Tuesday, January 03, 2012

on impermanence

Nearly 13 years ago, in the stage of a new relationship, at the tender age of 21 Andy and I adopted a dog together. We had no intention of leaving Pet Smart at Hamburg with a dog. But one look at Bella that day and we couldn't deny her. Her name was originally Lady. Within a car drive from Lexington to Richmond she became Bella, my favorite girl name of all. She sat in my lap as Andy drove down the road. We were giddy with excitement.

It didn't matter that Andy and I had no idea whether or not our relationship would stand the test of time. We were mostly young and dumb. It didn't matter that I still lived in a dorm or that the apartment Andy lived in didn't allow dogs. It didn't matter that Andy had never owned a pet of any kind before. In our gut, and in our heart, we knew it was the right move.

One summer I went away to SC for an internship in graduate school and Andy sent me letters. In one he included a little snippet of Bella's hair. In another he stamped her feet in dirt and included her paw prints.

Bella stole the heart of Andy's parents. Even though Andy and his siblings never had a dog they accepted her into their home and into their hearts. For years Bella was the only "grand" anything. She was their grand-dog.

Bella was with us as we started our life together in Texas in a small 700 square foot apartment. Soon she moved with us into our starter home. We wandered into another Pet Smart, this time in Texas. I feel in love with a big brown dog named Remy. That night I had a dream about him and the next week he was ours.

Bella had a brother. In 10 years they never had one single fight. She was the princess boss and always in control. They were two radically different dogs, yet two sweet peas in a pod.

Bella has been present for nearly the entirety of mine and Andy's relationship. She was there during our ups and our downs. Our joys and our sorrows. She knew our strengths and our weaknesses better than anybody else. She was fiercely loyal and devoted to us, especially Andy. She was our baby, part of our family.

Her health rapidly declined over the past several months. She lost a lot of weight. She lost interest in food and going on walks. She tail no longer wagged and she didn't get up and greet us at the door as she always did before. She had kidney and advanced dental disease. We gave her medicine. I pureed her dog food and when that didn't work we went to wet dog food. In her final days Andy's parent gave her water and chicken broth with a turkey baster. They cared for her in ways I can't even believe. My heart overflows when I think about what they did to make her comfortable.

Change is hard. Reality, impermanence is hard. Psychologists say that one of life's most stressful events is death. The wise and ancient yogis said that fear of death is the source of all other fears.
Part of practicing corpse pose, savasana at the end of yoga class is about facing death fearlessly.

Yoga reminds us that nothing lasts forever. Not this breath. Not this body. Not our Bella. Yoga also teaches us that we are more than this breath. More than this body. There is more to Bella than what I can see, hear, and touch.

The Self, what the yogis call atman and purusha cannot be pierced by pain and cannot die. It is everlasting and infinite.

Much like our sweet fur baby Bella.

I saw this passage on a friends FB today:
“In the end
these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”
― Siddhārtha Gautama

Bella did all those. She loved well. She fully lived. Then she let go.

What more is there to do? Truly a lesson we can all learn.

*Photo taken in December. It was mine and Andy's goal for Bella to make it through Christmas as it was important that she get one last time in Owensboro at the "doggy spa" with the family. She made it just after Christmas which is a great reminder of the power of intention (and prayer too).


Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons said...

so sorry, friend. I know how hard it is. you were all very luck to have had 13 years with each other. much love to all. xoxo

Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons said...

so sorry friend. I know how hard it is. you were all very luck to have had 13 years with each other. Much love to all. xoxo

Mia said...

So sorry to hear about your Bella... sending you warm and comforting thoughts. Big hug to you.