barters? They don’t make any sense. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other really. I suppose it’s just the selfish part of me wishing she were still here at all cost. I know she gave us everything she had. I know the final years were a real struggle for her. I know it was time. And yet, I sometimes feel so inconsolable in my grief. Death is a weird thing that way. As inevitable and as expected as it is, when it finally happens, the impact is just so goddamn overwhelming. Remy never talked to me in the same thoughtful, engaging, intellectual, and conversational way my human besties did, but she was always with me, waiting for me and welcoming me home. Even when I was busy or traveling or moody or just plain absent-minded, she never got upset or spiteful or angry. She asked for so little and gave so damn much. She was so much more attuned to me than I ever even realized. Yeah, I’m probably anthropomorphising here. A little. I feel such emptiness and sadness. I just don’t know how to let go.

    I ran into my next door neighbor this afternoon, and I could barely keep my composure explaining that we had put Remy down on April 1. The vet office mailed me a letter and bill saying that Remy’s ashes are ready for pickup. It seems like a simple enough task to swing by and pick up her ashes, and a part of me feels rather ridiculous worrying about a minor meltdown. I feel like I should be able to do this without incident. I intend to try tomorrow. We’ll see.

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  • Farewell to My Old Friend

    Everything happened so fast. Just last week, Remy was still making her way to the park. She was still waking me in the early morning to get her breakfast kibble. She was still snorting about the house sniffing for snacks. How quickly things change.

    Yesterday afternoon, John and I took Remy to the vet. She had had a fifth seizure (the third within a 24-hr period) last Friday, and then on Sunday, after we started her on anti-seizure meds, her mobility got progressively worse. She was starting to whimper throughout the nights, and she wasn’t able to put weight on either her front or back end. When we took her in on Tuesday, the doctor checked her legs and by the way her paws contracted downwards, he said she was definitely exhibiting neurological issues. Given her age, he suspected a brain tumor in addition to her arthritis and overall physical decline due to age. He explained that we really only had two options: put her down or continue to tweak the meds with the goal of making her as comfortable as possible (but without expecting her mobility to return). We deliberated and then concluded it was time.

    The process itself was awful: three techs came in, each jabbing numerous times for a vein in her hind leg and then front leg. After a gabillion pokes, three jars of turkey baby food, and a final yelp from Remy, they finally hit the vein. Then, they shot in the anesthesia, and she was gone in 10 seconds. I couldn’t believe… so much time to arrive at the decision, then waiting an eternity for the techs to come in, then all those jabs (I nearly aborted after they had so much difficulty finding the vein), and just like that, she was gone. It was one of the most heart-wrenching moments of my life. I was kneeling there on the floor with her– petting and comforting her and then suddenly she was lifeless– her fur was still so soft and luxurious. Her eyes were still open. I couldn’t believe she was gone.

    I know it was time. For the last few days, Remy hadn’t slept well and she whimpered a lot during the night. I tried everything but just could not soothe her. Before that and before all the seizures last week, she was restless– shifting positions, walking unsteadily up and down the hall, going outside, coming back in… Still, a part of me wonders: did I let her go too late? Maybe too soon? I know, all these questions and doubts are moot now. I am just so so sad that she is gone.

    The weather yesterday felt strangely ominous. Rain in the morning; sunshine in the afternoon (I carried her out to the front lawn to soak up some rays); then when we returned home from the vet, it started pouring. It rained heavily all through the night. I felt like the skies were mourning with us. Today, the sun shined brightly, and puffy clouds dotted the blue sky. The universe was telling me something maybe…

    All day today, I sobbed at random: in the shower, at the public restroom, at the park, in the car. My eyes are so swollen, my eyelids are now nonexistent. My buddy P says I look like I had an allergic reaction. When I look in the mirror, I see someone who’s been punched in both eyes. People say anguish is part of the grieving process.

    P and I went to Seal Point Park this afternoon before her flight home. When J and I lived in Foster City, we used to drive the dogs to the dog park there. They loved all the different smells, especially the salty scents by the Bay. I think of all the beautiful places we took Remy. She found such joy in the simple pleasures: sunshine, a light breeze, fields of tall grass, a car ride. She really was such a good dog. I miss her so so much. I keep reminding myself it was time for her. She was such a fighter. I mean, in the last four years alone, she rebounded from liver failure (twice), idiopathic vestibular disease, choking (twice), seizures, arthritis, neurological disease, lameness… she was still mentally lucid but physically exhausted. I was exhausted.

    I don’t really believe in heaven for humans, but maybe such a place exists for dogs. I hope that Remy is frolicking in lush, green fields holding her head up to blue skies, and with eyes closed, crinkling her nose as she takes in the glorious scents of heaven. Good bye, my sweet Remy. Thank you for enriching my life with such love, warmth, and friendship.

    DSC01360 DSC00022 smellingbreeze

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