My Dog Taught Me Definitive Lessons on Being Human
The last three weeks of life have taught me some definitive lessons on being human… I learned these lessons because of a dog. Yes, a dog… A dog that is smaller than most house cats. I’ll let that sink in.
A little sidenote, if you aren’t a lover of dogs, (I am sorry for you) you may have a hard time relating to what you are about to read.
“Her white blood cell count has bottomed out and there may not be much we can do for her.”
I’m sorry but excuse me? What? Little dogs live to be 14, 16, 18 even! What are you trying to tell me right now? She’s only 10. That’s like, way too many years too early. I am NOT ready to say goodbye to her. She’s a spoiled 10 year old ball of fur that loves to eat expensive dog food, chew raw beef bones and hump a pink teddy bear in the middle of our living room that’s twice her size… What do you even mean there isn’t much you may be able to do for her?! THIS IS NOT OK. THIS IS IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM OK.
Those were the (censored for my blog) thoughts that ran through my head as I stood in exam room 3 of the vets office with tears streaming down my face, holding in my arms a groggy, 5 lb 4 oz, ball of fur named Bella. This was last week. Two weeks into a nightmare that started with a routine doggy dental cleaning. The only thing the vet could tell me to do was wait to see how her little body responded to some big medicines. This morning, a week after an inconclusive bone marrow test, I went back for the final blood draw. I stood in the same exam room and waited. I waited as they took her from my arms to draw the blood that would tell me if she was going to be ok. I waited holding her so tight as they ran the tests that would either wake us up from this nightmare or spiral us deeper into it. I held my breath as the vet came in the room with the paper. “Her levels have dramatically improved!” I let out an exhale and yes, I cried. Right there in exam room 3, I wept, except this time they weren’t tears of sadness and uncertainty, they were beautiful tears of joy and gratitude. This little dog that has changed my world is going to be ok, for now.
As I drove her home, I went through the process of debriefing myself. It’s a quirky process that I came up with long ago that allows me to critically think about things that have happened and lessons I have learned about a situation. Before I get into what these three weeks have taught me, I will start with the conclusion that I came up with… It might sound super-duper crazy, but I am thankful this happened. I have legitimate gratitude that I have gone through this. (Yes, for real.) It taught me to stop. It taught me to stop the busyness of life and pay attention to the life that’s in front of you. It’s helped me to be more present in my relationships because we don’t know when they will be gone.
It reaffirmed the incredible support system that I have. It also opened my eyes to the fact that there are people who don’t have support systems like mine. It called me into action to want to be someone’s support system. To show up for someone who needs it, when they don’t have anybody else.
It taught me to rely on God. In my weakness, He is strong. In my worrying, He is steadfast. In my sorrow, He is my comfort. My sweet sister, always there with a redeeming word, shared an incredible story that referenced the Saturday between the Friday Jesus was put to death and the Sunday that he arose from the dead. Silent Saturday. The in-between days spent waiting on God to move. The three weeks of waiting were my Silent Saturday. For those days that I know will come again in life, I am comforted by these words “In the silence, wait well. Pray. Trust. Mourn. There’s no shame in that. But keep hoping. Sunday, your Sunday is coming.” I didn’t know if my Bella was going to be ok but I learned that regardless of the outcome, putting my hope in God and who he is was my best bet at getting through any of it.
It taught me to cherish each moment. Waiting for her to sniff out the perfect spot to pee when it’s super-duper hot out and the air conditioning feels so much better. Waiting for her to slowwwly finish her breakfast so I can leave for work. Waiting for her to walk in circles to find the most perfect spot for a little nighttime snooze-fest. Taking each moment and wrapping it in a pretty bow and placing it in my memory. Cherishing the time I have with her. Taking time to do nothing other than lay on the floor with her and rub her belly. The moments are fleeting and memories are all that will be left so it’s imperative that we cherish the moments and make some damn good memories.
Love with reckless abandon. Judge me if you must, but I had a moment where I tried to protect myself. Self-preservation at its finest. It lasted about 42 seconds. I had myself convinced for the better part of a minute that “It’s just a dog. No big deal.” Then I looked at her and turned into a blubbering basketcase. Cheers to being human. I’ve come to terms with the fact that when it’s over, it’s over. Withholding your love to try and protect yourself won’t make it feel any less painful. This is true for our dogs and this is true for fellow humans.
My debrief with myself came to an end just as I was turning down our road. I thanked God one more time for just a little more time with my dog. In that moment, the sun came out from behind the ominous dark clouds. The sun came out so bright that I had to put my sunglasses on. In that moment I am reminded that no matter what, the sun does come out again. On the cloudiest days, in the most horrible of storms, the sun always comes out again. I know one day, the day will come that I am going to have to say goodbye to this little ball of love that we named Bella. I boast in the Lord and his great mercy that today was not that day.