Sunday, March 20, 2011

Farewell to a Best Friend

Farewell to Elaine a.k.a "Bowser", my beloved German Shepherd companion for 12 3/4 years. She made a peaceful transition on March 18 while laying on her blanket on the floor of our van. She had loved hanging out in the van and especially going places with Mom and Dad and her little "sister" Sophie (the rescue Shitzu we had adopted 2 1/2 years ago). When we learned that home euthanization was available, we thought it fitting that she be released from suffering in the place where she was most comfortable and happiest. Elaine asked that I post her story online, so here it is.

The story begins in August 1998. My job often had me travelling, and I was scheduled to spend a week in Grand Forks, ND. On Monday I stopped at the Columbia Mall after work in search of a meal. Walking by a pet store, I noticed a litter of German Shepherd pups on display. Having not yet replaced my previous dog, which had died the year before, I was immediately drawn to them. One pupply stood out, and seemed to plead to be picked up. I held her for a few minutes, then recalled the myriad reasons why adopting a dog was impractical at that time. I was scheduled to spend the week working and staying in a motel. I imagined that she would be gone by the time I started for home on Friday evening, but resolved to come back to see.

Friday evening came, and when I returned to the pet store, two pups were left from the litter. One was clearly the one that had caught my attention on Monday. The purchase was made, and soon we were driving home together. She slept on my lap much of the way, and we stopped at rest areas for potty breaks.

When we arrived home, my daughter Hannah was excited to greet the new puppy, which she christened "Lady Elaine" after the character from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Her mother was not so ecstatic, however. In fact, her reaction was rather negative.

1998 was a year in which a major transition was brewing in my life, so the timing of Elaine's arrival was not coincidental. My wife of 22 years was experiencing changes that ultimately spelled doom for our marriage, although I was quite slow in recognizing this. Around a year later this resulted in her departure and subsequent divorce. During this time I appreciated Elaine's companionship, as well as a cat named Moses that came into my life that year. (Moses continues to spend ample time on my lap).

The divorce was a catalyst for enormous change in my life, and was where my present spiritual journey began. The next several years were tumultuous, featuring a series of short, drama-filled relationships. At that time I did not realize Elaine's role in anchoring energy in my home, and was unaware of the cost to her.

In March of 2004, Elaine began drinking enormous amounts of water and wetting the spot where she slept. Then she suddenly stopped eating or drinking and clearly was not well. A trip to the emergency vet uncovered that she was very dehydrated. Intravenous fluid infusion brought her back to normal, but the vet suspected Addison's disease. It's quite uncommon in dogs, but when it occurs it results in quick death unless treated with ongoing Percortin injections. The blood chemistry gets out of whack, and the kidneys go into hyper drive resulting in dehydration.

We got Elaine back on track with medication, but her original vet clinic over-medicated, and this made life miserable for her. I searched for alternative care, and found an integrative veterinary clinic that took a much more balanced approach. One visible indication was that she seemed happy to walk into the new clinic, whereas she trembled and had to be pulled into the old one.

Veterinary Science says the cause for Addison's is unknown. It involves the adrenal glands, which somehow get damaged or shut down from making vital hormones. I have since learned that the adrenals are associated with the canine chakra system, such that negative energy can get stuck there and cause problems. I am convinced that part of Elaine's role with me was to help stabilize and ground energy. I suspect that many of our pets do this for us without our knowledge, and perhaps pay a price for it eventually.

Elaine managed to live a fairly healthy life with Addison's, and we spent many happy hours walking on trails, taking trips, or hanging out in the yard. She loved to chase rabbits (not that she could ever catch one), and used to yip with excitement as the rabbit made its escape in the woods. In her last 2 years she became increasingly lame, and couldn't make the chase, but still thought about it.

Some memorable moments: Someone once sent a two pound box of chocolates, of which I only had a few. Elaine somehow managed to get to it. and ate the remainder. I feared for the worst, and thought at least there would be some messy stools to deal with, but nothing of the kind happened. She must have had a cast iron stomach!

Another story occurred shortly after I had met Marie. The first time we brought Elaine into her house, her Manx cat Bun freaked and ran for the basement. Bun had never spent time with dogs, and was declawed. Elaine was gentle with cats, but excitedly gave chase when a cat reacted with hisses and bolted away. Elaine chased Bun into the basement, whereupon Bun climbed up onto the furnace and ductwork. How she managed to do that without front claws remains a mystery! (Of course later they became good friends).

More pleasant memories: Elaine romping and splashing in Minnehaha Creek when she was a year old. The sheer joy that she expressed really stuck with me. She continued enjoying swimming until last summer and fall. The image also lives in my heart of her rolling onto her back in the yard and basking in the sun. Again, sheer joy for just being alive.

Elaine's last earthly assignment was to mentor a little Shitzu rescue dog named Sophie that we adopted . This is probably what motivated her to stick around as long as she did. She was content to sit and be a part of the family, even when she could no longer join us in walks. When Sophie arrived she was so timid she would not eat from a dish, and refused treats that were offered to her. Now she has learned to beg for food as a proper dog, and bark at the postman and UPS truck.

In recent months, Elaine's back legs stopped working normally, and she had great difficulty getting up and walking. She stumbled and fell and had to be assisted in and out of the house. The winter was particularly hard on her, and ice made things more difficult. She whimpered from constant pain. I resolved to try finding new treatments to ease her pain and extend her life. I felt that if we could make it to spring, she might be with us through another summer and fall. But then something remarkable intervened...

My wife Marie is quite empathic, and was feeling Elaine's suffering in a profound way. This triggered her own issues regarding suffering and death, so she became motivated to try another session with her hypnotherapist to see what could be cleared. Following a productive and traumatic session dealing with her childhood, she suddenly encountered a vivid and dramatic vision of her deceased father, reaching out from the Other Side. The light was so intense! He showed her a farmyard where her deceased pets and his favorite dog were visible, and gave a message for me: That Elaine is suffering in great pain and wants to come home, but hangs on for my sake. He said that I should tell her it's OK to go home, and that he would take care of her. Then Elaine came into Marie telepathically and confirmed the message. She said "I love my daddy Lynn but I'm so tired, and have another daddy waiting to take care of me".

This vision was so profound that Marie found it difficult to speak or drive. She tried calling my cell phone, but I was at work and on another call. I saw her call waiting on the display, but intended to finish my call before calling back. Then my phone went absolutely dead. I thought the battery died, so plugged in the charger, but it remained completely dead. As I walked into my office, a nearby colleague experienced his computer monitor blacking out without reason. I called Marie on another phone, and she told me that her dad said he would shut down my phone to get my attention. A little later I put the battery back into my phone and it powered up. Marie immediately called it, and I asked how she knew the phone was working. She said her dad told her it was now working.

After this profound message from beyond, I realized that Elaine had been suffering more than I was aware of, and that her wishes should respected. I resolved to release her and say goodbye, but it turned out to be a wrenching experience. Saying goodbye to a beloved animal is very difficult, but everyone has their exit point. I had my own difficulties in dealing with grief in the past, but now I resolved to just let it all flow.

I spent several hours with Elaine on her last day, telling her all my feelings, and expressing my love for her. We shared a Subway sandwich and sat in the warm sunshine together. We visited her favorite park, where we had spent countless hours walking through the woods, and where she had joyfully splashed and swam in the creek. She looked attentively at the park from within the van, clearly reminiscing. I cried my heart out to her, telling her how sorry I was that I had failed to find a treatment to help her feel stronger. I told her I didn't want her to go but I understood that it was time. I stroked her soft fur and rubbed her ears while she grunted in appreciation. I gave her favorite snacks and chew bones. As I listened to the sound of her chewing on the bones, I realized how much I would miss it, how it used to lull me to sleep at night while she chewed contentedly.

The euthanasia procedure went more smoothly than I would have imagined. The sedative calmed her into a restful sleep, and she never felt anything after that.

Saying goodbye is so very difficult to do. Grief wells within me as I write this, but I'm no longer afraid of it. For too long I filed it away rather than feel it, and I had a lifetime of it still in storage. Storing that crap takes lots of energy, and it's time to let it all go. I now realize that many of the tears I shed with Elaine were not just for her. This was her final gift to me, to help me unload my burdens and take them with her in one final selfless act. She is unburdened now, happily romping around like a puppy with Marie's dad Ralph. She helped heal my pain, and Marie's too, even as she found healing for her own physical suffering.

Elaine is gone in body, but her spirit remains. She told Marie to tell everyone that she intends to be back. Marie saw another vision yesterday where Elaine was relaxed at her dad's feet while he sat in a familiar rocking chair. Again the powerful surreal light of the Other Side pervaded the scene. After she heals and recuperates, there is always the possibility of arranging another incarnation. Her spirit is immense and beautiful, something that I never realized when focusing on the physical form of a German Shepherd dog. She likely had purpose in life beyond what I could perceive. Sophie continues on with us now, and is connected into that larger purpose. We recently acquired two parakeets, Maya and Olivia, which also have more to them than meets the eye.

This is my goodbye to Elaine, but not likely the end of the story.