A Special Life

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Volunteering at the Orange County Animal shelter on Newland in Huntington Beach has been a highlight of my life. Getting to know the dogs and offering them a bit of relief from their time in the pens, and the moments we share enjoying each other’s company by way of petting and cuddling, is something that no amount of money can buy.

The area around the shelter has also given me another perspective about life in a way that has been a true revelation. As some of you may have noticed, there are quite a few homeless people living in the vicinity of Newland and PCH–often the people move on and I don’t see them again. At that point I wish them well in my mind and hope that wherever the path of life leads them they find peace and a good life.

annieIt had been my good fortune to meet someone very special a few years ago; she came to become a friend I looked forward to seeing and chatting with. Her name was Annie Bonelli and she enlarged my world in a way that even in my 70s caused me to look at things differently.

Annie had a very good heart. Her smile and kindness attracted people who would otherwise try to avoid making eye contact or having anything to do with a “homeless person.”

My first interaction with Annie was about three years ago while I was walking one of the little shelter pups down Newland Street. There was Annie, all of her belongings in a cart that she was wheeling towards PCH. Perched on top of the cart was a small animal crate and inside of the crate was a happy little pup that I learned was named Teke.

She looked at the little dog I was walking and gave me her beautiful smile while explaining how much she hoped all of the dogs at our shelter would find wonderful homes. She meant every word of that and the irony of her statement struck me right away. Here was a lady who had so little in the way of worldly goods but obviously was happy with what she had and also offered a loving home to her little blind dog, Teke.

My perspective grew after that encounter and I believe my basic premise, that it is not what we own but who we are and how we treat the world, is most important.

For those people who look at material possessions and pass judgment on the worth of a person, Annie would probably fall short of what her value was. How sad for them, because knowing her and seeing the world through her eyes has definitely given me another outlook.

She loved Teke and cared for him meticulously. I would see her offering him his food on a scrupulously clean plate and always had a ready smile and kind word for the other volunteers I worked with, in fact, anyone who took the time to see past the exterior she presented to the world.

She was happy with what this life offered her and obviously wasn’t impressed by people who had “more”—whatever that denotes. Perhaps what Annie left us is a good lesson in what life really is all about.

You see, we lost Annie on Valentine’s Day this year. She was hit by a vehicle while crossing Newland Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

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The rain subsided on the Sunday of Annie’s memorial and the air was fresh with a wonderful sea breeze as about 80 friends from every walk of life gathered to celebrate Annie.

She touched the hearts of many with her humanity, kindness, and humble attitude. 
She didn’t do what many refer to as “big things” but rather she did small things in a big way. 
She made us realize that no matter what our life circumstance is, we can still be kind. 


annies-memorial

God bless you Annie–you taught us all to be grateful for what we have.

You taught us that a smile and a kind word is worth ever so much more than a designer label or an expensive car.

You made the most of what you had and enjoyed the world around you.

You were a kind person, Annie, and a wonderful teacher.

We were reminded at the memorial that we all have hearts that beat regardless of our status in life. 
We all have the ability to feel joy and sadness, and Annie opened our eyes to the fact that we all share a need to feel connected, to reach out and smile at someone that we otherwise would not want to offer our smile.

Thank you, Annie. May you now be at peace and at home.

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Having lived these good many years, (71 to be exact), has given me the opportunity to reflect on what I value most. Family, good friends, and the precious pets that have shared my life  have enriched me as a person. I’ve evaluated what is most important to me and what lessons I’ve learned, and what I’ve determined is that I want to leave this world a better place for having lived here. It is one of my deepest desires to be able to help those who have no voice — because animals have always played an important role in my life. They were constant friends when the world around me was changing.  One, (a small parakeet named Petie), accompanied me when as a child my family moved across country twice, (New York to California and back again)-I can still see Petie in his small travel cage sitting on my lap as I explained to him where we were stopping for the night and feeling that his company as well as my dear parents were all I needed to feel safe and secure. My pets were with me in good times and bad, often being the consistent non-judgmental voice my heart needed. Although I spent my working years as a commercial artist, both teaching the craft at a local college and in my own studio, it seems that in my later years it is by painting with words that I am now able to reach out to people, and it is my joy to do just that. I hope my stories help to connect people to kindred souls that wear fur on their faces but are just as capable as we are to feel great love in their hearts.  Rescue animals particularly deserve another chance at a happy life and it is my honor to bring their stories to light and hopefully be the catalyst that joins two different species on their journey. The connection we share with our pets is like no other, There is no need to be anything other than who and what you are. No amount of money or privilege will impress them as much as your kindness and attention. I do know that in the final analysis, life is good and most people honestly want to do the right thing. If that includes opening their home and heart to another living being, then my purpose is accomplished. I hope in some small way I can contribute to that greater good. Bio- Born in Middle Village, New York- 1945 Mother to a wonderful son, Michael who truly would be a cherished friend even if we weren't related--and fortunate in meeting my kind and thoughtful soulmate, Burt, in later life- I am blessed indeed. Retired teacher/ Orange Coast College/ former owner and operator of a commercial art business in Huntington Beach, California.
 Lucky to have had the opportunity to work in the art field where I was often quoted as saying, "You mean I am being paid for something I love to do?!"

 Interests: travel, enjoying local points of interest, movies, volunteering at the Newland Animal Shelter and writing about the wonderful personalities I have been honored to meet there, both human and furry-faced, and generally enjoying the retired life.

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