I've been thinking a lot about my dog Cleo. It's been a year now since she passed away. With each day, the grief I have experienced has eased, my emotions less volatile.
I miss her like crazy, that hasn't changed a bit, but I can appreciate more fully that her time had arrived. Having in-home euthanasia performed last year was the right thing to do for her. Even if we weren't ready for her passing, I truly believe she was.
It was like she was waiting on us...like she knew how big her presence was in our life, how significant a part she played in our family. She knew the size of the hole that would be left behind.
My husband and I have had dozens of conversations revisiting various milestones and significant changes in her quality of life in that final year. Each time, one of us recalls a vivid moment that spoke volumes about her declining health. We both saw how the sparkle in her eyes, and the thump of her tail were fading under ever-present exhaustion and stress.
Now that she has been physically absent from our home for a year, what honestly was so special about this one dog?
Having twelve months to think about Cleo, I uncovered a few surprises about myself and realized a couple of universal truths about all dogs.
A loved dog always in your heart
I haven't missed a day where at some moment, my dog came to mind. I might be cleaning and remembering how much of her hair and fluff covered every piece of furniture, surface and clothing. Stocking the pantry, I think of Cleo when I see a can of her favorite sardines, or a container of chicken stock. Today I realize that loving a dog and keeping her close to my heart, doesn't have to make you sad.
My own Dog Star
Like the popular constellation, I want to believe she is out there guiding my course. Her personality was big enough and her reach wide. Cleo had a presence that you could feel from across the street, or through a computer screen. Everyone needs a North Star!
Leap of Faith
I wrote about this before here and in a post for the Grey Muzzle Organization, but adopting my dog was a leap of faith. We jumped into dog adoption for the first time, and it required me to accept that I needed to earn Cleo's respect even if it took months and months.
The moment I opened myself to her individuality, and stopped trying to fit her into a pre-existing mold of what I expected a dog, or my life with a dog, to be like - our relationship took off! When I stopped being afraid of failing, Cleo responded in kind.
Wow! Adopting a Dog is Incredible!
I still can't believe that more people don't adopt a dog, especially an older dog. Having nine years with this dog was an amazing, life changing experience!
"Only 30% of pets in US homes come from rescue facilities," says Mike Arms, President, Helen Woodward Animal Center. And, according to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, there are 77.8 million dogs in US households.
We didn't adopt a puppy, we chose a big adult dog. At first, I fretted over all the ways the adoption process could fail, through her fault or mine. I thought of all the negatives that might come true by adopting a dog. Man, focusing on the negative was a waste of time and energy!
All Dogs Give Fearlessly, Influence Positively
I learned from my dog that not only did she have a special talent for making me feel like the luckiest girl in the world, but that this specialness is shared by all dogs. All dogs offer us humans their fellowship. Previously, I had only known a child's bond with a dog. Now, all these years later, an adopted dog showed me this fellowship to be a universal truth about all dogs.
Looking back I see how special my Cleo was, and is, but now I can also see what incredible companions adopted dogs are, and senior dogs too. It is our folly not to seek them out. I plan to rectify that soon.