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.