Broken hearts, bird nests and beagle fur: a legacy of love

I sat on my outdoor patio, a cup of coffee in hand, breakfast in front of me, and my eyes alive with wonder of where my beagle, Eva, could be.

I scanned the feathered tips of lush green pines reaching the morning horizon above me. I listened to quartets of dapper songbird barbers clustered in the maple trees beyond the fence. To my left, I watched a pair of amorous chickadees hastily build a nest in the dangling building of a picturesque birdhouse that occupied an ash tree.

Beside me I was missing a companion who had brought sunshine to my world for over a decade.

About two weeks ago, my partner, Andy, and I said goodbye to Eva as she stretched out her tired body, gave one last look of love from her soft brown eyes and left for the Rainbow Bridge.

I looked around my atmosphere. I reflected on all the memories that played on a reel in my mind, and all the lessons I had learned from Eva over the years. It wasn’t until her absence that I realized that I was the student and that she was the teacher.

Usually she was sitting next to me, waiting for any chunk of food that might fall from a wobbly fork gripped by my SMA hands. Learning to never leave food without a hood at the distance of a hungry-eyed beagle was only the second greatest knowledge I had gained from Eva.

The first big lesson: choose love every day without asking questions. Don’t think too much about it. Don’t complicate it. Keep your pockets well stocked, your heart generous, and give it away.

Eva made this clear when I first interacted with her at the shelter where we adopted her. After meeting a few shy dogs around my wheelchair, Eva’s giant ears and swirling tail shattered any preconceptions about my SMA as she climbed onto my footrest and leaned into the friendship of my legs .

Eva was a peaceful dog. She shunned bumblebees, sniffed flowers and sat down intently to watch herds of deer or turkeys make their way through the desert. With a rare inherent docility, she saw the beauty of everything around her – including the beauty of me and my wheelchair. In a world where I have often struggled to feel worthy of anyone’s love, I have felt great comfort in accepting my beagle’s purest love. I never felt the need to prove my worth to her, nor did she ask me to.

Whether I endure my darkest days with SMA or triumph over it, Eva offered a level of support that was both unconditional and unmatched by any human.

As I write with a broken heart, I feel I can breathe a little more each day. The pain of losing my mate was a visceral sensation, as if my heart engendered tremendous feelings of hopelessness. Once expelled, they filled the crevices of my body with no way to escape. With each day my breath passes through me more freely, the grief is guided towards an exit. I invite feelings out of my body by loving others around me more intensely.

Being heartbroken means that we have loved something so fiercely that we cannot bear the thought of parting with it – it is one of the many gifts that the human experience has given us. To live forever in happiness with a companion like Eva would be like a paradise on earth. But here on the old ordinary ordinary earth, it is not the natural order of things. My paradise with Eva was subjected to the sand of an hourglass.

In the midst of my sunrise reflection on the patio, I watched the chickadees leave their house and walked over to her. As I glanced around the back of the birdhouse for a glimpse of their nesting masterpiece, I noticed several tufts of beagle fur that had been picked up by the birds since a recent cleanup. outside of Eva’s bed and blankets.

I smiled as the sun warmed my cheeks. It was the perfect solution for Eva’s legacy of love – providing perpetual comfort and warmth for a group of newborns to grow in this great circle of life.

I have written about the privilege of experiencing new beginnings, but I tend to avoid thinking about final ends. Maybe I avoid thinking about the end not out of fear of the pain, but rather because the endings are a myth. In this life, our hands, words, wheels and paws leave imprints for others to follow. Of sorrow, our tears flow like spring rivers, with water that will nourish the seeds of our tomorrow.


To note: SMA News Today is strictly a disease news and information website. He does not provide any medical advice, diagnostic, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnostic, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News today, or its parent company, BioNews, and aim to spark discussion on issues relating to spinal muscle atrophy.

Katie is a Wisconsin girl at heart who strives to paint with her words, illustrating a moving connection to nature and an inclusive outdoor adventure. She was diagnosed with SMA type II in infancy. With a background in human development and family studies, she finds her fulfillment in encouraging others to embrace their distinctive beauty. When not engaging in advocacy or writing, you’ll likely find her hiking an accessible trail, worshiping a sunset, or eating an s’more somewhere. She has three companions who hold her heart – two of whom travel on legs (the other has human feet). Follow her story on Instagram @wheelprintsalongthewildflowers.

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