She taught me joy

As the author of a little tome called Gladness is Infectious, I decided to look inside my grief and be glad for the just shy of 12 years with the beautiful golden retriever I have told you about, Willow The Best Dog There Is™. (This Sunday, March 28, would have been her 12th birthday.)

If you’ll indulge me for one more day, I want to recall the life I celebrated here just last week, not realizing everything would change the very next afternoon.

Long story short, Willow and I were outside tending to her business when she suddenly fell down, thrashed and yowled in pain – I never want to hear a sound like that again. She couldn’t put any weight on her back leg when we coaxed her into the minivan for the ride to the doggie ER.

After a restless weekend, we went to our regular vet Monday morning, where we learned something had gone permanently wrong with her back legs that could not be fixed without things like surgery and extended hospitalization and other things you shouldn’t force on an elderly canine. And so, after a peaceful but agonizing goodbye, I am trying to get used to her absence.

When Willow was 2 years old, I wrote A Scream of Consciousness, on the theme of focusing on the present moment to experience the joy of it all. I hit upon the idea of making a video of Willow romping in the snow and using a frame from the video as the cover shot.

I grabbed the Flip camera — remember those wonderful devices in the days before phones did everything? — and followed Willow as she danced through a freshly fallen snow. Playing it back frame by frame was frustrating, because as much fun as she was having, I didn’t think I’d managed to capture her in quite the right “scream of consciousness” moment, until the very last frame of the video: “THERE you are, girl,” I said, and had my cover.

Here’s what I wrote about my beautiful puppy then:

“Willow, our golden retriever companion, is a remarkable example of how to live a joyful life. At 2 years old, she seeks out joy with the curiosity of a child and the wisdom of the joyous.

“When I follow her lead, I achieve an unmatchable warm and peaceful contentment. Therefore, any time I am in her sphere of influence, I make sure I throw her ball or her orange disk, rub her belly, hug her with all my strength, or whatever else the moment requires.”

I am so grateful she taught me to savor those moments, because as much as her passing leaves a hole in my soul, the memories will sustain me for the rest of my life. My God, what a wonderful creature she was.

One thought on “She taught me joy

  1. Our black lab, Dakota, twelve years with us, was as a child it seemed, to us; with the vocabulary of a two-year-old, the glint of comprehension in brown eyes with a tilt of her head at spoken words, a nudge of the bell hanging on the door handle to let us know she needed to go out, the look in her eyes and slump of her shoulders at end of day when we said, “Bedtime,” and she headed down the hall to her wicker basket with the cushion in our bedroom next to our bed, there is nary a day that passes without a thought of her.
    Our daughter now has a black lab we spend much time with, Rasa, who looks just like Dakota, and I’m walking her, throwing the ball and half the time I forget myself and I feel like I’m in another time as I yell out, “Dakota. That’s a good girl.”

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