During that time, I let the pain break me; I let the grief change me; I let my spirit die with him. I became so far removed from the person I was before, that I honestly didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I was just… there. And barely.
While so many friends tried to comfort me, my only request was to be left alone. Because that’s exactly how I felt… alone. Abandoned. Shocked. Angry. Heartbroken. Devastated. And alone.
But honestly... I couldn’t see myself as any kind of inspiration. I felt like quite the opposite… a complete and total failure.
One night, I talked to my friend Katie. She was trying to cheer me up by reminding me of all the lives I’d saved over the years. But for me, it had all lost its meaning. I said, “I don’t even know if I care anymore. I honestly think it’s best for me to take a break for a while. Maybe forever.” Katie said, “Ash! No! These dogs need you! You can’t take a break! Please don’t quit!” I responded, “My heart is too broken for this right now. I just can’t do it anymore.” And I got off the phone.
She had a big smile on her face… which I found odd… but I assumed she was just trying to help me feel normal again. Then, she handed me a card. As I went to take it from her, she stopped me… and said: “The day after Rudy died, I started calling everyone we know. I wanted your birthday to be special, and I couldn’t stand the thought of you giving up on rescue. If I’d had more time, I could’ve done more… but in 2 days, this is what I was able to do for you…”
That was the first time since Rudy died that I thought, maybe… just maybe… hope still existed.
Also in December, we launched Pet Pardons, a small idea that became huge. I didn’t understand at the time just how huge it really was, but it was a total game changer for me personally, and a life saver for so many pets on death row. Pet Pardons has restored my faith in humanity, compassion, and action, and to date, more than 150,000 users have helped us save more than 3000 lives.
In all honesty, my greatest hope was that a couple of people would read it, and maybe one person would feel inspired to get involved. That was honestly the extent of my dreams for this thing. But I had no idea… that this blog would completely change my life...
I started writing, and people started reading. And more started reading. And then even more joined in. Messages from across the country—across the globe—were filling my inbox, and my heart was so full at the realization that people were not only connecting with my words, but also finding comfort and being driven to action.
That’s when I was contacted by Care2.com, asking to feature the story in their “Rescue of the Week” segment. I was truly honored, but I still had no idea how far Annie’s story would reach. Adopt-a-Pet shared the story, Alyssa Milano tweeted the post, and Dogster.com, BellaDog Magazine, and countless other sites and publications also featured the story.
Suddenly, rescues and shelters from across the country were asking for my help to develop end-of-life programs for terminally ill pets. The fabulous Dr. Pia Salk of Adopt-a-Pet also called me for a long chat about how the story had personally impacted her. Pia and I would later work together on a post for Martha Stewart's blog. In addition, Guarding Dogs-The Documentary decided to make Lucky Dog Rescue part of their upcoming film project.
Before March, Annie’s life had only ever mattered to me. Now, her memory lives on in the hearts of more people that I ever could’ve imagined…
Because, to date, Annie’s story has been read and shared by well over 100,000 people… and growing.
After Dogster’s feature, I was flooded with calls and messages from people around the world who had been touched by the piece… and the outpouring of compassion and support was nothing short of incredible. American Dog Magazine featured Rudy’s story in their summer issue, along with another of my blog posts, and a 2-page feature on me and Lucky Dog Rescue. That's 6 pages in their summer issue. Unreal.
Today, six months after my very first post, Lucky Dog Rescue Blog gets more than 55,000 page views per month… and growing. I’ve received messages from readers across the world, in more than 30 different countries, and I’ve connected with more people than I ever could’ve imagined. Each day, so many special readers take the time to tell me how I’ve inspired them, changed their way of thinking, or driven them to action. After reading my posts, people are suddenly stepping-up to volunteer, foster, and transport… and those very readers are truly changing the world. It’s just more than I ever dreamed possible.
Because... if I’m being honest... I’m still shocked that anyone at all is reading this thing…
Receiving my tax exempt letter was a major accomplishment and the perfect ending to an amazing year… or so I thought. But just before the year ran out… the final piece fell into place. More on that later, but it’s the biggest game changer of all...
And wow… what a year it’s been…
*Rudy, I love you so much. Thank you for changing my world as much in death... as you did in life. I hope I've made you proud, buddy. When I get to Heaven, I expect to see a long line of dogs waiting to greet me. Please make sure you're first in line. I miss you.
**Next, I’ll share one of the most incredible moments from last year, the event after Annie’s death that made this entire year possible. Click below to read that post (Part 3):