We recently were faced with the tough decision many pet owners face in their lives: having a beloved pet put down. It was tougher than usual because she (Lotus) was still alert and at times energetic. But she just would not eat. She had been fasting off and on for a couple of weeks (probably close to a month) despite all of the various home cooked combinations and appetite stimulants we tried. Since she had become so thin and was eating just barely enough to stay alive we decided the time had come and that she was not going to make it much longer.
It was difficult on many levels, as many of you already know. But I learned something very valuable from it all. At one point, about a week before we actually had her put down, I was sitting with her on the couch petting her and crying as if it were her last night with us. It occurred to me as my tears fell on her that I was mourning a dog who had not died yet and that I was living in the future. It’s inevitable that we are all going to die and it could happen at any time. But we don’t spend our lives mourning about the death of a loved one, or our own death for that matter. This realization helped me come back to the present moment and just shower her with love, enjoying the fact that I was spending quality time with her Now.
After my first dog died as a young boy, I took it hard and a part of me closed up and became resistant to love for fear of the inevitable pain I might feel if the object of my love were taken away, by death or some other means. I didn’t really want to have dogs around because I knew I would likely out live them and have to go through the pain of losing them. But dogs have always been in my life, trying to teach me things I did not want to face. One of which was my fear of becoming too attached. This was a sort of protecting measure that kept me from loving as deeply as I could, and I think a part of that has stuck with me through out the years.
Around the time Lotus began her decline, a dear friend of mine entered my life and was reassuring me that it’s okay to love, reminding me that our true essence is love. But it was not solidified in me until the day we had Lotus put down. That day the lesson hit home: it’s okay to love. There may be grief when the physical form of the object of our love disappears, but their essence does not leave us. They remain a part of who we are. The grief we experience is yet another form of love, and though the grief passes, the love never does.
From my experience you can either allow the death of a loved one to harden your heart and make you bitter, or you can realize that death is inevitable. Life is short so don’t make your life miserable about something that hasn’t happened yet or happened in the past. Enjoy it while you have it. I take comfort in the idea that nothing real ever dies, it just changes forms.