My life is in a bit of a crisis right now. One of my two dogs is sick. Very, very, very sick. We’re working with some amazing veterinarians at a very special place called the Hope Center for Advanced Veterinary Care in Northern Virginia, and they will do the very best that they can do. But, there are limits...
His name is Kossi, and we adopted him 7 years ago (he is 9-1/2 now). His original owners work for the US State Department, and they were posted to Indonesia. They could take him there, but given the political climate at the time, if they were forced to evacuate, they would have had to leave him there. And they could not do this. So we very quickly agreed to adopt him
Kossi means “born on Sunday” (which he was) in the African dialect of the country where he spent the first two years of his life. His original owners actually spoke French to him, and when we took him in, he was a bilingual dog! In fact, his dog bowls and tray all have “Le Chien” embossed on them. He had a wild early life. There are stories of him breaking out of the apartment of his original owners, which was located on the embassy compound, and swimming in the ambassador’s pool. I can only imagine, but it would be true to form for this dog. And the embassy guards would play fetch with him for hours.
He is a remarkably obedient and loving dog. He is so mellow, yet he has a very strong personality. But he also enjoys giving; he loves to please. He really doesn’t need a leash when we walk, but we use one because we have leash laws where we live. He would never leave your side; he would never abandon you, except perhaps to chase a ball, which is his passion. He is attached and connected to my wife and to me, as we are to him.
We noticed blood in his stool a few weeks ago. As you can imagine, that is not a good sign. We took him in to our regular vet, and she immediately referred us over to the Hope Center. And so, that is where my wife took him today and we received the bad news.
He has a very large mass (a tumor) in his colon. It’s causing the bleeding. As I write this, we’re waiting for more pathology reports. They did an ultrasound and chest x-ray today and noticed enlarged lymph nodes in his abdomen. The doctor thinks the cancer has spread, and if it has it will change our course of treatment. So, we’re waiting for the full pathology report, which will help us to make decisions going forward. We are hopeful, but we know that it is probably not going to be good news.
So, why am I writing about this?
He’s just a dog, right? And in the grand scheme of things, there is much greater human suffering going on in the world than what my wife and I are experiencing right now. This is not about the dual wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not Darfur, or some other place where genocide is occurring. This is not an oil spill of unprecedented proportions in the Gulf of Mexico. This is not about house arrest and the suppression of human rights in Myanmar.
No, it is none of those things.
It’s just about a dog. But, he is my dog. And he has taught me so many things in the seven years we have been together.
Kossi doesn’t know he is sick right now. In fact, if you were to look at him, you wouldn’t think that he was sick either.
He wants to get up in the morning and go for his daily 2-mile walk with us. He wants to greet his other dog friends when he sees them each morning. He wants to play fetch at the end of the walk. Playtime happens before we feed him. And then he wants to eat. He loves his food, but he loves to play more than eat. After we feed him, he goes upstairs with us, and my wife will usually brush his teeth. He then settles into his bed, and then naps until noon, when we play with him again. More napping in the afternoon. He’ll go outside during the day. On sunny days he will sun himself outside. He has access to our fenced yard through a “doggie door.” Playtime before dinner, dinner time, and then he settles in for the night. This is his routine, and he is very comfortable with it.
He lives entirely in the moment, from moment-to-moment. He doesn’t worry about the future. He isn’t concerned about the past. As he lives in his world, from moment-to-moment, he reminds me to do so as well.
Admittedly, it’s probably harder for humans. We’re more complex creatures than dogs I suppose. We do carry the baggage of our past. And we fret about the uncertainty of the future. But, it is still a lesson worth emulating. As I have learned from Kossi, there seems to be little value in worry.
What else have I learned from Kossi?
He approaches every day, and every new experience with the mind of a child, with a beginners mind. He is able to extract the joy of each moment, whether it is chasing a ball, going for a walk, or chasing birds or squirrels in the back yard. Each moment for him is new. He has taught me to view the world from a similar viewpoint. As a result, I can say to myself, “I don’t know everything in life, and I am open to what life as to teach me.”
We will get more information from our vet soon. We will make decisions about Kossi’s course of treatment once we learn whether or not the cancer has spread. My wife and I alternate between feelings of great sadness and fond memories. But, when we try to live like our dog, we cannot help but feel immense gratitude and appreciation of having him in our lives. And this reminds us to appreciate every moment we have with him. Just this morning, I spent an extra few minutes with him before I left for my office. I stroked his soft head. I marveled at the softness of his fur, and the beauty of his dark brown eyes.
He is not sad. He is content, and that helps me to be not sad and content too. He is able to let go of everything, and he is trying very hard to teach me that lesson. He knows that if I can learn to live like he does, that I will be able to free myself from the chains of my human suffering and unleash myself into the beauty and peacefulness of each life giving moment.
That is what he does, and that is what I will try to do too. If only, I can learn to live like my dog.
What do you think? Are you inspired by the animals in your life? What have you learned from your pets?
I bid you peace.
When you comment on an Owning Pink blog post, we invite you to be authentic and loving, to say what you feel, to hold sacred space so others feel heard, and to refrain from using hurtful or offensive language. Differing opinions are welcomed, but if you cannot express yourself in a respectful, caring manner, your comments will be deleted by the Owning Pink staff.