3 Lessons my dogs passing has taught me
I am the type of person who needs to do things right away or they often won’t get done until way later. So I write the first blog post of my life, while not even having immediate relevance to the wonderful work we do at @Mamabird Interviews , with a stream of consciousness mindset. Even with my doctorate I still am not a master at spelling, grammar and punctuation. I have a model for the young people I mentor however that “Done is better than Perfect.” The intended audience for this is myself. To look back on, to learn from and to grow. If anyone outside of me reads this and benefits in any way, wonderful, and I appreciate your time.
Today would have been our beloved family dog Universe’s 11th birthday. Just 4 days prior we had to put him down due to an incurable tumor growing in his prostate and spreading to his urethra. Even in death he made things easy for us, as he deteriorated quickly, and there was only one very clear choice to do the right thing and prevent the future pain he would feel. We are devastated, and the house is not the same. I miss him being by my side as I work from our basement office. I miss him following me up and down the stairs. I miss his warmth and his kisses. I miss every part of him. I am certainly familiar with the phrase “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone,” but I don’t know how you truly can be appreciative enough of the love our furry friends give.
We say Universe was our first born. We have two non furry children currently ages 7.5 and 5, but Universe was our first baby. The name comes from my lovely wife being Polish and just liking the way the word Universe sounds. I thought it was just a brilliant name. I truly wonder if anyone else has had the dog name Universe on this earth. And as wonderful as his name was, he was even better. We wanted to get a golden retriever for two reasons. 1, I grew up with one and know how wonderful of a pet they are. Always loving, always happy, smart, funny, just the perfect companion. On top of that we are educators, and travel a lot! Typically we are away form our home for an estimated 3 months out of the year on various vacations, so we wanted to get a very unloyal dog who would love wherever he was when we were gone. Boy did we find that in our good boy. He was the best boy. We didn’t keep track, but I guess Universe spent time with 20 families over his life when we were traveling. HIghlighted by his best friend Franklin (who we met when they were 1 as him and Universe looked alike) and Auryn who was his brother/cousin (same dad, mother’s were sisters). Everytime we took Universe to stay with his friends he was thrilled. Sometimes I was sad when I went to pick him up and he wasn’t too excited to see me. It was certainly for the best.
So Lesson 1: “Be happy where you are, and enjoy those you are with.”
Our work at Mamabird Interviews has been such a personal growth experience for me to learn from the wisdom of so many elders that we have the honor of interviewing. Our interviews are private, but I personally watch all of them to help our interviewers grow and perfect their craft. While am doing this it is impossible not to learn so much from the wisdom that comes with life. The people we interview, some that are dying at the time are always consistent in what people prioritize at the end of their lives. It is all about the ones you love. Your family and your friends. And it is always about experiences. It is also always about trying to live without regrets. I say this as after Universe past I had several regrets. I regret not prioritizing getting him on more off leash hikes (which he loved). I regret complaining about taking him out, or getting up in the middle of this night to take him out if he was sick. I regret not getting up earlier to take him on longer walks in the morning. I regret not appreciating him enough after our focus of time and energy was centered around our kids. He didn’t seem to share any of these problems however. He was always happy. Always content. Always up for an adventure, but also always comfortable relaxing and being close to us. I have learned in the quiet and weird days since he has left us, that having to take him out for walks was so good in so many ways for me. It got me out and exercising, but it also made me see the beauty of the sky at all times of the day and night. It got me to interact with others in our community when I was on walks and he wanted to always say hi.
Lesson 2: Responsibility forces you to be so much better, and see so much more
I never thought of life after Universe. After all the Universe is all we are and all we will ever know. But after losing him I realized so quickly how much I loved him more than I could even be aware at the time. I realized how much he brought to my life outside of his love and companionship. He brought me responsibility and all that teaches you. He forced me to be better that I would have been without him.
I am sure there is so much more that he has taught me and I am sure those lessons will show up in many situations as I now deal with the weird life without my shadow, my companion. I am grateful for my wife and our two children. I am grateful that our kids don’t seem to be devastated and heartbroken. Of course he would want us to be happy and live our best lives. I am also very thankful that I was able to spend the last 3 days of his life with him, get him over to see his best friend one last time, go to all his favorite sports one last time, have him off leash one last time, and for the first time feed him all the crap we never fed him before because it wasn’t healthy. So maybe that is the final lesson. Make sure you live while alive. There is certainly a balance here, but I waited until he was dying to let Universe drive with me in my convertible Miata. We always only fed him his dog food, and only 1 cup two times a day. We did not give him enough treats or spoil him enough. We did not get him swimming enough.
Lesson 3: Make sure you live while alive
I will miss you Universe. I will never forget the almost 11 years you have given us, our friends and our family. You were such a good boy. You were the best boy. I will never forget you, and when we are ready for another dog in the future, I will make sure to enjoy every single moment, and never take them for granted. Our son said he will remember you when he looks up into the stars. I like that idea. Please always keep looking down on me and making sure I am happy and enjoying the ones I am with, taking on responsibility which will push me to be even better and truly enjoy life more, and finally making sure I am living my life while I can.
Tomorrow is not promised, for me, or for my loved ones. I am so grateful and lucky to be here today and everyday. Now time to get back to work changing the world through @Mamabird. Peace and love to all.
Dr. Dan Clarke