Hello from the other side

Dear Beau,

I didn’t really like you much when you first came to live with us. You were annoying and disruptive to my peaceful existence. The house was all mine after Fred died. At times, it might have been a little lonely but I really didn’t mind. It isn’t easy growing old. I was 13 and a half when you arrived and my bones ached, my insides didn’t work right and I had to take pills with my food. One day, you’ll understand how it feels.

As obnoxious as you were, I have to admit that you brought me back to my days as a young pup. I guess it was fun romping at the beach with you and taking your chew toys. I give you credit, as much as I tried to intimidate you, you never gave up trying to make me your friend. Thank you for that.15 months

You’re looking good, kid. A solid 77 lbs, you’re probably full grown. I bet you’re finally neutered, too. Now that you’re all grown up, you need to know what’s expected of you:

  1. Bark at strangers. It’s your number one job. Heck, bark at everyone. It’s hard to know whose strange and who isn’t.
  2. Walk in front of Mom. You’re there to protect her no matter what she says.
  3. Always, always be the first one in the car so you don’t get left behind!
  4. Cuddle often. It’s the only reason Mom lets you on the big bed.
  5. When you have to go number 2, go off the trail so Mom doesn’t have to pick it up (even though she does anyway).
  6. Eat fast. Someone might take it from you.
  7. If Mom gets the watering hose, RUN!!
  8. Practice your “sad puppy” look. You’ll get more treats.
  9. Chew the furniture. You’ll get more toys.
  10. Give lots of hugs and kisses. Mom will give them back.

It took two of us, both Fred and I, to take care of Mom. It’s up to you now, kid. If you need some help, just look at our pictures on the mantle and we’ll help you figure out what to do.

Looking back, I guess it’s a good thing Mom got you when she did.

Love,
Ethel

 

 

 

Advertisements

Sweet Lonely Ethel

It’s been two months that Fred’s been gone. People asked me how Ethel would be as an “only dog”. I thought for sure she would relish the opportunity to have ALL the attention. After all, she LOVES being petted and won’t let you stop once you start.

Occasionally, I’ve brought her to work with me and my co-workers seem to enjoy having her around.  She doesn’t make trouble and stays in my office. I’m not sure she enjoys it though. When we go to leave, she can’t get out the door fast enough.

The past few years, I’ve asked neighbors and friends in similar situations how their surviving pet was after losing the other. I often heard that they didn’t want to have another dog brought into their home… the surviving dog didn’t want another dog. Ok, in both instances an animal psychic was involved.

So, I wondered, “Does Ethel want to be an only dog for a while? Or, is she lonely?”

We visited my parents for Easter and Ethel loved having us around all day. She especially loved the hike that was part mud and part snow. She even joined Coal and Jemma – her canine cousins – swimming in the cold stream running by.

Now that we’re home and she’s alone every day, I wonder if she misses having another dog around. Is she depressed? Is she lonely?

A week ago, she stopped eating and had little energy. I took her to the vet and for $185 I learned she had an upset stomach and got some pills that I had to bribe her to take. She’s better now but drinking a lot of water and having accidents in her bed.

Hey, Ethel…  How about a puppy?

From a friend

My dear friend Kathy recently lost her golden, Hercules. She shared this wonderful poem…

We have a secret, you and I, that no one else shall know, for who but I can see you lie each night in fire glow?

And who but I can reach my hand before we go to bed and feel the living warmth of you and touch your silken head?

And only I walk woodland paths and see ahead of me, your small form racing with the wind so young again, and free.

And only I can see you swim in every brook I pass and when I call, no one but I can see the bending grass.

And only I hold you in my heart, feeling you near, and keeping you with me always and forever, more.

(I added the last line) Thank you dear friend. We walk together feeling the sorrow of having loved and lost one of God’s beautiful creatures in a very special way.

Loss is Spiritual

In meditation, I look for the energy of Fred’s spirit, but it isn’t there, at least not in the way that I expect it to be. I expect to feel  him still beside me, heeling – or healing – at my ankle like he did in his physical form.

That’s what we do when we grieve. We try to hold onto something that gives us hope. The Rainbow Bridge poem is a perfect example. Written by an unknown author, it talks about a meadow where pets run free, waiting for their owners to join them before crossing over the Rainbow Bridge … to where? Heaven?

I don’t claim to be a theologian or even a very good Christian but isn’t the promise of going to heaven at the center of Christian belief? Don’t we strive to follow God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings so that we, too, can pass through the pearly gates? I believe in God’s grace and forgiveness. But, I’m not sure that it is only about an afterlife in heaven.  I believe that creation is bigger than just our world, that there is more than one right way to believe, that oneness transcends a single lifetime.

Last night my teacher, Michael Baugh, quoted Gangaji asking “When a body dies, is awareness any smaller?” Contemplating this, feeling into this, I concluded that awareness doesn’t change. It is still complete.

A day after Fred passed, Ethel and I were sitting on the couch watching our favorite show. On the bookshelf next to me, I had created an altar for Fred with his photo, paw print and fur clipping. There was a candle on the shelf that had been given to me for Christmas. I’d moved it over to be part of the memorial. As I stroked Ethel’s ears, her head in my lap, I started smelling that candle for the first time. It was a clean, fresh scent, like warm clothes straight from the dryer. At first, I didn’t know what the smell was. I smelled my sleeve. I buried my nose in Ethel’s neck. The odor was coming at us in powerful waves. Then, I looked at the photo of Fred. His eyes imploring me to understand. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m still here.”

Love Dogs ( a Rumi poem)063

One night a man was crying
Allah Allah His lips grew sweet with the praising

Until a cynic, said so!
I have heard you calling out
but have you ever gotten any response?

The man had no answer for that
He quit praying
and fell into a confused sleep

He dreamed he saw Hitter
The guide of souls
in a thick green foliage

“Why did you stop praising”

“Because I’ve never heard anything back”

This longing you express
is the return message

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union
your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup

Listen to the moan of a dog for it’s master
that whining is the connection

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of
Give you life
to be one of them.

Surprised by Grief

I slept well last night, waking only once. It has become a habit, getting up in the night to let Fred outside. When the alarm went off, I hit snooze and pulled the covers over my head. When I eventually rolled out of bed, the tears sprang from my eyes as from gravity, the pull of standing upright.

I knew today would be hard but I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be. I fully expected to go to work and bring Ethel with me so she wouldn’t be alone. When it became clear that just standing caused me to weep, I sent word that I wouldn’t be in and went back to bed.

Ethel and I have been sticking close together. I think I need her more than she needs me today. We have the essential oils going in the diffuser. Elevation today. Yesterday, Fred chose Citrus Bliss to send him on his way. Even Dr.Jason commented on the sweet, spicy sent. It created a soothing and calm environment for all of us.

I’ve received so many blessings and kind words of support from friends and family. Thank you to everyone who has been following my story and sending comfort to Ethel and me.

It is another beautiful day. Eventually, Ethel and I will get out for a walk. For now, we’re waiting for time to heal the pain of loss, the deep sorrow of letting go.

Here we go

Fred has stopped eating, except for a treat now and then. I think he knows that was the sign I needed to let go. He has no control of eliminations but it is mostly liquid now. Thank goodness for pee pads.

As I contemplated what to do, a friend suggested I talk with Fred about it. It is so simple. Talk to Fred. So, we talked. Ethel and I talked, too. After all, we’re in this together. That’s when Fred stopped eating. He still sleeps peacefully most of the time but he is wasting away, so skinny.

I called Doctor Jason from Lap of Love. He is amazingly understanding and compassionate as I deliberate over when to help Fred pass. What else would one expect from hospice, a hospice for pets. How cool is that?

Music has kept me company the past couple weeks. As we move into this coming week, I want to share words from a song by Sara Bareilles that will be comforting me and giving me the courage to let go:

So, here we go, Bluebird. Gather your strength and rise up. Oh, let him go, Bluebird. Ready to fly, you and I. Here we go…

 

 

My Inspiration

Last year, I attended a special dinner with a local writer, Nancy Horan. She writes historical fiction and has received acclaim for Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky.  It was an intimate gathering at a bookstore in north Seattle and everyone had a great time asking Nancy how she started writing and how she found her material. She told the story of a writing class she took. The teacher was tough, not fully complimentary of her work but she encouraged her to keep looking for the right material. When Nancy learned about Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah (pronounced may-ma) Borthwick Cheney, she knew she found her first story. It’s a wonderful book of historical fiction with a surprise ending.

Nancy was autographing my book that evening when she said to me, “You’re a writer. You just haven’t written anything yet.” Wow! I left that evening on cloud nine and feeling more inspired than ever. It’s been almost a year since the dinner. I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right time to begin. When things started happening with Fred, I couldn’t keep myself from writing about it. It gave me the reason to create my first blog.

The name of my blog, Living in a Bigger World, came out of wanting to explore life in a new way. The “status quo” life I had has been shaken up and tossed to the side. As a result, I’m learning to approach life’s challenges with greater acceptance. Resisting only feeds suffering.  In a way, it’s fitting that the end of Fred’s life, as my protector and loving companion, would bring me to the beginning of my first blog.

Please join me on a journey of discovery as I say goodbye to Fred in his physical state and learn to recognize the energy of him that lives on with me. We’ll learn together through spiritual exploration, the inspirational wisdom of elders and lessons from my remaining canine companion, the ever sweet, ever loving, Ethel M.

This will be fun…