I once met a woman who said that she was wary of people who said that their children were great teachers – because I had just told her that Dani was always teaching me lessons, even at her young age.
This woman believed that all teaching/learning happened from the top down and she was not learning anything from her daughter.
I left that call thinking, “That makes me sad. How sad that she wasn’t willing to pay attention to the most pure of heart, the least jaded or corrupt souls on the planet and open her heart and learn.
And that’s what I believed until now. That children had the most pure hearts and souls.
Now I believe that my dogs have the purest lessons to teach.
I know that I’ve written several times about clean vs. dirty pain, but for a recap; clean pain is when something actually happens in real life: your mother dies, your best friend moves across the country, things like that. Dirty pain is the suffering that we create around that event: “No one in my family gets me like my mom – no one will ever understand me again. I’ll never been seen or loved again.” Or “I’ll never see my best friend again. I’ll never have another best friend again. I’ll never drink coffee again because who will I go with to coffee?”
We make up a LOT of stories about the painful things that happen. And they are the foundation of the suffering in our lives. Think right now about the hard stuff in your life and how much of your suffering is because of the actual thing or because of the stories you’ve woven about the thing.
Penelope The Great
Last week two German Shepherd-sized coyotes jumped over our back wall into our yard, and attacked my three little dogs. I was inside grabbing a cup of coffee when I heard their usual morning barks with the neighboring dogs turn into something painful. I ran to the back door and what I saw terrified me. The two puppies, Piper and Rosie were barking their heads off at the coyotes and Penelope was under attack. When I stepped outside, one of them jumped up on top of the wall but the other was still in business. I ran outside and started yelling for the dogs to come inside. I got about halfway to the fray when the coyote let Penelope go and they took off into the wash behind the house. The dogs walked en masse toward the house, but it was clear that Penelope was hurt. I finally ushered them into the house and saw that Penelope was bleeding on the back of her neck, on her spine.
I called Wayne to come home so he could drive us to the animal hospital. Within about 30 minutes, someone told us that the lens in Penelope’s eye was tilted forward through the cornea. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but later that day learned that she would never see out of that eye again.
She had four puncture wounds, as you might imagine – two on her throat, one of which tore her trachea making air in the space around her heart, and two on her back – her spine.
We brought her home a couple of days later and were to follow up with the eye doctor in a week.
Here is what I learned from Penelope in that week.
- Coyote’s can kill.
- When they bite it hurts.
- When I hurt, my mommy gives me medicine.
- I can go into the yard again – right where it happened – and it MEANS NOTHING. It’s just another area in the yard. No bad feelings associated with it – no crying or whining. Nothing.
- When I only have one eye, I have to be careful where I walk and I’m still trying to work out the depth thing, but it’s actually really easy. I can still jump onto the couch and off of the couch – easy peasy.
- My tail still works and I wag it a lot because I’m so happy that my mom sits on the couch with me all day and snuggles me!
- I can still smile and I do it a lot because I really love my life!
So much pureness there and an inability to create painful stories.
When I have cried in the last week, I’ve cried because I was terrified that I saw coyotes in my yard and that my dogs and/or I would be dead as a result of it. That was a real traumatic event for me. I cried to release the trauma. When I’ve cried it’s been to acknowledge the pain of the event and move through the grief of the event. I am sad that she lost her eye and I did cry for that – but I’m not dwelling on it, not making up sad stories about it about how her life is going to suck now. I'm working through the stages of grief.
I also used Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping) and that also cleared some of the trauma around it. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it.
I told myself that I wouldn’t cry for Penelope unless she did. I’m still waiting.
The fact of the matter is Penelope is good. She’s actually great! She’s like three of the seven dwarfs – Happy, Dopey and Sleepy. She’s not grumpy or angry or feeling sorry for herself AT ALL. She’s adjusting to her new reality and she’s good.
I also want to acknowledge the Grace in all of this because boy is there Grace. I was having a text chat with a friend and I said, “We were so lucky they didn’t grab Penelope before jumping back over the wall. A miracle, really. There’s Grace in that for sure.”
And that’s the beauty of life. We get to choose how we look at things – even really traumatic things. I was taught at a very young age to look for the Grace in every situation (thank you, Sister Mary Brendan) and that is what I always try to do. This was an easy one. The coyote clearly had Penelope in its mouth, by the neck, and for some reason, let her go before bolting over the wall. A miracle. A blessing. And Grace.