Animals know more than we think they do.
There's nothing new under the sun, only surprises.
This is Murphy. He had an amazing journey to become "our boy". We got him when he was about 2 and he died 5 years later. We're in the habit of torturing ourselves. My friend refers to her family as a "hospice for dogs". She adopts the older dogs who are "unadoptable" and they ultimately live longer than expected. Yeah, that's us, too. Oh, how loving kindness increases the will to live.
We seem to be attracted to the pitiful ones. The grateful ones. The ones hoping for a bit of kindness. Such was Murphy.
A family of mine knew our dog had died. They were shopping for carpeting and walked past a Petco and saw Murphy, curled up in his cage. They paged me immediately. Several days later, I took The Kid to another Petco to meet Murphy, as arranged.
It was total love at first sight. Murphy performed his "little brown comma" routine by heading straight for The Kid, curling up against him and putting all his weight, about 60 pounds, against him, essentially staking claim. Several days after that, my husband went to meet him, too, to take him to a vet to check him out.
The vet said he had a fractured hip, but apparently wasn't causing him any discomfort. Dogs are like that. They can be very broken and soldier on. Considering my husband's leg injuries, they made a perfect fit. On the way back to Petco to do the paperwork, Murphy put his paw on my husband's leg. "Don't leave me. Please don't leave me". He paid the fees and told them he would come back after work.
Well, he went back after work and just as he was pulling up, another family was leaving with Murphy. He explained to the parents and the soon-to-be heartbroken little boy that Murphy was our dog and there had been a mix-up. They took another fur friend home.
The hubs said, that from the looks of "things", the little family wouldn't have been able to afford the $15,000 we spent on Murphy over the course of the next 5 years.
Murphy had cancer which required radiation in a facility 40 miles away. He had skin allergies which required a dermatologist and injections several times a week. He had digestive problems and I made him rice and chicken or mashed potatoes and chicken. "Growths" were constantly being removed that made him look more fierce than his Irish Boxer breed would suggest.
Murphy taught us that it's the little things like having your bed in the same place all the time. "If you move it, I'll get scared that you don't belong to me anymore. I don't like it when things are different."
- Consistency and predictability help the little ones to grow by allowing them to feel safe.
- Consistency and predictability give them confidence.
- Consistency and predictability give them the emotional and intellectual resources necessary to learn.
Murphy taught us that sometimes you have to ask for what you want. If I put my chin on your leg and do my "chin charming" act (chin on knee, wagging the stubby little tail), it means I want you to talk to me or pet my silky brown ears. I feel what you feel because we love each other.
- Giving attention once it's pursued is critical to having a loving relationship, a relationship that can be trusted.
- Attention and affection doesn't have to be given in "grand" demonstrations. Kind words, small gestures, maybe a piece of cheese every now and again. That's it.
- If I become a "little brown comma", it's just like the first day I met you. I am so excited! Maybe it's because we're going for a walk or we're taking you to school. Everything about you, Boy, is exciting. If you're happy, then so am I.
Murphy taught us that it's not where you start out that counts, it's where you end up.
- None of us are responsible for our "beginnings". We must, however, assume at least some responsibility for how we end up. How we handle the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes" can "make or break" the rest of our story.
- Don't let your beginnings predict your future. Very little is set in stone. You did not have choices then. You do now. Make the healthiest choices you can.
- Life is unpredictable. You just never know what will happen. Chuck Noland, the character played by Tom Hanks in Cast Away said, "I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?"
I was waiting at the gate at LAX, on my way to Nashville to give a lecture. I got the call. I knew that if I was hysterical, I wouldn't be allowed on the plane. I was cutting it close as it was. I pulled up my bootstraps and got on.
Once we reached cruising altitude, I lost it. I simply curled over, put my face on my knees and started wailing. I couldn't help it. I tried to be as quiet as I could. I knew I would likely upset others. The flight attendants came running. Oh great. When I could talk, I told them my dog just died. One attendant literally pulled me out of my seat and they gave me a group hug. The "aw, oh no" chorus began.
Whatever was going on with that group of people in that plane that day, Murphy's death triggered a wave of emotion that had been teetering on the brink like water just before it flows over the edge of the glass...held inside the rim of the glass only by the magic of surface tension.
Perhaps people were "white knuckle flyers" and used the opportunity to release their tension. Regardless, easily 75% of the people on that plane were in tears or were tearful.
After a good bit of time, a flight attendant announced that we were "upsetting" the pilots and that we needed to "pull ourselves together now that we've had a good cry". We did. Everything went well. I wobbled between embarrassment and grief, but made it through without any further hysteria.
I was exhausted when the plane landed. People were delightful. As they passed me, they spoke the names of their dogs, cats, horses, birds, hamsters, parents, siblings, and children who have "gone on". It was some serious you-know-what. The weight of the loss and unexpressed grief for that loss was unexpected. People walk around with a lot of emotions. We're all "just on the brink" of hysteria on the inside.
The pilot was standing at the doorway to the aircraft when I, the last one to leave, met him. He looked sternly at me. I didn't care. I had 1000 people to give a lecture to and I had to compartmentalize my emotions. He asked me about Murphy. I told him a bit. Tears welled in his eyes as he shared about the German Shepherd he had as a boy.
We're all a mess. One big collective mess. Pets. They give us a special kind of love and leave us with a special kind of sorrow. Honor them by learning the lessons they teach. These are the lessons only they can teach.
Just do the best you can, Claudia
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