Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In love and loss and love

Fifteen years is a long time.  One's life evolves enormously over that period.  For a person, fifteen years takes you partially through adulthood, with all the lessons and realizations that come with it.

For a dog, fifteen years measures a life.

That life started in small town Alberta.  A precocious ball of fluff literally bounced into my life, with him choosing me and not vice versa, the beginning of what was an improbable and adventurous run for a little pet store mutt from rural Alberta.  

From that cold January day onward, Bogey graced (owned?) absolutely every moment of my adult life as I know it.  My sidekick, my companion, my monkey.  He filled my world with love - an infectious, silly, enthusiastic, crooked-grinned, impetuous and irresistible love.  He was a standout, simply one of the best people (yes, people) I have ever met, unconditional and unwavering in his affection, gracious for the simplicities of life, and spunky as all hell.

When my life changed, Bogey stayed a constant.  We left the prairies and embarked on what was initially a lonely and isolating move to Vancouver.  No matter what job or relationship turmoil ensued, what successes or failures arose, he happily gave unwavering, unconditional and non-judgemental friendship.  Together, we gradually made Vancouver our forever home.  Kitsilano was his 'hood, and he owned that beach like no prairie shih tzu's business.

The infectious, crooked Bogey grin.

Fifteen years.  My longest relationship.

Every day, he greeted me at the door with his silly grin and happy tail.  He was a character, a little imp, and his antics and goofy personality touched everyone who got to know him.  He ran like a mad-monkey-dog, especially at the beach, but started and finished each day curling up beside me for a cuddle. We embarked on adventures galore, took holidays together, ran on beaches, had picnics and shared ice cream.

Self-satisfied at the beach.

Bogey did not do anything half hearted.  He was all in.  He ran himself silly, stopped to catch his breath, then did it again over and over.  He chased squirrels and ducks and cats relentlessly, despite no hope of ever catching one.  He rolled in the dirt, sand, and grass without fear of looking silly or getting dirty.  He greeted me with zeal, whether I was gone for a minute or a day.  I can aspire to experience my life with such passion and fervour.

There is no judgement, no selfishness and no game-playing in a dog's companionship.  It is the truest relationship you will ever experience.  Bogey taught me not only to love myself, but to raise the expectations of relationships around me.  He taught me to be appreciative and live each moment with joy, be unwavering in my loyalty, and to be unafraid to show my heart on my sleeve.

And, unlike relationships with people, a relationship with a dog is co-dependent and unconditional.  Bogey was forever my responsibility, and after years together, we just "got" each other.  I learned his snurfles, his ear twitches, his mannerism, his tail wags, his barks.  When I was ill, and when I had surgery, he was "ill" too and never left my side.  That bond is irreplaceable and precious.  I only wish I had more time, for fifteen years was simply not long enough.  The decline of that precious friendship was too soon, much too soon.

In the last few years, Bogey gradually lost his hearing (sometimes selectively), his eyesight, and sometimes his balance as arthritis creeped into his back legs.  He started relishing belly rubs over long walks (and somehow conned his walkers into more of the former than the latter), but in his Bogey manner, remained graciously enthusiastic.

Then, last fall, he fell terminally ill with a liver tumor that threatened his life several times.  He bounced back, incredibly, and in his happy-go-lucky way challenged even the vet's best estimates of his life expectancy.  With this diagnosis, however, came the cognizance that every extra day was a gift.  We delighted when he was able to scamper down to the beach, do his "rabbit" hop down the block and play crazy games with Dan in the living room.  Those good days eventually became rarities, with the scamper reduced to a block, then half, then a few meters.

Our "two-block" walks in the late years.
And two days ago, the horrible comprehension that our time together had run its course.  The most difficult, heartwrenching thing I have ever done was taking my best friend on that journey.  Together with Dan (his Dan-Dad), we made it our very best, last day possible, with ice cream, beaches, walks and cuddles.  We told him over and over, how much we loved him and how grateful we were for the life he shared with us, and held him close until he peacefully slipped away.  

Simple pleasures.  A scoop of ice cream on our best, last day together.
I would not trade my heartache today for the memories of the last fifteen years. My greatest fear is not in losing Bogey, for I know that it was time for him to be released from his physical struggle.  My fear is that memories will fade, and that I will forget the feeling of joy he brought me every day, the unconditional love he afforded me, and how burying my face in his beautiful fur made the world disappear.  I fear I will forget, without his presence as a reminder, to embrace every day with silly exuberance, and forget, without his faithful lead, to follow my heart.
And, while this is certainly not a story related to triathlon, or training, or any endurance activity whatsoever, it speaks wholly to the title of my blog...which is about the lifelong process of being in transition, learning and evolving.  In love and in loss and in love.  

I am determined to honor our love story, the wonderful life and the beautiful memories he chose me for.  Embrace life in the enthusiastic, impetuous and honest way that he did.  Love fearlessly.  Show affection.  Be silly and happy and love the world.  Stop and sniff the surroundings.  Take long walks. Run like the wind.  Roll in the grass. Relish every treat and ask for more.  Be a puppy forever.

Run like the wind, bask in the sunshine, bounce through the puddles...always.
Bogey, Boo, B-man, Bogeyman, Man-man, Monkey, Mr. Magoo, Little Shit, Good Boy, Bee-boop, Mr. Shih Tzu, Bogeylicious.

My Sweet Boy.

My Little Man.

Words cannot thank you for loving me so much.  It was an amazing, one of a kind love that we shared.  Rest well, my precious little friend.

No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish - consciously or unconsciously - that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.” - Dean Koontz (A Big Little Life:  A Memoir of a Joyful Dog)

Huge thanks to the wonderful people that played a part of Bogey's life and care.  Corinne, and his other friends at Fetch N' Go, who helped me manage his walks (and belly rubs);  his friends at the Doghouse (of both the canine and people varieties) who were his companions during our 12 years in Vancouver; his groomers at Unleashed Dog Spa who kept him looking spunky; and finally, the doctors and nurses at Granville Island Vet Clinic, who showed Bogey the utmost compassion and care.