It is October 2020, and one month ago, I faced three harrowing challenges alone.
The first occurred five weeks ago. A significant other, someone I thought I could love and trust, created an ugly scene over seemingly nothing, and walked out suddenly, without any explanation that made sense to me. My emotional makeup makes the acceptance of events like this virtually impossible without intense emotional pain.
A day later, and one week prior to the separation, I had to take Kensie to Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, NJ for a series of comprehensive tests. She appeared to be “fading” for lack of a better word, being lethargic, feverish and not eating. It appeared that at that rate, she could have died. I wanted to address this prior to my own upcoming health challenge. Fortunately, all of her tests were normal, adding to the mystery of what was wrong with her. I had to confess that my intense relationship with my boyfriend had resulted in a diminishment of my attention to her, and she was acting out. Since the boyfriend left the day prior to the visit to the vet, it was almost immediately that she returned to the old Kensie I knew before. Only now I notice how very clingy and needy she is emotionally. She came to me in late January, and due to COVID-19, she was accustomed to having me all to herself. Apparently, she liked it that way.
The third event occurred exactly four weeks ago. I had been given a diagnosis of lung cancer and I underwent a surgical procedure to remove the lower lobe of my left lung. Coupled with the emotional trauma of the precipitous separation of the previous week and the crisis regardingf Kensie’s health, I struggled painfully and long to recover.
We all have our little crises, canines and humans alike, over how we want our love, over how much we want, over how much we need, and over what happens to us when we lose it. The boyfriend ran out of the house in a seemingly fabricated rage over a bad case of nerves. Kensey felt she lost my love. And I was in terror over a cancer diagnosis. It brought out the worse in us all.
As I hate to be alone more than anything in the world, having my borzoi, and now Kensie my Silken Windhound, is essential. But I do not do so well outside of a relationship with a significant other, either. But I cannot “fix” that problem as easily as buying a dog. In fact, it is in the hands of destiny regarding how it will be resolved. I have learned I cannot do very much about it. If there were a personal God, He would have had mercy on me long ago having tired of my repetitious prayers and Novenas. He would have found and sent me the man who truly loved me, free of abuse and abandonment. But there is no such man Today, I walk alone through the maelstroms of bizarre challenges and events that mar my life like a scar. For they are challenges and events He has put in my life. Therefore, I must live them alone but gratefully, with Kensie, today. For we are partners in recovery from the brink of death.
This is the iconic portrait of Opal by Maxine Bochnia taken at six months old in 2005, famous on the internet and proudly displayed at trade shows wherever she works.
Note: Although I am writing about a very sad subject in this entry of Blyss Blog Encore, it does not reflect the way I feel in the present. Upon reminiscing about Opal on the tenth anniversary of Her death, my words in quotation are reproductions of documents that described my feelings at that time.
I must look back ten years now to remember the premature death of the borzoi puppy bitch I loved so much, Opal. I wrote Opal’s obituary shortly after Her death and posted it on BorzoiNews-L. Opal is not for public consumption therefore I am not posting this anniversary on Facebook or Twitter, but only mentioning the anniversary in my Blog. For the writing of that obituary and its publication on the BorzoiNews-List, and the first entry in my Blog one year later describing my feelings about my grief, catapulted me into creating Blyss Blog and its continuation, Blyss Blog Encore. It was very clear that my grief was still raw one year later and would fester for many years. There may be some readers who remember Opal’s obituary that I posted that day in the listserv. It follows:
“‘And a lady always knows when to leave.”
As many of our friends know, our youngest borzoi, “Opal” at Blyss, has been ill for some time. It has been heart wrenching to see her fail to thrive, waste away, and know something was wrong but not know what. To know was worse. She fought hard to live. Sadly, she lost.
Opal will always be remembered for her beauty, sweetness and grace, and that her time with us was much too brief. I believe she had a career as a show dog in her future, although perhaps not equaled to that of her great dam. That stopped being important to us, if only she could be well. Opal was happiest when she could be at home, making everyone feel special with her unique style of affection, tapping you with her paw to get your attention, or leaning into you to be scratched behind the ears, or licking your hands and face. Still, I would be a liar if I denied regretting the loss of so many “what could have beens” for her. Truly, she was robbed. With her passing, we lose much, too: Opal’s infectious joy, the heart of our home.
Opal’s untimely departure makes me recall a wonderful line from one of my favorite movies, Fried Green Tomatoes. Ruth, a much loved main character and a beautiful young woman, dies prematurely. Her friend, Sipsy, comforts their friends with the following words:
‘It’s all right, honey. Let her go. Let her go. Miss Ruth was a lady. And a lady always knows when to leave.’
Thank you, Roni and Jennifer Zucker, for sending Opal to Blyss. We shall always be so grateful.
“Opal,” Raynbo Opalesque at Blyss
October 21, 2004 – July 7, 2006
“May we meet again, Dearest Little One.”
Lorene Connolly & Robert Dwyer, Blyss Kennels, Mountainside NJ
One year later, no less consoled, I began the Blyss Blog with these words on July 6, 2007:
“One year has passed since I had to let Opal go. She was my best dog but She soon sickened and died…Today, I don’t understand why or how I am still here….I lost much by losing Opal. Opal meant the world to me… I tried to go to Her many times, many ways, but I failed. I still wish I could die… Nothing I feel makes any difference so there is no point in having feelings. Wishes will not bring Her back, and my wishes stand for less. I have honored and memorialized Opal with my entire being and honors and memorials can’t bring Her back. I have cried myself sick and my tears don’t bring Her back. I have sickened myself into depression and depression can’t bring Her back. I have starved myself and starvation can’t bring Her back. And I have grieved until I am out of grief and grief can’t bring Her back. She is gone.”
Today, nine years after writing those opening words, although I no longer suffer the loss of Opal, I have not forgotten Her. Instead, I am humbled by the memory that the pain of Her death caused me. It transcended the emotional, and touched me in all aspects of my life to the point that I became physically and emotionally ill. I never thought I could be so sick, sick to the point that my life was in danger. There were other factors involved, true, but nothing has ever caused me so much pain before or since, as holding Her lifeless body in my arms.
It is still as sad today as it was then: I lost ten years of blissful happiness with Opal when I needed Her so much. By losing Her life, She lost Her chance to be my dog, when I was Her special human. Moreover, by losing Her, I knew I would be lonely forever for that special kind of special love for me that only She had. For that special love, the kind of love that Opal gave to me, was the kind of love that eluded me in all other areas of my life, not only in my three marriages but going back to the earliest years of my childhood, a time of nightmares, devoid of safety and peace that only nurtured an endless, desperate quest for love as an adult.
When Opal died, Her light died with Her. I was cast into a suffocating darkness from which I could not escape. But life is cruel, and it goes on anyway…. Today, ten years later I am here trying to show Her the respect She is due all the while becoming a different person, a recovered person from an emotional blackout that consumed me for many years that followed. I can recall Her memory now without the horrible pain in my chest that always brought on uncontrollable tears. Perhaps today, I understand fully that She never really left me, that She was here all the while, always right here by my side. Today I have the faith and the courage to look down and see Her as She looks up at me.
For Opal, I wrote prayers and I wrote poems. In particular, there is “Opal’s Prayer” and “Hounds of the Steppes”. They help me to remember she is always alive in my heart.
I am further along on my road to recovery after a freak accident walking Tresor caused me to break my shoulder on May 16, 2016. Most of all, I am finally relieved of the excruciating and relentless pain the injury caused me for a full four weeks. After that point, I obtained a significant amount of relief and ability regaining motion of my right arm that had been in a nearly frozen position across my chest held up in a most unnatural way by a sling that day by day was becoming an increasing instrument of torture itself. Two weeks later, on July 1st, I was told I would be able to drive. Now my life has returned to normal except for the long hours I must endure of a new torture, physical therapy. But I will not complain about that.
Moving on, while holed up alone, isolated, in pain, and very depressed, my mind played its usual repertoire of tricks. First, it told me food did not taste good if I was in pain so I dropped ten pounds that unsettled all of my friends, family and doctors. I do that, I just do. I still do not want to eat. What’s there to eat about? What’s there to eat for? And extreme physical pain only transferred itself to the already existing emotional pain of being alone (a widow) reminding me of it in a new way. Still, I hung in there eating as best I could, it only was not enough.
Now that I am feeling better, I am able to appreciate how lucky I am, lucky for my lovely home, my remaining close family members, my close boyfriend, and most of all my two borzoi, Jelly and Tresor. Those are the things I have to focus on, as the memory of the pain dims into the distant pass more and more every day. Although it was frightening and horrible, and it isolate me, now that it is over I have regained my equanimity toward life and have achieved a better balance. Perhaps sometimes it takes a calamity to underscore your gifts for you, perhaps they disappear under the cover of mistakes and tragedies and you think everybody else has it better than you do, but to believe that is wrong. I am able to raise the blinds in my bedroom every day now free of pain and give thanks for that and so much more.
Regarding the true focus of this blog, which is not me, Jelly and Tresor have been through a lot due to my accident as well. However, they have ended up in a better place. Jelly charmed herself into the heart of another dog acquaintance I have had for many years, who has asked to take Jelly with her and her lovely dog when she takes him out hiking in the Watchung Reservation which is almost daily. Moreover, I found a wonderful man to walk Tresor for me, and that relationship is working out well for him, and so for me, too. Tresor is a dog who loves to be walked, and he looks so proud and full of himself as he saunters down the driveway with his dog-walker. He is such a show-off! The world is all about him, so he thinks. He loves his life, and all the people in it. It is worth everything in the world to me to see him happy this way. When he comes back, he lavishes me with his affection, never missing an opportunity to rub his head on me, or reach out to me with his paw. He wants to be close to me wherever I am in the house. My heart is full of a special love for Tresor. Every day lived with Tresor is a gift, and there is no pain in the world that could have destroyed that. We co-exist in a bubble of dog love bliss, I know. I know it will not endure forever, but while he is here, I will not allow anything to come between us again. We share a sacred bond. I never knew a dog could make me so happy as Tresor does. And Jelly is right there behind him.
Nobody likes to be attacked, especially by people close to them, such as friends, family, lovers or co-workers. And for myself, it is especially painful to be attacked over something I wrote on Byss Blog or Blyss Blog Encore because I write so honestly and make myself vulnerable. And it is a very rare incident, happening only one other time before today. It was by a woman who had a lovely Majenkir borzoi whom I had befriended, been very kind to and always would have always been there for her.
There seems to be no end to the permutations of friends’ malevolencies. In my case, it began with my own mother, who could not help herself from ripping up her young. It was sad to experience that for so long, since she only died very recently. Yet she began a pattern that others so easily slipped into and I let them, and it never stops.
There is one thing I must always remember. People behave badly. They do the wrong things. They inflict emotional pain in the process and do not care about it one bit. It makes them feel good in so doing so they do it again.
When I enter into these relationships they are so happy and full of promise yet in a short time fighting over misunderstandings begin and emotions turn raw. I have surrounded myself with my beautiful borzoi as a buffer and a distraction from it, as I have currently done. I am grateful for Jelly for her love and beauty, and her breeder,N24, for her generosity of spirit toward me. Other breeders, too numerous to mention here, have lavished me with support and kindness. Thinking of them should be my new focus, not relationship disappointments.
I reacted strongly to my mother’s recent passing away. It made me emotionally very ill and I foresaw my own imminent passing. I received treatment for this condition at the time but wonder now, why – what was the point? I should have been left to fate and perhaps died. But people meddled and pulled me through a dark tunnel only to emerge for more of the same betrayal from weak imitations of her acts, painful nonetheless. So as the friends whittle away in number, my grasp on Jelly and my borzoi friends strengthens and I am grateful for them. I owe it to Jelly and my good friends in the borzoi breed to rally myself and be strong against the attacks of others who want to criticize and tear me down.
After a long wait, a respectable passage of time, an appropriate period of grief, grief for the passing of all the Blyss borzoi, and much soul searching and wondering if I really could do it, I have taken possession, thanks to the generosity of a dear and long time friend, a borzoi breeder in upstate NY, of a beautiful borzoi bitch, almost five years old, to be my companion dog. Her full name is: Ch Kasharra Bibikov Moscova, “Jelly”.
When she was just a pup, nearly five years ago, her breeder called me and told me she had a puppy bitch that she believed would be just perfect for Blyss, and she wanted me to come and see her. The puppy’s name was “Jelly”. My husband said no, basing it on the amount of room we had and the number of borzoi currently living with us. We could not take on another one and do it right, the way we both said we would want to do it. We had avoided the temptation of impulse purchasing of borzois, crowding, not being able to afford premium dog food and top of the line veterinary care when necessary. Having too many borzoi at once would impact that. I had to respect his wish to say no, and it was a very sad day when I delivered that message.
I would often see Jelly at the shows. She was truly lovely in every way. I often wondered what it would have been like if we could have had her. I only heard good news about her, how easily she had finished her Champion Dog title, and how much breeders and judges alike held her in such high esteem. Recently, I spoke with two breeders who had handled her in the ring for her breeder. She is well on her way to being a Grand Champion. It all seemed surreal but the idea entered my mind one day to inquire regarding her to her breeder, so I gave her a call. We spoke for a while, then I brought up the real subject of why I was calling, that being “Jelly”. I knew she still had her, Jelly had never been sold, so I asked her if she would still want to place her with me. I was overjoyed when she said yes.
With the health problems I had been burdened with over the last year, I wondered if I could have a dog. I was in treatment for an eating disorder at the time this conversation took place, and I asked if I could put off taking her until after I was released. I made being healthy enough to have a large dog a goal for my own wellness, and there were times when the idea of owning Jelly was the only reason I got out of bed in the morning, or went to a food store. I have problems doing the most basic of things, whereas I can do difficult things with facile. I forget to eat and sleep and get very sick as a result. With owning Jelly as my goal I got my priorities in a healthier order.
It has been one week since I have had her. My boyfriend, LT is back, and Jelly loves him, too. He adores her, so we are a very happy family together. Jelly seems to be very bonded to us, and I adore her. She eats well and enjoys her walks. I have even taken her to Watchung Reservation and let her run off-leash in the Scouting Field behind the old Trailside Museum. There are two fields there, actually, with acres and acres of open land divided by a line of trees, and dogs love running in them, and they are rather safely located, away from roads.
When the warmer weather comes, I will see to it Jelly is properly introduced to all the neighbors. Everyone in the neighborhood is expecting her. I love her so much already. It’s like I have gone back to the beginning. Before there were the Blyss Borzoi, even before Opal. It is a new start. Jelly is a new day. I have a new life now. It is hard for me to believe I was ever the person I wrote about in the original Blyss Blog.
I have had many dimensions of interruption in my life over the last five months since my last borzoi, Paris, died. It first concerned my mother in the final months of her life. This was followed by my own reaction in the form of a small breakdown that required time spent in an IOP (Intensive Out Patient) hospital based program for two months from which I was just released last week. I should be very pleased with how well I came out of this emotional swan dive and lived to tell the tale. If I can come through all of this, I am optimistic for all of my readers to weather whatever form the storms and tempests of life hurls at them. Be brave and brace yourself for anything for it will happen.
I am still waiting for my new borzoi, Jelly, to come to Blyss. All of my friends in the breed I talk to about getting her have nice things to say about her. Two friends, breeders, know her well enough to have handled her for her breeder in recent shows. I even know someone who had a stud dog that bred her but it did not take. She was bred twice but neither time produced a litter. She is ready to be a pet and the consensus is that she is perfect for me. And so I wait.
It is perhaps more difficult to believe that I have either rightly or wrongly decided to forgive my boyfriend LT and he and I are a couple again although with many changes to our original relationship. He lives elsewhere so I can maintain my equilibrium living on my own, something which I still need to master. It is my destiny which I must accept, that’s all, without being self-destructive. I can do it, I only think I cannot. Jelly will be my pal when LT is gone. However, now I know he will return because he could not stay apart from me any more than I could live alone. So much for him being a good “loner”. I don’t think so.
People, both friends and family alike, have criticized me of late, and I reconsidering those relationships seriously. Going forward, I intend to push back and reproach anyone who dares to again. I am the decider of my life, and that is the ultimate fact. Recently, it seems even more “friends” are going to be eliminated for providing me with their unasked-for opinions about my relationship with my mother, my boyfriend, or whether or not I should get another dog. People can’t help themselves by eliciting forth their uncensored thoughts essentially slashing me to shreds. My new response will be to say good-bye and walk away. Here is a quotation I came across recently by the author, Paul Auster. “After all, if you cannot share your secrets with your friends, what kind of friend are you.”
During the past three days, I found myself among the members and friends of my primary clubs, two being borzoi breed clubs, and one a hound club . It was all rather wonderful, even if I did have to drive a long way to attend them.
There was one breeder at these venues, N23, who bred the bitch I am hoping to bring home to Blyss soon whose name is Jelly. I am so pleased and excited about this development. My contractor is getting closer to completion of the dog-door – mud room project and that will make things move along nicely for my ability to get her. This being a very long drive, he has even said he will take me there free of charge. I have returned the favor in kind by being how shall I say, charming. I have made several home-made dinners and I know him well enough to know it makes him happy. Meanwhile, at the eating disorder program, my team has decided to let me come in only three half days, down from five full days. I am grateful and thrilled, even thought it has meant eating more than I would like and putting on some pounds.
Comments were made by several of the ladies at the parties that I appeared to have gained weight. However, they also commented that I looked better than I had on previous times they saw me and wished me well. I thanked them for their gracious comments of kindness. I thought about this driving home and felt less happy about it. Fortunately, my clothes still fit me, although they are tighter than I would like. For now, I will accept the weight and try to be happy at meal time. I am especially trying to eat the food on my plate instead of throwing it away in the garbage. I try to remind myself that food is medicine.
At church this morning, the Minister reminded our Unitarian-Universalist congregation that all humans are inherently good and their inherent goodness influences the perfectibility of others and the world. It is a theology of “win-win” that I wish more people would embrace. It is a theology that embraces all humans, believing none are intrinsically bad, welcomes all of human kind, is loving and supportive to all in need of sustenance of any kind. It is a fascinating concept to incorporate into both a personal road map as well as a theology given the approach of most Judeo-Christian theologies that are based on being forgiven for sins. I believe it is a theology that is appropriate for me. For today, for the first time, I am trying to live on the light side of what has been a very dark and bleak life-long depression for me that just now allows me to emerge into the light. It is a good thing for me to know that my Unitarian-Universalism faith supports my wellness.
Against this backdrop, I talked to many people at the club parties. It seemed that many people knew about my struggles with food and a recent termination with a significant other. Both topics had to be discussed to some point with them and it was difficult to do so. Things between my boyfriend and me became very complicated when my mother wanted to reconcile with my sister, N25, and me in August. He made demands of me that I could not accept and so it ended. Then, for some reason, I stopped eating in a normal way. It was not purposeful or intentional, I just handled the stress in that way. However, I cannot think badly of my boyfriend who did so much for me during the year we were together, especially when I was so sick. And so I choose to see his goodness of which there is much in abundance. He is difficult to be with and to understand. I know I gave the best of me that I could and my conscience is clear. I intend to remain his good friend to him and be true to my theology.
At home alone one evening this week, I witnessed a visual phenomena that was almost inexplicable and frightening. However, I able to perceive exactly what it was and I laughed. Laughter was not the appropriate response because I later learned what appeared to be a solitary micro-feather floating down from an air-conditioning vent in the ceiling was later captured by a worker in my house when he came upon it resting in a shadowy place, it was a brown recluse spider. He had made his nearly invisible descent on a smaller than hair size strand of silk and took off as soon as he touched the floor. I knew it was a spider but not being afraid of them thought nothing of it at the time. When it was caught in a plastic baggie, I could see him more clearly and identified him as the creature I had seen, nearly invisible once his body blended into the floor, and wondered at how easily he could kill a human if he wanted to. Life can be that fragile.
The approaching of death certainly takes many forms, most of them unrecognizable. Perhaps for some it is a cigarette, others an alcoholic drink, for another, too much food, and for yet another, not enough food. Then there are writers with their unique brand of symptoms: brilliant clarity of thought that may be incorrect, racing thoughts, hearing voices that are not present, insomnia, and drug abuse, although these symptoms are not limited to writers. More refined symptoms include the irresistible seduction of anorexia in its creative expressions. They all seem so true and real but I have been told by doctors that they are not. Writers never seem to be on the right side of the answers to the True or False Questions of life and often times fail the tests life administers to them. I think it is ironic I get better at failing the older I become.
I rail against the demise of my Blyss borzois, all of them are gone now. LTR walked me through it when he was here but then he misstepped and was gone. People in my life were happy about these events of last summer. This indicates how well my family knows me or cares, or understands. It borders on the criminal in their degree of torture to me when they speak. I give them the benefit of the doubt that they really just don’t understand me at all and still try to go on loving them.
At this dawn of 2015 I cannot hope for an encore life, but a continuation of what went before with some adjustments to the side of corrections made. I will not have another five or six borzoi, just one. My anorexia will be replaced by a healthy diet and a more realistic body image even if I hate myself that way. I cannot believe my own inner voice when it speaks to me about myself. I am somehow wrong about me, the most important thing.
Once my new borzoi bitch, Jelly, comes it will not matter because she will matter more. Moreover, some kind of peace has fallen upon LTR and me for which I am grateful. I do not have a name or label for it, so I will simply acknowledge it by saying that he is back. After all, he captured the brown recluse spider before it could bite me.
I have met with a new challenge, as if there could be such a new thing for me to encounter – yes – even I am shocked. I shall give it voice and veritas because I know I am not alone. I have no reason for shame, only sadness and grief because the prognosis is often terminal. I am the creator of an eating disorder, in my own form of it, and am in a program along with others, each one of us with our own version. Together we are trying to get well by sharing, supporting one another and finding ways of putting this behind us and it is not easy.
I have never learned the ABCs of life, nor the XYZs it seems nor anything useful in between. I may as well have the label challenged affixed to me. Where others are able to get through their lives with facile, one marriage, one long lived dog, a few cats and a parakeet, I have had multiple husbands and even dogs. I have tried not only different breeds but varying groups and even many, many parakeets from the old, big Woolworths store I remember in downtown Westfield a long time ago. I suppose if there is a lesson to be learned in the day I miss it. I have to go back to the very beginning and try again. But the outcome is always the same, and the day and those that follow seemingly so perfect descend in a negative trajectory and I must learn something new all over again. Like the Miss Havisham before me, “I know nothing of days of the week, of weeks of the year…..” they all blend together into one congealed mass of time, and that comprises my life, a life lived within the confines of Satis House.
If it is not relevant to the borzoi I do not like to include it in my blog. However this problem impacts my availability to write for now in the Blyss Blog Encore, compile the Blogs in Blyss Blog into a book format, and delays the arrival of my new borzoi, “Jelly”. Instead, I have entered the confines of a rigorous program for people who share an emotional problem I have had for some time, an eating disorder. It seems that I was not doing food very well either. Doctors have informed me that I don’t know how to eat, something so basic but yes, it is true.
It is a tenacious problem. I know for me it has been, ever lurking in the background, always seductive and irresistible, promising perfect, eternal beauty, youth, and even love. But since the eating disorder behaviors are always about something else, one has to be willing to rally the courage to face the darkest demons intent on destroying what your lethal past failed to accomplish.
Please don’t do as I do. Plan a different, smarter course for your life. However, to stumble and fall is human and if so call upon your strengths before you journey too far astray from the true path to your bliss.