Eat, Play, Love…

This is a hard blog to write… last Tuesday morning we lost our beautiful, funny, fuzzy little Daisy, and I am desolate.  She was only 7, and she had leukaemia.  After nearly a week I still can’t believe that she’s gone, and that I will never hold her close to my heart and kiss her little velvet head again, and feel the softness of her fur…  Anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog – or indeed anyone they love – knows the deep, indescribable well of sadness and loss, especially when that loved soul leaves us suddenly, and too soon… there are no words.

My little Daisy was a very constant companion; she would curl up in her bed next to my desk in my office whilst I worked at the computer, every so often demanding that I lifted her onto my knee, which meant I had to type one-handed – a small price to pay for the feeling of holding her.  Whenever I sat down on the sofa she would be on my knee (even though she was the smallest, she would unhesitatingly shove a schnauzer out of the way if one of them was there first!), and if I lay down then she liked to sleep on my chest, with her head on my heart.  At night she slept between us – one or other of us would often wake to find her tucked up in the crook of our neck, with her little furry face pressed up against our cheek.  She was very special.

I have always been honored by, and grateful for, her love and attention – and I honored her in turn by giving her my own.  Whenever she asked, I gave (unless it was a request for more food – she did have a passion for roast chicken!).

My clients also enjoyed her presence as “therapy dog” in the room – the schnauzers, although gorgeous and very friendly with folks they know, are also extremely boisterous so they remain in the kitchen when I’m seeing clients, but Daisy presided over my therapy space with a welcoming grace and enthusiastic joyfulness that was appreciated by all who met her.

A dear friend and fellow fan of Carl Jung said to me that she believes that, “…the bond we have with our pets is archetypal and reaches a place deep, deep within us, where our conscious minds cannot fathom”, and I am sure she is right.

There is no short-cut to dealing with grief – for each of us, healing takes as long as it takes.  The important thing is to allow ourselves to feel whatever it is we are feeling in the moment, without trying to repress it, or telling ourselves we “ought to be over it by now”.  There is no ought; we are individuals, and the waves of grief that assail us after any bereavement are a testament to the love we feel for the soul who has moved on.  After a time, the waves may come less frequently, but they will still come; accepting that that is ok can be difficult if we subscribe to the belief that our grief should have a time limit.

It’s important that we give ourselves time to feel our pain – to own it and be with it.  If we are afraid to feel it, then it will shadow our life forever until we deal with it.  Spending time in our pain is hard – it’s the other side of Mindfulness – accepting what we are experiencing, without judgement, even when that experience is raw and painful beyond measure… and holding the space for our own soul to heal.

Emotions, whether joyful or deeply painful, are not meant for us to hold onto and keep… they are like the weather – they come and they go.  If we accept their presence in the moment, and the fact that this too will pass, we can then allow them to move on, and we can begin to discover that in between the waves, and the tempests of wind and rain, there is peace.

That place that my friend spoke about that lies deep, deep within us – that place where our conscious minds cannot fathom – is also a place of deep peace… it is the place that Jung refers to as our “collective unconscious”.  It is atemporal – within that place we are forever connected to those we love; past, present and future.  The answer to our ultimate solace, therefore, just like all of life’s problems, lies not outside us, but inside.  At the end of the day, there is only love.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • However much pain I am feeling now, it is worth it for the love we shared.
  • I know that eventually the joy in the memories will eclipse the pain.
  • Dog cuddles are an essential part of the healing process, however long it takes.
  • Never take for granted the time that you spend with those you love.  Be with them in the moment – eat, play and love with joy and gratitude for their presence in your life.

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The Teachings of Dog: No 26 – What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?

From time to time, we allow all three of the canine members of staff to have a sleep-over in our bedroom…  Daisy and Lily like to sleep in the middle of the bed (although I have occasionally woken in the night with Daisy lying across my neck like a scarf) and Theo sleeps in his bed in the corner of the room… or at least he is supposed to.  In practice, he will wait until we are asleep and then climb stealthily onto the bottom of the bed, hoping that we won’t notice.

Daisy is usually the first to awaken (generally before the alarm goes off), and likes to start her day with her morning exercises of upside down rolling, accompanied by tiny growls of pleasure.  If we make the slightest movement to demonstrate that we are awake, however, this will then send Lily and Theo into ecstatic transports of delight, involving much leaping around and general joyousness at our appearance from the realms of sleep.

What are your first thoughts when you awaken in the morning?  The thoughts you choose to have in your head will colour your entire day…. If you start off believing you will have a bad day, then your unconscious mind will obligingly provide you with evidence throughout the day to support this belief – and you will have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What if, instead, you decide to start your day with enthusiasm, gratitude and curiosity…?

The Teachings of Dog – No 20: “All I want for Christmas is…”

It’s that time of year again… enticing cooking smells drift from the Aga, the postman brings parcels to the door (much barking required from the canine members of staff), friends call in for a visit (more barking required – the dogs do take their jobs very seriously), fairy lights abound in the house and, to Daisy’s complete enchantment, a large tree has once again appeared in the living room.

Daisy absolutely adores the Christmas Tree – she wanders slowly around underneath the lower branches so that the pine needles scratch her back; an expression of bliss on her little face.  Last year’s tree had an abundance of low branches, allowing her to disappear completely underneath and into the realm of The Presents (to our occasional consternation, as we wondered where she was).  Her disappointment when the tree disappeared after Christmas was tempered by her eventual discovery that the two cypress trees at the top of the garden provided a similar effect, with the advantage of year-round accessibility.

This year, however, our tree’s lower branches tend more toward the upright and I was initially worried that with Daisy’s diminutive stature it might prove disappointing.  However, immediately after its installation, Daisy discovered that she could still get the full Christmas Tree effect by executing a close circuit of the trunk.  As far as Daisy is concerned, her Christmas is already complete.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • Never underestimate the small pleasures in life.
  • If you look hard enough, you can find the joys of Christmas all year round.
  • The simple Christmas presents are often the best.


Joy and Happiness

The Teachings of Dog: No 16 – Being Present

My niece has finally found herself a lovely cottage with an equally lovely landlady who allows her to have her dogs.  So Poppy and Snippets moved to their new abode a couple of weeks ago and have now become part-time, visiting only at weekends and on Thursdays.  We find it very strange having such a sudden reduction in our canine members of staff; watching “House” is no longer the same without Poppy to bark at the end credits (and we still have no idea why!) but the other dogs have adapted seamlessly and appear perfectly content in their reduced numbers… and when their friends arrive at the weekend, it’s as if they were never away.

We all adapt to change in different ways; for many it is a huge source of stress and anxiety.  The dogs demonstrate such a beautifully elegant behavioural flexibility; for them, what matters is what is happening right now and they react accordingly.  We spend so much of our lives being stressed about the past or anxious about the future, and often forget that the present moment is an antidote to that stress and anxiety.  What can happen when we allow ourselves to be totally in the Now; accepting what is, with gratitude, wonder and curiosity…?

The Teachings of Dog – No 13: The Art of Giving and Receiving

“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me’.  Look what happens with a love like that – it lights the whole sky.”  – Hafiz of Persia 

Lily and her canine colleagues are all masters of the art of unconditional giving – and of receiving. Lily will happily spend long periods of time patiently cleaning Poppy’s eyes, or Theo’s ears – and they, in their turn, will happily let her. As a puppy, when teething, Theo would chew enthusiastically on his mother, Lily’s, ears, while she lay patiently, not seeming to mind the soggy outcome, or the subsequent crispiness of dried, licked fur.

What happens when we give somebody a gift, or an offer of help…  Do we expect something in return?  Are we offended if the person receiving it doesn’t like our gift, or chooses to give it away again to somebody else?  The Aborigines would say, if we have that sort of attachment to a gift, then it is not a gift at all, it is something else.  If it is a true gift then it is given unconditionally; we should not mind at all what the other person chooses to do with it, and certainly have no expectation of receiving anything in exchange.

And when somebody offers us a gift, do we receive it graciously and with gratitude – or do we feel beholden to the giver and consider that we have to reciprocate in some way?  When we accept a gift with genuine gratitude we are already giving something back to the giver – the gift of true appreciation.

Teachings of Dog – No.3

Theo the schnauzer has to be one of the most ebulliently joyful creatures with whom it has been my pleasure to share my life. His sheer boundless enthusiasm and wanton curiosity for just about anything in his universe is a lesson in itself. He’ll be gratefully appreciative of any gift you care to give him (even if you personally wouldn’t consider it a treat – raw potato or spinach accidentally dropped will be happily accepted) and gives in return his abundant happiness and pleasure in your company. He also knows everything there is to know about relaxation and makes the best relaxing noises I’ve ever heard… his favourite place to be is cuddled up on the sofa with as many of his friends (human and canine) as will fit.

Theo’s teachings:

  • Be grateful for everything you receive. Everything.
  • Show your friends how much you appreciate being with them.
  • Learn how to relax…
  • Joy is an attitude of mind – it comes from within.
  • Enthusiasm and curiosity make your world an amazing place to live.