I remember, as a child, sitting in a closet at Grandma’s farm listening to the old music box tunes. During one or two occasions, I began to have severe sadness and began crying about my thoughts of losing my Grandma Gallaher, having her pass away even though I would grow up and still enjoy her presence into my twenties. I had grown a special bond with her when she was my caretaker during a bout with scarlet fever and she was the only family member having already had the disease. She was special. In retrospect I can add, she was the most selfless person I have ever known. The thought of losing her was too much.
The tears I would not hold back. I was overtaken momentarily by an overwhelm of sadness and, I am sure, this is a remembered pattern that carries with me to this day. Similarly, I have embraced exactly the same emotional/physical/spiritual feelings/thoughts/expressions in countless numbers of other occasions – but this time, it feels especially real like the first time.
My sadness is the pending loss of one of my closest friends. My dog Friedrich. I have had Friedrich and his brother Gustav at my side for many years (they are 19) since we got them from MinPin rescue in Columbus 17 ½ years ago. They were Smokey and Doobie then. We had renamed them when we integrated them with our other MinPin Wolfgang, of the same age. Wolfgang didn’t outlast his pack-mates and, after severe illness, was put down five years or more ago.
When I moved to Columbus in the past year, I brought the wonder dogs with me. Friedrich was already getting pretty blind and was showing signs of arthritis and severe hearing loss. Gustav similar but at a level of 1/10 of the symptoms of Friedrich. Now Friedrich is completely blind, complete loss of hearing and can only walk and stand up for short periods of time. He can no longer defend himself from Gustav’s assertions although Friedrich was the Alpha dog for the pack.
I can’t express how much a burden Friedrich is from dog care standpoint because I resolved initially after moving that I would take on a Zen approach to the care of the dogs and give them every possible means of living in a comfortable environment, even though they had to trog up and down the steps 2-3 times a day for “exercise” outdoors. In the past 2 weeks, primarily the cold weather, Friedrich couldn’t function walking outdoors, his hips would lock up and he would fall. I had to carry him to and from the apartment.
Friedrich wasn’t the cuddling, loving friend I had before he shipped off to Gigi’s house. One occasion of a fight with Gustav caused him injury and we all felt it would be a good thing to separate the dogs. I think he had diminishing skill maintaining his Alpha status against Gustav, and yet I still treasured him for his independence, spunk, and assertion skills over a vastly stronger peer. He has never stopped, to date, letting Gustav know who’s the boss.
Now I have to consider the obvious, Friedrich is likely in his last days. I honestly expect he will just not wake one day from a nap. He still manages to sniff around and find his bed, which I have lit up at night so he can find his way back (when he could see light/dark) but now it’s just his sense of smell that directs him.
I am writing this to allay my future grief, as I get to experience such courageous behavior in a very old and frail dog. What a gift. What a great span of companionship and joy watching Friedrich prance. He had the finest gait-walk of any dog I have seen. He pranced for me a couple of weeks ago when we were out walking and he sensed a stretch of safe ground to trot.
The greatest gift is the reminder that, in our human experience we have birth/death. The reminder to live powerfully every day as if it’s your last, and give it everything you got, blind, can’t walk, can’t hear, and so much else missing from the arsenal because that is why we are here – to experience for the seer who witnesses our lives. Thanks Friedrich for being an example for me to just keep moving, nothing short of death until the final stop.
I get the emotion wrapped up in a story is what we do as humans to express “reasons” for things from our thinking mind. That is the story I have written and known. And who knows why the witness who sees all and is who we really are put Friedrich in my path? I don’t know for sure. But thanks again! It’s been (and still is) a great story for me. In this universe of magic and unknown, Friedrich is me – for we created us for our experience together. And the fleeting moment in my expression as a human being I get a distinction of Friedrich to play with and he with me. The witness of it all knows. I cannot express greater appreciation!