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Cal crown

My very favorite photo of Calantha, which I used as the basis for the tattoo of her on my forearm.  She was exceptionally patient and talented at modeling for me.

One year ago today, Calantha went to the Rainbow Bridge.  It has been a very difficult year, both internally and externally.  There were many times when I didn’t feel like I’d be able to make it, that the weight of my grief would crush me.  Somehow I did make it, though it was often a moment-to-moment struggle with gritted teeth to survive.  Getting Lissar in January (her post is still coming) helped tremendously, but I also needed time without a dog, to honor the hole Calantha’s absence left in my life.  To say, this beautiful creature was here and my life will never be the same… in good ways and in grief.
There is a lot of grief in the world right now and great unrest.  And rightly so; we need to take a very hard look at our society and redo the parts that are contributing to systemic racism.  Black lives do matter and equality needs to be ensured for all.  The Black Lives Matter movement deserves its own post, but it felt wrong to not even mention it with the overwhelming anguish and grief society, the black community especially, is going through.  These times are painful, but we need to pass through them to get to the changes we must make.
When I knew that Calantha’s time was, barring a miracle, quickly running out, I asked my therapist for any advice on dealing with the agony that would be coming.  “The only way I know through grief is to go through it,” she told me.  “Let yourself feel what you need to feel.  Don’t try to find shortcuts, just keep going through it.”  I can say that I do believe she’s absolutely correct in this (as she always is).  If you are also having a difficult time, if you’re grieving and in pain, that’s ok.  Let yourself feel the things you need to feel.  These emotions need to be felt, fully and deeply, honored and then you can move past them.  Until you do that, you’re stuck.
Also, the often-cited “steps” of grief are pretty meaningless.  Not only were they not created as a roadmap through living grief (they were intended to help terminally ill people, not those left behind), it’s not a linear path.  You might find acceptance one day, then find yourself back to anger the next.  And that’s ok.  Let that be ok for you.  You will forge your own way; no two people will have the exact same steps.  I found a grief journal with prompts to be very helpful, but you might find other things that help you.  That’s ok too.
Calantha was one of a kind and no one will ever replace her.  She was effortlessly beautiful, graceful, with a radiant aura of kind gentleness that meant I could trust her in any situation we found ourselves in.  Toddler wants to pet her?  She’ll graciously put up with any clumsiness.  I find myself with an armful of baby opossums?  She will only want to try to lick and mother them (I kept them apart anyway, but it was a relief to have one less thing to worry about).  I could rely on her more than any human.  That’s part of the magic of dogs.
I know that she paw-selected Lissar as the next companion, best friend and member of my pack.  While they are different in many ways from each other, each is equally perfect for me.  I am very grateful to her for maneuvering things from the other side, for making sure that I’d have another incredible friend to share my life with.  I wanted to portray both of them in this image, but I wasn’t sure how Lissar would feel about modeling.  Calantha grew up with a photographer/artist mother so she was already used to posing by the time she was an adult, but Lissar has only lived with me for a few months.  I decided I would play Calantha and let Lissar be herself, if she wanted to join me for the image.  The moment I sat on the floor, costume on, made up, wig on, she hurried over to flop herself across my lap.  She was wonderful.
Here’s to my two girls.  My life would be much smaller, lack meaning and joy without them in it.  And I know that Calantha is still a part of me, and a part of my life.  Nothing can break the bond we share.  She, obviously, still watches over me and makes sure I’m doing ok.  I will see her again.  And while that doesn’t erase the pain I feel at her not being here physically now, it’s comforting.  Love conquers all, even death.  Especially death.  She is still here with me and she always will be.  Always.
I have a number of activities to do today to grieve, honor and remember Cal with today, so I’m going to go do those.  If you ever had the pleasure of meeting Calantha, or knew her through me, I invite you to share a favorite memory of her.  She will never be forgotten, even, to steal a line from Peter S Beagle, when men are fairytales in books written by rabbits.
This self portrait means a great deal to me; an acknowledgment of Calantha’s new saintly, other-side-of-the-veil life, the passing of the torch between her and Lissar, a goodbye-for-now-on-this-plane to Cal and a welcoming to Lissy and so much more than I can put into words.  What I feel when I look at this is love.  Longing, loss, but overwhelmingly love.  Please enjoy the full image and the detailed shots.
The Grace of Love

The Grace of Love, © Sarah Allegra.  A self portrait with Lissar.

The Grace of Love

The Grace of Love, © Sarah Allegra – detail.  Lissar’s first official close-up!  She did a fantastic job!

The Grace of Love

The Grace of Love, © Sarah Allegra – detail.  Calantha often reminded me of a fancy Victorian lady, so I pulled from that impression a lot in portraying her.  More was more here.  I have many photos of her wearing beautiful necklaces, often strings of pearls, which she never minded.  The cameo speaks to her Victorian qualities.  Of course I needed to have white hair to match her fur, an art nouveau ornament in my hair, and a mix of dead and fresh flowers in it.  The dress picks up on all the colors of her fur, as does my makeup.  Since her lips, like most dogs’ were black, mine were too.  And in addition to everything else,, there was no shortage of glitter!  Because if she’d had to ability to wear makeup, it would have ALWAYS included glitter.  That’s who Cal is.

The Grace of Love

The Grace of Love, © Sarah Allegra – detail.  I got this cheap little silver-colored ring in the shape of a deer leaping across my finger a while ago because it reminded me of Calantha, her shape, the sharp tuck of her stomach, her grace and speed.  Naturally I had to include it, and a number of other rings, which kept catching on the delicate lace and in my hair, in this shot.

The Grace of Love

The Grace of Love, © Sarah Allegra – detail.  More lace, huge dramatic sleeves and more rings!

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