I'll never forget the moment she chose me;  The moment my soul split wide open and she nestled herself inside, resting her fat paws gently but firmly upon my heart.  It was as if she had been waiting for me... and when I appeared, she knew me already.  It was nothing I'd ever felt before, I had no other choice but to bring her home.  

Her name was going to be Shongi.. Zulu for "filled with love".  But when she slept, she slept hard, and when she curled up on our pillow, this fat little ball of fur filled every crevice of space between our heads, and she would make these little groans…these little moans. Hence, as it turns out, she also chose her name.  Thankfully, one night I decided to record her soft snoring, which I replay on the days I miss her most.  I believe I may have been listening to those sweet moans during the very moments when Mona chose to leave this earth, three days ago.

Of all the animals in Africa, Mona was most terrified of cows.  She would stand in the dark of midnight and stare back at the Wildebeest as their forty eyes shone in our torch light, bark at the massive wart hogs with their long tusks, stare at the giraffes in wonder… But get a cow within 200 yards of her, and she would literally leap into my arms and bury her head in my chest like a little baby.  Cows.  I would laugh at her, but I have to admit that I loved it when I got to hold her and console her when she was afraid.  

Being 1/2 Pit Bull, 1/4 Alsatian, & 1/4 Husky, you would expect her to be a bit wild.  But it was just the opposite.  As soon as she got to greet you, (licking toes was a favorite greeting of hers, to the dismay of those who wore sandals) she just hung out with you.  That was her favorite thing to do, just be next to you.  She was my shadow… I went to the kitchen, so did Mona.  I went to the toilet, Mona laid at my feet.  I showered, Mona… well, Mona moaned if she couldn’t see or touch me.  She would chase the occasional squeaky bat ball toy, but really, she just wanted to lay beside you, wherever you may be.  

Those first days in South Africa were gentle, we weren’t working hard and the days were leisurely.  I had plenty of time to spend training Mona, working with her constantly from the day I brought her home.  She was just seven weeks old, and already following my commands on cue.  I didn’t have to teach her not to stray, because she would never leave my sight.  She learned the natural boundaries of the lodge, and she stayed within them.  I won’t deny that she had a torrid love affair with the kitchen, probably the more logical reason why she never went far!  The lodge staff loved Mona, and Mona truly loved them back.  In Africa, people don’t revere dogs as companions like we do here in the U.S.  So, when the locals fall in love with a dog, you know her soul is out of the ordinary, rather extraordinary.  

When life in my perfect world started to crumble, Mona was the being that kept me from falling apart.  She was my only companion during the long days with my ever more distant husband.  She stayed by my side in bed when he would leave me alone at 2 am.  She would walk every morning with me through the fields at sunrise when he would turn me away and chose solitude.  She would lay with me on the cool floor, chin on my lap, while I caressed her sweet head in the mid day heat.  There were weeks where I wouldn’t really talk much to anyone, my husband sinking every day further into his self destructive abyss.  Without Mona, and the smiles and love she brought to me during that time, my life would have been consumed by sorrow.  And that last night when he yelled and cursed at me at the top of his lungs, when I locked him out of our bedroom crying and shaking, hearing him pound on the door in protest… Mona was right there, nestling into my tears and standing guard against anyone trying to hurt me.  

My heart broke into pieces when I had to leave her.  I promised her I’d be back for her, and I meant it.  There wasn’t a day that went by in those seven weeks that I did not speak to her in my heart and send her love.  But when I returned, I knew she had a new home…with new friends, 7 of them, dogs of all shapes and sizes that she got to love and play with every day.  And most importantly, she had a new woman who loved Mona as much as I did.  I am forever thankful to Marlice for loving her so deeply.  Her heart is also shattered right now, for Mona was no ordinary dog.  She was an angel who came to those who were in need of healing light.  I don’t know why she left, but I know that in her short year here, she saved our lives.  

My mother always tells me, “Shelly, you’ll never know love until you feel the love for your child…you have no idea!”.  This is the closest I can imagine to that kind of love.  If I’m lucky, the day will come when I get to feel it again.  

My sweetest doggie, I know you will always be with me.  I’ll see you in the stars, in the winds that blow, and in every cow that I ever pass.  I love you my Monakie, my Monsie, my Mona filled with love.  


When I think back to my earliest memories with my dad, the images that pop up for me are flashes of running outside during a thunderstorm to watch the lightning together, riding on the back of a dirt bike with him through the forrest, dancing to John Denver and Neil Sedaka, my dad twirling me as I giggled with joy.  Then, later on it was memories of riding bikes together in the mornings training for "El Tigre" in Mexico, him teaching me how to drive in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl, bringing out his Pentax for me to explore, and encouraging my love for travel.  

As I sit here this morning on Father's Day, I know I have one very special thing to give back to him:  The dance of a father and his daughter at her wedding.  This has been on my mind strongly, as I eloped three days ago in Africa.  Yet I know that my marriage will not be complete until I have that dance with my dad.  It will come soon, we'll have a party and I'll wear my dress, and I'll see him across the dance floor looking at me with a smirk, curling his finger in a hithering motion for me to join him, beginning to boogie as he and I mozie towards each other.  It's something I truly cannot wait for, and when the day comes, my smile will overcome me.  I love my dad to the moon and back.  He's my rock, my goofy inspiration, and he's my biggest fan.  Thanks, dad, for loving me so much.  You mean the world to me, and I can't wait to create many more memories with you!


Your Pook. 

Portrait of a sweet love: #47

The last time I saw these two, we were gathered together with a dozen others around the fire pit at our layover hotel in Boston.  I didn't know they were together...maybe they weren't at that point, maybe that was the night everything started.  All I know is that I already adored the daylights out of Tina, and Perry was fast becoming one of my new favorite pilots.  A month or so later, I saw Perry getting off the plane in Florida when we were getting on and gave him a huge hug.  "Oh wow, I just saw Tina here & thought of you!", remembering that last time I saw her.  Little did I know they knew the other was there.  It took one or two more run-ins like that to realize that two of my favorite people had become a couple.  In the airlines, it's a tricky thing, dating co-workers.  Everyone warns you against it, yet everyone seems to try it at least once.  I, personally, have never attempted the flight attendant/pilot mambo, but if I did, I would only hope that my match would be as good as these two.  Love and laughter, they've got the right combo.  

Tina & Perry

Tina & Perry