This post was written 2 ½ months after my dog Logan's death after I had some time to reflect on my experience. We all go through loss in our lives and I think most of us find it difficult. I wanted to share how it was for me. It helps me and it might connect with something in you too.
Logan had been part of our family for over 8 years. Having a dog put to sleep is a decision that I have always dreaded, the decision to end the life of one of my dear companions.
When the time came the decision was easier for me as there were no other options. His condition was acute and there was nothing else the vets could do to help him.
Although it was difficult, I consider myself so fortunate to have been there at his passing. It really helped me accept the reality and feel I was still able to be there for him.
'You can take him home' the vet had said. I didn't understand.
'To bury him' he explained. '
'Or we can have him cremated for you'. .....
'That would be good'
'Unfortunately there is a cost' he said.
'How much?' He gave a figure ...
My mind was racing, trying to understand the words, make a decision.
But then I found I could answer from some deeper place, with no doubt. Through my tears I heard myself saying, to complete strangers
‘No it’s OK, I don’t need that. I KNOW where he is’ and I unconsciously put my hand on my heart.
We had recently moved to the area and these people were strangers to us. I really appreciated that the Hampton vets staff were so kind. They showed all the care and compassion we could have hoped for at such an important time.
I drove home crying my eyes out. When I got home I contacted my daughters, the people that needed to know. I cried and cried. My sister rang, she listened. I woke up in the middle of the night crying. There was guilt, loss, sadness, remorse. Pain.
There was also an uncomfortable sense of relief. I had been worried for a while about Logan’s health. Nothing specific could be identified but he hadn't been right. Now I didn’t need to worry about it anymore. It was out of my hands. I felt guilty about this.
To be honest, I worry about all my dogs’ health, pretty much all of the time. With Logan's passing I found myself wondering. Did I want to spend the rest of the time with my dogs worrying about them. shouldn't I just try to enjoy my time with them? The answer seems obvious, but I've started to notice how worrying about others is a default setting for me.
There was another aspect as well, the importance of emotional health. I'm a firm believer that our own emotional health affects our dogs. They feel our emotions, they can’t get out of the way of them. Emotional health is one of the most important things that we can work on for the good of ourselves. I believe it’s AT LEAST as important as physical health. In truth physical, emotional or mental health can't be separated but as a culture we do tend to consider them separately.
Specifically, I believe if we hold onto stress, anxiety, negative emotions, then our dogs feel it. Our stress can be detrimental to their health, just as it is detrimental to our own. That meant I might be partly responsible for Logan’s ill health and early death. Another aspect of guilt for me to work with.
Feeling partly responsible for his untimely death is what I wonder about. I don't want to shy away from that. How do I feel about it?
- Disappointed at myself
- Regretful that I didn’t spend more time enjoying his physical presence while I could
- Determined to learn what I can from the experience
The following day was spent, on my own, putting together a short blog, a letter to Logan, celebrating his life. It took me all day, going though old photos, thinking about him and what we had done together, how he had come into our life. It seemed the right thing to do and I found writing it and being able to share it helpful.
The last time one of our dogs passed was 9 years ago, in very different circumstances. I still hold onto feelings from that time. Logan had come into our lives to fill the gap that Ben’s passing had made.
But this time I noticed that something in me had changed.
Strangely, within what I considered to be a very few days, I started to notice that I was finding it difficult to connect with the feeling of loss and sadness. I still missed his physical presence but it was easier to bear. In my imagination I would see him, or feel him, curled up in the armchair, or lying under the table, or watching me from the landing. It was as if he hadn’t gone away. He was there, in all his old places, but in a lighter more peaceful way. It gave me a feeling of peace.
Noticing how I felt, realising that I could feel this way, in circumstances I had dreaded, has been very enlightening. I do believe that we don’t just die and disappear, that there is something more. That’s a personal belief that I have developed over the years. It just makes sense to me.
However before Logan's passing I had been scared to death of death, without really being conscious of how much the fear was there. Life felt easier. Logan had taken me to the brink, made me look down into the precipice and then pulled me over the edge…and it was OK.
He always could go run faster or jump higher than me!
Come to the Edge
I can't pretend it doesn't still hurt, but the experience has helped me to a new understanding of myself. It reminded me of a poem by Christopher Logue. His words led me to create my own picture of this event in my life. Hounds helping me connect to a deeper level of understanding of myself.
COME TO THE EDGE
Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It's too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
And they flew.