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.



**When I wrote this article one week ago, my mind was on COVID. However, after a week of outrage and protests across America, I believe resiliency also affects each one of us as we face systemic racism in America.

Resiliency. It’s almost a buzz word that we use to define someone as able to persevere through hardship with an optimistic attitude. It is a characteristic that allows one to meet the challenges she faces with a “can do” attitude and has developed inner tools to make the best of a situation.

Always an interesting idea in strength-based counseling, it seems to have gone mainstream today as the pandemic continues to challenge people. If we are resilient we will choose to see the good side, enact our strengths to meet the challenges we have in our lives, and move forward with optimism and strength. It all sounds wonderful, but what makes someone resilient in the first place? And per chance do you have it within yourself?

How People Learn to Become Resilient is an article written in 2016 that seeks to answer this question. Much of the article focuses on children and their ability to have luck in how their life unfolds, such as a caring bond with a caregiver or parent or other adult, Even more important is an idea that children could meet the world on their own terms employing a level of independence and autonomy to the challenges they faced growing up. Something about reliance on self to figure out one’s problems form a young age lead to resiliency.

As much as resiliency can aid us in helping us solve our problems, reduce their impact, and have us reframe to see events as a place to learn and grow from, the collapse of resiliency can be said to be felt when we fall into worry, anxiety, and catastrophe in our minds. It isn’t always easy to remain in a resilient frame of mind. Somehow with resilience being such a buzzword today, for someone to not exhibit resiliency may seem like someone is really in trouble with themselves.

During this pandemic, more than ever, greater society is talking about the general resiliency of mankind to pick itself up, make the best of the situation, and, when the time comes, push on from all of this. There is benefit to carving out a resilient mind frame during COVID-19, but there should also be a place to let down and let go. To collapse into a mood funk that has you looking at this situation or any other that is difficult and filled with the unknown is completely understandable. This frame of mind does not mean you will push on from this when it is all over — it may just mean you need to collapse right now.

I love the idea of resiliency as a strong character trait, but I also want to call your mind to the places and spaces where we don’t feel so resilient and provide space for that feeling state too.

Good Enough Parenting

Good Enough Parenting

When I returned to graduate school I learned about a concept that felt radical to me at the time. The idea is when relating to one’s child, one does not need to be prefect, but rather “good enough.” Of course, it sounds intuitively correct, but I think for many of us we seek and aspire to be perfect parents for our children. Unfortunately, it sets up parents to fail and children to not be able to face times when their needs are not completely met perfectly and learning how to manage these times internally and externally.

Recently, there was an interesting article in the New York Times that spotlights how parents are managing this time of being shut in with their children as they try to balance their children, work, and rest of life. What I love about this article is it is composed of snippets from families all across America discussing how well — actually not so well — it is all going. It is honest, real, and definitely brought to mind the idea of “good enough parenting” when parent after parent relates that they are failing their kids, barely getting by, mediocre at best, etc.

What I read had me thinking to myself, “Relax! You are all good enough parents doing a good enough job with your children during this pandemic.” I loved reading how many have moved to simply doing what they can and enjoying activities that make their days and their time with their children flow, but I definitely picked up an undercurrent that this was sort of a “giving up” rather than something to be embraced and overjoyed. The guilt of parenting perfection seems to be a residue on the stories.

Good enough is best. It’s realistic and it helps your children not only see you as one with good and bad sides, but also one who is resilient in the face of major challenges. My guess is the children will not recall all the details of these long months, but they may recall the closeness, the creativity, the freedom, the way it was all crazy and yet good — it was good enough.

Book Review: Coronavirus: A Book For Children

Coronavirus A Book for Children

The longer this pandemic hangs on across the globe, the more there is a need for good books to help explain what is going on to the children, who have been impacted greatly by this virus. Children of all ages are now at home with their parents full-time. There is no going to school, playing with friends, outdoor activities and sports, Birthday parties, or even seeing caretakers outside of Mom and Dad. Their worlds have shrunk as all of ours have.

As adults we have a sense of what is going on in the world, the affects this is having on people’s health and pocketbooks, and can make some sense of the situation. Even though it is exhausting for adults to stay-at-home, it is stressful to be parenting, working, and home schooling all day long, and the “not knowing” when any of it will end. Adults have a lot to deal with even understanding the facts.

Now take the situation and give it to children, who may not really know at all why, what, and how this is all happening. At this point, it has been going on long enough for parents to have talked to their kids, for kids to have talked to one another, and for there to be some sense of the situation. However, I like the idea of a book that lays out the facts of this situation in a way that is easy-to-read, access, and understand for children. Even the title, Coronavirus: A Book for Children, tells you exactly what this book is about.

The illustrations are bright and colorful. The facts and recommendations are given in an easy-to-read and understand manner. I particularly like the part that focuses on how children may feel at home cooped up on their own. This part provides an opportunity to parents to hone in on how their own children may be uniquely feeling this situation, as well as share their own feelings.

A book that provides context and hope to children during this pandemic is an excellent resource. There is also more books that may be helpful to your child during this time. Here is an excellent round-up of these types of books. The more the better, especially for the littlest ones. Books help us understand our world and it also helps to slow down for a little while to tune in and process together what is happening in the world, in our homes, and in ourselves during this trying time.