Sunday went by quietly in my house. It has been quite busy around here lately. I have been recovering from spinal surgery. My elderly father had a fall and has been in hospitals, rehab and critical care facilities for the last six weeks and that has brought an onslaught of family staying here. The fact that Sunday went by quietly was pretty unusual. We were excited about the Academy Awards, we had a special dinner, a few family members over and we watched the show. With all the stress and tension in our lives, we were content that Sunday night.
It was March 7 on Sunday and we didn’t even know it. We haven’t known the date around here for a while. On March 7, 2005, we watched as our faithful labrador, Bo, took his last breath in this world, continuing his path without us and we without him. He was with us 14-1/2 years and we loved him with all that we knew how to love. He gave us joy and laughter, love and hope. And Sunday went by without a tribute. I know we thought of him that day, probably a hundred times. We do every day. He is everywhere in our house. In pictures, his favorite toys which our dogs still play with, and the van we still drive because he couldn’t jump up into the SUV anymore. When I throw a ball or see a dog in the park he is right there with me. When I work, everything he taught me for over 14 years is right there with me, hopefully making me a better dog trainer for having known him.
I have seen a variety of reactions to the death of a pet. The emotions are endless. Some people couldn’t think of getting another pet, they will not remain loyal if they do. On the other side, they may get one right away, the house is too empty without the pitter-patter. It’s the planning that gets us into trouble. I thought I would never breathe again when Kona died 10 years ago, and then again 5 years later when Bo died. And now I can breathe again. It took awhile but I can breathe. We don’t often know what the next step is so letting life happen is a good option.
There is no right or wrong, there is no normal. There is only a broken, yet hopefully open, heart to allow the next path to flow unobstructed to new beginnings. If it takes a while to open again, then that’s what it takes. But the important thing is to try to get there. My house is full of dogs. None of them are Kona and Bo but they are magnificent. And they teach me every day and I am so much better because I know them and love them. I can somewhat imagine what it will feel like when they leave me, and at the same time, I can’t begin to imagine. If we allow it, each ending can teach us more than we can learn in a lifetime and each new beginning gives us the chance to learn more and to love better.
When I show this to my partner she is going to burst into tears because we forgot Bo’s anniversary. She is going to feel bad and think she is disloyal to “her best boy Bo”. I will remind her to be gentle with herself and that in no way does this have anything to do with her feelings for Bo. I know she thought about him hundreds of times that day. I know she thinks about Bo hundreds of times every day. The dates are important but the days we are living are more important. As we watched the Oscars that night with three dogs and four humans vying for the best seats and the warmest laps, Bo was right there with us, looking for his favorite lap.