This isn’t a post about dogs. Or maybe it is? Some of the best people I’ve ever met have been and will be through the dogs. Those connections made from selling a puppy, befriending another breeder, or joining an online dog community can, and will, change one’s life forever.
I wouldn’t be writing this post, or even have this blog, if I had not joined one such group, dedicated to followers of another blogger (Scottie Westfall at retrieverman.net). I have met multiple extremely important people in my life through that group, every one of them precious to me. One such person is Jessica of Riverbend Golden Retrievers. Though we raise somewhat different types of retriever, we have many common goals, and we have a great deal of professional respect for one another. In addition to that, and much more importantly, we are the truest kind of friends who can laugh and cry together.
I also happen to run my own dog group, and it’s for dog lovers who are also either atheist, agnostic, or generally non-religious. Naturally, I invited Jessica, and many other friends from various other online communities, to join my group. It’s called Godless Dog People. One day, a woman I did not recognize requested to join. I noticed she had a mutual friend: Jessica. As it turns out, she had gotten a Golden puppy from Jess, who had told her she might enjoy the group. From that moment on, Stephanie and I were friends.
Today, in the wee hours of the morning, Stephanie peacefully died at the age of 35.
Stephanie was one of those people that was genuinely sweet. She had a musical and kind voice and laugh. She was funny, and she was endlessly kind. It never mattered who or why, she would listen. She would put others first. She would take the time to leave a note of love and encouragement, or a silly picture that she hoped would bring a smile. So many times I logged in to Facebook to find a message like that from her.
There are many things Stephanie and I discussed, both in online chat and over the phone. Sometimes it was dogs, of course. Other times it was the most personal and painful of things. Steph and I had a very particular kind of loss in common that not many people can truly grasp, however understanding they want and try to be. We shared other struggles and hardships, too. Often, we just goofed around and laughed over the most ridiculous and simple of things.
So, indeed, this isn’t a post about dogs, or friendship, or even death. It’s bigger than that. It’s a post about the ripple effect that is letting someone into your life, and in a thousand little ways, blending your life with theirs and the lives of those they love and care for. Eventually, the degrees of separation seem to simply fade away.
I may be writing this in tears this morning, but my life was so much warmer and better for having known my friend Stephanie.
I thank you, Scottie, for the ripple effect. Your writing, a blog you started years ago, and a Facebook group you created made connections possible. You made connections happen that you cannot even imagine. You didn’t know Stephanie, but if not for you, I would have never known her myself, and neither would at least a dozen other friends of mine.
We could all do well to remember that the beautiful things we do and create bring so much joy and love that we probably will never even find out about. Don’t stop doing those things. They matter. The chain of connections does not end. Through Scottie I met Jessica. Through Jessica, Stephanie met me. Through me, she met a bunch of friends on my Godless Dog People group. Through her, I have befriended her husband and gotten closer to some more casual friends of mine during this tragic time. The ripple continues. It does not die with her.
When we think that what we do does not matter, we ought to think again. All around the world tonight hearts are breaking, but they’re also better hearts, kinder hearts, and happier hearts for having given a part of themselves to our wonderful friend Stephanie. I’m going to keep plugging away on this blog, and raising my puppies, and churning out my art, and making connections, and opening my heart and mind to all the wonder and magic that bounces back at me when I put myself, and my creations, out into this world.
It’s worth it.
And, yes, Stephanie, I’m doing The Thing.