Just some words to celebrate his life. You may recall my post Life, and mortality was published a week ago.
George was a street cat that Jean found in San Carlos, Mexico, close to where she was then living. He just turned up on Jean’s doorstep one day back in 2003, perhaps a little over a year old. Just typical of the many cats struggling to live on the streets.
George became ill a few weeks ago with feline leukaemia. He was made comfortable in our guest bedroom.
Late last night he was barely alive but not in any pain. This morning we found that he had died during the night.
I included the last two photographs simply because they seemed to express the reality of death; in the sense that the world continues to revolve long after we have gone.
Possibly the most important lesson we can learn from dogs!
I was aware when writing the concluding part of Meet the dogs – Pharaoh that the next day I would be faced with writing about a subject that is a whole degree more difficult. Death!
It must have been in my mind when I wrote “of the need to smell the flowers in this short life of ours.”
What has prompted today’s post?
Simply that Dhalia developed a limp in her front, right-hand, leg. That was a few weeks ago. Naturally, we took her to our local vet, Dr. Codd, who diagnosed a strained elbow joint probably as a result of arthritis; Dhalia is believed to be ten-years-old. With the recommended medication, the limp came to an end.
Then about two weeks ago, the elbow weakness appeared in her left-hand, front leg.
On Monday, we returned to Dr. Codd who took further X-rays and sought a second opinion. That second opinion came back with the probability that it was a “osteoproliferative neoplastic lesion” or bone cancer to you and me! It’s not one-hundred-per-cent certain but likely.
It only seemed like yesterday that Jean wrote about Dhalia in our ‘Meet the dogs’ series. That post included this photograph.
Jean is very sad, as one would expect, nay we both are. Dhalia, like Hazel and some of the other dogs here at home, has a loving openness towards humans that is truly remarkable when one learns of how these dogs came to be rescued: Dhalia being found by Jean living rough in a desolate part of a Mexican desert. This is what Jean wrote in that ‘Meet the dogs‘ account:
I named her Dhalia and after treatments for mange she became quite beautiful. She was the pivotal part of a short story, Messages from the Night, Paul wrote back in 2011. Under her sweet exterior remains that same will to survive so evident when I rescued her all those years ago. There has been more than one occasion that she has brought me a recently killed squirrel or an ancient bone. We love our Dhalia: she still reaches out with her front paw when she seeks attention. Dhalia will be ten-years-old this year.
Somehow, Dhalia’s possible last few weeks of life resonated with much else going on. Close to us, the recent death of a chicken, and one of our cats that does not have much longer to live. In the wider world, the Washington State mud-slide, flight MH370, and the Ukraine. The news media treat death as almost a trivial, incidental part of the scheme of things.
It takes others to offer words that elevate death to its deserved meaning. Take, for example, author Brian Beker, who writes the blog The Dog in the Clouds. Brian recently wrote the following post:
Prayer for an eagle
Please say a prayer for beautiful bald eagle who just died a death he did not deserve.
He was stuck on the ground near a concrete barrier on a stretch of interstate under construction in Arkansas. I spotted him with his head down, facing into the traffic that was passing a foot away from him.
He was an adult bald eagle-big and brave, facing down the oncoming 18 wheelers.
There was no place to pull off, concrete barriers on both sides, so I went to the next exit and backtracked. My adrenaline was rushing in horror and fear. My plan was just to stop and block traffic, and pick him up. But he had been killed by the time I got back to him three or four minutes later.
I failed that bird.
I hope he is circling over the lakes and trees he loves.
Back to learning about death from our dogs.
Dhalia’s possible terminal condition; my Pharaoh being the age he is; somewhere in there has come the recognition that we should embrace life yet also embrace our mortality; our death. As Leonardo da Vinci was reputed to have said, “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”
What does death mean; truly mean? I don’t know. All I know is that death is the end of a life. That our immortality is only an echo, a reverberation of who we were and what we stood for. Or no better put than by American lawyer, Albert Pike, who left these words before he died on April 2nd, 1891 (Yes, I looked it up!)
What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;
what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.
Last thought from our dogs. Recall that yesterday, I wrote, “Pharaoh has been my greatest inspiration of the power of unconditional love; of the need to smell the flowers in this short life of ours.”
Day in, day out, anyone with dogs in their lives know how often they offer us simple acts of love.
A life of simple acts of love – now that does give death a meaning!
Whatever one’s view is about the significance of CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, this blog is about integrity. As the byline states, “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.” Regular readers (and thank you for being one) know that this blog ranges far and wide in pursuit of stories, essays and examples of integrity, all the more better when they involve a dog!
All dog owners know that one of the prime things we can learn from our dogs is the ability to remain in the present. No, more than that! To value and cherish the present. Dogs manage this in an effortless manner, in a way that humans can only dream of achieving.
This came to me as a result of a recent post on Damn the Matrix, Mike Stasse’s fascinating blog. The post was about what we humans regret at the end of our days, which I will come to in a moment.
Mike had taken the theme from a recent book by Australian author Bronnie Ware. Her website is here from where one learns:
Bronnie Ware is an inspiring and creative soul from Australia.
Through her work Bronnie weaves delightful tales of real life observations and experience. Using gentleness, honesty, and humour, Bronnie celebrates both the strength and vulnerability of human nature. Her message is a positive and inspiring one.
Bronnie is the author of the full-length memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying– A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, released worldwide, with translations in 27 languages. She also runs an online personal growth and songwriting course, has released two albums of original songs, and writes a well-loved blog called Inspiration and Chai.
Every challenge brings its own gifts. Sometimes though it is not always easy to see those gifts at first. Suffering and wounds can blind us. We have all been there. It is at times like these that Inspiration and Chai is needed. Inspiration to soothe the heart. Chai to soothe the body.
Even during happier cruising chapters, being inspired is still a beautiful thing. It keeps us going. It reminds us of what we already know.
Inspiration and Chai is an ongoing journey. The aim of this site is to share inspirational stories and motivational thoughts and for it to reach more and more people in need, seekers on their path. It is a positive environment to revisit whenever you feel it calling. It is also somewhere for me to share my love of story telling and to share memories of life.
Jean is no stranger to the death of a dog. Over her many years of rescuing dogs Jean has seen far too many deaths. I have been living with Jean since 2008. In that short time five of our dogs have died.
Of course, we have no idea of what goes through a dog’s mind in those last stages of life. Dogs appear to embrace death in an uncomplicated way but we will never know for sure.
What about humans? On Bronnie’s blogsite there is a post under the title of Regrets of the dying. Whatever age you are, read what Bonnie wrote and ponder:
REGRETS OF THE DYING
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
I hesitated to write anything more because that last sentence should be the one that continues to resonate.
So just a reflection on how easy it is for a dog to wag its tail – dogs so easily choose happiness.
Another example of the astounding bond between dog and man.
Regular supporters of Learning from Dogs will be aware that yesterday I wrote, under the heading of Paws of Love, about two examples of the most amazing bond that develops between the dog and man, one of them a very personal account.
We subscribe to the website, Top Documentary Films, and the other night we watched a 48-minute program about The Grim Reaper Dog. The link to the TDF programme is here. (It includes three separate films.)
The Grim Reaper Dog is about Scamp, a little Schnauzer who resides at The Pine nursing home in Canton, Ohio. Like many live-in pets at nursing homes, Scamp brings companionship to the residents but he also does more than that. Scamp seems to have a gift that tells him when the end is near for one of the residents and he loyally stays with them during their final hours.
So if you want to watch the film in full within the TDF website, then go here.
If you want to watch it directly from YouTube then the three parts of the film are below – prepared to be amazed! Or perhaps those of you who live emotionally close to a dog will just find the film as confirmation of what you already know!