Winning Awards. Getting Published. And yet…

Muse Medallion

Muse Medallion

On Saturday night, I won a major award. (Bonus points for anyone who gets the movie reference.)

I was honored with a Muse Medallion from the Cat Writers’ Association for my poem “Cat Dreams” that appeared in Cat Talk, the official magazine of the Cat Fanciers’ Association

This is the poem that won the Muse Medallion for poetry, featured in Cat Talk magazine.

This is the poem that won the Muse Medallion for poetry, featured in Cat Talk magazine.

But wait! There’s more.

In February of this year, I received a Maxwell Medallion from the Dog Writers Association of America at their annual banquet for an essay about my dog Pasha, entitled “What’s Wrong WIth Your Dog” that was included in the book Second-Chance Dogs: True Stories of the Dogs We Rescue and the Dogs Who Rescue Us by Callie Smith Grant.

Halley came with me to the DWAA awards ceremony. Note where her nose is pointing on the program.

Halley came with me to the DWAA awards ceremony. Note where her nose is pointing on the program.

I received another Maxwell (OMG, yes, two in one night!) for my poem Haiku by Dog: Yearning, which featured a photo of Tucker looking sadly out our front door. 

Halley posing with my two Maxwells.

Halley posing with my two Maxwells.

And more:

In July, one of my stories (about Tucker and Calvin) was included in an official Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology, The Magic of Cats. It has always been a dream of mine to be a Chicken Soup writer.

The story of Calvin and Tucker's special relationship, "Calvin's Best Friend," is on page 126.

The story of Calvin and Tucker’s special relationship, “Calvin’s Best Friend,” is on page 126.


I have essays in two upcoming books.

I have essays in two upcoming books.

Which is why it’s just about perfect that yet another essay (about how Tucker came to live with us) is in the chapter on love come true in a second Chicken Soup for the Soul book, Listen to Your Dreams, which goes on sale today.

Still not done:

Two of my stories are included in an additional  book by Callie Smith Grant that’s due out in September, this time about our feline friends, entitled Second-Chance Cats.

And of course, there’s Halley. Sweet. Silly. Brilliant Halley. Obsessed. Yappy. Too-smart-for-her-own-good Halley. Our new lab / Border Collie / terrier puppy who exemplifies both the best and the worst personality traits of her heritage. Sometimes simultaneously. 

Awards. Stories published. Dreams achieved. The adoption of a puppy.

I should be celebrating. For heck’s sake (this is a family friendly blog), I should be posting about these successes.

But I haven’t. I’ve been quiet online. Almost complete radio silence since Tucker’s death. Only two blog posts and sporadic social media in more than a year. 

I am truly thrilled about my awards. The books. The new addition to our family. 

But I didn’t write about any of it here (other than two stories about Halley.)

Because I just couldn’t. I. Just. Could. Not.

We’ve all loved and lost. And I know you never get over a loss; you just learn how to live with it. 

The hard parts are the milestones. The first fill-in-the-blank without your loved one. The first walk with only two dogs. The first fall with nobody to chase a ball through the leaves. The first snow without Tucker charging through it. But those events are kind of predictable; I could mostly prepare for them.

What’s worse are the moments that blindsided me with an expected punch of grief that left me breathless, that turned me into a puddle on the floor, wanting so desperately what the universe has told me I cannot have. The squeaky ball discovered, forgotten in a corner. The first time I called the names of three dogs by habit. The email from the company that I bought special food from for Tucker when he got sick, reminding me about the upcoming order that I now had to cancel. 

I knew to expect all of those things. I’ve lost pets before. And people. I learned to navigate a life that didn’t include them. 

But to open up my computer and confront my blog. That. Was. So. Painful. 

Tucker is everywhere. He’s on page after page, text after text, haiku after haiku. He’s in my photo archive, my history, my data. He’s in my drafts—all the posts with him in it that didn’t go live because we ran out of time.  

I could navigate my home, my neighborhood, my physical space where the Tucker-shaped hole exists. But Tucker is woven through my blog like he is woven through my heart. There is no route through my online existence that doesn’t take me through a minefield of memories. That doesn’t require painful decisions, like whether I post the stories and poems that feature him, or leave them as literal ghosts in my machine. That doesn’t require changes to a place that is in some ways frozen in a moment, like leaving a room just the way it was when someone was still with us, because to make any changes is to move on.

And I’m not sure if my funny bone, severely injured when I lost Tucker, has healed enough for me to be humorous again, writing amusing haiku, or silly texts. 

Writing has always been my therapy, my medicine, my antidote against Agnes, my depression. But I couldn’t swallow this bitter pill; it was too big, too overpowering, too much looking straight at my loss screaming at me from my computer. Too much facing it. Too much living with it. 

Too much being forced to accept it.

The thing I miss most about Tucker is his joy. Jasper and Lilah—and even little Halley now—are happy dogs. They enjoy their lives. They’re sweet and playful and amusing. But Tucker was the most joyful creature I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. I never tired of throwing his ball, because the joy he took in the game was so contagious, so infectious (if you’ll excuse the untimely word choice) that it fed my soul. I thrived on it. I craved it. I miss it so damn much.

But I’ve also heard from fans that my writing brought them joy. That the tales and poems and comical musings of my dogs and cats made them smile, or giggle or outright LOL.

It’s been just over a year since Tucker died. And I think it’s time for me to take a deep breath, and to come back. To start writing here again. To bring joy to others, maybe not quite as intensely as Tucker did for me, but to settle for a snicker or a grin. Maybe even to find some solace in my memories of him, in a place rife with his presence.

I’m back. At least I hope so. I hope you’ll accompany me on this journey. I hope you’ll understand when I stumble or hide or stall. I hope I’ll heal along the way. And I really hope I can spread some joy.



22 Comments on "Winning Awards. Getting Published. And yet…"

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  1. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    It’s GREAT to see you back Susan; I’ve bookmarked your website, checked every day for a new post; well there’s the whole not on Caturday or Sunday thing still, and have wondered …..but understood as well, and thought maybe baby NAZGUL got the best of the whole family !!!

    I am MORE than happy for you; these achievements are the “cats meow” and I congratulate you on each and every one. AND….AND…they PROVE that agnes bee itch has not, and never will win the battle.

    I’ve always enjoyed your blog posts regardless if they were written from the cat’s POV or the dog’s, and I look forward to reading them again 🙂

    And while I can’t know the absolute hurt you feel about tucker, I UNDERSTAND the hurt you feel about tucker; but the one thing I want to point out is, that his presence was so much larger than life; that’s WHY you see him in virtually everything, and he will REMAIN with you always, until you do in fact see him again.

    It’s an honor TO him, to keep his memory alive in posts, photos, stories, and he’s always going to be in your heart….no one and nothing can ever take that away. ever.

    I hope this finds you all happy, healthy and safe and as da tabbies say, congra ratz on theeze awardz & stuff…..that total lee rox 🙂 ♥♥♥

    • Well there you did it. You went ahead and made me cry. But a good cry nonetheless. You’re right, of course. I really have to live with Tucker being everywhere. It’s hard, but I will keep trying. And crying probably. Thanks for being a loyal supporter and friend.

  2. Ellen Pilch says:

    Congrats on the well deserved awards!

  3. Patty Markiewicz says:

    You explained it beautifully. How Tucker was/is woven in the blog and everything you do. I had a Brut that was like that. I still struggle being able to write 5 years later after his death. I found I couldn’t write like I used to and have found it difficult to change.

    I say this not to scare or deter you. It is just my experience. I have loved your writings and for me too, writing is therapy.

    I wish I knew just what to tell you to help you through, but it is a personal journey we must take. I wish you well and congratulations on the awards and being published.

    p.s. I too also struggle with depression so I can empathizes.

    • Thank you. I still struggle to write, but the blog is the hardest. I wrote the stories that were accepted into the Chicken Soup books in February. And that wasn’t that hard. But blogging and social media remains a challenge.

      Good luck to you as you deal with depression. It’s a nasty monster that is a challenge to wrestle with. Those of us who struggle with it understand.

  4. Congrats on all your achievements. You should be proud. But I totally relate to how you feel. Since losing Wally I’ve been in a funk. And it doesn’t help that both Ernie and Zoey have serious health issues (both have lymphoma). Even though I’ve kept the blog going, it’s been a struggle and most of the stuff I post is all fluff. I just can’t get any motivation going. So I understand how you feel.

  5. catladymac says:

    Well. we’ve missed you. All of you.

  6. Brian Frum says:

    Big congrats from all of us, it’s so great to see your wonderful talent being recognized!

  7. meowmeowmans says:

    Congratulations! We’re so happy you’re being recognized for your amazing talent. And welcome back. As so many have commented above, you have been greatly missed.

  8. Well, you had a combination of a grand slam and a hat trick! If you’ve been that busy writing for publication, don’t worry, and many congratulations!

  9. Sandy says:

    Congratulations on your awards. They are well deserved.
    We all feel grief differently. I miss your writing and have wondered how Hally and the gang are doing – and you too. Take your time and be kind to yourself during these trying times.

    • Thank you. We’re all doing fine. Halley is still part of the family, though there were times when I wasn’t sure we’d be able to keep her. But she’s made great progress, and I hope to be writing about her and the rest of the gang soon.

  10. Zooperson says:

    De tabbies said it perfectly. You total lee rox! Well-earned recognition, but we knew it all along. Glad the rest of them finally caught up. We have missed you and happy to see you in the queue again. Tucker was just the best so there will forever be a spot that only he can fill. Weren’t you so lucky to have had him on loan. We’re all the better for your having shared him and his pals with us. When you’re ready, we’re here.

    • Thank you. I have to say I am so amazed and humbled by the amount of support here. You’re right; Tucker was always “on loan.” I’m lucky I had him for 8 years. It’s never long enough.

  11. I wish I knew what to say. But I understand and I hope you know that. Ever since I finished Bear’s story – and then his health really went downhill – I’ve been struggling to hang onto my sense of humor. I suspect Bear is like Tucker – so full of life they almost write themselves! They are so full of love and happiness that we have plenty to share and some more after that! How do you continue to be funny when all of that is diminished or gone?! I think I’ve finally come to a way through – maybe step back from humor for a little bit and focus on a project or two that doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I have a ton of ideas for humor – but I can’t even begin to write them. It’s so weird – it’s not like traditional writer’s block. Anyway, I’m always here and I always care. I think of you so often and I never tell you that! Honestly, almost every day! Maybe I just made this up – but you are one of those people I feel so connected to that we could go months without any kind of contact – but at the end of the day, we’d still just get it even if we didn’t know the majority of the details of life during that time. I hope you ARE back – but I’ll wait however long it takes if you change your mind.

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