Dogs Surely Go To Heaven… Part 1: “Skai, The Beach Dog!”

Our beautiful fury friends, Skai, Mocha and Sadie, touched our hearts and healed our souls for over three decades. All three kept our family grounded in love. And reminded us everyday of the meaning of empathy, compassion, unconditional love and loyalty.

My neighbor, Scott, told me that his wish was that his fury pal, Chip, would live just a little bit longer. He was sad to think of outliving his beloved friend. I understood without hesitation. And, I believe you couldn’t find a person on the planet who wouldn’t say the same thing, more than once in life about a beloved pet.

Loving memories of fury friends who touched our lives…

Join me in sharing treasured memories of each… Starting with Skai Boy, I tell the story of our beloved family pets in three separate posts… Let’s start with Skai, the beach dog…

Skai at the beach June 27, 2009, around 14 months old…
Skai Christmas 2009
Skai Christmas 2019, age 12…

Skai, so loved the beach as a pup and until the last day of his life. Sarah took Skai to the beach while he was very weak. But, with strong meds to help with the pain from the cancer taking his life…

Once arriving at the beach near Seattle, Skai knew they were getting close, smiling and excited even when down. Sarah had to help him get to the beach from the parking area, but Skai showed his true love for his beach time, struggled to get there one step and one wobble, and a tail wag at a time.

Skai’s last happy dance at the beach he so loved…

Once on the beach, Skai dug a well practiced and precisely measured hole in the sand, very slowly, but with sheer determination. He knew a race up and down the beach wasn’t in the cards this time. Then, with all the strength and passion he could muster, he rolled over in slow motion for a final back rub he so loved and cherished.

It would be the last time in the sand for Skai Boy, but not the last time for our hearts and souls to treasure always. Sarah shared that Skai was so happy to be on the sand. And felt this private time on the beach together better prepared both for the painful transiton the next day. This is a very healing mindset from my experience. We can celebrate Skai’s life as a significant marker in our lives…a proundly special friendship.

A loyal friend…indeed!

Skaiboy was very loyal to Sarah and clearly the best soulmate ever. So, on Saturday June 27th 2020 at 130pm Skai walked ever so gingerly over the “Rainbow Bridge’ a happy camper. Yes, we all grieve in deeply soulful and heartfelt ways when we lose a loved one. Skai gave us, especially Sarah, more love and loyalty than a single human being could ever do.

Our beloved grand dog “SkaiBoy” gave our family so much joy and love… Skai loved the beach and understood the word. As soon as we said, “beach” he would race to the door and dance with excitement and joy. Skai couldn’t wait to get his paws on the sand and race as fast as he could north to Yaquina Lighthouse, then, turn around, like he knew how far he could go, and race even faster south back to us. In the above photo, Skai was around 14 months old on June 27th 2009. He will be in our hearts forever…

Here’s one more story about Skai. Are you ready?

Sarah came to live with us on the coast in Depoe Bay early 2008 so that she could attend the University of Oregon in Eugene. It was a transitional time for Sarah. She was missing Mocha our last family pet after Sadie and before Skai. Sarah loved animals, especially her dear dogs. We were able to have horses in Leavenworth, Washington on our 1.5 acre lot. There was plenty of room to build a lean-to shelter for two horses. and fence off a half acre of property. Indeed, Sarah was a country girl. The 4H club was a passion. And so, continuing the story of Skai Boy.

Sarah Sparks Fitch

Judy and I planned a trip to Snow Bird in Utah in the summer of 2008. We were looking forward to hiking and exploring as we did often in earlier years. The hikes are shorter now. We also love Blue Grass concerts in the mountains. Snow Bird was having a big Blue Grass blow out when we got there.

It was a super fun week in Snow Bird. So, we started heading west for Depoe Bay, Oregon on the central coast. We so loved living close to the ocean and looked forward to seeing Sarah when we got back home.

Love at first sight…

When we hit the salt flats near Salt Lake, Sarah called us and was on the speaker. She screamed out with joy that she got Skai and loved him, and for only $50. “I even got a crate for him,” she said. She proudly announced that she rescued Skai, a gray and gold brindle pitt bull in the photos. It was love at first sight for both Sarah and Skai.

Ask for forgiveness, not permission…

Sarah’s Skai as a pup in 2008. Look at that face!

Although Judy and I did not want to get another dog since we lost Mocha. I was adament about this and became angry. Then, Sarah reminded me that I taught her years ago that “asking for forgiveness is often better than asking for permission.” I got ya, Dad! she said, with respectful excitement on her face… She looked straight into my eyes, intent on making her point. I’m very proud of Sarah for her make it happen style, and free spirit.

So long, dearest Skai

I could go on and on about Skai. “Skai, Mocha, and Sadie” is a chapter in my next memoir, “Finding My Soul in Icicle Valley.” Click for excerpt…

See you on the other side, Skai! You are a good boy, always…and forever…

Judy & Steve Sparks, Children and Families Advocacy

click here for Steve’s author page…

The Wrath of Stigma!

“The Wrath of Stigma!” is the first chapter of my book, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 2..

Following is a excerpt… This book was written especially for parents, teachers, and caregivers.

“Stigma is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” they say…  Consider as a resource all the research and writing on the subject of PTSD and post trauma growth. I can’t believe there are over 1000 articles and posts. Included is a ton of information about my own life experience. During these many years I have collected 100s of relevant references and resources with the goal to help others.

The human condition of STIGMA leaves me stone cold and in a quandary.  It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury. Living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks is torture. But it w ould be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.

My latest book is dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII.

Judy and Steve Sparks, Children and Family Advocacy

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1.  Click on highlighted text for my author page…

Too Late To Empty The Trash? Truama informed therapies can be a gift to many who suffer for a lifetime…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate

A Lifetime of Emotional Pain

Healing came very late to me. Like so many of my peers from the post WWII generation, we were born to trauma from our fathers who served during WWII and Korean War. As a result, too many of us left home early with scars from profoundly dysfunctional homes.

So, we marched head on into the Vietnam era in the 60s early 70s, already morally injured living with chaos as children of warriors. Sadly, for too many young souls, there was no escape from the compounded tragedy of trauma as veterans ourselves.

Vietnam warriors came home with with the embedded scars of child abuse and the horror of hard combat. A perfect storm of PTSD, major depression, including physical injuries that plagued our heroes for a lifetime.

All too often we lived a lifetime with mental illness without awareness of the horrific and painful symptoms without help or treatment. Consequently, too many lives and families have been destroyed without any idea of the roots of the 24/7 heart breaking pain. Broken hearts and damaged souls can be deadly if not provided love and support.

Finding Your Lost Soul

So what can old dudes like me do about taking back your lost soul and achieving some modest measure of peace of mind during the golden years. This assumes those who struggle with symptoms survived long enough to earn the privilege of old age and is open to the gift of healing. It is a tragedy to know that unhealthy habits resulting from substance abuse and alcohol addiction often end lives too early.

I was shocked to be told by my doctor at age 55 that I would risk early death in my 60s if I didn’t stop abusing alcohol. So, without hesitation, I stopped drinking alcohol on August 11, 2002. This moment of a rude awakeing was a true blessing and gift that turned my life around. I’m so grateful and believe my life was saved in that fateful moment.

Is there even hope for some relief from the demons that haunt us for a life time? For me, it felt like my injured soul was hijacked and held hostage. I didn’t know calm or peace of mind ever until later in life. Is healing even possible later in life when denial holds on like the jaws of a hungry shark? Imagine… the 24/7 lifelong emotional torment and treachery. It’s a very strong ‘locked and loaded’ emotional rollercoaster to most who live with persistent emotional pain. The worst of it is you can’t talk about it. No one would understand or listen anyway.

Love and Hope

Even with the the seemingly overwhelming challenges there is hope. But it’s hard work, even harder when you become open and hungry for peace of mind in these later years. In my more recent experience ‘trauma informed care’ has proven to be a healthy “whole patient” strategy to rescue your soul, keeping the demons at a safe distance. Peace of mind is a blessing to the aging population.

This has been a spiritual journey for me, and one that has opened my mind to God again as a critical step in healing. People who suffer from moral injury tend to feel unworthy of God, including going to church. My father was this way for his entire life. All of this leaves a hole in the heart and soul of those who suffer from serious trauma.

Once passing the readiness test and getting past the nagging denial phase, trauma informed care appears the best chance for long term treatment and recovery, no matter your age. Make sure you have a primary care physician, preferably a DO, to help facilitate the exceedingly challenging process of mending your soul.

Healing is a Journey of Love

It takes a team, a loving community, and most importantly for me, a loving spouse to keep me grounded. It is a tough assignment for loved ones at home, who all too often are affected by the symptoms of secondary PTSD and depression. Your life partner is a beautiful gift in healing, truly a life saving soul in my life. Pets are also a loving part of healing and are so loyal. Seek out everything that makes you feel alive. Avoid stressful and triggering activities as much as possible.

Start with finding a trauma informed psychiatrist to make the appropriate diagnosis and provide non narcotic medication options to help stabilize and stay calm. Calm is truly a gift from heaven for lifelong sufferers.

Next, with guidance from your primary care physician and psychiatrist, conduct a search for a trauma informed clinical therapist who is highly experienced and skilled at peeling back the onion of a lifetime of emotional baggage, and repressed memories. This is when you start to “empty the trash.” Treatment and recovery for post trauma stress requires expert guidance from a highly skilled compassionate therapist.

It is most important in long term mitigation of trauma events to have the loving support of your partner or spouse. Without consistent loving support at home in a safe environment, repairing your soul is too steep a mountain to climb alone without lots of love, empathy and compassion in your circle of caring friends and family.

Take the first step with the help and support from loved ones. It takes courage that comes with resilience from a lifetime of surviving one day at a time, and all the love you can muster each day. Because it is one day at a time…

All the best in healing with love… It takes a village.

Steve and Judy Sparks

“Locked and Loaded!” What is it like to live your life in fight/flight 24/7?

Steve Sparks, Mental Health Advocate, Author, Blogger…

Research has found that half of all people with PTSD also have a co-occurring major depressive disorder.”

I remember many scary traumatic events in my life as a child, and young adult, including being injured while serving in the US Navy. And the story of trauma continues for a life time…

I don’t remember some events because of repressed memory, an inherant defensive rewire of the brain, creating a flight/fight response. This chronic hyper vigilant and hyper arousal behavior can be annoying to others at a personal level or an asset in your professional life, as was the case for me.

These excruciating painful events occupy my brain 24/7. The horrific experiences as a child and adult do not go away, never ever. It is very easy to give up and complete suicide for too many souls at any age. Aging men, like me, who suffer a life time without treatment can reach a point where the pain is unbearable, and the only escape is to complete suicide.

I’m grateful at age 74 on July 6th to have loving support at home. It’s not easy for spouses, partners, loved ones, and dear friends to be with a person who suffers from serious mental health problems. Without a circle of support and robust behaviorial health treatment, I would be added to the list of aging men and women who live with unbearable emotional pain, and at risk of self injury or worse. It takes a village of kind and loving folks to help those who suffer a life time. These are the people in my life who help me stay grounded and positive. I’m so grateful for my spouse and close friends in our community of Lincoln County Oregon who are so supportive and caring… Thank you all!

Because it is challenging for others, some relationships, especially family, do not survive easily with the secondary emotional pain. Having a consistent loving connection with someone who is seriously challenged with PTSD and major depression is a tough assignment. Love is the only answer to healing as a family. Worse yet, the symptoms can be more troublesome with age and require a daily practice and discipline of mindfulness meditation practices, psychiatric supervision of medications, and trauma informed clinical therapy. I feel lucky to have found the right mix of treatment strategies. I now have hope for better days ahead. Click below…escape for a moment to calm the soul…

The hardest part of mental illness is the stigma that separates those of us who suffer from friends and loved ones more often than not, even for good when the going gets really tough. Worse yet is finding an effective “trauma informed” treatment and recovery support system is very complicated. It has taken me more than five decades to get to a place where feeling safe is possible. Folks with my long list of painful stuff over a life time feel “locked and loaded 24/7” without hardly a moment of peace. You learn to live this way and all too often don’t even realize the roots of the post trauma crises that persists over time.

I would suggest to anyone asking me about my experience and journey of healing that awareness is the first step in finding a better place in your life in managing emotional pain. Baby steps and daily actions that lead to some sense of calmness and stability can open the door to long term mitigation of symptoms that torture the mind and body. It is a work in progress. But it requires commitment, freedom from denial, acknowledgement of the symptoms, robust truama informed treatment, and most importantly, loving support from loved ones and dear friends who are caring.

Get started with your own plan to develop a high level of awareness on mental health. Talking to others and opening up is the first action step. You will easily see and feel the souls of others in your circle of friends and family who have empathy and compassion, and desire to make a difference with a loving and caring response. And, yes, it is hard, very hard at times. Look to each new day with hope and love. It is possible to heal and get better. It is possible to achieve peace of mind in your life. Lost souls do return home with strong faith in a higher power and spiritual growth in your own way. There is no black and white formula for healing.

Best wishes to all for a life of peace and happiness… It’s up to you!

Steve Sparks

click here for my author page…