passage of time
Today marks two years that we have been living in Valencia and it also marks five months since we had to have Oscar euthanized. This day, the 2nd of the month, can still make feel melancholy and somber. Saturdays sometimes still are hard too. It was a Saturday when he died.
I am grateful for Oscar being in my life, and even now in death he is still teaching me how to compassionately lean into my pain. His absence gives me opportunity to explore how to be self-loving, accept grieving, process emotions and integrate the old with the new, and move on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an easy or fun journey, but it’s what there is.
The last week of his life, when he suddenly turned so sick, I sat with him a lot brushing his fur, or wiping him down with cool clean water, or just sitting, being together. I was expressing my gratitude for what his life of unconditional love, boundless joy and tireless free-spirit had taught me, and how it had healed old wounds, and helped me to move beyond blocks and fears.
I was also trying to hold and absorb in my being the extraordinary and exquisite gift the life of another creature can be.
a lifetime together
When we bring a dog home and start a life together, we know that one day they will die, and most likely they will die before we do.
When we moved to Valencia, Oscar was nearly 12 years old, or 84 in human years. So while I didn’t know when, I knew he would move on to another realm (as one friend put it) in some years. But knowing that, and then experiencing the dying, death and grieving journey are very different things.
I am still holding and processing my grief for Oscar, but I also have moments when love, gratitude and clarity about Oscar – in particular and all dogs in general – fill me.
One of dogs’ greatest gifts is the absolute delight and excitement they greet us with when we come home. Oscar was always so happy to see me, and honestly, anyone who came to visit. He had an abundance of love and was generous with his love. This joy in greeting is one of the ways dogs serve and protect us. Whatever the trails and tribulations of the outside world, for a while it does not matter. The presence, high energy and joyous attitude of my dog would fill me with cheer and I felt totally loved and important.
The absence of a dog at the door greeting me is forcing me to figure out how to bring that into my life myself. I also realize that Oscar (and all dogs) are such compelling teachers I often didn’t even know I was learning stuff. He helped me to learn to prioritize taking walks or connecting with nature, being curious about my surroundings, tuning into my feelings and playing.
Dogs’ full focused attention to whatever they are doing has also been helpful in my integration of greater mindfulness in my day-to-day life. Think about it, when dogs eat, they just eat. When they sniff, they sniff fully taking in everything. When chasing a ball, the focus is on the ball and bringing it back, and chasing it again. And even when Oscar was sick, he was just sick. He didn’t pile on trying to catch up with email or other such nonsense. Oscar also helped me to have greater appreciation of nature, especially tiny patches of nature in urban landscapes.
bridge of tears and moving on …
Earlier this week an image came to me, a bridge constructed of tears, and there I was, crossing the bridge, I can see my back. And sitting, watching me go is Oscar. I can see at some point ahead of me the tears disappear and it’s just a bridge, and there’s path on the other side.
I appreciate the vision; it’s the first I’ve had since the one shortly after Oscar’s death when he appeared and told me, everything was all right, things were as they were suppose to be. His mission in life had been to accompany me only this far. Seeing that I got to Valencia and happily settled, and now it was time for him to go. I would be all right he said, and another dog, someday, would come into my life and again I’d be accompanied by a canine friend.
I await that day, the day we welcome another dog into our lives, but that’s not now. And until then I’ll keep working on integrating all that Oscar taught me, consolidating my learning and preparing for whatever is next. Waiting … something else dogs are generally very good at.
For more about how dogs make our lives richer, see
A special thanks to Hallelujah Truth for her helpful advice to paint and paint and paint Oscar until I don’t want to, or need to anymore. For now he’s still showing up in my drawings, and that’s ok. It’s comforting, and while a little bit sad, I think the exercise is shifting stuff inside of me. Thank you too to loads more people out there — you know who you are — who have been supportive and extra-kind these past few months. Big Woof Love Forever!!