In this month’s guest blog, Philip Patston reflects on his relationship with his lovely greyhound Meg…and how grieving in advance helped him to get through a difficult time*.
Meg, my greyhound, is sick. She’s been out of sorts for about three weeks. Last Friday I took her to a vet, who diagnosed her with three rotten teeth (apparently greyhounds are renowned for having lousy teeth) and some sort of gastric issue.
The vet quoted $2000 for tests and dental work. That didn’t sound right so I emailed my usual vet who does home visits. She came over last night to look at Meg and we talked about what might be going on. Meg’s been struggling to lie down and stand up, so she may have arthritis. She’s also drinking a lot, which could mean liver or kidney problems.
Anyway, my visiting vet said she’d take Meg for tests in a few days to rule out (preferably) anything serious. We had a really frank discussion about dogs not being scared of death, unlike most humans, and how some vets support humans needing to keep pets alive to delay their own grief. We talked about deciding whether to give Meg treatment or to put her to sleep, depending on the test results. I truly appreciated her frankness and compassion. She left prescribing Meg 3/4 of a Panadol tablet twice a day and giving me a hug as I couldn’t hold back tears of relief, knowing she will help me make the best decision for Meg (without spending $2000, I might add).
I’ve been grieving about Meg for about a week now. I’ve ended up in tears several times, even now as I write this. The reality is she’s ten years old and raced for the first four years of her life, which must have taken its toll. It pains me to see her struggle to get up and down, particularly as I’ve always admired her speed and her lithe, muscly body.
So, realistically, next week I may need to make the decision to lose Meg from my life and I’m not ready for that. I had to make that decision over a decade ago with my first dog, Zarr, and I still ache when I think of him. You may think I’m being morbid, pessimistc, but it feels pragmatic and healing to me.
Humans spend so much time avoiding grief. We keep our pets alive too long, stay in relationships and jobs too long, avoid doing or saying things, all in an attempt to stall or steer away from grief — either ours, others’ or both. It can’t be healthy for us.
I read an article recently (I forget where so I can’t provide a link), saying that pessimists respond better to stress because they have prepared themselves for the worst and so are often surprised and happy with a better outcome than expected. Contrast this with optimists who expect the best and often end up disappointed. I’ve often said that I prefer to keep my expectations low — and for others to keep their expectations of me low — so we can all be pleasantly surprised.
Grieving in advance is therapeutic. I’ve stopped sobbing now and I feel better, lighter, happier. I still carry a concurrent weight on my heart but, rather than dragging me down, it is held, supported by my gentle grieving.
If humans allowed themselves to grieve before things happened, softly and nurturingly in anticipation of pain and sadness, instead of fiercely and bitterly in reaction to an unexpected, unforeseen loss or change, I wonder how our world would be different.
*For anyone concerned, after some veterinary investigation it was found that Meg has arthritis and will need pain medication but other than that is okay and back to her old self. She’s had her rotten teeth taken out too!
This blog was originally posted on www.philippatston.com. It has been reposted on DPSN with permission.