“Shirley, you can’t be serious.. and stop calling me Shirley”



You know those mornings that seem like you woke up in a weird movie?  That is when I think, if only I had a theme song.. I am not sure what it would sound like.. but I know this morning was one of those “Are you serious?” mornings.  

So, Today was SUPPOSED to go the following way.. 

1. I was supposed to wake up, make coffee. Take the dogs out. Make awesome husband breakfast.

2. Kiss husband, pat his tush.. and see him in the evening.. 

3. Sit down with large glass of water and have awesome conversation with dynamic powerhouse woman Heidi Armstrong via FaceTime.. “She seems pretty damn cool, check out her website here.. http://www.austinfitmagazine.com/author/heidi/ “.  

4. Go for my training run, then do my post run exercises.. walk the dogs.. 

5. Get a biopsy.. (wee!)

6. Come home, take a siesta with the puppies.. 

7. make dinner, welcome home husband.. go for family walk.. 

INSTEAD.. this is what happened.

We both woke up feeling under the weather, and struggled getting out of bed. The dogs seemed more needy than usual and appeared to want to make us trip over them with every step. I made husbands breakfast and lunch like a good wife (I really like doing this), we let our dogs, and he opted to drive the car to work in Guilford as its been making horrid sounds and needed to go to the shop, (I normally drive truck due to my newfound fear of driving my Toyota since the squish and peel trauma.. )

He left for work, came back five minutes later because he left his wallet at home.. I began getting ready to go for a run, when the phone rang and he explained the truck died at the gas station.. he checked the oil to find it bone dry (That’s my bad, Ive been driving it).

So I begin looking for my wallet to drive him to work, and discover Its “missing”.. After frantic searching and tripping on large labs for 10 minutes, I give in and drive him to work “wallet-less”.  Hoping I don’t get pulled over.. because with my luck, this would be the day I get pulled over.

He gets to work late, I begin driving home and the dogs throw up.  When a ninety pound lab throws up, well.. you get it.  This causes them to both want to get out of the throw up zone and into the front seat, WHILE Im driving.. 

I pull over, they fight over who gets to be upfront.. I begin cleaning up pile #1 of puke on the side of the road and escort the “loser” of the front seat challenge to the back to accompany the vomit.

We arrive at the tow truck place to hand over the trucks keys so the man can pick up the truck and take it to the mechanic, but I am lacking a wallet.  Smiling with frustration, I head back home.. the dogs jump out of the car covered in chunky puke into the house and my stomach begins heaving. 

We all get “cleaned up”, they want to regain playing.. and I still can not find my damn wallet. “Where the crap did you go, stupid wallet, did you run away again?”.

This is when the frantic “Monica from Friends” kicks in, and I begin cleaning.. Image

After almost two hours and shiny counter tops and dressers.. I found that little sneaky wallet.  Where you ask? On my bed of course.

At this point, I decide to finally pour my coffee and head to the tow truck place to drop off the keys and the man looks at me and says “You look familiar”.. he begins eyeing me and says “You from Clinton?”.  (sigh..).  So, I say.. that indeed.. Im “That” girl.  He then has a million questions for me, mostly the same one everyone asks “How in the hell are you smiling and standing?”.

I don’t want to go into it, so I answer with my blanket response of “Well, Im alive.. and I lived for a reason..” and then in my awkward fashion follow it up with a “fill in sentence”.. telling him I also found my wallet and cleaned up my dogs puke.. so the day was getting better. 

Upon arriving home, both dogs were smiling.. smelling fresh, and it was 11:00. I missed my biopsy. Not to worry, it is rescheduled for December 31st so it will be covered under 2013 ded. with my insurance.  So, now we sit and wait to find out of the truck is indeed “scrap” as the man called it.  He’s an older chap.  The truck has been with Sean about 9 years, and he bought it used. It went on many mountain biking trips with him out west when he lived in CO. It has seen Moab many times, and trekked across country carrying all of his belongings when he decided to move in with me in VT.  It has treated us well here in CT, and I failed to treat it with the same care it has given me and was not diligent with his oil change. 


So, here we are. Where we are supposed to be. 

Life has a funny way of happening fast.  Sometimes we are not where we want to be in life, and our days (even if they are just mornings) go completely opposite of how we expected.. HOWEVER, they end up just as they should.  

So, Don’t call me Shirley. I am serious. My house is also clean, my wallet is beside me, and my running shoes are on. 





Onward in the journey of hope and healing.


Phew- Here goes.

Im cycling again. A lot.  My bike has just been indoors on a computrainer, but it has been used.. and happy.  My body is getting stronger.  My rotations per minute are accelerating. My power is accelerating. My cardiovascular strength is improving.  I am becoming the triathlete I hoped and prayed I could become.. Image

With increased rotations, is an increased pressure on the saddle.  That increased pressure causes dynamic pain due to the damage my female “parts” have endured. I will be actively looking for another seat, as well going through some incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassing procedures to break up scar masses and allow my body to be more comfortable seated.

It seems when things are looking strong, that a rock flies into my wheel and breaks a spoke.. which brings me to the following:

Asking for a little prayer for tomorrow. My immune system has held onto some “abnormal cells” for three tests now (over an 18 month span). Tomorrow I will be heading in for another biopsy (this will be #3 in one year) since my results are still coming back positive for abnormal cells.  The doctor feels my body might not be able to clear the abnormal cells just because of the magnitude of surgeries Ive had over the last two years.. He is an Iron Man, and is very familiar with my training and health and said “KEEP DOING WHAT YOUR DOING”.  Knowing that my diet, exercise, and sleep has been what has allowed me to heal as well as I have and not get any worse.. That being said, we’ve known the entire time that long term open wounds and numerous surgeries always provides heavy stress on the immune system (mine already is compromised with Lupus). The hope is that the cells will “clear themselves” and not lead towards cervical cancer. Im pretty sick of procedures, and have had much, much, much anger about this trauma.. and much thankfulness for my health and healing. Im also aware that I have a long way to go.

That being said, I already almost lost my kidney and needed massive surgery because of this trauma, and my poor “wahoo” (a.k.a va-gi-na).. there, I said it.. has gone through a horrid time.

She has been ripped off, stapled back on, and is very full of scar tissue and now the inability to heal.. follow that with my “tookus” (a.k.a A-Nus)… there, I said that too.. that has been ripped miserably apart and also rebuilt.. and my poor “under carriage” is not happy.

So tomorrow, it is back in for more biopsies.. which is ridiculously pain filled and frustrating.

Why do I put this awkward, unhappy, gross piece on my blog? Because my blog is about authenticity.. and the hope that from sharing so much.. it will not only help me in my healing process, but (haha, BUTT) also help others to break down barriers of things that are otherwise “uncomfortable” to talk about.

I have a pretty face.. Thank God.. and Im also partially incontinent about 50% of the time with both bowel and bladder, and my body looks and feels like it got run over by a freight truck.

Not pleasant to talk about.. but real.

So, put your nose down.. we all poop. and fart.. I do both sometimes.. in public, and sometimes even when Im in front of hundreds of people talking.. It sucks, and yet. I can pee and poop.. so you know what? “better out than in, as my mother always says”..


More material for public talks.

Bow your head with me tonight, and help me seek grace and peace for another procedure tomorrow that will inevitably not only hurt physically but manifest all of the scars that the trauma has engrained into my being.. My prayer for myself is that I can accept  my own anger and pain, ask for continued healing, and also direct it towards seeking healing for others.. because, sometimes when we are at our low points.. it is when we are forced to look up. #BythegraceofGodgoI





You know what it is like.. Maybe you want to go on vacation, a better job, to get thinner, bulk up, have a family, have long hair, create world peace, find the cure for cancer, run faster, ride longer, swim more efficiently.. (yes, you know where my brain is).  Patience.  Dear God, I thought I would be patient by now.  How patient are you at your wants? Regardless of how big or small, at some point we start to realize the fact that EVERYTHING takes time.

Wanting takes a strong amount of energy.  When we learn to convert the “wanting” energy into “action” energy to do something about it.. the “light at the end of the tunnel” can start looking a bit brighter and closer.  Sometimes when we put action into play, the light of the tunnel may look even FURTHER away, because we realize just how much work we have to do.. Then we must ask, “Is it worth it, and why?”.  Most of the time, the answer is “Yes”, and that’s when we cycle back towards learning patience.. and looking for gratitude in even the smallest step towards that light.

How much time something takes to happen completely depends on a multitude of variables, and sometimes we can not do it alone.

This is where we need patience, AND each other.

For me, I have been struggling with a lack of patience for quite some time.  I wanted to run a marathon yesterday, have a baby last year, complete an Iron Man next year, kick my husbands butt on a bike (and the swim).. and have had a honeymoon.  The reality is that those things have not happened. The other reality is that AMAZING things HAVE happened, and I need to focus on those.

Last week, I stepped out of my front door and decided to write my next motivational speaking engagement in my head while I jogged.. Mind you, I haven’t ran more than 15 miles in two years and certainly never completed it pain free.  My mind thought, “Well, Ill just keep running until my mind can complete this outline”.. and so I did, and 17.4 miles later I hobbled back into my front door.

Today, I WANTED to get over my PTSD in the fall weather. I WANTED to just hop on my bike with my husband and ride 50 miles through beautiful back roads.. Earlier this week I WANTED to hop back in the pool after not swimming for 7 weeks due to my last surgery, and bang out a mile without taking a break..


Have I learned anything?

In order to move forward in ANYTHING in this life, I have to strengthen the components of what Im working with.  If Im working on athletics, I have to do those “stupid” clams, wall slides, planks, and other delightful physical therapy exercises.. if I want to solve world peace, I must understand what is happening politically and socially.. develop the right channels and work with others on smaller tasks that can equate to part of a bigger framework towards change.

Today, we rode for less than ten miles. My body may have been able to sustain the 50 miles, but my mind and heart was not there. My panic set in, then came my disappointment, my embarresment, frustration, and anger. Once I settled into acceptance I reminded myself that it is “OK” to be angry, cry a bit, and then turn on the computer and look at the global news.. Which then roped me back towards perspective and that framework.

This weekend I will complete my 8th half marathon in 2 years. Pretty damn awesome. I WANTED to be able to run a solid 2:25 by now, I WANTED to be in full training for a marathon this year.. however, my body has other plans… This year, I am giving my body a break. No surgeries. Originally everything was going to be fully “repaired” by this spring, but my soul told me otherwise. My soul said “Learn Patience”.  If anyone ever tries to tell you they are a patient being, I say “that is all in perspective” because patience is something we all will be trying to learn during our entire journey on this earth.

Just remember, when you feel like you just “WANT IT NOW”.. work hard and secure the components towards your “want”, so when you get it, it will last..

Using Running to overcome life’s obstacles


perseverance_christian_nature_poster-rb3a48797b52b43e0ba76a4fa6325eecc_b30_8byvr_512Whoa. Thats a tall order.

I sat at my computer today about to begin my outline for my presentation at the Philadelphia marathon expo in two more weeks. As I looked at my screen, a dear friend popped up on Gmail chat to say hello.  She is about to go through radiation after almost a year of chemotherapy and a mastectomy. This friend is only in her thirties. Our instant message exchanges were light hearted and full of love.  As I sat there gazing down at the carpet at my running sneakers I thought about how many people are in my life that are struggling with some sort of ailment, wether is was something mentally plaguing them, physically, or both.

The month of October was a rough one for me.  I worked through the pain of post op from my kidney surgery, the stint, and the memories of all things associated with the season that use to be a favorite of mine.  Fall in New England is just simply gorgeous.  There is no where in the world that can compare with the feeling of fall in the Northeast. We are blessed with colorful canopies of trees bursting with colors, smells of earth, rain, and decomposing leaves, pumpkins everywhere.. and apples being freshly harvested at every town’s local farm. Fall is a time where we get a little cozier, and await the first few snowflakes that will soon blanket the winter ground.   Two plus years ago, my favorite season became that of a nightmare when I was run over while cycling.  The leaves were perfect on that October 8th day.  The pumpkins adorned every doorstep, and cool breezes swept through my hair, tickling my nose and making my face light up with a smile. Then, the unimaginable happened.. that large freight truck blew right through that stop sign and right over my 125 pound body.  I was dragged for several feet, rolled over and over.. my bike shoes were ripped off my feet as my front tire wrapped under the chassy of the freight liner. When my body finally came to a stop, I was left ripped apart with broken bones, much of my skin shredded off my body, and clinging to life.  Within minutes my heart would stop beating and I would lay in a coma while being brought in and out of surgeries. I would receive many units of blood and blood products, and I would be resuscitated multiple times. During my “sleep” I would miss the big October snow fall, the fact that Halloween was “cancelled” that year.. and that my job was being eliminated due to a mismanagement of the company I believed so strongly in.  When I awoke the leaves were gone, and so was the month of October.


Two years later, my fear and anxiety has reached highs that I could have never begun to imagine.  My first love, which is cycling went partially by the wayside, and I began running.  With a screwed back together pelvis, mended broken ankle and tibia,  50% less muscle mass in my left leg, partial incontinence, brain trauma issues, a badly degloved glute, and severe wounds, all I wanted to do was run.. run because they managed to keep my leg, run because I was alive, run because my muscles longed to work, run because I could.  Running became the hardest and most challenging endeavor that I ever attempted, and at the same time became something that forced me to “unplug”, to listen to my heart beat, to feel pain and know it meant I was here, and to give gratitude.

Running forces your body to go through a series of “head games”.  First, there is the mere act of putting on your shoes.  For me, I could not put my own shoes on for almost a year.  Then it is about taking that first “leap” if you will, for me it provoked terror.. “Will I become unscrewed?” My surgeons came with me on this journey every literal step of the way.  What if I poop myself? well, I have.. so what.. its warm, stinky, and it washes off… What it Im too slow and people make fun of me? That’s their issue.. I survived a freight truck.

When we run, multiple things happen.. our bodies begin circulating.. detoxing if you will.  We begin cleansing our minds of thoughts, and suddenly have the ability to deal with things.. we NOTICE things.. the trees, the water, each other, the birds.. we SWEAT, and we are reminded about the beauty of water, and we drink.  We become hungry, and we are reminded that we live in a country where we can eat.  We see others run, and so we wave.. and we join the beautiful energy of people who are living.

So many people say, “I can’t run”.  I say, “Are you alive?” because if you are, even if you do it in a non-traditional way.. you can.. on some level. I have watched people race through finish lines on wheel chairs, with prosthetics, stumbling and struggling to stay upright from a stroke, but “running” none-the-less.

When we run, we become empowered to face life.  We become empowered to face ourselves. We become empowered to seek gratitude for each fatigued breath in and out that fuels our every heart beat.

How beautiful is gratitude?  Today, I closed my laptop and realized the best way to prepare for this upcoming discussion was to “go there”.  I needed to run, and not just anywhere.. I needed to run on Boston Post Road, and I needed to run longer than I had ever run. I needed to pray, seek direction, and find gratitude.

When asked how running has helped me handle stress and trauma, I would say it has forced me to “be real” and in doing so, it has opened the box to healing.   Today I ran over 17 miles while Fall is still in swing, along Boston Post Road. I stopped often and cried.  I stopped and caught my breath, I stopped and prayed. I also stopped to simply wipe away my tears and thank God for my life, this life.. and ask that I can be a light every step of my life.


A funny thing happened on the way to my kidney…


Well, not really funny per say.. but I couldn’t help but reference the famous “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum”, which was such a great farce musical comedy. Somedays I feel like Im in my own farce musical comedy.  I think back to those days of drama class and acting with Ms. Bonnick. Thank God for theater.. really.  Holy coping.

Last night, I felt sick. With almost every breath nausea surrounded me. I awoke many times to vomit but my stomach just felt like one solid painful unit that was not releasing anything (solid that is). The last several days Ive found myself belching like a “True Kelly”, only repeatedly (maybe a true Kelly) with heart burn, dizziness, and over all pain.  My surgeon called me last evening to check in.  I explained the tremendous pain I was still in and how much this surgery took me a bit by surprise.


I have had many many surgeries, and a whole lot of pain. For some reason, fixing my kidney seemed small and more annoying to be “patient” through the healing process than actually borderline “Desiring to just lay in bed and whimper” pain.

In the hospital, I was on narcotics.. A lot of them. Since I have been home I have taken maybe three milligrams of Oxycodone a day. I would much rather be “clear headed” and not so constipated I feel like Im going to poop out of my mouth, then doped up day after day, week after week on the couch watching soaps.. I’ve just never worked that way.  Sleep seemed the best route, and walking as much as my body allows, hydrating, and eating as much nutritious healing foods as my poor beat up stomach would allow.. until I need to sleep again..

Upon talking to this incredibly prestigious Yale Surgeon he seemed to almost chuckle.. “Colleen, you had major, major surgery”. He then began explaining that he needed to “dissect” my mid section in order to even get to my kidney and ureters. I had massive scar tissue in the abdomen which makes sense.. and still do, according to him, but he only removed what he needed to so he could get the job done. The other interesting thing was that my kidney was literally tucked up BEHIND my pancreas. So, he had to painstakingly “free” poor Clyde that was smooshed up where he wasn’t supposed to be.  He then proceeded to tell me he removed a good part of my ureter that was too narrowed and closed off to work effectively, and removed the lower section of my kidney, then fixed it and sewed it back together.  Ugh.  Poor Clyde still and will ever only function at a 20%, but that little guy is pretty happy about his GPA.

I thought once again about the game “OPERATION” and my strong desire to be that board game for Halloween. Ending our conversation with a strong release of gas from mouth,  I thanked him.  He reminded me that I WILL feel better, but I had to just stay the course.  If I could endure the lack of narcotics, so be it.. keep trying to let my stomach and organs “release back into a state of OOOOOOHM” and we would see each other in three weeks, pull out this nasty stint and I could hopefully get on with my life, until I needed to get my next round of surgeries started.   Image

Ive been amazed at what the human body is capable of actually doing. I have learned so much about my own self, and what we are capable of. I have also learned that sheer will isn’t everything. Upbringing also rings in. I have a stubborn dad, stubborn grandparents, and over all a stubborn family tree.. Where many may have laid on the couch.. it seems our roots fought like the belching crew that we are to keep going. Im reminded again of this just this week when my Dear Uncle Jack had a massive cancerous mass removed from his pancreas and stomach area.  He had no idea anything was wrong.. just living in his seventies, traveling the country with his bride since their early twenties.. and suddenly he dropped.  He was told if they did not remove this mass, he would die.. soon..  So he is laying in a hospital room in Arizona right now.. healing after a very radical and invasive surgery on a man that already had a heart condition. God Speed my family and ancestors.

So, in the greatness of my inpatient rehab centers daily question… “What is today’s goal?”.. Well, to try to find humor in this mess.. more humor. To embrace my body again as the unit it is.. With Bonnie and Clyde, Hoops and Yo-Yo, and Thomas The Engine that could, and Molly Shannon (Those are all body parts).

My goal is to try to eat a little more, and pray my belly can breathe a little stronger.. and to hold up my family in prayers of gratitude.

I have my blood ancestral family, and then I have all of you. We are all belching burping Kellys.

Words, Words.. growing from every open portal in my body


“I am afraid”, I whimper from under the oxygen mask to my husband. He stands before me gowned in blue with a scrub hat and mask on… his hand wearing a latex free extra large glove.. I dreamed of this moment.. I hoped it would be him beside me as we gave birth to our first born, instead I was about to go under anesthesia for over the twentieth time in under two years since the horrid trauma.

My stomach would be cut open, but not to retrieve our new born child. It was about to have many small incisions made in an effort to try and save “Clyde”… my right kidney.. Bonnie and Clyde had lived pretty well in their home of my body for most of my life. Then came October 8, 2011 and they began working harder.  Clyde seemed to have been effected with the greatest force and slowly, he was losing his battle to live.  In an odd way, knowing my kidney was dying was much like accepting the knowledge that the baby we were trying to create two years ago also lost his or her ability to live.

I dreaded all appointments and procedures for Clyde. He was suddenly that baby I needed to keep.  I had begun getting ill.  Having some back pains, and over all getting some blood pressure elevation. Since I struggle with tremendous PTSD,we were unsure how to pin point it, so it wasnt until I became quite ill that I was put in for a scan of my kidney.. Bingo.. 20% working..

The first call was crushing “Colleen, your kidney is dying. I think the scar tissue is closing off its ability to do its job and if we dont do something soon, we will need to just remove it”. So, I opted for a ten inch stint to be surgically placed in my kidney that went through the ureter and into the bladder to see how my “function” would change, or if it would. I kept the stint in for about four months. It was brutal. Any chance we could attempt to make love which was already badly slashed was now spat upon.. Every jogging step hurt, as did laughter, sneezing, all of those “belly moving” activities.

I said “I cant take this”, and continued running, cycling, and swimming.. with the permission of my surgeons and crossed over ten more finish lines in those 4 months.. Still unsure of the path for Clyde.. still unable to be whole as a wife, and still struggling with the loss of the child we never conceived.

So there I was laying on the OR table, with nurses holding various parts of my body. Husbands sweet eyes looking upon me, and the anesthesiologist telling me to just “breathe deep”.  “Please dear God, let me wake up.. Regardless if I keep this kidney.. let me wake up again.. let me recover, let me continue to be a wife, a daughter, a friend, and hopefully just hopefully a mommy someday”.

“Ok, Colleen, within two minutes you will be asleep..” I reached up to feel the side of my husbands draped face covered by the blue mask.. and then I was waking again..  6033982-surgical-lamp-in-operating-room

It was almost seven hours later. Just like being in that coma, seven hours of my life were taken and I simply closed my eyes.. Terror began setting in.. As I began to focus, their stood my souls mate.  “Your here my Colleen.  So is Clyde. They took care of the blockages, the surgery was a bit more intensive as they planned, but everything worked out well.. rest my love.. I am here”.  With that, I closed my eyes feeling his hand on my heart and awoke again an hour later.

Beep.. Beep.. Beep… “Colleen, how are you sweet heart?”, a nurse gazed with big brown eyes into my soul as she held onto my fingers.  “You sure are a strong woman, a light to all of us…”  eyes closed… Beep.. beep..beep.

Another hour later.

“My Colleen, how are you? I am here.” Sweet Husband was still standing over me.  Finally, I spoke. My body screamed in pain, chemicals danced throughout every cell, but  not in the way I love.. (more in that dub step way).

I craved water.. cleansing.. “Dear God, please.. go down into my roots.. make me strong..”

I began visualizing the willow tree that I loved since childhood. Feeling the swaying limbs brushing over my body,lifting up my hair.. breathing in the clean air filtered by the beautiful and tiny silver leaves.. and embracing the way my body contoured into its sprawling roots that climbed above and below the ground..

When I was in my early to mid twenties I connected with my “adult willow tree”. It was along the side of the road enroute to one of my favorite hikes on Camels Hump Mountain. Throughout the seasons I would drive past this tree that stood on the side of a country road by a large barn and farm stand.. it was tall, and graceful, beautiful, strong.. and with each season is seemed to sway in song.. rather unwavering. Until one season, I drove past and it had been chopped down. Apparently due to its sprawling root system, it became too invasive.  It was shortly after that I knew my first tattoo would be that of a willow tree.


The next several days and nights were spent with my husband glued to my side. His eyes were tired, his face quickly became withered. He was worried but always putting his best foot forward.. Night after night, I awoke screaming in pain and panic.  Reliving every second, every smell, taste, touch, through the new wounds that were freshly made upon my body.

I am here.

In those four plus days, many nurses came in to tell me what a gift and miracle my life was.  Sometimes I accepted with a semi- smile. Other times I would just cry and ask them for a hug.

“Why God, do we need tragedy to seek your face.. please help me seek your face with every sway of the willow trees branches.. help me come home to your love.. help me come home to truth, light, my husbands embrace.. to lose the “religion” of religion.. and hold onto truths.

The truths I know now, are that our bodies are temporal.. and we need love. We crave love. As much as we need to receive, we need to give. Love makes the literal and figurative holes in our body blossom…. 71663_456420768480_6677406_n

Yesterday I gave myself a sponge bath while staring at my cane handle in the mirror.. and my naked body. I felt my throat well up to cry, and I let it out. As I stared at these new holes I thought.. “may the old, ugly, and painful memories flood out from within… may I bathe these new wounds with my own love.. and let them grow”.

The year ahead of me will hold many more surgeries, many more tears, and many more times that I will deeply look into my own soul for a clean and renewed heart.

Clyde, thanks for sticking it out buddy.. Bonnie and I thank you.. I promise we will all go for a run sometime soon. In the mean time, Your in the best temple I can provide you.

Gratitude and Perseverance,

Colleen Image

Swimming with Sedona


I have not been blogging in awhile. I think between my oldest dog Sedona aging out too quickly, and losing her has really dampened my writing soul.  Over the last many many months I have watched her deteriorate.  She went from eating Wellness food and organic eggs, vegetables and turkey.. to only wanting carbs and processed food. Her diet would consist of anything I could get her to eat. One week it might be bagels with cream cheese, the next week it could be donuts and deli ham, and the next she might take a liking to cheeseburgers from  McDonalds.  Her crunchy health nut of a mom did not dig it, but I just wanted her to stay alive.  She began going blind at the age of three and was completely blind by eight years. Within the last year of her life she became deaf and developed some stomach and intestinal problems along with disorientation.  I have written many blogs in my head, and wrote for hours on paper only to wrinkle them up covered in tear stains and throw them away.   

Until about three months ago, even though so much turmoil has happened in my life one thing was always constant.. my relationship with Sedona.  We met eachother thirteen and a half years ago. I can still hear the whimper of her puppy calls.  In the mountains of the Northeast Kingdom is where she was born. She was the only girl surrounded by chubby little brothers that gnawed on her ears.   Her grandfather and father were show dogs and avid hunters.  Her mom was a simply a “member of the family” and had the classic “coffee table clearer wag”.  One lick from her mom and long gaze into her eyes.. and I knew she was ok with me adopting her little girl into my life. I kissed her mothers head and thanked her. I promised her that Sedona would never just be “my dog” that she would be my family member, and I would love her until one of our last breaths. 

Sedona came home at ten weeks of age.  She weighed about twelve pounds.  On the two hour drive home from Lake Willoughby to Burlington, VT she slept on my lap suckling on my elbow and occassionaly waking up to yawn, look at me, stretch and sprawl back out.  Our relationship melded very fast, and we both learned a great respect and love for one another. She was hyper and intense, just like me.  She could rarely sit still unless of course she was on the verge of sleeping or sacked out, just like me.. and she LOOVED the water, and hiking, and running, and eating, and meeting new people, and making others happy.. just like me. 

Our only point of contention was her insatiable appetite and need to eat EVERYTHING.  When she was barely six months old she discovered bagels.  While I was upstairs she managed her first official surfing expedition on the kitchen counter to retrieve one dozen bagels from the Burlington Bagel Bakery. She ate them all, then managed to try and “hide” the bag under her dog bed as I looked around the kitchen in a puzzled fashion to find where in the crap I left an entire bag of bagels.   That was the day I learned about hydrogen peroxide from our vet.  That was also the day I began stockpiling bottles of it in my bathroom closet.  Sedona began swimming in Lake Champlain with me almost immediately.  She would swim circles around me barking with joy.  We could spend hours in the water with her fetching and “working”.  When she was a year old, we discovered agility.  She was amazing. Top of her class. She did the weave polls, the tunnel, the see saw, and sat, laid down, and followed commands like the prize show dogs her family was.  She also loved mud, and “gardening”.   I thought she was the perfect version of a “Classy Vermont girl”.  She was beautiful and dignified when she wanted to be.. and completely covered in mud and running up mountains on other days.   She began going to work with me when I was in admin at Ben and Jerrys in South Burlington and would lay at my feet all day and play with coworkers dogs on my lunch break, there she developed her love of ice cream (and seriously, what better place).   A few years later I started working with her to be more of a therapy dog, and would take her on calls when I served as an advocate at the womans rape crisis center.  My pager would go off in the middle of the night, and she would accompany me to the hospital, or the police station, or to the woman and childrens safe house to “counsel” those affected.  When I began working for a youth non profit in northern VT, she came to work with me daily. She would welcome the youth as they came through the doors.  Sometimes a teenager would be upset and she would just lay on the couch beside them and when they were ready to jump up and go outside to play basketball she was right there beside them ready to head out into the Vermont air for some “outdoor therapy”.  She has hiked well over 100 times in her life, summited close to 50 peaks.. swam in countless lakes, rivers, oceans, and streams..   She would swim along side me when I would kayak, often for a few miles through Lake Champlain.. her tail moving like a rudder.  When she would get fatigued she would run ashore to get her breath back and then dart back out and keep swimming beside me. 

She has moved with me eight times.  She was my alarm clock each morning with a lick or her usual “body wag” under my feet and she bumped the bed “talking”.  Sedona was my first dog.  My co-worker, my training buddy, my constant. I was never so protective of anything in my entire life as I was with her.  She was never kenneled, never left in a fenced in area, and for the most part, Im not sure she ever understood she was a dog.

The many many weeks leading up to her death I would lay with her and cry.. praying to God that he would take my sweet girl home.. She would lay drooling and panting heavily, but still manage to eat part of a cheese burger and thump her tail.  Our niece played guitar for her a few times and although deaf, she would walk out and lay close to her and seem to “smile” listening to her vibrations.  It was not until she started having accidents in the house that I knew she was so embarrassed she was miserable.  I wanted to explain to her that mommy had a colostomy bag and a catheter for a very very long time.. and made many many accidents.. I wanted her to understand that I too struggle with incontinence from the trauma.. but I could not.  The reality is, although we had that similarity also.. I am 37 and she was now over 91 in Dog years.. Over the last two years I wanted to take her swimming, but I could now not get in the water due to my open wounds and infection.. finally when my wounds were manageable enough and I got permission, it was too late.. we could not swim together anymore. 

I have always feared the blackness in water.  I have feared it more since the coma, intubation, resucitation, and far too many surgeries. This past weekend we went to the Lakes region in New Hampshire. I took her ashes with us.  The sun shone brilliantly upon her ashes and bits of bone sparkling in my hand.. and I tossed them into the waters.. “Go swim again my sweet Sedona”.  After I maintained my composure, I put on my wetsuit and walked out into the water and swam.. I did not want to stop swimming.. I felt happy, giddy actually.. She was free.. swimming with me.. no more pain.. age was no longer a factor.  

The day we took her to go to sleep, she walked into the vets office on her own.. She laid down on the dog bed, on her own.. and we loved her and kissed her and fed her a cheeseburger.  The vet gave the first injection to calm her body, and she fell asleep with us laying close to her and crying to God to show her mercy and give her peace.  I believe we were really asking God to give us peace so we could let her go.  When the final injection came, we listened to her breathing slow down until her last breath happened.. I cried out and could not let her go.. Then, when I finally composed myself I looked down at her lifeless body and it actually did not look lifeless. She was dead, her sprit was gone.. but her body was beautiful. Her face was full of peace. I closed her eyes.. and dealt with my own mortality.. I flashed back to my own death, and wondered.. “will she come back?, I did.. maybe she will breathe again.. maybe she will get strong again.. maybe we can take her back home.. “

I even asked Dr. Price if I could take her stethoscope to listen to her heart.. silence.. nothing.. 

She had crossed over and was already licking my tears. 

Watching a loved one go through the dying process is incomprehensible.  Some of us have the luxury of knowing our loved ones are on their way out.. others lose them unexpectedly.. My family almost lost me forever in the blink of an eye on Oct 8th, but God had a different plan.. which was to bring me back to life, so I would have stories to tell.. and hearts to change.. including my own.   Now, I will swim with Sedona. 

Siochain. Image