We love our dogs. We have two: A Golden Retriever/Border Collie mix named Winnie and a Cocker Spaniel/Sheltie mix named Elvis. If you follow me, I’m sure you’ve seen their pictures. In fact, one of my favorites is above.
I am reminded of the cold day last winter, when we took it. After a brief conversation about our shared vision for the photos, whimsy being front and center, Photographer Extraordinaire Laura Pedrick exceeded all expectations by finding this vintage motorcycle with sidecar and taking the resulting snaps. They’re just brilliant.
On the day of the shoot, Handsome Husband Dan and my Website Designer/ Sister-From-Another-Mister Denise Donnelley Petti came along to help. After all, I wouldn’t be the only diva of the day. (Although, at one point I did TRY to command Denise to retrieve my lipstick from the car, exclaiming “Take care of the talent!”; surprise, I got carried away…) Having the dogs on site required supports, because they were the real divas – and I was more than overjoyed to give them the spotlight. Just look at them, like fish to water! They did not disappoint!
While Laura danced around us with her camera, I tried very hard to strike the appropriate pose, but it was difficult not to squeal in delight at the dogs’ modeling chops. They were real hams, vamping for the camera while Dan pitched them treats like it was the World Series, and Denise giggled and took video with her phone, cooing the whole time, “HERE BABIES, WINNIE, ELVIS! Look at ME!”
Just thinking about that day makes me smile. And then, it makes me sad. Because, our dogs are old. They’re 15 and 13 respectively. And while they don’t look it, it’s a fact that cannot be ignored. Especially when Winnie needs her lumps and bumps checked and Elvis needs enzymes to support his aging pancreas and their eyes are cloudy and they can’t always hear us come through the door at the end of the day anymore.
Thankfully there’s been nothing major to contend with, but still…we know it has to be coming. Because in dog years, they’re 105 and 91.
Ouch, that hurts even to type.
I got my first dog–a Golden Retriever named Sophie–when I was 35. She got cancer at six years old and I had to put her down, a fact that still makes me tear up. Consequently, I’ve never had old dogs. I have no idea how to manage the varying scenarios of when or how they’ll go spinning like a whirling dervish in my brain, or the “pre-grief” of losing them. So I reached out to my dear friend Pat, who’s had dogs her whole life, for her advice. “How do you deal with it,” I asked. “The crushing sadness and anxiety around what’s coming, the sooner versus later…”
Just enjoy every moment, she said. Love them hard.
And so this weekend, we took them to the groomers. Winnie wasn’t bad (she never is, to the contrary, she’s as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen possible), but Elvis’ new medicine had him smelling like dirty feet. After dropping them off and running our errands, Dan and I hunkered down at home in front of a movie and a fire until they were ready for us to come get them. “Nice to eat lunch on the sofa without 75 pounds of panting, salivating, squealing dog drooling over us,” I said to him. And we laughed.
And then, I wanted to cry. Because once I got over the novelty of eating freely, not having them there was horrible. Their absence was a foreboding sign of things to come.
My husband who, of course, after 13 years together, has learned how to read my mind and said, “Don’t worry. They’re okay. They’re still here!”
He’s much better at handling the reality of the situation than I am, even though I know he adores them just as much. Unlike me, however, he’s not always groping at them, proclaiming his undying love for them and how they’ve changed his life, or hugging them–sometimes against their will–crying, as if they’re all in a scene from a very sad Marley-and-Me-esque movie, whimpering about how much he’s gonna miss them.
This is where letting go can be tough. Even for me. Listen, I’m not just a teacher, but my own student aplenty, walking what I talk, and reminding myself over and over again of my own, most important lessons.
“Let go of worry, Jill” I say to myself, racing to the car when we finally got the text from the groomer that the dogs were ready to come home. In my haste, I put on two different shoes and a lipstick color that was all wrong for me. But I simply couldn’t wait to have them sniffing at my feet, looking for scraps, and trying desperately to get their wet noses into my business.
It’s a bargain we make when we get them–and biology, of course–that if we are lucky, we’ll outlive them. Back then, we made it with Winnie and Elvis, who we got at three and one, knowing we wouldn’t have to deal with the truth of that bargain for a very long while. Now, it’s in our faces.
If I’m to enjoy whatever time we have left with these knuckleheads–these divas on four legs, furry fundamentals, schmoopaloo, cuddle bugs that are absolutely everything times infinity–I must let go.
I must hone my practice.
So this morning, as I pull Winnie and Elvis close and tear up at the thought of losing them, I catch myself. Instead, I take a long deep breath and a moment to appreciate that we are ALL still alive. I give them each a scrub behind the ears, hook them up for a walk, and let go. Knowing that, at least for today, everything is okay.
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Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies creativity, relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It® were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill @letgoforit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.