Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Lessons and Loss - My dog Sanka

Got a few minutes? This one is a long one. Got some kleenex’s nearby? I’ve been told you might need ‘em. Recently I learned that grief often goes in a circle. You think you are past it, over it, dealing with it, and suddenly it is there before you again in an overwhelming way, and the tears flow and emotions boil over, and you feel….grief. We expect that a few weeks can make things better, but sometimes it’s a process of learning, of allowing yourself to grieve, of remembering, and slowly letting go, all the while knowing the grief may return at totally unexpected times, hopefully with less and less intensity than the time before. That was what I have been experiencing this week at times. I miss my dog Sanka. We had to give him away a few month ago. We are moving to Africa to a place whether there is no safe creek to swim in, waayyyy too hot for him to stay outdoors, and a culture that dislikes dogs and sickness wouldbe highly likely. So please humour me while I remember him, tell you funny stories, why we loved him, and how he was so much more than just a pet to us. Sharing loss is part of the healing.

I remember when we brought you home. You were 6 weeks old or so. You were so soft and fuzzy and you sat on my lap on the way back to our house in Calgary. We had a big pen built for you and a house and blankets, etc. You were pretty spoiled. I tried to be diligent and wake up often to let you out to go pee, but inevitably you still peed in your pen for the first while. Can’t blame you. You were just a little guy.

When I had my second miscarriage I came home and sat on my bed in the dark with you, and when Paul came home he joined us. We were so sad, and you were oblivious and just thrilled to be in the bed for once in your life. You fell fast asleep and were soon snoring up a storm, which made us laugh so much in a time we really needed to feel joy. Thank you for that.

You knew you were not allowed on the furniture. Only once did I come downstairs in the middle of the night and catch you fast asleep on the leather couch. Mostly you were quite content on the big oversized puppy pillow at the top of the stairs where you could be a sentry between Bennett and our bedroom, or on a carpet on the ground next to Paul in our bedroom. (Yes, Paul is the guy who said he would NEVER let you in the bedroom, and thought you should be an outside dog, etc. You suckered him in good!) The furniture exception was our big striped King chair – the “Movie Chair”. When we settled in there to watch a movie, our popcorn and drinks all ready, you would soon come over and rest you head on the big ottoman on our feet and give us those sad eyes. If we didn’t respond fast enough, soon your one paw was also up there on the ottoman. Every movie you managed to get invited to drape yourself over our feet and between our legs on the ottoman and gets lots of love. You loved movies!

Goofing around in front of the movie chair

And then there is your red ball. When the red ball came out, your brain turned off. Just like that. Every bit of training, or discipline or reserve in your body completely left and you went haywire. On cold days I would throw the ball from our deck down the long street (quiet cul de sac with little traffic) and you would run back and forth 30-40 times chasing it. I knew when you stopped bringing it back to me right away and would lie 5 feet away with it to rest that you were good and tired. On sunny days we went often to the escarpment and I threw the ball until either my shoulder was sore or the slobber on the ball overwhelmed me, whichever came first.

We took you camping often. You LOVED being out there, hanging out with us all day and night, and the long walks and lots of sticks. You also loved the water. One trip we rented a canoe and paddled around an island by Vancouver. You would jump in the water and swim behind us for a long time until you got tired. Then you would let out a little yelp if we got too far away and we would come for you and pull you into the canoe. You would lay in the sun and bake and rest until you were ready again. Then you would jump out of the canoe and do it all over again!

You were definitely a water dog. You loved to swim and chase sticks and bring them back, and you were good at it. Such a strong swimmer. Did you readers know that Labs have webbed paws? They do. Thats why they swim so well. My favorite walk to take with you was along Nose Creek. You could be off-leash and almost the whole walk was along the creek. You would run back and forth between the creek and me. You would jump in the water and chase sticks or birds and swim in the current. Then you would rush up the sides to me on the path to make sure me and the kids were ok and invariably shake your wet coat all over us, before heading back to the creek. I love the pure joy on your face when we were here.

Your best friends

You have two best friends too. I know you loved Paul and I more than anything, but truly your heart was with Bennett and Grandpa. You would let Bennett roll all over you, pull your ears, steal your food or otherwise be a nuisance around you. You never once got mad or snapped at him. You would lick his face and make him laugh when he was just a baby. He would stick his arm in your mouth and you would gnaw on it so soft and he would laugh like crazy.

Snuggling with Bennett

My Dad, Clem was definitely your other best friend. As soon as we would turn down the street even getting close his house you would start to whimper, and as soon as we pulled out you were off like a bullet! You would stay at his house when we were gone away and had all your favorite spots. Grandpa would take you for runs everyday and throw your stick until you tired out as soon as he got home from work. Grandma also enjoyed you and would sneak you snacks. Grandpa was also known to take you out and get you your own scoop of ice cream after your runs. He would take you to the river lots too. He loved having you around and hopes to still be your number 1 babysitter.

So what else have I learned from this grief and love? I have learned to see two sides of my new little daughter. The same reasons that I gave up my dog, to a better life where he would be happy and strong, are the same reasons that they gave her up. They loved her so much that they wanted her to have a wonderful life, to travel and experience life with us, to have a brother and a young energetic family who would pour their love into her. We were on the receiving end of that beautiful gift. Their grief at giving up something so precious gives me insight to my own grief. Sometimes we have to let go of someone/something we love simply because our love for them is so great that we want something better. And by letting go we act unselfishly and learn to put the happiness and future of someone else first. A tough lesson, but one I truly believe is worth learning.

Through these times of change and stress right now while our whole lives are uprooted and seem topsy turvy as we move our lives and family to the other side of the world, I wish you were here. You would curl up on my feet, shine with joy when we went for walks and love my hugs. I could sure use you here now ,but I know you are happy with J&C&C. So I sit here with tears streaming down my face, being so thankful that I had you. I couldn't have ever asked for a better dog. I miss you, but I always know we made the right choice. So I sit here, enjoy this cup of coffee in your honour and am grateful for all the gifts God has given me, even those I have to give up.


Corey & Sarah said...

You definetly made me cry! It's a great tribute to a great dog. I hope he is doing well.

heather said...

Not ready to read this yet.. Started crying in the first sentence... Don't know if you knew that I had to put my Niki down about a month it's way too fresh for me - but I soo understand you missing Sanka. What a lovely way to remember your special friend. They are amazing animals... I will try to do that soon for my girl - perhaps a scrap book -.

Cheryl Miller said...

what a great entry, kind of sad but so beautiful, along with your photos.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I have teary eyes too, you were right! I especially enjoyed the parallel you made between Ariel and Sanka--a very wise connection and way to understand where Ariel is coming from!
We promise to keep taking great care of Sanka and only hope that the love you lost will be ours to gain and keep giving to him!
He is a very special dog and such a good boy!

Jenn Soriano