After our sweet 17-year-old Bandit the red heeler passed two years ago, we thought a break from dog care, especially that of the elder type, would do us good. I was hoping our cats would fill the void and miraculously become lap cats, but they had other plans and demanded to be outdoor kitties no matter how much I tried to convince them otherwise.
Then come 2022 with all our personal losses, there was a wide void that needed to be filled. I decided two years without a dog is enough. I began a search in earnest online, Petfinder, Craigslist, and dog rescues. Requirements- no puppies, already trained, no “fixer-uppers.” (been there, done that.) I needed a ready-made companion that would help get me out of the house. Finally, after several months enter Mars, a Craigslist pooch a gorgeous male half-cattle dog and half-husky or German shepherd. His 2nd owner was moving to Maui and his first owner moved to France. I on the other hand was settled and not budging from my home in Oregon of 30 years
Mars was a gift. He fit into our lives like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle with a soft satisfying snap. Mars adores going on walks, playing ball, cuddling, and being our guy. It’s amazing how much a dog can offer to one’s life. He has brought the two of us so much happiness. Meet Mars…
Artwork, video, & home photos by the author. Beach photos by Twee Ngyuen.
Four months after being diagnosed with heart/lung cancer my husband’s daughter and my stepdaughter, Heather died peacefully last night in the hospital surrounded by family and friends. A beautiful young woman living the peak of her dreams. She is missed.
She is gone now
After she took her last breath
we exhaled deeply
bearing the pain of loss as her pain is no more
Our loved ones are like trees
they grow providing shelter and food for our souls
and when they fall they leave an empty space in our hearts
Yet in this very space is light
so their seeds planted within us will flourish
with the memories, stories, and lessons
that they have left behind in their wake
We hold our sadness close
continuing our journeys as better people
In memory of Heather Ann Woltz Winfrey
July 24, 1984 – October 27, 2022
Daughter, step-daughter, wife, sister, and friend to many
This morning on the way to the Portland airport my husband turned to me and said “I can’t do this.” He was about ready to catch a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii to be with his daughter that was just been diagnosed with stage 4 heart and lung cancer, a very rare occurrence. Heather, a non-smoker, at age 38 was in the prime of her life. She and her husband were building their dream on property in the highlands of the Big Island when she collapsed after dealing with what her doctor thought was a severe case of bronchitis. Her husband rushed her to the hospital. Now, she cannot leave the hospital in Honolulu as she needs oxygen to survive.
I replied to him- “yes you can. “Be a bulldog, don’t run away. Go head-on.”
“This isn’t about what you can deal with, it’s about supporting her to get through this whatever the outcome with your full love and support. She chose chemotherapy. Be fully there for her.”
I’ve had some experience with this. My darling newborn son, Gareth, contracted a life-threatening infection at 10 days old. I kept hoping to wake up from that nightmare. I didn’t. My beautiful baby was full of tubes. His little body was all swollen, hair shaved off one side of his head. Worse, we couldn’t hold him.
We were told such things as:
If he makes it, he will be brain damaged or live in a hospital for the rest of his life
Kids don’t live through this
You will need a LARGE miracle
I fully embraced option 3. They allowed me to live at the hospital while he was in the NICU. My husband at the time had a hard time dealing with the situation at all. Meanwhile, I pumped breast milk at 3-hour intervals round the clock so he could have my breast milk when he once again could eat. I rose in the middle of the night to sing and talk to him. I prayed.
Ultimately my actions saved me. Did they help save him? Well, Gareth just celebrated his 35th birthday and he is as awesome as ever! (FYI, his name in Gaelic means strength).
We want to run from these situations since it is not only painful to see the ones we love suffer, we are frightened of our own mortality.
(Another take on my knee injury a couple posts back…)
The doctor reviews my MRI and informs me it’s a wear injury- a polite way of saying you’re getting old. The cartilage in my knee has worn thin from age and a simple turned ankle on a hike tore the meniscus which led to a stress fracture to the head of my femur. “Stay off your knee for 4 months, non-weight bearing- crutches. Watch that left hip. It shows low bone density. Don’t gain weight. We’ll go from there. No surgery, no easy fixes. See you after the first of the year.” Appointment concludes. Crabby surgeon departs. I remain in a state of shock.
What the doctor didn’t tell me is how to cope with this loss, this massive change in my life- no walking and no clear path to recovery, no dangling hope. All he sees is the injury and not the humanity surrounding it. The quick fix laparoscopic surgery I expected disintegrated into months of recovery with no clear resolution. My world shrinks from a universe to the size of an orange. Will I get to walk or hike with my friends again? Will I ever again see the tips of my cross-country skis cut through sparking snow?
Every day humans are faced with diagnoses, injuries, and other nasty things that upend their lives instantly. It can be a lonely path to navigate. Every day you’ve got to stave off the demons and keep on going, reframe your life, lower your expectations. For me being a highly creative person and very goal-oriented, this is a challenge. My big native plant garden project? – canceled until further notice. Travel? I don’t think so. Grocery shopping, housework? NO. Cook?- barely. This is my first major injury in six decades of living. I am such a beginner
After weeks of flapping my wings against my cage, I’ve had to revise my life.
Focus on what I can do…
Get a new doctor (check)
Ride my bike
Clean out some drawers
I have to remember to ask for help (hard).
I have to permit myself to pamper myself- hire a housekeeper, get a massage, buy audiobooks, get a therapist. (hard)
Be humble- I just ordered a wheelchair as my back aches from weeks of crutches.
I have to allow myself some days of just being pathetic even though I know things could be worse. (easy)
I emerged from the doctor’s office that day feeling my mortality diminished