How Do You Say Goodbye?

Janet kissing Gus on the deck July 2016

You weep.

You hold on for one last deep embrace; breathing in and memorizing the way he smells.

You run your hands gently through his fur; feeling the silky softness one last time.

You whisper everything you want to say, though you have said it to him a thousand times already, in anticipation of this moment.

You let go, knowing that the time is right and that you have done everything possible to make his passing gentle and peaceful; secure in loving arms.

You hold on tight and lean on those you love; shouldering the weight of grief together.

Finally, you breathe.

You begin to move past sadness, to other feelings. First, anger and frustration with cancer, and a loss that came too soon.

And then, gratitude.

For ten and a half wonderful years.

For a life that touched so many.

For unconditional love.

For a sweet face waiting patiently in the front window.

For sloppy kisses and boundless joy. For bouncing body wags.

For long walks on beautiful days.

For a head resting in your lap. For silence and calm, quiet loyalty.

For knowing when you needed a hug.

For hilarious moments of crazy behaviour.  For happy dances, stolen mittens and chewed up socks.

For the thrill of launching balls and frisbees into the air over and over, and the triumph of the perfect catch.

For finding friends in unlikely places.

For showing you how to stop and breathe deeply in the morning air.

For teaching you to live in the moment.

For all of the important lessons, and those still to come.

Gus in the field of grass

What are you waiting for?

What are you waiting for?

It woke me up this morning, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  I heard this muffled gentle bark sporadically; every 5 or 10 minutes.  It sounded far away, and was almost an apologetic sweet little yelp.  Now, Gus will bark enthusiastically whenever he sees someone approach the front door, but he rarely barks in the house unless someone is engaged in a full out romp with him.  I assumed it was coming from some dog outside, so I went back to sleep.

I tried to snooze for another half hour, but kept being disturbed by this little noise.  I decided that it sounded like Gus, so I went downstairs to complain about being woken up.  I didn’t get my usual furry wagging morning greeting;  a quiet empty house was all I found.  So I made my coffee and assumed that it was a neighbour’s dog I had heard.  I figured that Gus must be out in the park with Jeff, and I began my morning routine.

Halfway through my coffee I went back upstairs to get something from my room, and then it occurred to me.  The door to one of the empty bedrooms was slightly ajar.  I gave it a gentle push.  Out bounded one incredibly grateful labradoodle!  He proceeded to smother me with kisses; almost knocking me down as he enthusiastically thanked me for setting him free!

What struck me as I settled down to finish my coffee was the fact that Gus had been sitting patiently on the other side of that door for close to an hour; waiting for someone to push it open and let him out!  His quiet little calls for help had eventually subsided, and he had been waiting silently in the dark when I finally stumbled upon him in there.  Now, Gus is one smart doodle – even our trainer remarked on this fact.  He can pry open the sock drawer and help himself to the perfect pair.  He can catch a frisbee mid-air on the fly.  He can find a ball that is lost under the chaos of the branches at the park.  That door to the bedroom was open enough that all he had to do was nudge it a bit more with his nose, yet he sat there feeling trapped inside; waiting for someone else to let him out!

What are you waiting for in your life right now?

We are all quick to delegate away responsibility for our freedom, happiness or success; acting as though we lack the power or skills to make things happen for ourselves.  We say that our career will take off when someone else gives us the right break.  We believe that we will be truly happy once we lose 10 pounds.  We act as though pursuing our true passion isn’t an acceptable course of action.  We sit quietly on the other side of that door; peeking at the crack of light on the other side, but somehow not believing that we have the ability to nudge it open and bound out of the room.

Happiness and success come from believing in yourself and accepting that you are the only one who truly controls your own life.  If you are clear about what you value and what you are passionate about, it becomes easy to see the road that leads to your destination.  That door is already open.  Go ahead and give it a nudge!

It’s beautiful out there!

I know, you’re thinking “really?”  It’s only about 6 degrees out; it’s grey and drizzly, and there is a wind that’s bending the trees over!  Well, as I’ve said before, the day really can be whatever you want it to be!  Attitude is everything.

When you live with an 83lb dog, you go outside 365 days of the year, whatever the weather.  If there’s one lesson I truly have learned from Gus, it’s that getting outside every day just feels great.  I really do miss the fresh air if I have a day when I’m not able to take him for one of his walks.  I do believe that there is no such thing as bad weather; only poor clothing choices!  The secret to enjoying whatever Mother Nature throws at us is to dress for it.  Today I put on a few layers (waterproof one on top), hiking boots, a neck warmer & a hat.  I was toasty warm & dry, and the drizzly wind didn’t bother me one bit.

When you’re warm and comfortable you can get on with stretching out your limbs and truly enjoying the walk.  You have time to really open your eyes and appreciate what’s around you.

While many were huddled at home with a cup of tea, Gus and I were out enjoying the beautiful sights of spring in our neighbourhood.

Take a look . . .

Happy spring. . . now get out there and enjoy it!

Even though we all look different on the outside. . .

Gus and friends in Dolly's carPlease tell me, why can’t humans just figure this out?

Isn’t that a great shot?  There’s Gus in the middle, surrounded by his friends, Dexter, Ket, Oscar, Roxy, Kahshe and Mikey (the little white dog you can barely see tucked in the bottom).  I took this picture this afternoon as Gus came home from an outing with Dolly; the world’s most extraordinary dog-whisperer, walker, trainer, surrogate dog-mommy, and pork-chop handler (don’t ask!).

I couldn’t resist taking this photo because I was completely blown away by the image of all these very beautiful and very different dogs sitting peacefully together in the back of the car.  They had just come back from a huge romp in the park.

Now, don’t be naive.  Dogs have different personalities and temperaments and, as you might expect, there were apparently a few “moments” during the outing when some emotions did run a bit high.  No worries; one of the things I love about Dolly is that she really understands the dynamic that exists among the dogs, and she is amazing at facilitating harmony by letting the natural order of the pack fall into place.

Dolly knows how to keep everyone calm, and to step in when necessary, but it is incredible to see the way the dogs to tend to sort things out among themselves.  To me, what this picture really says is, “hey, we’re all different breeds and we all come from different backgrounds, but we have worked it out and can be here together peacefully.”

A great lesson for the rest of us, don’t you think. . . ?

Sloppy Kisses for Valentine’s Day

This was one of the first things I ever posted on Lessons From Gus.  I think the sentiment still rings true today.  Let the important people around you know how you feel about them – don’t wait for Valentine’s Day!

This is from August, 2009 and the title was “A big smile and a sloppy kiss can work magic”

Today was kind of aggravating.  Now, I really love the work I do teaching, and usually I come home tired but energized – sort of like after a performance.  Somehow today was different.   For whatever reason, my lectures seemed to really drag and I felt like Jerry Seinfeld on a bad night at the improv.  You know; the sound of one hand clapping in the audience.  To top it off, I had a student challenge me in front of the class, and I had to be politically correct and give a snappy comeback while still staying professional and respectful. It annoyed me that I had to deal with that when I try so hard and put in  so much effort for my students.

Let’s just say that by the time I rolled into the driveway, I had been mulling things over and I was feeling pretty rotten.  I was in one of those moods where I just wanted to get in the door, make a cup of tea, and slump by myself for a bit so I wouldn’t whine and complain to anyone else.

I opened the door  to do this, and instead was greeted by 82 pounds of bouncing labradoodle in full body wag.  Now let me tell you, when Gus is really happy, he actually smiles. He was so happy to see me that he was grinning from ear to ear (that’s really big!) and he pranced around in front of me  before  diving in to place a big sloppy dog-kiss all over my face!  Sorry for all you germophobes, but I absolutely  loved every minute of it!

Before I knew it, my grumpy mood had completely dissolved as I bathed (literally) in this enthusiastic welcome.

A little later when I did have the chance to sit and reflect, I started to think about how I usually greet the members of my family when they come in the door at the end of the day.  Sometimes I don’t even look up from what I’m doing – I just call out “hi” from another room.  I realized how the reception you get when you come in the door can have such a huge impact, and  how it can do wonders to erase the effects of a difficult day.

I’m having this flash to a scene I recall from some 1950′s homemaker’s magazine where women are instructed to meet their husbands at the door “in a fresh dress, with a martini ready for him” -don’t worry, this isn’t what I mean (although the martini sounds like a nice touch!).  I guess I’m just thinking of making a bit of an extra effort to show how genuinely happy I am to see the people I love when they come in the door.  I’m going to try it and see what happens.

P.S.  Here’s another kind of kisses that might come in handy today:

I posted this simple recipe on my Rainbow Plate blog:

Wishing you lots of kisses for this Valentine’s Day!

xo

Janet and Gus

 

You Might As Well Love It

Well, having survived the “snowmageddon” of last week, here we are in the midst of yet more snow.  Welcome to February in Canada!  Everywhere I turn, I am greeted by complaints and the sounds of people who are feeling a certain way right about now;  lots of winter behind us, and lots of winter still ahead of us!   One of my friends posted on Facebook this morning, “snow, snow go away, come again another. . . year!”  When I stepped outside the other day and greeted a neighbour with “what a beautiful day!” all she had to say back was, “I hate winter!”  Does everybody feel that way?

Well, Gus doesn’t!  This guy has the right attitude.  He can’t wait to get outside in the snow and run around, even if he’s just been roused from the coziest sleep.  You would think he was let loose in a combined fluffy playground and buffet!  He will run like crazy and dig his face deep into the snow, and then stop and take a great big mouthful of the stuff for a snack.  It’s hilarious to watch.

Sometimes he’ll just sit quietly in the snow on the deck, and it seems like he’s just admiring how beautiful it really is.

I think he’s got the right idea.

Let’s face it, even if the groundhog was right, winter is going to be here for a while.  We might as well find something about it to love.

Like how beautiful the trees look. . .

Or how peaceful it is to walk down the snowy path. . .

Or all the fun things you can do with the snow besides shovelling it. . . (okay, you do need thumbs for this!)

How many times in our lives are we going to be stuck with events or situations that might not be our first choice?  Let’s face it, if I was offered a free trip to some sun-soaked beach destination I’d be out of all this beautiful winter in a flash!  But, here I am for the duration, so I’ve decided to make the best of it.  There is always a way to put a positive spin on wherever you are, and whatever you are dealing with.  Research has proven that people who are optimistic and focus on the positive side of events always fare better, and live longer, healthier lives.  So, pull on those snow pants and lace up those waterproof  boots or skates, and get out there and enjoy this stuff.  You might even find someone out there to play with!

It’s Gus’s Big 5.0!!

It’s Gus’s fifth birthday today!  Like any mom, I’m excited, proud and a bit nostalgic all at the same time.

While I can’t believe 5 whole years have passed, I also can’t seem to remember a time when Gus wasn’t part of our lives.  I am also doing my best to not focus on the down side of time marching forward.  I have vowed to keep it positive!

So we will celebrate this birthday as we always do – with some treats, some special members of the family, and with a toast to all the things that make Gus so important to us all.  I thought I would post a few pictures to help tell the story and to bring you some smiles. Happy Birthday Big Guy!

First bath

Best stick ever!

Hangin' out with the gang

Frisbee love

Mom made me wear this hat

With my brother Lucky

Life’s great!