When Love Shows Up as a White Shadow

It’s 4:21 am as I begin to write this post and I feel like I can barely breathe. For the fourth day in a row, I’ve woken up in a cold sweat. I had every intention of sharing projects related to the kitchen this week but a trip to the vet’s office late Friday afternoon changed everything. As you guys may know, my little white Jack Russell terrier, Talladega, has been struggling for the past six months with canine dementia. She rarely slept through the night anymore and over time we found ourselves up with her every 3-4 hours. Last Wednesday we couldn’t get her settled enough to sleep at all. I held her most of Thursday as she rested off and on throughout the day but we were all, in a word, exhausted.

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Friday afternoon, we took Tally to the vet. He carefully reviewed the possible causes of her rapid decline – mini stroke or fluid buildup likely on the brain. Then came the possible courses of treatment – we have a great neurologist in town I’m happy to send you to – we can try more supplements and brain food diets – we can run more tests and give her IV meds – but she’ll probably not recover from this, he gently said, and you need to prepare yourselves for that possibility.

Well, as you can imagine, I totally lost it.

I’ve learned over the last few months it doesn’t matter if it happens in the hallway of a hospital, the doctor’s office or the vet’s office, hearing the words – there’s really nothing more we can do – are the most devastating words you can possibly hear. For in that one sentence it feels like someone has blown out the flame of hope and left you standing there holding the candle.

Through our heartbreak, he softly said, “You can’t make a wrong decision here. I’ll support whatever you choose to do. Dogs are strong that way, they’ll try to hold on as long as you need them to.”

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…the words they’ll try to hold on as long as you need them to kept ringing in my ears…and that’s when love showed up the first time.

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We somehow made it to the car, Tally in my lap, pamphlets in my hand, seat belts buckled, engine on and yet we found ourselves completely unable to drive away. We just sat there in total silence…stunned. Finally, my bestie S said, “It would be really easy to go home and spend the weekend crying and upset. I think Tally needs us to celebrate her life though.”

I know this is going to sound so mean, but I’ll be honest here, in my head I was screaming at S not a second after those words left her mouth. “Who are you to tell me how to handle this!” I thought. “I can cry as much or as little as I want to! When I want to! And how I want to!” I silently yelled. “Don’t you think I’ve been through enough already?” I wanted to say. “A freaking tornado ruined my milestone birthday, my grandparents both died three months ago and I’m too numb to give myself time to grieve! My dad was hospitalized and I don’t even know if he’s being honest about his care! We barely made it through the One Room Challenge in tact! I worry about my mom every single day! I’m behind in everything! I have no motivation, I’ve lost my creativity, I’m scared and hurting and angry! I. AM. SO. INCREDIBLY. ANGRY. RIGHT. NOW! And here you are telling me what to do when not even 5 minutes ago, I’ve been told I’m going to lose the most treasured love I have in life!”

I don’t say anything of those things out loud, I just keep staring out the window instead. You know what stopped me from saying all those words out loud?

Grace… that’s when love showed up for the second time.

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When I didn’t respond S drove us to Starbucks and somewhere between sips of chai latte, my heart started to melt just a little. We stopped crying long enough to pull together a bucket list of sorts to celebrate Tally’s last days with us:

A trip to the pet store

A pup cup

Watch All Dogs Go to Heaven

Walk on the beach and swim in the ocean

Lick a vanilla kiddy cone

Hike the trails

Sing “Who Let the Dogs Out” while riding down the road with the windows rolled down

Road trip to Mimi and Popi’s house and eat sweet treats

Run around the yard

Play in the bathtub with Jelly Bean

Snuggle with my mom one last time

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We started the list as soon as we got home on Friday and then spent the rest of the weekend crossing each activity off one by one. It should come as no surprise that love showed up in each scenario. It came through a pod of dolphins swimming so close to shore it felt like they were waving hello; in a heavily tattooed stranger that stopped to tell us he had loved two Jack Russell terriers and missed them every day; it came in a random turtle crossing our paths on the trails; in a hawk that flew over our home every morning; loved showed up in my mom’s tears and in my dad’s hug; it showed up in the white flowers we took with us to the vet’s office to say thank you for treating us with such kindness.

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Over the past 15 years I’ve been entrusted with this fur covered white shadow, I’ve learned more about myself than I even knew possible. She woke me up in the mornings with her kisses and slept in the small of my back every night. She met me at the door with sweet smiles and snuggled my neck each time I cried.   She energetically sat at my feet as I blogged and slept next to the bathtub while I soaked after a long day. Tally was a gift I didn’t even know I needed at the time but I’m convinced her unfailing and unconditional love helped to bring me out of the darkest chapter of my life.

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A few short hours ago with tear filled eyes and a completely broken heart, I held her in my arms and whispered one last time…you have been my greatest gift…I love you so much…I don’t need you to hold on any more… I promise, I’ll be ok.

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Many blessings,


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  1. I am so sorry for your loss but so happy you and Tally shared so much and were there for each other. ❤️

  2. Karen Reeves says:

    My heart goes out to you. I had to do the same thing with my chicolate lab 3 years ago, and I still sthink of him every day. The hurt finally goes away a little bit every day, but you never stop thinking of your “fur baby”.

  3. My heart is breaking for both of you.

  4. HoPe Williams says:

    My tears fall with you and for everyone who has ever felt this pain. My heart is breaking for us all who have loved this much.
    Blessings, Hope

  5. Oh sweet Tally you were an angel on earth. Just like my Abby. I know there must be a special place for beings like you that have helped us humans through so much in our lives. You will always be with us. No matter the form.

    Count the happy memories, Coco, and try to let go of the sorrow. What a wonderful life you provided for Tally!

  6. I am so very, very sorry that you are going through this. Your words brought back too many painful memories of when I lost my own sweet, little shadow. He’s been gone several years, yet I still well up with tears every time I think of him. Again, I am so sorry for you and your family.

  7. Bobbie beach says:

    So sorry for your loss! I, too, know how hard it is to say goodbye. I have to do it four times in my life and each every one of those fur babies were remarkable in their own way and I am forever blessed to have had them in my life! I don’t remember ever crying while reading a blog, but yours was so beautifully written from your heart that I could actually feel the love and sorrow. Simply a beautiful tribute to your Tally!

  8. I’m so sorry for your loss. What an incredible friend you had for 15 year.

  9. Oh gracious God, I just went through this last September with my beloved 17 year old German short-haired pointer, Princess. My husband and I took turns sleeping with her for over a year because she was not strong enough to get up on her own many times and she was awake every two to three hours. Saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Your little beautiful baby’s face reminds me so much of my Princess. God bless you for being such a wonderful and caring fur momma. Hugs and peace to you.

  10. I’m sobbing, CoCo. You really did it this time! I have a white rat terrier, Milo, (cousin of the JR). You can see him on my sidebar at my blog. He’s 14. He’s getting slow, deaf and worn out all together from the activities he’s always done. At the lake he turns into a little pup trying to play with the BIG dogs…he pays later that night.

    You are an accomplished writer and you express feelings from the heart better than anyone I’ve known or read. I try not to predict the future but I simply feel my heart cave in when I see Milo trying to navigate the same old stairs or porch. See him sleep more hours than he’s awake.

    Sorry—-this isn’t about me. Your guy was absolutely beautiful. My heart aches and I never met him.

    I am so loving the idea of a bucket list. I actually work on that a little bit everyday. He loves it at the lake where we spend more time outdoors and the scents of all the wild and wooly creature blow our way from the woods. So many windows he couldn’t miss a thing if he tried. Days of adventure and nights of deep dark sleep.

    I am thinking of you and sending a huge hug.

    Jane x.

  11. Oh Coco! Words can’t even…as I sit here crying in my breakfast nook. All I can say is this is beautifully written and a true testament of the love of a dog. My prayers are with you sweet friend.


  12. Dear CoCo, First let me say that I love that you are an early riser like me. I wake up around 4:30 most mornings and since I discovered your blog (when you were about 1/2 way into the one room challenge) I so look forward to seeing your post come in (if they aren’t already posted). So Yesterday when I logged in and didn’t see one you were greatly missed and I wondered what might be going on in your life? It took me a long time to get through your post today because I stopped to grieve with you several times. You wrote the most beautiful tribute to a loved one that I have ever read. Thank you for sharing yourself and showing us where love showed it self to you. I pray that The Lord continues to flood you with peace and love. Rest in peace Talladega.
    Love and Blessings,

  13. Sue Raddatz says:

    Talladega will always be with you. Bless you and may your beautiful memories remain always close.

  14. My dearest CoCo – As much as your sweet Tally was a gift to you, you were a gift right back to her. We know that you are heartbroken because love does that to you. Hold onto your sweet memories and furry hugs. We love you dear friend.

  15. Coco, my heart breaks for you as I read this post. I know the heartache and pain that goes with saying goodbye to our sweet furbabies. Saying goodbye is hard but adjusting to life without them is harder. I am so sorry that you had to say goodbye to Tally and that it comes at a time when you have already experienced so much hurt, pain and loss. I pray that God continues to strengthen you in the days ahead. Love and prayers sweet friend.

  16. CoCo,
    I can hardly write this to you because I know there are really no words I can say to ease your heart break. I know because we lost our beautiful Sheltie, Madden, to cancer on June 17. We’ve cried until we thought there were no more tears, but yet there were more. Our dogs are more than pets, they are part of our family and embedded in our hearts. I’m so, so sorry for your loss.

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