If you know me at all, you know how much I love animals, and dogs in particular. I still miss my Soul Dog Jack everyday! And Stella is my side kick and spirit animal. So you might imagine when you read today’s Guest Blogger Month of LOVE Post #5, that it tore me to my core. This is a perfect example of how love transcends culture’s stereotype of love being romantic “boy meets girl, showers her with flowers, chocolates and candlelit dinners.” Because the amazing Kimberly Fleck is about to educate you on the power of LOVE from a four legged fur baby!
To my little white rescue dog with the brown spots, thank you for rescuing me time and time again. I love you more than I could ever put into words.
My Mom’s maiden name is Dunne and I’m very proud of my Irish heritage, therefore it was not surprising that this fella would end up with an Irish name.
Finnegan, in Irish means fair. Life was feeling anything but fair when Finnegan came tumbling into my life with his infectious smile, zest for adventure and endless amount of energy.
I had once said I would never adopt a white dog or a Jack Russell mix for various reasons. And that was exactly what landed in my arms, with a dash of Bichon along with a couple of brown spots, topped off with two adorable brown ears. I had never been so happy about being so wrong about what I wanted or needed in my life.
I was reluctantly leaving a 15 year career as a special education teacher for students with emotional and behavioral challenges. Teaching had been a huge part of my identity and something I was incredibly proud of.
Sadly life had turned into years of endless illnesses, surgeries, hospitalizations, doctors visits, infusions, medications and empty promises with questions that had no answers. Other than, this only happens to 1-2% of the population, sorry. All of this ultimately led to me being transported by ambulance from a hospital in Connecticut back home to a Boston hospital in Massachusetts in order to save my life. Two months in the hospital with a bleak outlook, missing my animal companions with all of my being and asking myself how this could have possibly happened.
I had horrible medical complications which left me with brain lesions, blown out veins, no hair on my entire body (which the doctors said would never grow back), missing organs, and a permanent ileostomy. I refused to be defeated but I would be lying if I didn’t say how very difficult the years had been and the years that followed.
Finnegan would be one of the brightest spots during those very dark times and the brightest spot today.
I no longer knew the person who looked at me in the mirror in terms of a physical appearance. I no longer was able to say with the utmost pride, I am an educator. I had suddenly been given so many restrictions to my physical life that my own zest for life was being tested.
I am an extremely resilient person and have been my entire life but even those who continuously pick themselves up can suddenly feel weighted down by life’s twists and turns.
I was having a very difficult time recognizing who I was in almost every area of my life with the exception of one. The one thing I still recognized and treasured was my greatest connection in the world and that was to animals.
I had two other rescue dogs at the time, before Finn arrived and one of them still lives with me today. His name is Petey, and I adore him. He is my senior rescue dog from death row, resilient and able to bounce back from a horrible life in a domestic violence home. He is my champion and Finn’s big rescue brother.
I also have many beautiful, amazing rescue cats who I could write endless stories of their love (and have, Wu Kitty is featured in the anthology “Rescued Volume 2: The Healing Stories of 12 Cats Through Their Eyes, 2017). The assistance they’ve all provided to me emotionally and spiritually throughout our years together is something I am forever grateful for.
I adopted Finn on 6-30-2012. He was 10 months old and was rescued off the streets of Camden, SC. You see Finnegan arrived when I was still in the acceptance phase of my illness and coming to terms with the fact that I was now considered permanently disabled. I had only had a permanent ileostomy for 9 months and I had just finished what would be my last month of teaching.
My heart ached and I was struggling. When I went to pick up Finnegan he was racing around with all these other dogs, his hair was a mess and his smile was a mile long. He ran over lifted his leg and peed on me. I remember thinking this is my dog and he’s letting it be known from this moment on that I am his human. He and I have been smiling together ever since.
Finnegan didn’t care that I was bald or had no eyelashes or eyebrows. He didn’t know me any other way. He didn’t care that I had an organ that was outside my body or that I had to modify my surroundings at times. He knew that who I was, was not what I did for a living. He would help teach me that I was always going to be an educator, just in a different type of classroom.
Finn would kiss my head and lick the tears from my eyes when I would hide it from the rest of the world. He would make me laugh when laughter was hard to find. He would hug me when I didn’t even know I needed a hug. We would run together in the backyard and he would help me prove to myself that having an ileostomy didn’t mean I was limited in any way.
When my 11 year relationship ended in October 2016 he would be the one who would help me leave the wake of my life behind and move forward with him, Petey and the cats. He walked the beach with me, packed my belongings, sat in the rain, cried on the floor of an empty house and then lifted me up as the months moved on and made me see just how more beautiful and loving our life had become.
Today he rides shot gun in his doggie seat complete with his harness and seatbelt on all my errands, appointments with clients and outings. He accompanies me to the hair salon to trim my hair and celebrate the regrowth (yes, we’re proving to the docs that hope and believing in yourself CAN change statistics). He rode on a float with me in Boston this summer to support feral cats, he attends speaking events that I’m part of, birthday parties for friends and family, book events and more.
He sleeps with me every night, we sing, dance, laugh and play all through the day, he still dries my tears and he fills my heart with LOVE and gratitude.
My new Irish translation for the name Finnegan is pure LOVE. Love without judgement, without expectation, and without limits. Animals have always been the ones who have left the greatest impact on my heart and this little fella has become my heart. Since June of 2012 Finnegan and I have never been apart more than 6 to 8 hours with the exception of one trip where I was gone for 4 days. We are always together. We want it that way. It’s a running joke with friends and family, that if Finny can’t go, I most likely won’t be there either.
He is my business sidekick, my confidant, my healing mascot and my best friend. I believe we needed each other in a way that only we understand. We have a special love and one that needs no words, just a huge smile.
Kimberly Fleck is the owner of Brand Fearless, a social media business in New Britain, CT., that focuses on social media for social good. Finnegan is her fearLESS sidekick. She is originally from Cape Cod, MA. She holds a master’s degree in special education with 15 years teaching experience, and a bachelor’s of fine arts in art education, broad- based studies, with minors in history and women studies. She’s a social media strategist, creative content producer, storyteller, educator, digital photographer, animal advocate, wellness activist, artist, author, speaker, foodie and political junkie. Follow her on all her social channels at brandfearless.com
#BeWell #DoGood #fearLESS
Thank you Kimberly for your awesomeness! You aren’t just a survivor, you are a thriver! And I am in love with Finnegan! What a gentle soul who loves unconditionally. The world has much to learn from this LOVE story and I am honored to have it grace the pages of Yankee Doodle Paddy. I also want to thank you for your support of this Month of LOVE series. I can see how you have left positive comments and retweets supporting your fellow guest bloggers and that is amazing!
Pure Fur LOVE,
P.S. Kimberly and I met through Snapchat and she hosts this really cool hashtag day called Just B Tuesday. It coincides with her brand motto #BeWell #DoGood #FearLess. Each Tuesday every person who submits a snap to her showing how one is being well, doing good or fearing less, they will be entered to win a prize at the end of the month! It is the first Tuesday of February so I am all over it and going to enter! Come join me! Kimberly’s snapchat username is @feral20