Monday, April 21, 2008

It's okay to love

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.


n69n said...

i wanna read what you have to say about Lotus's personality!

Trey said...

Lotus was the cutest puppy. The pick of the litter. She was also the biggest. Eager to please and eager to play. She always wanted attention and tended to think she was the most deserving :) She was also shy and reserved around new people, but always happy to see you. She would smack other dogs around to spread her excitement just to make sure everyone else was excited as she was. She never really barked much and let others do the talking for her. She loved to roll around and waller down hils with her feet pedalling the air to keep her moving. She was quite the lover and will always be loved.

Tom Stevens said...


I empathize so closely with your latest blog. My dog, Osito, is my closest companion, one with whom I share life on its most primal level. A short time ago he ruptured a crucial ligament chasing his kitten. The vet administered a tranquilizer to take x-rays, and when I brought him home he was unable to get out of the car. I sat up with him all night, giving him moisture by dipping my fingers in water. By the next morning I was fearing I had lost him. I returned to the vet only to be told, upon a cursory glance through the window, that he was being stubborn.

Fortunately, a second vet took the time to help. He understood my love and returned it in kind. The next night I slept in the yard with Osito so he wouldn't have to be alone. The next morning he awoke with the will to get up. We are no closer to resolution of the problem, but now I have hope. Two of my beloved critters, Mom Cat and Bocephus (a huge Australian shepherd), recently had to be euthanized – so I know that pain all to well. It is so hard to let go of our own needs, and so painful to accept theirs.

I applaud your understanding of the quality of life. My uncle Ted recently passed beyond this world, victorious over all that tried to confine him. His only wish was to die in his home, yet he had been placed in a home for the dying. By some miracle, or perhaps by his inimitable will, he was at home when he died.

Death is a problem only when perceived as a personal loss. It is in fact only that which must be. It is far more honorable to let go than to cling to what used to be. The loss we suffer is only our own inability to accept the inevitable. Yet no love can equal that of a pet. They look to us for relief from their pain, and when we cannot afford that relief, it is as if we have failed them. I wish I had an answer to that dilemma. I would gladly take Osito's pain, without reservation, to see him once again happily chasing his kitten about the yard.

Thank you for that post, Trey. It strikes so close to home. I know most people cannot understand this love I have for my pets – it is no less than that I have for any life form. If only that simple and obvious concept, that life in all its manifestations is glorious, could be universally accepted.