I’ve been struggling recently with the realization that a close friend was not the person I thought he was. I won’t go into details, but it involves infidelity and much heartache, and impacts not only their entire family, but also us friends who are their extended family. Many times it’s so easy to say these situations are just between spouses, but when you see firsthand the impacts on the kids and grandparents, you realize we are all in this life together.
As usual, I find support in my love for animals. Animals are honest – they don’t pretend to be someone they aren’t. They don’t hold back resentment over years. Each day they are truly happy to see you. And if they’re mad at you – you know. They growl, snarl, maybe even snap. But wouldn’t that be better sometimes to know where you stand? To not hide your emotions, but to express them? (Assuming, of course, that we humans keep the normal social behavior standards and not bite or hump in public!)
Which brings me to Lance, one of the VICKtory dogs rescued seven years ago from Michael Vick’s disgusting dogfighting ring. See the cute photo below. Those animals were subjected to unmentionable pain and torture. I was brought to tears by Lance’s heartwarming story (to read more click here: http://bit.ly/VicktoryDogLance) – because now after six years of therapy and support he has found his forever home. If ANY animal deserved to hold a grudge, and lash out at people, it would be Lance.
But he didn’t.
Because in life sometimes, dogs ARE better than people.
For most of us across the country, it’s been a long, long winter. And COLD. In addition to us humans being locked up inside, our dogs also suffered the same fate. So in comes the guilt – why didn’t I make more time to walk my dogs?
We finally have welcomed spring here in Nashville and thankfully my dogs do NOT hold a grudge. This photo was taken a week ago while walking my crazy golden retriever Rudolph, and my beloved husky Luna. I stopped to try and add some exercises into my walk (no one could see me so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed) and Rudolph literally jumped up on the nearby picnic table he was so excited. The sheer pleasure of being on a walk, being able to jump up and down without being scolded too much (well I did encourage him to get down) was awesome to watch. It’s one of the best qualities in dogs and small children – they are so sincere. They wear their emotions on their face, in their bark, growl or kisses.
Why aren’t humans more like dogs when it comes to their emotions? Seems we are taught to hold things in at a young age, which definitely has its good qualities [insert memory of heinous toddler temper tantrums here]. And growling at work or dinner parities would probably be socially unacceptable. BUT I do wish sometimes we could all release our feelings and not hold things in so much. Even if it means every once in a while we need to dance on a table…
I’d like to say this photo was a candid shot of unconditional love experienced by my 8 year old son and our 4 year old Golden. Well….that’s half true! Although during this snuggle fest on our bed, my son whispered to me “take my picture” so it wasn’t exactly candid! But both my sons adore our dogs and that is such a blessing. But what did I expect?
I was born into a family of dog lovers. My dad always joked that he wanted to come back as the “Murphy dog” because they were all so spoiled and loved. And the ironic thing is that my family seemed unable to express their love for each other, but never shied away from kissing and hugging our dogs and saying “I love you!” as long as the recipient of the declaration was canine.
Last year was a hard year for my family. After losing my mom’s rescue dog, two weeks later we lost my dad. But the two events couldn’t be more different. My dad had suffered for years in an assisted living facility dedicated to patients with severe dementia. He had multiple strokes and was in a wheelchair, unable to eat solid food for a long time. My mother visited him and sat with him for years; sometimes you felt there was some recognition, other times you knew there wasn’t. Quite an emotional roller coaster for all of us. My children were fearful at times walking into the home as dementia patients would come try to hold their hand and talk to them. But they were troopers and we all learned that just being there could mean a lot to other patients who never saw friends or family. Since my parents retired to South Florida, my mom and friends were close by, but us kids (and grandkids) didn’t get to visit as often as we’d like.
In the end his passing was a blessing. People always say that and you think it sounds awful, right? But it was true. After having to put two of my beloved dogs to sleep in the past, I know how excruciating that process is. And I can’t tell you how many times my family talked about the fact that we treat our animals with more respect than our human family members.
This photo is one we chose for my dad’s memorial.
We had to have a picture with his favorite child – Jessie the pug 🙂 After raising three independent girls, Jessie was truly the boy he never had!
And as for my mom, well she’s doing remarkably well. She’s 84 (she doesn’t use “the internet” so won’t be upset with me for mentioning her age!) and has a new baby that she’s just nuts about. Casper, a rescue Maltese.
So the cycle continues – all of us Murphys and now Coiles are true crazy animal people. It’s in our genes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂
As I’ve written about before, ever since I lost my beloved Cato I have seen owls during my walks in Percy Warner Park. At first, people thought I was a little crazy (guilty!), that most owls don’t come out during the afternoon, that I must be imagining things, etc. But then I started taking photos, which is hard while walking two 75-pound dogs! For me, the owl represents wisdom and unconditional love and it almost always pops up when I need to see it. Weird, huh?
Yesterday I was allowing myself to get worked up over some discriminatory remarks made by some close to our family. I have a real hard time letting things go sometimes! So as I was walking the dogs, I was getting more and more upset, wondering how people can be so judgmental and think that denying other people basic human rights is somehow okay? Just as I was using my lawyer mind to craft my best arguments for a hypothetical discussion that will never take place, I looked up and there was my owl.
Yep, I needed that. Because, to me, the owl represents wisdom and unconditional love. It reminds me of Cato, and of other lost loved ones. It reminds me how our pets love us unconditionally no matter who we are, what we believe in, or who we love, so long as we treat them with respect and love. So instead of allowing the views of others to upset me, a wiser approach is to focus on myself and how I treat others. Easier said than done, part of my “letting go” problem I guess 🙂
So I will continue to take deep breaths and remember that only I control my emotions. And if others want to eat chicken fried in peanut oil and sit back (or drive thru) and condemn others, well I guess it’s their right.
But I’ll be out walking, appreciating and celebrating the diversity of nature, both human and animal.
This week we celebrated Valentine’s Day with our loved ones, but it was also a time to remember loved ones who are no longer here. A close friend lost her beloved golden retriever this week and as we talked and laughed and cried together, I kept thinking how cruel it is that pets live such short lives, but also how LUCKY we are to share them. She, like I, was head over heels for our dogs and often regarded as “crazy” by our friends and family. In a good way I hope 🙂 But we both know that the pure unconditional love you share with special pets is so powerful. I don’t feel embarrassed, in fact, I feel sorry that some people will never experience this type of love. Because it is simple and uncomplicated and something we all deserve and need.
As we age, we are losing so many dear friends that sometimes it’s overwhelming. It’s like a clock is ticking and we know we will be next. It’s unavoidable. And we don’t always see eye to eye with our relatives, sometimes there are so many mixed feelings we have to reconcile at the end of life. But our pets are always just there, not judging us, not staying mad at us, never ignoring us, just loving us. How special that relationship is, and for me, as I struggle with aging parents, I am ever thankful that I have had and will always have a furry dog to hug.
And hugging a dog can be true therapy. As you can tell by the photo of my oldest son, I am (hopefully) passing on the dog hugging gene to my boys 🙂 Because they will need it too. During one of the most painful times in my life when I lost a close friend to a car accident at a very young age, I remember feeling like life was spinning out of control. It was my first time dealing with death and I was in shock. We were all grieving at my friend’s house and so was their family dog. I remember this little dog gingerly walking up to me and bowing her head and it dawned on me that she also needed a hug. That hug meant the world to me and now I don’t hesitate to grab my dogs when I need a hug. Of course I grab my kids and husband as well so don’t think I’m ignoring them! But sometimes it’s nice to huge someone without having to explain, without having to go into details, to just feel that love. Because your dog will always give it back to you. (Well, assuming you treat it with respect and dignity of course.)
This past week I was awakened at 2am to clean up vomit – yes once again Rudy ate something hard and plastic – and I was irritated and cranky and couldn’t get back to sleep. But then the next day I’m reminded how fragile life is. For all the hassle and cleanups, it’s truly a small price to pay for the love I get in return.
Now go hug those doggies 🙂