13 years ago, my youngest son, then a recent graduate of UT, was starting his adulthood with a real after college job. When he rented a house with a buddy, he adopted his first pet, a mixed breed rescue from the animal shelter in Austin. She quickly grew into a gorgeous brindle colored dog who often received compliments for her striking appearance. I swear, she would always smile and stand a bit taller when she received attention from an admiring stranger. She was one of my "grand dogs". She watched over my son, then his wife and finally each of his two children when they joined the family. She was always gentle with children, but had a bark and bristled spine that would make grown men stop and step back a few steps. She could not sit in my lap as the smaller dogs do, but she would put her head in my lap and stare at me for ear scratches. Sometimes I would lie down beside her on the floor to give her extensive pets and scratches.
She loved my backyard. She would sometimes tromp about in my Jasmine and monkey grass or just look regal lying in the St. Augustine under my majestic pecan trees. She supervised the grands when they were drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles or playing in the sprinkler. She would help keep the squirrels properly in their places in the trees.
In recent months her age of 13 on a 65 pound shepherd size dog had taken its toll. Her hind legs would sometimes just refuse to bear her weight, and she would have to take a rest until one of us gave her an assist or she felt sufficient energy to get up. Her eyes were not as sharp as they once had been and her walk was slower as she favored her stiff joints. She used to go on walks for several blocks with me but in recent times, we would make it for just a few houses. She still insisted I take her for a turn. She smelled every blade of grass and especially loved the spring flowers on the corner this year. I would muse as we walked that I hoped someone would take me for walks when I am her commiserate age of 91, just far enough for me to admire the sights and smells of nature. My dog, much smaller but also 13, would go for walks with Havana and me a couple of years ago. That was quite a sight with a 6 pound dog on one leash and a 65 pound dog on the other. I called us the "Golden Girls" (see the picture below taken by my oldest grand daughter when she was 4 after a walk with both dogs). Recently, I had to learn to take the dogs on separate walks when Havana was visiting so I could let each savor their time on leash.
Sadly, Havana went on one last walk on July 8. She managed an escape from her yard. During the week that she was missing, before we found out the end of her story, I helped go by animal services on a regular basis to walk the kennels looking for her. The staff was quick to let us know they were not always able to keep up with everything so the best answer was to go look. Ultimately, the family was able to find closure by putting up posters and placing them in their neighbors mailboxes. If you are thinking of lecturing, she was chipped and was wearing her collar with her tag. The posters resulted in a neighbor providing the answer as to what happened. I will leave it at that.
Havana had a relatively long, and healthy life. She had some great moments judging from the smiles I saw on her face. I miss her and know from previous deaths of my loved ones, she will enter my thoughts regularly. Today I cannot quite enjoy my backyard without some thinking of the loss, but I know that soon instead of feeling sadness I will feel only joy in my various memories of her.
I find that I think more about what is important in life and the imminence of death as I age. Havana had it right about how to live life. She lived in the moment. If someone dropped a bite of food she quickly noticed and seized the opportunity for a treat. If you looked like you wanted to share a bite she also noticed and relished it when you offered it. She let you know when something was bothering her (strangers, squirrels, a need to go check the backyard). She never left us questioning whether she loved us as she looked with her adoring eyes into our eyes or gave us a nudge with her nose. She was always close behind my grands in line to greet me when I visited her house. She did not seem to take things personally when corrected, in fact, she might ignore you, figuring, I guess, that your words were about your mood more than what she was doing. She did not appear to worry about what would happen next. She received each smell, taste, sight or sound with every fiber of her being.
The moral for me is: Be present, be mindful, and be in the moment. Moments are precious and unpredictable. Perhaps you can take this blog as a challenge to love and live fully in each moment and not waste time worrying about the future and being tortured by the past.