2016 has been a whirlwind of change and challenges for most people, myself included.
We recently moved to a new home and in the process inherited a third dog, a senior female black lab. Our first 2 dogs, a boy and a girl, each reacted differently to the change. Our girl continually got into mischief, picked fights with the third dog, and was overall an annoying handful. Our boy? He was simply happy that we were altogether in a new place. "This is where we live now? Cool, let's cuddle!" He was unfazed by the new surroundings and more or less indifferent to a new dog being thrown into the mix.
That was his same reaction when we adopted him in 2009. He was found wandering the streets with no identification, underweight, and not even neutered. He was picked up by animal services and put up for adoption. When we went to look at him, he and I bonded immediately. I took the leash and he walked with me as though we had known each other all along. When we introduced him to our girl (whose energy is often too much for other dogs), he encouraged her to chase him and play. We knew he was the perfect dog for our family. There was no transition period when we brought him home; he immediately accepted his new surroundings.
Back to the present. Less than a month after moving into our new home, our boy's back legs became slightly paralyzed and he could not walk. This had previously happened 5 years ago, though that time was far worse, and he was diagnosed with intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). He developed calcification on his vertebrae which slipped, pinched a nerve in his spinal cord, and his back legs were immobilized. When it happened this time, he looked at me with sad eyes while I cried and pleaded with him to move his legs...then his attitude shifted to a shrug and seemed to say, "Well, this is my life now," and went back to being happy. He couldn't walk or stand on his own, but he accepted that and was at peace.
We drove him to Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon for emergency surgery (no one in Winnipeg does this operation). When we picked him up 2 days later, the veterinarian told us what a happy, sweet dog he was and that he had been a pleasure to treat and do rehabilitation with. Imagine going through that: being unable to walk, sent to a strange city to have serious surgery with no one familiar around to comfort you, and still being content. I don't think I would have that attitude.
It's been just over 2 weeks and I'm pleased to report that he walks primarily on his own now. He slips and flops a little bit, but he gets right back up. Even a few days after the surgery, he wanted to be independent and began doing short unassisted walks around the house. His new reality is changed (we have to avoid stairs, jumping on/off furniture), but he is his normal, happy self. My beautiful, little dog with a big heart and gentle spirit inspires me in so many ways.
How can we embrace joy when our lives are filled with chaos and uncertainty? How can we stay in the present moment, not thinking about the past or future, and accept things as they are? Whether that's in yoga practice and we're in a posture that we don't enjoy or whether that's during real life turmoil. How can we find that one sliver of "this all sucks, but I'm happy about this"?