Grief, and the love of a dog ~

Grief, and the love of a dog ~

This is what Pascal, my older dog looked like when he came to us 10 years ago. A tiny elf-eared puppy, easily frightened — a big cat, a leaf falling, the smell of the resident possum in the back yard… Any of those could do it. So could the vacuum — even a few days ago.

Today we killed him. Yes, I know: we say ‘euthanised,’ or ‘put him down,’ or ‘put him to sleep.’ But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like we killed him. Even though he was in a lot of pain, and wasn’t himself at all. He’s had dysplasia since birth — he was supposed to be OFA certified to NOT have dysplasia, but… — and it’s just worsened. He also had epilepsy, in a couple of versions. And our previous vet told us he has the dog equivalent of autism, as well.

Through all of his trials, he was still so beautiful. So loving. And such a mess.

A couple of weeks ago, he began having seizures. Two a day, grand mal. And he probably had a stroke, as his leg began to drag, and he showed very poor coordination. We took him to the university veterinary hospital, an amazing facility, staffed w/ utter saints. Seriously — I think the requirements to work there are more stringent than canonisation… I’ve never met more people w/ overtly compassionate affects in one place. Ever.

Turns out that the resident canine neurologist (yes, there’s one on staff) diagnosed a brain tumour in addition to everything else. So now we have a dog that needs pain medication for his hips, anti-seizure meds (2), and allergy meds. And he’s still doing verrrry poorly.

Then it really fell apart: yesterday, he tried to bite me when i petted him. He tried to bite his brother twice when poor Hugo just brushed against him. And when my beloved — Pascal’s version of the Supreme Deity, if there ever was one — reached down to pet him, Pascal tried to take his hand off. So we took him off meds to see if that helped. It did not.

DogsWe sat at the vet’s for almost two hours. Pascal’s veins were so thrombosed that the techs couldn’t get an IV in him. And think about it: if he didn’t want to be petted, even, how did a needle feel?? But in an oddly reassuring way, it was an affirmation that we were making the right decision, despite our grief.

Buddhists talk about ‘letting go.’ It means to know that everything is transient: life, certainly. But also love, pain, joy, grief. Everything passes — clouds across Big Sky Mind. I know that in a year, I will still miss my sweet mess of a dog. I also know it won’t hurt the same way. As I know that death always follows life.

But our pets are part of our family. At least, in my family they are. And as the owner of a 17-year-old cat, another aging dog, and a second cat still in his prime? I want them to live forever. With health & vigour. I want no more grief. The Buddha would shake his finger, probably smile, and remind me that I am attached.

I confess to it. As I confess to wielding the power of life, then death, over a small dog. We let go — holding a small sleepy body in a tearful hug before the vet gave him a shot to the heart (he never could get the IV in). We let go, wishing him dreams of possums in the backyard, and long walks by the river, and lots of treats. We let go of his pain-filled life. But somehow, he’s still so very here, and I don’t know how to really let him go. I don’t know how to explain to his brother (at least, that’s what we called them, although they weren’t littermates) where his buddy is. I don’t know how to explain to my grandson where Pascal is, either. And I don’t know how to let go of any of this grief.

Sometimes, I am acutely aware how inadequate a Buddhist I am…


avoidance, putting things in boxes, & letting go ~

avoidance, putting things in boxes, & letting go ~

Sometimes, when things really cut deep, I compartmentalise. I do like the oyster: coat pain and irritation w/ something soothing, wall it off. Unlike the lowly oyster, however, I make no pearl. Just stick things into closed off spaces, where I can leave them be for awhile. I am my mother’s daughter…

My mother was about as non-conflict as it gets. She could pretend w/ the best of them. Things were ‘fine’ — almost always, unless she was complaining, which wasn’t common when I was little. Or, at the worst, like Scarlett O’Hara, it would be better soon.

I’m not quite that bad.😏

I just don’t think it’s good for me, at least, to brood. For instance — I’ve drastically reduced my FaceBook interactions, as I can’t stand hearing the latest horrible action masquerading as presidential. I make no secret of my dislike for the current administration. I need no reminders of why that’s true. Especially since I’m doing the very little I can: writing, sending letters, donating to resistors. But I know it’s not enough.

So I compartmentalism, until I can let the various dark spots of my life go. My new mantra — at least when grieving (a very dear friend was recently diagnosed w/a serious illness; another is in constant pain…), or when furiously angry — is Breathe. Acknowledge. Let it go. It helps enormously, especially when I wake up in the middle of the night, and my thoughts start pacing the confines of my head, like goose-stepping infantry.

I also drink tea. Since my younger son is still with us for a few more days, I ordered his favourite,  Earl Grey. This particular brand is made with a high proportion of silver tips, and a higher grade of tea leaves. We both love it. Today, as the rain sifted down like spider silk, it was a perfect afternoon break. My worries for my friends, my concern w/the sad situations faced by so many flooded southern American, all were washed away for a few moments in a warm cup held between my two chilled hands. I even had cookies. 😉

It’s not a bad thing, I think, to compartmentalise until we can face the many dark places of the world. I have a pretty good life, which I appreciate deeply. Trying not to take it for granted,I still feel enormously guilty/angry when the world is cruel to others. So I do the whole Buddhist reflection of here is sadness. here is grief. here is untold pain & misery. acknowledge it. feel it. now…let it go…

it helps when there’s a cup of tea & a cookie. I promise.