Always Be Kind

You just never know when something you say, write, or do ... could manage to reach someone when they need it most.

You just never know...

Sometimes, that someone may come right out and tell you how you've impacted their life.
Other times, they may say little --or nothing-- about it...

Regardless, the result is always the same:
You did good.

While it's never about the need for their acknowledgement or appreciation (at least, it shouldn't be)... many times, you may do something truly impactful... without even realizing that you've made any difference at all.

Maybe you did something for someone, simply because it was the right thing to do, and then you went about your day.

Or you said something to someone, because they needed to hear it, and then you carried on with your life.

Or maybe you wrote something for others, just because you cared, and then you went right back to work.

All the while... you have no idea... that you've just changed a life...

Often, your own actions will seem trivial, meaningless, and insignificant to you. You may assume the following: 
Other people make a difference.
Other people change the world.
Surely, I'm not one of them.

But in your mind, you know that you're a good person.
And obviously, you try to do good things.
So eventually... you're going to reach someone.

But even when you do...
If you're like me...
You probably won't realize that what you did even mattered.
You probably weren't even expecting it to.
You probably did it anyway, just because it felt like the right thing to do.

So then, after the fact... when someone comes to you and says: "Thank you for what you did. I really needed this today."
You're honestly pretty shocked.

When they say: "You reached me when I needed someone the most."
You're actually pretty dumbfounded.

And when you hear: "This is how you've changed my life..."
You're absolutely speechless.

While those words will mean the world to you --and undoubtedly change your life, too...
in that moment, you'll totally be thinking: Wait... I did that?!

You were simply trying to do the right thing.
You never expected to make that kind of difference.
And yet... you absolutely did.

To you... it may have been nothing.
To that someone... it may have been everything.

Here's the deal:
Even if we don't know it...
Even if we don't believe it...
Even if we don't use it...
We each hold the power to change something...

Sure... I'll be the first to admit my own self-doubt... especially when it comes to the idea of impacting others. I rarely think I'm capable. I'm usually just speaking, writing, or acting from my heart... with little-to-no expectation.

That's especially true when it comes to my blog... or as I lovingly call it: my dinky, ole blog
I write posts... and for whatever reason-- people read them.

When I write, I'm just hoping that maybe my words will bring comfort to someone. Or maybe I'll change their way of thinking. Or my greatest hope... maybe they'll feel inspired in some way.

Do I expect these things to happen? Definitely not.
Do I expect anyone to read it? I certainly don't.
But I write anyway... because there's always a chance that something good could come out of it.
And for me, that's enough.

Yet... most of the time, I doubt myself, especially when it comes to my writing.
Even though I've written from my heart.
Even though my words are true.
Even though I believe in my message.
I still think to myself: Wow. I suck.

Regardless, I write anyway.
Why does it matter?
Well... every single time... it just so happens... someone, somewhere needed to hear those words that day:

"Dear Ashley- Sometimes in life, someone reaches you, at the exact moment you needed them. Today, I experienced that moment. You were that someone for me. Thank you, Ashley. You changed my life today."

Reading messages like those, I'm always shocked, speechless, and amazed. But mostly, I'm touched.
So touched.
So moved.
So thankful... for the person who took the time to thank me... for something I never expected a "thank you" for doing...
For something I never even thought I could do.

It's an incredible feeling... to reach someone when they need to be reached. There's nothing like it.
In truth, we should all try our best to make a difference for others, every chance we get.
After all... that's why we're here.  

And honestly...
If I can make a difference... then you can make a difference.

It's not about my writing.
It's not about my blog.
It's not about me.

It's not about giving myself credit for doing something "amazing" ... 
Because what I do with this blog... isn't amazing at all.
I write posts from my heart, because I care. Then, I share them. That's it.

But here's why that matters:
I could easily allow my own doubts, my own criticism, and my own fears to stop me from ever writing anything in the first place.
Yet... I write anyway.
And so... I'm able to make a difference... simply because I tried.

Each and every person holds that same power... to change something, for someone, somewhere.
A smile can change something.
A hug can change something.
A kind word can change something.
YOU can change something.

We're surrounded by a world of people (and animals) who feel alone, broken, and hopeless.
You'll pass them each and every day.
You'll rarely know their struggles.
They'll rarely ask for help.

And yet... they need you.

A simple, random act of kindness on your behalf... could be all they need... to feel okay again.
YOU could give them hope--today, right now, this second.
All you have to do... is try.

Above all else, always be kind.

You just never know when you'll say, write, or do something... that will change a life forever. 
If you feel it in your heart, say it.
If it lives inside your soul, write it.
If someone needs your help, do it.

An opportunity is always waiting for you...
Someone is always wishing for you...
A lost soul is always hoping for you...

Maybe you'll make a difference...
Maybe you won't...
Try anyway.


I'm A Mom, Too

Definition:  Mother-
Noun: "A woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth."

According to that definition... I wouldn't be considered a "mother."
I've never conceived, carried, or given birth to a child.
And of course, I have no human children of my own.

However... according to that definition, the many women who have adopted human children --and then, loved and raised them as their own-- wouldn't be considered "mothers" either.

So, in my opinion, that definition kinda sucks.

But... what do I know, right?
I'm not a "real" mom anyway.

In the past, certain people have said to me:
"You'll understand one day, when you have children..."

They say this with certainty... as if I'll never fully grasp even the most basic of life concepts... until after I've given birth to a child.

As if the act of giving birth... is the only thing capable of making me a "real" person.

As if I'm currently living in some kind of self-involved, fantasy world that shields me from the realities of life.

And... as if I currently have no "children" of my own.

Well... I have to respectfully disagree with all of that. 

Here's my opinion... 
First of all, being a parent... doesn't make you a person.
Being a person... makes you a person.
Not one human... is any more of a person... than any other person.

Conceiving a child doesn't make you a mother.
Carrying a child doesn't make you a mother.
Giving birth to a child doesn't make you a mother.

Loving, nurturing, raising, protecting, defending, teaching, guiding, caring, and providing for a "child"... every single day... no matter what...
That's what makes you a mother.

Loving them so much... that you're willing to place their needs well-above your own...
That's what makes you a mother.

Loving them so unconditionally... that there's simply nothing they could ever do to sway your devotion from them...
That's what makes you a mother.

Doing all of these things... to the very best of your ability... even when you don't have to...
That's what makes you a mom.

I don't care what anyone says...
Trust me...
I'm a mom.

Ask any of my dogs...
They'll tell you...
I'm a mom.

Ask anyone who has ever seen me with them...
They'll tell you...
I'm a mom.

Ask MY mom...
She'll tell you...
I'm a mom.

Maybe I'm just a "dog mom"...
But trust me...
I'm a mom.

Being a dog mom is different...
Mostly because... your kids never "grow up."
They'll always need you; they'll always want you; they'll always depend on you for everything they need... for as long as they're here with you.

It's also different, because many people don't take you seriously.
It's just a dog. A dog is not a "real child," and you're not a "real mom."

Others are offended... that you'd even have the nerve to compare your dogs to children: "Dogs are dogs. They are not people, and they are certainly not children."

That's their opinion... but once again, I respectfully disagree.

I am a mother.
I have countless children.
Yes... they are dogs.

Some live here with me...
Some live with new families...
And some have left me for Heaven.

But they are all my children... each adopted into my heart... forever.

I dedicate my life to my "children."
I spend all day, every day, with them... doing things for them. 
It's my job: I'm a mom.

I give them everything that I have, and I love them with everything that I am.
I surrender my wants, for their wants.
I deny my needs, for their needs.

When they're hungry, I feed them.
When they're thirsty, I water them.
When they're dirty, I bathe them.

When they're messy, I clean for them.
When they're sick, I care for them.
When they're afraid, I comfort them.

When they need exercise, I walk them.
When they need playtime, I play with them.
When they need rest, I rest with them.

When they need saving... I rescue them.

Of course...
None of this makes me special...
It just makes me... a mom.

That's what moms do.
And I'm a mom, too.

Happy Mother's Day, to all the dog (and cat) moms out there.
You're a mother, too...
And no one can ever take that away from you.

"Never forget for a single minute... you didn't grow under my heart... but in it."

*PS- Wishing an extra-special Happy Mother's Day to my mother... the woman who taught me how to be a "mom" ... because she's the best mom ever.


I'll Miss You Forever

This will likely be the most difficult post I'll ever try to write.

As I sit here... with tears streaming down my face... I'm not sure if I can do it.
I don't have the words I need.
I don't have the strength I need.

Right now...
At this moment...
I'm more broken than I've ever been.

I'm going to try anyway...

With a shattered heart... I share the following news:
I had to send another rescue dog to Heaven.

That's right.
I lost two of my children... in one week.
I don't have words...
I'm beyond devastated...

However, despite my pain, each of my dogs deserves to be honored with a special "In Loving Memory" post, written just for them.

Especially... this particular dog... 
She's been my baby... for one full year now.

Heidi & I
So... here goes...

This one's for you, Heidi...

On April 27, 2011, Heidi survived the devastating F5 tornado that ripped through the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She managed to survive that storm... alone... outside... on a chain.

Heidi had lived on that short chain... all 10 years of her life.
She was never able to walk.
She was never able to run.
She was never able to play.

For 10 long years of her life... Heidi never lived.

In addition, she'd been forced to endure many other forms of unimaginable torture. When she was younger, her owners made the cruel decision to "crop" Heidi's ears themselves... with scissors or a knife. She'd also been neglected, abused, under-fed, and over-bred... all 10 years of her life. 

Honestly... Heidi lived one of the saddest existences I could ever imagine.

Following the storm, Heidi was rescued from one of the hardest-hit areas.
Her home was completely destroyed...
Everything was gone...
Everything... but Heidi.

Shortly thereafter, Heidi came to live with me.
For the last year... this has been her home,
and I have been her mom.

For one full year...
I was lucky enough to spend all day, every day... with my Heidi.
It was one of the greatest joys of my life... because Heidi was one of the greatest loves of my life.

When I made the decision to save Heidi last year, I knew that her chances of adoption were slim. A 10-year old, formerly-chained, severely over-bred, Pit Bull, with no ears...
She barely stood a chance...

However... after 10 years of unimaginable torture... Heidi deserved to know love. 
And... it just so happens... I've got a ton of love to give... and so did Heidi.
We were a perfect match.

For me, it didn't really matter whether or not Heidi would ever be "officially" adopted...
Because... last year, at the moment I saved her... I'd "unofficially" adopted Heidi myself.

That day, I looked into her eyes, and made the following promise: "You're home now, baby girl. And from now on --no matter what else happens-- you and me... are family. If it comes down to it, you can live out the rest of your days here with me... and I'll love you every second. I promise."

Heidi took me up on my offer. She spent the last year of her life... and the best days of her life... here with me. It was the best year ever.

Heidi brought more joy into my life than I could ever put into words. She had the kind of smile that could light up my whole world. She had this beautiful energy that could push me forward. She gave the kind of love that could set my heart on fire.

Every day of the past year, Heidi has shared that love with me. And every day of the past year... she finally got to hear, "I love you, back."

However... from a health standpoint, Heidi had plenty of issues.
So, this past year, I made sure that Heidi received every bit of vet care she needed, every time she needed it. 

Yet... that was just 1 year...
Out of the 11 years she'd been alive.
For the first 10, she got nothing she needed, every time she needed it.

And eventually, those 10 years of neglect... finally caught up with her.

Right now... 
My heart is just too broken to list all of the ailments that would bring me to the painstaking decision... to end Heidi's suffering.
And really... at this point... those specifics don't really matter.

In short, Heidi was old; she was sick, and she was tired.
She needed me to help her go...
And that's honestly all that matters.

Basically... this week, I realized what Heidi needed from me.
Even still, it was almost too much to bear.
I was still grieving for my Delilah, and now... I was going to lose my Heidi, too.

Delilah was here for a month...
And yet... the pain of her loss was almost enough to break me.
Heidi was here for a year... so...
I couldn't even imagine...

Sure... I could've waited... and said: Sorry Heidi. I know you're suffering, but I just can't handle this right now.
But honestly... no matter how much pain I was in... I could never do that to Heidi.

After she'd shared the best year of her life with me...
I owed her that much... and she deserved that much.

So... I called the vet, and made yet-another appointment. I sobbed uncontrollably... as I told them it was for Heidi. Of course, they already knew the reason behind it. They knew that it was time.

Heidi's last day, at the lake
Then, I asked Caycee to help me make Heidi's last day on Earth... everything she deserved for it to be...

We took Heidi down to the lake... to let her play as much as her little heart could stand. When we got there, Heidi's excitement was contagious. And even with my shattered heart... I felt an insane-amount of joy. 

As Heidi stepped into the water, she looked back at me... with this massive smile on her face. Then--without another thought-- I jumped right in with her... fully-clothed in my t-shirt and shorts. Heidi thought that was pretty funny of me.

That day...
We walked. We swam. We splashed.
We played. We smiled. We laughed.
We talked. We hugged. We loved.
That day... we truly lived.

In those moments there with Heidi... I almost... almost... allowed myself to forget ...
That it was the last day we'd ever spend together.

For the rest of my life... I'll cherish every second of that day with her... along with every minute of this year with her. Loving Heidi... was the honor of my lifetime.

Soon... when Heidi got tired of playing, we headed back to Lucky Dog.

Suddenly... reality set in. Our day of fun was over... which meant... Heidi's life was almost over, too. I just couldn't believe it... the pain was simply unbearable...

Then, Caycee offered to dig a grave for Heidi in the Lucky Dog pet cemetery.
I said, "Wait, I'll come help you." ... but she refused:
"No, Ash. Please let me do this for you."

So, as Caycee left for grave digging, I walked inside, sat on the floor, and sobbed... as quietly as I could.
I didn't want Heidi to hear me.

When Caycee had been digging for at least an hour... the thunderstorm hit.
Suddenly, it was pouring... harder than it's ever poured before.

I ran outside, looked out in the distance, and saw Caycee... drenched from head-to-toe... and still digging.
I called out to her: "Caycee! Please stop digging and come inside!"
She yelled back: "No! I'm okay!"

I stood there for a second... 
In amazement...
And in agony...
As the image of my best friend...
Out there digging my baby's grave...
In the pouring rain... 
Slowly burned into my memory...

Caycee is such an incredible friend to me. She only refused to let me help her... because she didn't want me to dig the very-grave... where I'd soon bury my own child. She wanted to take that pain from me, and she'd wanted to do something special for Heidi.

Regardless... I wasn't leaving her out there alone, any longer.

So... I ran out into the storm... to go help my friend.

That's when I saw her... head hung low... walking back... through the rain. 
She was completely soaked... so it took me a minute to realize... that Caycee was sobbing.

She said: "Heidi's grave is filling-up with water! I tried to get it out, but it just keeps coming in! I don't want to put her in there like that! I don't want to do that to Heidi!"
The tears welled-up in my eyes, as I said: "I'm so sorry. We'll fix it. I promise."

Then... we stood there... hugging and sobbing... in the pouring rain.

When the time came, we loaded Heidi into the car, and headed to the vet.
With the rain beating down on my windshield... and the tears filling my eyes... I almost couldn't see the road.
Caycee said: "Okay, pull over. I'm driving."
I wiped my eyes, and said: "No. I need to do this. Plus, we're almost there."

When we pulled up at the clinic, I laid my head on the steering wheel, and sobbed.

I looked over at Caycee, with tears running down my cheeks, and said:
"I don't think I can do this..."

She tearfully said: "I'll be there with you."

I cried: "But... this is Heidi! How can I say goodbye to Heidi?? It's just... I love her so much."

She replied: "Heidi knows that, and she loves you so much, too."

That's when I realized...
I had to do this...
I had to say goodbye...
because it was the right thing to do...
For Heidi. 

So, I wiped my tears, opened the door, and stepped out into the rain.
Then... Caycee and I took Heidi inside... for the last time.

As I headed toward the exam room, the vet tech was waiting with a box of tissues, and quietly said: "I'm so sorry, Ash."
I mustered the words: "Thank you."

In the room, Caycee and I waited for Doc to come in.
Meanwhile, I sat on the floor with Heidi, and she gently laid her head on my shoulder.

Tears rolled down my cheeks, as I choked out the words:
"It was a good year, baby girl...
And you were a damn-good dog."

When Doc walked in... he already knew:
It was time.
As we lifted Heidi onto the table, I said:
"I'm right here, Heidi-Boo. It's okay."
Those words seemed to make it better...
For her, at least.

For the second time this week...
Doc picked up the syringe...looked at me... and asked:
"Are you ready?"

So... I leaned down, and gave my Heidi one last hug... one last kiss... and whispered one last "I love you."

Then, I looked at Doc...
And simply nodded.

In those final moments...
I looked down at Heidi... she looked up at me...
And our love for each other... was so damn real...
It was almost tangible.

My last day with Heidi
I watched her eyes glaze over...
And felt her heart stop beating...
As she took her final breath.

Just like that... I knew:
Heidi is in Heaven now.

That's when Doc stepped outside of the room, to give us a minute alone with her.
I laid my head on her chest... and sobbed uncontrollably...
As I realized that this was the very last time...
I'd ever see my Heidi. 
Heidi was gone forever.

Shortly thereafter, Doc carried Heidi to my car. 
Her body was wrapped in bags... and baby blankets.

And once again... I lost it.
I couldn't talk; I couldn't see; I couldn't breathe.
I felt broken. I felt empty. I felt... dead.

At this point, it was still pouring outside.
So, Caycee drove us home, while I curled up in the passenger seat, and bawled like a baby.

Then, Caycee broke the silence, simply saying: "I have so much respect for you today. You are so strong, Ash."
In a tiny voice... that didn't sound quite like my own... I replied: "I don't feel so strong, Caycee..."
She said: "I know you don't, but you are."

When we pulled up at Lucky Dog, Caycee parked near the cemetery, and said:
"Wait here. I'll be right back."

I knew what she was doing. She was checking Heidi's grave for standing-water, and she didn't want me to see. But luckily, it had all been absorbed by the earth.

And yet...

That meant...
It was time.

I stepped out into the rain... 
And walked the heartbreaking path...
Toward Heidi's grave.

A few minutes later... we laid Heidi in the ground.

Seeing her down there... I could barely contain myself.
I was bawling... I was shaking... I was weak.
I wanted to crawl in with her...

Then... Caycee picked up the shovel... looked at me, and said: "I'll go slow, okay?"
I nodded: "Okay. Thank you."

As she gently placed the first pile of dirt on top of Heidi's body...
Once again... I lost it. I wanted to scream: "No!!! Please! Stop! That's my baby in there!!!"

In that moment...
The rain was pouring down...
My tears were streaming down...
My Heidi was in the ground...
And my world was crumbling around me.

It's a moment that I'll always remember... no matter how much I'd like to forget it. 
It's the moment when I realized...
That my Heidi was gone forever.
She's never coming back.

And then...
When Caycee was finally done...

There was a mound of dirt...
Where my Heidi used to be.

Afterward... for a while... Caycee and I just stood there... in the rain... in silence.
I didn't have the words...
She didn't have the words...
There were no words left to say...

At some point, I looked at Caycee, and said: "I couldn't have gotten through today without you."
She replied: "I know... and I wouldn't have let you."

For the second time that day...
Caycee and I stood outside...
Hugging and sobbing...
In the pouring rain...

Honestly... at that point... it's all we knew how to do.

Afterward... we turned... together... and walked back... through the rain...
Leaving my Heidi behind...

Later that night...
I walked back to my little pet cemetery...
It was dark... and quiet... and peaceful.

I sat on the ground, in silence.
I looked at the stars.
I picked at the grass.
I stared at Heidi's grave.

I guess I just wanted to feel close to her.

As the tears ran down my face...
I didn't try to wipe them.
I just let them fall.

In that moment...
As I sat there next my precious baby...
I really wanted to say something...
Something meaningful...
Something respectful...
Something special.

I guess I just wanted to talk to Heidi...
As I'd done every single day...
For the past year...

And for once...
Just this one time...
I kinda wanted her... to talk back to me.

Even still...
I couldn't find the words...
And she couldn't say the words.

Because I was empty...
And she was gone.

Then... it hit me...
And suddenly... I understood...
The weight of tomorrow's reality...

For the first time in a year...
I'll go to work...
And Heidi won't be there.

I'll pass by her kennel...
Kennel #25...
All day long... 
But she'll never be there to greet me.

And from now on...
Each time I want to sit next to her...
I'll have no choice, but to visit...
This heartbreaking mound of dirt...

In that moment...
As I searched for the words to say goodbye...
I had nothing.

I wasn't ready to say goodbye...
Or even to admit...
that my Heidi was really gone.

And yet...
I felt the need...
To say something.

I simply said:
"I'll miss you forever."

With that...
I stood up...
Blew a kiss to the sky...
And walked away.

Knowing in my heart...
That nothing here at Lucky Dog...
Will ever be the same...

*If you'd like to donate in memory of my Heidi, please click below:


Goodbye, Delilah

*A follow-up to my previous post: Hey There, Delilah: http://luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/hey-there-delilah.html

Today --Wednesday, May 9, 2012-- my Delilah went to Heaven.
She left the world in peace.
She left the world with love.

However... Monday was actually meant to be her last day on Earth.
I'd made a promise to her that it would be.
It was a decision I'd made... for her.

Yet... when Monday morning came, Delilah was doing a little bit better.
Not a lot better... but a little better.
And I'll be honest... it was just enough to give me a glimmer of false hope.

That morning, I took her to the vet for her follow-up appointment.
I told my vet what I was prepared to do for Delilah that day...
But first... I asked for his honest opinion.

Doc looked at her...
Then at me...
And said: "She's still got a little fight left in her, and I know how you are, Ashley. You want to give her every possible chance to make it, and you'll never forgive yourself if you don't. So, let's just give her a couple more days, and see how she does. If nothing else... she'll have a little more time with you."

Hearing those words, I have to be honest with you...
I felt a sense of selfish relief.
I'd always wanted to save her... I'd never wanted to end her life...

So... even though I knew better... I chose to see what I wanted to see in her.
Instead of the sick little girl that laid before me...
I saw a tiny fighter... who deserved the chance to fight.

Delilah & I
I didn't want to take that chance away from her.
I didn't want to give-up too soon.
I didn't want to believe that she couldn't pull through this.

But really...
If I'm being honest...
I just didn't want to let her go.

So... I rejected my gut instincts...
I abandoned my promises...
And I allowed myself to feel a sense of hope... that never really existed.

And so...  that day...
I took my Delilah home...
One more time...

Sure... for a little while... Delilah seemed a little stronger.
She seemed a little healthier.
She seemed a little happier.

Of course... that was never her reality.
She wasn't strong, or healthy, or happy.
And honestly... she wasn't even fighting for her...

She was fighting... for me.

She was smiling... for me.
She was stronger... for me.
She was living... for me.

Initially, I was blinded by hope...
Her "strength" gave me strength.
Her "fight" ignited my own fight.

But... in reality, my Delilah had all-but given up.
She didn't want to hurt anymore.
She didn't want to fight any longer.

And yet... she couldn't let go...
Not because she wasn't ready...
But because I wasn't ready. 

The truth is: She needed me, and I failed her.
I made a promise to her... and I broke it.
Not because I didn't love her... but simply because... I did.

Regardless, it was selfish of me.
It was wrong of me.
It was the wrong decision... for her.

And yesterday... I had to face reality...
Because any "fight" I'd seen in Delilah the day before...
Was gone.

Suddenly, I couldn't deny the truth: Delilah was never doing better...
She was never going to make it.
She had never rejoined the fight.

I'd only seen what I wanted to see.
I'd clung to a hope that just didn't exist.
I'd attempted to fight... because I'd wished to save us both.

And yet... I saved neither.
Delilah is gone...
And she took my heart with her.

But even still... before she left this earth...
Delilah's one wish in life... finally came true:
She was loved.

At the very least... I did something right...

Last night... on her last night here, 
I lifted Delilah into my bed...
And pulled her close to me under the covers...

Just before she fell asleep...
I whispered into her ear:

"Hey there, Delilah
I'm right here if you get lonely...
Close your eyes...
I'm by your side."

Then, this morning, I drove Delilah to the vet.
When Doc walked into the room...
He looked sick... when he saw my tear-stained face.

I nodded. He nodded.
It was our signal:
It's time.

I wiped my tears... and laid Delilah on the table.
Then, Doc looked at me, and asked: "Are you ready?"
 I replied: "Almost."

I leaned down... one last time...
And whispered into Delilah's ear:
"Remember: when you get there, ask for Rudy. He knows me."

Then, I said: "Okay. I'm ready."
I looked down at Delilah... s
he looked up at me...
I smiled... she smiled...

And just like that...
She was gone...

Today... for the very last time...
I took my Delilah home...

When I pulled back up at Lucky Dog... 
I saw Caycee digging Delilah's grave...
And my heart could barely take it.

As I got out of the car... I was sobbing uncontrollably.
That's when Caycee walked over...
And gave me the biggest hug... that 2 best friends have ever shared.

Then... we laid Delilah to rest.

Today... I honored my promise to her.
Today... her suffering ended.
Today... my Delilah went to Heaven.

Today... Delilah's pain is over.
And yet... it seems for me...
That the pain has just begun...

But even still...
In my heart... I know the truth:
Every bit of pain was worth it... for each moment here with you...

"Hey there, Delilah... You know it's all because of you... This one's for you..."

*If you'd like to donate in memory of my Delilah, please click below:


Hey There, Delilah

About a month ago, I was working outside at Lucky Dog, when the Mississippi heat got the best of me.

All of a sudden... I went from fine and dandy... to lightheaded and weak.
I needed a break.
I needed to sit.
And I needed something to drink... stat.

Of course, as luck would have it, there was nothing drinkable in my fridge.
So, I decided to drive over to the Chevron for a Gatorade.

I pulled up at the store, walked inside, and grabbed the biggest Gatorade they had. Before I even made the purchase, I cracked that baby open, and chugged at least half the bottle.

As I walked toward the register, I saw that my favorite gas station buddy was working behind the counter.

Every time he's there, I stop for a minute, just to talk to him. He's a really sweet man, with a super-cool accent, and he calls me "Miss Ashley."

He said: "Working hard again today, Miss Ashley?"
I said: "Damn. What gave me away? The sweat? Or the dirt?"
We both laughed.

Then, we had our usual chat, and I turned to leave.

Delilah, as a Lucky Dog
But as I walked out the door... I stopped dead in my tracks.
There was a Pit Bull... just standing there... right next to my car.
I thought: "You gotta be kiddin' me."

The dog was in awful condition. She looked broken and pitiful... underweight and malnourished... with scars covering her body. She was also wearing this massive, terrible collar around her neck, with these huge metal clasps... that had clearly been used to chain her.

As I slowly moved toward her, she didn't try to run away. She didn't even move. She just stood there, looking up at me.
I bent down, offered my hand, and asked:
"Who did this to you, baby?"

That's when I looked over, and saw my gas station buddy, watching us through the window. He was smiling... because he already knew what was about to happen. This wasn't my first "rescue rodeo" at the Chevron.

So, I re-opened the door, and asked: "Know anything about her?"
He shook his head: "It's the first time I've seen her. She just showed up, right as you walked in."
I replied: "Of course she did."

He chuckled and said: "You taking her with you, Miss Ashley?"
I smiled: "You know me too well..."

Without another thought... I turned, picked her up, and loaded her in the car.
Then, I waved goodbye to my buddy... as we drove away.

I named her Delilah.

From the moment I saw her, I knew that Delilah was sick.
But it wouldn't be long... before I'd find out just how sick she really was...

Shortly thereafter, Delilah went to the vet for her spay, rabies, and heartworm test. Of course, as I already anticipated: she's heartworm positive.

Sadly, heartworm disease is alive and well around here. This is Mississippi. Nearly every neglected dog in Mississippi has heartworms. That's just the sad reality for many rescue dogs in the South.

So... as the story goes with most heartworm treatments, I started Delilah on doxycycline, and scheduled an appointment to bring her back to the vet in 30 days, to start official treatment.

In the meantime, Delilah was doing great here. Sure... she was a sick girl, but you'd never would've known it. She was loving her new life... always smiling and happy... outgoing and fun.

Her favorite activity? Making a massive, ridiculous, unnecessary (yet, funny) mess in her kennel. It was kinda "her thing." She liked to spill food, tip bowls, potty and then step in it... all with this big, mischievous smile on her face.

While her kennel etiquette had slowly improved, she still enjoyed a good mess every now and then. She seemed to really have fun with it, which made all the extra-cleaning on my part... totally worth the effort.

But this past Friday... all of that changed.

That morning, it took just one glance at Delilah's kennel... for me to realize that something was very, very wrong that day.
There was a massive mess, of course... but not the usual kind...

Instead, I saw vomit... and large puddles of blood, which came from her urine.
Then, I saw my sweet Delilah... far-removed from her usual smiling, happy self.
She was weak. She was hurting. She was very, very sick.

Immediately, I called the vet, loaded Delilah in the car, and headed toward the clinic. When I got there, I explained the situation, and they asked me to leave her for a bit, while they ran some lab work, etc.

An hour later, I got a call from the vet tech.
She said: "Hey Ash. Hold on for a second. Doc needs to talk to you."

Hearing those words... my heart stopped.
I get lots of calls from the vet...
But the words: "Doc needs to talk to you" almost always mean: "It's bad."

I said: "Oh my God, Amy! Is she okay???"
She replied: "I'll let him tell you about it. Here's Doc."

Then, I heard the devastating news... the news that would change Delilah's future:
Delilah has entered the most severe, life-threatening stage of heartworm disease. She's in critical condition, due to multiple complications from advanced heartworm disease, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), and organ malfunction. Basically... her body is shutting down, and much of the damage... is irreversible.

He said: "We're doing everything we can, but I just want you to be prepared. There's a chance she may not make it. And even if she does... she doesn't have much time left."

Suddenly, tears were streaming down my face. I could honestly feel my heart... breaking within my chest.

I knew what he was saying. I've heard this many times before. He was basically saying: Prepare yourself. Your baby is dying.

And in that moment, I wanted to scream: "Nooooo!!!!!"

Instead, I choked out the words: "Can she at least come home... for the weekend?"
He said: "We've given her 2 injections today, and we're keeping her as comfortable as we can. I'll be sending her home with several medications for the weekend, and we'll just plan to reevaluate on Monday. Then, you'll probably have a decision to make..."

As I hung up the phone, I buried my face in my hands, and sobbed uncontrollably.

I cried for Delilah... for the sad life she'd been forced to live... for the torture she'd endured... and for the promising future... she'd likely never have.

I cried for the promises I'd made to her... for the life I'd wished to give her... and for the heartbreaking realization that those dreams may never come true for her.

I cried... because I knew the harsh reality within all of this:
Delilah has suffered through every day of her existence. Before me, she'd only known unimaginable abuse, neglect, and life on a chain.

But even now... and from now on...
There will never be another day... when Delilah doesn't suffer.
She will never be a healthy dog.
She will never have a heart that allows her to run and play.
She will never know a life without pain.

I cried... because "the decision" I'd have to make for her... was a life-or-death decision.

I cried... because no matter what decision I made... one way or another: Delilah will die from this.

I cried... because her heart has been wounded --in every possible way-- and now, a broken heart... has become her death sentence.

As I drove back to the vet, I was inconsolable. When I got there, I didn't want to walk inside. I didn't want to see anyone. I didn't want to face reality.

But... my baby was in there... and she needed me.
So, I wiped my tears, and walked inside... to take my little girl home.

The vet tech looked at me and said: "I'm so sorry, Ash. But please remember... no matter what happens... she needed you, and you saved her. That's all that matters."

I didn't want to cry again, but tears quickly filled my eyes. I said: "Thank you. But we both know... she deserved more."

Then, I paid the $400 vet bill I wasn't quite prepared for, helped Delilah into the car, and drove her home.

Delilah on the couch
This weekend, Delilah has required around-the-clock care from me. She's very weak, very sick, and very needy right now. Seeing her like this... well... it's beyond heartwrenching.

Initially... upon return, she wouldn't eat at all. But soon, I learned that "people food" was enough to entice her.

So... instead of dog food, she's been sharing people food with me. Actually... it's more accurate to say that I've simply been giving her all of my own food, and taking none for myself, which has honestly made me insanely happy. She needs it... much more than I do right now.

She's enjoyed our bedtime snuggles and her own naptime on the couch, but she's just not able to do much else. She's too weak to go for walks. She's too weak to play outside. Many times, she's too weak to even lift her head.

And honestly... today... it hit me, like a ton of bricks: Delilah is just too weak to go on.
When I look into her eyes, I can see... that my Delilah has given up.

In my heart... I know that she's ready for me to make the decision.
The decision that I'll never be "ready" to make...
The decision that will take her from me... forever.

But it's a decision that I'm willing to make... for her.
She needs me to make that decision... for her.
It's the right decision... for her...

Each time I rescue a dog, I intend to save their life... no matter what.
But there are certain times when saving a dog... means letting them go.
Times when it's all they need from you... and no matter how much it hurts... you owe them that much.

So today, I looked at Delilah, in her broken state, and simply said:
"Okay, baby girl. I'll do whatever you need me to do...
Even if that means breaking my own heart... so that yours doesn't have to hurt anymore.
Tonight, you get whatever you want.
Tomorrow... the pain is over. I promise."

As I said those words... the tears filled my eyes, and the pain overtook my soul...
And before I knew it, I was sobbing again...

But then... I stopped myself...

Tomorrow... I can cry all I want.
Today... is about Delilah.

And I'll be damned if I'll spend her last full day on Earth... crying because I couldn't save her.

Because in my heart... I can feel her saying: "You did."

Tomorrow's pain could never compare to the joy of today.
Because today... I still have... my Delilah...
If nothing more... than to share one last song...

Hey there, Delilah
What's it like in New York City?
I'm a thousand miles away
But girl, tonight you look so pretty
Yes you do
Times Square can't shine as bright as you
I swear it's true

Hey there, Delilah
Don't you worry about the distance
I'm right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen to my voice, it's my disguise
I'm by your side

Hey there Delilah
I know times are getting hard
But just believe me, girl
Someday I'll pay the bills with this guitar
We'll have it good
We'll have the life we knew we would

Hey there, Delilah
I've got so much left to say
If every simple song I wrote to you
Would take your breath away
I'd write it all

A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they've got planes and trains and cars
I'd walk to you if I had no other way
Our friends would all make fun of us
and we'll just laugh along because

We know that none of them have felt this way
Delilah I can promise you
That by the time we get through
The world will never, eve
r be the same

Hey there, Delilah
You be good and don't you miss me...
You know it's all because of you.
We can do whatever we want to.
Hey there, Delilah
Here's to you
This one's for you.

Delilah, Thank you for spending your last days with me. It's been truly amazing. If it were up to me, I'd never let you go. But since it's what you need from me... I will. Please give my love to all my babies in Heaven. Tell them I sent you.

*Update: If you'd like to donate in memory of Delilah, please click below: