Welcome! Today's post will be long and deeply personal. SO, if you are here to see my card for the day please feel free to scroll down and take a peek. I always try to be cognizant of my reader's time. I know you have more important things to do than listen to me ramble on... But, today, I need to write this post probably more than you need to read it. It has been my experience, that when something happens, sharing it allows you to heal. Now before anyone gets alarmed... NOTHING has happened to me, my immediate family, job, etc... But something did happen on Wednesday September 16th, that changed my heart forever.
Let me begin with a story... about a beautiful little ball of fluff...
Yep, that's her! John really wanted a BIG dog. In my mind, this meant a Lab, Golden Retriever, Poodle... (What did I know about dogs???) I grew up on a farm and had dogs but honestly, I was a cat person (#crazycatlady)... Dogs weren't my thing!
And then, hubs springs this on me... "let's buy a St. Bernard!" Really??? Did a box fall on your head while cleaning the garage? A lady who hasn't had a dog in a home with her since childhood... and it was a Terrier (SMALL DOG).... WHAT????? And for a few days there was talk of divorce... OK... it wasn't that bad... but I WAS NOT A HAPPY CAMPER!
So after a great deal of research, hubs found a breeder in Fargo, North Dakota and off we went. We took a week and toured the country (buttering me up, maybe???)... Glacier National Park, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone... the Badlands.. On our way back we stopped in Fargo to pick up our new little, BIG dog. We arrive at a cute duplex where the young lady was waiting to greet us. She introduced us to the Mama dog and then took us to the garage to see the most amazing gaggle of pups I've ever seen! (And yes, I know that a gaggle is geese... but this is my story...) So John and I are filling out the paperwork, and we hear this indignant, consistent, down right annoyed bark. John looks at the owner and says something like "someone is really unhappy." And the breeder looks at us dead serious and says "UH, that one is going home with you." At that moment, I seriously contemplated dropping a box on my husband's head! lol
So at 6 weeks of age, this little ball of noisy fluff started the voyage from North Dakota home to Kentucky. And it was an incredible trip home. She loved her collar and leash... she was the highlight of every rest stop for 6 states... she was the life of the party! And once she arrived at Casa del Ulrich... life got even more interesting.
On day two of Dakota's Most Excellent Adventure in Kentucky, she barked for John to take her out. He dutifully grabbed her leash and took her out. Because when Dakota and E.F. Hutton talked... everyone listened! But "going" quickly became secondary! For within moments she spotted the very large BULL in the adjoining field. And naturally, he was standing RIGHT by the fence. And that was ENTIRELY too close for Miss Dakota's liking. So there is one thing this country girls knows... DO NOT MESS WITH A BULL!!! Dakota sees MR. big, bad bull and promptly throws her little head back and starts barking with the most ferocious bark that a 6 week old St. Bernard can muster. CAN YOU SAY CRAZY??? A 6 week old pup is NO match for a BULL. He could have squashed her with one hoof. But SOMEBODY did not give Dakota the memo... and that bull snorted, pawed and AMAZINGLY turned his head and walked away. I'm pretty sure, Dakota thought he made a wise move! Shortly thereafter, John was completing her registration papers and couldn't quite think of a name. And the BULL story came back up... so little MISS became Ulrich's Dakota Lionheart. Because that girl had no fear and obviously that bull didn't know who he messed with! lol
So let's take a moment and I will share my card for today's post...
I made this card the 2nd week of September. And it languished on my desk for several days. I played with paper, ink, card stock, flowers and tinkered with the design. And for some reason it maintained residence on my desk for longer than most. I didn't post it... I felt like I needed to save it...
On Saturday, September 12th, we had a rain shower. After that shower the most amazing rainbow I have ever seen in the 12 years we have lived in our home appeared. It was vibrant and HUGE. It looked like it stretched from one end of the horizon to the other! A few moments later, I returned to our porch to take another peek and found not one, but TWO rainbows! It was beautiful! Can you say #HERESYOURSIGN?
The next morning, we let our dogs out for their morning run and breakfast. Dakota was moving slower than the others. She had been a bit slower of late but it didn't cause any alarm. 10 is elderly for a Saint and joint issues are normal. She went to her favorite spot in the yard and watched the sun come up. I ventured in the house to get my camera but by the time I returned she had moved on. She drank water but was sick to her stomach. She wouldn't eat and seemed a bit aloof. We consulted with a vet who asked us a few questions. We examined her and gave the information. It was decided that Dakota more than likely had cancer and we needed to make her comfortable. She hated going to the vet, and it made her nervous... so much so that we had the vet come to our home for vaccinations... and even then she was a wreck.
So... we made her comfortable and we waited. When she went out she would lay down where she could see the other dogs and us. We spent time with her big head in our laps, while we sang songs from her puppy hood and rubbed her ears. We cried... oh, how we cried... but not once did she cry... She was the strong one for sure... The night she crossed, John heard that strong distinctive bark. And he went to check on her. He said it sounded just like the old Dakota. When she saw him, she immediately settled back down. He said he knew as soon as he saw her it was time. Amazing thing... she gathered her loved ones around her with that amazing bark to let us know she was going. She was the strong one, the one in charge... even in the end.
So when I say she changed my heart forever... let me explain. John and I were so impressed with her breed that we decided to do even more research... which led to the two of us getting into the business. We rapidly found there were few people who specialized in "old fashioned" Saint Bernards. Many breeders specialized in show dogs and although they are wonderful, most people want the type of dog that isn't necessarily breed standard (less slobbers...) So we traveled all across the United States to bring the best companion dogs we could to our home. Illinois (twice), Georgia and Kansas... And as of today we have had 7 beautiful Saints cross our threshold. And somewhere along the way, the #CRAZYCATLADY became a #CRAZYDOGLADY! These gentle giants stole my heart and... you can just call me a #CRAZYSAINTLADY! And it all started with one little fluff with a very ferocious bark. That mighty bark opened up my heart to a world of possibilities. Dakota blessed me more than I could have ever blessed her.
I found myself wondering those final days if God was just too busy to worry about Dakota. After all, with the mess the world is in... I thought His hands would be too full to worry about my precious Saint. I found this scripture a few days before her passing.
"Are not two sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God."
Luke 12:6 HCSB
We buried her in our yard, very close to her favorite spot. After her passing, I stopped by my craft room and remembered the card. And upon close examination... I knew exactly why this was really Dakota's card... the polka dotted paper... for those darling black freckles... and the sentiment... comfort for me... it was like a strong bark from her... telling me everything will be OK because heaven needed a fierce Saint to help guard the gates.
My dear Dakota, oh, how you will be missed...
and NEVER forgotten...