Wink and Pinky

Wink & I, before his eye surgery
A couple months ago, I approved an adoption application for the Clearman family. Soon thereafter, they came to Lucky Dog Rescue to adopt their new baby.

While they'd fallen in love with the photos and stories of a couple different Lucky Dogs, they still wanted to meet all of my other babies as well, in order to find the perfect fit for their family.

Well... as it turns out... one of those "other" babies managed to steal their hearts: Wink.

Of course, I understood exactly how they felt. Wink did the same to me. In fact, Wink was my extra-special baby, and everyone around here knew it. He was basically "my dog," and honestly, I planned to adopt him as my own one day.

So, when they chose Wink, I was devastated.
Even though I had every right to say "No," I knew they were a great family and the perfect fit for him. Yet... I just couldn't imagine my life without my Winkle-Jinks. And even though I was insanely happy for him... I simply wasn't prepared to say goodbye to him, because I'd never planned to let him go.

Regardless, I decided to release my selfish desires, in order to give Wink the forever that he deserved.

Even still... after Wink left that day, I sobbed for hours. That night, I cried myself to sleep. For the next few days, I couldn't even pass by his kennel, without immense pain and tears.

Wink, with his new "brother"
But... over time, the photos of Wink with his new family began to slowly heal my heart. Seeing those pictures, I couldn't deny that I made the right decision for him, no matter how painful it was for me.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Wink's new family was going out of town for a few days, so they brought Wink to Lucky Dog Retreat for boarding. I was so excited to see him, and the feeling was clearly mutual. Tears filled my eyes, as he jumped and squealed upon arrival, showering me with those special kisses I love so much.

That week, my baby boy was here once again, just like old times. That week, Wink slept in the bed with me. He snuggled on the couch. He ate my leftovers.

Best of all, he was able to reunite with his best friend, Pinky. They were so excited to see each other again, and my heart was so happy, as I watched them run and play in the yard.

One week later, the family came to take Wink home. Of course, Wink was so excited to see them, which truly touched my heart.

And yet... I couldn't stop crying. Even though I was so happy to send him back home, it honestly felt like I was losing him... all over again.

Through my tears, I looked at Wink's new mom, Meagan, and said: "I promise I'm so happy for him. I'm just sad for me. It's just... I miss him so much."

She gave me a big hug, saying: "I'm so sorry. I know you do. But I can't thank you enough for allowing us to make him a part of our family."

I responded: "Thank you so much for letting me keep him this week. It meant the world to me... and to his best friend, Pinky. They had the best time playing together again. I wish you could've seen them. They're so funny to watch, and they love each other so much."

She wanted to hear more about Pinky, so I told her more about Wink and Pinky's special relationship. She said: "I'll have to bring him back to visit soon, so they can play together again!"

Hearing those words, my heart was on fire. Then, they loaded Wink in the car... and drove away. Of course, I cried all over again.

But... as I sat there, sobbing in my office, I never could've imagined what would happen next...

The next day, Meagan sent me a text.
It said: "Could we foster Pinky for a couple of days?"

Reading those words, I screamed out loud: "SHUT UP!"
Then, I quickly responded: "OMG YES!!!"

Pinky & I
On July 3rd, the family came to take Pinky to her new foster home.
Before they arrived, I gave Pinky a nice, long bath... and a pep talk: "Okay, baby girl. Be good, play hard, and no matter what... steal their freaking hearts."

Well... it looks like she heard me...

Over the next few days, Meagan sent me constant texts and photos, telling me how much fun they were having together, and how much they loved Pinky. She asked if they could foster her for a little bit longer. I said: "Of course! As long as you like!"

Then, last weekend, the Clearmans were leaving town for a couple of days, so they brought Wink and Pinky here for boarding.

Wink & Pinky, 4th of July
I was so excited to keep my babies, but I was also worried for Pinky, knowing that she may feel abandoned, once again. In the past, Pinky has lived in several foster homes. Since those were temporary fosters, Pinky always stayed with them for a while, and then... she came back to me. Of course, she couldn't understand why they always brought her back.

Therefore, Pinky learned what to expect: When they leave me here, they're never coming back. At this point, even though she's insanely loving, gentle, and fun, with each and every person she meets... she's also afraid to trust... anyone other than me.

So... when the Clearmans came back... to take Wink and Pinky home, I watched for Pinky's reaction. I just couldn't wait to see her face, when she realized what was happening that day:  For the very first time in her life... a family dropped her off... and they came back for her.

It's a moment I'll never forget... as I watched her run into the arms of her family... the family she never expected to see again. In that moment, as the smile crossed her face, every bit of pain in her heart was erased.

Before they left, I loved on my 2 babies, as they showered me with goodbye kisses.

But as they headed out the door, Pinky stopped...

Then, she turned around, looked up at me, and smiled.

So, I bent down, gave her one more hug, and whispered: "Told ya they'd come back for you."

It was a life changing moment... for both of us...

Even still, as she left that day, Pinky was still a "foster dog." Yet, I held onto the undying hope that the Clearmans would decide to adopt her one day. While I rarely get my hopes up anymore...  this time, something told me it was okay.

Then, yesterday Meagan wrote a touching note on facebook about her adoption and foster experience with Wink and Pinky of Lucky Dog Rescue. Her beautiful words brought tears to my eyes.

As I was reading through the sweet comments under her note, I got to the last comment, which was written by Meagan.

Then... my heart stopped.

Pinky... finally home
Her comment said: "I haven't told Ashley yet, but Pinky is a keeper :)"

Suddenly, I was sobbing... tears of joy. I read that sentence several more times, just to be sure I wasn't crazy. Then, I grabbed my phone, and called Meagan.

Through my ridiculous mess of tears, I attempted to speak. I said: "I just saw your comment on facebook. Does that mean your family wants to officially adopt Pinky???"

She replied: "Absolutely! We love her so much! She's part of the family now!"

Hearing those words, I just couldn't control my tears. I said: "You just can't know what this means to me... but most importantly, to Pinky. All 3 years of her life, and she's been waiting for a family of her own. Knowing that she's finally home...  living with the most amazing family ever... AND with her best friend, Wink! That's just more than I ever dreamed possible! I mean... I just don't even know what to say! You adopted TWO of my babies!!! 'Thank you' could never be enough!"

Her response: "Ashley, our experience with these 2 amazing Pit Bull mixes has truly changed our lives. I should be the one thanking you."

Just like that... the Clearmans joined the Lucky Dog Family... and Pinky joined Wink with the Clearman Family.

Wink & Pinky sleeping with their new brother
And once again... I found the strength... to let go... and keep going.

That's what I do. That's rescue.

*If you'd like to help give other dogs like Wink & Pinky their chance at forever, please click the link below to donate!

*Special thanks to the Clearman family, who adopted TWO of my special babies. And an extra-special thank you to Tuscaloosa Metro Shelter for sending Wink to me, and to ARF... the rescue who lovingly saved and cared for Pinky, before BSL sent Pinky to me, more than one year ago. Without these amazing people, this story wouldn't be possible. Love, Ash


Another Anniversary

Rudy & I
It's amazing how "anniversaries" can hold so much meaning in our minds and hearts.

In truth, an "anniversary" is nothing more than a date... an annual reminder of the specific day that a certain event occurred, in some previous year.

Therefore, the anniversary date itself... holds no power.
Really, it's just another day of the year.

And yet, we give certain dates so much power over us... (for obvious reasons.)

That's because... on that day... however long ago... something happened... and our lives changed forever.

Sometimes... for better.
Sometimes... for worse.

"Happy" anniversaries provide us with the chance to celebrate, to come together, to reminisce.These are the dates that give us something to look forward to, something to smile about, something to be proud of.

Those "good" anniversaries... have their way of making everything else... seem worthwhile.

But then... there are the "other" anniversaries. The tragic anniversaries.
The anniversaries that simply exist... as painful reminders... of the days we'd like to forget.

Often, in our minds, the devastating anniversaries seem to hold even more power than the positive ones.

Because those particular dates have their way...
of bringing the pain of our past...
into our present.

The anniversary of a tragic life event can take us right back to that day... to the very moment it happened.

And no matter how much time has passed...
No matter how hard we've tried to let go...
No matter how much we've worked to move forward...

Each year, on that anniversary date, we're right back there... re-living the worst day of our lives.

We don't want to go back to the pain.
We don't want to remember the loss.
We don't want to accept our reality.

Regardless... that anniversary date says: You have to. It's real. It's time.

Even still... anniversaries are only able to do these things to us, because we allow them to do so...
We give that specific date... so much power over us.
And yet, we just can't help ourselves.

We still wish it wasn't true.
We still hope we'll just wake up.
We still... miss them.

That's why I'm writing today.

In just 2 days, July 8th will be here...

On July 8, 2010, I experienced the sudden, unexpected, devastating loss of my angel pup, Rudy. Two years later, I still mourn his death.

When I saved Rudy, so long ago, he was emaciated, sick, and broken. Further, he was suffering from advanced heartworm disease, due to the neglect of his past.

Soon, he underwent heartworm treatment for his condition. And... because he was so young, I prayed he'd simply bounce right back, and go on to live a long, happy, healthy life... with me, his mom.

Yet, much of the damage to Rudy's heart was irreversible. Therefore, I was always overly-protective of him and insanely-aware of his special needs.
When it came to Rudy, I did everything I could. I gave everything I had. I loved with everything I was.

Even still... God had other plans...

On July 8, 2010, Rudy had a sudden, fatal, heart attack. I came home... to find the dead body of my son. He was just 3 years old.

I never got to say goodbye.

It was the worst day of my life.
It was the fateful, tragic day... that changed all the days after.

Before that day, July had always been my favorite month of the year. It represented summer, and sun, and fun. Plus, it's my birthday month.

So, in years prior, when July rolled around, I was always pretty-darn excited for my upcoming b'day on 7/11.

However, the past 2 years have been much different for me.
July just isn't the same... my birthday just isn't the same... my life just isn't the same.

Instead, when July 1st arrives, I brace myself... 
Just seven more days... until July 8th gets here.

While I try to avoid the heartbreaking mental countdown toward that date, I just can't help myself. No matter how much I try to distract my mind, I'm always increasingly-aware of the upcoming anniversary of Rudy's death.

As I sit here today, with yet-another July 8th right around the corner...
I just wish I could hit Rewind.
Or maybe even Stop.
Or at the very least... Pause.

Unfortunately... life just doesn't work that way.

Honestly, the anniversary of Rudy's death is so much more than a heartbreaking reminder of the painful events of that tragic day... the day that broke my heart, changed my life, and changed me... so long ago.

There's also the realization... that yet-another year has passed... without my Rudy.
He's really gone... forever.
He's never coming back.

For me, it's the day that somehow makes his death... even-more official.
The day that makes it... real... all over again.
The day that seems to represent the undeniable truths... of the reality I so desperately wish to deny.

And... worst of all...
It's the day when I have to acknowledge...
that I'm so much farther away...
from the last time I held my baby.

For 2 years now, I've been desperately clinging to every possible memory of my little boy. And yet... each day, I can feel him slipping further away from me. 

Today, certain things are a little harder to recall.
Certain memories have become a little foggy.
Certain moments with him... have almost left me altogether.

While these realizations break my heart to pieces... I guess that's just how the mind moves on.
As much as we wish to retrieve every moment, every detail, and every encounter in the past...
We simply can't remember everything.
Because if we held onto every past memory, then there'd be no room for all the present memories...

Thus, our current reality... would cease to exist.

Which means... no matter how much we try to hold on...
At some point... the past begins to slip away from us...

Regardless, my love for Rudy will never waver, never change, and never leave me.
I'll never stop needing him.
I'll never stop missing him.
I'll never stop wishing he was here.

Honestly, even as I write these words today... it's so hard to describe the way I truly feel... about my Rudy, and the loss of my baby. He is, was, and always will be... everything to me.

But... here's my best attempt to explain myself:

I save dogs for a living. That's what I do. Animal rescue is my passion, my drive, my purpose. It's my life. For me, my dogs are my children.

I rescue them; I love them; I provide them with hope, homes, and futures.

In doing these things, my heart breaks, on a daily basis. I'm forced to see things, to experience things, and to overcome things... I'm not quite ready for.

And sometimes... it's just too much.

Through my work, I have to let go of my "children" ... the children I love so deeply, in order to send them off to their new forever families.

Despite the pain, I always sought refuge... from my own son... my angel dog, Rudy.

And yet... no matter how many dogs I tried to save... the one dog I wanted for my very own, was taken from me, at such a young age.
Now... he's gone.
I couldn't save him.

While our time on Earth with our pets is never long enough... most people are blessed to spend many, many years with their beloved dogs.

And even though I was beyond blessed to experience Rudy's love... if even for just one second of my life... I can't help but feel like I was cheated... and like he was cheated, out of all those future years we deserved to have together.

He deserved that.
I deserved that.

For 2 years now, I've been forced to spend each day without my Rudy. If he were still alive today, he'd only be 5 years old.

He was so young.
It was too soon.
There was no warning... no time to prepare... no chance to say goodbye.
It's just insanely unfair.

And yet... as I've said many times before, the void in my heart after Rudy's death... was ultimately the catalyst for change in my life.

I'd always had BIG dreams...
Of saving more lives through rescue,
Of owning my own business,
Of being, doing, changing more...

But... in truth, while Rudy was in my life... I was so happy, so loved, so content. At that point in time, there was no need to reach for more. I had Rudy. I had everything.

Back then... I did my best to rescue as many dogs as I could, with what I had, from my home...
But no matter what I did, or didn't do-- I had my Rudy.

Then... at the moment he left me... everything changed.
I almost had to reach for something else... for something more... just to occupy my time... to distract myself from the pain.

The result?
Lucky Dog Retreat, Lucky Dog Rescue, Lucky Dog Rescue Blog, and Pet Pardons.

Almost 2 years later...
As I look back on my life...
I can't ignore the truth...

Any dream I've ever had for myself... has come true...
because Rudy lived,
and because Rudy died.

But mostly...
Because I loved Rudy.
And because Rudy loved me.

Nothing... not even death... could ever take that away from us.

*Dear Rudy,
In just 2 days... it'll be 2-full-years... since I last saw your face.

Every day since... I've longed for you.. I've wished for you... I've hoped for you.

For me, those feelings will never, ever go away. No matter how long I live... no matter how much time passes, there will never be a day when I don't need you anymore.

Even still... since your death, SO MANY lives have been saved... simply because you lived. I'm constantly in awe of your impact on my life... and on the lives of so many other deserving rescue dogs.

While there will never be another YOU on this Earth...
I'll always live... through you.
And you'll always live... through me.

Because I'm your mom, and that's what moms do. They love... forever.

I'll be there soon, baby boy.
I can't wait to see you again.
Love, -Mom

*Check back later for my follow-up to this post!

CLICK HERE to read all of my blogs about Rudy



It's been a month since I wrote my last blog post. Things have been pretty crazy around here, which (as usual) kept me from writing.

I have so many things to share... and I promise... I'll share more soon.

Today, I just wanted to write something... anything.
However... I can't promise it'll be worth a damn.
At the moment, I'm honestly not even sure which direction this post will take... (so please, bear with me!)

Maybe I'll just share some of the random thoughts I've had in recent weeks...
Here goes:

I've been so exhausted lately. (me and you both, right?!)

Honestly, we're all tired... from this, that, and everything in between.
We're all overwhelmed, to some degree.
We're all hurting, in one way or another.

Each of us is struggling with something.
Some struggles are small; some struggles are massive.
Some struggles are physical; some struggles are emotional.
Some struggles are fleeting; some struggles are constant.

That's the seemingly "bad" news: 
We each face our own harsh reality... a reality, that often... sucks ass.

But the good news is...
Each and every struggle in our lives provides us with a unique set of opportunities: for growth, for compassion, for healing. Within each battle we face... lies the chance for a more fulfilling future... and a stronger, better, more-awesome you.

(Even though... in the present, it rarely feels that way, right?)

However, there's no denying a few certain truths, such as these:

1) In our darkest moments, we often find the deepest connections with others. In turn, we experience a level of understanding, empathy, and comfort... we never knew existed. Through those encounters, special bonds are made, meaningful relationships are formed, and broken hearts are healed.

Thus, lives are changed... for the better... forever.

There's always someone out there... who understands you. If you feel alone, it's only because you haven't found "that someone" just yet.

But trust me... they're out there... .
Trust me... they "get it."
Trust me... they care...

You are not alone.

Yes... in the midst of your struggles, everything feels lonely. Everything feels empty. Everything feels hopeless.

Even still... it WILL get better. It just has to...

Obviously... suffering sucks.
But when suffering is leveraged for good... the outcome of those struggles... is always growth.

Trust me on that.

2) When you reach a breaking point, you're never as broken as you feel.

(Because... believe it or not... you're stronger than that.)

In fact, "feeling" broken and "being" broken... are actually 2 different things.

It's okay to "feel" broken, because it's healthy to feel, in general. It's okay to cry; it's okay to vent; it's okay to need help. All of these things are okay... as long as you're willing to work through your feelings, to move forward despite your feelings, and to experience growth as a result of your feelings.

On the other hand, "being" broken is a mindset. It's more of a choice, an attitude, and a  surrender... made by you... for you.

Just remember: negative choices, attitudes, and personal surrenders... will always work against you. 

Here's the deal: if you believe that you're broken, then you are.

Basically... you can feel certain things, without actually being that way.
You can feel angry in the moment, without being an angry person.
You can feel pessimistic, without being a pessimist.
You can feel despair, without being desperate.

And you can feel broken... without being broken.

Please, give yourself more credit that that. You are never truly broken. You are always truly strong.

Yet... you're only as strong... as you believe yourself to be.

So, above all else: always believe in your own strength. Always believe in your own power. Always believe in you.

3) No one is entitled to offers of help. However, most (good) people deserve help, in one form or another.

Yet, keep in mind: we're all hurting. We're all struggling. We're all suffering.
We all need help. We all need support. We all need comfort.

Each and every one of us...

So... when help is offered, you should always feel lucky, thankful, and blessed.

Every person who reaches out to you, during your tough times... is also going through their own tough times.

Therefore, they didn't have to help you, and yet... they did.

So... acknowledge their compassion. Thank them. And then... to the best of your ability, return the favor... to them... or to someone else.

Pay. It. Forward.

4) Any time you need help... any time you want help... any time you request help... always hope for compassion and empathy... over pity.

Pity makes you pitiful...

And here's why:

'Empathy' and 'pity' ... are two very different things. Empathy implies sympathy, mixed with understanding, compassion, and acceptance. Pity implies sorrow, mixed with misunderstanding, concern, and disappointment. Never confuse the two... and never request one... when you need the other. Empathy suggests respect. Pity suggests disrespect.

5) YOU can do anything.
You can be anything.
You can get through anything.

In truth, struggles simply act as stepping stones... across the ocean we know as "life."

So... if and when those stepping stones... lead you toward a dark place..
Simply create your own destiny:

Jump in, and swim toward the light.

It's worth it to try, because life is worth it.
Life is worth it, because you are worth it.

Be you.
Do you.
Live you.

Your struggles never define you.
You define you.