In my last post, I talked about how the things we despise in others are usually a reflection of the things we despise in ourselves. As you get older the truth in that gets more and more evident. I certainly don’t know the purpose of life (if there is such a thing) or even if existence itself is real. I do know that the older I get, the clearer I can see the error of my past ways and at times quite painfully so. I used to think there were maybe three or four incidents in my life that would make all the difference in the world if I could go back in time and redo those decisions. Now in my eight decade on life, with so much time alone, having so much quiet time with only my mind and thoughts for company, I can see so clearly the misconceptions and false paradigms I have been living by, which make me aware of a new thing that would have changed my life if I had done it differently almost every day. At the same time, I realize that it was through the experience of doing it wrong that I am able to even recognize what doing it right looks like. I would have had to be literally a different person to make the right decision in those moments. Case in point:
I had a dog that I loved for twelve years named Pooba. He was a big beautiful dog of 90 pounds with golden hair with a white patch on his chest but with the looks of a German Shepard. I was told by his vet that he was part Huskie, part German Shepard, part Great Dane and part Golden Retriever. He had behavioral traits of all of them. He was brave, fearless, wild and extremely loyal and affectionate to my family and most human beings. However, he was extremely vicious and territorial to other dogs and animals. It was not uncommon to find dead raccoons, opossums, geese and rabbits in my back yard. He wouldn’t immediately attack human trespassers but he would bark loud enough to wake up the dead if they got close to the house. He thought he was a lap dog. I can’t tell you how many times he got into the house and was so glad to see me that he leaped into my lap and knocked the wind out of me among other even more painful trauma, if you know what I mean. He was a loving dog whose enthusiasm for life never waned, so much so that I was the only one in the house strong enough to walk him without him pulling away at the first site of another dog or some other animal. You’d have to chase him through the whole neighborhood before regaining control of him.
Back then; I had an idea about life. I believed that dogs should never be treated like people when it came to interfering with work or professional responsibilities. I had no sympathy for staff members who came to work crying and asking for time off to grieve because a pet had died. “It’s a dog, for Christ’s sake! Get back to work back to work and grieve when you get home”, was my attitude.
I think that idea I had blinded me to how much Pooba suffered near the end of his life. My wife had to make me let him stay in the house on cold winter days when his hips got stiffer and probably in more pain. Finally things got so bad he could barely walk and mostly just dragged his hindquarters. I called a friend of mine who helped me out a lot with household jobs to take him to the vet so I could get to my office on time. When I got to the office, the vet called and told me he had to be put down. I made the arrangements over the phone and told him to do it. I remember hanging up the phone and wanting to cry like a baby, but I fought back the tears. I had to walk my talk and not allow Pooba to effect the business of the day. I never got the chance to say goodbye to him and properly grieve his loss.
I haven’t thought of that dog in fifteen years since he died. It’s only now that I am as old as he was in dog years that I am able to appreciate his suffering. In the past three years, I’ve had back surgery and shoulder surgery. I’ve known pain that I never imagined possible. It is only through that pain that I realize that dog was more than just a pet. He was truly a friend. I can now see how my failure to properly empathize and grieve his loss negatively affected my ability to better relate to other love ones in my life.
The bottom line is this. In one way or another, we will pay for every attitude or belief we’ve had in life that caused us to regularly think or be unkind, unsympathetic, unloving and un-Christ-like to others. If we live long enough, we will live to experience the very harm and suffering we caused to be visited on others. Hopefully, I will have enough life left to try to make amends for past transgressions as I become aware of them before I die. I don’t know if that makes any difference in the total scheme of things, but it feels like the right thing to do.