In this past week, a stunningly beautiful baby emerged from her mother’s womb; forty-eight hours earlier, a canine named Sam finally found the light that had eluded him all his life. One woman was the guide for both journeys. I am reminded of the seventh verse of the Tao:
”Heaven is eternal–the earth endures. Why do heaven and earth last forever? They do not live for themselves only. This is the secret of their durability.
“For this reason the Sage puts himself last and so ends up ahead. He stays a witness to life, so he endures.
“Serve the needs of others, and all your own needs will be fulfilled. Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.”*
The woman serving as the guide for the baby’s birth and the canine’s death reminds me of the Sage, for she has always kept herself last. So well she understands that a new life has yet to experience all that physical existence can offer while a life at its end stands on the brink of what is beyond experience.
“Often the thing feared, once crossed, turns out to be an unexpected bridge from which we can see who we were and who we are becoming” (The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo). Certainly, this is the sentiment shared by Sam’s veterinarian caretaker and guide to the bridge. Here, in her words, is a bit about Sam’s life as well as his death:
“Sam was truly a one person dog, and he had the potential to be dangerously aggressive toward other animals and people who made him uncomfortable. His aggression was most likely fear based, probably the result of prior experiences before he came to us [an animal sanctuary].
“When Sam did act out aggressively, it was intense, unpredictable and he truly could become very dangerous very quickly. But Sam wasn’t always aggressive. In fact, he was actually quite affectionate, loving and trusting toward me. He always greeted me with a tail wag and never once did he act out aggressively. He and I had a relationship based on trust and respect, which ultimately made the decision to let him pass over the Rainbow Bridge that much harder for me.
“In addition to his potential for aggression, Sam was extremely storm phobic. Despite numerous attempts to help him–anti-anxiety medications, pheromone collars, and changes in housing–when the summer storms came through each year, Sam became uncontrollable from fear and anxiety. Even I wasn’t able to comfort him when he was at the height of his anxiety attacks.
“As Sam aged, his anxieties and fears became increasingly worse. He became more unpredictable and outwardly aggressive toward people simply walking by his kennel. He started to become destructive, had a wide-eyed and scared look about him, was excessively vocal at times, and occasionally seemed desperate to escape from his kennel.
“Sam continued to be affectionate and friendly toward me but it became apparent that Sam’s overall quality of life was deteriorating. He wasn’t happy. His fears and anxieties were getting the best of him. Our decision was incredibly difficult as Sam did not have anything ‘physically’ wrong with him. His body was still healthy but his mind was not. We made the very difficult decision to let Sam’s fears and worries finally be put to rest.
“After a scrumptious breakfast and spending some extra time with him, I reassured this handsome boy that everything would be okay and that he wouldn’t have to be scared ever again. I hugged him close and reassured him the whole time. He was clearly scared but he trusted me enough to know I was helping. Sam fell asleep quickly and quietly in my lap, and he finally appeared at peace.
“I have no doubt he knew I was helping him but letting him go was very difficult, more difficult than if there had been a physical, visible medical concern. The fact that Sam trusted me enough to hold him while he fell asleep meant a lot but also made it very difficult, yet for Sam, it was the best and only choice to be made.
“Three years ago, we made a commitment to keep Sam safe, happy, healthy and to protect him from fear and stress. By helping him to cross over the Rainbow Bridge, we feel that we held up our end of that deal. Rest in peace handsome boy. We hope that your troubled mind is finally able to be at peace and that you are once again able to enjoy just being a happy-go-lucky, care-free dog. You don’t have to be scared anymore.”
Both the death of the dog and the birth of the child are indirect experiences for me yet I am profoundly moved by each for they have in common a woman whom I admire and respect. I know I am fortunate in being able to call her friend. She is young enough to be my granddaughter but her wisdom is of the ages.
Some would say hers is an old soul—once, I ascribed to the notion of rating souls but for me, rankings disappeared with duality—this young veterinarian is acutely aware of her world, inner and outer. I doubt that she reads books on awareness or oneness nor do I remember her ever using those words. She just lives, keenly and completely. Her equanimity in listening to other perspectives, other points of view is rather remarkable. Yet, she is not always appreciated, initially.
Of course, Sam knew better. He trusted his friend to help him cross the bridge into an existence void of all he had known. Two days later, his friend gave birth to a baby, sweeping away the sadness of Sam’s absence but not his existence for the leaving and the arriving are always one for the witness to life.
*Tao translation from Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.
12 thoughts on “Witness to Life”
I’m still living with my own experience of helping a beloved “pet” (I would almost say “child” fits better than not…) across the Rainbow Bridge. And the circle of life and death could almost be said to be the same in reverse, as she came to our lives–she and her brother who is now getting old and frail from FIV complications–on the day that my best friend held the funeral for her own son…
It was, as your friend said, the path to peace as quality of life had gone…. She’d taken ill with FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) and though we were able to give her palliative care, in the end, we chose to let her go. My husband cried that day. He’s never cried for any other animal, but we both held her and stroked her as she slowly stopped trying to purr at us. She knew she was safe and loved… and then we had to bring her home, to place her in a final resting spot under the newly planted tree in our yard.
Home to where her brother cried at the sight of the box, and tried bringing toys to it for her. For years, if something came out of storage that had a whiff of her scent…
Animals not only have a powerful awareness of the world, but of loss and love… We should be honored whenever one is willing to trust us enough to share our lives.
A very moving account, Eden; I was with your every word. I do know that I am quite honored by my animals’ trust, as you say, and I do my very best to remember that in every moment we have. Also, I understand that whiff of scent, as most infrequently, I will find a Gumby item, and yes, my heart still fills with her.
Again, Egan, thanks.
Without a doubt, the best result for Sam. He could’ve died in a violent confrontation if he’d ever actually attacked a human. I’m sure your friend did the best she could for him.
As an acupuncturist, I wonder if acupuncture and chinese herbs could’ve helped Sam. I also wonder about the personality change – did he have an undiagnosed brain tumor?
But it truly doesn’t matter now, does it. Your friend couldn’t continue to care for him and put her (soon to be born) baby at risk, could she?
Peace. And what a brave boy, to trust her in that way.
Always great to see you here; always appreciate your thoughtful comments.
Purposefully, I omitted the name of the animal sanctuary as well as my friend’s name (the veterinarian). As I reread the post, I see that I was soaring more with Emerson’s oversoul than relaying the seemingly synchronicity of this death and birth. Consequently, I implied that my friend’s pregnancy may have entered into her decision to help Sam cross the Rainbow Bridge. Honestly, I don’t know whether the impending birth of her second child was a factor or not. My opinion is that it was not. Again, in my protection of my friend and the animal sanctuary, I did not readily represent that there are other caretakers, other animals (some like Sam)living in a rather remarkable environment, meaning that all animals here have a forever home, and I mean home.
My friend and I have had conversations about treatment that is not traditional, and she certainly is not averse to any treatment that may assist any animal. With relative certainty, I can say Sam did not have a brain tumor. And yes, Sam did trust my friend completely; more than once I have remarked on the magic that she seems to have with all animals. It is as if she really can talk to them.
Unrelated to Sam, I am just exploring traditional Chinese medicine (reading The Web that has no Weaver), and am looking for an acupuncturist. If you are in the Florida area, let me know. My memory tells me you are not, unfortunately. Again, Julia, thanks for reading about Sam and my friend.
Thanks for the compliment, Karen.
I did jump to the conclusion that the impending birth had something to do with putting Sam down – which is a completely justifiable action, IMO, FWIW, YMMV etc. ::grin:: Though it seems that’s not really the situation there.
No, I’m not in FL, but if you email me (my name at live dot com) and let me know where you are, I might be able to make some recommendations.
I will e-mail you, Julia. Thanks!
I really don’t think you jumped to any conclusion as I led you there; however, I agree completely that it is a justifiable action.
I am sorry about your loss. I held a beloved animal in my arms years ago when he passed. It was a life-altering moment for me and I was glad he was out of his pain.
I, too, have held animal in my arms as she crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Like you, it was a life-altering experience for me, leaving me with relief for my canine friend and a heart full of eternal love. Thanks so much for reading about Sam and my friend. Really appreciate you stopping by.
I too have held them in my arms to ease them – the way we help our friends through death puts the way to don’t help our fellow sufferers to shame – I am sorry for your loss but know that he knew he was loved and that means a lot.
Oh, Alberta, I could not agree more about how we don’t seem to assist our fellow sufferers; ditto in that he truly did find love and trust from one human being. Thanks for reading about Sam and my friend.
Poor Sam; may he rest in peace.
Indeed, poor Sam’s mind is at rest, and wherever he is, I think he is at peace. Thanks so much for reading about Sam and my friend.