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What is the Song in "Zelda's Song"?
There was a special place where Zelda, my Bernese Mountain Dog, and I could leave behind the constraints of our everyday life in Connecticut and set our spirits free, running like wild dogs through raucous surf, sandy shoulders of clear lakes, and hushed woods. Life as it was meant to be.
It involved a car ride of a couple of hours, and I usually needed to load up the SUV with this and that. Always on the look-out for signs of an impending road-trip, Zelda would lounge nearby with one eye open, waiting to peg the appropriate level of excitement. A trip to Stop & Shop? Meh.
Checking around for the last items, I would start to hum to myself…and transition to softly and nonchalantly singing a refrain from “Two of Us “ by the Beatles - a song that described our lives together…
“We’re on our way home, we’re on our way home, we’re going home”.
Zelda would EXPLODE with joy within the first couple of notes.
The exit from the highway always prompted a napping back-seat Zelda to pop up her head to assess our location and the need to rouse her sturdy frame into a sit. Maybe it was the quality of the light, the hint of ocean breezes or the melody coming from me that would tip her off. For sure, it was when we pulled into the line with other cars - many bursting with other excited, happy dogs, snouts out the windows - that she knew we were about to take the ferry to Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard.
The dog rules on the Vineyard are very loose - and that’s why she loved being there. Mornings began with a plain bagel with cream cheese at the bagel shop. And then the seemingly unlimited walks and swims - at all times of the year. Perhaps a trip into town, where the tourists would line up to take her picture or fuss over her. And always, at the end of the day, she would lay her head down next to my bed, wet, well-fed and exhausted.
After I lost her at the age of 6 from malignant histiocytosis – a breed-related cancer - I would carry the burden of my broken heart over the same paths we traveled together, imagining her presence with me. I wanted to believe she had just run ahead of me, like she used to, in pursuit of some alluring scent that I couldn’t detect. Or maybe she was lolling around in the pond, her white paws visible near the surface of the water as her powerful Berner chest methodically pumped her arms, propelling her large frame forward ever so gracefully, while watching the gulls overhead. But no.
Sometimes I would stop on my walks and look over the land that we both shared and loved. I thought about our song....but this time, it was a very different part of Zelda's Song that resonated:
“You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead.”
Traveling the Road Ahead, Alone
“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.” - Ann Roiphe
Searching for a way to mend my heart, I found comfort by keeping her photo and tags with me all the time. In fact, it got sort of obsessive. I almost missed a flight because I had forgotten to transfer her photo and tag when I switched purses and I had to return home to get them. Not that I’m superstitious, but….
Suddenly, the idea struck me.
What if I could wear her photo – to keep it with me and accessible all the time? I had no idea at the time that photo jewelry even existed. So I sat down and started googling “photos in jewelry”, “combine picture with bracelet” and the like. I was amazed to discover that photo jewelry was an established craft – mostly home based – but could be adapted to larger-scale production.
Pencil and tissue before me, I started to draw the first designs – all featuring a photo as the centerpiece. As they came to life, I saw that I wanted to add more to describe Zelda’s special Berner spirit. How she loved sticks. How she loved belly rubs. How I loved being her dog mom.
So, along with the Leather Cuff Photo Bracelet design, I created a library of charms depicting the everyday objects of a dog’s life: hydrants, bones, sticks, squirrels and symbols describing dog personalities: guard, retriever, mutt, lap dog, hound-dog. I included charms with expressions like dog mom, heart dog, belly rub – expressions meaningful to other dog moms.
How great would it be to mix and match these charms with photos to tell the unique story of one – or several – beloved pets?
As I refined my designs, I daydreamed about how I would wear my bracelets as I walked with Zelda around town, patiently answering the questions about her from the tourists who had never seen a Berner before. Zelda was a very large, beautiful and well-behaved girl, and I was proud to be her mom.
When my daydream wisped away, I often found myself holding Zelda's special Swiss-made Bernese Mountain Dog collar, wishing she was still here to wear it. It's the traditional holiday collar that she, like all Berners around the world, would wear on special occasions and during parades. I was so proud of her then, too...
....and I thought...if she was still here, I'd make her a special collar to match my bracelets...just so people KNEW we were a pair...
And that was the beginning of the Zelda's Song dog collars, designed to match the leather and the charms of the Zelda's Song Photo Bracelets. Day by day, week by week, month by month, these designs seemed to take on a life of their own - and eventually they pleaded with me to make them a reality.
At that moment, I realized that the memories of the joy shared with Zelda had quietly crept into my heart to replace the sadness of her loss. And I knew my designs would help other pet parents to "Fetch Joy! Retrieve the Memory".
Made with Love in the US
I didn’t know exactly how I was going to bring these designs to life. All I knew is that the love and inspiration we share with our dogs and pets is FUR-EVER! We are proud to show that our dogs and other pets hold a special place in our lives and our hearts – equal to, or sometimes greater than some of the other humans we know!
So when it came time to create an emblem of this love – an emblem that could we worn proudly – it was clear that the quality had to be top-shelf. And that led me to Providence, RI, the city that introduced the craft of fine, handmade jewelry to America centuries ago. Check out our video on the home page to meet our designer, Sylvia, who meticulously hand-crafts all of our orders, or our page Made with Love in the US.
Equally as fine is the detail and handcrafting of our leather, manufactured in Auburn, NY by people who have been creating quality dog collars for 60 years!
Most of all, we are all pet lovers and pet owners, and are dedicated to creating the finest, highest quality, durable piece – meant to be cherished for years to come. We don't hide behind a website, and want to be sure that you receive the keepsake that honors your life with your pet.
Afterall, we’d want that for ourselves.
What We Stand For...
In Zelda’s memory I support the efforts of Berner-Garde, the 501(3)(c) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health of Bernese Mountain Dogs. Berner-Garde maintains a database of Bernese Mountain Dogs in the US and Canada - entries are voluntary, but most breeders and owners participate by enlisting their pups.
This database facilitates the research and tracking of genetically-transmitted health issues and diseases within the breed. Moreover the organization, along with the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, funds research into the causes of the serious diseases which plague the breed - including specific types of cancers.
However, just as important are the grass-roots efforts of every local animal shelter volunteer who selflessly and tirelessly dedicates time, effort and love into working for a better future for the homeless pets in their care. These volunteers are dedicated to the notion that homelessness is temporary - no matter how long it takes to change!
We recognize and support these efforts the best way we can - with product donations for silent auctions, or to support other initiatives.
Check out Fetch the Cure to find out more about how we support Berner-Garde and local pet rescue organizations.
As many of you can understand, it took quite a while to work through the loss of Zelda. So many people told me that my next dog would find me…and sure enough, it’s true.
Skimming the posts in the Berner community Yahoo group, a rescue listing caught my eye. An adult female, with some minor eye problems, in Ohio (a very long drive).
There was just something about her smile…
So Heidi came to live with us. She is my first rescue Berner, and I am learning the true meaning of “Who Rescued Who”? Sadly, I lost her in 2018 after a 3 year battle with lung cancer. Heidi was a special, humble little spirit of a Berner girl and i miss her to this day.
Stay in Touch with Zelda's Song!
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You can always reach me at Sharon@ZeldasSong.com.