Last year I wrote a post called No, Not Just a Dog about losing one of our three dogs to cancer, Cody. As the owner of three senior dogs I knew that it was a day that would come eventually, I just never knew how hard it would be. A few weeks after we lost Cody, our oldest pup – Moya – also received a cancer diagnosis. It was a punch in the gut, made even more difficult as I was still grieving Cody. We did everything we could for her and goodness knows that she fought harder than I ever imagined. But the inevitable occurred last week when we lost our dear sweet puppy daughter to cancer at the age of 16 ½ years old. Yes, I realize that is a very long time for a dog and that yes, she also had an incredible life. But none of that makes a difference to how I feel right now. I am devastated in a way I wasn’t last year and probably won’t be again.
We rescued Moya in 2003 when she was 1 year old. She had issues, lots of them. At some point she had been abused and as a result really didn’t like men. So, it was with a fair amount of irony that the universe sent her into the home of two men. It took years for her to get over her distrust, and yet at the same time she had an instant bond with us. In fact, that bond was so strong she developed separation anxiety whenever we left the house. It was because of her anxiety that we sought to adopt a second dog, Cody who we lost last year. Within a few months we adopted a third dog, Preston, and our family was complete. It was a furry family that came to very much define my adult life. Over her lifetime, Moya had practically every physical malady that the universe could throw at her and yet she persevered, never giving up and instead learning how to adjust. She was stronger than any person I’ve known and had a personality I admire and wish I could emulate. In her later years she lost a lot of her mobility, hearing and eyesight and I became her daily caretaker. It was during this hospice-style care that we became even closer; a fact I didn’t think possible. She well and truly was part of me, and it will take me a long time to fully process her passing.
As with Cody, today I want to share a narrative I found several years ago as well as some lessons I learned from Moya.
Just a Dog
From time to time people tell me, “Lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or “That’s a lot of money for just a dog.”
They don’t understand the distance traveled, time spent, or costs involved for “Just a dog.” Some of my proudest moments have come about with “Just a dog.” Many hours have passed with my only company being “Just a dog,” and not once have I felt slighted. Some of my saddest moments were brought about by “Just a dog.” In those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “Just a dog” provided comfort and purpose to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “Just a dog,” you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.” “Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. “Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person. Because of “Just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.
For me and folks like me, it’s not “Just a dog.” It’s an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. “Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.
I hope that someday people can understand it’s not “Just the dog.” It’s the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “Just a man” or “Just a woman.”
So the next time you hear the phrase “Just a dog,” smile, because they “just don’t understand.”
– Author Unknown
Be Cautious But Not Fearful
All of my dogs were rescued, but it was our first one Moya that came from a truly bad situation. I’m not sure what happened to her before we found her, but it wasn’t good. While she has definitely mellowed out over the years, she always had a certain edge that she never totally lost. At any new situation, be it visiting someplace different or a stranger at the front door, she is very cautious and skittish, approaching things with a great deal of caution. Once she has scouted things out, she’s then fine; she doesn’t let fear define the experience for her. The same can easily be applied to the travel experience. No matter where we go, whether it’s New York or New Delhi, we need to always approach new situations with healthy caution and skepticism, but not to let that turn into fear, controlling how we visit a new place. I often get asked if I’m ever scared visiting certain areas around the world. The answer is no, because I would never put myself knowingly into a dangerous situation and I always approach everything new with a “trust but verify” mentality. You have to be like this when you travel, it’s always good to keep a slight edge instead of being overly trusting, but never let that turn into outright fear. It’s fear that holds us back in life and it’s fear that prevents many from experiencing some amazing activities when they travel.
Kindness Will Always Be Returned
Truman once said that if you want a friend in Washington, then get a dog. That’s true anywhere of course, these lovable canines give more love than we could ever return without even an inkling of an ulterior motive. It’s just their nature to give love, but they also certainly appreciate it when it’s returned back to them. This amazing experience happens all the time, but is particularly special when we travel. It doesn’t cost us anything to be nice, to do simple gestures of kindness for others and most times that kindness is returned to us many times over. The chance to extend a hand in aid or provide a shoulder in comfort arises when least expected and creates a bond not only between people but cultures as well. This act of kindness though is certainly not one sided, as you too will find that hand or shoulder from a stranger when you least expect it, but most need it.
Thank you all for this brief diversion from my normal posts. This has been a devastating loss, no doubt there, but even just writing this has helped me more than I ever thought possible and for that I am grateful.
In Memoriam: Moya 2002 – 2019