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Apr 18

The Constants of Love in Our Military World

Zazu in front of tulips 300x261 The Constants of Love in Our Military World

Zazu in 2002, my Marine was in Iraq.

Our military world is difficult to navigate for many. I’ve lived more years alone than I’d like and endured through stress, chaos, and loss. Through it all, I relied on the constant love and joy that my dog provided. My black cocker spaniel, Zazu, was the source of so much happiness in all of our lives – I like to think that I adored her the most, because I considered her as my first baby.

She was a wedding gift from my Marine after in 2002 and served as my cuddle buddy during the initial invasion to Iraq. This was a time when didn’t know what this war would bring, how long it would last, or if indeed my husband would face weapons of mass destruction while fighting in Um Qsar and Nasiriyah, Iraq.

She was my source of joy as I found myself alone, pregnant with our first child and felt I couldn’t endure any more when my husband’s unit lost twenty men and sustained over 200 injuries in Fallujah, Iraq.

I relied on her when my husband was in Hellmand Province, Afghanistan fighting Al-Qaeda, where their unit lost twenty more men and suffered over 160 casualties, thirty of which were amputees, just six months after our one year old son passed away.

Zazu and Quaid 202x300 The Constants of Love in Our Military WorldShe welcomed in all three of our kids, loving on them as they grew. They also loved her, sometimes a bit roughly, but she never growled or snapped. She embraced strangers and family members as one.

At just ten years old, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I guess somehow I imagined that she would navigate our military lifestyle until, we too, were done. But her body couldn’t hold out any longer. We discovered she had cancer when her lung suddenly collapsed. It was a day I wasn’t prepared for. My husband was busy being a Marine and I was left once again, to say goodbye on my own.

My heart was broken as I had to let go of one of my best friends, the source of so much love and happiness in my life. My constant.  She almost made it to her fifth duty station. When we pull out of our driveway the last time in a few short months, there will be so much emptiness as we move on without her.

As I filled out paperwork and answered questions about her cremation process,  the band aid was ripped off the hole in my heart, taking me back to the moment where I had to answer these same questions when my son passed away. And now one of my favorite sources of comfort was no longer.

My heart is swollen with sadness, but I am still amazed at the kindness of strangers, who were willing to share a few tears and a hug as I grieved my loss, or as one gentleman did, stop to ask if I was okay while I crossed the street with tears running down my face.

Loving is always worth the heartache. We as military spouses toe the line, quietly, and trudge forward through sacrifices and difficulties. To know our life, is to live it. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. All we can do is love strongly today, be thankful for the gifts present, and appreciate the gifts of the past. Goodbye, my sweet Zazu. Mommy loves you.

Zazu and Momma 219x300 The Constants of Love in Our Military World

 

13 comments

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  1. Cindy Vanderheiden

    We, too, have a CC cocker that we love very much…I’m so sorry for your loss. Stephanie shared your profound words on FB and I send my condolences. When we lost our black boy we eventually got another cocker from Stephanie and he is a delight, sounds very much like your girl, loves everyone and everything. I’m sure there’s another cocker in your future, those perfect sweet little faces are hard to give up. I didn’t think we could love another one as much as the last one but this guy has stolen our hearts. I wish you comfort…

    1. USMC Life

      Thank you for sharing Cindy. One day I’ll be able to open up my heart again. I’m sure there’s a special CC cocker in my future. I’m so happy to hear that you’ve found another sweetie. They are the best dogs.

  2. Sandie

    A beautiful and bittersweet story. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Janet Johnson

    Kristine,
    I, too am so sorry for your loss and nothing can replace Zazu or the love you have for him, but another cocker will definately help sooth the ache in your heart. After our 15 year old chocolate cocker, Chelsea died, I discovered CC’s. Today is Alohi’s fifth birthday and we also went two years ago and got a little black cocker from Stephanie. Her dogs are supreme as you well know. I will be thinking of you and your loss, Please post when it’s time for you to get another puppy.

    1. USMC Life

      I will Janet. Thanks for sharing your story with me.

  4. Rhonda

    omgosh! I cannot hardly see to type for all the tears in my eyes and running down my face! I have a cocker that will soon be 15yrs old in June. I cannot even begin to think about my life without her. I know your heart must be broken and so heavy at this time. I just hope you will be able to find some comfort reliving all those wonderful memories your baby gave you! Maybe someday you may want to get another cocker. Time will tell!

    Thinking of you.

    HUGS,
    RhondA

    1. USMC Life

      Thank you Rhonda for sharing about your cocker – we have some special doggies from Stephanie. Enjoy this time with yours, it is too short. Thanks for writing, Kristine

  5. Adriana

    Thank you for sharing! We had two wonderful Cocker Spaniels that were our babies long before our children came along. We lost them both two duty stations ago. One to Cancer and the other to Pancreatitis. I have yet to get over their loss, even though its been some time. I tear up every time I bring them up. One day I know I will be ready to fill our home with another loving pet.

    1. USMC Life

      It’s so true that our dogs are our kiddos. If you are ready to open your heart up to another cocker, you should check out Stephanie’s website, Classy Country Cockers for a puppy. She breeds AKC standards, but also for temperament and health. I just looked at her puppies and see so much of my dog Zazu in the line still. http://classycountrycockers.zenfolio.com/ It’s a shame puppies only live for so long – you know the saying, they are children in fur clothing.

  6. Anne

    Kristine… I read your letter via Stephanie at CC’s. It touched my heart. I have a brother-in-law in the military, and see my sister go through the alone times and the worry. I admire you more than I can say. Thanks to you and your husband for your sacrifices. I had a little cocker before I met Stephanie, and she was my best buddy through some rough times – I’ll never forget her. We’ve got 2 CC dogs now, and they truly helped heal the hurt from losing Casey. Best wishes to you.

    1. USMC Life

      Thank you for writing Anne. Military life is difficult, but great. I am filled with so much pride from my husband’s service and the sisterhood that remains in our Corps. Thank your brother-in-law and sister for me for their service, if you will. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Candy

    Oh Kristine, so sorry for your loss. Although my husband has not served in the military, I to have spent a lot time alone. So my pet are very much a part of my life, and have been there to love me when I’m sad, to talk to me when I’m lonely, and been a friend through all my high and lows. Riley and I are still grieving the loss of my Chloe girl, so as I read about your loss I cried. I know it will take some time, loss always does. Your in my prayers all my love candy

  8. Daniel Spencer

    Thank you for posting this. Animals are family.
    Touching story,

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