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!

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!

Who needs the gym?

Okay, so it’s the second week of January.  This is the hottest time of year for sales of gym memberships and fitness equipment.  Save your money and get a dog!

If you’re bundled up, the fresh air, sunshine and the crisp snow are more powerful stimulants than anything they’re pumping into the stale air in one of those windowless gyms.  Besides, you don’t have to listen to that droning disco music in the background!

I make a point of running around with Gus – up and down the hills, and across the snowy fields.   I get my leg exercises by kicking up clumps of snow for him to jump for.  To be honest, just tromping through the heavy snow with boots and snowpants often feels like I’m  wearing extra leg weights.

When we’re all done, I feel just as “worked out” as if I’d been at the gym.  The bonus is that it doesn’t cost anything, and I get a wonderful sloppy thank you from my workout buddy!

Don’t Be Afraid To Make The First Tracks

So here we are again.  The fields are covered in snow.  The sun is blazing, despite the -15 degree temperature.  It’s a beautiful day to be outside, as long as you’re dressed for the weather.

I love to stand at the top of the hill and look down onto the sparkling expanse of snow below.  I’m always a bit reluctant to take the plunge and begin tramping ahead with Gus.  Somehow it seems a bit sad to puncture the pristine snow with my clompy boots and his prancing paws.  Never mind.  On we go, and before long, the field is a mess of footprints and pawprints; leaving evidence of everywhere we’ve been.   For the past two mornings we have spent ages outside in the fields; running and playing in the snow, and working up a sweat despite the freezing temperatures.  We’ve had the best time.

It’s a bit like life itself, isn’t it?  When we are about to begin something fresh and new, we stand on the brink, contemplating what we are about to dive into.  It’s often a mix of excitement, wonder and trepidation all rolled together that can keep us perched there; immobilized.  As if we’re afraid of ruining that perfect image before us with our footprints and actions, as we forge ahead into new territory.

You’ll think I’m nuts, but I’m reminded of something silly from my childhood.  When we were little, my siblings and I used to argue over who got to “break the rink” on a new jar of peanut butter, by being the first one to dig a knife into it.  (Boy, were we easy to entertain!)  I guess we knew then that it was less important to gaze at the perfectly smooth surface than to get on with taking the plunge, and enjoying what would come next.

Get going!

It’s the journey itself that matters most

This morning at the end of our walk, Gus bounded up the front steps and plopped down as he always does to wait for me to toss him his cookie.  There he is in the picture, sitting and waiting for our little ritual that marks our return home.  It suddenly dawned on me that, in the four years we have spent together, Gus and I have been on more than 1200 walks!  When I think about the mileage we have covered, it is truly mind-boggling.  I have worn through several pairs of walking shoes to prove it.  As I pondered this, I was struck by an even more incredible fact.  Despite the distance we have covered together, we always end up in exactly the same place at the end of our walk:  right on our own front porch where we started!  I suppose you could say that, despite all of our walking, we haven’t really gone anywhere at all.

What a concept.  Walking and walking, yet ultimately ending up right back in the same place.  To some, it might seem crazy.  But not to me.

You see, for Gus and for me it’s the walk itself that is the whole point.

Sure, a daily walk is a great source of exercise and fresh air.  I highly recommend it for all the obvious reasons.  But, if you’ve been reading here for a while, you will know that  there is so much more that happens when we are out walking together.  Every day on our journey we meet people and dogs. We make new friends and share experiences.  We are inspired by magical sights right in our own neighbourhood.  In fact, it is while we have been out walking, ultimately going nowhere, that all the important lessons have occurred.

Today is my 49th birthday.  I’ve had a perfectly lovely day.  I got hugs and good wishes from family and friends near and far.  I had lunch with two incredibly special women. I had dinner with my wonderful family.  And I started it off with a very long walk outside with Gus on a beautiful snowy day.

I was thinking this morning that life itself is like these daily walks.  I don’t want to be morbid, but let’s face it, we are all going to end up in the same place we started out eventually.  Dust to dust, and all that stuff.  Each time we mark the passage of another year, it’s as if we are setting out on another walk – one that will end up at our next birthday.  I truly feel that the years themselves aren’t the point at all.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been hung up about revealing my age.   To me, it’s what we’re doing on that journey between the milestones that really matters in the long run.

As I look back on the past year, I am overwhelmed by all that I have seen, done and learned on my journey.  I have met and developed relationships with so many incredible people.  I have marveled at the wonders of the changing seasons and the magical sights that have been right in front of me all the time.  I have learned valuable lessons about myself and what I believe, and I have a clearer sense of who I am and what I value.  There have been high points and low points, but all in all it has been an incredible ride.

Tomorrow is February 11th once again, and I will lace up my shoes and set out off the front porch as always.  I can’t wait to see what I will discover next, as my journey continues. . .