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November 7, 2016

The Best Fifth Anniversary Gift

Last Friday's post was meant to be a cathartic waypoint on my journey. A marker in my heart  of where I'd been, pointing forward towards where I need to go. Wordpress scrapped that plan by sending a congratulatory reminder that Friday marked the fifth anniversary of  this blog's existence. I celebrated by crying! The traditional fifth anniversary gift is made of wood, which is fitting, because the notification hit me like a 2x4 to the gut. As I now instinctively do when I'm feeling down, I called to Penny and we headed to the beach.
Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryLast Friday’s post was meant to be a cathartic waypoint on my journey. A marker in my heart  of where I’d been, pointing forward towards where I need to go. WordPress scrapped that plan by sending a congratulatory reminder that Friday marked the fifth anniversary of  this blog’s existence. I celebrated by crying! The traditional fifth anniversary gift is made of wood, which is fitting, because the notification hit me like a 2×4 to the gut. As I now instinctively do when I’m feeling down, I called to Penny and we headed to the beach.Many people have therapy dogs, but at this point I consider Penny my full time therapist. She’s not covered by insurance but her rate is eminately reasonable – two square meals a day, a few treats,  lots of love, and regular trips to the beach. Were it not for Penny I would avoid the dog beach at all costs. Even with Penny it isn’t easy. The beach, once a symbol of joy and love and delight, can now seem a bleak reminder that time grinds us all to dust.The other trouble with taking Penny to the beach alone (see: above photo) is that few dogs are prepared to reckon with Mayhem incarnate. Like any other force of nature, Penny has no malice or ill-intent, but intent matters little to those who end up in the storm’s path. In order to keep the peace (and keep the city of Chicago in one piece) I established two sets of rules early on for my little calamity. With other dogs, Penny must temper herself. Dull her true nature and conform to strict manners. In return, Penny could be her true self with Eko.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryWatching Eko and Penny play together was like watching two powerful fronts merge into an awe inspiring  tempest. Teeth flashed like lightning, paws thundered, and tails whipped like the wind. “It looks like they’re trying to kill each other!” some would say.“Quite the opposite. I don’t know how either of them would live without it,” was my standard reply. “I don’t know how I’d live without it, either,” I should have added.For the past six weeks, Penny and I have tried to figure out how to live without it. Who knew that being yourself is sometimes the hardest thing to do? We’ve had plenty of help, but I haven’t truly seen Penny be herself since Eko died. Until last Friday, that is.Shortly after we arrived I spotted a four-legged storm approaching our position.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryWe later learned this storm is a Pharaoh Hound named Cairo. Cairo looked wild and deranged and ready to unleash absolute havoc. In other words, he looked a lot like Penny.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryAs the lunatic bore down on our position, Cairo’s owner shouted, “Let me know if he’s too much for your dog.”“Nope. Just right!” I replied as Cairo crashed into Penny, who met him in full force.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryCairo responded in kind.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryAnd Penny smiled in delight.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryFinally. A worthy adversary. Someone with whom she could be her true self again.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryI took a step back – both literally, as to not get knocked over, and figuratively, as I used to do when Eko and Penny would battle. For the better part of an hour Penny and Cairo let loose the full force of their combined exuberance. My camera could barely keep up.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryThe twin blurs tore across the sand, reminding me why the dog beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Because when your dog runs joyfully and unencumbered she carries your heart with her.Rhodesian Ridgeback, Chicago, Montrose Dog Beach, Adventure, Marking Our TerritoryLike Penny, I have not been myself since Eko died. But on Friday, if only for a time, we both rediscovered something we’d lost. So on this fifth anniversary we are like the living wood of a tree – worn and scarred but still reaching towards the sun. I can imagine no better gift than Friday’s reminder of why, even when we are in the shade, we must always grow and stretch to find the light.In the end, it was a happy anniversary indeed!

Comments for The Best Fifth Anniversary Gift

  1. Pat says:

    So good to see Miss Mayhem pulling out all the stops again! Did you set up any play dates?

  2. fran welch says:

    Oh Will, this is great. Penny has been mourning too n misses her brother n is probably more confused than anyone can imagine cause i m not sure they know that things die. I m so glad u have each other. I hipe Cairo comes to the beach on a regular basis so U n Penny will enjoy more days luke this. Love u guys. Look forward to ur blog when monday comes.

  3. Tricia Thompson says:

    It warms my heart to read this blog, Will. Keep moving toward the light. It is there, just sometimes hard to reach. Penny reminds me of our seven month old RR baby, Suki. She is our ‘Miss Mayhem.’ She would surely give Penny a run for her money.

  4. WHAHAHA that face!! that was a good shot of cairo!! And what a beauty… Hope Cairo and Penny have many more encounters… Cant wait for those pics.

  5. Victoria Coleman says:

    Good for both of you -book lots of play dates with Penny’s new friend!!

  6. Ellen Quilty says:

    Arrrrggg.Just as you were starting to feel not so completely horrible for a moment a well meaning congratulatory reminder knocked you down again.It’s going to be like this for a while unfortunately.However,you have your wonderful Penny who cannot be denied her beach time and is forcing you to get moving and providing some laughs along the way.Good girl!Keep up the good work!

  7. Emmadog says:

    It’s been almost five months since we lost Katie and Mom still cries daily. Silly things will trigger it. Life goes on and gets easier, but one never knows when that punch in the gut will come out. So happy for Penny that she found someone to really let loose with. Our 5 years of blogging is tomorrow. How time flies!

  8. Oh Will…….what a powerful post……what a HUGE gift Cairo was to you and Penny when you really needed to know that those truly happy times – for both of you – ARE still out there waiting to be experienced. I’m sure Cairo’s owners loved every minute of that encounter too because being your “true self” and just letting loose and grabbing for it all – even if it’s for an hour – IS SO WORTH IT. I’m sure they enjoyed it as much as you did. I think that was a step forward for sure…………for you AND for Penny.

    Hugs, Pam (and Sam)

  9. Michael Bondor says:

    Wow. Just Wow.

  10. RL Hester says:

    So happy for Penny & you, Will; the chance meeting Cairo was perfect timing! If only my Chi-Chi & I were in Chicago, we’d surely meet up so our lil, rambunctious mayhems could rough play the way RR’s do. My mayhem is only 75 lbs., & she plays w/ her boyfriend, Samson who is 100lbs. – he’s more like Mr. Eko, regal & profound, but stern when need be, especially when protecting his mommy! It’s priceless to see the joy they bring to themselves when they play the way they do – it’s quite funny to see/hear others who have no clue & think our dogs might be acting aggressive towards each other. I’m usually like, “If they were being aggressive, you’d know it!” Someday we’ll roadtrip west to see my friends in CA, & we’d love to visit Chicago; I especially want to see the beautiful Great Lakes! Thanks’ again for the updates & hang in there! ❤️, René & Chi-Chi

  11. Eve says:

    Oh this was a joy to see Penny in her glory at play time! Looked so happy to blissfully run fully again if only for a moment in time! Yes I too hope you guys have more play dates with Cairo!

  12. Cali says:

    I’m glad Penny found a friend equal to herself in exuberance! Hopefully she will get to see him again! I was wondering how you taught Penny to have manners around dogs off leash at the dog beach? Since getting my ridgeback I have been going to the off leash dog park almost daily since getting him to ensure socialization. He was so calm and seemed to know his size when he was younger however now since entering his teenage years (He is 8.5 months) he has been getting more exuberant and listens less. He is over 100lbs so he is a little too rough (unintentional) sometimes for dogs who want to play with him. I’m just looking for tips as the off leash exercise is very important.

  13. It’s true, dogs can mourn a sibling loss but the joie de vivre in those photos is priceless. Happy anniversary. Here’s hoping scenes like that over the next 5 will fill your heart with a comforting light that replaces any lingering darkness from Eko’s untimely departure.

  14. Anna Hidalgo says:

    “Because when your dog runs joyfully and unencumbered she carries your heart with her.”

    Such a perfect description of how I feel every time my dog Polo runs with complete abandon around the park/yard/beach.

    Happy anniversary, Will. Sending you virtual hugs and kleenex from the east coast.

  15. You have such an amazing way of writing, Will. You paint pictures and images that always astound me. I love reading your words as much as I enjoy your actual photographs. Thanks for sharing all if it. And I’m so glad Penny found someone to match her mayhem. I’m sure it did her a world of good.

    Keep reaching for the light.

  16. coastingnz says:

    Your strength never ceases to amaze me. I know you are still breaking inside and it will go on for a while yet but you and Penny are doing wonders to come out the other side. Eko would be super proud – he has taught you well. Stay strong – the big fella is watching you with a smile.

  17. T&S says:

    We wish you and us many more pages on this blog!
    Having a dog is both beautiful and hard path of life. Someday we all are going to go through this , but we are happy for each day and blessed to have them in our lifes… time is short, but love is forever.

  18. I’ve never seen so many pearly white teeth in one blog post! Cairo is a keeper as a friend. Happy Anniversary!

    Love and licks,

  19. Tanja&Brownie says:

    After a good run Penny’s laughing as much as possible. Love to see her grin. ❤️
    Hope there will come a lot more pals who whiz with her through the sand..
    Seeing your pup happily playing around is good therapy for oneself.
    We all do everything for our pups but we are not able to give them such a great time or romp like other pups do ….or can you make such a face as Cairo do in the pic?
    Lots of kisses to Penny❤️

  20. TheRidgebackLife says:

    That was a laugh Let you know if Cairo is too much for Penny? Obviously, he must be new to the beach because everyone knows Penny Mayhem Just stand back (hopefully behind something) and marvel at her play. Neeka and Khoi are the same way. Nothing else exists (except food) when they are in the midst of a mad minute!

  21. Yay for Cairo and Penny!

    It never ceases to amaze me that when we need something the most, something (in this case someone) surfaces that we did not expect. Someone new, someone who lets Penny be Penny and you be you. I’m amazed that you don’t mention ever meeting Cairo and his owner before, yet there they were when you needed them most.

    Press on. As time passes, you will find more and more of these experiences. You won’t forget (even I found myself drawn back to a memory of Abraham today, and he’s been gone for two years), but you will become a new you. Your comparison to a tree is beautiful and spot on. Keep reaching for the sun.

  22. Oh Will whee are so sorry to hear about Eko’s passing. Two of our hutch residents have too passed away so whee know all too well the pain that brings.

    Sending all our love to you and Penny

    Nacho and Noah

  23. Jo Rhodes says:

    I’m so glad to see Penny’s making sure you’re getting dressed and heading out
    to the beach. Cairo is beautiful! I hope he and Penny can have a fun friendship! ( saw your most recent reply too late) facetime?;)
    Keep breathing in and out.
    Sending you love, and sharing in your joy.
    Jo, Sam and Dean

  24. lynneplus3 says:

    So glad Penny got to “let go” a bit and just be herself! I’m happy you were lifted up a bit during their romp too!
    Keep heading toward the light, Penny will lead you!

  25. Happy 5th year anniversary! The pictures are great. So much fun going on.

  26. I had wondered how Penny was handling it all. I am so happy she was exuberant at the beach and found a new friend. It has to be so hard for her too………I often think about that. Sending you (((((hugs))) on the fifth….so bittersweet………we are with you for the long haul (even if some days life has been getting in the way, we are here!)

  27. fredrieka says:

    Oh Penny was smiling nothing better than that.

  28. Sam says:

    I hope you got the pup’s digits so you can “plan” to run into each other at the dog beach again!

  29. cafall says:

    I see future play dates for Cairo and Penny – to help both of you.

    Monty, Harlow, and Ramble

  30. Sam Anderson says:

    My wife and I were just talking about Penny Mayhem because we have a little one who looks just like Penny. Her name is Senna and she is an 11 week old Rhodesian Ridgeback with a black mask just like Penny. Anyway, all three of us are so happy to hear that Penny met a new great friend! Thanks again, Will.

  31. Joanne says:

    Absolute joy!

  32. HobbesMom says:

    I lost you for a while and was so surprised you hadn’t posted anything only to discover the emails were going to spam all of a sudden! I have been reading all the posts and getting caught up on how you and Penny are doing. I am so glad to see both of you getting out and enjoying some of these moments of pure joy. I hope they happen more and more often for all of you!
    When I see pictures like these of Penny with Cairo it makes me wish all over again that we lived closer. Hobbes the Vizsla would absolutely love to romp, wrestle and zoom with Penny. Not many of the pups, or their owners, on our beach understand other than Vizsla owners or the occasional Ridgeback and like Penny, Hobbes always has to tone it down and control himself.

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