My dog passed away a month ago. He was 14. I loved (love?) him so much and I don’t feel like anything I could ever say can capture the experience that I had of being his person over the years as accurately as I would like. But I will try because all I have is my honest truth which is that he mattered so very much to me. He was such a source of consistency and joy for me through all sorts of life events; marriage, moving multiple times, loss of family members, the birth of my daughter, more moving, multiple jobs, training for races, sending my daughter off to school… the list goes on and on and on. He was always there. He was my security during the days I felt so alone in new places or circumstances. He was my scheduler because I was able to tie my routine to his routine. He was just constant presence and was, for the most part, so low-maintenance until the last months of his life.
I was never truly put-out caring for him, but as time went on, the need for care became more consistent through the day and night. It reminded me so much of newborn babies and all of the care they require. What always saddened me about the care I provided him was that I wasn’t nurturing him and preparing him for life, not this life, anyway. I was preparing him for what is beyond this life. It was such a reversal for me. I have never cared for anything that didn’t flourish under my attention and touch. I had never had a pet or cared for aging or ill relatives. Honestly, it was something that I took so hard; the fact that no matter what I did- I could have given anything, paid any amount of money, done everything… and he still would fade and pass on. It was a stark reminder of the arc that life takes; we are born, we wax, we wane, we perish. Everything is ephemeral, Otto was no different. No matter how much I hoped and prayed.
I wanted so badly to take him and run away from his experience of his failing body. It all felt so absolutely unfair. He was the best boy for me and taught me so much about so many things. He taught me to love without expectation of anything in return. All of my talk about ‘Unconditional Love’? That all came from him. I loved him and expected nothing in return and he taught me that I was worth being loved the same way. He couldn’t smile or say thank you, but I knew that he was the most grateful by the way he would settle down beside me as I wrote or read a book. Or the contented way that he would sleep during the afternoon in a cosy spot. He felt safe and because he felt safe, I felt safe.
I have never cried so much in my life. I didn’t know I was capable of feeling pain so acutely. It felt like I was being torn apart from the inside out, and in the process had my shadow removed. He followed me everywhere and then he was gone. I have never felt so alone. But I’ve realized something in the last month- His physical form has gone and rejoined the Universe and his divine form has gone and rejoined Awareness. So that means that he is always within me now. He’s actually closer to me than he’s ever been. He’s been alchemized using the idea that energy is never created, nor destroyed, only ever transformed. This brings me so much comfort and I know that, freed from his limited and aging physical form, he gets to see everything, taste everything, and go everywhere. This idea has brought delight to my daughter and gifted her peace because she always lamented that he could never go to school with her, eat chocolate or any of the other things he was allergic to, or travel long distances in the car or by airplane. He is still with us. We still feel his presence in our home when we come back after being out of the house. We still have moments when we habitually say goodbye to him when we leave for errands. He’s always with us and we are so grateful for that.
Life is a series of so many cycles that connect and overlap between ourselves and the aspects of the Universe surrounding us. I’m so glad that I got to spend 14 years with Otto and I’m so glad that he was with me through so many of my own cycles. I’m finding joy lately in the fact that I’ve been working to create new cycles for myself. I know that in the first weeks my emptiness was so complete that I honestly contemplated reigniting the most energy-intensive cycles I’ve experienced: “I could have another baby! I could train for an ultramarathon! I could get another dog!” I am glad that I was able to connect to acceptance and Unconditional Love in the Present Moment and just sit without action. I was able to recognize that I wanted to feel the known and familiar, rather than confront the unknown and uncomfortable. Through this, I felt everything there was to feel within me. I allowed every longing and fear to come up and move through me. I sat with every emotion, thought, belief, dream, desire, and memory.
This introspection turned out to be the ultimate gift for myself through this experience. I wrote in a journal to Otto and recognized so many patterns and so many coping mechanisms that I turned to in order to soothe pain. I have that journal to Otto as a treasure that I will keep with me always to remember the time when he taught me a million lessons through his short life and the culmination of it. He will always be a part of my experience and now, he exists in my imaginary calm spaces as well. I visit him and sit with him and imagine the feel of his fun under my hands and the familiar smell of him. I feel his warmth and I feel how much he loved me through his calm presence. I will always have him to visit and sit with and I trust implicitly that he is beyond all of the suffering that he endured through his limited and aged form.
All cycles end and while I am so grieved that he is physically gone, I know that he has gone ahead back to the source of Awareness that animates us all and, paradoxically, is now closer than he has ever been.
I love you forever, Otto.
One thought on “Otto.”
This is so raw. I feel all that you feel in this post! I’m glad you were able to write this for yourself and for everyone who has ever lost a loved one! ❤️