Sunny little Bean recently had surgery and his understanding veterinarian let me stay with him through the pre-op and post-op stages. Helping him to feel less anxious requires me to be fully present, grounded, and calm. Which means I cannot worry. Maybe I’m the weirdo “mommy” who takes up extra clinic time with her tiny, hairless “mommy’s boy,” but it serves us both for me to be with him.
It was Bean’s day. I cleared my schedule and my partner made it possible for Bean to recover undisturbed on the sofa. Of course I was curled up on the sofa with Bean. I went to the bathroom once and he jumped down to look for me. So we just napped in one place after that. He would wake and moan in pain, then look at me and drift off to sleep again. I was so full of gratitude to have this time with him, knowing he would feel better soon and regain his health in time, that I smiled at him without worry.
Bean had cancer last year. To make a miraculous story short, he was treated by an incredibly skilled veterinary osteopath and he has not only recovered from it, but still has all four legs. Every time he jumps onto the furniture to joyfully rub his back across the cushions, I’m reminded what a fortunate guy he is. Sometimes he leaps at me and pops me on the thigh with his two front paws to hurry me along with his food. He would occasionally bounce off of me like that before he got sick and now I appreciate his antics even more.
It isn’t just gratitude for Bean’s presence that has me watching him as he sleeps. Or leaps across the yard. Or greets the morning with cheerful wags and barks. For years, my dogs and foster dogs have been teaching me to be here now, to pay attention, to listen and quietly observe what is without constant analysis. I’ve mostly been a dense student, but I continue to let go of more and more useless distractions, slow my pace slightly more, and spend a little more time just being with my dogs. Thousands of hours of schooling, workshops, reading, and intellectualizing about canines pale in comparison to what dogs teach us when we are simply, fully being with them.
For some reason, I never say this out loud, but I hold this wish for every client, every person who lives with a dog–I wish you time to be present with your dog. I wish you openness to experience him for who he is without labels or expectations. For minutes. For hours. Just be. With your dog.