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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Life Lessons From a Dog that Got His Angel Wings

Sweet Angel Bailey

I said goodbye to my Bailey dog on July 6th, 2012.  He waited for me to come home, when I got there he lifted his head and looked at me with relief.  He wanted to stay with me, but he also knew he needed to let go, it was his time.   And in a few minutes, he just slipped away, not able to hold on any longer.  Now it was my turn to let go.  Lets just say I didn't handle it as gracefully.  I had known it was coming for several months, yet I couldn't believe it was happening... it wasn't how I had envisioned him dying.

Life Lesson #1:  You are not in control of how life will behave.  
Death is apparently not an option. 

"Don't take life too seriously, you will not get out alive."  Bugs Bunny

Grief is a funny thing, it paralyzes your heart and head for a good amount of time after a grand loss.  I'm not quite sure what I did for about 3 weeks, time really alluded me as my mind would drift to the past memories.  More than anything I wanted the day of his actual death to stop looping in my head.  I couldn't reconcile in my heart that I should have done something different that day.  That I should have paid more attention and just sat with him the whole day.  I wanted him to forgive me for not realizing that his little body was shutting down and that he was trying to get my attention.  I kept thinking that when I got all my work done that I had been putting off that whole week, I would sit with him that night, because I was pretty sure the next day I would be calling on the vet to put him to sleep.  Looking back now,  I think Bailey knew I couldn't make that decision, so he made it for me.  

Life Lesson #2:  Be kind to yourself, be gentle with yourself, 
have compassion for yourself.  
It is never going to be the right time to say goodbye to a loved one.

He died about 5pm.  That morning I took him and his puppy brother, Milo, to the beach.  The beach is just possibly a dog's favorite places on earth.  I let the crazy puppy out of the van to frolic on the beach and play at the waters edge.  I sat on the floor in the van with the sliding door open, Bailey lay next to me.  He was too weak to want to get out, but alert enough to want to smell and watch the ocean waves.  We just sat and watched, and it was like a silent, slow motion movie playing before us.  About 20 pelicans (which I hardly ever see) followed each other in a straight line, flying parallel to the beach. They would ascend and descend as if playing follow the leader.  Bailey and I just watched for the longest time, it was rhythmic; watching the pelicans, the waves and Milo dance on the beach.  It was peaceful.  In that moment, the world felt in sync.  My old friend, who was always by my side, was also peaceful and in tune with his surroundings, he felt it too.  Later, when we were driving off the beach, Bailey made an effort to get up on the seat to look at the ocean... looking back on this, I think he knew, on a cellular level, this was his last time on the beach, and he was saying goodbye to his favorite place on earth.

Life Lesson #3:  Become a part of nature.  Watch.  Listen.  
Breathe deeply in, allow peace to wash over you.  

Bailey in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

About 7pm, Bailey was gone physically from my home.  I was left with a black hole in my heart, a deafening silent home, and my 11 month old golden retriever looking at me like, "What just happened?"  So Milo and I went back to the beach.

It was the only place that I could ensure any sort of peace.  I needed my heart to be able to expand in a wide open space.  As Milo ran ahead of me, frolicking in the waves, entering on stage left were the pelicans.  Rising up and dipping back into the water, again in there slow methodic flight pattern.  Seeing this struck me with a wave of peace.  That morning's memories of oneness with the world, sitting with Bailey in the van, all flooded back.  He didn't feel so far away and I didn't feel so lost.  I sat down on a washed up log to sit and take it all in.  I looked down at an inscription that someone had carved into the log.  It said, "God".

The log I was sitting on with the "God" inscription.

As I watched the sun set, I couldn't help but smile at the synchronicity and symbolism of it all.   I was left with a deep appreciation for the experience of having Bailey in my life and with witnessing God's presence when I most needed it.

The pelicans at sunset.

Life Lesson #4:  Follow your heart and open your eyes.  
There are signs that tell us God is listening and our loved ones 
are not far away even though they are gone from this earth.  
Their energy is all around us, God's energy is all around us.

 For awhile I was mentally crawling my way through the daily grind.  I would continue to ask myself, "How can I take care of myself in this moment."  I gave myself permission to feel, but not wallow.  I didn't want to mask my feelings by using any substance or playing the avoidance game that I usually am so good at when I don't want to deal with my emotions.  Pretty soon the guilt of letting him down on the day he passed subsided, I know that he knows how much I loved him and the last thing I wanted was for him to suffer.  Sometimes it feels like he is slipping farther and farther away, and other times like he is close by.  I have seen two pelicans on two separate occasions in places where I have never seen them before.  They seem to show up when I am deeply missing him, I'll take it as a sign that all is okay, that his spirit is still with me.  I do miss his gentle presence he was my best friend. 

Life Lesson #5:  Allow yourself to feel, this is where healing happens.

 I am ever so thankful for Milo.  The fact that I even got Milo when I did is serendipitous.  He is turning into an awesome dog.  It took me some time to stop comparing him to Bailey, and letting him be his own unique dog.  This is why I miss Bailey so much, he was so unique.  However, this is also why I am growing fonder of Milo every day, he makes me laugh and he is so full of life that I can't help but think how lucky I am.

Milo taking a dip in the purple bucket.

Life Lesson #6:  Embrace what you do have in your present life with love and joy.  Since we know change is the only constant, appreciate all the gifts you have now.   

It has now been 6 months since Bailey's passing, the beginning of a new year and a fresh start into a new chapter in my life.  I am cherishing the old memories, trying to remember to enjoy the precious present moment, and looking forward to creating new goals for an exciting future.  My life is flowering again after the growing pains of loss, and I am left with a whole lot of gratitude for these lessons and nothing but love for my old friend, Bailey Boy.

Bailey rolling on his back making "angel wings" in the sand with his paws.