We may be two days into June, but I received the biggest lesson of my intention for May yesterday. Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness is relatively easy to apply to our material belongings. It is harder to apply to our old emotions, habits, and thought patterns. It is most difficult to apply to other living beings, especially those we feel “belong” to us. Our best friends, our family members, our pets, how do we learn to let go of attachment to them when it is time to say goodbye? There is a way, evidently, but a hard one.
If you know me you’ve probably met or been bombarded by pictures of my dog, Zack. At the ripe old age of 13 (which is pretty outstanding for a full bred Boxer) he has been a healthy and happy guy his whole life, aside from some arthritic hips and a slightly stubborn temperament. Seven months ago we discovered he has Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy, or basically his heart is too big for its skin and is under a lot of strain. (The symbolism is not lost on him, as he is literally the most loving dog I have ever known.) After finding the right medications and dosages with our veterinarian, we finally got a handle on how to best treat this potentially fatal disease. Even so, he’s slowed down a lot, cannot walk far or navigate stairs very well, and is like a deer on ice getting up of the kitchen floor. I knew that no matter how well we medicated and managed his condition (bi-monthly EKGs and quarterly echocardiograms have become the norm) it was really only a matter of time before the disease eventually won.
Well, I was wrong. Yesterday, while bringing Zack in for a routine vaccine, his veterinarian, being the wonderfully attentive and compassionate doctor his is, gave Zack a full exam, just to check up on him. He found a mass on his right kidney and did an ultrasound on it to get a better look. It about the size of a grapefruit, full of blood pockets, basically.. not good. A tumor of that size can rupture and be fatal at anytime, and given his history it is not advisable to operate; without surgery he could have a few good months (note: I am leaving in three days for two months, beginning graduate school in Virginia and Germany.) Taking into consideration his heart condition, age, breed, prognosis, my plans, and the fact that when pulling into the vet’s office I saw a dog that had experienced a ruptured tumor and could not be saved (a scene that is burned in my heart forever) I have decided to say goodbye to my dear, sweet boy this afternoon.
I can with certainty say this has been the worst 24 hours of my life, and you’d be surprised at how much one person can cry (although, the day is young.) I knew this was coming sooner or later, although it doesn’t make it any easier. The worst case scenario would be for him to die suddenly while I am away at school, creating distress for him, my mom who would be taking care of him, my husband, and myself. I am somewhat consoled by the fact that he is not going to experience a painful and scary death, and I will be by his side until his last breath, literally. His/our best friends are came over last night for Chinese food and Frosty Paws, he got a joy ride in our sidecar motorcycle, we’re going to get ice cream cones and enjoy some Grandma time today. Then, we will let him go… at least that’s the plan.
As much as I say “let it go” or “just let go” teaching yoga, it is a hard concept to put into practice, especially when it comes to the hard stuff. Can I let go of “ownership” of Zack and let him move on to what lies next for him? (Mark refers to him as a little Buddha, which is a nice and plausible thought that he might be very near to enlightenment.) Regardless of what you believe in regarding THE AFTERLIFE, the idea that whatever you are unhoarding (a shirt, a grudge, a pet) is moving on to something better, or more appropriate, can be very comforting. This is my practice for the next few days – to release my grip, my possessiveness, of Zack, to send him where the universe calls him next. I’ll close my eyes, rub his soft face, take a deep breath, one last big, wet, sloppy kiss, and let him go.
Footnote: This said, I will not be starting June’s intention, Brahmacharya (modertation of the senses, AKA not watching TV) until Thursday. Nothing soothes the soul like “Game of Thrones” and “So You Think You Can Dance”.