Sundays, puppies, baseball, and books.

I had a moment on Sunday.  Life is moments strung together, isn’t it?  And this one was a moment for the top of the string.

Sunday was a beautiful Fall day, one of those crisp air days, with blue sky and sunshine and the crunch of Ontario maples beneath my feet.  It was the second day of an atypical under-scheduled weekend, two full days in which my family of four spent no more than a couple of waking hours apart.  Just how I like it.  After an early Sunday dinner, we decided to wander over towards the library to return some books and play some baseball.  We grabbed the bat and the ball, the books and the bag, the pup and the dog treats, and away we went.

It’s a short ten-minute walk from my house to Burlington’s Central library, located on a huge urban greenspace with ball diamonds, soccer fields, and a playground just outside the library doors.  As we wandered along, the sky began to shift towards an early sunset, another reminder that Winter is on its way.  We entered the park, and my daughter and I headed towards the book drop bin, while my husband, son, and puppy headed for the baseball diamond.  We called the dog back and forth, a few hundred metres separating ourselves, practicing her recall command, marvelling at her temperament, and showering her with praise and treats.  At the book drop bin, I passed pile after pile of Berenstain Bears books, as my daughter happily loaded them into the drawer, waiting for the thump of a book deposit success.  Job done, we headed back across the expanse of grass, towards the baseball diamond and our family game.

And that’s when the moment happened.

“Mom,” she said, her six-year-old hand in mine.  “I……. I……. I,” she stammered, searching for her words.  I could hear the emotion in her voice and see the depth of her feelings splayed across her face.  “I love you Mom,” she said as she turned towards me and reached her arms up, her unspoken signal to be picked up.  At fifty pounds and four feet tall, she’s not a toddler anymore, but she’s still my baby, and I’ll happily take a wrap-around hug anytime she’s giving them out.

I picked her up, breathed her in, squeezed her tight.  And as her little cheek pressed up against mine, I felt the moment overwhelm me too.

Bliss.  Gratitude.  Joy.  Presence.  Whatever you want to call it, we felt it.

Green grass under our feet, pink sky above our heads, a puppy at our side, a baseball in our hands.  It all came together on Sunday night.

A moment, that’s all.

But a big moment for us.

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Blue.

I’ve had a dog for a large part of my life.  My first dog, Sugar, was a small black poodle that passed away when I was only seven years old.  I have limited memories of her, but my parents tell tales of how they’d tell her to “stay” on the front porch of our small-town home, and come back at the end of the workday to find her still sitting proud and loyal.  I do vividly remember her burial, in a remote, wooded area just off the Alberta-prarie golf course that she so loved.  I remember my dad’s tears, something I hadn’t seen before, and a heavy feeling of loss.  Our next family dog, an American spaniel named Jacob, lived a short four years before developing a fatal spinal blood clot.  The trauma of that loss is still with me today, as he was my running buddy throughout high school and I held him close as he was euthanized at the emergency vet clinic.

As adults, my husband and I have had two dogs- our beloved Chocolate Lab, Tyson, who passed away in 2012, and our Chocolate Labradoodle, Oz, whom we had to re-home in May 2014 following some health concerns with my daughter.  So, for the last four years, we’ve been dog-less.  We’ve done lots of dog-sitting for friends and family and there’s been lots of chatter about “when we get a dog,” knowing that it was a foregone conclusion that our home would have a dog again at some point.  But I hadn’t felt ready until very recently, much to the chagrin of my husband and children.  My heart wasn’t prepared yet, and I didn’t feel like our family had the time or energy available to give.  Sometime late last year though, my mentality shifted, and I felt some “space” in our lives open back up.

Our focus turned to rescue dogs.  We searched for many months and put in applications with dozens of rescue organizations and shelters throughout Southern Ontario.  We were interviewed, screened, and we even met some dogs that ultimately weren’t the right fit for our family.  We began to get frustrated with the constant searching, and decided to try another approach; in early June we placed a Wanted Ad on Kijiji, hoping to find a family that needed to re-home a beloved pet for circumstances beyond their control.  A few days later, we got an email from a local rescue organization who had seen our ad and had three Golden Retriever/poodle puppies surrendered by an overwhelmed breeder.  The puppies were three and half months old; “would you like to come and meet them?” she asked.

Um, YES.

Three days later we were driving home from Cayuga with our newest family member, Blue.


Her name is such simply because we love many things blue; the BlueJays, the Leafs (well, at least some of us do), the lake.  And to think of all of the joy that she’s brought into our home in the last month…… well, I guess I’d forgotten the power of a dog.

Meet Blue Jay Worobec:

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This was a Tough One to Write

This post was a tough one to write, full of raw emotion and feelings of vulnerability, like very few other posts I’ve written.  But I think there’s an important message to be shared here, and that’s why I’ve decided to publish this.  I hope that this is a message of trying your best, knowing your limits, and being gentle to oneself.

Let me get to the point:  last month, we had to re-home our beloved puppy.  This decision was a long process, full of tears and pros-and-cons and back-and-forths.  But in the end, we did what we thought was best for him.  And for us.

Both my husband and I are “dog people” who grew up with dogs by our side- and we had a wonderful Chocolate Lab named Tyson for the first eight years of our relationship, who sadly passed away in September 2012.  However, our puppy Oz, an 80-lb Chocolate Labradoodle, is/was a gentle soul full of friendly energy.  We got him only a year ago, in May 2013, when he was just eight weeks old, and he soon became a constant companion for our children.  But as he grew, so did the am-I-giving-him-what-he-needs doubts.  Then came my two-year-old’s amblyopia diagnosis, and the choice became clear.

When her eye was patched, we were told, she would be virtually blind.  Add in an 80-lb puppy bouncing around, and I became overwhelmed.  It seemed I just didn’t have enough to give….. not enough energy, not enough time, not enough love.  I didn’t want to resent our dog for just being a dog.  I saw this on Facebook and I think it says it all:

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He simply needed more than what we could give him.  And so we diligently searched, extensively interviewed, and thoroughly screened potential families…. and we found the perfect fit.

Done and done.  So what’s made this post so hard to write?  The guilt part, the failure part, the I-made-a-mistake part.  The I’m-sorry-I-just-couldn’t-do-it-all part.  I’m a Type-A, first-born, female Virgo with high expectations and self-imposed perfectionism.  To feel defeat and admit to failing is hard for me.  It’s taken me more than a month to begin to see this situation in a different light, but I’m slowly getting there.

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And I’m trying to focus on “rising up”.