Sunday, June 25, 2017


Kona Collins
May 6th, 2006 - June 14th, 2017

As many of you already know, we had to say "bye soon" to our sweet Kona girl last Wednesday. She had a swift two week decline that seemed both fast and eternally slow. I agonized over this decision but on Wednesday there was no question that it was time to say goodbye. Just 10 days earlier she had been running with me each morning and then she was gone.

Patrick and I got Kona and her brother, Brick, from a breeder in Blair, NE on July 6th, 2006. They were 8 weeks old. The plan had originally been to bring one puppy home and to take back Patrick's Brittany that had gone to his parents when he went to grad school. Several things happened to change this plan.  A.) his mom fell in love with Roxy and wasn't about to give up the companionship and B.) there were two pups left in the litter, one boy and one girl. The girl was the runt. She was tiny and had an umbilical hernia repair done... twice. They were so sweet and we just couldn't take one without the other. This turned out to be the best decision. They got along great. They were constantly taking things back and forth from each other and so there was very little puppy destruction at our house.

Patrick and I had been married for a year when these two sweet pups joined our family. They lounged on our bed, sat on our laps, rode in the trailer behind Patrick's bicycle. He was working at a church in Omaha at the time and they went to work with him each day, roaming around the youth room while he worked. They had us wrapped around their little paws.

At about 6 months old, I had them at the dog park in Omaha while Patrick was working on bikes with the youth group. Kona managed to step on something and cut her paw wide open. We ended up at the emergency vet clinic for stitches to two layers of tissue as well as the artery that she severed. It was quite the adventure as I was trying to apply pressure to a gushing, bloody, puppy paw, drive a stick shift, and figure out where the clinic was. She was wrapped up to heal and send home with instructions to keep the paw and the stitches dry... and then it snowed about 8 inches. Sigh.

Recovering from the anesthesia

Trail Sisters
As they grew, we walked and walked and walked them. At 6-7 months we started doing short runs and soon, they were full time running buddies. Kona was my trail sister. She trained with me for over a decade worth of races, including triathlons of all distances from sprint to half ironman, running events including 5 and 10k, half marathons, full marathons and ultra marathons. She even snuck into the track with me a few times and did track workouts. We ran trails, pavement and crushed limestone. She ran in as many states as I have and saw the prairie, lakes, streams, woods, back country fields, dirt single track, country road, and city trails. I did my first run without her this week and there was a big gaping space where a cute little puppy bum should have been. 

At the lake!
In Sept 2010, E joined our family. Bringing home a new baby to these two dogs was no problem. They loved that he spit up all over and they hid in our room when the crying became too much to tolerate. Emmett called Kona, "na-na" and the name stuck.

Emmett and Na Na
Thanksgiving 2011 we had our house on the market and due to a mistake by the Realty Company and their hired photographer, both dogs got out of the fenced in yard and were hit by a UHaul truck on a busy street. I stumbled across the accident on my way home from work. Brick had died instantly and Kona had a terrible brain injury and a few abrasions. Thousands of dollars later, with much thanks to our vet and the emergency vet clinic (thank you Thanksgiving weekend), she recovered. There were agonizing moments when we weren't sure what to do. We were grieving the loss of one and trying to make financially feasible medical decisions for the other. We brought her home and nursed her back to health. We fed her soft food with a spoon, held up her water and rigged up a towel to help her walk. We have video of her first independent steps following the brain injury. She was back to running with me 8 weeks later and trained for 2 ultra marathons after the incident.

Immediately following her accident at the vet clinic.
Patrick visiting Kona for the first time after she was hit.
Soaking up some rays on the back porch on her first day home.
Kona survived three toddlers and a drive across the country. As a friend said, "she got you all transitioned to Connecticut".

Kona and Micah
I keep expecting her to be laying on my bed when I come in the room. I feel like she should be under foot when I am cooking and making peanut butter. I miss her when I run and when I lay down to relax in the evening. Her favorite spot was to be curled up between my knees and feet. She liked to lay on the bath mat when I was in the shower. I keep catching myself telling the boys to push their uneaten food away from the edge of the table and I have had to sweep the floor 30 times because there is no canine vacuum cleaner.

The last days were awful. She spend one night at the vet clinic for lyme tests, blood work, and chest xrays. All normal.  The vet recommended a veternatiry neurologisy in New York but it just wasn't feasible. We brought her home on broad spectrum antibiotics, anti nausea and a probiotic. We never figured out what happened, why she got sick. Feeling so helpless. She seemed glad to be home but still she didn't wag her tail once. She had quit eating. I could coax her to eat a spoonful of peanut butter here and a few tablespoons of applesauce there. She was drinking water voraciously (maybe due to the medications we tried unsuccessfully). I carried her up and down the stairs for fear she would fall and get hurt and because she just wasn't steady enough. I lifted her on and off the couch, covered with a blanket, so she could rest in her favorite spots. I cuddled her up and let her lay her head on my lap. I took her outside and put out a blanket so she could soak up the sun, one of her favorite things. And I cried, hoping she would rebound.

Snuggling with momma in her very favorite spot
Finally, I called the clinic and asked for an appointment. Such a long day. I sat with her while the sedative made her sleepy and I sat with her while the injection was given. I was there when her soul left her body and I felt such sadness and yet an overwhelming sense of presence. I am so thankful Patrick let me take her to the appointment by myself.

See you again sweet girl. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mom Guilt

One night a few weeks ago, I had all three boys lined up in the bathtub. It was the tail end of the day and I was tired. The three year old had been tough on his momma the majority of the day. The baby had been fussing and crying for 2 hours and had been suffering from all the symptoms that come along with teething. The two oldest had been bickering, screaming, and fighting since we picked Emmett up from school at 3:00p and Patrick had been out of town for a few days. I finally said to them, "I'm over this day."

To which Emmett replied, "but mom, you don't know what tomorrow will be like".

Cue the tears, and the mom-guilt, and the shame because he was absolutely right. That day had the privilege of being able to take care of three healthy, relatively happy children with all of the resources necessary to do so. We don't live extravagantly but they have shoes, clothes, food, a comfortable house, and more than enough toys, books, and puzzles.

I know mothers and fathers who have lost children to cancer, accident and acute and chronic injury. I would wager a guess that many of those families didn't think to themselves, "tomorrow, life as we know it will never be the same."

It is as true as it it cliche, every tomorrow we get offers new experiences, good and bad. Experiences that change us.

We don't know what tomorrow will bring and so I will do my best not to wish away the days. I want to be present with my family. I practice yoga each day and part of the yogic philosophy is to just BE. Be present in the moment, be yourself, on and off the mat. It is certainly a practice but isn't it interesting how children are so naturally good at this. Emmett intuitively knew that we should appreciate today because after it is done, you can't get it back. You can't go back to the person you were yesterday morning and hopefully you wouldn't want to. A perfect reminder.

So, I took three centering breaths and I told him he was, most certainly, correct. I made a decision to let go of the guilt and the shame and enjoy the last moments of that day with the three of them. Mothering is far from easy and never the picture-perfect way one may imagine but there are so many possible moments of joy and delight mixed in with the chaos. My hope is that my boys can look back on their childhood with happy, content memories and learn to enjoy the present moment. Oh, and cook one really good meal and scrub a bathroom with the best of them, but I digress...