This blog is part 4 of a 4-part series I’m calling My Rad Life: Life Changing Moments in Being Rad. It came out of me being very focused right now on the ways in which my life suddenly changed for the better. Very often through challenges that later proved themselves to be blessings. If you missed Parts 1-3 you can find them here. All three of those blogs spoke of how significant challenges in my life turned out – in time – to be life changing blessings. However, it took time. Sometimes the hardest part is the waiting. The most recent huge challenge in my life took place just a few months ago. And while I hope that in time, I’ll understand what the meaning of it all was, right now I’m just still waiting on the why.
I haven’t been silent about how difficult 2021 was for my family. Lee’s surgeries and subsequent 7 month recovery. Jace getting cancer and then recovering, only to come down with something worse and leave us suddenly and unexpectedly. Traveling cross country with a heart broken husband, little girl Riley, and me. I know you’ve heard me speak of these things, but I beg your indulgence one last time. Then I’ll try not to speak of it again.
Unless I get the why. Then I’ll share that with you.
If you haven’t heard me speak of this, Jace and Riley are our Shelties. And to us, they’re our children. We never in a million years envisioned coming cross country to this little town without Jace. Lee and I are still breaking down when we accidentally come across something of his that was in a box we unpacked. Riley is still mopey without her brother.
To make matters worse, on September 30th – not even five minutes after arriving at our new home – Riley got away from Lee. We think she was spooked by the 16-hour journey and not recognizing where she was. She had never, ever been a bolter. But this time she did. She ran from us like we were strangers and we couldn’t keep up with her. It’s great to see that at 8 years of age, she’s still greased lightening when she needs to be. But in this case, it was devastating. She was gone in a flash dragging her leash (which would wind up being a godsend.)
For 18 hours Lee and I searched and prayed. I was devastated, but Lee was destroyed. Unable to even function, I had to push him to help me make the calls to the police, animal control, and all the other agencies our kind realtor had told us to reach out to. Riley was tagged and microchipped. So we just kept hoping she’d get returned to us.
Now this part, I have never shared with you.
It was the next day and Lee and I had gone to lunch. We had to eat even if we didn’t want to. I had warned Lee that there are terrible people out there who take advantage of people in our situation. They call claiming to have your beloved pet and then demand money to get them back only to find out that they never had your pooch at all. For that reason, I left out of the search posts what color her harness and leash were.
Our food had not even been delivered when Lee’s phone rang. He said hello, and then he started to cry. I heard him say “Please, oh please let this be real. Please be real.” I mouthed the words to him “leash color.”
Lee took a breath and then said “Can you tell me what color her leash and harness are?” The man’s response was “It’s sort of a bluish grey with purple tags.”
Lee lost it and handed me the phone. I spoke to the man and he said that Riley was under a car in a neighborhood astonishingly far away from where she had bolted. I couldn’t even believe it. Lee and I threw money at our waiter and ran to the car. Lee just kept asking me “Are you sure she’s this far away?”
The man and his lovely wife (dog people, of course) had been for a bike ride in their neighborhood when they happened to see a leash trailing out from under a car. The man got off his bike and put his foot on her leash so she couldn’t get away. He then read her tags and called us. He didn’t drag her out from under the car because he didn’t want to scare her further.
Riley had managed to not only get very far away from our hotel, but she had also gotten into a gated community. How she got the gate codes, I do not know. Once we were in, we pulled up to the car and the couple. We got out of the car. Lee started to cry. There she was. Under the car, unscathed and whole. I collapsed to my knees with my face in my hands.
I still cry even thinking about it and I’m crying writing about it now.
The couple who found her for us were deeply moved by what they saw in Lee and I. They were dog people so they got it. The woman was crying as well.
Once we had Riley safely in the car, we went back to the hotel. We got the keys to our house later that day. You know how the real estate market is nowadays. That was only the second time Lee and I had been in the house. But a walk through after we had the keys told me that BIG changes were going to have to be made. Walls built additional gates installed. Locks and keypads for access. We jokingly called it “Project Fortress” but it wasn’t a joke. Neither one of us cared what it cost. All we cared about was that Riley could never have the chance to bolt on us again.
All three of us were traumatized for weeks. Of course, we don’t know what happened to Riley during her big adventure, but we do know that she is now scared of cars and she wasn’t before. Neither Lee nor I can drive past the hotel where we lost her without going silent.
And so… why? Why was this necessary? What was the cosmic purpose for losing Jace after successfully fighting through the cancer and then losing Riley the minute we arrived in our new town?
Honestly, we don’t know. We talk about it when we can. It’s harder to talk about Jace because he’s off over the rainbow bridge. At least with Riley, we got her back. Jace comes to us through yellow butterflies and they are frequently present during challenging times, and always present when we’re talking about him. The best we can come up with is that he was just not up to the trip. He was old and tired. The beautiful vet who came to our home to help him transition merely gave him a mild sedative and he took his last breath. She said that meant he was totally ready to go. And there is comfort in that.
I have also wondered if… that Jace being in spirit, he was able to watch over Riley during her big adventure. There were many predators where she was that night. I’d like to think that an elegant, dashing black Sheltie in spirit form kept them at bay.
We’ve sometimes wondered that if we hadn’t built project fortress, then if Riley had bolted maybe we wouldn’t have been so lucky to get her back. And as we start to think about getting Riley a sibling, it has occurred to me that maybe Project Fortress wasn’t for Riley. Not really. Not in the end. Maybe it’s for her coming little brother/sister. Maybe without the gates and the walls we would’ve lost them.
Maybe Jace did what was necessary to protect Riley so that Riley could do what was necessary to protect her coming sibling.
I don’t know. And the thing that is particularly difficult about this story is that we might never know. I don’t think that’s the case and I don’t like to consider the possibility, but it could go that way. If Project Fortress keeps whatever pooch finds their way into our family (pack) safe, then we might never know that there was a potential danger.
We humans love the why. We love to know what the reasons are for the hard moments in our lives. It gives us hope. It bolsters us from giving up. When there is a purpose to our misery, we can work through and live to have joy another day.
But you know me. I love that word “faith.” And while none of the three of us have recovered, I still have faith that we will. I still have faith that it will someday make sense.
Until then, I’m just waiting on the why.
With you on the journey,
P.S. Speaking of life changing experiences, one of the best things that ever happened to my business was re-meeting Muni Syed. He took my flailing social media game and turned it in to a home run! Now, I’m teaching a class with him on how you can up your game and launch your spiritual business to the next level. Check it out here!
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