Love and laughter

In March 2008 I snapped this photo of Maxwell, a sweet friend who died unexpectedly this year.

A March 2008 photo of Maxwell, a sweet friend who died unexpectedly this year.

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”
John Grogan

One year ago today we celebrated the 16th birthday of our Schipperke, Pasha.  Though we hoped it would not be his last, we knew it might be.  We did not know he would leave us only two months later after a mercifully quick decline.  We also had no way of knowing how many of our friends and loved ones would be sharing our grief through the loss of their own dogs during the twelve months to come.

Marlee, Salty, Austin, Maxwell, Molly, and probably others I am forgetting to name — each leave their unique paw prints on the lives and hearts of their families and friends.

As Grogan attests, our dogs bring us closer to other people.  We have experienced bittersweet memories of Pasha over the past year as each milestone passes for the first time without him.  Our animal-loving friends understand, and knowing that they do, we feel a bond with them that goes beyond the words of consolation we speak to each other.

Such short lives, for them, and for us too.  Let’s honor their memory by spreading love and laughter to others, as they did for us.

One year ago today:

Each moment an occasion


  1. Larry

    We hope you all had a better night and continue to see improvements. Did you get to move out to a room yet? Aunt Jen said to tell Matt that “Virginia Beach is calling their name.”

    • Last night was very rough; too many details to go into, but lots of worrisome developments. Neither Matt nor I got any sleep. Unfortunately, Virginia Beach is not calling our names right now. You all will just need to enjoy it without us for the foreseeable future. I will probably not be available for most of today, please keep the prayers coming.

  2. raynard

    Thank you for Sharing this morning Julia. Sent you a pic of both our dogs . Oliver use to be a playmate of our first dog BJ. The family that had him was going to get rid of him, So we took him in. It’s been over a year now. He’s very”clingy and needy( man dont get me started with that one lol) Both like to ride in the van.( and fight over who’s going to sit in the middle)Today I would like to personally and publicly thank you for being a source of encouragement for me and others. It’s a gift worth sharing and giving and”Christmas is everyday to me”.. Be blessed and have a great day…

    • Raynard, thank you for sending the photo of your dogs; they are adorable. Later if I have time I will post it here. I so appreciate your kind words this morning. They are a real encouragement to me at a time when I really need them. Keep those prayers coming that we will get through today with some solutions to the most recent worries that cropped up last night, and maybe even some sleep after that!

      OK, here goes, I will try to paste the photo of Oliver and BJ here, but if the photo does not go through, at least there should be a link:

  3. Jack

    About four years ago we were grieving the loss of two dogs within a short period of months, dogless for the first time since we were newlyweds. My youngest, about 10 at the time, suggested at the dinner table that we needed to get another dog because “we were nicer people when we have dogs.” No doubt.

    • Jack, I totally agree! Whenever our lives stabilize to the point that we can care for a dog instead of having one in boarding all the time while we are off in hospitals, we plan to adopt another. We have a lot of neighbors with dogs and they have been a bridge to get to know people as well as a bond for us. I think caring for animals makes us better people for sure and I thank God for our animal friends!

  4. Sheila

    Julia, you’re right! Time shared with our beloved “best friends” was WAY too short. I’m so glad that we have found comfort in remembering them, their antics and their devotion. I share this special feeling with our friends here and their loss and love! We were lucky to have these precious pets. 🙂

    • Sheila, we truly were, and I think we’re all better people for it. They will live on in our photos, our stories and especially in our hearts! ❤

  5. gloriafarmstrong48

    Julia, thank you for posting my favorite photo of my beautiful precious Maxwell and thank you for taking the photos of Marlee and Maxwell 6 years ago, but seems like yesterday. What a great day that was! I grieve Marlee and Maxwell and Pasha each day, as I know you do. Pasha’s birth was a gift from God and I am glad I got to spend some time with him.

    • Gloria, I’m glad you like the photo. You know I always had a soft spot in my heart for Max. I’m so glad you were able to spend lots of time with Pasha. I’ll always remember how you sat up with him Christmas night when he wasn’t doing well. We both have been really blessed in many ways, including the years we had with our precious dogs.

  6. MaryAnn

    God loves you & your family: I am begging our Heavenly Father to take away Matt’s pain and speed the healing process! Matt is one of God’s special people sent to Earth to SHOW His Love to us. Matt does it thru his smile, cheerfulness, & the joy he spreads!

    • Mary Ann, I’m happy to report that Matt seems lots better today. He ate a fairly big breakfast and has been quiet and seemingly in very little distress. They have removed his IV now but he still can’t get the chest tubes out. One step at a time, I guess. Thanks so much for your kind thoughts and prayers!

  7. Sweet Pasha gave unconditional love to everyone.It was calming just to be with him and pet him. I know you all miss him terribly. So sorry to hear that Matt had a rough night. Hope today is better.

    • Thanks Janice, like most dogs Pasha loved people and was always happy to have the attention of visitors. Matt seems to be much better today, so far at least. We’re having a quiet afternoon and hoping for a quiet evening.

  8. I’ve always been of mind that a home seems less complete without a loving pet (or two or three). I realize for some families who live busy, busy lives and choose not to include pets in their home that, sometimes that is best. Or maybe apartment dwellers who’s leases forbid animals. For us lucky ones who get to know their love and companionship, the day we have to say goodbye is completely heart wrenching. I truly sympathize with all the families. I really feel you’re right about animal lovers connecting and knowing each others hearts just a little bit more than others who don’t feel the same. It’s a grande club to be included in, even when the inevitable is part of it all. Gentle hugs to anyone missing a special furry friend out there. I’m happy we can celebrate their little wondrous furry lives together.

    • K, I totally agree, it’s wonderful to be in the club of animal lovers! I know some people aren’t able to keep pets, but even when it involves a lot of time and expense, it’s an investment that returns far more than we put in. I just love it that there are now so many organizations that work to put pets in contact with those who are in nursing homes, hospitals and other places where their magical sort of cheer is so needed, but can’t be permanently available. I’ll always remember the day when we first toured the chemotherapy clinic after Jeff’s diagnosis. It was all a pretty grim package until I saw the dogs (in camouflage gear, no less 🙂 ) visiting the patients who where getting infusions. It was like the sun broke through the clouds for a few minutes!

      • I think that’s just awesome when animals visit either extended care homes with seniors or hospitals too. They would certainly make a grim day more bearable. Bless the hearts of their human companions who take the time to do it too.

        • Yes, it truly is a win/win situation. I have thought about becoming a volunteer pet therapist if I ever have the time to devote to it. Or maybe just volunteering to walk dogs at the shelter, although it would be emotionally hard on me because I would want to adopt them all. 😀

          • That’s really generous for you to consider Julia. We’ve said the same thing about being a foster home for rescues. We’d only be able to do it once, then that dog would be our dog. I’ve been to our local Shelter a few times looking for our previous kitty. I sobbed every time just for all the full kennels and cages. I try to make up for it by making a generous annual donation. I applaud the folks who have emotional stability and are able to extend themselves to walks and visitors. They are wonderful, wonderful people.

            • Yes, I am so thankful for them. I think I could maybe stand to volunteer in a no-kill shelter but I can’t bear even to think of those that euthanize animals. Although seeing the dogs at the no-kill shelters we went to when we were looking for Pasha would just break my heart, some of them had been there for years on end but still were so friendly and hopeful, obviously hoping we would stop and play with them. I love to read about those organizations that take shelter pets from areas with too many of them, to places where there are more adoptive families looking for pets. I wish neutering and spaying was made a legal requirement for families who didn’t want to breed their pets. It seems like the costs of running animal shelters would pay for preventive measures many times over. I guess there would still be problems with compliance. It’s hard enough to get people to scoop the poop. 😦

              • Isn’t that the truth. I really try not to be cynic, but I fear the only ones who’d follow the law are the responsible pet owners. At the Edmonton SPCA, all adopted pets leave spade and neutered. I wish attitude would change, I really think it’s a minority that creates the problem of homeless animals while the majority of animal lovers are caring and responsible.

                • Yes, it’s that old 80/20 rule in effect seemingly everywhere. When I get annoyed at people not cleaning up after their pets, I remind myself I’m grateful to them for giving the pet a loving home. If it came down to a choice between the two, I’d rather have a messy animal lover than a homeless pet. As long as it doesn’t become a true health threat like a cat hoarder or something.

  9. My father was against keeping pets while my sister always wanted one. Now after he’s gone all sorts of pets have started getting access into the house. She has a pet dog who brightens up her days. I have never kept one but someday I should – I must not miss that experience.

    • Bindu, my mother was always opposed to keeping pets inside the home (though we were allowed to have them outside) and I always envied those whose dogs and cats were allowed indoors. I’m happy your sister has a dog; I’m sure that may take the edge off the grief somewhat, if only by providing a distraction. I agree that you should experience the joy of having a pet of your own, but I do think it’s wise to wait until the time is right. In the beginning, a new puppy or kitten demands a lot of time, almost like a new baby. That’s why we aren’t yet able to adopt another dog. But someday we will, I hope.

  10. Dorothy Walker

    Dear Julia, it sounds as if Matt is having a rough time at present. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. Our little Bartok, a miniature pom, died at the age of 17. He was such a delight and a loyal and great companion. When I saw a picture of Pasha for the first time, I was reminded of our dear little friend who was also black with bright eyes. Wonder if somehow the two breeds are related, must look it up sometime.

    • Hi Dorothy, thanks for your kind thoughts and prayers. Matt seems much better today. Bartok is such a perfect name for a Pom! I remember people sometimes asking me if Pasha had some Pomeranian in him, but I didn’t realize that there is an AKC-recognized hybrid of the two breeds, until I read your comment and decided to look it up; you can find more info and some adorable images here. I have to admit that I am partial to black dogs; I used to joke that Pasha was a very elegant decorative accessory because I loved the way he looked lying on the living room rug. I’m glad you were able to have Bartok for 17 wonderful years. No matter how long our dogs live, the time always seems short when we have to say goodbye.

  11. Beautifully said Julia – our pets come into our live for such a short time yet manage to remain indelibly imprinted into our hearts! In every way as much as the people we love do. I am sorry to read of your current situation, I send you love and healing and hearts-ease xoxo

    • Thanks Pauline, I so appreciate your kind thoughts and encouragement. What would we do without our furry friends? Our pet cat was an enormous part of my childhood and I’ve never forgotten how adorable she and her kittens were. Pasha was like a member of our family. Dogs, cats, birds and other animal friends open up our hearts and take the edge off life’s sorrows and disappointments. When I meet another person whose family includes animals, that’s an instant bond I have with them, like a shared language.

  12. Amy

    Just read your first message and feel terrible I have not been on here for a few days. SO SORRY!!! You have been in my prayers continually. I hate things are not good and pray that today brought some relief. As I was on my way to work this morning the radio was playing, “You’ll Overcome It” by Mandisa and I thought of Matt. Please give him my love and let me know if I can be a help in any other way. I love you all. PS you know what our pets have been and done for us. Love this photo. What a cutie he was. We are planning on going to North Carolina this weekend for me to meet the pup, Sampson and to watch Kat and Jerry run a half marathon but I will stay here if you need me. I love you. A

    • Amy, one of our readers (Michael) sent me the link to a terrific video of that Mandisa song, and I’m including it in an upcoming post. Your goldens are among my all-time favorite friends’ dogs. I didn’t realize you are now a doggie Grandma! Congratulations. You might have told me, but if so I’ve forgotten. What kind of pup is Sampson? Be sure to bring back photos! 😀

      • Amy

        Sampson, or Sam as they call him, is a Australian shepherd. OR so the kids thought. They bought him off Craigs list. He was very sick the first week they had him and the vet said he had Parvo. They did not expect him to make it but he has done great. People who see him think he is a collie and a lady they met at the pet store raises collies and she was sure this little dog is a collie. He may be a Heinz 57 but he is very much loved. I will send some photos. Relieved to read that Matt may go home this weekend. I will keep my phone on me at all times so please don’t hesitate to call. Love you. A

        • Oh, how wonderful! Eric’s dog was part Australian shepherd, I think. They are very smart dogs. I am so thrilled Sam survived the Parvo. I will never forget one time when I had Pasha at the vet for his shots and a little puppy with Parvo came in. The poor little thing looked so sick, I felt terrible. I’m glad to know that some pups survive it. Can’t wait to see his photos and maybe when he is coming to visit his grandparents I can meet him in person. Wrecker would probably adore him.

  13. Michael

    Yes thank God for all our animal friends. My son in Atlanta has a Puggle and he -Bodhi- was their first child as a couple and continues still, though sometimes he is a little jealous of Norah. Lots of rain in Atlanta post southern states storm.

    • Bodhi is another great name for a dog. I had never heard of a Puggle but I looked at the photos and they are adorable! Of course I love both Pugs and Beagles but the Puggle may have the best of both, in terms of cuteness. I have read that mixed breeds are often healthier nowadays, due to all the “backyard breeding” of popular purebreds. I don’t know if that’s true or just a form of snobbery among “serious” breeders. How does Norah like the doggie?

  14. Michael

    Bodhi is quite the character and very protective of Norah. He is very strong for his size and packs a lot of punch in a small package. If you play tug of war with him and a Frisbee he very well might win. I think he is a bout 25 pounds now- at three years old. Norah seems to adore him. Right now Norah is at West Palm and Bodhi had to stay behind.

    • It’s amazing how tough these little dogs can be. I used to say that pound for pound, Pasha was stronger than a mule. I’m glad Norah has a doggie friend. I’m sure he misses her and will probably run around excitedly when she returns.

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