Losing A Beloved Pet

Losing a Beloved Pet

Losing a beloved pet.

The idea has always felt so far away to me — until one week ago when I lost my beloved pet,

Pepper was a spunky, courageous, forward-looking pet who lived and moved with purpose. He was also a dog who allowed me to own him — which is often the case with a Scottish Terrier. The Scottie dog is about having an independent life even as he shares his life with you. I had them all my life as I grew up and I guess it was always my fate to have a wee lad as an adult.

Pepper hailed from Utah — one of five in a litter that summer of 2010 — he was the last of the litter to be taken from the breeder at 14 weeks old, which is kind of late to get a puppy. Yet, when I called I wanted a brindle Scottie dog that was 14 weeks old and I told the breeder his name would be Pepper. She said his Grandma and Mom were named Piper and Poppy — this dog is yours.

And was he ever. We were independent of one another and yet completely in sync. For the first five years of Pepper’s life, I walked him four times per day. We would walk and walk and walk. From there, we moved and he had a small urban oasis backyard where he ruled the corner of our neighborhood. Nothing got past him – and he always was chasing squirrels and looking for kitty cats. At night, he came inside and took his place on his window bench and would rule the other end of the corner keeping guard nightly.

When the time came, I lost Pepper quickly. Apparently he had cancerous tumor in his spleen that was causing him to bleed into his abdomen. This went on for quite awhile and we thought these were gastro episodes as he always had a weak constitution, most likely he was the runt of his litter. After treating him with some pain meds, he would be back to himself in a day.

Until the day came last week when the pain was not taken away no matter how much pain meds we gave to him. I always knew I did not want Pepper to suffer and would let him go before that truly took hold of his entire being. And so the hospice vet came in and we euthanized him in our home in his favorite spot. There was no real ceremony — I know many people make a loving plan. For us, it was just apparent that morning and we needed to help him out of his pain as quickly as possible.

And so I ended up holding him close to me as I said all the favorite phrases he loved and then laid him down and I saw his beautiful brown eyes sweep his corner one last time — and then he was gone. Just like that.

I am a childless woman and I suppose that makes me – like many others – turn to my pets to take on the role of children in my life. With our pets, they are only with us for a short amount of years and Pepper was no exception taking his leave at the age of 10. However, for me he was 2 forever. In this way Pepper’s loss feels like the loss of my second child. He was mine and I was his — all the years.

When I first met Pepper at the Salt Lake City airport, I looked at him in my arms and said to him, “You are going to break my heart.” And he did. But that day one week ago, I know my broken heart was so worth it. We had such a fun ride together. I really wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t trade it for not feeling the pain I feel today.

Now is the time for grief, for remembering, for hurting, for being with myself and extending compassion to myself. I know he had an amazing life and I still have regrets. I have a new puppy, who came in before Pepper departed, and I wonder is my love for him taking away from my fidelity to Pepper? This is the complexity of grief. In time, I will sort it out and come out the other side.

For now, I remember and love on my Pepper.

Creativity Burst: Create Art

Create Art

Sometimes art can be the best way to process and think through how we are feeling about events unfolding as well as our shared history that has brought us to this moment. We often feel that we must process and come to understand via language and words. However, I have found that sometimes the mind can make connections, enter sad, scary, angry feelings and emotions through the medium of art.

Art allows our right and left hemispheres of our brain connect in a way that often is interrupted by words. Instead of trying to put down in words one’s thoughts and feelings, it may be helpful to pick up a crayon, marker, paint, and any other art medium that you may have and create.

Create what? Well, a mural would be interesting. A mural can often be large in scope and that space can allow for multiple people to work on the piece together. This may also be helpful to engage as a collective. You can also create a mini mural where each person creates a small scale piece and then you come together as a community and put them together to see what arises from everyone’s different artistic expressions.

There is so much street art unfolding across America right now. As places are boarded up, people are taking to create art right on the chip board in their communities or in certain designated areas that are public. Creating a piece on site or bringing a piece to a place like this and hanging it is yet another way to engage with processing the movement that is unfolding through creative expression.

Once our minds can connect and make meaning of the collective pain in America, there may arise new ideas for how to continue to disrupt the systemic racism that has always been present in the country. Creative art making rather than speaking offer a golden key to creating something new. Perhaps it can create a new idea for this world too.

Home School and Kids’ Autonomy

School and Kids' Autonomy

A friend of mine who has two school-aged children was mentioning the recent stress around having her children attend school at home during this pandemic. She and her husband are not ones who were ever in the homeschool camp, and I believe their children are following the on-line curriculum set forth, but something is becoming apparent the longer children are studying at home.

The fact that children not only go to school to learn and socialize, but also to gain autonomy over their selves and their lives as they move through the days and years of their school education. Parents play an important role of support to their kids during this time, but it is about recognizing how they are learning to become self-sufficient, gain confidence, and be able to navigate a world both professionally and personally that is not at home.

Now with children learning at home, parents are now a part and parcel of their kids’ education that does not take these needs into account very easily. First off, the children are at home with their parents. Whatever the patterns of interaction are set at that home base are now going to play out 24/7 with your children. Perhaps at school they have less fear and more confidence than they do at home. Now, all of a sudden, those character traits are no longer around.

Second, children are responsible for their school work and their learning, but this is aided by teachers teaching them who are not our relatives. Our kids have different relationships to their teachers than their parents. It may be that a parent discards certain subjects that a child loves and received affirmation for from his teacher. With that relationship gone, a child is now surrounded by the parent’s judgments on what they should or should not be focused on learning, which robs the child of his autonomy over his interests.

You may also notice that your children moved independently without you during school, but are more dependent on you at home. This is OK when the kids are sitting in both spaces most days, but now, at home, have they reverted to being completely dependent on Mom and Dad for everything. If so, how to encourage them to break away from this pattern, even as the parents are involved in the learning process.

Wow! a kids’ autonomy over himself and his school career can become seriously compromised during this home schooling period of time. Even noticing this tension is an excellent first step in removing one’s self from being so involved that children cannot be themselves as they learn. The parent must first see that their children are not exercising their autonomy to be able to make meaningful changes that will be helpful to their kids.

Once it is recognized, making sure to step back and build in space for them to find their way without you. Yes, you may need to solve tech challenges or answer questions that they are struggling with, but keeping distance and boundaries from your student’s on-line learning process would also be a good idea.

Also, if you are noticing a lack of independence, a reliance on you to solve their school problems, or you becoming too invested in their school work with judgment, it is time to put space in between you and your children’s learning process. Take a breath and break. Remember most of the time, you are not at school with them observing anything. Instead of trying to control what you are observing, give more space and sit back and notice what is unfolding. This is an unusual time that allows for you to observe your children in a new setting.

Noticing, observing, doing less, controlling less are all keys to helping kids hold on to and continue to develop their autonomy during this challenging time of going to school at home with Mom and Dad as central participants in the learning these days.