I had something different planned for today’s post, but I saw a link to an article in an excellent newsletter I receive by email called The Red Thread Swipe File by Tamsen Webster, and I had to read it, and then respond to it.
The article is written by Eric Kaplan, a thought piece on the loss of his dog and how we deal with grief. He asked for suggestions to be sent to his Twitter account, but since I’m not on Twitter I felt I wanted to blog about it, having had to euthanize our own two dogs when they got old and terminally ill 16 years ago.
The fact that my hubby and I have never been able to get more dogs even after all that time will tell you something about how deeply we felt their loss, so to Eric I would first say: my heart goes out to you.
Losing a beloved pet, or any great loss, is quite literally heart-breaking – you feel as though your heart has torn open and will never be whole again.
For all that, though, it was such a gift to have our dogs in our lives and I wouldn’t take that experience back for anything.
We learned a lot from our dogs. Their acceptance of life as it unfolds – their resilience in dealing with every illness that arose, from arthritis to heart problems, while still happily enjoying every day’s simple pleasures – helped us to work our way through our grief at losing them.
For everyone, like Eric, who’s struggled with the paradox of trying to enjoy the highs of life amid so many lows, maybe this will help a little:
One of the things I’ve realized over several decades of existence is that life is going to throw sorrow at us no matter what we do, no matter how much we might suppress feelings of joy in case they jinx something.
The only way to balance out the lows is to enjoy the highs for the gift that they are.
I’ve had fibromyalgia for many years, and the good days are rare, so I have learned to the most of them! With enough self-care, there are not too many bad days. Mostly I have so-so days that are pretty livable. I can be like our dogs and make the most of every day.
As humans our initial reaction to misfortune is anger – understandably – but eventually, to cope and move forward, we have to reach a state of acceptance and look at how to manage things long-term. Animals, although we can’t know exactly what they’re thinking, seem to go straight to acceptance and change management. While they absolutely feel pain, sadness and fear, like we do, the next beautiful moment that comes along for them is embraced unreservedly. Watching a dog give its entire being over to rolling around in the grass, or chasing a Frisbee across a lawn, is a lesson in mindfulness.
Eric, I hope this blog finds its way to you (@ericlinuskaplan). Please carry on your dog’s legacy of how to live in the moment. It’s a good way to go on.