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

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!

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!

A season for miracles and giving thanks

What a wonderful time of year.  Though it really hasn’t been a tough winter, it still always feels so good when spring finally arrives.  Over the past few weeks, Gus and I have marveled at the changes unfolding around us.

The last snowball of the season

Snow seems like a distant memory, and the fields are moving from frozen to muddy, to dry grass crunching under our feet.

First spring crocuses

The first brave flowers are poking their heads up through the hard dry ground.

Gus has been very serious about checking them out.

Snowdrops

Everywhere we walk there are new sights and smells as the earth wakes up and reveals the promise of spring once again.  It’s hard not to smile as we stretch our arms and legs  in the warm sun, without the heavy layers we have been used to wearing outdoors.

It’s no coincidence that the theme of rebirth and renewal turns up in many holidays and celebrations at this time of year.  My family observes the Jewish holiday of Passover.  In addition to commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, the symbols that we incorporate into our celebration also remind us of this wonderful season where everything is new and beginning to grow. We include eggs and fresh greens among the items we eat as part of our special Passover meals.   Eggs and bunnies as symbols of new life are part of the Easter celebrations observed by many this weekend.

It’s not hard to view the bursting forth of bright new flowers and new life as a miracle after the barren and bleak winter season we have just finished.  The theme of miracles also shows up in all of the seasonal festivals that take place at this time.  In our traditional observance, we retell the ancient story and we give thanks for the miracles that have allowed us to reach this festive season once again.

Well, as it often does, life imitates life itself.  Yesterday Gus and I lived through our own little story, complete with a small miracle at the end.

So here’s what happened:

We had a wonderful hour-long walk on the most beautiful day.  We were just heading towards home, when along came a kid sitting on his skateboard, flying towards us along the sidewalk.  He wasn’t doing anything wrong at all – just having fun at top speed.  He would’ve zoomed right by us, but something about the sight of him completely spooked Gus.  Now, let me tell you, when 80-plus pounds of Labradoodle decide to take off in the opposite direction, there really isn’t much you can do to hold onto that leash.  So, off went Gus; back in the direction we had come from -running as fast as he could and dragging his leash behind him.

At this point the kid with the skateboard realized what had happened, and he felt really badly.  So he started skateboarding after Gus, trying to catch him for me.  I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Thank you, but please don’t!  He’s afraid of the skateboard!”  Sure enough, Gus was running away from him even faster.  Nice kid – at this point, he heard me and dropped the skateboard and started running after Gus at top speed.   By this point I was running too, trying to catch the kid.  I finally got him to hear me yelling, “Please just stop!  He thinks you’re chasing him!!”  Finally he did.

By this point Gus was out of sight; presumably running all the way home to get away from this terrible scary creature.  Now, you have to realize that going home is great, except it was about 5 km from where we were, and it involved crossing a very busy major 4-lane road to get there.  I called Jeff on my cell phone and told him to get the car and see if he could catch up with Gus before he got to that road.  In the meantime, I ran as fast as I could, trying to find him.  All I could think of was Gus bolting out into that busy traffic. . . I was terrified.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details, except for the fact that Gus did run across that busy road, and that somehow he made it across in one piece. Jeff found him panting on the other side, in the field we had crossed through a half an hour earlier.

Some miracles are huge, like the parting of the sea to let a whole nation cross safely.  Some are much smaller, involving only a frightened dog safely crossing a very busy street.  Nevertheless, a miracle is a miracle, and it is truly something to feel thankful for.  At this special time of year, I hope you can find a miracle or two in your own life, and that you can give thanks in whatever way is meaningful for you.  I certainly have.

Amen

Home safe and sound