LA MESA -- So before the election cycle gets into full swing, I would like to share something I am working on.  I’m writing a new book and what follows is the introduction to it.  My reason for sharing this is that I know that our highest selves are all pretty much the same: we love people who love us, and grieve when we lose people and animals. We love our little town of La Mesa.  We feel empathy for people who suffer something we too have suffered.  It's how we're wired despite what it might seem like in the heat of election craziness.

My hope for myself this election season is that even when someone I disagree with really, really vexes me I will be able to step back, take the time to reflect on how much greater are our shared ideals than are our disagreements.  It’s easy to make things personal, and that’s okay when they are.  But when it’s “just” politics or policy, I, for one, am going to be watchful that I keep everything in perspective. 

Please feel free to comment if you have any best pet moments.  I’m heading off to meet a new rescue in a couple of days. His name is Bear. Life without a dog is just not quite the same.  I have a new red collar in my car in case Bear wants to come home with me.

Introduction to STAY: What Dogs Do ©Chris Shea, 2014

When my beloved Newfoundland Ben died on the 2nd of June, 2014, I was stunned by the power of grief that came over me.  After he left, I lay my entire weight on his black furry body, warm in the June sun out in the cool green grass of the park outside my house. Within seconds of his last breath,  a neighbor’s bell on the balcony rang out like a school bell despite three facts:  the bell never rings,  there was no wind, and no one was ringing it.

Was Ben telling me something?  No death for good boys?  Only soaring around the park without the discomfort of old bones and joints?  “Home in time for supper, mom!”  Was that what the pealing of the bell was for?

I tried to nap later in the afternoon, but sleep was somewhat elusive.  I held onto and breathed deeply the fragrance of one of his “babies,” a stuffed bunny he had only recently taken off my bed and claimed as his own.  It smelled like Ben.  It still does, if only faintly.  I have not given up that habit yet, sleeping with Gray Bunny and maybe never will.

The expression “reeling from grief” fit the state of my broken heart.  I looked on the internet for books about the loss of a dog who was like a soulmate.  But finding nothing, I decided perhaps once I got over my deep sadness, I would write something.  Something about how the heart of a dog never dies because no dog is constituted to leave his owner.  The loyalty, affection, intelligence and courage, to say nothing of the humor, companionship, mischief and feel of a dog must be immortal.  

I know there will be people who think I am turning my dog and all good dogs into something they are not, but I know I am right.  Everything in my heart and soul tells me that it is the nature of a dog to STAY.  

Chris Shea is the owner of Life Sighs, an inspirational card shop on La Mesa Boulevard in the Village. She writes On La Mesa when the spirit moves her.

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Comment by chris shea on July 22, 2014 at 9:40pm
There really are no words, are there? I'm sorry you had to say goodbye to your kitty.
But cats don't go far. Why would they? I hope you feel kitty nearby.
Comment by MG Raftery on July 22, 2014 at 8:51pm

Chris...I feel your pain. This really hit home; today I had to put to sleep my 20-year-old cat; I've had many through the years but she was the one most devoted to me.  A year or so ago we lost our golden retriever to cancer, which was heartbreaking. I'd like to think they both live on in some way, free of pain.  We did get another golden soon after, and it definitely helps you to heal and not dwell on the loss, though no two animals are ever the same.

Comment by chris shea on July 21, 2014 at 2:15pm

Thank you Kelli.  Nothing like the loss of a dog.  That's for sure.  This Joplin is a sweet girl, one who has decided that, despite my thinking she would kind of follow in Ben's footsteps, she has a mind of her own.  All dogs are  hand crafted, I'm thinking, by God who loved us enough to invent them in the first place. Thank you for your kind words.  We dog people are the happiest lot, aren't we?

Comment by Kelli DeMent on July 21, 2014 at 2:10pm

Chris...  Your writing always stirs something in me...happiness, a need to reflect on how to be a better person, hope, peace.  When it comes to dogs, though, tears softly tumbled as I read your introduction to STAY.  For me it was Rascal.  A wonderful little shih-tzu I rescued over 16 years ago.  He left 4 1/2 years ago to hang out with his canine buddies in the sky and I still miss him today almost as much as the day he lifted off!  Something comforted me during that difficult time, though, when I realized that I would never have given up those 12 beautiful years with him to take away the  sorrow I felt without him.  Congratulations on Joplin!  May she bring much joy to your life for years to come! 

Comment by chris shea on July 19, 2014 at 6:43pm
I'm pretty lucky she chose me!
Comment by Gene Carpenter on July 19, 2014 at 6:24pm
Nicely done Chris, congratulations!
Comment by chris shea on July 19, 2014 at 5:44pm
Follow up comments. I met Bear on Friday. We were not a very good match. Way more energetic that his online description indicated. The shelter showed me three other dogs, one of whom was a 5 year old Bernese Mountain, Rottweiler, golden retriever mix. Named Joplin.
She's asleep at my feet as I write this. It's nice the way our hearts always make room for someone new.Whether named Bear or Joplin, there's a pup for every new red collar.
Comment by chris shea on July 17, 2014 at 3:03pm

I love that photo too!  I have been editing a small, pocket-sized version of  book.  I would love for there to have been one when I needed it.  One of my favorite parts of the new book is a "copy" of a dog's itinerary for his or her life.  When I showed it to someone, she asked me why we always make dogs write certain letters backward as in a Happy Birthday card the dog "signs."  I wonder if dogs get a little steamed that we treat them as if they were all five year olds...

Comment by David B. Givens on July 17, 2014 at 2:55pm

A terrific idea for a book project, and you can dedicate the book to Ben . . .  I really like your "paw in the sky" picture, too!

Comment by chris shea on July 17, 2014 at 8:32am
I think there are lots of us,Jack. Thank goodness!

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