HONORING CANINE WAR HEROS
BLOG POST #5 MAY 2016
Memorial Day, Monday, May 30 is fast approaching. In the United States we see it as the time when we pause to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. This year it is also the day that my book Sacred Gifts of a Short Life is set to be published. This got me thinking about the dogs (and other animals) that have sacrificed their lives in times of war and conflict for us. This is not a uniquely “American” tradition. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Persians and the Romans all enlisted dogs for their war efforts.
Most of the wars in Europe and the Americas in the 1800’s through today have used dogs too. They have been used as couriers, sentries and to alert their humans of enemies approaching. They have provided emotional support and even used as to transport injured soldiers. More recently they have been used to sniff out bombs, and even (unfortunately) for suicide missions carrying bombs into enemy territory.
Truly then, these dogs have given us their most Sacred Gift ~ Life Itself ~ for our benefit.
It seems fitting for me to offer my deepest appreciation and gratitude not only to them for their ultimate sacrifice but also for the dedication, loyalty, and trust, which I have no doubt, they displayed while carrying out their duty.
Just as we honor our human soldiers regardless of our personal attitudes about war so I am moved to honor all the dogs who not only performed any and all tasks that were asked of them but also provided their human partners with unconditional love during a time when these two legged soldiers may have needed to be reminded that unconditional love Does exist. In this way, they may have not only saved the physical lives of these soldiers, but also their humanity as well.
Below is a blog post by Griffin Shaffer about a few such dogs. I hope it inspires you as it did me.
THE POWER OF "AND"
BLOG POST #4 APRIL 2016
A client who had lost a pet recently said that she was blaming herself for not doing more sooner. I knew her well enough to know if I suggested it was not helpful to blame herself she would say I know but I still do anyway. I think many of us know exactly what she means. So instead I said “okay, so blame yourself and what if you also forgive yourself? Instead of making a demand on ourselves that we stop acting one way and act a different way why not instead invite ourselves to try acting both ways? The former tends to make us feel “wrong” about how we feel. The latter accepts how we are feeling in the moment and suggests we might want to play with feeling differently too. The former feels judgmental the latter more compassionate.
She went on to say that she was looking for medical explanations for how and why events unfolded as they did. She surmised that a big reason for this was to hide from the pain of her loss. I suggested that maybe she needed to hide from the pain right now. Maybe there was an intelligence working within her psyche that was wise enough to know that too much pain at once was dangerous for her? Maybe it is just the way her psyche is wired. Instead of automatically believing that hiding from the pain is somehow wrong maybe there is a certain degree of prudence to this approach? What is the wisdom of deflecting the pain? Can we have compassion for that part of us that is doing the deflecting? Maybe that is all that is being asked? Perhaps there are good common sense reasons to get a fuller explanation of the events?
It can be very helpful to be willing to question the motives for our behavior. And we certainly don’t want our ego to just make up excuses for our behavior. Yet it is also important to recognize that the ego may like the status quo of our angst! What would become of our ego and our judgements if we were able to accept all aspects of ourselves and others while simultaneously exploring ways of becoming ever more empathetic, compassionate, and loving?
When we begin to live from a place of “AND” and not just “OR” the world becomes a much more accepting place. The life long journey then becomes listening deeply to all the possibilities and allowing that which is most true in that moment to guide you. Returning to the example above; one could feel deeply the sense of blame for not doing more and honor that. There may be truth in this statement. In this moment what can be done to remedy that? Certainly trying to understand why things unfolded the way they did and looking at what else could have been done have a place. Wanting things to be different is understandable. Fully accepting and feeling this comes from a truthful place and engenders humility. Forgiveness for the way things unfolded also comes from a very authentic and truthful place and engenders compassion. Our heart can gently hold both of these truths simultaneously. Yet if we try to explain this with our mind we may struggle. The beauty of our mind is that we can use it to remind ourselves of both truths.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
BLOG POST # 3 MARCH 2016
This month I am dedicating this blog to some of the clients who were instrumental in the creation of my soon to be released book Sacred Gifts Of A Short Life. I am humbled that each has chosen to share a bit of themselves and their journeys. I honor each of them and the role they have played in assisting the spread of the message of this book.
I loved Zeus with all my heart. He was my constant companion from the time I was 9 years old. He slept on my bed every night for 18 years, made me laugh and smile, comforted me when I was sad, and loved me when I felt completely unlovable. I could be having the worst day in the world, but the second I saw him, I felt at peace and could smile again. So losing him was devastating. It was months of grieving before he was actually gone. It was a slow and draining grief, pulling at me little by little as I watched him decline, day after day. When someone has given you so much love and light, how do you continue without that? I couldn't conceive of it, so I denied it. I tried everything to make him better. I would have done anything to take it all away, to make him what he had been only weeks before. But when I finally stopped denying the inevitable and started to accept it, I was able to truly feel the grief. I wasn't pushing it away anymore or fighting it. I was able to let it take its course with me. But more importantly, it allowed me to fully feel the love that I had for Zeus, because all of that pain was just a measure of my love for him. That pain couldn't exist if he hadn't first given me so much love. In return, what I could give to him, what he deserved, and what I owed him, was the same amount of unconditional love, and I could not have given him that amount of love if I hadn't also had a willingness to endure the inevitable heartbreak I would feel in losing him. As you said, life and death do not exist separate from one another. They intertwine, and happen constantly around us, and the proof of our existence isn't just within our living bodies.
I'm not a religious person. The idea of never seeing Zeus again sometimes feels like a knife going through me. But I do believe that we are the sum of our experiences. Like you said, everything goes through this cycle of birth and death. But our memories remain, and they exist without time. They change who we are and affect what we do, which then goes off and touches the rest of the world in small ways. I thought I was losing Zeus forever, along with all the love and joy he brought me. But I know that he exists now in another form. He's with me in my heart, my mind, my actions. He's given me this ability to feel so much love that my heart could break so much. It doesn’t make the pain go away completely. I still grieve for him. I still cry for him and sometimes forget he's gone. It's a void that will never be filled. But I wouldn't take any of it back, not for anything. Because all of the joy and love he gave me was an immense gift, the greatest gift that could ever be given, and he still brings me joy and love through his memory.
Very recently, my brother went through something similar with his cat Donut. He adopted her the same day that I adopted Zeus. We all grew up together, and he loved her with unconditional devotion. Only a few months ago, the vet found a tumor in her stomach, and he went through what I went through. He took care of her tirelessly, and I saw him feel the same sense of helplessness and desperation that I had felt. You can keep them comfortable, but you can't stop what's coming, and that's a horrible feeling. Donut passed only a couple weeks before you wrote your email to us about the book. He is still grieving, and he insists he will never have another cat. He doesn't want to go through the heartache of losing a loved one again. Of course, I understand. It's too soon to expect him to feel otherwise. And I understand wanting to avoid the pain of it. But I think someday he will be ready again. That breaking of the heart will lead to more love, and more life, if you let yourself go through the pain first. You have to let the two coexist. I know this because in November, I finally felt ready. I returned to the same shelter where I adopted Zeus twenty years ago, and in the very same room where I had first met Zeus, a big, boxy tomcat with a chewed up ear named Bean strolled over to me, got on my lap, and looked me straight in the eyes. He chose me. Or in a way, I think Zeus chose him for me by showing me how much love this world has to offer, if you are open to it. Bean is not a replacement, and the sadness I feel from losing Zeus will always stay with me. But, Bean has given me a new love and happiness in addition. He has been a blessing in the loneliness I have felt. The more love in our lives, the better.
Rene (Pamela's Mom):
Our culture sees death as the most frightening of all events in life, and we grow up with this belief system. I strongly believe that it has a huge effect on us in so many ways.
This fear, so horrific, was knocking on the door where my daughter and I lived. My daughter's cat had been part of our lives for many years, and we loved him so deeply. Now, he was dying. The pain and the fear was paralyzing and real.
I had learned of Liz through some one at our vets office. I'm a true believer in holistic care and so I wanted to have her visit to see if there was more we could do for our cat. Her demeanor was so calm. She allowed us to verbalize our thoughts, fears, sadness. There was no feeling of being rushed...she gave us all the tie we needed. What came after was unexpected. She told a new story of death we had never heard.
The story was of a continuous cycle that occurs in life. I remember her using the breath as an example ...we inhale and then exhale. The breath is continuous. In this same way, she explained, our precious friend will continue forever.
But there was even more to the story. It's a story of the gifts that come with tragedy. This concept of being broken open....a term I admit to having heard before, was explained. This was about treasures we discover within, if we allow ourselves to surrender to the experience.
Suddenly, I realized my fear had turned to calm. A peaceful energy surrounded both my daughter and me.
"Why don't we learn this stuff in school?" I wondered. This is the stuff that we need to learn about.
At any rate, her visit was one which we will never forget. We have learned so much from this experience. We will never be the same.
Josie's coming into my life was a miracle from God. Josie lived that miracle everyday. She is my best friend, and she was a good friend to others in the way she served others. Josie was a therapy dog for 11 years of her 13 1/2 life. She could brightened the room with her presence, kindness and patience. Josie grew in wisdom and her attitude was like the Sea of Galilee, peaceful with calm assurance for the day. She achieved 5 AKC obedience titles in her short career.
Mounting up to the day of her release from this world of pain and decline, was like experiencing my own death. It was so hard to let her go for now. My life will never be the same on this earth. But I have to remember how thankful I am to have shared her life, no matter how short it seemed to be.
Knowing Josie is now with God, her master creator, now perfected, in our risen Savior's eternal life. Without decay and free to run without pain, I'm comforted to know she is embracing our God's Light. I will see her again, around the throne of God.
Her heart served, loved and clings,
Hears everywhere the rush of angels wings.
SarahRose & Debbie
SarahRose and her Mom, Debbie invited me to transcribe our recent conversation regarding their journey with their beloved “Bricky”
SarahRose shared that one of the biggest gifts she received from Bricky was helping her see that she could find a way to be okay with someone close to her dying. By recognizing that death is not “bad”. The emotions felt are not black or white. She felt and continues to feel both sad and peaceful. Not necessarily at the same time but she knows Both are a part of this experience. Recently a dear friend that she grew up and went to school with suddenly died. As heart wrenching as this was she recognized that because of Bricky she was able to once again see that death brought both a sense of loss and connection, tears and laughter, devastating sadness and deep love. She found herself once again being able to meet death and be okay.
Debbie shared that Bricky’s death reminded her of the spiritual side of life. She realized she had been neglecting this area of her life and how important it was for her to give attention to this area of her life. She recognized the peace and well being she felt when she made space for this. She also remarked how beautiful it was to see such a diverse group of people (who were present for Bricky’s passing) brought together and feel so intimately connected. Each of those present had shared a variation of this sense with her after that day. She described the experience as very calm, positively loving, and spiritually supportive.
As a Post Script, The family has added two new dog members! I met them both and I am sure were divinely chosen to become a part of this family. No doubt with a little help from Bricky!
Last year while attending a veterinary convention I chose a lecture focused on euthanasia of feline patients. The DVM offering the lecture made a statement within the first ten minutes of the lecture that I found startling. The statement was: “There is no such thing as a natural death, there is only suffering to death.”
In this room there were many younger veterinarians, veterinary technicians and support staff. By younger I mean under 35. They are hearing not only a veterinarian but one who is considered an expert in the field of feline medicine making a very dogmatic and powerful statement about death. This statement was spoken as if it were an objective fact with no room for discussion. Equivalent to the statement: if a cat has a blood glucose of 600 and has glucose and ketones in the urine the cat is diabetic. Period!
I was so mystified by this statement I did not challenge it. In fact the first response I had to this statement was a deep sense of compassion for the person who had said it. I truly wondered what experiences had brought them to that conclusion? I felt that to challenge this deep seated belief might be a can of worms that I did not want to open. Even later in the lecture I chose not to bring it up.
I do feel this is a forum where I can offer another perspective on this topic. Before I begin I would like to state that I do feel that euthanasia is a loving and humane option for many patients. Euthanasia means “well death” in Greek, sometimes translated as easy or good death. I am extremely grateful that California now has a Death with Dignity Law offering people an option for a good death. This law went into effect the first full week of January 2016. I also feel that in some circumstances allowing an animal to die naturally, is equally loving and humane.
Here is the question: “Is it possible to have a peaceful natural death”?
It is important to begin with a confession. There is a vast sea of unknowns that make any sort of definitive “objective” answer impossible at this time and I would suggest ever. How can we get information on levels of suffering from a person, who is no longer communicating, showing no overt signs of pain or suffering, and is actively dying let alone an animal who does not speak our language? Some have suggested that we measure cortisol levels or levels of other stress/pain induced chemicals within the body. I would suggest that at some point those levels may not accurately reflect the actual suffering or lack there of that is being experienced. If the patient human or otherwise look peaceful and is resting quietly does it make sense to suggest that what we are seeing and experiencing in their presence should be discounted and instead we assume that they must be suffering because they are dying? Or that they must be suffering because someone did a study that showed that there can be a statistically significant elevation of certain chemicals which in other circumstances can indicate pain? Then there is the difference between pain and suffering and the difference between pain tolerances between species and individuals. Then there is the question of how the emotional pain of impending loss is influencing us. Is our pain being projected on to the one who is dying?
The conundrum is that not only can we not objectively define a “peaceful death” we have no objective way of identifying it even if we could define it. Perhaps we need to step back and acknowledge this. If we start with this in mind perhaps we can open to a very different perspective. Perhaps we need to stop paying attention to our mind’s stories. Perhaps instead we could explore what happens when we are silent and connect deeply with the moment at hand, staying connected as each moment unfolds. This is simple, however it is not easy. It does help if we have practiced this. Some have called it mindfulness. Others call it meditation or silent sitting. What you call it really is not important. Becoming practiced and skilled is essential. Be still and silent and allow everything to be just as it is.
When we can be still and allow life to move us instead of trying to control and direct life, we move into the flow of life. Birth and death are happening here (in life) simultaneously in every moment. We can ask ourselves if we feel peace. This peace is always present. It is simply that it is not always what we focus on.
In Sacred Gifts Of A Short Life I write, “ As we begin to see death as love, we can begin to appreciate all the transitions that happen to us and around us in every moment. Life is this amazing eternal dance of birth and death. We are simply a part of this.” From this perspective perhaps it becomes a bit easier to be still in the midst of death? Our furry loved ones gift us with the opportunity to be with death more frequently than we would be otherwise.”
To answer the question, then, I suggest we need to ask a different question. Instead of “Is it possible to have a peaceful natural death?” A better question may be, can we (both the one dying and those loved ones present) be Present enough to remain focused on the Peaceful Stillness that is always here and to which the one dying is entering into with the totality of their essence? Can we totally surrender to this eternal mystery? Imagine what death might feel like and how it might unfold from this place. Does a peaceful natural death seem plausible?
I am not suggesting that all natural death is peaceful, or that we can have absolutely no input into how that death unfolds. Perhaps with pain medication, other drugs or modalities we can enhance the peacefulness and curb the suffering? I am suggesting that a peaceful death is a possibility and offering a few pointers as to how we might open to this possibility.
For a deeper discussion of this topic I invite you to click here to preorder your copy of Sacred Gifts of a Short Life. (scheduled publish date May 1, 2016)
NEW YEARS RESOLUTION
BLOG POST #1 JANUARY,2016
This year I have only one resolution:
“To listen, trust and act from my highest wisdom in the moment.”
No doubt, at times, I will be satisfyingly successful and other times I will frustratingly fail.
This resolution focuses on the way I meet life rather than a specific outcome. It is simple but not necessarily easy.
Our culture teaches us how to act from “norms”, expert advice, habits or “should” and “should nots”. We are not encouraged or supported in how to listen and identify how our inner wisdom offers itself to us. There is not even a suggestion that we have “inner wisdom”. Yet each of us have been faced with situations or decisions where the best answer was very unclear. These decisions can be rather mundane and routine, such as, what shall I eat for dinner. Other decisions are much more profound. In my upcoming book Sacred Gifts Of A Short Life I address the decisions pet parents are inevitably faced with regarding our beloved furry friends as they near the end of life.
So how do we engage this wisdom?
- Listen — Listen within. Using all your senses listen to what is happening within you . Feel what parts of your body is relaxed and what parts are tense. Listen to the sounds around you.
- Breathe— Consciously watch your breath. Follow the air in and out of your body.
- Feel — Feel each and every part of your body from your toes to the top of your head. Feel the clothes on your skin, the chair on your buttocks. the way your fingers rub against each other.
- Olfactory awareness — Become aware any aromas that you sense, including the absence of aromas.
- Soft Eyes — Gaze gently at anything such as a leaf, the ocean, a rock, your knee, the sky, etc or gaze at nothing.
- Gustatory Sense — Become aware of the taste in your mouth or lack thereof.
- Focus — Focus either inside your body perhaps on your gut or heart . Or Focus on the vastness of the universe surrounding you.
- Color a Mandala
Enjoy yourself as you engage in these activities. In fact you could even do them while you eat, while sipping your favorite coffee or tea, while you shower, or on a walk. Consider it a special treat that you indulge in daily.
Even if only engaged for a moment or two you may begin to find a peace and clarity that comes from this empty space that you have invited your being into. Do not “expect” an answer. Just enjoy the feeling. Biochemically your body may slow production of cortisol. More Alpha waves may be present in your brain. More endorphins and oxytocin may also be flowing through your body. As you move back into the demands of everyday life simply smile and feel gratitude for being able to nurture life as you.
As you begin to trust this process notice how life is flowing through you and you are willing to say yes to what brings your body into a state of peace.
This is not a linear process of course. I would liken it to a roller coaster instead. It is the ride of your life! Enjoy the journey!
To gain more insights into how to trust and move from this inner wisdom I invite you to read click here to preorder your copy of Sacred Gifts of a Short Life.