Lessons from pets.
A few weeks ago, our beautiful Siberian Husky Halo passed away. She was close to 15 years old and had been slowing down over the last year or so. There were a few times she had trouble getting up stairs; but in general, she was fine. She could still yank a human arm out of its socket when jumping after a small animal while on her leash. Halo still loved running across the nearby field. And she still howled when she wanted attention and gobbled her food up in ten seconds flat. So there was still plenty of life left in her and while we knew eventually she would pass on, it was still a future “someday” event.
Then a few Sundays ago, I took her for a walk in the morning. All was fine; we did our normal half mile or so round trip walk. Halo took care of all her business and we zipped back to the house. That afternoon, she was taken for another walk, but she didn’t make it down the driveway. Partway down, she collapsed on her side and couldn’t walk properly. So she was practically carried to the house, and put down to rest. She didn’t move so several hours later we took her to the hospital.
She came home that night after having some shots and trying to shuffle away from the vet. But after a night of not moving an inch and not drinking any water, she went back to the vets. They did some tests and found that Halo was full of cancer. She had tumors in her liver and spleen and possibly her brain since she had by then dropped into a coma and was seizing. The doctor indicated her tumors, especially those in her liver, were not operable and due to her age and inability to move or eat or drink, they suggested we put her out of her misery. So we said goodbye.
I’ve had a few weeks to think about the impact Halo’s life and death had on me. And I realized I learned a lot from Halo. Here are my lessons.
Make time to play
The funniest times with Halo were those late afternoons when she was waiting for dinner and had excess energy. She and I would chase each other around the house. We’d run from one end of the house to the other. Actually, she would mostly chase me. And many times she would run after me and I would fly into my bedroom or office and hide behind the door. She would be behind me barking like crazy, and then would run into the room after me, and her bark would change into a question mark. Like, “HUH?” when I all of a sudden disappeared from view. It was hysterical but unless you heard it, you won’t get it.
But the point is, that was a few minutes of total no holds barred play time. And those few minutes left me in a great mood. Taking a few minutes out of our day to play in some way keeps life fun. Don’t make it all about work.
Enjoy the great outdoors
There were definitely days I would grumble about taking Halo for her walks. When it was rainy or snowy or cold, I wasn’t thrilled. But I’ve realized in the weeks since I no longer have to go out twice a day that I miss that time in the outdoors. So on mornings when I’m not out running or biking, I still throw on my sneakers and go for a short walk in the neighborhood. I can stretch my legs and experience the weather, animals, birds and people. It really does improve my outlook and gets my creative thinking flowing. I’m reminded that nature can truly soothe us, and as such, I’m pledging to keep on going on my morning walks.
One might think you can’t really listen to animals. And of course, they don’t speak human, so listening to them takes on another facet. Pets do talk to us if we are paying attention. Halo would sometimes come into the room I was in, when it wasn’t time yet for a walk. She’d just look at me a certain way and I’d know she had to go “now”. No words were necessary. She didn’t bark.So out we’d venture, and sure enough, she took care of business. Other times, I’d know she was mad that she wasn’t coming with me in the car. She’d just stare with evident fumes coming out of her eyeballs. I’d know when she wanted to run fast and when she wanted to relax.
Listening to a being who can’t actually communicate the same way we do, is quite a lesson in how to listen to people. Part of my job as a real estate professional is to listen to what my clients want and don’t want. Sometimes watching a reaction at a house showing, a non-verbal reaction, is the best way. It’s a skill I’m always working on, and thanks to Halo, I’m better at it now than I was years ago.
As with children, pets need consistency. Lest anyone think I’m saying children are pets, I’m not! I’ve had both and know the difference. The importance is that both do need consistent schedules. Halo needed to be walked several times a day. She needed food around the same time each afternoon. She needed to see the vet. Those things had to be on my mental calendar. Because Halo’s care often fell to me during the work week, I made sure I worked my appointments around her needs. I wouldn’t schedule appointments too early in the morning since I had to be available to walk her. I would make sure my afternoon appointments included a break to go home and take care of my commitment to her. There were times when she’d just have to wait, but in general, my schedule incorporated those “must-do” activities.
That need to ensure family commitments are honored follows through to my real estate business. I have to schedule family time, and I do. I make sure if I say I will be available for a family or friend event, that I put it on the calendar so I don’t mistakenly schedule a client appointment. So the need for scheduling everything in my life is something I improved upon during Halo’s stint here.
On occasion, Halo did get angry at me, but she forgave me immediately. If I left the house and she was angry that I did so, by the time I got back she was jumping all over me in her happiness. If I scolded her for something, she’d look properly chagrined and a minute later would be back at her shenanigans. She didn’t want anything from me except that I give her my attention and time.
And can’t that carry over to people? Learning to truly forgive people is a skill that can take a lifetime to learn. We’d all be a lot happier in our relationships if we just let those hurts and annoyances that are not that important go. And in the grand scheme of life, almost all the things that we get angry or upset about, are truly not important. Our pets don’t hold grudges and we would be a lot happier if we didn’t either. Being angry at someone takes a lot of energy. Learning to be able to let that go gives us more energy for things that are truly important.
I am not the first person who has lost a beloved furry family member and I won’t be the last. That was evident when my Facebook friends provided such wonderful comments when I originally shared news of Halo’s death. As any loving pet owner knows, pets can teach us all sorts of things about life, should we choose to pay attention. I am appreciative I was able to learn so much from Halo. And now I’m off to chase myself around the house.