Thursday, December 4, 2014

Farewell, Sweet Friend

I have more to say about Dixon than I want to push into a single Facebook post. I don't intend for this to be sad; my face is fresh out of tears. I just feel like his life, as hellish and chaotic and (at the end) joyful as it was, deserves more than a "he's gone" with a cute photo.

We love Zoe (our anatolian shepherd/heeler mix), let me be clear. We've had him since he was a puppy, and he's 9.5. But as I told friends today, Zoe is more like a goat. He wants you to feed him, he'll chew whatever plastic is lying around (LEGOs, train tracks, etc.), he needs water, he needs let outside to do his business. Occasionally he sticks his wet nose on you so you can touch his head for a few minutes. He's great with the boys, but he basically wants you to co-exist with him. He's like a goat.

After nine years of living with an animal who tolerates you living in his house, we thought hey, let's add to the chaos, let's adopt a dog. But not any dog, let's find a big dog, we always liked giant breeds best. And let's find an old one (we'd potty trained two humans recently, we didn't need to do that with a puppy). Not any old dog, but one that loved kids, one that was sweet and wanted affection, one whose eyes spoke to me (Joey thought this was crazy). 

We had chosen to work with Big Dogs Huge Paws. They are a fantastic regional giant breed dog rescue. We scrolled through bios of dogs waiting for their forever home. We had our heart set on a different dog. It fell through, as it was supposed to do. We scanned bios again. We found this old, sweet dog whose foster family had dubbed Lumpy. 

I picked him because of those eyes. He couldn't talk, but he looked exhausted. Lazy, loving, sweet, but exhausted. Like he'd be waiting to come home forever.

His foster family was kind and sad to see Lumpy go. He was in Texas, and this rescue made it possible for him to get all the way to Nebraska on a ride transport. 

We learned about Lumpy's past. When he was rescued by Big Dogs Huge Paws, he looked like this: 

He had mange and heart worm. He weighed 96 pounds. His foster family called him Lumpy because he had so many swollen callouses on his skinny body that his lumps were quite evident. But those eyes were still the same. Exhausted. Later we'd learn that he'd been bit a zillion times, many of those black marks on his snout were scars. He'd been taken in off the streets of Fort Worth. Somewhere along the line, someone named him Dixon. It stuck for us. Dixon was given a fresh start with his foster family. When he got to us, he looked like this:

He was smiling, I think. We certainly were. 

He was the best animal I have ever been around. We were completely smitten with him. He loved each one of us. He was a giant lug of a dog when he arrived - 140 pounds. We determined (or chose to believe, take your pick) that he was a mastador - a mastiff/lab mix. He was so gentle with the boys, loved playing with Joey, loved laying his giant head on my lap on the couch. 


Our life in the past 7.5 months. He loved BIG, he slept A LOT, he gave us more than we could ever give him.

He probably had a horrible life before July 2013. We never even knew his birthday. Or how old he was. Or what random underlying medical condition may have possibly caused his unexpected death. We don't know, and the not knowing is hard, but ultimately it wouldn't matter. It was his day. He looked like he was sleeping when I found him at home after work, like he was chasing rabbits and chased one to heaven.

He had a pretty awesome life after July 2013 though. The recovery wasn't easy, but he was strong and resilient. We have peace and gratitude in knowing that we were matched with him to give him his final home.

When bad things happen, you find your tribe. People who appear at the right moment or say the right thing, or do the right thing. Whether it was our neighbor pulling into her driveway at the exact moment I walked outside, alone, panicked, knowing my kids were minutes from home - could she take them? (Of course she could.) Or the vet. The vet who we switched to just this summer and hadn't yet met Dixon. They took care of making arrangements for Dixon's body to be picked up. His soul was already terrorizing rabbits in heaven, I'm pretty sure. (The vet himself called me today to see how we were doing, and how the boys were doing (!), and gave me ideas on possible things that could have happened. He said please look at this as a blessing, he went at his time. It didn't cost you or him extra heartache watching him fade. Then he said they were planting a tree in his honor. For a dog they never even met.) Or Joey's parents who dropped everything and rushed across town to pick up my kids and take them to supper. Or my best friend who listened to me sob and talked me down from the ledge of crazy. Or our other neighbor who immediately brought over the best book in the history of books on dealing with the loss of a pet as a child. And every single one of you who hugged us, loved us, sent us love, sent us prayers, thought of the boys, and gave us cookies. 

We are ok today. We'll get another dog. We'll get another senior. We'll go through this again. And it will all be worth it. 

Monday, June 2, 2014



Today you complete your third trip around the sun and begin your fourth. I struggle for words to express how quickly these last three years have gone. They - the moms who now have kids much, much older than you - tell me the days are long but the years are short. I can sum up your entire life with that sentiment. Anyone who has spent one whole day with you will feel life lived to the fullest. You are exhausting in the best possible way. You squeeze every ounce of the day out, and then you're ready to go the next morning.

Last year I mentioned that you do life BIG. You are full of energy. You are not quiet. You even yell when you're whispering - especially effective when I'm trying to sleep and you "REAWWY NEED BWEAKFAST NOW MOMMA PLEASE". You are a case study in opposites: bossy and sweet, boisterous and shy, tantrum-throwing and hug-giving.

My most favorite discovery about you this year is your love of animals, specifically dogs. Some kids seem to be naturally timid around them, but you seem to have a natural inclination on how to "be" around them. You see dogs from two blocks away and demand that we walk over for a closer look. You're gentle and loving with every dog. You and Dixon, the 140lb mastiff/lab mix we adopted in April, were best buds from the moment you laid eyes on him. I hope you never lose this love of animals, it's a gift.

You may be the little brother in age and stature, but you're every bit Brecken's equal in his eyes - sometimes taking care of him too. You're the brave one. He drags you everywhere he deems scary, and you always willing go with him to show him the way. I know you think he hung the moon, but he thinks the same about you. My greatest accomplishment in my life is the part where I gave you each a best friend. You are lost without one another. It makes my heart melt.

You are so very observant. You count everything. Your favorite thing in life is when things "match". If we both have blue shirts on you'll scream "MOMMA! WE MATCH!". You notice matching... everything. Plates, cups, dogs, flowers, clothing, everything. You notice if we're out of our routine. You notice if I'm leaving for the day and you didn't see me kiss Brecken or daddy goodbye - you make me come back inside and tell them again.

This year was kind of rough at times (SORRY, but it's not all rainbows and unicorns, kiddo). You were two going on twelve and I have no experience raising pre-teen boys so I was a bit lost. We survived though, and I feel like we're maybe turning the corner to three (which I'm praying will at least be less screamy). I will keep you because you're cute though. And because you hold half of my heart in your giant hands.

We sang Baa Baa Black Sheep together before bed last night. That's our song. I pray that you never get too old for it, or your momma. I love you, Jude William and I can't wait to see where this trip around the sun takes us.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

the one in which you turn five


We've made five trips around the sun with you as of today (at 1:06pm), and I really, truly am in denial. It feels like you were born maybe 3 months ago or so. Not five years.

Five feels like such a milestone to me. A self-imposed one, but a milestone still. When you were born we were living in a cute little 2 bedroom house, which we bought 2 years before you were born and without a second thought about the schools we were zoned to. Shortly after you were born, however, I distinctly remember thinking "Oh, we'll have to decide on schools, but we'll probably move before then, and he'll be FIVE. That's so long from now, no need to stress about it at this point." So I shelved the school banter in my head, and watched as the calendar pages turned. You became a big brother, mom and dad changed jobs (ok, mom changed jobs twice, but that's not the point here), the years ticked by, we sold that cute little house and bought a bigger house for you and your brother (and All Of Your Things) to spread out. And lo and behold, here we are. Five. You're registered for kindergarten and we are flying towards your first day of school in August at an alarming rate.

Every age with you has been my increasingly my favorite. I didn't think anything could be sweeter than not-quite-4, but I'm really loving not-quite-five (and after today, just five). You continue to wake up every morning cheery and ready to face the world (you've done this your entire life, I'm amazed that it's just who you are). You are sweet, and loving, but sometimes stubborn and firey. You are so tender-hearted, I ache for the day that you'll have your heart broken for real. You are a helper; your teachers, your family, your dad and I all see this side of you. If something spills, you're the first one helping clean it up (usually it's not even your mess). If a friend is feeling left out, you're encouraging them to come play. If someone missed the instructions, you're helping them to understand what needs done. If your brother is losing his everloving MIND about his Nutrigrain bar being "broken", you're right there helping him see that it's awesome to have a broken Nutrigrain bar, because now he has TWO! Nutrigrain bars.

Jude thinks you positively hung the moon. You two are joined at the hip, and it makes my heart explode into a million pieces to see your love for one another. Sometimes, I worry that you're going to break each other into a million pieces with all the wrestling, but... so far, so good.

You are quick-witted and hilarious. You are thoughtful and ask a million questions. You're acquiring a love of music, and you sing along with Roar when it comes on the radio (although your version of the words is not quite right, but adorable - "eye-va the fighter", etc.).

You're such an easy kid to parent. You have your moments, sure, but for the most part, you're a dream. I don't know how we got so lucky to be your parents. You stretch our will and my patience, but also our hearts and our joy. I didn't know how unconditional love could be until there was you.

The years have flown by and I just want to bottle you up today so I remember you at this age. You are mine and I am blessed.

love you,