Confessions of an imperfect dog mom…”lean on me”.
Last Friday night our sweet Sam suddenly lost the use of his back legs. He crossed over on Saturday morning. We don’t know exactly how old he was…probably at least 14. At his age and given his health history…we don’t feel surprised that his time came…but we are taken back at how bad we hurt. Returning home to a house without Sam simply…sucks. He was always waiting at the door for us…up on this back legs…smiling. Home will never be the same.
Sam’s ashes were ready first thing Monday morning…Bret left work as soon as we got the call and hurried to bring Sam home. We sat in a bit of stupor as we looked at his ashes and then solemnly went on with our day. Keeping busy is the best we can do for now.
I have sent a small amount of his ashes off to be made in to a necklace. We will bury some of his ashes with Luna and Kringles and the rest will sit on the mantle between Hercules & Sparky ‘s ashes…our 3 boys are back together again…bittersweet.
It would have been really nice to “check out” from life this week…but I don’t have the luxury of taking time out for a quick “melt down”…I have two business to run and I have 7 other dogs to take care of. It is times like these when I am especially grateful for all of our sweet pets…they not only keep me busy but also make it so I can continue to smile in the day. Life with them, in fact, demands a lot of smiling. Still the pets are integral to each step of my daily routine and each step reminds me of Sam…Bret and I have both broke in to tears a few times a day all week. Nothing is right without Sam.
My friend Jan came over Monday with a card and a gift…this lovely canvas of two dogs called “LEAN ON ME”. I brought it in the house, sat down and looked at it… in the white stripes is some light writing…it is some of the lines from the song “Lean on Me”…like “I’ll help you carry on”…all I could do was weep…how completely we “lean on them”…at least how completely “I lean on them”…especially Sam. Caring for all of our pets is a full time job. I am wrapped up in cooking for them, exercising them, vet visits, playtime, baths, nail trims…picking up the poo and vacuuming up all the hair. I lose track in all these moments of busyness at how richly they feed my soul. Especially Sam. Sam was easy and always a pleasure. In fact, he is probably the easiest dog Bret and I have had. He was agreeable, goofy, and incredibly well mannered. He was also trustworthy and constant…his presence was very big in this house…because we could all count on him. I now know how much I leaned on him…because I feel it in his loss. I wonder if he knew how important he was to all of us?
Today I did several hours of yard work. Normally, Sam would be at my side while I worked outside…supervising…it was his favorite thing. In the past, if I left him in the house he would bark…a low, steady bark that would not stop until I came and got him. I heard him barking today…but I could not call him out to be at my side. He is not the first dog I have heard barking for me after they have passed. I am coming to believe it is some sort of a spiritual goodbye ritual.
There really aren’t accurate words for what I feel when I lose a dog…our language is so limiting…the best I can come with is that each one leaves a new hole in my heart…it can’t be filled by another dog…it doesn’t work that way…the hole will remain there until I see them again. Over time it gets less painful…but it never heals.
The worst thing about fresh grief is that it reopens the old holes…each loss brings back a bit of the sting of previous losses. I think we are grieving the loss of Luna and Kringles all over again. But it also reminds me how richly blessed my life has been by so many of God’s sweet creatures. Grief can only exist where true love once dwelled. There has been so much love in our home.
Bret and I realized the night after Sam died that our entire marriage is framed by dogs…we wouldn’t be the same people, as individuals or as a married couple, without the dogs. When we first married a friend told us that our marriage will “rub the rough edges off of us”…and it sure has…but our life with dogs has polished those rough edges…it makes life bright and shiny.
We are simple people…every penny we have literally “goes to the dogs”…we will leave no legacy…no one will remember Bret or Nancy. We are not “religious” people but we are guided by the simple spiritual principles of figures like St. Francis and the Quakers…particularly in regards to stewardship of all creatures/creation. One of our favorite quotes is this; “I expect to pass through the world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any act of kindness I can show to any creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (Stephen Grellet). Caring for the sweet animals is our way of expressing how much we love God’s good creation and the sisterhood/brotherhood we feel with the animals.
Very often I have to remind myself that “my pets” are “not mine”. Death is the ultimate reminder that I am just a temporary steward. Death makes the concept/notion of “ownership” of a pet a fallacy. Besides, referring to them as “property” seems entirely inappropriate in the context of the true nature of the relationships we have with them. If we learn to see them differently…as part of a divine creation…as eternal…well I think the world could be a significantly better place.
This morning I ran in to my friend Jan who gave us the “Lean on Me” canvas at the grocery store. She asked me what day Sam died. I said Saturday. She told me that it was Saturday that she bought this canvas when out shopping for a prom dress for her daughter. She knew she had no place for it in her house but for some reason she knew she had to get this piece. The next day she saw my post about Sam. I am grateful for such a profound friend.
As I write this tonite, Millie is sound asleep in a small bed on my desk…she is snoring…like really loud. I love the sound of her snoring. It brings me comfort. Tomorrow I get to wake up and have another busy dog filled day…I will be exhausted by the time I sit down at the end of it but my soul will be fed. For now we will rest in our grief for Sam…rest in the mystery of life and of death… and be grateful that we live such a blessed life.