The strange thing grief taught me about gratitude

My dog died last week.

We adopted a month old Toby (a.k.a. the esteemed Tobias Rex Prendergast) and he lived until his 15th birthday (nearly to the day). He was a beautiful collie cross (with what we don’t know) with a playful temperament. He was the perfect dog. He was quiet but full of personality, affectionate but not slobberly and just loved to be with people.

Toby was with me through some of the best and worst times of my life. To my friends who did not have a dog, I always described having him in the house as like having a really positive person with you at all times.

Toby had an operation last January and over the past two years, his age began to show for the first time. Since I moved out which was two and a half years ago, I noticed subtle changes every time I went home. Somewhere during this time, I realised that he wasn’t going to be around for ever and I made a decision that I has really helped me this week.

I decided that every time I saw him, I would make an effort to appreciate him for who he was. I would always spend time with him, walk him and just enjoy being around him. I would try to visit every week and while I was there, I would savour the time we had together. This could be 5 minutes or 5 hours.

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It probably sounds like a strange thing to do, but I found myself being more present with him and I was happy with this.

Last week, when my dad called to say Toby had died, I felt a wash of grief. I excused myself from work and cried. And then I cried more. And a little more.

Along with the grief, there was a very strange feeling. Happiness. I was so happy that I had spent the time with him in the way I did for the past few months.

Toby collapsed outside our house and my dad carried him into the porch where he died peacefully. I was happy about this too in a weird way! He didn’t suffer, he was with my dad and he died where we spent hours sitting together.

It’s such a strange feeling, but the happiness has been really helpful over the past few days. I am so grateful that I made a conscious effort just to enjoy his company for the last while. I am grateful that I really dedicated time to him.

I always thought when he passed away that I would need to take time off work to deal with the grief, but I actually felt ok this week. I am so comforted by the time we had together.

This week has really made me think about how this could apply to other aspects of my life. Generally speaking I am grateful for the life I live, which I feel is very privileged. I have good friends and family and I love my job.

I can’t help but wonder if I was to apply the same effort of being present to my everyday life that I did to Toby, would I be better at coping when things don’t work out in the future?

I can’t really be sure on this, but I definitely think I am going to try.

I will miss my dog, my companion, my best friend. I am so grateful for all that he gave me.

Leslie

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