In the next few months I am going to be writing about parts of our journey through the murder trial. Those days are still so very raw and emotionally charged that I haven’t quite figured out where to begin—but today I was playing with Kaleeya and Tytus and realized I have not yet introduced another member of our family.
Meet Doggy Doggy.
When Kaleeya was a baby she always acted much older than she was. She started saying, “Momma!” months before any of our other kids did in their development. By the time she was one, she could carry on real conversations like most three year olds. Cognitively she was months and sometimes years advanced for her age— however, she would not walk. As she neared eighteen months, Emmett and I began to worry about her unwillingness to stand up and take her first steps. We asked doctors about it, and they always reassured us that she was smart—and walking would come in her own time. Inside I was panicked thinking there had to be something I was doing wrong—I tried daily to help her walk.
One day Emmett came home with a gift for Kaleeya. It was a small brown dog. She latched onto it right away. She named it “Doggy Doggy”. I am pretty sure Doggy Doggy was the final thing that motivated our little girl to walk—as it was very difficult to cart him around in her hands that were being used to crawl. Within days of receiving Doggy Doggy Kaleeya took her first steps. Doggy Doggy celebrated with us—and I am pretty sure deep down inside Doggy Doggy knew he was the reason she finally learned to walk.
Doggy Doggy became part of the family. Every step Kaleeya would take was accompanied by her canine companion. They were like two peas in a pod. She learned to run with him in her arms and smiled every step of the way.
Many days Kaleeya made up adventures that she and Doggy would take. She told us all about the imaginary land they lived in. With Doggy Doggy by her side, she could conquer the world. Doggy was her best friend, and in every way her truest confidant. She whispered in Doggy's ears and laughed at his replies. They snuggled up for every nap, and he protected her through each night . . . even the darkest of nights.
After Emmett died, Doggy Doggy spent a lot of time on the floor with Kaleeya's daddy blanket. She was very bitter toward anything that reminded her of her father—including me. Kaleeya’s anger was taken out on her daddy blanket and biting holes in her binkies—and hurting her toy dog. Sometimes she bit Doggy Doggy’s nose or screamed and yelled at him. I walked into her room, many times, to see her punching Doggy Doggy as hard as she could. She used to throw him across the house and run over and step on his face. She would constantly yell at Doggy at the top of her lungs. Her grieving process was very apparent in the way she interacted with her favorite toy dog.
Her violent behavior toward her innocent stuffed animal startled me at times—and as I had once worried about her inability to take a step, I began to worry about her anger towards her Doggy Doggy—and at Emmett. I doubted myself on every level and my inadequacy in helping her find the peace she needed. We had a few tender moments, but for the most part I felt that I too was being pushed far away from my little girl.
When she finally started letting the memory of Emmett back in, I began to notice Doggy Doggy coming around more and more. Soon, I never saw her without him. Doggy Doggy became the symbol of Emmett in her eyes. After she worked through the anger portion of Emmett's death, she got stuck on hanging on to him. Everywhere we would go, Doggy Doggy came with us—and everyone we met heard about Daddy Emmett and how he had given the toy to her. A stuffed dog became her only connection to her father.
Doggy Doggy has had many plastic surgeries and reconstructive work done. He is a quilt! He has lost his arms—and even his tail a few times—but we have always managed to patch him back together. He has seen many states and traveled on all of our family trips. Doggy Doggy has met thousands of people and even spent a few days with me at the murder trial. His fur is so thin it almost feels like it is going to disintegrate in your hand.
Kaleeya still sometimes whispers in Doggy Doggy’s ear. I have always wondered what secrets he keeps inside. I have had times that I wished I could be her Doggy Doggy. That she would have let me in, in all those moments when he was the only one who could get close. Doggy Doggy is very wise and has always been there to comfort her, listen, and forgive. In all my days wondering how I could be there for her—Doggy Doggy has been.
We worry about our children—how will they ever make it through the loads they are asked to bear, in all the struggles they have to face. I have watched Shawn struggle with the guilt of divorce and how it has, and will, affect Jordyn. I have watched our other kids struggle through the death of their parent. I never thought, when I brought my children into the world—that there would ever be a pain too great for me to fix for them. I always thought I would be super mom and have all the answers for every thing that would come their way.
I wish I could say I have been able to Band-Aid all of my children’s pain with my awesomeness—but I have not. I have given them love, I have been by their sides . . . but sometimes I have not been the ear they have needed to work through their pain. Sometimes it has been a kind neighbor whose inspiration has helped my children find answers to their struggles; other times it has been a grandma who has come with the words they needed to hear. Many days Shawn has been able to counsel them in ways they could not hear from me. Therapists have given them hope and inspiration; and the kids have each been there for each other on different occasions.
If I have learned anything in the last three and half years since Emmett died, it is that I cannot do everything on my own. I need help! I need others to lift me, and I need to allow my children to be strengthened by more than just me. A lesson that started with a little brown dog has helped me see—sometimes I am not enough . . . and that is ok.
The Indians used to say that it takes a village to raise a child. Three years ago, I would have said that belief is crazy. I truly believed that there weren't any battles I could not fight on my own. Today, as far as I can see, there have been parts of my village that have saved us. There are friends and family who have carried our burdens for us in ways we could not have done alone. There have been strangers who have sent notes in words we needed to hear. And there have been Doggy Doggy’s who have been there when no one else could reach us.
I have had many Doggy Doggy’s in my life. The kind of friend who I can let out my frustrations, share my secrets, and even scream to when my nightmares have turned into reality. Not all friends are true, but when you find that one—who is willing to take a beating for you when you have nothing left inside . . . don’t ever let them go.
To all the Doggy Doggy’s of the world—thank you for listening to screams and still seeing love and hope. To all the trodden down supporters who probably question their own willingness to take the beatings of someone else’s child—you are my hero. We parents can’t do everything on our own. So thank you for joining the village and helping us raise our imperfect children through imperfect lives. Thank you for believing in us broken souls who are still searching for peace. Thank you for not giving up, or running away, when our anger has been directed to you—and letting us in when all we needed was someone to love us. We are all just children searching for safety—hoping for a village that can love us no matter who, or where, we have been.
We do not have to do this life alone. Many Doggy Doggy’s are sent just for us, right when we need them the most. God knows where we are, and what we need . . . this I know. Because of Christ and His grace even when we are not enough, we will be sent the compensation we need to make up the difference. Maybe I wasn’t what helped my little girl be brave enough to take her first steps, and maybe she hasn’t always turned to me in her pain . . . but He was always there. Maybe I haven’t always heard the painful heartfelt sobs my baby whispered into Doggy Doggy’s ear . . . but Christ did. He knows our pain; He hears even the deepest, most quiet, hidden hurt buried inside each one of us.
Doggy Doggy thank you for being there for my little girl when she took those first bright steps—and standing by her side as she has walked through the darkness. Maybe you really are just a little stuffed dog . . . but because of you, Kaleeya has found hope in this world. Hope I could not give her—but always prayed she would find.
He is there—maybe all you can see with your eye is the remnants of a little stuffed dog. . . but you are not alone. He has felt your pain, and counted each one of those tears that have hit your pillow. Just like Doggy Doggy—He wishes more than anything He could just take away the pain of your struggles— but instead He stands by your side to strengthen you through them. Because of Him, Kaleeya can feel joy. Because of Him, she has the potential to live all of her dreams. Life has not always been easy for my little girl, but I know that each day has been blessed with something great. That greatness has not always been given to her by me; for Kaleeya greatness has been found many days in a little best friend named Doggy Doggy.
Life is too short to not share it with each other. Through the good days and the bad don't forget what matters. Not everyone can find a Doggy Doggy . . . but we can chose to be one. Watch for the sad puppy eyes that are waiting for you to stand by their side and wipe their tears. Be somebody else's angel. Lift the broken hearts who are waiting for a friend. Bring light to someone's darkness. It is in that moment when Christ's love is felt through you . . . you will remember it too.
To all the Doggy Doggy's in my life . . . thank you for loving me even when I didn't. Thank you for helping me remember who has never forgotten, and will never abandon us. Because of Him . . . even I can learn to walk through the darkness with a purpose . . . a bright hope that my life is not in vain. A hope that He has heard even my silent pleadings and has answered my prayers by sending me you. I didn't plan on life being so hard, but I have learned to see there is a greater plan. Sometimes in it God sends us great miracles . . . and other times merely a Doggy Dog to lead the way out of the shadows.