Friday, December 16, 2011

What We Can Learn When a Pet Passes On

last night, one of my very best friends accompanied her mother to the vet for the visit we all dread. their dog, dawson, went over the rainbow bridge.
dawson on a camping trip in 2008
i only got the privilege of spending time with dawson on a few occasions, but i can tell you that he was very gentle, very sweet, very laid-back, very furry--and very loved. i wish desmond could have met him and gotten to become DBFF with him as he has with dawson's niece, kona. i think he would have made various attempts to snuggle into dawson's golden fur and just relax while kona ran circles around them both.

would dawson not make the world's greatest pillow? how content does he look napping in the grass?

the one time i personally experienced the passing of a pet dog was during my childhood; my memory of that event is vague at best, other than the pain my mother went through. i'm unable to tell my friend that i understand how she feels right now in any real sense, but i know that this is a pain i can't begin to think about without getting very upset; so i can only imagine what's going on in her head and her heart. she spent her formative years caring for and living with dawson (whom she named in homage to--yup--dawson leery of the TV show Dawson's Creek. they both DO have gold locks and large heads). even when you know, as she did, that this day, this particular trip to the vet, is coming, it's not any less heart wrenching. i feel truly sad and sorry for her loss.

this news hit me hard for a few reasons. obviously, i love my friend to no end, so i immediately wanted to press a magic button to make her feel better. i also mourned the loss of dawson, even though i didn't know him well.

dogs are well intentioned in all they do, their passion for even the smallest moments of joy often makes it seem as though they are having the very best day ever, and their desire to please their caretakers is endless. it doesn't seem right that they don't get to stick around as long as humans do and that half the time it's we who have to make the call on when they leave us. it's especially maddening when you think about how many people out there don't even come close to having those qualities found in dogs that make them so easy to adore and call family.

when my friend told me what was happening, she also said, "go home and kiss des tonight." and i did. i hugged him extra tight a few times, and he didn't even seem to mind. i can only assume my friend went home, buried her head into kona's neck, and stayed there for quite a while.

all of this made me start questioning myself, and i wonder if my friend is thinking like this now, too.

how much of the time i spend with desmond is quality time? how often am i scrolling through twitter or checking email with one hand while absentmindedly petting him with the other? how often on our walks am i too busy being anxious or angry about his reactivity to remember how good and cute and attentive he was being before we saw that other dog? when he's not here anymore, am i going to wish i had let him sit on the couch with us even when we were eating dinner, instead of sending him away to his "dinner chair"? am i going to be mad at myself for not letting him sleep in the bed on my pillow/face more often when he's no longer there to say "no" to? when i lament about not having time to workout because of the dog, aren't i simply ridiculous? isn't having desmond in my life better than having defined abs?

another friend brought this up recently, when i was complaining about desmond's (and therefore MY) sleep issues--the idea that "he's not always going to be here, so just let him in the damn bed." it definitely struck me; i knew he was right, but it's hard getting logical advice to make sense to a very tired and frustrated woman. dawson's passing and the words of my friends have made everything swirl around in my brain.

i plan to be a dog trainer professionally. i plan to have people hand over their money to me in exchange for helping them learn how to encourage their dog to become well balanced. well balanced--not perfect. i definitely am not saying it's time to throw doggie manners or safety out the window and live blindly in a puddle of drool and hair and destroyed squeaker toys while desmond dines on a plethora of chicken and rib bones served to him on the good china. surely, i need to set an example for my future clients. i mean, who is going to hire me if my dog is a nutcase? however, i do think it's time to stop taking things so seriously in our household when it comes to desmond's antics. he's allowed to screw up, and so are we. it's OK if he makes a mess--we're capable of cleaning. more importantly, he's allowed to be a dog! that's what we wanted in the first place, isn't it? a dog?

maybe what makes us--the three of us--happy, in our own home, can be OK even if it's not what some folks would expect or prefer or allow if they were in charge. maybe i can share my food with desmond (when it's safe) and not feel guilty, like an irresponsible dog mom. maybe i think it's cute when he decides it's time to play fetch and alerts me by dropping the ball at my feet. maybe i'd like to keep my couch pillows out all the time so i can use them and desmond can, too, instead of reserving them for guests at parties. maybe my priorities aren't quite right and i'm too worried about what other people think of me as a dog owner. (and those guests who are concerned about leaving my home with the little dog hair that's left on the pillows after i've cleaned them attached to their clothes should no longer be guests.)

we're not going to be perfect. desmond is not going to be perfect, ever. neither is kona. or jackie. or luca. or nala. or cosmo. or mozart. or shea. or darius. or disa. or bernie. or winston. or tank. or bruiser. or any of the dogs of our friends or any of the dogs anywhere. not even military, police, and therapy dogs are perfect. dawson wasn't perfect either--and that's OK. you don't have to be perfect to be perfectly lovable.

RIP, Dawson. you'll be missed and loved always.

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