July 2, 2011 
Life just isn’t the same without Jackson. My constant companion for the last 10 years is no longer here. Gone are the days of the early morning greeting demanding to be fed breakfast; the excitement of hearing the food poured into his bowl while he danced in circles; his silent waiting just outside the shower door; his desire to be wherever I was and touching me when possible. My favorite was sitting in the recliner every morning reading my Bible while he snuggled beside me in the tight fit. Often, as I walk into a room, I expect to see him there and accidentally call out his name instead of Phoebe.  
Phoebe (my seven year old lab) and I spent a few days together; just her and I. She would look for her friend Jackson. He was her one and only all her life. I could see the question in her eyes as she peered out the back door anticipating seeing Jackson there. In retrospect, I think she knew that something was wrong with him. She had been quiet and content to give him his needed space. She has always been his follower. She constantly gave in to what he wanted and I hate to use the word, but she was quite submissive to him.
She has never known any life without Jackson. I knew because of the difference in their ages, that the day would come when she would be alone and it concerned me. She would became very upset if Jackson went somewhere without her. She paced back and forth and cried until he returned. Wherever he was, Phoebe was in close proximity. Being the alpha male that Jackson was, she became the docile female. She followed as he led. She loved to play with him and went along with whatever he wanted to do. So, I knew it would be difficult for her when he was no longer there.
We only lasted two days. Phoebe and I cried and hugged and went for drives to try and soothe the pain. Jackson was such a large part of our lives that it felt like a crater of a hole had been left. We had to do something and we had to do it quickly. The best thing to do was to find a puppy. Numerous people were looking for a male black lab puppy all over Southern California. After numerous phone calls, Facebook messages, and internet searches, one was located in Lake Elsinore. So Friday night the family was off to see him.
We thought that we were going to see only two black males that this breeder had. What we did not know until arriving was that she had 8 pens with 8 different litters. I could choose from 7 of the pens because the 8th pen of puppies were too young. Can you imagine looking at 7 litters of lab puppies and trying to choose one? I knew I wanted a black male, so that narrowed it down some.  The first one I choose could possibly have some teeth issues down the line and I couldn’t endure anymore pain. The next one I chose was 11 weeks old and a little on the feisty side. We were unaware that the breeder had placed an 8 week old puppy out to play and HE ended up being the ONE. A darling, sweet, round-bellied ball of black fur came home with us that night.
Hank moved right on in and seemed to alleviate much of the pain. Phoebe instantly fell in love. It is astonishing to see the transformation in her. She has retreated right back to her own puppy-hood. She runs with him, plays with him, and allows him to bite her with his razor sharp puppy teeth. She is wonderful with him. What has become apparent is that Phoebe lived in Jackson’s shadow. Suddenly her personality has blossomed. She is fun, active, and so very kind. She appears happy, not that she wasn’t before, but there seems to be a liveliness about her that was not evident before. It is almost as if she has come unto her own.
I found this interesting, because it appears to emulate my life. There are times that changes, although extremely hard, are for our benefit. Because we do not see our future, it is hard to understand when it seems as if our life is unraveling. We enjoy our comfort zones and do not wish to relinquish them. But there are times that change is necessary for our own personal growth. We must allow change to happen and walk simply through the process.
In the last year; I left a job of twenty years, gone to college, outlined a book, spoke at my first retreat, lost a canine friend, reestablished some old friendships, and got a new puppy. That is a lot of adjustment in one year yet I find that I am truly happy. Gifts and talents that were buried have now come to the surface. Suddenly I feel free. My confidence is growing because I am finding that I can do things without the desire for approval first.  I have goals and have seen some of them reached.  Psalm 147:11 says, “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” I truly feel His delight. That one simple fact has given me the freedom to be me. It has brought me out of the shadow of other’s approval or acceptance and allowed me to soar. Just like Phoebe, I have come unto my own!