I forget which day lockdown actually started. It was like one day the world was relatively normal and the next, a fog of the unknown overspread the planet, where fear and death and angst gets caught in your teeth as you eat breakfast. Or like you’re watching yourself walk through a horrible B-movie and you’re trying to scream at the characters on the screen, “Run! Get. Out. Now…While you still can!”
March came in like a lamb and went out like a rabid Tasmanian devil that sat on a pack of fire ants.
I miss my yoga kula and a Saturday ritual. And walking without fear of an invisible murderer. I miss planning adventures. I miss tea with friends. I miss knowing the right etiquette when walking down the street and encountering other humans. I miss hugging. I really miss hugging. I miss foreign accents and spice markets and donning SCUBA gear. I even miss those undercalculated misadventures. I miss looking forward to something…to anything, really. But these are all mere privileges in the grand scheme of today’s upside-down headlines.
Mostly, though, I miss my dog.
G-dog died during lockdown. Just writing those words seems like a cruel joke even by gods of mean pranks’ standards. It’s not as if it was unexpected (he was 16; on the old end of the elder-dog spectrum and living with lymphoma); just monumentally bad timing.
Monumentally. Bad. Timing.
I’m coming to grips with this reality that seems to evolve each day into a new parody of itself. I’m staying upright on the days that time works sideways, where late-night minutes seem longer and louder than the next morning’s hours. I’m working and walking and shooting and writing and yoga-ing, albeit splotchy, all of it. It’s a splotchy time.
Aparigraha, one of the core tenets of my yoga practice, says to not cling to outcomes; to let go of what does not serve, share the light, recognise the dark and to allow what is to be without attaching to what was. That’s good in practice…and why it’s called a practice is that some days go far smoother than others. With everything today hovering somewhere in the realm of batshit crazy, I’m having a hard time figuring out what is these days, let alone out what part of the past is salvageable. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it will drive me mad.
The reality is that I have been preparing myself for these days for a couple of years it seems. I’ve been celebrating G-dog’s impermanence since his muzzle began to grey: by celebrating his life through our adventures, by honoring the now, by creating memories rather than taking the present for granted…
Yet here we are in an alternate-universe episode of Today, like someone swapped out the normal stuff and inserted some absurd dream in its place.
I miss my dog.
He kept me in the present, where a good stick or a found tennis ball or a 10-minute walk on the beach or a warm greeting from a friend made a mediocre day into the Best! Day! Ever!
He helped me look for woodpeckers all those hours we’d be lost in the forest, never once complaining about the extra kilometres or unnecessary side-paths. I’m convinced he was listening for their calls too.
He sniffed out good humans, and within moments made a lasting impression.
He practised kindness over force, and always unearthed a silliness enough to combat the dark days.
He taught patience and stillness and balance and equanimity, while being generally bonkers in good measure, rarely missing an opportunity to run or jump or play.
He took the high road, sometimes the left fork (or was it the right?), and quite often the wrong trail; but we always made it home and never got lost after dark.
He was a lap-sitter and a blanket hog, and was often sandy or muddy or farty or wet. But I’d trade anything in these quiet days of lockdown to hear that little happy noise he made when I towelled off his big head.
Be present, he taught me. Be grateful for the simple, sunny pleasures each day. Every grain of sand or good stick tells a story, and each smiling human you meet also has their pain. Eat yummy snacks, take long walks, wake up for the sunrise, explore mud flats at low tide…trust your gut with strangers, trust good humans with your heart.
Accept impermanence, he drilled into my head: don’t attach to what was, and don’t long for what isn’t. Look, squirrel! Adventures and treats and surprises are hiding in plain sight.
And now, the stillness.
I don’t believe in god or an afterlife, but I believe we leave behind something that lives on (good, bad or indifferent). If the butterfly effect says that every small action creates ripples in its wake, then the stillness that’s left when a loved one passes invites a look inside to contemplate the void: what, in their absence, has this being (human or otherwise) actually taught us about being?
We learn from our parents what to *do* (and, in many cases, what not to). And I think we learn from our pets, here and gone, how to *be*.
I really miss my dog.
Thanks for reading. I’ve chronicled some of my life with Gus and his impeccable Dog Wisdom here on Medium. At some point I’ll stitch his teachings together and turn it into a bigger thing.
Wishing you and yours peace and health in these crazy times. ️☮💖🕉