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The day after I said goodbye to my spunky soulmate Finn, I needed to connect with him, so I went to the park, where he passed peacefully. In the spot where we ran into our beautiful neighbors John and Javier was a three by four foot perfectly shaped leaf-filled heart, in January, in Chicago. From that day on, I’ve felt Finn’s presence, joy, and strength every time I see a heart. 

When I rescued Gavin, I didn’t know that even though I cared for him and wanted to give him the life he deserved, I’d built walls, a moat, and a barbed wire fence around my broken heart. However, as my sweet Gavin helped me learn that loving him wasn’t a betrayal of my bond with Finn, my heart grew bigger, and I found a part of my soul I didn’t know I was missing. Around that same time, I noticed Gavin’s front two paw pads were heart-shaped. 

I haven’t traveled because my lived-to-love-and-be-loved boy’s needs grew each year, and I’ve been simultaneously building my business. So, in love, I booked myself a trip to Belize solo to do yoga, wander, eat, drink, and rest

I’d planned not to start meeting dogs until I returned, so when I began talking with the rescue weeks before my vacation, I knew it was the worst possible time to bring Mabel home. However, my heart was pulled to her, and among the many signs that Mabel was meant to be my girl was a heart-shaped mark on her neck.

On Mabel’s fifth day with me, the first day she laid on the sofa rather than following me around while I prepared her for daycare and me for my kitchen day, I thought, “There’s no way I can leave now. I have to cancel my trip.” 

So, I spent way too much energy that day researching options. I’ve never booked travel without knowing my dog was in good hands. The owner of the charming, authentic beachfront resort said I could postpone until June without penalties, which didn’t give me much wiggle room, but I was grateful for her kindness. And one of the airlines couldn’t even give me credit, so I continued thinking about who I trusted and who could watch Mabel while I was away. 

That night, I ran into my neighbor Jen, a compassionate soul who was sympathetic while she listened and hugged me after Gavin passed. Jen, too, had rescued a dog after having a vacation booked, and she said, with so much love, “You have to live your life.”

I considered Mabel’s sheer happiness at daycare, not desperate to see me, but bouncing from person to person in the lobby, another sign that I shouldn’t cancel my trip. So, when they texted late that night that a spot opened up for my trip, I knew Mabel would be just fine in my heart, and my Caribbean vacation was back on.

As I flew over the sea in the teeny tiny plane (a face-my-fears act), I thought about my heart and how much Gavin helped me find more love than I ever knew I had in me. And, as I embarked on my first-ever solo trip outside the country, I committed to living fully with a wide-open heart, to let love be my guide. 

The trip was everything I needed, and I had a couple of opportunities to test my new-found deeper connection to love with construction outside my window until 10 pm and a not-so-nice new owner who didn’t care about my concerns and a bonkers delay-kerfuffle-filled trip home.

But that’s life, right? It’s how we navigate the amazing, the blah, and the inconveniences that take up more mental space than we’d like. The more I connect to my heart, the easier it becomes to let go of the small stuff so that I feel good, no matter what. 

When I picked Mabel up, after not seeing her for a week, she was so happy to see me (yay, of course) but then turned back to the daycare attendant, glad to be where she was. That act meant everything to me. 

May we all listen to our hearts. They’ll always guide us in the right direction, towards love.

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