No bad days, a tribute to a life well-lived.
I recently had a bad day. It will probably stay in my top 10 of bad days for a long time. This past Thursday, we had to say goodbye to our 12 year old Chocolate Lab, Ottis. He was loyal, he was gentle, he was the epitome of “(wo)man’s best friend.” And we made the choice to have him pass on his own terms. This isn’t something that I’d ever thought I’d have the guts to do…even up until recently. But I remembered a decade old promise that I made, that I’d be there until the end. There’s something that happens to your mind when you have to make hard decisions, you become more decisive, more certain, and somehow you find the will to do the things, and make the decisions that you surely thought were meant for stronger people.
He crossed the rainbow bridge eating ice cream, peanut butter bites and licking squeezy cheese from a can while getting loved on by his Mama, his Vet, Dr. Anne and Sam, one of his many Vet tech friends. I told him to find Poppop McGrath, who would surely be waiting in heaven with more ice cream and ready to take the best 'sniffies' walk. There was a serenity and peace that I hadn’t seen in him for a very long time. No more pain, no more fear, just peace.
In the passing days, I had very little time to reflect and process. That’s the worst part of being an adult. The crazy spinning carousel of life doesn’t stop when you’re heartbroken. You have to get up. You have to go to work. Dinner has to be made. Kids have to be picked up. The list is never-ending. Life keeps on going, not to mention that 12 years is a long time. I was basically a 21 year old child when we got him and now I’m a 33 year old adult. Yesterday, I finally made a priority to make myself stop and reflect about the past 12 years instead of 1 bad day that was plaguing my thoughts. I looked through all of my archived pictures and I knew that he had lived his best life.
When Oti was about 2, he was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in his front elbow as a long term injury from a fall as a puppy. By the time we made it to an orthopedic Vet, he had said, “If he was younger, I would replace the joint, but he’s too old and it’s just going to be about managing his pain.” He was about 4 at the time. What a shitty way to have to move forward in your life. But as I look back, it never stopped him.
For almost 10 years, he lived in a cycle of chronic stiffness and pain. In the past 6 months in particular, he had many, many bad moments. BUT…never any bad days. He was always so happy to wake up and be with his people…happy to eat… happy to sleep…happy to eat some more. He had a hunger for life that was hard to understand at times. I had a stream of consciousness the other night where I was looking at a picture I had taken many years ago that reminded me of Dos Equis and the phrase “Stay thirsty, my friends.” But for Ottis, I think it would be something more like “Stay hungry, my friends.”
Sometimes we lose our grasp on that hunger for life…getting paralyzed by monotony and bad moments and unrealistic expectations that can blind us. And if there’s just one lesson that tops the wide ranging list of the things our pets teach us, I think it would be to not let those bad moments define us, or hinder someone or something’s memory. It is SO OKAY to have those moments. It is okay to have a set-back, to make mistakes, to fall down…to NEED a BREAK from your every day. It is okay to feel crushing sadness that weighs on your soul. It is okay to feel all the feelings. But, DO NOT LOSE THE HUNGER.
Life keeps moving forward no matter what. Find comfort in your people. Live one day at a time. Take a breath, get up, push forward…and end it with something sweet.
Stay hungry, my friends.
That was a crazy game of poker, sweet boy. One love, O.A.R.