At age 19, I was given one of the best gifts I had ever and will ever receive. You were a shelter pup, dropped off from a farm in Indiana. Completely black with huge paws, and a resolve that challenged me. My life was never the same again. The next few years would be a series of chewed up underwear, stolen bones from the trash, ripped up flooring, and more love than I had ever experienced up to that point in my life. My life evolved as you grew. What was once just you and I, became a family. You made room for more love, you showed me how much I had inside of me. You loved my children as I loved you. For that, I am forever grateful.
You taught me many things in my youth.
You taught me you don’t give up on something just because it’s hard.
You taught me, true love is worth all the work.
You taught me there is more than one way to accomplish what you want.
You taught me well behaved doesn’t always end in success.
You taught me being needed can be beautiful.
You taught me what happiness looked like.
You taught me that life is what you make it.
You taught me love expands to exactly the size it needs to be.
In my thirties, I noticed you didn’t move so easily anymore. Your athletic build that carried your body through the journey of all day swimming trips, car rides, frisbee throwing competitions, and camping, had begun to slow down. Your back legs would give out coming up the stairs, you would get lost in the woods behind our home where you once roamed so confidently. Your resolve had weakened. Day after day, regardless of how I tried to ignore it, your body and your spirit told me you were ready.
You taught me how to let go.
You taught me that the choice is never clear.
You taught me to listen to my intuition.
You taught me to love now.
You taught me that things change, and that’s okay.
You taught me, how to lose a friend like no other.
I said goodbye to my best friend, and I vowed to never forget how you smelled like home. I would never forget how your feet looked like giant rabbit feet, and you would snuggle up, tucking your head under my chin. I vowed to never forget, the funny space between your bottom teeth and the beautiful energy that you brought to my life, every single day.
I woke up one day in my forties, and realized, all of those things I vowed to never forget, were slipping from my memory. I cried for hours. It felt like a betrayal. I couldn’t smell your salty paws in my memory anymore. I couldn’t remember how your fur felt against my face. How could I? I immediately went to work beating myself up for all of the little things I could no longer remember about you my friend. From pain, comes growth, if you let it. You taught me this.
That day I vowed to hold on.
Hold onto the smells.
Hold onto the joy.
Hold onto the character.
Hold onto the fun times.
Hold onto the hard times.
Hold onto the little things.
I vowed to remember the idiosyncrasies of a life. A life we so often take for granted once the excitement wears off.
You sit by our side day after day. You exemplify how to live a mindful life, if we are paying attention. You bask in the day like no other being I’ve ever seen. You take each moment for what it is, not wishing it to be different.
Last year I lost a fur baby at too young of an age, and I watched another growing old gracefully. It reignited the old pain from when I lost you. It reminded me of what I will never get back. It sparked a resolve to hang on to what I can now so that tomorrow, when I need it, it will be there.
We create baby books for our children. We take photo after photo to hang onto the precious memories because our children grow too fast. We do our best to create ideas around hanging on to what we can’t lose. The energy of a unique life.
You deserve nothing less.
You are here for such a short time. I want to soak in all that you are and all that you bring. I want to hold on to each memory and the things that differentiate you from each other. When I look back on your life, I don’t want to remember a life cut short. I want to remember a funny nose, or cute teeth. I want to remember the idiosyncrasies that make each friend unique. I want something close by, so when my memory ages and is no longer as sharp as it once was, I have something tangible to remind me.
You taught me well Parker. I can never repay you. Your legacy has enriched more fur babies since you passed. Your story goes on through them and many more in the future. I live mindfully now Parker. You were right, each day is a gift and we must receive it.
I love you Lou Lou Bear,
A Way to Hold On: An idea sparked on a snowy afternoon when my teenage son had the back door open for the dogs to go outside. Our exuberant Red Heeler pup ran out the back door so fast there was no question as to her intent. Our 12 year old Irish Wolfhound/Lab mix stood ambivalently deciding whether he would exit or not. My son and I laughed about how Norman Foreman had always been ambivalent about going outside. This was one of the things that set him apart from any other dog we had ever had. I realized at that moment, that this was one of the memories I had to hold onto.
That day we created a memory jar for each fur friend. On slips of paper, we write funny, sad, frustrating or silly things that our fur friends do that we don’t want to forget. We hold on through our memories and the jar is a tangible way to do that.
When our fur friend passes, we have a celebration of life, during which we each take turns reading the slips of paper remembering a life, a soul. We laugh, we sob, we sit in silence. It’s our way of holding on I guess. It’s our way of being mindful. It’s our way of honoring these amazing souls that are just gifts to us temporarily.
An idea from our family to yours. We hope it enhances your relationship with these beautiful beings.