old dog // new tricks

Our family pet is a 15-year-old Bichon Shih Tzu named Rocky. He was my first baby, really. I brought him home from the pet store cradled in my arms. He thought he was the alpha dog, and I flipped him on his back and told him in the most stern voice I could muster, “no,” to assert my dominance.

Not long after we got Rocky my husband went out of town on a business trip. Rocky whimpered and cried all night long from the confines of his small kennel, which we had been told was the safest and most comfortable place for a small dog. I wasn’t getting any sleep with the way he was carrying on, so I made the decision to bring him into bed with me and he immediately stopped. And Rocky’s been our bed mate ever since, officially a member of our pack. And he and I have been the best of friends ever since.

It has been tough to watch Rocky’s health deteriorate as he advances in years. He is no longer the playful puppy he once was. He is moving much slower these days. His eyesight is failing. We’re pretty sure he has arthritis in his hind legs and hips. He chatters his teeth involuntarily, and at times uncontrollably. And there’s no refuting that he has the absolute worst doggie breath on the planet. 

Despite his handsome, youthful appearance, Rocky is 105 years old, and while I really don’t like to admit it, he has officially become an old dog.

He sleeps most of the time, probably close to 22 hours a day. He no longer jumps on or off our bed, and insists on being carried down the stairs in our two-storey home. He’s recently become a little more skittish, tentative, and even ornery on occasion. He doesn’t hesitate to let us know when he needs help with his relentless barking (normally he’s a very quiet dog), or when he doesn’t like something, such as the way he’s being touched or carried, by letting out a high-pitched yelp.

But here’s what hasn’t changed with Rocky: he’s still the same loving and incredibly loyal little pooch he’s always been. He still spends countless hours curled up in my lap or sitting next to me. He still follows me all around the house. He forgives without question or hesitation, and gives love unconditionally, without any expectation of anything in return, save for maybe the chewy chicken Milkbones he loves so much that he gets as a reward for going outside. (I believe Rocky has the system figured out perfectly, as he sometimes goes outside not because he has “business” to do, but because he knows he’ll get a bone when he comes back in.)

Ultimately, this little dog lives and loves with all his heart.

Unfortunately, neither pets nor people are promised forever in the physical bodies we’re given. Sometimes as we age our bodies fail us. And sometimes, through the miracles of modern medicine, our failing bodies can be repaired.

But we’re never given any guarantees.

Rocky was my first real pet and the first living creature I had sole responsibility for taking care of. And I can’t even begin to explain the depth of what this old dog has taught me about the meaning of life and love. Nothing in life is permanent, including life itself. And as I reflect on some recent family events highlighted against the changes I’ve seen in my old dog, I feel called to share some of my realizations: 

  • Be grateful for the time you have; regardless of what it looks like and however long it may be.
  • We all have the choice to live everyday as if it were our last. Make every moment count, because how we show up for ourselves and each other truly matters, and you simply mustn’t take your time on this earth for granted.
  • Always be yourself and speak your truth. Don’t change or temper your personality to suit others. Express your needs honestly and directly.
  • Kindness and compassion are potent antidotes to the prevalence of hatred and fear. The added bonus is that they’re both renewable resources, so you can go ahead and apply them generously in everything you do.
  • Learn to keep your heart open to the energy of love, rising above petty jealousy and anger. 
  • Love is powerful. Take every opportunity to show (and tell) the people you care about how important they are to you.
  • Live with a soft, open heart, everyday, no matter what circumstances come your way. Herein lies both the greatest test and the true meaning of life.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I’d say the lessons I’m learning from my old dog are more important. Clearly, Rocky is so much more to me than merely a family pet or an old dog. He’s an important member of our family, my constant companion, and a very wise soul who most certainly came hère to teach me a few tricks about life, and not the other way around.

xo

To September and New Beginnings

Ah, September is here again, and this new month has filled me with a tremendous sense of hope and possibility.

September has always felt like the perfect time to reflect on the cycles of life, as well as to take stock of my blessings and recount all the things for which I am thankful. And because of the many transitions and new beginnings that occur at this time of year, I’ve always thought of September the way many others view January 1, as the start of a new year.

In almost seemingly perfect unison with the turning of the calendar page, the signs of the new season have begun to show themselves. The most obvious of these is how the leaves have begun to change colour, and some are even falling to the ground. And there’s also that familiar crispness in the air in the morning and at night.

With these changes I’ve noticed how many folks complain as they struggle to let go of the ease and warmth of the summer months, regarding this period of change solely as the coming of cold and darkness. But I prefer to view the approaching season for its more optimistic symbolism, as a season of ripeness, maturity, wisdom, freedom, change, and balancing the darkness with the light.

Selfishly, I’m quite pleased my family has returned to the structure and predictability of our routine-driven lives. And I’m ecstatic to once again be able to focus my energy on meditation, writing, and exercise—the activities that speak to my soul and keep me relatively sane in this crazy world.

On a more serious note, in all its deep and gloried hues of rust, orange, and gold, the fall provides a vivid reminder of the impermanence of our world. And as the leaves begin to release their hold on the branches from which they grew, we humans ought to heed the wisdom of the trees with our own willingness to release old patterns and shed the layers that will no longer serve us on our journey.

The concept of letting go continues to be a strong theme in my life. Almost daily, I need to remind myself of the need to get out of my own way and let spirit take charge. This idea applies as much to my writing as it does to all other areas, as I continue learning to trust in the magic of surrender so the work can naturally flow through me.

And with that said, I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I am going to be a student once again, as I will begin a 200-hour yoga teacher training program, starting exactly one week from today. For me, this is a huge leap of faith and very much one of those feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway kinds of things.

I’m still unsure if I will ever actually teach a yoga class, but regardless it’s something I feel deeply called to do. When I release my attachment to the outcome of what will happen at the end, I am over the moon excited about deepening my personal knowledge of yoga and Ayurvedic philosophy while enhancing my own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. So, even though I’m scared as hell and my voice is shaking, I raise my glass (of green juice) and say: cheers to September and to the magic of new beginnings!

What new beginnings are coming your way this fall? Drop me a line by commenting below or on Facebook…I’d love to hear about what fall means to you and what’s going on in your world.

beginnings