Living in the Moment

Sydney copyOne of my best friends lost one of her best friends yesterday. Sydney was a thirteen-year-old mixed breed bundle of love, and was my friend’s “soul dog.” If you’ve ever had one of your own, you know what I mean. Although passing on is not unexpected in a dog of many years, it’s still a shock when it happens, and my friend is crushed. All I can do is offer a shoulder, an ear, and send lots of good energy her way. I can’t say I know exactly how she feels, but unfortunately, I have an idea.

Mojo was my own soul dog, my 120-pound baby. He passed in 2008, and his death hit me harder than I can describe. (If you’ve read Hit by a Flying Wolf, you know what I’m talking about.) Our dogs are our kids, and people who don’t have dogs just don’t get it. When a human family member dies, people send sympathy cards, understand if we need time off work, turn up on our doorsteps with food and friendship, and are generally extremely supportive. With dogs, some look at us a bit strangely.

In Mojo’s senior years, I had a habit of stealing glances at him as he slept. There was always a microsecond of holding my own breath as I watched for his; I’d exhale as I saw the soft, reassuring rise and fall of his chest. I remember feeling a little crazy and obsessive, but I couldn’t help myself. I knew my time with him was finite. When he was 14, Mojo bloated. We rushed him to the emergency vet, where we were told that he only had a 50/50 chance of making it through surgery, the surgery was expensive, and he was over 14 years old. Clearly, we were meant to draw one very final conclusion. Well, we didn’t. I told the woman to stop talking and get in there and save my dog. Mojo made it through the surgery and ended up living another six months. It was worth every cent.

My friend is now experiencing the sharp pangs that accompany those little daily routines that are forever changed. When Mojo passed, for days afterward my hand still extended with a piece of banana, meant for my breakfast-sharing buddy who was no longer there. There were dozens of times this sort of thing would happen, and countless tears. I always remember the saying, “Grief is the price of love.” I don’t know who said it, but it feels like truth. But for the seemingly bottomless pit of grief, we also get a bottomless well of unconditional love, and a magical, shared slice of life with an amazing being.

I am all too aware as I look at my own dogs, now middle-aged by the standards of dogdom, that the crushed, grieving person will one day again be me. And so, I give them my entire heart while they are here. In those moments when they look at me as I’m busy at the computer, I stop what I’m doing and give them that tummy rub. When I have appointments and it would be easier to sleep in, I get my butt out of bed and take them to the park. And more than anything, I make sure they know how much they are loved. I know my friend’s dog knew how much she is loved, as Mojo surely did. I suppose that’s all any of us can ever hope for, and it’s a beautiful thing.

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12 Responses to Living in the Moment

  1. Amen Nicole, I felt the same way about Bandit and miss him terribly. Well said………….

  2. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for writing this. You said it so much more eloquently than I ever could have. I love Sydney with all my heart. Always have always will. I couldn’t put into words exactly how I felt but you managed to do it for me. I have Sydney because of Mojo, I loved him too. The part that gets to me is what you said about having time off to actually grieve your loss. What makes a a dog any less important is all I keep wondering? Sydney was my child, so what if she was a bit hairy and walked on four legs? How many people do you know that are always there when you need them and who you know will never hurt you? I’m lucky enough to have a few in my life but Sydney was always there when I needed her. Day or night she was always a constant, the feel of her fur and her goofy smile and one ear up and one down always made me feel better and loved. I hope she knows how much she was loved and thank you again for this. It means more than you know.

    • wildewmn says:

      Damn, woman, now you have ME all weepy again! Your words mean a lot to me.

      “Sydney was my child, so what if she was a bit hairy and walked on four legs?” says it all, doesn’t it. I remember too how you got Sydney after falling in love with Mojo. Maybe they’re romping together up over the Rainbow Bridge…and hopefully Mojo isn’t being too much of a brat. 😉

      • I was told of Rainbow Bridge when we lost Barney. So totally unexpected, we weren’t prepared, and it hit us both terribly.
        We now have Maggie, and she is approaching 10, as he was when he died.
        Dogs are our children, and only another dog lover can really understand the emptiness and loss of losing such a loyal friend.

  3. beautiful writing, dear Nicole Wilde!
    ….”that the crushed, grieving person will one day again be me”….
    Thanks god, we are supposed to be grieving our dogs…and not the reverse…in the sense that as responsible dog companions, we shouldn’t statistically die in the next years…and so be able to fulfill the companionship which was ment for us. ❤

  4. Gina says:

    Very timely as I have an almost 15 year old Australian Shepherd. Many of you may know that is a good long life for an Aussie. He took a tumble down the stairs this weekend while we were out of town and I took him to a local vet. He got a clean bill of health thank goodness!! Some breeds (Aussies included) have a tendency to be what we call ‘Velcro dogs’. Over the years I have told him many times “Please don’t get up and follow me… I’m just going to the bathroom!” I hated to disturb him but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Recently probably due to his age and being a little arthritic he has started to not follow me from room to room every time. :o(
    It’s true what they say… “Be careful what you wish for…”

  5. manicivy says:

    Beautifully written. I hope your friend finds some peace in time. My soul dog is only 4 1/2, but sometimes I just look at him and remind myself our time is limited and to make the most of it. Thank you for your heartfelt words.

  6. Oh Nic, what a beautiful tribute to your friend, her dog, and Mojo. You write so exquistely. The tears are falling. My heart goes out to your friend, and to all of us who open our heart and let our doggos fill it with love . “You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.”
    ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, El Principito

  7. Julie says:

    I just lost my Ms. Blossom on 9/6 after a week of praying that she would respond to the steroids – and yes yes yes to all of this. I will never be the same, but she was my best friend, and was just 6 weeks shy of 14.

  8. Elizabeth Strothman says:

    I lost my soul dog 2 1/2 months ago. I’m sure everyone thinks I should be over it by now but I’ll never be the same again..

  9. Xiante says:

    No, Elizabeth…you shouldn’t be over it. Those who understand know that no one ever gets over it. It just gets a little easier, eventually, when it does. We simply go on, because It’s what they would expect of us, and what we must expect of ourselves. Live as if they were still beside us, carrying forth the lessons we learned at their side, and keeping our hearts as open as they became when we shared our time here with them. My heart goes out to you, and to everyone who bears the loss of a soulmate-in-dogsuit. There is nothing like that kind of love.

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