Diabetes Awareness Month: Day 2: Throwback Thursday/Memories

In case you aren't aware November is Diabetes Awareness Month! I am excited for this month because I have challenged myself to again participate in a photo-a-day challenge. I realize that in my busy, crazy life I most likely won't be able to keep up with blogging about every picture (like I'd hoped to accomplish last year) however, I am fairly positive that I can keep up with a picture-a-day on my social media and if I manage to throw a blog in there once in awhile then I consider it a success!

I have been following Project Blue November on Instagram (if you are t1d and you haven't checked them out then you SHOULD!) which is a diabetes awareness and advocacy group online. They posted a photo-a-day challenge for November and I'm excited to say that I have decided to attempt it. In typical me-fashion I am a day late - no bueno!

What I love about this particular challenge is that it gives me the freedom to incorporate t1d aspects about myself as well as other personal things that are all jumbled into the entire definition of me. Who is Erica, really? I am embarrassed to say that I've asked myself that question more in the last couple years that I care to admit. While I hate the thought of diabetes defining me, I realize that it's a significant part of me and it does, far too often, dictate my daily life. If I look at my life summed up in a pie chart then probably close to half of it would be covered under "diabetes."

While this is Diabetes Awareness Month (and I will be sharing t1d things about me this month, don't worry!) today being November 2nd, I'd like to focus on the other significant section of my life's pie chart: DOGS. More specifically shelter/rescue dogs. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not just a dog lover - I'm obsessed! It's probably fitting that my career of choice now is dog trainer but I didn't always start there. Once upon a time I was naive about dogs and wasn't experienced at all. Sure, I'd always had dogs growing up, but my experience was limited compared the wealth of knowledge I posses now.

When I was a kid, we had a couple different dogs: two Shelties that my family had purchased from breeders named Lady and Woody (original, I know) and a short, spicy little Fox Terrier aptly named Stubby. I fondly remember romping around with all three as a child as I was home schooled in my young years and they were my school yard chums. By the time I was a teenager, all three were aging (all three lived well into their double digits) and I was looking for a younger, more spry, playmate. I remember the spring of my sophomore year in high school I begged my Mom for a puppy. I came up with all the usual reasons to swing the vote in my favor "I'm responsible enough now," "the other's are too old to keep up," etc. I don't exactly remember how long I begged, but I do remember my Mom finally said that I could in the following spring. I don't remember her exact reasoning, but, it was hope that I latched onto.

Enter Sadie Mae - she showed up on our property one day, limping, bleeding and quietly beautiful. We ignored her as much as possible, because in the country you follow the if-you-feed-it-it'll-never-leave guidelines and hoped that she would wander back to her home eventually. Instead, she parked herself on our front porch, tended her wounds as much as she could, and refused to leave. After a day or two (and much blood stained cement later) we felt sorry for her and took her to the vet to see what could be done about her bleeding front leg and gimpy limp. We came to find that her front leg had a large pin inside (that had been inserted to heal, most likely, a bone break) and it was supposed to be temporary and removed once the bone had healed properly. Instead, it had remained in her leg and because of normal wear and tear it had worn through her skin from the inside out!

Well, that was it for me. I had already decided that this was the dog I wanted. It was so convenient in my mind. My Mom had already said I could get a puppy, and here was this adult dog that needed a home. It was a no brainer for me. Bless my parents, they paid to fix her up, agreed to let me have and name her (she was almost a Cassie) in the end she turned out to be the best dog they've ever had. She always walked with a gimpy limp, she always was awkward, docile, introspective, and quiet but she was always beautiful in her own way.

So why am I writing about this? On Friday, 10/2/2017, we all had to say goodbye to our beloved Sadie. After 12 faithful years with us her time had come where her body just couldn't keep up anymore. I guess I'm feeling a little nostalgic with her passing as she was the very first, of many, rescue dogs in my life. I hadn't thought about her beginnings with my family until recently when my Mom texted me that she had to let her go. It wasn't hard to take her love for granted - every time I visited home she was there waiting for me with a happy yip and wagging tail (which was always the epitome of her excitement.) To this day, I don't know where she came from, but, she picked us for some strange reason and never left. Soon after her surgery to remove the leg pin, she escaped the run we attempted to house her in the backyard, so, we came to the conclusion to quit fighting her and that she was a free spirit and could come and go as she pleased. She could have left any time she wanted, after all she had 12 years of opportunities, but chose to stay. I will forever be grateful to her that she deemed us worthy.

Oh boy - it's hard not to get all misty-eyed thinking about my first girl. She kindled a fire in me to support stray dogs and showed me how they are wonderful in their own way. While there was a bit of mystery surrounding her, I stopped questioning her background because I figured if she didn't think it was worthy enough to return too then it wasn't important enough to think about. Now, after fostering countless rescues, training several successful service dogs, and a bunch of work learning about dogs in between, I am so grateful to Sadie for starting the journey. Now I look back on all those years of friendship we had and I have happy memories. I don't think I'd be a dog trainer today without Sadie, and indirectly a Diabetes Alert Service Dog trainer at that. So here's to you Sadie for all the wisdom you imparted to me. You taught me that observing is just as important as listening. You showed me that dog's don't have to fit into a certain mold. You showed me that outgoing doesn't always mean happy and melancholy doesn't necessarily mean sad. You taught me to appreciate individualism in the canine species and that sometimes you've got to work with what you've got. You got a permanent gimp because of a stupid leg pin and I got diabetes. We both didn't ask for it but all we could do was make the best of it. So here's to you Sadie, here's to you.


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