Grief Lessons From A Dog’s Life

Zoey Painting

A year ago this month I lost my heart dog, my soul mate with a fur coat, my four legged best friend. It’s been a challenging year of grief for me and with every passing day of her absence, I feel Zoey’s physical presence slipping away from me while memories of her continue to flow through my mind like water rolling down hill. In this past year the thought of Zoey is laced into most of my daily thoughts. There are reminders of her life all over my house. I see her sitting on the hill in the backyard and yet she’s not really there. I still step over her when I get out of the shower but she’s not there. At night when it’s time for sleep, I still listen for her snoring but I can’t hear it anymore. I can’t help but think of her when I spend time with my other dog, Abby. They were best friends. Abby misses her too. I miss them together.

Zoey was a beautiful animal. She had a long flowing fur coat and eyes that would melt the heart of even the iciest soul. She had a way about her that made you fall in love with her even if you’re not a dog person. There was a kindness in her that all humans could learn from. For over fourteen years, Zoey was a constant presence in my life and she was there for some pretty major life events…both good and bad. When I was happy, she shared in my joy and when I was sad, she comforted me. She knew me better than most people know me and I trusted her more than I trust a lot of people.

Throughout her life, Zoey had a way of teaching me things. She taught me patience when she was a puppy. Boy she was a biter…especially when she was teething. She taught me how to love unconditionally because there was never a time I got mad at her even when she did stupid things all dogs do. Zoey taught me about living in the moment. Even as she aged and mobility was more difficult, she still loved her walks and she stopped to sniff every mailbox. She never stopped playing. Even on her last day, I have pictures of her outside playing with Abby. She loved life to the very end and this is her legacy. This is perhaps the single greatest lesson she left for me. Cherish life because one day you won’t be here anymore. Love those around you as deeply and freely as you can and always be happy.

Zoey’s death and this past year without her have also taught me about the process of grieving. Grief allows us to say goodbye but more importantly, it allows us to honor those we have lost simply by remembering them. Grief is personal and while no two people do it exactly the same way, it is something we all must go through, if we are to experience love in our lives. If you don’t grieve, you haven’t loved.

I’ve also learned that grief is sneaky. You can feel it even when you don’t think you are! Something seemingly out of the blue reminds you of the loss and bam, suddenly you are filled with unexpected gut wrenching, soul crushing sorrow. I used to hate it when this would happen but now I have learned to accept it. I don’t like it but I know now that it simply means I was actually lucky. I was lucky to have had love so strong in my life that the absence of it cuts though me sometimes. I have learned that in order to have meaningful relationships, with humans or with dogs, you have to allow yourself be vulnerable enough to accept this kind of pain and if you don’t, it means you are holding a part of yourself back. You are missing out on the entirety of love’s purpose, of its gift and all that it has to offer.

Zoey’s physical absence is hard to cope with but the memory of her, the lessons she left me with, stay with me. When I act on these lessons, when I allow myself to love openly and without hesitation, when I seek the true beauty in every day joys otherwise taken for granted, when I put my faith in love and allow myself to experience all of its tender mercy and its inevitable heartache, then I am honoring Zoey’s memory because I become a living example of these lessons. This allows a part of her to stay alive in me. I can’t think there will ever be a day that I stop missing Zoey but, as time goes by, the pain of her loss slowly turns into gratitude for her life. I was lucky. I was blessed to have had the love of a creature as beautiful as my precious Zoey and for all the lessons her love taught me about how best to live my life. I will continue to honor Zoey’s memory and the life that she lived by trying to love and live well with joy and an open heart. It’s what she would want me to do.

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3 thoughts on “Grief Lessons From A Dog’s Life

  1. Sheila R. Dorris

    I tried “liking” this Lisa, yet it is suddenly not recognizing my email address and will not allow me to do so. To say I LOVE this post would be putting it mildly! I love love love your writing and obviously you know I understand since I lost my beloved Escher just a few months before you lost Zoey. I concur that this love is like no other as well as with your other sentiments. I know how you feel because you just described perfectly for me, the emotions with which I live still myself, on a daily basis in honoring my dear Escher. Thank you for spelling it out so beautifully for others to understand. As I still do on a daily basis in missing this love, I cried again when reading this post because I know EXACTLY how you feel. Though I am going through the motions of trying to survive in my world without this miraculous relationship in the physical world, my heart is also still comforted by his memory. I have Escher still staring at me everywhere I go since it is his picture still all over my house, and on my phone’s wallpaper. I have him staring at me from the windshield of my car when I am driving, and from my desk when I am working. He is watching me while I play with Winslow; with who I guiltily find myself telling, “I cannot wait until I fall as deeply in love with you as I was with Escher.” Life is cruel yet soooo much easier to cope when we have the love of these magnificent members of the peaceable kingdom; those who are extra special and yes part of our soul the way Zoey is yours and Escher is mine. Lisa, thank you for the happy tears I just shed. I love you my dear friend, and though we are many miles a part, I am with you in spirit every day. I think about you and Zoey daily, every time I look at Escher, and I think about Abby every time I look at Winslow. My thoughts are of you my dear because on a daily basis I know the pain that is still stabbing both our hearts. Though I have been hibernating within the challenges of my own, every day life, it doesn’t mean my thoughts and heart are also hiding from my friends. Yet you are my one friend with who I share this particular bond, as we both still grieve yet also honor our pups. Thank you again Lisa! MUCH LOVE ALWAYS! Sheila

    Liked by 1 person

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