A few years ago I was assisting a local yoga event, and I lost someone very special to me. A colleague there with me said, “Don’t ever waste the precious gift that is someone’s death. Feel what gifts it has to offer you.” I was left to consider what the whole experience of losing this person held for me. Thinking in “gifts” was impossible at this moment.
Fast forward to last week, when my beloved dog Rosie passed away. She was a 13-1/2 year-old greyhound, and the best dog ever. A super companion, a sweet girl, a loyal friend. She developed a cough, then had trouble sleeping and breathing, then she stopped eating even her favorite foods: turkey, peanut butter, and Greenies.
When we came home one night and suddenly she couldn’t get up and had completely stopped eating, we knew that it was time to say goodbye. For some reason that whole afternoon I had felt as if her days were numbered, and instead of finishing up my work I sat on her bed taking doggie selfies with her and chatting about life. There was a look in her eyes that was unlike anything I had ever seen – it was as if she was asking to say goodbye – like she had just been hanging on to her life for our benefit and now she needed to pass on. We found out at the emergency vet that she was much sicker than a simple cough, and that her lungs were filling up with blood. The vet drained some of the fluid to give us time to say goodbye. As she lay there on the table, our precious girl looking happy, relaxed and ready to leave her body, we said all the things we could to remind her of how loved she was and what an important member of the family she will always be. We scratched her soft ears, and massaged her legs and belly. In her final moments she looked peaceful, and as her Spirit left her body I was simultaneously distraught at the loss and happy she was not suffering any longer.
In the moments right after she died, I remembered the words of my teacher and I asked for the wisdom and gifts of Beauty in the passing of a dear friend. So here’s what I learned from Rosie:
1. If someone doesn’t want to sniff you, there will be another dog just around the corner. Whenever a dog would snub Rosie on our daily walks, she would look at me like the princess she was and keep walking until she found someone who would pay her the attention she wanted – canine or human. This reminds me to give my precious life energy and attention to those situations that feed me, and to leave the rest behind.
2. When in doubt, take a nap. Greyhounds are known as 50 mph couch potatoes – you may think they are fast because they are racing dogs, and they can be, but really they just love to nap all day! Rosie was a power sleeper and dreamer. We could catch her whining in her dreams and running while lying down sleeping. She must have felt so safe in our house to fall asleep so deeply and to dream such happy running dreams! This reminds me to take a pause, relax, nap when I need to rest, and to delight in the dreams that come up.
3. Prance. Daily. Rosie had this winter coat – a blue number, fleece-lined, with a neck warmer. She needed it because greyhounds are so skinny and have such thin fur, but what we really loved was how she would prance around like a supermodel every single time we put the coat on her. We called it “Fashion Show.” She would absolutely delight in dancing around in her winter digs. This reminds me when I feel glum, to put on something I love and prance around – even if that means dancing around the house in my pajamas.
4. Take your time and sniff everything. I was responsible for walking Rosie throughout the day when I had breaks between classes. Our walks often meandered for quite some time through the park near our house. I thought this was normal Rosie behavior until I saw her do a “quickie walk” with someone else. I realized that our ritual was a gift she wanted to give me. As she walked our long walks, she would sniff everywhere – every corner of the park and grass – sometimes finding great treasures (that of course I would not let her eat – like chicken bones). This reminds me to slow down, enjoy the moment, and stay in the present of the experience in front of me because I never know what treasure I might find hiding in the corner of my day.
5. Sometimes, you just need a spa day. I’m sure all dogs have a particular smell, just like humans, but Rosie would develop her own smell over the course of a few weeks and need to be taken in for a bath. We called it her spa day. There was always something special about washing her fur, giving her a doggie facial, drying her off and then showcasing her as we walked home from the doggie day spa. This reminds me of the necessity of having others help us at times, and accepting the help they offer. Rosie couldn’t take a bath or wash her hair on her own. She needed us for that and so much more! When I visit my healers, teachers, massage therapists and so many others who place me in their capable hands, and I let myself be taken care of, it is such a necessary gift.
6. Stretch your brain daily, and reward yourself for doing so. Most dog owners train their pups to do things like sit down, shake a hand, or roll over…we trained our beloved dog to bark like crazy for small treats and to find hidden bigger treats every night in weird places all over the house. These were things that got her out of her habits (she was so quiet and shy initially), made her think in new ways, and rewarded her for getting out of ruts. I think we all need the reminder to step out of our habits, and a treat at the end when we finally do.
7. Trust your instinct. Rosie had a radar for kind people (and dogs!) and mean ones. I came to defer to her better judgment after one particular walk in which she pulled me back to the door only to have gunshots ring out moments later just where we had been. She just knew something was about to happen, and she got us inside safely by walking me on the leash back home. This reminds me to trust my own instincts, intuition, and take action on what I feel internally even if it seems crazy in the moment.
8. Enjoy the simple pleasures. The snowfall this weekend in Chicago reminded me how much Rosie loved to catch snowflakes as they were falling and romp in the snow. She also loved a surprise treat dropped on the kitchen floor, an impromptu ear scratch, being tucked in every night, standing on the deck during summertime, and all the simple wonders of her everyday life. She never complained about the rain, snow, heat, or cold. She simply enjoyed the little pleasures of every day as they arose. This reminds me to take the time to enjoy what is right here, right now – the little things along the course of my day that are delightful and feed my Spirit.
There will never be another Rosie. She has parted and she will never be again. Her passing was a necessary part in the cycle of her life, but I will miss her dearly. Already it is too quiet. There is too much space in my daily schedule where her walks used to be. There is an absence of her claws walking across the wood floor, her breath sighing, and her cute face to welcome me home. Following the gifts she left me with I’m: listening more closely in the quiet, delighting in the daily pleasures of my everyday, rewarding myself when I break out of my habits, trusting my gut, and so much more as I reflect on the multitude of gifts of beauty her life and passing left me with.