Yet we go full steam ahead, and when the inevitable happens we grieve.
When we choose a dog, we choose a best friend. Often all we need is that one look and we embark on a new life chapter. If we are lucky that chapter will last more than a decade, but sometimes we are short changed and our dogs leave us too soon. When they depart, we look down the years and see memories and markers of our shared time; precious memories that are poignant and sometimes momentous because we were together. Often there is no one we would rather have spent that time with than that special four-legged being. Our lives can change immeasurably during this time and our dogs may even be the catalyst for that change.
Yesterday, I lost Bella and the grief is so stark. She died so rapidly that I didn’t have time to sear her into my mind, and I am left with so very little of her. The only reminder that she was ever here is the newspaper that lays scattered around. She was not able to go through the night without peeing on the floor, and because she spent so much time in rescue, she wasn’t great at asking to go out, and I didn’t always wake up when she asked. She couldn’t make the stairs with her amazingly long legs so she always slept downstairs. The newspaper remains today, but I cannot find the strength to remove it. It swishes across the floor when we walk by, the only concrete evidence that she was ever here.
There is space too. She was a big girl, who when asleep on the couch would spread herself along the length of it and refuse to move. A short time after she arrived (only a year ago), I bought her a sofa so she would be comfortable and this was quickly followed by a second one so I could sit down too, although that was generally filled with another dog as well. Now we all fit in nicely on the furniture, but what I wouldn’t give to have her here, sofa or no sofa.
During this day I have been wondering what is so special about the nature of our love for our dogs. My heart is broken in a way that differs so much from how I grieve for a person. Why on their passing do we experience a loss that feels like a searing torch has been lit in our hearts?
Perhaps it is because our dogs share our lives like no human ever can. Those of us that treasure our dogs make sure that they have choices; to deny them that would lead to a very different relationship. Our human best friends are very tolerant about our deficiencies, and rarely gripe or complain about our behaviour, but if they do it is because we may need to change and when we eventually listen, we usually discover they were right. Our dogs may not be able to convey this to us by talking, but they have many other ways of communicating their wishes, and we have to learn to pay better attention to the messages they are offering us. The ability to look and listen starts to carve a path along which we travel with our dogs, and this I believe, is what opens up our lives, causing us to become more than just human. Is this why our hearts fracture into the tiniest pieces when our dogs die?
They share nature with us in ways no human could. Today I took a soulful walk with my other dogs and thought about our common bond with the outdoor world as they snuffled and ran for the sheer joy of being against the backdrop of a fiery sunset. These are the lessons they offer us; to be in the present as much as these sentient canine beings are, experiencing the world in a similar way to us, but with a joy of living in the moment that is so very special.
Human relationships can be so loaded and our dogs deserve more than just becoming substitute people. They are much more than that. Through our dogs we become better at being human; the balance between us and them is weighted heavily in our direction, but we owe them more than they ever owe us.
This is the closest I can get to identifying why the grief is so profound, and if I am lucky enough to be blessed with another very precious best friend, the life we’ll spend together will again be embroidered and stamped with lessons that I could never learn in any human dimension.
Thank you for sharing Bella. I love you.
Guest Author Bio
My name is Pennie Clayton I am a horse and dog trainer and Bowen therapist. I share my life with 2 rescue dogs and love to see them how their characters and lives change when they first come home after time in kennels.
I specialise in helping people to understand their dogs and how to involve them in their lives. I coach people and encourage owners to become trainers in their own right for their dogs and horses, and to use natural and force free training methods so that the bond between dog/horse and human becomes strong and well developed. I enjoy nothing more than to watch people start to formulate the best way of training and living with their dogs and am very passionate about people learning how to think of their dogs in particular as part of their lives, not just a pet that has to cope with our everyday human lives.
Blog / Website: www.horseandhoundschool.co.uk