Alec, Teagan, and Me

Posted by test on July 20, 2011

My German shepherd Alec was many things to me: best friend, partner, dependent, roommate, constant companion, apple of my eye, cherished family member, wonder dog and inspiration. Most of all, he was my soul mate. Alec was the love of my life. When he died last year, I wasn’t sure I could go on without him, even if I wanted to. To some that may sound extreme, but Alec and I shared a special bond and had been through an intense journey together.

Nicole and AlecIt is a long story and I have a blog if you want to read more: www.alec-story.com. But here is the extremely truncated version! When Alec was seven years old, a disc ruptured in his back and my hale, hearty and playful friend was suddenly paralyzed and given a poor prognosis that he would ever walk again. After he recuperated from two spinal surgeries, I had him fitted him for a mobility cart (doggie wheelchair), to which he adjusted quickly, and Alec was soon able to go on walks again. I took him swimming to make up for his not being able to run and fetch on land. I learned all I could about caring for a large paraplegic dog. I monitored him closely for signs of depression, but Alec was a happy dog, even with his new physical limitations. To cut to the chase, I did physical therapy with Alec from the start and, amazingly, he beat the odds. One year after he was given that poor prognosis, Alec began walking again. I had started my blog originally to keep friends and family updated, but I soon learned that Alec’s story had given others in similar situations hope that with consistent therapy, patience, time, and love their dogs too might recover, at least partially, from devastating neurological injuries.

Our happy ending was fated to be short-lived, however. After being out of his wheelchair only a year, Alec was diagnosed with a very aggressive and terminal cancer of the blood cells, hemangiosarcoma, which is nearly impossible to detect until it is already too late. But we had already faced down tremendous odds, and I wasn’t going to give up hope. I did everything in my power to save him, but it was not enough. Nothing worked – not chemotherapy, not herbs and holistic supplements, not prayer, not love. Alec died within a few short months.

Alec swimmingAfter all he had been through, I was devastated. He was only nine and seemingly healthy. I thought we had much more time to enjoy our relationship. While close before, our bond had deepened and further blossomed after his paralysis upended our lives. After that, we truly became a team. We trusted each other and worked well together. His well-being had always been paramount to me, but when he became disabled Alec became the center of my world. He was my sunshine. In a very real way I revolved around him. Not in a bad way. In the way that happens when you are a caretaker for a dependent being who has special needs. When he died, I was lost, in every possible meaning of the word. It was as if gravity itself had deserted me. I was drifting through ether, no weight, no compass, no purpose, nobody home, nobody to go home to.

His absence not only left a void where a cherished relationship and our physical closeness had been, but it also threw me into an existential tailspin, from which it was difficult to recover. My entire world view was shaken. I felt unsafe in a fundamental way. I knew life was unfair, or I thought I did. Yet I couldn’t get over how unfair it all was, how after all he had already been through Alec did not deserve to be stricken dead by cancer before he had a chance to become an old lazy shepherd and enjoy some well-deserved, stress-free golden years. Who said life was fair? I chastised myself for being surprised, nay shattered, by this obvious fact of life. Alas, it is one thing to know something intellectually and something else to experience it. I had to struggle mightily with the question of meaning. I am still wrestling with that one. I was a complete and utter wreck. Anyone who has suffered a profound loss will recognize some of these feelings, which only barely begin to sort of hint at the teeny tiny tip of the hulking iceberg that is grief over losing a cherished love one. Just like the iceberg, there are many surprises lurking beneath the surface, ready to sink your already shaky ship. The bottom line is that I was devastated. I had lost dogs before, but they were old. I could not get over the fact that Alec had worked so hard to overcome paralysis only to be struck down by cancer. I had tried so hard to keep him safe and healthy. Despite my best efforts, I failed.

When Alec died, I vowed I would never adopt another dog. The pain of losing him was too great, too total. It was cataclysmic. I felt like I was gone with him – not just a piece, but the whole me. This is the price, they say, for having loved deeply. It was too high. And besides, I had no interest. I didn’t want another dog, ever. I wanted him. I wanted Alec. I railed against the finality of his leaving, of him not coming back. It. Could. Not. Be. It was a thing that could not be. Predictably, this line of thinking did not work out so well for me. But maybe it did after all.

Because I loved him too much to lose him, I decided I wouldn’t. I had to redefine our relationship, and develop some new beliefs to get me through, but ultimately what enabled me to move forward was the idea that he was coming with me even though our relationship had changed. I am in good company. Many of the best grief books, or at least the ones that helped me (for what it’s worth, I was most helped by reading books about losing family members such as a spouse or a child – not pet loss books specifically, though those can be helpful too), conceptualize successful grieving as forging a new relationship with the deceased, one that exists in the absence of his or her physical presence. This spoke to me intuitively. It felt true. When Alec was sick I told him (and myself) repeatedly that our bond could not be broken, that we would stay connected forever and always. I don’t logically know how that could be, but as I am fond of saying, there was a time when we thought we’d fall off the edge of the world and get eaten by sea monsters if we sailed too far out into the great blue ocean. The point being we just don’t know everything. So I don’t have to know how it works to decide to believe in something.

Mythical sea monsters notwithstanding, grief can lead to some interesting places. People will talk about needy dogs finding them when they thought they weren’t ready to adopt, and things like that. My colleague Tom had a stray dog run in front of his car on the highway exit ramp not long after his beloved dog Cassie had died at seven years old – even younger than Alec. He and his wife adopted that lucky dog, who seemed to know exactly which car to hurl himself in front of to ensure the best possible outcome. That didn’t happen to me, but a synchronistic series of events led me to learning about a little German shepherd named Teagan, who had survived horrific abuse at the hands of what many would deem a real monster (as opposed to the mythical sea ones), the type of depraved people ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program staff (god bless them) have to hear about every single day.

Teagan immediately after her rescueTeagan was shot at close range and left for dead in Mississippi. When she was found she was gravely injured, starving, and riddled with parasites. Her front leg was trapped in her collar up to the armpit. With every painful step, the collar cut deeper into her flesh; when she was found, the gash went almost to the bone. Someone most likely deliberately looped her leg through her collar, and then held her down to shoot her. They were probably trying to hit her heart, but they missed. The bullet traveled up her throat and through her jaw, smashing several teeth along the way, before it exited out her eye, which was destroyed and had to be removed. In addition to the gunshot related trauma, she showed obvious signs of neglect. Her legs were crooked and bent, most likely from being kept in a crate that was too small, and her skin was flaking off. Upon rescue, she was severely emaciated and weighed only 15 lbs. Now at a healthy weight of 39 lbs. she is still tiny for a German shepherd. Vets theorized that her growth may have been stunted from early malnutrition and neglect.

Unfortunately, whoever did this to Teagan, a sweet gentle dog who despite everything still loves and trusts people, will never be found. But Teagan was lucky to be found by an animal lover. Although this person could not care for her, and local shelters were reluctant to take her because of the extent of her injuries, little Teagan got lucky for the second time when Janice Wolf of Rocky Ridge Refuge in Arkansas agreed to take her and start the emotional and expensive journey of saving the dog whose life someone tried to extinguish with a bullet.

Teagan playing in the snowIt was a long road to recovery, and Teagan was at Rocky Ridge Refuge for a year and a half. But now she is healthy and ready for adoption. Oh, did I mention I am adopting her? Yup, me…the same person who swore she would never want another dog after losing Alec. But as it sometimes happens, when I heard Teagan’s story and saw her picture, I just knew: yes, I would adopt this dog. There was no hesitation. I would give her the best home she could ever want. Significantly for me, I know Alec would have loved her.

I was supposed to adopt Teagan last October, but a few days before she was to make the trip from Arkansas to Oregon, she became deathly ill with a resistant infection that stumped the veterinarians. She received different medications and began to recover but no one is sure what was wrong with her. It could be that something was carried in with the bullet, fragments of which still remain inside her body because they could not all be removed. I waited eight months for her to be deemed healthy enough to be adopted and that has day finally arrived…almost! As I type this, Teagan is riding in a special transport van through California on her way to me in Portland, Ore. She was picked up in Arkansas on Saturday and has been traveling across the country for the last five days. She is supposed to arrive tomorrow morning and I could not be more excited to finally meet her!

Because of everything Teagan has been through, and all that I have recently lost, I know people are worried about me. My dad cryptically says only: “good luck.” A colleague said she hopes I don’t get my heart broken. What I didn’t tell her was that my heart is already broken. It broke forever when Alec died. But maybe being broken is not a bad thing. Maybe being broken creates cracks that need to be filled, spaces for more love to seep in. Love that would never have found its way to you had you remained whole, had you not suffered. Another thing I knew (as in, hello…obvious!) but had not experienced firsthand was that we never know how much time we have with our loved ones. Not only that, but we cannot know how long we will be here ourselves. One of my grief books said something that I found interesting. It said that while we may pine for the past and grieve for a future without our loved one in it, the truth is we don’t even know if we will be around for these imagined future events. So true! Today is all we have. And if all I have is one day with Teagan, I am going to try my hardest to make it the very best day of her life. I want every day to be wonderful for her. That’s what Alec did for me. I would like to share that. His presence filled my days with joy and happiness. Loving him made ordinary moments transcendent. Alec showed me the fathomless depth of love I was capable of, a love that strikes me dumb in its enormity, even now as I contemplate it. What a shame if I closed down and never shared my love again. As with compassion, we don’t have finite amounts of love, and Alec left me with so much of it. I love Alec still, so much. Even after his death, my love for him has changed and grown in ways I never could have predicted. He is still very much a part of my world; he is woven into the tapestry of my thoughts and feelings, of my deepest hopes and wishes. He will be there with me and Teagan. I don’t know how I know this. I just know there will be three of us.

It is frustrating to know there are so many animals out there who need homes; all are deserving, whether they have been abused or not. But although I cannot save them all, I can definitely make a big difference in one animal’s life, even as Alec still profoundly influences mine. My relationship with him keeps changing, keeps evolving, and a new chapter is about to begin. Teagan and I start our new lives together tomorrow. And it is going to be a very good day.


56 thoughts on “Alec, Teagan, and Me

  1. susan says:

    Beautifully written, Nicole. Thanks so much for sharing, and may you and Tegan have many happy years together.

  2. Elaine P says:

    Brought a tear to my eye here at work…

    Please write again and keep us posted about your new adventures with Teagan.

  3. J. Biondo says:

    I read your story and it brought tears to my eyes. I am an avid animal lover and I too lost the love of my life, CJ, last summer to feline leukemia. CJ was 3 when he passed away. His death effected me in ways I could never imagine. People would say to me, “It was a cat, stop it”. To me, CJ was not just a cat, he was my child, my best friend and my life. When CJ was diagnosed with Feline Leukemia when he was 6 weeks old, the Vet told me I should euthanize him immediately. I said NO WAY! Right now he is a healthy little kitten and I have hope that he will fight this horrific disease. The Vet then told me that CJ would have a life span of a maximum of two years and on some occasions, maybe longer, which was rare. I chose to walk out of the Vet that day making the best decision of my life because God gave me a blessing that day. CJ lived for 3 years, and 1 and 1/2 months with me and my fiance until he passed on July 11, 2010. I never cried so hard in my life and still cry until this day. He was very special. He was an angel and I truly believe that. I took care of him to the best of my ability. I wouldn’t let anyone touch him in fear of germs with a compromised immune system. The day he passed I felt my heart sink. I never cried like that before in my life and today my heart still remains broken. I think of him always. All day, every day. Sleeping without him is sometimes still very hard. We slept together EVERY NIGHT…with him on my pillow with his neck buried in mine. We had a special bond. A few weeks after he passed, my fiance and I adopted a kitten, I can say, adopting helped with my grief because I knew 1) CJ would have adored her, 2) the kitten helped me to cope with my grief and 3) I was giving a kitten a home who needed one. I took solace in that. Adopting does help with the grieving period but NEVER replaces your lost friend. Thank you for sharing your story. I am glad that you were also blessed with a forever friend.

  4. SP says:

    I know exactly how you felt when you lost your beloved Alec. I’ve experienced this several times throughout my life with much loved dogs who have come and gone as time marches on, but none more so than my little mini doxie, Bourbon. All of my pets (dogs and kitties alike) were and are loved and cherished deeply but Bourbon held a special place. He was my constant, my “Bourb” and I loved him more than I thought possible. When I lost him suddenly in 2006 I felt all the same things you did. Reading your story was like reading about myself. Bourb’s death came just a few months after a painful divorce so losing my “constant”, my beloved, wonderful little dog and friend was beyond devastating. I was quite lost, like you, and didn’t know what to do with myself. Unlike you though, I’ve always been a multi-pet household, so I had other furbabies to comfort me as best they could. It still didn’t mend my shattered heart that still aches for my little Bourb from time to time. I suspect it always will. What you did for your beloved Alec was amazing. He was truly blessed to have you as well as you were him. Good Luck with your new friend, Teagan. She looks like a beautiful spirit!

  5. Janice Wolf says:

    Beautiful!

  6. Dawn D says:

    I love this so much! It definitely made me cry as I can totally relate to the author’s grief, sorrow, love, loyalty, and compassion. I lost two of my most beloved companions almost 2 years ago this September and the grief I felt was insurmountable, surreal and life changing. I am still heartbroken. Since then, I have adopted two more dogs that were in life or death situations and needed to be rescued immediately. With so many out there in these same circumstances, somehow these were the two that crossed my path and came into my life, and they most certainly rescued me as well. I still mourn for my babies (16 yr. old German Shepherd, Sheba & 14 yr old Pittie mix, Fats), as they were truly my soul mates – and like the author states – they are still with me and have taught me so much more about love, faithfulness and loyalty. Her statement “…being broken creates cracks that need to be filled, spaces for more love to seep in. Love that would never have found its way to you had you remained whole, had you not suffered.” Is so true, as I love my dear Sasha and Delilah, and I am so glad that I was able to provide a loving home for two beautiful souls that deserve so much!

  7. Dee VH says:

    I felt the same way when my first cat died, I thought my world ended. I vowed to never have another cat ever. My Mother told me that it was selfish of me, when there were so many other cats out there who needed a loving home. Needless to say that now between my Mother & myself we have 23 cats!

  8. Dogsense Boutique says:

    Beautifuly said, i know the depts of your love and pain and wish you and your new friend all the very best.

  9. Carole Walters says:

    As I sit here crying my eyes out, I must say that I can relate to what you are going thru. Being a woman who was never able to have children, I replaced the void in my life with dogs. They filled the empty house with joy and made my life complete. After the loss of each one, I would grieve deeply, fill the house with their pictures, so as to keep them close to me, and get another precious life to love & cherish. It is devastating to lose each one, as they are my “children”, but they will always be with me in my heart. The love that they have given me is beyond anything that money could ever buy, and the memories that I have are priceless gems in the crown of my life. If I were a wealthy woman, I would adopt as many dogs as I could, but unfortunately, I can only afford two at the moment. Two of the most precious beings on this earth, as far as I’m concerned. We share every aspect of life, and I cherish every day that we have together, for I know that their time here on earth is much too short. Give thanks for the time that you have with them, and know that you gave Alex the best life possible and as much love as you had to give. It doesn’t take away the pain of losing them, but eventually that excruciating pain becomes just a dull ache, and eventually you will be able to think of him with a smile instead of a tear.

  10. Jane says:

    Thank you for sharing b/c all those emotions I have felt on some level. My dog Jake was just diagnosed w/ hemangiosarcoma and every second of my day is thinking about Jake. I haven’t stopped crying since Friday nor do I sleep. I am always looking at Jake seeing if he’s ok…is he eating, drinking, breathing. His life since I got him as a pup has been flashing through my brain. This situation I call an “elephant” nobody wants to talk about it. It is extremely hard and I am just taking one day at a time :(

  11. Maira says:

    Teagan is lucky! And you are a great women! Wish all the best for u 2!!

  12. Terri Abplanalp says:

    I made the mistake of reading this at work and I KNEW I shouldn’t ;(…I have lost dogs to illness and to cancer, and I have to say that I can relate on every level…to say it is heartbreaking is to inadequately describe the sense of loss and pain…but you are so right about the capacity to love being so great, and there being so many dogs out there deserving of it.

    Your blog is beautifully written and really captures so much of what is in my heart.

    I thank both you and Janice for your unwavering belief in beautiful Teagan. Janice is a goddess in my mind and I know that Teagan now has someone equally as great to spoil her and love her FOREVER….not just in “this” life, but forever.

  13. Juana Molina Sage says:

    I truly can say I know exactly what you have gone through and how you felt and feel now. It was almost as tho you were telling my story. I lost my Saint Bernard this past March to cancer just 3 months after her getting the bloat which with the surgery had made it through. We also thought we had more time and thanked God for letting her stay with us, then just 3 months later the bone cancer took her away so fast I didn’t even have time to come to terms with her even having the cancer and she was gone. I do know the love and bond that is at the heart and it doesn’t stop just because life does. They do truly take our hearts to levels we never knew were there. i too adopted another Saint Bernard, i told Lily if there was another baby out there who needed us just like she did to send that baby to me, and low and behold another Saint needed rescuing. You have been truly blessed with your 4 legged babies and so have I . <3

  14. nancy says:

    I’ve been down that road too. My first dog I had for 18 years before I had to put her down. She was my furry soulmate! Keep us posted with all your new found adventures with Teegan.

  15. Mary says:

    What a beautiful story, it brought tears to my eyes ! Yes, there are monsters who will do evil things to animals (I hope karma AND the law gets them) but there are also people like you, Nicole, this is why many of these precious creatures still trust humans after all they have been through. I hope you will write more & let us know what happens with Teagan.

  16. Sarah Luick says:

    Who among us who have had a special dog in their life (mine was “Saint” Rex), are not touched by your remembrances of your connections with Alec, and the pure love and devotion you gave to the relationship. I hope you have met Teagan by now. What a lucky doggie life awaits her. The rescue group must feel blessed you came to help Teagan. And, as you know, Alec will be in your heart as you enter your relationship with Teagan. Your blog says so much about what is good about human animals – guiding principles that you and your colleagues at ALDF all possess in abundance.

  17. Reagan says:

    YAY. Can’t wait to follow this new chapter of your life!!

  18. Karol says:

    Nicole, you are a hero. I can only imagine how your heart broke at losing your beloved German Shepard. Sometimes the only way to fill the hole in your heart is by getting another dog. Bless you, you wonderful girl.

  19. Stephanie Atwood says:

    Thank you, thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I am so happy for the place that you are now – still with Alec, an sharing your heart again with someone who can really use some love. I cried through this whole post, and my own little family of 3 rescue terriers snuggled up and kissed my tears away. This is a story I will forever remember.

  20. Jeanette Holmgren says:

    That was so heartbreaking and yet so wonderful. I know what it is like to loose a loved one and having to learn to live with the pain, loss, sorrow and deep wounds in ones heart. And yet we can’t stop being alive, because there are so many innocent souls out there who need our help. Even though a few animals get loving homes and a better life, I still can’t stop feeling sad because they even had to go through it at all. All people who help and adopt dogs in need are such wonderful humans. May the two of you have a long and happy life together.

  21. Patricia says:

    It is so wonderful to know there are people in the world like you Nicole. My beautiful sweet “Buddy” was murdered in May and the unbelievable hurt and anger is with me still every day. After being shot, he drug his poor body home before he finally lost his battle,after surgery to try to prepare the damage. I have had many animals that I’ve recused and have lost to old age, but this horrific act is with me every day and I know the anger for the person who took Buddy’s life will never go away. I lost my 16 yr old shihtzu Rhett 2 weeks later. Rhett’s sister Scarlett was diagnosed with Vestibular disease a month later..a middle ear infection that has devastating side effects…I have a pet cemetery in my back yard and believe that they all will be there to greet me on the “other side”. I love what you said about the cracks in the broken heart being there so more love can enter..I will never stop welcoming those precious angels into my life no matter how many times my heart has to break…and now I feel better knowing that there is even more room now for more love for another…Thank you Nicole

  22. Joanne says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story. I, too, am facing a devastating tragedy….at the hands of a Vet. She overdosed my dog with anesthesia and spent the next two weeks being syringe fed and couldn’t swallow. I had to let him go with whatever dignity he had left. Your story, your grief, everything you said struck a chord with me. Losing a special needs pet is one of the hardest things to go thru. I applaud you for having the courage and love to continue on and help another animal. I hope someday I can do the same…right now the pain is unbearable.

  23. Victoria says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I can identify with it for I lost my beloved doxie. Very unexpected, I asked God to take me with him. Depressed , house bound etc. I don’t think that I will ever recover completely. Since then I have rescued two more doxie, and love them dearly, but…..I am still waiting to be with my Scooter.

  24. vickie says:

    I know how you feel …grieving takes awhile to go through all the steps…you worked your way out…I had to keep going because I had many more animals to care for…I hope your new dog spends the best days of his life with you..Take comfort in that….

  25. S.K. says:

    Absolutely beautiful story…thank you so very much for sharing it!! In addition to the love you possess, I am in awe of your lyrical writing ability. Spellbinding use of words. Your story truly brought tears to my eyes.

  26. Tom says:

    Beautiful blog Nicole. Absolutely beautiful.

  27. Carla (Sage) Benoist says:

    Very beautiful blog entry Nicole. My heart is .. nourished by the beautiful way that you loved and love Alec and by the breadth of understanding you gained through loving him and since you lost his physical presence. Really rings so true to me — thank you for sharing!

    I’ve been adopting and sharing my life with Greyhounds for many years, having adopted my first Greyhound, Harley Stardancer in part as a companion to my little German Shepherd, Joanna Darkwind. He saved her life and remade my life and consciousness and together they will always be my heart and soul, for eternity. I have found that a new adoption never, ever replaces the ones who have gone before — rather it’s a tribute to those who are with you in spirit. I think that sharing your life with Teagan is a perfect, wonderful tribute to Alec and exactly the right step as you continue to love and grow. I will look forward to hearing about your journey. Walk in Beauty, both of you. Blessings!

  28. I have felt that same grief that you have, Nicole — like walking around with huge hole in your heart, and feeling like you will never ever recover from this. I couldn’t imagine life without Oscar. Like you, eventually I found the emotional room to adopt a few rescues. Although there is and always will be a special place in my heart for my first four-legged furry ‘child’, the ones that have followed have given me great joy — and contributed significantly to meaning & purpose in my life.

    Thank you for sharing this…and bless your generous soul.

  29. I have felt that same grief that you have, Nicole — like walking around with huge hole in your heart, and feeling like you will never ever recover from this. I couldn’t imagine life without Oscar. Like you, eventually I found the emotional room to adopt a few rescues. Although there is and always will be a special place in my heart for my first four-legged furry ‘child’, the ones that have followed have given me great joy — and contributed significantly to meaning & purpose in my life.

    Thank you for sharing this…and bless your generous soul.

  30. Steven says:

    Hi Nicole,

    You are awesome. Live long and prosper!!

    Steven

  31. In June of 2009, I lost the love of my life ~ Emma. Emma was a beautiful mantle marked Great Dane, and she was my life. I still recall the day I brought her to meet my parents, and my Mom answered the door. I was holding my 9 week old bundle of 21 pounds on my hip toddler style, and my Mom exclaimed, “You could not be glowing any more, if you have given birth to that puppy yourself!” I absolutely adored her, every thing was about her, for her, and no decision was made without thought to Emma’s wishes. I had Emma’s love for 9 years, and the final year we battled her Lymphoma. Her oncologist told me that we amy win many battles, but the gfinal one would be lost…one year was what we likely had. Emma did very well on chemo…never a sick day…, and she seemed almost to revert back to a young puppy. Every day was about quality of life, so I monitored her very carefully. When she came out of remission after about 8 1/2 months on chemo, the oncologist told me that we had 3 months at best. I had a hard time getting my head around the reality that my most precious gift was going away far too soon. We had only 10 short weeks and I had to let her go. I sat on the floor with her lying in my lap, and I felt her heart beat its last. Truth be told, if I could ahve willed myself to die at that moment I would have gladly, as I could not imagine life without her. I still miss her every day, and at times I feel as if her spirit is paying me a visit (I know some might frown on that, but I believe it is so). Emma will always be in my heart.

  32. diane lindsay says:

    Thank you so much!

  33. Pat Bryan, Southern Pines says:

    I am so glad you have found another animal that needs you. You obviously have a great deal of love to give. I have lost so many, but I honor them by getting another abused or abandoned animal from a shelter and giving it a good home. It is not called “replacing,” as one cannot replace a beloved pet. That’s why I call it “honoring,” because I think that’s what the pet I lost would want me to do.

  34. Janet in Cambridge says:

    It is quite a common response to vow never to have another animal again. Fortunately for us animal lovers, it’s also virtually impossible to live without a companion.

    I’m so glad you were able to see that Teagan needed you. That allowed you to help her and help yourself. The heart has so much room for love that we can share that love many creatures in our lives. Loving a new creature does not diminish the love you had for any other creature in your life. It only adds.

    For me, the joy comes from being able to think back on how wonderful my companions were, how they made me laugh, how they got me through all the tough times, how good their lives were, how much I was able to love them, and I smile. I would never have not wanted them in my life to avoid the pain of losing them.

    “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

  35. jenny says:

    you have just described the way i was feeling when i lost one of my greyhounds back in may. i was heart broken i sobbed and sobbed i still miss her i always will. its so upsetting

  36. Maria says:

    Thank you Nicole for writing this…..as you can see you’ve touched many people with your story. I am about to enter into the most devastating time I can imagine. Soon, I’ll have to let the love of my life, Ellie, go and I cannot imagine what my life will be, without her here with me. Your words give me hope as I’m about to enter a time of no hope. I will try to remember your thoughts and experiences during this devastating time soon to come. Thank you again for sharing this with all of us. I’ll be thinking of you and Teagan;-)

  37. Melinda Shaw says:

    Please keep us posted about Teagan. I certainly empathize with Nicole about the loss of her sweet boy. I really wanted to die when my Lab died precipitously from hemolytic anemia: we couldn’t figure out why she got it and we couldn’t control it. The grief never really leaves. Bless you for giving your heart to your new girl.

  38. lyn says:

    Thank you for your sharing your story, I couldn’t stop crying. I too lost a very special dog Jack a couple of years ago and to this day I still choke up. I have other animals, all very special and loved, however Jack was just my little pal/ Than after about 6 mos. I went onto a website to virtually foster dogs. And there they were with a BIG captioned heading ABOUT TO DIE. A breeder in Missouri had just dropped off to the local shelter a litter of puppies and the mama because the market had dropped off. And the shelter was about to euthanize them. Well to make a long story short. I called the shelter and started the adoption proceedings and not a moment too soon. The little mama was to be euthanized the next day. It took me about 3 months to finally get her because she was halfway across the country. She has been a great addition to my family and is really coming out of shy shell ( she lived in a cage all of her life.)I know that my Jack would have liked her and is happy we are helping another dog out of a sad situation as we did with him.And she has helped me, she makes me laugh again. I won’t say good luck. Because it sounds negative. I will say I hope you have a great life with your new companion Teagen and you are an inspiration to us all.

  39. Kerin McCurdy says:

    I am so sorry for your loss!!! I have a Shepard, Lab mix named Elmer and he is my soul mate, angel, and best friend too. Your article was written so beautifully, I cried the whole way through. Please remember that your Alec will always be with you in your heart and in the many wonderful memories you made together, never forget that!!! God Bless you both.

  40. KIM HARKIN says:

    WOW…..God has graced you with another german shepard to love and you have opened your heart to receive her…..I dont know whether to cry happy tears or do the happy dance. God bless you journey together. I started fostering this year….3 dogs and 2 kittens so far. The MOST important work I have ever done….(Although I was the Tax Director, CPA for a billion dollar SEC company…..never a fulfilling as my new job!) Best of luck to you. You are an amazing woman!

  41. Sandra Guillot says:

    That was a beautiful story and well written. I had lost a cat that I had since a kitten, so I know how you felt. God bless you both.

    Sandy

  42. Lori says:

    I followed Teagan’s story at Rocky Ridge! So happy to learn who the person is that’s adopting her :)

  43. M. Gail Laub says:

    Your story is the first I’ve ever read that echoed so completely my heartache, grief, and utter sense of loss when my beloved cat died after struggling with a brain tumor for 8 months. My life was so wrapped up with taking care of her that after she died I was lost as to what to do with the evening when I came home from work. Weekends were horrible. I was heart broken and hollow, and had no one who understood my grief. “How can you be so upset about a cat?” Enduring your anguish in silence to avoid ridicule is a crushing extra burden. How can you explain?
    For all of our 13 years together, Faux Pas’s nightly ritual was to step her front feet up onto my left thigh and then turn around and lie down with her body practically fused to my leg. Looking into her eyes, you saw intelligence almost human. She helped me raise my son, showing him that animals understand an apology for an inadvertent tread on a tail or foot, how to think of the welfare and happiness of others besides yourself, and the wonderful rewards of accepting an animal into your life because of its needs, not your own convenience. She was brought to me as a tiny kitten covered in tar and fleas, with raw footpads from walking on hot pavement. “Thanks a lot!” I told my “friends.” I had just taken in a cat two weeks before, an absolutely beautiful one that had been abandoned by her divorcing owners when they left. This kitten could not have compared more unfavorably. I had never seen a homelier or more aggravating animal. I named her Faux Pas because she was certainly someone’s big mistake. It took weeks to trim the tar off of her as her fur grew out and she was destructive enough for ten kittens. She shredded my living room sheers and ate my plants (no poisonous ones in the house) and was just generally a pain in the neck. I tried to find another home for her several times but the prospective takers would take one look at her and say she was not exactly what they had in mind. Thank goodness! By the time I’d had her a year, I was shocked to realize I wouldn’t have given her up for a million dollars. It’s been twenty years since she died but her name is part of my email address. She’ll never be just a memory.
    I’ve always had pets since then, some who were endearing in their own way and others that I loved just because I love animals. I’ve never gone out and chosen a pet…..they find me. There must be a sign in my yard, visible only to cats, that says, “If you’re lost, sick, or injured, and especially if you need some really expensive vet care, come to this lady’s house.” I can’t say no when I’m sure I’m probably their only hope of rescue. I still had a fractured heart though. Then three years ago I found another tiny kitten, so young she thinks I’m her mother. I adore this precious cat that talks to me all the time and thinks she belongs wherever I am. She moved into my heart lock, stock, and barrel without usurping anyone else’s place. The wonderful thing about love is that it can expand to encircle the new without replacing the old.

  44. Judy says:

    I just read your story yesterday on the ALDF e-letter. It really is a heartwarming story, although it did bring tears to my eyes. I remember reading about Teagan a few months back when her story first came to light. I couldn’t believe what I was reading—-the savage cruelty to an innocent animal. I don’t think Teagan could have found a better forever home. My current and last two rescues were wrecks of animals. Belle, my current furkid, and the last two are perpetually at the vet. One time, when I was waiting to see the vet, the one tech said to me “God knows who to send the sick and broken ones to.” Looking back at all the furkids we’ve been guardians to, and reading your story, the only thing I can say is there is a lot of truth in that statement.

  45. Dominick says:

    Hi Nicole…Thanks for sharing your story..all I want to say is it takes a special person to do all you did for Alec..Teagan is a lucky dog to have you..would love to be able to read how Teagan does!

  46. Lee Ann says:

    So beautifully written. I too believe, that all of the “souls” that have left before us are always with us. Their lessons are forever ingrained in our lives. Let Alec guide you and I have no doubt you and Teagan will continue his courageous & loving legacy. Bless you all ! Keep us posted on your new “love”. It goes without saying – treasure it, for their lives are so short. You are so fortunate to have found each other !

  47. Jane Kyser says:

    Thank you for articulating the feelings we share so beautifully. I truly believe that the spirit in Alec’s form will always be with you. Cherish the memories you create everyday…..

  48. Sharyn Shubert says:

    I have been exactly where you have been and are. You are blessed to have such wonderful dog friends in your life. Enjoy every moment, for they are all precious. Bless you for saving another dog in need. Alex would surely approve.

  49. Thank you for your very beautiful article. Many people don’t understand that an animal can truly be the love of our lives, but I do know, because my Toonces was the love of mine. After a negligent vet left him with his son who overdosed my cat with insulin, he was left brain damaged. I tried hard to nurse him back, hoping his brain would regrow neurons. But he only got so far. It was the most heartbreaking experience of my life, and it made me realize how many veterinarians really are callous and also opened my eyes to animal cruelty in so many ways. I did a website to tell his story (http://www.TheTooncesProject.com).

    I too have tried to figure out how to continue our relationship. He is a daily inspiration to me, and my love for him has taught me what is really important.

  50. Janice says:

    What a beautiful tribute to Alec and that the love you had for him was so massive you were able to channel that overflow for Teagan and show her love as it should be shown to all precious furbabies..i see her smiling in that picture with her one eye..I am so glad you and Alec’s spirit found her…All of my furbabies that have passed on remain in my heart and will be there til i take my last breath..

  51. SusanD says:

    Wow. This is the very first article I have ever read that truly reflects the depth of grief that I felt when the love of my life, my feline soulmate, my beloved cat, Champy, passed away at age 16 over fourteen years ago. I heard the usual cliches, “he’s at the Bridge,” “it was his time,” “you’ll get over it” — I never did, never will. Fourteen years. Yesterday. An eternity. In the blink of an eye, he went from a tiny, abandoned, sickly bundle of bones and fur to a beautiful specimen of feline physical perfection to an elderly gentleman with multiple health issues. I thought he would be okay, he had to be, it was unthinkable that he could leave without me one day. That horrible day came on April 14, 1997, when he passed away at the local Veterinary Emergency Clinic. Four days later, his lifelong kitty companion, Brandy, also passed away. Although her kidneys were failing, we believe she sensed that something terrible had happened to her dear friend and didn’t want to live without him, either, so abruptly followed him.

    Without the support of my special husband, family and friends, I don’t believe I could have survived this long. Although we have three cats now, two wonderful shelter rescues and a beautiful black cat rescued from the now-closed St. Louis pound and who is my pride and joy, my beloved Champy was, is and always will be, the one and only love of my life.

    Bless Alec. His story will continue to inspire and help others cope with devastating loss.

  52. Rhonda Hodgman says:

    So heartwretching beautiful … tears well as I look at all the urns of my beloved furrbabies sitting by their pictures and collars on the wall unit … I still cry and it has been almost 12 years since the first. It seems I can’t stop tho, tonight I am picking up another throwaway that I re-homed almost a year ago, he just isn’t working out for the family and I need to work with him, don’t know if he’ll be re-homed or stay…one day at a time. I also feel your grief and anxiety regarding an animal with cancer, my beautiful girl, Mescal, was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma in 1/10, she is still with me and fighting, we fight together as I was diagnosed with colon cancer in 10/10. We will never stop loving even tho it hurts so bad sometimes.

  53. Hank says:

    Enjoy your new friend. She is lucky to have you and you her. It is a sad world, but I keep the faith. May God forgive those who are cruel in this world. Bless!

  54. Ulla says:

    Bless you – BEAUTIFUL! People like you shines like stars of hope in the dark night of horror. I wish you the best of luck with Teagan. She will give back to you tenfold for all that you give her – as Alec did. The animals are the true masters of showing us humans what´s really important in life. Your empathy and grand heart is a signpost for us all.

  55. Sad to hear that your dog died and how painful life was after that. It’s not always easy to lose a pet that was everything for you for long.

  56. Stephanie says:

    Nicole, your story brought me to tears but at the same time it inspired me…Alec was a beautiful dog and I know exactly what you are saying in your blog…our animals are our children and the unconditional love is what makes it that way…Your pain is felt with the loss of your pretty boy Alec but knowing that Teagan has a loving mommy such as yourself she is a lucky girl…My oldest dog Abby is 13 and may possibly be facing liver problems and/or gall bladder cancer…I have spent a lot of my money on keeping her as healthy as possible with liver meds and prescription food for her bladder stones…when I was told that she may have gall bladder cancer I asked “how will I know when she is dying” and my vet said that her eyes will turn yellow and she will not eat right and start losing weight…as you are, I am a big animal lover and my beloved Abby is still with us but the day she leaves me I will be tore up for a long time as you were with Alec…I am hoping this is a misdiagnosis but its no guarantee…you have inspired me and just know that your feelings for Alec are genuinely felt by me cause I feel the same for my Abby…she is a min. schnauzer and I have had her since she was 7 wks old..I just dont think I can bear to lose her…I am trying to prepare myself but I dont think it will totally prepare me for the day I will never see her again…I have decided to have her cremated when she does die so that I can have her with me forever…Bless your heart and enjoy your baby girl Teagan…I hope she brings you joy as I am sure she will…if you have any tips for me on healing from a beloved pets death please friend me on facebook at stephaniedeoperehouston or email me….Love and Hugs, Stephanie

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