Wednesday, April 11, 2012

remembering our medicine dog ~ sweetums

it is with a heavy heart that i write this post...but i realized, with just a week behind me after the passing of our dear white shepherd/wolf sweetums, that while the pain is definitely very fresh, the memories of her are very present, and i want to remember her gifts, her teachings, her love and all that i learned from her...and by writing about her, i keep her memory alive.

sweetums was a rescue dog, from the carson shelter in torrance, my husband walked in one day, on the prompting of a friend's advice, and the moment he saw sweetums, she howled at him and he knew that not only was this being going home with him, he had some sort of knowledge that they had met another lifetime? in another dog? it didn't was a deeply spiritual and powerful connection. i was not there that day, nor the next 8 years that they shared life together. i only have stories...of sweetums visiting sober living homes, eating buffalo steaks to help her gain weight after she was apart from my husband for a month, of her keeping the sober living people honest by barking at them if they were not clean, of her running wild with the coyotes in malibu canyon, of her waking up my husband when he was in his darker moments of addiction. while howard rescued sweetums from the shelter, he insists that it was she who rescued him in the early years. they formed a bond that was could see in her eyes the adoration she had for him, and whenever he would love on her, she would melt into pure peace and relaxation.
i met sweetums 8 years a recording studio in redondo beach. we didn't really connect at first, as someone else who was living in one of the rooms in the home at the time, needed her love and attention, so it was merely in passing that i saw her in between recording sessions.
it was not until howard and i began our relationship that sweetums and i became close and began a bond that i have not yet experienced up until this moment. 

in the beginning, it was clear to me that sweetums was an alpha, clearly one who was not too far from the wolf, and had deeply imbedded in her psyche an instinct of being the pack leader, a powerfully wild spirit and a protector with a wisdom that superseded the wisdom of many humans i know. 

when i met sweetums, i was very conscious that she had had a relationship with howard for 8 years, and that my presence could be seen as a threat on some i met her where she was at...honoring the relationship that existed while simultaneously showing my love and respect for her and allowing her to get to know my spirit.

one afternoon, howard and i walked into the living room and we were talking, sweetums walked over to us and stood right in front of me, she lowered her head and shoulders, and stayed like that for what seemed like minutes. i looked at howard and said, 'did you just see what i saw?' he nodded his head, not saying anything but his face said it all. we had just witnessed sweetums acknowledging my presence in the home, that she was 'surrendering' the female alpha role to me, and that while she was the wolf alpha, she was aware of the dynamic between howard and i. while it may not seem that this is what had transpired to those of you reading this, howard and i both experienced the same thing at the same time. it was both surreal and beautiful.

from that moment forward, we became a pack, a threesome, a family unit...and we did everything together. every song i recorded in the studio, sweetums sat in on, no matter how long it took to get vocal tracks and takes, she was there, right beside me. when it was time to mix and master the album, she sat underneath the console, at howard's feet, offering her presence to the energy of creation. there were a number of times that emotions would run high in the process, and sweetums would walk out of the studio or the control room, and we always took that as a sign to take a break, get our intention back into focus and our hearts in the right place. sweetums went to family gatherings, walks down at the beach, she broke up dog fights at the dog park, and taught puppies their rightful place in the pack. she allowed babies to pat her, and she would lower her head to allow them to touch her, and she was gracious about it all...even when babies were not so gentle. i always trusted sweetums when she would bark at someone, because she rarely, if ever barked. i took it as a sign to pay attention to the person, that they were someone to watch out for, and perhaps were not so trustworthy. she loved little dogs, and although many small dog owners would approach her with caution, i always let them know that not only was sweetums friendly, she was gentle and playful with smaller dogs, allowing them to sniff her first, play and run around her without getting in their way...she was a peace keeper and a gentle giant.

sweetums taught me about being in the pack. when to share, when to run, when to sleep and when to play. she taught me to step into my power, create clear boundaries, trust in the wild nature and surrender to the astoundingly transformative power of unconditional love. she burned with that kind of love, there was a never a time that she wasn't holding that space for me and howard, and those who visited and especially strangers. she had this uncanny ability to make people feel at ease, despite her size and her seemingly powerful gaze. 

howard and i offer sound healing workshops, and it was in these workshops and gatherings that i saw the medicine dog within sweetums revealed. she would often visit people who were crying, and sit by them, offering her presence as a source of comfort. she would always check in on the new people, knowing that they were the ones that needed reassurance the most. when the workshops were finished, we would go grab some food and talk with other participants, and she would often take either howard's or my place as a place to rest and resource herself. 

after one evening, in the early hours of the morning, i was in between the dream and waking space. sweetums had walked outside to the yard, and the moonlight was shining this blue/grey color over the grass and the white fur of our wolf became luminescent. as she walked back in, sweetums had transformed into a wolf woman, with a body of what seemed similar to a centaur, her lower half was a wolf and her upper half was a human...but not a human like i had ever seen. she had long silvery blue hair, that shined like the moon, and she had the most beautiful face of anyone i had ever encountered...there were stars sparkling from her eyes and love was radiating out from every pore of her. she looked at me and said, without saying it, 'this is who i really am, i am revealing to you my authentic self.' and as quickly she revealed herself to me, she was as quickly returned to sweetums the wolf dog...i rubbed my eyes and couldn't believe what i had just seen...i was a witness to her spirit self, the most beautiful creation i had seen...i have included some renderings by an artist that i love, susan seddon boulet, and while these are not what i saw...i feel that she has captured some of the elegance, beauty, wisdom and strength that i was witness to that night, and in many days and nights shared with sweetums.

another moment, among many, that had an impact on me was when we were visiting friends up in santa cruz. howard and i were sitting by the creek that runs through a grove of redwoods, and i was in a chair lost in my thoughts, which at the time, were full of sadness and confusion. we had been on the road for almost 8 months at the time, and i was overwhelmed with emotions. i was beginning to let the mind chatter get the best of me, and suddenly sweetums barked at me, from out of the blue it seemed. suddenly, i sat up, was wrested out of my reverie, and realized that i was being dragged down a mental road that was not in my highest good, and sweetums felt and saw me getting lured into a mental state that was not a positive place. As i walked towards the cabin where we were staying i was shaking my head in disbelief and said to howard, 'how does she know when i am lost in these patterns? how does she know the moment when i take one road of thought instead of another?'

'she is tuned in to you and wants your greatest good,' howard responded...that night, i felt so connected to sweetums and dreamt of us walking together down many roads from many lifetimes, i could feel her medicine so strongly and was filled with such appreciation.

sweetums went on the road for 10 months with us this last year, going to all our shows, staying in a variety of homes, festivals, sleeping in tents, running in the outdoors, being witness to incredible extra-terrestrial activity in mt. shasta, sitting on stages with us during our sets, getting special treatment even in places that normally do not allow dogs, offering healing to those who were afraid of dogs and love and presence to those who couldn't have dogs in their apartments or family homes. 

i don't think i can convey the presence this being had, and the hole that she left in my heart as she passed on to the next adventure of her life. below is a letter i sent out to the many, many people who sent their condolences and stories of their time spent with sweetums, she touched many lives, and she will continue to be a beacon of all that is good, pure, unconditionally loving and beautiful in this world. thank you sweetums for teaching me so much, for showing me, through your actions, what love really is, and for allowing me to come into the spirit presence of your wolf like nature, showing me what my wild nature of love and play, acceptance and dignity really is. what an honor to share this time with you...i will always remember you and fan your flame...i love you.

sent april 6th 2012

thank you to everyone for all your love and beautiful messages to howard, myself, and for sweetums...i wish we could write you all individually and thank you personally...we are so saddened by the loss of our dear friend...and obviously grieving and honoring the grief of her passing medicine for as long as it takes.

to those who came over and said your goodbyes in was such a gift for us to share in her final moments with you and your presence of love and light to her light and love...

it was a very powerful 4 days...we did not leave her side, barely ate, barely slept and wanted to give her as much love as she slowed down, stopped eating, barely drank and was in and out of consciousness...

she passed into her light body with so much grace, honor, nobility and was such a gift to witness and so very sad to lose our dearest companion, full of unconditional love...sharing her compassion and healing with us and so many. 

thank you for being apart of her life, of our lives and for loving us through this very sad and challenging passage...

her body now resides on a hillside in topanga canyon, between two pepper the warmth of the sun...her spirit will fly with the hawks while bunnies will nibble the grasses that grow on top of her burial site and coyotes will run across the soil where her body now resides. her soul is now dancing in the sunlight of the spirit forever.

our friends tim and summer and their family gave us so much love and support while we were going through this...their graciousness carried us through the painful river of sadness that is her passing. 

(thank you to our dear friend, cyan for helping howard prepare her place and for bringing medicinal herbs to send her on her way...such a gift you brought to us and to her at such a poignantly sad moment...blessings on your spirit and heart).

the poem below spoke to me and we are thankful that the spirit of sweetums will forever be in our hearts - felt on the winds - in the sunshine on the meadows - in the dark nights of ceremonial healing, on the stages of performances to come...and everywhere...always...♥ we love you sweetums...

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die...


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