CalistaSo, last night, my little dachshund/chihuahua mix, Huckleberry, suddenly started acting kinda weird. Wobbling side to side, head bobbling, bum drooping, depressed and sleepy.

He was acting normal all day, yet this came on suddenly and the behaviour was really strange and different than anything we’d seen in him before.

As any dog lovin’ parents, Luke and I panicked and decided to bring him for an emergency vet visit.

The vet checked him out. Determined due to his symptoms that he must have gotten into something (perhaps chomped a discarded marijuana butt on our walk earlier; would not be far fetched in my part of the world) and would more than likely be just fine, which he was after an hour or two on return home.

The vet also mentioned that Huck seemed to have a very obvious heart murmur. He said that most of the time, it’s asymptomatic and doesn’t mean anything… but you never know. 

The Mysterious Heart Murmur

As we were paying for the visit, we talked a little more about the heart murmur. I casually mentioned to Luke, “Don’t you have a heart murmur?”.

“Well, an atopic heartbeat” he said.

The vet seemed a little surprised and concerned. I implored to Luke “The doctor who checked you when you were young said that it wasn’t really a problem, right?”.

I have always just accepted what that doctor said as I know woefully little about heart complications, and this all happened long before I ever met Luke. And well… so far, he’s still here.

Luke says directed towards the vet, “yeah…. but now you have me worried”.

The vet then relates that it’s definitely something to get formally checked and tested as it can indeed be very serious. “If my daughter is any testament to that”, as he solemnly points to a picture mounted on the wall.

We go to wall and there’s a picture of a lovely young woman standing in a field. Calista Fleming, 1991 – 2012, it said.

Woah. Heavy. Was not expecting that. Poor guy. He lost his 20 year old daughter, only last year. You could just feel by the way he talked, especially with the wounds being so fresh, that he was very saddened and bitter about the whole thing. Who wouldn’t be.

We talked further about the heart thing; he seemed relieved that Luke had had some kind of specific medical test that ruled out further complications, which must have been what killed his daughter. She had not been screened.

In fact, they still don’t know exactly what caused his young, seemingly healthy, athletic daughter to simply wake up one morning and die, with no such warning at all. But they suspect it was due to an undiagnosed cardiac syndrome.

Looking Further Into the Death of Calista

I can get very interested in people’s stories, so when I got home, I started searching around for more on the vet and his daughter, if there was anything available to read. I was interested to learn more about this young life that was stolen so suddenly. Who was she? What kind of person was she?

Well, I got more than I bargained for when I came across a public blog that the vet had set up, in which he poured pages and pages and pages of detailed writing about his grief at losing his only child, while honouring her and her memories. Sounds like she was a very talented young lady – a budding photographer – with a huge zest for life and many good friends.

I got sucked into reading a bunch of this. It’s hard not to. It’s incredibly addicting to be let in on such a private part of the life of someone you know of, but don’t really know at all. It’s like being told a whole bunch of secrets all at once.

Oh wow though… so. incredibly. sad. She was clearly the centre of his universe; the apple of his eye – which made reading this all the more tragic.

Yes, it was terribly heart wrenching to read, but also very motivating to be reminded once again that life is rather precious. It needs to be lived to the fullest. The trivial things need to fall away. Friends and family need to be fully appreciated, supported, and enjoyed, as they literally could be gone at any second.

Don’t let the fears get the best of you. If you aren’t happy with your life, change it. You might have less time to enjoy life than you think.

This is something I have always believed, and have often lived, but it’s all too easy to get sucked into getting down about the usual, trivial matters of day to day life (which I admit, I kind of have been lately).

19 Life Lessons

In one particular blog post, honouring his baby on the first Christmas since her passing, the vet posted a collection of pictures of Calista with some beautiful life lessons that embodied the way his long lost daughter lived.

They are simple but universal, and I’m sure the vet would be honoured if his daughter managed to inspire you to cherish and live your life just a little bit more fully (see the original blog post with the pictures here).

  1. Try to keep a smile on your face as you pass through life. If nothing else, it allows you to get away with a whole lot of hell raising.
  2. Stay balanced in your life: find a career that you have fun working at rather than a career that you work at so you can have fun.
  3. Travel. See this beautiful world. Don’t wait until it is easy or convenient. Just go. Go now when you are young enough and tough enough you can do it on the cheap. It won’t get easier as the chains of adulthood anchor you down.
  4. Create your own image, regardless of what society tells you you “should be”.
  5. And then recreate your image as often as you see fit. Never be limited by the views and opinions of others.
  6. Surround yourself with friends. No one ever died complaining of having too many friends.
  7. Have one great love. Have many great loves. Never stop falling in love. Try to stay in love always.
  8. Embrace Change. Embrace adventure. Just embrace life.
  9. Always really smile; everyone can spot the fake smile. Just remember that dogs think you are bearing your teeth.
  10. Get educated, but remember that there are all sorts of ways to learn. Sometimes you need to look outside the box to find the treasure.
  11. Smile? Hell, Laugh. Laugh loud, laugh long, laugh frequently.
  12. Make direct eye contact when you are making a sincere point. Just remember that dogs and some people take this as a challenge.
  13. Dress with your own sense of fashion and flair. If you feel good in your own clothes, then everything is good.
  14. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Jack Cowin tells us that if the work holds our attention longer than we are comfortable, then the art is good. Even if it is just graffiti.
  15. Take care of your body and be proud of it. Its the only one you get this time around.
  16. Stay focused and observant of the world around you. There is a huge difference between just seeing things and actually perceiving reality.
  17. Sometimes you need to just sit back and detach yourself from life, catch your breath and contemplate.
  18. And sometimes you need to just stop taking yourself so darn seriously.
  19. And sometimes you will just have to turn away and move on to other adventures. Say goodbye every time you leave your friends and family like you really mean it. Sometimes you will have to leave without a chance to say farewell.

You Don’t Have to Wait to Live

Remember the big picture and get out there and live. If you are suffering with acne – it is, of course, an upsetting and legitimate problem, but acne itself doesn’t actually stop you from living a full life. You can indeed do all the things you want to do even if you have acne. It is us who allows it to rule our existences by getting wrapped up in it and allowing it to define who we are, and what we are allowed to do.

Always remember that everyone in the world has suffering, pain, and insecurities. I came across another blog which was linked to from the vet’s – the blog was from a woman whose son drowned in a flood. She began the blog post in which she describes the tragedy by saying “Before that day, I thought my biggest problem was that I had gained ten pounds over the summer”.

I think a lot of us can relate to that, as without major tragedies striking us, it’s easy to get majorly wound up by things that, in the grand scheme of things, really don’t matter that much.

Thanks for reading Love Vitamins, love you guys.