Well, today is the day.
Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day when love is in the air and everywhere but, more importantly, for me, it is the day that the It’s Just Stuff website is finally being launched. And while you may wonder why I chose a holiday when a lot of people are focused on showing off their romantic love for their significant others, this day represents something completely different for me.
Four years ago today I had to make the very painful decision to say goodbye to my dog, Gavin. He was our family dog for almost 9 years. We rescued him when he was 3 after running away from his previous owner, an owner we were told used to leave him outside…
...in the Florida heat and humidity
...without even a bowl of water
He apparently was delirious from dehydration when he chewed through the lanai screen and ran right out into the street, only to get hit by a car. A neighbor had already called Animal Control to report that he had been barking for hours and witnessed him getting hit.
The decision to adopt him was one my kids and I were all for.
My (now ex) husband not so much.
But we agreed to foster him for a few weeks pending the adoption approval to see if he was, in fact, a good fit for our family.
It took all of 5 minutes after we got home before my husband had Gavin sitting on the couch next to him and that was pretty much where you could find him every day for the remainder of our marriage.
And every night?...That dog literally burrowed under the covers sleeping right next to his “Papa”...yeah, we were that dog family.
Before I go any further, let me say that I love dogs. I grew up always having one and when I was married to my first husband he actually brought this adorable Golden Retriever home as a surprise present for our 26th birthday. Yes, we had the exact same birthday...I know...definitely should have been a sign of things to come...especially two Scorprios...but #bygones.
So having a dog has always been about the unconditional love you receive and Gavin was that and so much more. I believe he was our family’s spirit animal and could bring us together in a way that maybe only other dog lovers would understand. But trust me, of all the dogs I have had...and truly loved myself unconditionally...Gavin was special.
His loud, ear piercing Beagle Basset Hound bark?
But...OMG...that face! I...LOVED...THAT...FACE.
And apparently so did many people on social media because I was that person that shared a lot of photos and stories about him. I am told, by some loyal fans, they really miss seeing #adventureswithgavin on a daily basis. Good news for them, by the way, this face is officially the face of It’s Just Stuff Pet Sitting Services because, again, come on, THAT FACE!!!!
He was not obedient and literally sniffed out every crumb in the house. And when I would try to explain to friends and family whenever they were at the house to protect their food at all costs, well, let’s just say they often left hungry while Gavin rested on the couch next to his “Papa” with a very full belly.
When I had just started my baked goods company and was finishing up my first holiday season in 2012, we came home one night from a party and immediately got hit with a smell that you knew was going to reveal something awful. I had left several last minute orders on our pool table staged for deliveries the next day. Gavin had managed to get his front paws up onto the edge of the table and snagged the plastic covering well enough with his nails to drag 3 dozen carefully wrapped and labeled brownie bites onto the floor.
Suffice it to say, the contents that came out of him as a result of eating those brownie bites took up significantly more floor space than the packages did on the pool table by about 1000x.
I literally thought I walked into the scene in The Exorcism where Linda Blair’s character regurgitates all of the evil within her.
Seeing Gavin leaning against the wall and shaking with this incredibly sad, pathetic, yet “What?..it seemed like a good idea at the time” look essentially bought him what I referred to as a weekend at Sunshine Animal “Spa” (aka emergency vet) for a detox and cleanse. Fortunately for him it cost significantly less than me spending a weekend at a spa, but still.
That dog was like a cat with more than 9 lives because there were so many other near death stories through the years, including when he chewed through a friend’s window screen when we were on vacation and was found wandering around her neighborhood. I got a call just as our cruise ship was literally leaving the port in Ft. Lauderdale from a stranger and when I called my friend to ask how things were going, she was at the beach and said, “No problem...he was sleeping...by the window” when she left a few hours earlier.
Fortunately, my friend has a good sense of humor just like me…
When I was getting divorced from Gavin’s “Papa”, the decision was made...with no argument from me...that he was mine. I wasn’t expecting “shared custody” like with my Golden Retriever after my first marriage ended so Gavin moved with me to live with a friend temporarily who had two dogs of her own. Gavin was not particularly one to embrace other dogs, but did tolerate not one, but two Boston Terriers even when I accepted a job in Steamboat for the summer and left him in my friend’s care. Photos like this were texted to me almost daily...it’s his “For the love of G-d, please come home and get me out of here” face.
Fortunately for Gavin I did go back to Tampa in September but only to pack everything up and move both of us permanently to Colorado. Some people questioned why I would take an 11 year old dog with me to start a new life.
“He will be a burden.”
“Don’t you want to start completely fresh and not have the responsibility?”
“It’s not fair to take him away from everyone and everything he knows.”
Listen, don’t get me wrong. I realize that a dog is like a child that never grows up and I was, for all intents and purposes, an empty nester with one child fully launched and living her life in NYC and the other child in college.
And I no longer had the responsibility of managing all of the chaos that led up to my divorce.
I didn’t even have a plant that I needed to remember to water.
But leaving this dog behind so I could start my new life and didn’t have to worry about him?
Nope...he made the cross country journey with me and we both turned a new leaf in our new home.
What he wouldn’t apparently turn was his head to look at the camera when we stopped at the iconic #WelcomeToColorfulColorado sign as we crossed the border from Kansas into Colorado. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that knew him...he was a stubborn old dog through and through.
As I settled into my new apartment, new job, new adventures, Gavin became increasingly more unsettled. He barked whenever I would leave...and wouldn’t stop until I got home. And my neighbors were less than thrilled, rightfully so. I was told I had to get it under control or I was going to be evicted. Listen, I get it...it is the disadvantage of living in a communal setting, but I tried everything including a bark collar that sent him flipping over backwards off a few steps, sprays, security blankets and, yes, even Prozac.
When the vet told me the only remaining option was giving him a sedative every day I was beside myself. The comments from friends back in Tampa to “put him up for adoption...he’ll be happier” did not sit well with me at all.
Moving here was an emotional, but exciting decision and even though I quickly made friends and created an incredible social circle as well as began experiencing the great outdoor life that we are so fortunate to be able to take advantage of almost year round, Gavin was really the thing I probably leaned on the most those first 6 months. Coming home every night knowing he was there and would snuggle until bedtime. He wasn't allowed in bed with me. The snoring, farting and weird noises...I spent my entire adult life married to two men that kept me up at night with all of that. I no longer needed to lose sleep thank you very much so Gavin was relegated to his Tempurpedic doggy bed in the living room...a bed that definitely cost more than the first one I bought when I moved to NYC after college....so trust me, he was just fine.
I would have loved for him to have been willing to hike, but he was a lazy dog all along and carrying him home one night for about ½ mile when he decided, “This altitude sucks worse than Florida humidity...I’m done...if you want me in your life moving forward you better pick me up because I am not taking one more step,” that was the end of my willingness to force him to do anything he clearly wasn’t going to do.
Did I mention having a dog is like having a child that never grows up?
Or maybe it’s like having teenagers?
Either way...I’ve digressed...
I traveled back to Tampa for a belated 80th birthday celebration for my father in December 2016 and when I returned, my boss who had graciously taken care of him, told me I should probably take him to get checked out. He had been peeing a lot and while he did have a habit of peeing sometimes in the house (seriously, I don't think I could have given more unconditional love to anything putting up with all of his issues and that's saying a lot considering some of the other "men" I've put up with in my life 😉), it was usually when I was out. But by January 2017 it was happening all the time regardless of whether he was home alone or not.
The initial diagnosis was a UTI. I didn’t know dogs got UTIs, especially male dogs. A few hundred dollars and some antibiotics later he was actually worse so back to the vet we went. This time, though, they decided to do an ultrasound and the results were bad...a massive tumor in his bladder. They told me it could implode at any time and while they could do surgery (for a mere $7K), there was no guarantee that he would survive.
I went home and after sobbing hysterically for about an hour I called my kids and told them the situation. I then made the, dare I say, mistake of calling a few friends back in Tampa who, once again, felt it was necessary to make me feel guilty that I wasn’t going to do the surgery. Mind you, these were the same people who told me I should have left him in Tampa so I did not feel taking their advice would be beneficial anymore. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t and I had to let some of them go, albeit, for different reasons than the decision to let Gavin go.
The following evening a very kind and compassionate former vet who had turned to helping with these end of life decisions for pets came to my apartment and gave me and my kids the most peaceful send off for a dog I could have imagined.
Nevermind, Gavin literally until the bitter end had food in his mouth as he followed the trail of kibble to his bed where the vet administered the drugs, it was one of the saddest moments in my life. Dog owners understand, right?
These are the last photos I took of him that day. He came with me to work even though the landlord had threatened my boss he would kick us out if I ever brought him there again after he barked one day...literally for 5 seconds...and there was no one else even there. Some people really are heartless.
BTW...the photo of Gavin with the vet? I never saw him put his paw on anyone’s chest like that before. He knew what was happening, I am convinced, and that was his way of say, “Hey, it’s ok Dude...I know it’s time too.”
So with all of the above said and done you may have forgotten that the original intent of this blog is to announce the launch of the It’s Just Stuff website. But I had to “set the scene” so to speak to make you understand that my journey to arrive to this day probably started on February 15th, 2016 when I no longer had “the burden” of a dog. It was the first day of my entire life that it was just me, myself and I alone. No parents, siblings, roommates, spouses, kids...or dogs anymore. And while I really do miss him and wish he could still be my foot warmer as I am writing this with temperatures outside at -2, I have no regrets about making the decision when and how I did 4 years ago today, February 14, 2016.
Truth be told, I have no regrets about anything that has happened in my life before or after that date. I believe everything happens for a reason and we have to embrace each and every experience as one to learn and grow.
My journey over the past 4 years has been one filled with a lot of hopes and dreams for my future and everyone I care about. But I will admit that as a 50 something year old, twice divorced, who had to walk away from a marriage and life in debt and work my ass off to rebuild and renew, it wasn’t always easy.
I am here, though, today, Valentine’s Day 2021 standing tall and proud of what I have accomplished.
I do acknowledge that not having to care for Gavin or anything else other than myself has given me a lot of freedom, but building a business from scratch is no easy task. It comes with some pretty heavy burdens for sure. It would have been much easier for me to continue to take “regular jobs” as some people call them and have the stability and financial security heading into my “golden years”.
Here’s the problem, though, with that mindset...there is no such thing and job security anymore. So I did what I was raised to do...take control of my life and BE ME.
And it is definitely working.
Over the past few months after committing to go back to running It’s Just Stuff on a full time basis, the business has grown in leaps and bounds. A recent blog I wrote outlined a lot of the progression but getting the website done proved to be a bit of a challenge for me.
Part of the reason, of course, was because I am busy...every day...all day...helping clients. And if I'm not with clients working "in" my business, I am doing all of the stuff to work "on" my business so it continues to grow in the direction I anticipate. Not complaining...it’s just been my reality and I promise I am thriving in it.
The other part?
As much as I love to use my creativity, putting a website together takes a lot more than that. And after everything that has been going on this past year with a pandemic, protests and an insane election cycle, I really didn’t have the bandwidth for this particular task no matter how important it may be to my business.
Fortunately, I called upon people that do and I need to acknowledge them at this time starting with…
The incomparable Arezou Zarashan, founder of Dispatch Mom, one of It’s Just Stuff’s “Preferred Partners. The Preferred Partner/Resource page is still under construction and will contain all of the amazing partners we believe will complement our services, but in the meantime you should definitely check out the DM website if you are a mom living in the Greater Denver/Boulder area. Arezou has been a great business mentor and friend since we first met when she was with the former Bold Betties, a women's adventure group that I discovered while working at Camp Inc. in Steamboat in 2016. I am so amazed each and every time we talk by how much I learn from her and cannot thank her enough for everything she did to guide me the past several months.
The talent behind a lot of It’s Just Stuff social media in the past few months and moving forward as well as the extremely patient, Jessica Robertson, owner of Rocky Mountain Social Media, who somehow put up with me while getting this website created.
My daughter, who will kill me if I tag her here, but, suffice it to say, she kicked my ass back in October and told me to stop putting my square peg in some employer’s round hole anymore and convinced me the time had come to go all in. Her millennial mindset is sprinkled throughout this website as she forced me to think about how that generation will be wanting It’s Just Stuff services too in the not too distant future.
My son who moved to Colorado in 2019 and while he had nothing to do with the creation of this website, he has been, whether he realizes it or not, an inspiration to me as he did what I had to do...believe in myself and my ability to support myself doing what many may think is not only unconventional, but risky.
To a guy that I met in December right before the holidays, who for a very brief period of time, provided the right amount of distraction that I needed to draw some very important conclusions that I really couldn’t afford distractions while building a business...or at least not right now or in the immediate future. I wish him well and hope his journey will be whatever he wants and needs it to be.
And to all of my other family, friends and business acquaintances, don’t think for a minute that you weren’t a part of getting me to this day. Too many to call out but I truly hope each and everyone knows that you contributed to my arrival here today. I will though acknowledge one friend in particular who, like Arezou, managed to keep me sane during this process. To Cindy Goldrich, you are an incredible human and even though I would never call you at 4:30 am when I might be having a panic attack about <insert issue du jour>, it is comforting to know you would pick up. And I am so excited for us to begin collaborating more on projects revolving around the ADHD world and the connection it all has to the executive functioning struggles many of my clients face. You have "schooled" me well as the amazing coach I know you to be. Any parents, educators or specialists out there needing advice, please check out her website, PTS Coaching
This is a Valentine’s Day story that I do believe, for me, is one that has been filled with unconditional love that is like none other and I am one very grateful small business owner, employer, mother, daughter, sister, friend and, yes, former dog owner, who will never forget how one dog took me on the journey of a lifetime especially after his life had ended and brought me to this day. The website isn't perfect and will no doubt continue to evolve and change, as it should, but I am very happy to have finally pulled the proverbial trigger.
Thanks for following me on my journey this far and I look forward to sharing the continuation of it for a long time to come. I promise, though, in a lot less words in future blogs.
Oh, who am I kidding...I can’t make a promise like that!
But I can make the promise that I will always bring my passion, compassion and, yes, sense of humor, to each and every client and am excited to continue to share their stories just like I share mine on this platform.
Be well...be kind...be safe...and, of course, Happy Valentine's Day, however you choose to celebrate it,