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Aside from the fictionalized tale illustrated in the children's book I created,
this page consists of the true story and my accolades that followed Monkey's return home.
this page consists of the true story and my accolades that followed Monkey's return home.
Let me start with this: it's a beautiful and wondrous thing, but Hope-- real Hope, truly Hoping beyond all reason-- is absolutely draining. And yet, knowing this, with every move Nicole and I have made, we labeled wherever we have decided to lay roots under the veil of Hope. We started at Hope Court in Flemington, NJ, got married in Hope, NJ, moved to Massachusetts and named our first home Hopedale Corner, and just recently returned to Jersey where we both grew up and named our new estate Hope Haven. And for good reason: Hope is essential. But, as I said: in it's truest form, Hope is exhausting.
Here's how I know...
On Thursday, 02 September 21, my little gray cat, Monkey, slipped out of our new house... and was lost to us. No one saw him leave. No one had seen him since. Day one, I was distraught (to say the least). The following days were no less heartbreaking. In the 22 days since losing my cat, I lost sleep, I occasionally lost my mind, and I lost roughly 15 pounds. I was unwell, mostly self-inflicted, but I could not control my feelings to counter my distress.
In the first few days, I searched our land frantically; I traversed our mountain property constantly and at all hours of the day & night. I introduced myself to new neighbors (under duress, unfortunately) and impressed upon strangers to keep an eye out. I disbursed flyers and hung posters all over our town. I hired dog trackers, remote reiki healers and spiritual helpers. I flooded the internet and social media with my loss. Monkey quickly became a local celebrity; everyone knew him before they even met me or my wife.
The town mobilized. Neighboring towns went on alert. Our entire county was familiar with our family. And all without ever laying eyes on our little kitty's physical form. Early on, I learned that regardless of what happened in this ordeal, we at least moved to a very caring community. For that alone, I was glad. But in those three (plus) weeks, I was not myself. I hardly slept. Or ate. I was more active, physically, than ever before and the toll on my body was rough. (To be brutally honest, I have never worked harder for anything in my life.) Emotionally, I was angry, sad, frustrated, embarrassed, scared, and more. And not just for me, but for Monkey. I kept most of it inside, but the emotions eventually bottle-necked in my heart, my mind, and my body, and on occasion, the levee (so to speak) would break. My health suffered, my mental state was a wreck, and my family had to deal with the mess of a husband and father before them. I was as out of control to them as the situation was to me.
The posters and other media alerts resulted in a few sighting calls. Nothing panned out. Time helped, but the pain lingered. After three weeks, I finally relented a bit to the reality of the situation, as evidenced by the silent change in my Facebook profile and cover pics to darkness.
But then... light.
In a last ditch effort, I hiked to the cell tower at the top of the mountain we live on to place yet another food trap and camera there. By the time I arrived at the compound, I was winded. So rather than carry all my gear around, I set it down and decided to walk around the gated area to find a suitable place for the trap. I made it to the rear of the compound when I noticed a small gray tuft of fur huddled on a concrete slab next to the air conditioner unit. I ran over and whispered Monkey's name. His eyes turned to meet mine and with his silent meow, Monkey whispered back.
I found him!
I called to him relentlessly, but he would do no more than look at me and talk back. I called my wife, who was working remotely, and told her my news and that I needed her help. She responded immediately. During that time, I grew restless in my excitement and I took it upon myself to act. Admittedly, I ripped the chain link fence from the nearby post and wriggled my way underneath. I was muddied, my shirt was ripped, and my back was cut... but I got to Monkey.
We waited in the gated compound together-- Monkey draped in my arms-- until my wife arrived to assist us. I passed his fragile body to her through the gate posts and made my way under the fence and back to where they were. We loaded him into the trap I carried up the mountain and we
immediately called for help upon arriving home.
Monkey was transported to a relatively local vet hospital and under their strictest care. He was severely, though not surprisingly, dehydrated and malnourished. He had a bite mark on his rear leg that was swollen and fractured; he had a limp. He was thin and terribly weak. Surgery was suggested but before the procedure could be scheduled Monkey’s health improved drastically and his little body began to heal so well that the surgery was no longer necessary. Monkey finally returned home to us a week later, quarantined until back to full health. Today, Monkey is back to his old self once again.
I would never have been able to get through any of this without the help of family and friends, both new and old. You all know who you are. Additional thanks to those who followed the tale on Facebook and in our town and the communities near where we live-- our new and happiest of homes! Our sincerest appreciation goes out to all of you once more for everything you have done for me, for my family, and especially for Monkey to help bring him back.
Monkey is home and we are all eternally grateful!
My Original Accolades as Posted on Facebook:
I would never have been able to get through any of this without the help of family: RaeAnn and Jeffrey, Linda, Coleen, William, Jane, Jason & Greg, Tara, Lauren, and Lynn. And friends, new and old. In no particular order: Bonnie Wagner-Westbrook, Vito & Heather Bet and family, Nikki Naylor and her husband, Keith, our neighbors, Harold, Vernon & Bob, Mary, Charles, Jeanne and Jameson, and Mike and Michelle [redacted], Russ, Ross, and Kevin on [redacted], Brian on [redacted], Tina Pope and Laurie Stone, Carmen Brothers and Linda with their dogs Magic, Trix (sp?), and Lily, their friend Lisa, Marie Ganz and Karin Anne Nikischer, and, of course, all the people following the tale on Facebook and in the communities of [redacted]-- our new and happiest of homes!
Thank you all for everything you have done for me, for my family, and especially for Monkey to help bring him home. We could not have done this without all of you and I am eternally grateful to you all!
For now, Monkey is safe at the hospital and we, his family, are celebrating early, eager for his return tomorrow. We can all rest well tonight-- the first time in 22 days!
From all of us at Hope Haven, thanks again to you all. And thank you for welcoming our little family to your neck of the woods.
Bill, Nicole, and Everleigh
Kittles, Cuddles, Nellie,... and (thankfully) Monkey
PS.) If you see one of our 'Lost Cat' signs for Monkey still posted on the road... rip that sh*t down for us! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!
I Followed Up with Facebook Posts Providing More In-Depth
Information Regarding Those Who Helped Bring Monkey Home:
Now that Monkey has returned and the entire household is in recuperation mode, I thought I might take the down time to highlight specific aspects of his escape & rescue as well as the individuals involved along the way. As long as my post was in telling the story, it hardly included every single detail and while I will refrain from outlining a full encyclopedic re-telling of the event, I want to at least take the opportunity to pour additional accolades on those most deserving. In no particular order, this post (and a few upcoming posts) will be in honor of the people that helped me in bringing Monkey home.
That said, I'm going to begin at the end. Let's face it: it's the most exciting-- and honestly most intriguing.
On Friday, 24 Sep 21, I took a turn for the worst. It was the start of week four of Monkey's disappearance and I was particularly depressed that morning. To be honest, I think the reality of the situation was starting to sink in and that really hit me hard. I mean, any indoor cat lost in the woods for more than three weeks is at a disadvantage, to say the least, but a half blind kitty with no front claws and no teeth...? (Without saying any more, you can obviously see where I'm going with this.) My mood was dark and it was palpable to those near me. Still, I went about as I had for the past twenty-plus days: somber, but hopeful. And ever vigilant.
During the last of those three weeks I had been working with two remarkable women: Karin Anne Nikischer and Marie Ganz (who had been referred to me by fellow Milford resident Tina Pope).
** Now, I apologize in advance if I get any details incorrect regarding these two individuals and what they are capable of. If (and likely when) I do make an error, it is due to my lack of knowledge on the subject as opposed to any disrespect.**
Both of these women are Reiki and Energy healers. Additionally, Karin is a dowser and Marie can communicate with animals. Both of these women are spiritual, work remotely, and are extremely gifted, as evidenced by their contribution to Monkey's return. As I would likely get the specifics wrong in detailing exactly what they do, I will outline the basics of what they did for me and my cat.
First, they confirmed that Monkey was alive. No one actually saw Monkey leave the house. Likewise, there were no sightings of him since. At all. So, just this seemingly small detail was integral to my well being. He was out there, he was alive, and he still needed my help.
Though they were in contact with Monkey, neither could simply send him home-- the process is just not that simple. However, they used their abilities concurrently, Marie communicating with my cat and Karin dowsing the area she sensed him in to provide maps for me to search. All the while, these two ladies were healing him, aligning his chakras, and manipulating his colors to bring him strength and confidence to get him moving in the right direction-- to get Monkey home.
As they did these things for Monkey, they sent me updates via Messenger. Marie would tell me what Monkey communicated to her-- a fence he passed through, a deck he hid under, other animals he stayed near-- and confirmed some of those sightings in pictures I took of nearby, similarly-described items he detailed to her. Karin would send me maps and coordinates of the areas in which she felt Monkey. They further informed me of when to make my moves in addition to where-- and let me tell you, it was just as hard to stay home and stay put as it was to go out searching the terrain! But for a full week, I did exactly as they suggested: hiking, searching, setting cameras, scent trails, and food stations. I did it all. And all the while, (at least according to the maps) as they days progressed, it looked like Monkey was creeping closer to home.
Then, on the morning of the 24th, Karin sent me the daily maps (pictured below). They showed Monkey in the general vicinity of the cell tower at the top of the mountain. Having just returned home from gathering safe traps from two other cat sightings nearby, I had the equipment to bring food and a trap to the tower, as her maps suggested. So, I hiked up the slope to the compound. Admittedly out of shape, I was winded when I got there. I put the gear down and decided to walk the gated perimeter to find the best location for the trap...
The rest is history.
Had I not followed Karin's map; had I just laid the trap and left; had I stayed home completely to wallow in the severe depression I awoke to that day... had I made literally any other decision that day other than how it actually played out, I would not have found Monkey. But I did.
And Karin and Marie helped me to do it.
I invite you to contact either and/or both of these extraordinary women to hear further details of Monkey's return home and their involvement in it. They can also give you more information on their remarkable abilities and how they've used them to bring other animals home. I know you'll be amazed. I was. I still am.
Thank you, ladies. Monkey, Miracle Kitty and I are very grateful to you both!
Again, now that Monkey has returned and the entire household is in recuperation mode, I thought I might take the down time to highlight specific aspects of his escape & rescue as well as the individuals involved along the way. As long as my post was in telling the story, it hardly included every single detail and while I will refrain from outlining a full encyclopedic re-telling of the event, I want to at least take the opportunity to pour additional accolades on those most deserving. In no particular order, this post (and a few upcoming posts) will be in honor of the people that helped me in bringing Monkey home.
This time, we jump back to the end of week one. Monkey had only been gone a few days before I alone could do anything more other than search my home, neighbors' properties, and the mountain & forest aimlessly. I was equally diligent in my online research as I was in executing those found results and in my studies I happened upon dog tracking. Following a website lead, I contacted the single tracker located in New Jersey but he was unable to assist me. Instead, he referred me to a dog tracker based out of Virginia who might be able to help. Though I thought she might be too far, I immediately dialed her number.
Despite the mileage between us, Carmen Brothers agreed to help me as soon as possible and at the tail end of week one since Monkey had disappeared, on Wednesday, 08 September 21, she and her team arrived. Assisting her was her partner from Professional Pet Trackers, Linda, and their team of three dogs: Magic, Trix (sp?), and Lily. They got right down to it! Quite literally...
Starting near the house, in the parking area of our driveway, all three dogs began by picking up Monkey's scent provided by our kitty's favorite toy, a tiny crinkle fish. Then, they were off! In succession, each dog caught Monkey's scent immediately and followed it all the way down, Down, DOWN our driveway to where it meets the road. This is significant for one main reason: our driveway is long-- exceedingly so-- with twists, turns, and the occasional steep incline; the driveway (though not officially measured) is easily about a quarter mile. For any cat venturing out for the first time, this would be a feat, since indoor-only cats usually prefer to stay relatively close to their home. However, as mentioned numerous times before, Monkey has some pretty serious handicaps: no front claws, no teeth, and partially blind... the only things Monkey is apparently NOT deficient in are his senses of curiosity and adventure!
Once at the main road, Monkey clipped a right and proceeded to follow the asphalt even further from home! Again, our kitty traveled pretty far, further than I had ventured out searching for him-- and I went FAR! To my dismay, one after the other, each dog on the team lost Monkey's scent along the road. (The map below shows each of the three dog's tracks in blue, purple, and yellow.) There could have been numerous reasons for why this happened (and, of course, my mind went to the worst possible outcomes) but rather than linger on the 'what ifs', Carmen suggested we move on and try to find the scent (or lack thereof) elsewhere.
We drove to two other locations nearby, mainly to confirm that Monkey had NOT been there. This was to narrow my search field. Luckily enough, those locales turned up as negatives (shown below on the map by the red Xs). But Monkey's scent WAS additionally discovered at the top of the mountain (at the cell tower where he was eventually found), along the easement leading to that compound, as well as at a farm on the opposite side of the mountain! Monkey certainly got around!!
Unfortunately, Monkey was not found that day. However, the work that Carmen, Linda, Magic, Trix, and Lily provided served its purpose: it bolstered my Hope.
Firstly, the dogs confirmed Monkey was outdoors-- essential, considering he was not even seen leaving the house. Secondly, the map they created offered a solid lead for me and limited my search. Finally, their assistance grounded me. On occasion, I was subject to uncontrollable manic episodes; I was scared, angry, sad, and more. At those moments, I reached out to Carmen (and her cat expert associate, known only to me as 'Lisa from Arkansas' - LOL!) and their advice eased my pain and guided my further determination.
Since then, we have obviously found Monkey. Their final contribution to this whole mess was Carmen's & Lisa's genuine joy at learning the news when I informed them. I encourage you to contact Carmen for further information on this and other successes her and her team have contributed to. Once again I say, I could not have done this without their help.
And once again I repeat, Monkey, Miracle Kitty and I are eternally grateful!
Once again, since Monkey has returned and the entire household is in recuperation mode, I thought I might take the down time to highlight specific aspects of his escape & rescue as well as the individuals involved along the way. In no particular order, this post (and a few upcoming posts) will be in honor of the people that helped me in bringing Monkey home.
Today, I'd like to focus on my neighbors. Again, in no particular order, I would like to reiterate my appreciation for those nearby who helped me in any and every possible way...
Tina followed Monkey's story from the beginning and helped in numerous ways. First, she assisted with flyer distribution and coordinated an effort within our community to have others join in and volunteer their time. Second, Tina referred me to Karin and Marie, the two spiritual healers who helped me locate Monkey. Without Karin and Marie I may never have found my cat; without Tina, I may never have found Karin and Marie.
Nikki Naylor (and her hubby, Keith):
While both members of this married duo went out of their way to offer any assistance in finding my cat, Nikki was undoubtedly invested to the max! Not only did she lay out food on her property offering the possibility of luring and catching Monkey on camera, but gave me daily morning updates on what she found on the recordings of nightly action. Additionally, Nikki not only checked in with me with her updates, but questioned me daily for progress reports on my end. Her involvement was beyond expectations from the start and incredibly kicked up a notch to 'outstanding' status on 24 September...
On the day I found Monkey, both the local vet closest to me as well as Monkey's primary vet were both closed. Already weary, yet on a complete adrenaline rush from finding my cat after three weeks, I didn't know where to turn for medical assistance. At that moment, I called my very caring neighbor and asked her advice. Even though she was at work, Nikki immediately sprung to action and called around for me, eventually finding Crown Veterinary Specialists and Emergency and securing their services for me over the phone. Stunning.
To this day, Nikki still checks in on Monkey.
Jeanne Black Fleming and her pup, Jameson:
Jeanne lives on a farm right down the street from me and messaged me one day to offer her services, that being her loyal pup and his powerful sniffer! Though I already had trackers out to the property weeks prior, I was elated to have another opportunity to have a dog try to find Monkey's scent again. Though he is not a trained tracker, Jameson quickly caught my cat's scent and followed the same path the trackers had before. Again, though Monkey was not found that day, I more than appreciate the offer Jeanne and Jameson followed through on, if, for no other reason, than she also invited us to her annual Halloween party! 👻 And now that we're in a position to celebrate, we can definitely RSVP in the affirmative!!
Laurie Stone and her family:
At the tail end of the first week since Monkey's disappearance, the dog trackers arrived. One of the places they trailed my cat was to a farm on the opposite side of the mountain I live on-- Laurie's farm. When I introduced myself (and the dog tracking team) to ask permission to search the area, Laurie was more than willing to comply. Moreover, after discovering Monkey had been there, she allowed me to follow up by placing trail cameras on property. On top of all that, Laurie always kept in touch with me and even helped out by joining Tina's volunteer group to distribute flyers. Though Monkey was never sighted on Laurie's farm, her openness, caring, and continued help were invaluable.
Though they might never see this post since I'm not yet friends with many of them on Facebook, other new friends were extremely helpful during this madness: my new neighbors (to my right) Harold & Sharon, Mary, Charles, and Mike & Michelle, (and to my left) Vernon and Bob, and (another) Nikki who owns the cow farm directly across the street from us.
One more shout-out for my neighbor appreciation post: Vito & Heather and their kids, [redacted]. They are not only our closest neighbors geographically, they are definitely our closest neighbors, period. The Bets were the first people we met upon moving to the area and it was under quite a bit of duress: Ida had just pushed through, knocking out trees and power to both our properties and the following day Monkey went missing. It was a difficult introduction considering the state I was in, but Vito was fast to respond, lending three trail cams, ATV rides, and search assistance at nearby properties. I have never met someone so quickly devoted to the plight of a newly introduced stranger and I doubt I ever will. In the short time we've known each other, I can honestly say I've met truly genuine and caring people. And for that-- more than any help they've already provided-- I am grateful.
Likewise, that goes for many people in [redacted], listed here or otherwise. Countless numbers of you have followed this story and even reached out with kind words of encouragement and support. My wife and I are extremely happy we moved into such a wonderfully caring community of people.
And Monkey, Miracle Kitty is, too!
PS.) The pictures included here are from the aforementioned trail cams Vito lent me, taken on our property the day we found our kitty! The first was when I set out to the cell tower at the top of the mountain. The second, my wife running up to assist me after I frantically called her. The third is my wife and me returning... WITH MONKEY!!! [Disregard the food trap and dirty laundry lure. 😜]
Once more, I thought I might take the down time to highlight specific aspects of Monkey's escape & rescue as well as the individuals involved along the way. In no particular order, this post (and a few upcoming posts) will be in honor of the people that helped me in bringing Monkey home.
Today's focus is on Bonnie Wagner-Westbrook.
I met Bonnie randomly and she immediately set me on the path to getting Monkey home quickly and safely by not only informing me of how to begin the process, but also going an extra step by creating the original 'LOST CAT' poster pictured [and amended] below. More than that, Bonnie took my frantic phone calls and always took the time to work through my questions, doubts, and ultimate frustrations. Though we had never even seen each other, her dedication was there and it certainly showed.
This is important for two reasons: One, Bonnie was already working a very stressful and time-consuming case trying to locate and catch another cat who had gotten loose... in an airport! Two, Bonnie works only as a volunteer!
And still, she made time for me and Monkey.
Through the entire time Monkey was away, Bonnie was there for us and we had never even met in person. And then, on the day I found my cat, I was referred to Crown Veterinary Specialists and Emergency and raced right over. On the way, I phoned multiple people and informed them of our miraculous reunion; Bonnie was on that list. When we spoke, I told Bonnie where we were headed and wouldn't you know it... Bonnie was actually there with a pet of her own! We met face to face (or should I say mask to mask?) that day and I was happy to finally meet the woman who helped me through some of the toughest times during Monkey's disappearance.
Later that week, as Monkey was laid up at the hospital, Bonnie dropped by to leave him a care package full of toys and treats. As soon as Monkey and I returned home, we cracked open the treats (to help fatten him back up) and whipped out the catnip toy cigar (to keep him contentedly dosed). 😻 The gift bag Bonnie left was full of fun stuff to keep my kitty spoiled for weeks to come-- yet another reason to praise this woman!
Thank you, Bonnie. Your assistance and dedication to finding Monkey, Miracle Kitty are very much appreciated. And he would agree but, thanks to you, he's sleeping off a nip-induced coma right now.
PS.) I encourage you to look up Bonnie [on Facebook] and read about some of the other animals she has successfully helped reunite with their owners. She is a truly dedicated and amazing woman!
Once again, I'm taking the down time to highlight specific aspects of Monkey's escape & rescue as well as the individuals involved along the way. In no particular order, this post (and a few upcoming posts) will be in honor of the people that helped me in bringing Monkey home. Today's focus is on Crown Veterinary Specialists and Emergency.
Let's zip to the tail end of Monkey's disappearance...
After more than three grueling weeks without my kitty, I finally found him! Taking refuge within the gated structure of the cell tower, Monkey was laid out on a concrete slab, right next to an air conditioning unit behind the main building. He was in rough shape: super skinny, a little more than disheveled, and extremely weak-- so much so that even when he did recognize and respond to me vocally, he could hardly muster the strength to move. I called out to him ceaselessly, beckoning him to come to me as I held up the chain link fence as high as I could to allow him passage, but to no avail. Monkey just laid there and meowed to me from the slab. When he finally did move (to readjust to a more comfortable position, I assume) I saw that he had an open wound on his rear left leg and he was limping.
That did it for me.
I could no longer be held back by the fence between us-- Monkey needed my help! Overwhelmed with excitement and pumped full of adrenaline, I grasped the base of the chain link fence and wrenched it upwards with all my strength! (I am not ashamed to admit to the obvious property damage that ensued-- Verizon will find me to financially atone sooner or later, I'm sure, but...) I popped the metal attachments securing the fence to the nearest pole enabling me to crawl beneath it. Still, it was difficult; I became muddied, my clothes were ripped, and I opened gashes on my shoulder and back from the twisted endings on the chain link... but I made my way under and got to Monkey!
I gingerly picked him up and cradled him. He was feather-light, even draping his full weight in my arms due to his weakness. He no longer meowed and hardly moved, but he did nuzzle his face into the crook of my elbow once and proceed to knead my shoulder a bit after that. Otherwise, he remained relatively motionless in my arms as we waited inside the gates for my wife to join us at the top of the mountain.
When she arrived (to save us both) and Monkey was secured, I frantically made phone calls. Unfortunately, both Monkey's primary vet as well as the one closest to our house were both closed that day. Inwardly, I panicked a little-- I was an amped-up, concerned parent and I didn't know where to turn. I finally called Nikki Naylor, who (from work, mind you) proceeded to assist by calling around the local area to find a medical facility for my kitty. A few moments later, as Monkey and I were already packed and waiting in the car, Nikki got back to us with the address for Crown Vet in Lebanon, NJ. Nikki had already notified them of the situation and let them know we were on the way. (We arrived in record time. 😹)
Now, as much as I can recall from the entire ordeal, I'm still a tad hazy on a few details. However, I believe it was Crown that initially dubbed Monkey (and/or his story) a miracle. Regardless, it is the staff at Crown who are truly miraculous! Not only did they attend to Monkey carefully and expediently, but they kept in constant contact with me all throughout his stay with them. Knowing of his newly attributed celebrity status to many locals, they also posted updates on their own social media pages! (Pictured below.) The doctors and attendants handled Monkey with knowledge, tenderness, and love. They gave him antibiotics, fluids, and other shots, nursed him back to full caloric intake, monitored his vitals, performed a full ophthalmologic exam, and even attended to his fractured leg and (open wound there) with such detail & aplomb that the scheduled surgery to remedy the area was no longer necessary. Astounding!
This post is a shout out to ALL the doctors, nurses, and attendants that provided care to my cat. They handled Monkey perfectly... and his distressed owner with equal attention. I, once again, thank you all. Without your assistance, Monkey, Miracle Kitty would not be recuperating as wonderfully as he is at present. Cheers to you, Crown Vet, and your amazingly talented and very caring staff!
Once more, I'm taking the down time to highlight specific aspects of Monkey's escape & rescue as well as the individuals involved along the way. This final post is in honor of those people dearest to me that helped along the way: my friends and family.
To Lynn, Jane, Lauren, Tara, Coleen, and William who all took my calls and talked me through the hard times during that grueling three week period: thank you. Yes, it was ALL a hard time but, believe it or not, some moments were heartachingly worse than others. When they came at times I was alone, talking to someone-- even if not on the terrible subject at hand-- pulled me through.
To Chris, Joseph, Mark, and Greg, who likewise kept in contact via text: your support was equally encouraging and very much appreciated. It is a strength I cherish to have gents such as you in my life to serve as a beacon for me in times of need. I thank you.
Further, to Jason: I am always grateful for you for many reasons but, in this case, for the singular treasure of providing brutal honesty. Always willing to lend an ear (and/or a shoulder when needed), Jason remains my stalwart source for exactly what needs to be said. I've placed my fair share of burden on him with numerous issues and even when his words may not be what I want to hear, they are always necessary. His logic and delivery are infallible and the advice is always effective. This is why I turn to him in times of greatest need... I am never let down.
To Jeffrey and RaeAnn, two of my closest friends (both literally and figuratively) who not only share their home but their hearts as well: you are the epitome of 'the family you choose'. For the food, the beer, the eternal willingness to help, the candy, the internet, Netflix, the laughs, Dingus & Pepper, the company, the questions & conversations, and even the silences: thank you.
I save the best for last: my wife, Nicole, because I truly put her through the ringer throughout this whole ordeal and she handled me like a champ. To be honest, I believe this was the most difficult challenge of our marriage so far. (That alone speaks volumes.) It was a rough few weeks, mainly due to my fluctuating emotions and constant absence. We were honestly not always at our best, but we persevered. Through our tears, our pain, our loss, and our struggle, what remained was our love and the reminder that it was unwavering. That anchored me, even when it seemed I was adrift.
As another writer put it, "if I had lost a human partner, there would have been the usual rituals, and being an emotional basket case would have seemed understandable." But Monkey's absence was an enigma; there were no answers, no concrete solutions, no verifiable ending. Moreover, "our culture treats the loss of a pet more like the loss of an automobile; when it wears out, you should just go buy another. What a lot of people don't understand is my pain was linked to losing a soul mate-- an irreplaceable treasured relationship." Above all, my wife recognized this in me. She understood my confusion, she felt my suffering, and even when she may not have known exactly how to navigate my erratic behavior, she simply reached out... and tried. For that, I am not only eternally grateful, but elated to have chosen her to share my life. (And lucky enough that she agreed to do so.)
To the countless others who reached out on social media-- new friends and old, too numerous to list-- you know who you are and I truly thank you all as well. I am fortunate to have you in my life and hope to see your bright, smiling faces in the very near future.
My love to you all!