It’s difficult to explain to someone who does not have a dog in their life the effect these furry companions have on us. My dog Chloe will be fourteen in November which is a ripe old age for a big dog. She has helped me get through some tough times with her affection and the ways she makes me laugh. These days she has trouble breathing sometimes and every couple of weeks she has stomach trouble likely at least in part due to the meds she’s on. Today I saw for the first time how her legs gave out as she was having trouble climbing a few steps. It’s difficult for me to watch her deteriorate after so many wonderful years together since I held her in my arms as an 8.5-week old puppy.
I want to emphasise that it is hard for me to see my dog this way but she is taking it in stride. Of course, I cannot know for sure what she is going through or how she feels emotionally, but without trying to anthropomorphize, she still seems happy and still finds joy in many little daily things. There is no indication that she feels sorry for herself or acts like a victim. When she has trouble breathing and it passes she is back to normal as if nothing happened. When she cannot manage the movement her body used to be capable of she does the best she can and pushes on. She does not respond to the sadness I feel at seeing her this way and seems indifferent to my pity.
Now more than ever Chloe teaches me patience. She takes her time and can’t be rushed. Sometimes when we take the short walk to the small river the runs behind our house she just stands there for a while and watches the water or the birds before she is ready to move on or head back home. This has also taught me to be grateful for the time off from travel that the current health crisis has afforded me and working from home has provided a great deal of flexibility. Over the last few years Chloe has spent more time with her dog sitter than with me during certain periods but knowing that our time together is nearing an end it has helped me to live in the moment more and appreciate little things like having her at my feet and hearing her snore.
Although it’s been a long time since I felt like a victim or wallowed in my self-pity, I still get angry or frustrated by little things on occasion. All of it seems so trivial when I remember the things my dog has been teaching me. It is the human mind that increases or magnifies our suffering through such useless conditions such as worry, self-doubt and self-pity. It is a flaw in the way we deal with our fears and a failing strategy for dealing with the challenges that face us in life. Life is filled with joy and difficulties; both having their purpose in shaping who we are. The end will come for us all and we will experience more joy in the time we have when we let go of the struggle and resistance we are prone to and appreciate life as it unfolds for us. This is what my dog is teaching me.