Archive for September, 2017

11
Sep
17

Pets Remembered and Present Pets

So, as someone who occasionally has to make posts about any given day being “National Such and Such Day,” I noticed that yesterday was National Pet Memorial Day.  Like a lot of “National Fill in the Blank Days,” this day was created not long ago by a group that had a vested interest in selling memorials to one’s pets — crematory urns and the like.  And the self-serving nature of the appointment of September 10 as National Pet Memorial Day put me off penning anything yesterday in honor of pets I’ve known and pets I know.  But I would still like to honor those pets I’ve known and who have passed on, and honor those pets I still have the honor of knowing on a daily basis. So I’ll take a few moments today to reflect on these pets.

Cats I have known who have since passed on: Tiger, Muu (the Unitarian Universalist Cat), Tanya, Toby, Sam.

Dogs I have known who have since passed on: Isis, Daisy, Marcel, Gramps, Otis, Pippin, Alice, Irma.

Some of these pets I have many fond memories of, while others, like Gramps, whom I knew for a very short time (he was an old pug we fostered while his new parents got a place ready for him — he stayed with us for only about a week), I have fewer.  Once a pet’s body gives out, something of the pet lives on in our memories.  So I remember Alice, the first dog I could really call “my” dog, as a pug puppy, when the first snow fell that year.  She charged out from our side porch into the yard, into shoulder high (for her) snow.  She was amazed at the snow and had a ball jumping into it.  And I remember Pippin, who had a strange fascination for birds.  She would go out and watch birds for long stretches of time as they flew about the yard.  And I remember Gramps, who spent a solid half-hour sitting on the couch, while I sat on the floor, my bald head within easy reach, licking my head until I could not take it any longer.  Those memories are still pretty vivid, but lots of the memories I have of pets are less so — just a flashing image and little more, and, as time continues its onward march, those images will likely fade a bit.  There will never, though, be a complete effacing of these guys from my memory.  Those memories, though they do provide some comfort and solace on the loss of pets, just as memories of our loved bipedal friends and family help console us on their loss, are one-sided.  Having memories is great, but being in the moment with our pets (and our friends) while they live is much more important.  For those are moments to be shared.  Not only do we take joy in the moment, but we witness their joy in those moments.  They are moments shared, while memories will always be somewhat private and individual things.

I become especially aware of this when I have pets who won’t be around much longer.  It does no good to dwell on pet (or human) mortality.  Death will come when it will, but that focus tends to darken the present moment.  Ideally, I’d like to be like that guy in the Zen story who falls off a cliff and is precariously hanging on to a branch sticking out.  Soon he’ll lose his grip and fall to his death, but he uses the moment he has to admire some beautiful flower on that branch.  Death is imminent, but he doesn’t let that imminence cloud the beauty before him.  That is my ideal, and I often fall short of that ideal, worrying about the future more than is helpful, and missing something in the here and now because of that fear.

Our current crop of furry friends include the pugs, Phoebe, Winchester, and Duke, and the cats, General Zod and June Carter Cat.  In a busy day, I don’t have much time for the pets, but what little time I do have, I try to make sure I notice the pets, and pet them, and share that time with them.  When I am at my best, I am fully there for my furry friends, and I find myself filled with joy and gratitude.  I’m not always as attentive as I might be, and those are missed moments.

The dogs, especially, take such great joy in the moments they have playing and eating, and they constantly remind me to take greater joy in each moment I have, to be present, and not miss something great.  It seems that each meal for the dogs is “the greatest meal” ever and they meet each meal time with an enthusiasm I rarely have for my own repasts (though I enjoy dinners shared).  And when they play, they are so caught up in that play that I am reminded to take delight in more moments in this fleeting life.

Currently, one of our pets, Phoebe, has cancer, and so the clock is ticking ever faster for her.  Of the three pugs, she is the one who retains the most of her puppy qualities even now.  I try to pay special attention to Phoebe and her moments of joy, as we cannot be sure how much longer she’ll be with us, though we are sure there will be less time than we’d want.  When Phoebe passes, we’ll still have great memories of this great dog, but as Phoebe reminds us daily — live in the now, celebrate the greatness of now, and don’t lose it in worry.  All the guys do this, but Phoebe is a master of glorying in the moment, and I honor and celebrate her as a great teacher, teaching by example.

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