Hold on Loosely

Islay (Eye-luh) Blue started limping about four weeks ago.  She was playing fetch with Andrew and ran full force into a picnic table.  We thought it was just just a little sprain but it started getting worse.  So we took her to the vet for xrays and got some pretty scary news.  She has a large growth in her pelvis that is pushing her leg bone out of socket.  We took her to a specialist and were pretty shocked at the news.  The growth is one of two things, an acute fungal infection or cancer.  She’s just nine months old.

The fungal infection treatment is thousands of dollars a month and it doesn’t guarantee healing.  And for two freelancers that amount of money is just not an option.  And if it’s cancer, it’s already progressed too much for us to do anything.  And since it’s growing IN her pelvic bone, they can’t remove the growth.  If it was on her leg, we would just take the leg, but it’s in a position that we can’t get out.

We left the specialist in supreme, heavy shock.  Immediately my thoughts were racing, “How did this happen?  But she’s so young, I thought puppies were resilient?  What are we going to do?  This just seems so unnecessarily cruel, I just lost my long time puppy companion of 12 years, and I have to go through this again… so soon?  …How can God allow this to happen??”


That’s just it, that’s what I’ve been struggling with the most, I thought God was good and this kinda shook me up a bit.  I know it’s just a dog, it’s not a human, but man, have Andrew and I gotten attached to this puppy.  We’ve experienced so much together.  It’s been just us three on the road, our little happy family.  I can’t imagine life without her.  She’s such a happy, full of life dog.  Besides the limp, she doesn’t even look or act like anything is wrong.

I’ve realized so many things going through this experience.  I realize that as long as everything is going my way, I believe God is good.  As long as I get what I want, I have great faith.  But once one little misstep happens, I’m questioning and full of doubt.  I’ve learned that I hold on tightly.  I “love big” as my sister says.  I have my core group around me and when there are issues with anyone or any puppy in that group my whole world gets shaken up.


I think there’s something to be said about holding on loosely.  Love big, but realize when it comes down to it, I’m not in control.  What do you hold on tightly to?  Whether it’s your parents, your job, your identity, your dog, your level of living, your children, your body, in the end, life moves and things change.

When your circumstances become tragic and painful, how do you process through that?  Do you ignore the situation and push it to tomorrow?  Do you drink a lot of wine (yes).  Do you zone out and watch tv?  Do you emotionally eat?  Do you rage at everyone that crosses in your path?  Do you hold it in, not addressing the issues?  I think that everyone needs time to wallow.  This is crucial for healing.  But in the end, emotions need to be confronted and worked through.  Otherwise we are stubbornly stuck in the mud in an ever-chaging world.


When I heard about Isaly, I wasn’t prepared for the pain.  I bawled my eyes out, I was angry, confused, bewildered.  I didn’t think it was possible to feel so much misery.  Then another hour passed and I was still here.  Then another sun set and rose again the next day… and I was still here.

Loving on Islay is a practice in holding on loosely.  I’m caught in this juxtaposition of loving her deeply, enjoying every moment with her and also preparing for letting her go and watching her die.

I believe that in moments of crisis the core of who you are is revealed.  What are your go to emotions?  How do you cope with it?  What are your go to habits?  Does it change your view of God?

An aussie pup poses at the upper Green River Lake

The comforting thing is, it is possible to change your brain.  By confronting and addressing the issue, you can actually change your perspective.  You can be better prepared for the next crisis.  You can survive the pain.  You can grow.  You can become more vulnerable and understanding of other’s pain.  You can change in an ever changing world.

Many times when I write, I’m giving myself a pep talk.  Do I do all of these things?  Heck no.  I drink a lot of wine, I binge watch The Crown.  I get angry at people when they’ve done nothing wrong.  I hole up in my room.  There is time to wallow, then there is a time to face the emotion head on and work through it.


Life moves beyond my control.  I can try to control my surroundings as much as possible, but in the end, I can’t control my circumstances.  As Mama always says, “Control the controllables, everything else you have to let go.”  I have to let Islay go.  I will have to let Mama go one day.  I have to let go of the image of my life that I desire.  I have to let go of how I expect my body to look.  I will have to let go of Andrew.  It’s not in my control.  But when it comes down to it, another hour will pass and I will still be here.  The sun will set and will rise again, and I’ll still survive.  Life moves and changes.  I have to hold on with all my strength, but be able to let go.

A woman and her dog admiring the view in Clear Creek Valley



2 thoughts on “Hold on Loosely

  1. Emma

    Love you Ellen, thank you for being such an inspirational writer, having a heart of gold and being an exceptional bundle of love. My heart aches for Islay, dogs are very much part of the family and I know how deep grief can shake a person. Sending love and light your way cousin. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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