As Shakespeare taught us in his sonnet 18, “Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st, So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”, I feel the need to write about the recent death of my beloved dog, Lexi Lou. This article is not intended to be depressing, but rather a testament to the healing power of a co-rescue between species, a testament to the upliftment a rescued pet can bring into our lives. By writing about her, not only does it make her immortal, as Shakespeare declared, it will allow me grieve in a healthy fashion and move on in peace.
As a devout atheist, I do not believe in the after-life, for either humans or pets. I take no comfort in delusions of a “doggie heaven”. I would much rather appreciate this world as it is, to cherish life and nature in the here and now, rather than live with a convenient lie to mask fear of death. As Carl Sagan said, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
Does me being a non-believer mean I have no feelings? Precisely the opposite. Lexi’s death has hit me hard. For that I am grateful, because sometimes I have deadened myself to feeling so much, that these fresh tears confirm that I am indeed human with a heart overflowing with the capacity to love. Today is my first day back to teaching yoga, as I gave myself a few days off to grieve in private. Life must go on, and teaching yoga is what I do to help others to feel uplifted and celebrate this life with a grateful heart. Being a heathen means that I believe I only have this one shot to get life right (whatever the subjective term “right” means to me). There is no do-over. I do not believe in the fairy-tale of reincarnation. There is no promise or heaven to make me a “good person” or threats of hell to scare me off from doing “wrong”. I am 100% accountable for my actions, therefore I choose love and compassion out of my own free will. I stumble along the way, yes, of course I do – and so far my track record is I rise after I fall. The harder I fall, the taller I rise.
When I rescued Lexi, over eight years ago, she was newly crippled, covered in scars, old and left-for-dead on the streets of Bocas Town. People pointed and laughed at her looks when I walked her through town (seriously, how cruel can people be? Now we have to have aesthetical expectations of defenseless, voiceless creatures? Get over it). It was obvious Lexi had at least one litter of puppies and the defensive reflexes of a dog that had seen regular abuse in it’s life. The only available veterinarian on the island, at that time, was a cow/horse doctor. He gave Lexi so much anethesia (to fix her maimed leg) she almost died. I stayed with her through the night to try to coax her out of her induced sleep. I was told that because of her bad heart and lungs, she would not live another few months. She lasted eight years! I never even considered myself a “dog person”, always having cats, but I could not in all good conscience, kick her back out on the street after seeing her through her surgery. So a dog person I became, gratefully. She had three more reconstructive surgeries on her back leg, when a proper veterinarian finally came to town.
I call this experience a co-rescue because Lexi rescued me, as much as I rescued her, if not more. It is no secret that I have struggled with life-long depression and the damaging, self-destructive traits of an addictive personality. Of course, yoga has helped me immensely with this, and it is fulfilling to teach yoga to pass this on to others who may also struggle with mental health issues. I am thankfully sober now, and feeling strong emotionally, even off of my meds. Roughly three years ago, though, I was in dire-straights – in the throes of a deep, dark time. It was a truly scary time, that I will not publicly talk about, but safe to say my life was in danger in more ways than one, actually. I was being threatened from an outside force – personally, financially, physically. For sure, I was suicidal and drinking hard. There I said it. I share this with you, because seriously, I think a lot more people struggle with depression and/or substance abuse than they let on, and only by talking about it can we reduce the stigma attached to it, so that a discussion can occur. When there is freedom to discuss mental health/illness more openly someone is a lot more apt to seek help. Let us all stop judging each other, and lend a helping hand, or at least a compassionate ear. Back to Lexi – I was in Panama City dealing with the aforementioned crisis, with Lexi back at home on the island. She had a pet-sitter, but really, every time I traveled I felt so much guilt for leaving her. I was literally going to off myself, when my thought was, “Who will take care of Lexi?”. For her, I held on, I went home, and carried on. It was only a few months after that, that I had my near-death accident. From that point on I have been gratefully alcohol-free. 100% sober and on a healing path. Bouncing back after a concussion has been the most challenging thing ever, and Lexi was there for me no matter how difficult life has been surviving a brain injury. She never made fun of my aphasia, that still comes and goes when I speak.
As a woman who is child-free by choice, to the point of surgical sterilization, Lexi was the closest thing I have ever experienced to being a mother. I am still steadfast in my decision about not procreating on this over-populated planet, but that does not mean that I do not have some sort of inherent maternal instincts that evolution has provided me with. Lexi somehow filled those maternal instincts. She taught me so much on how to be patient and loving while also stepping in as the “leader of the pack” for her. I live very much alone. I do have lodgers downstairs in my building, but, as an introvert, I don’t interact with them. I do not have a roommate, husband or a live-in boyfriend to provide emotional support. I am very much solitary in my self-imposed isolation (something I’m slowly coming out of). Lexi was the one I talked to after a day of work. As much as Lexi looked to me for food, shelter and discipline, I looked to her for my only source of companionship. After years of being each others’ support, it got to the point where all I had to do is clap my hands to communicate, or give a gesture with my arms. I spend my days naked in my house, and Lexi knew that if she saw mama putting on clothes, that meant it was time for walkies! She was so smart. Yes, the word walkies is always followed by an exclamation point – no shame.
It is pretty cool to see in my life-time how veganism is on the rise. I became lacto-vegetarian back in 1982. I was only thirteen-years old. When I became sober, almost three years ago, is when I became fully vegan. I was bullied as a kid for being vegetarian – teased mercilessly. Hell, even as an adult still teased. I don’t know why. I do not feel me vegan makes me “superior” to anyone at all. I have already admitted I have impulse-control issues with addictive behavior, so hey, I should be given props for being that disciplined in this one area of my life. For me, since I was 13-years old, when I gave up eating animals, I have not differentiated between “us and them”. Our DNA is only about 1.2% different than chimpanzees! This forces oneself to recognize that we are all animals together on this planet. Look at the way things are going too – we are on the verge of the sixth mass extinction on this planet, of which humans are the driving force.
This article is not intended to be depressing. If anything it is to uplift. If we – our little, minuscule individual selves – are capable of making a difference to even one creature on this planet, whether it’s the conscious choice of the food we put on our plate, or the ability to rescue a homeless, abandoned animal, then we can look at ourselves as good people. Yes, we stumble and fall – even now, I am second-guessing myself on how I could have been a better mother to Lexi, but overall her legacy will be love.
If you do not have the ability to adopt, consider being a volunteer at your local animal shelter. Or you can foster. If working directly with animals is not for you, it is super easy to donate money online to your animal charity of choice. You CAN make a difference. It could be life-saving for not just the animals, but for you too. Giving has a ripple-effect. It is scientifically proven that altruism relieves stress. It is good for your brain. To make a difference in an animal’s life just feels good. It can be a mutually beneficial. Don’t we all want a little more love, companionship and compassion in this life? It is what makes life worth living. Upon my own death, my property – this land and this building – will be donated to an animal rescue organization. There is none where I live, so it is badly needed. So, go ahead, and come at me, as I am prepared to leave a legacy of love. Until then I will not give up the good fight. I will see you on the mat with fresh enthusiasm.
In the end, the local veterinarian kindly euthanized Lexi Lou, at my request, in the privacy of my own home. She is buried in my back garden, with a maringa tree planted on top of her, so that she returns to the earth, and the nutrients from her body will feed the growing tree, of which I daily make tea. Yes, a strong cuppa tea, instead of alcohol. Lexi Lou taught me how to love myself. Of course I have sadness, yet am stone-cold sober and feeling stronger every day. Thank you for giving me the gift of life, sweet girl.
Please never shop; always adopt. Please spay/neuter your pets.
For the top animal charities to donate to PLEASE CLICK HERE. Thank you. ♥