“Meaning is man-created. And because you constantly look for meaning, you start to feel meaninglessness.”
When the unthinkable becomes reality… When every piece of ground you thought you’d found, owned, and landed on becomes groundlessness… When every mantra turns to shit…That is where we have mystery, God, the unknowable, the miracle of life and the absolute shit show that goes with it. And that is where this story ends. However, it starts with the foundation on which I had based my life: 1. Never give up. 2. Love conquers all. 3. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. 4. Everything is “knowable” if only we search for the truth. And finally (most importantly) 5. All dogs can be saved with a little patience, a lot of compassion, and a huge dose of Natural Dog Training. I had a white-knuckle grip on the tenets of my belief system. It kept me going through thick and thin. But just when you start building a foundation, that’s when you know something is amiss. Because in life, there is no foundation. Just the moving sands of time and change.
My fatal flaws, which had shaped this journey and would ultimately destroy the foundation on which I had vowed to live my life: 1. My obsessive need to “know” and understand everything–every reason that every thing in the world happens, exists, etc. It is overwhelming and part of an ongoing existential crisis in which I attempt to assign meaning to everything by understanding it’s reason for being. (This happens when you ask the question WHY about one thousand times per day.) 2. My stubborn unwillingness to accept the fact that not everything in the world has a “cure” and therefore not everything can be “fixed.” 3. My absolute need for perfection in everything (and need to cure and fix anything that is not perfect including myself). 4. My need for everything to be absolute. 5. My unwillingness to let go of things that are not working (including but not limited to harmful/toxic relationships) simply because I said I was going to make them work. 6. My need to control everything in an attempt to make the world safe and non-scary. (Because anything unknown or out of my control is scary and/or harmful to my way of life and this is where we loop back to #1.)
All of these things led me to create a reality in which I was: 1. Never good enough. 2. Responsible for every bad thing that happened to me or to others in my life because if I had tried hard enough, I could have “fixed” EVERYTHING. 3. Incredibly guilty and fearful that everything in my life which was seen to be negative was a direct result of me making a mistake (not being perfect) or having some flaw which required fixing (again, see PERFECTION).
So the REAL story begins, with a sweet little puppy dog…
Yes, all of my dogs are heart dogs. Yes, I thought every dog could be saved, rehabilitated, worked-with, healed, and lived-with in complete harmony. Yes, I never wanted to ever ever give up. This was all true with my Hektor. He was a creature who vibrated sensitivity, fear, and a feral sort of aggression. He had bitten a child when he was just a year old. She required stitches in her precious face. It broke my heart and weighed heavy on me. This is where the WHY came in, if I could understand the “why” then I would know the “how” to fix it. He showed aggression time and time again towards people and other dogs, but I just kept hoping that I could change him, and in the meantime I would make the world less scary for him. And for three years, it worked. I protected him, micro-managed every interaction he had so that no one, including him, would be hurt. And in the process, I had insulated myself in the same way. Hektor and I were inside a bubble of fear that we could not break out of, the why’s and how’s of which were unknowable.
After working with an alpha-type trainer for a year (think Cesar Milan only 100 times worse) and getting absolutely nowhere–except deeper into an unconscious pit of depression (me) and further incidents of unpredictable aggression (Hektor)–I had found Kevin Behan’s book: Your Dog Is Your Mirror. And I knew right away from the way he described dog behavior in this book that I absolutely had to take Hektor to see Kevin. For a year and a half, I worked with Hektor in the Natural Dog Training style and things seemed to be looking up. He WAS improving. My other two dogs were benefiting as well. It seemed that if I just worked hard enough and put enough time and energy into them, we could get to a point of being healed, safe, and “normal.” Then Hektor and Eva had it out and nearly killed each other. I was badly injured while breaking up the fight…a huge setback. However, with my pit-bull perseverance, I trudged on and worked with each dog until they could once again stand to be in each other’s presence. I, on the other hand, was completely depleted. This all corresponded with my life situation: job, house and finances all draining every last ounce of energy I could give until I had a nervous breakdown.
I quit my job, changed gears, and kept going. And still, everything seemed “okay.” I was maintaining a “normal” life. But maintaining was not what I wanted, I wanted to thrive. And yet when I took Hektor out of the house, there was still an edginess to him on our walks, and in me a deep-seated fear that something wasn’t quite right. He still showed all his same signs of fear and aggression towards dogs and people, I had just found ways within myself to cope, protect, and manage his existence in the world despite this flaw in the system.
But then things started to change for me… I was in a new relationship, and I had agreed to move out of state to be with my new boyfriend. I had also opened a new business. A huge transition was in the works, and the one thing I wasn’t sure of was how could I bring Hektor with me into this new life? I wouldn’t be able to micromanage his interactions with the outside world. I wasn’t sure how that would work, and sure enough, it didn’t. One of the weekends I was away remodeling the new house, he struck out at one of the vet techs while boarding. She required stitches in her leg and described the attack which included more than one bite as “vicious.” For those of my friends and family who knew and loved Hektor, they had never seen him like this, but I had had plenty of glimpses. He was sort of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character–sweet, loving, sensitive and affectionate most of the time, but when the wires crossed he was like a crazed psychopath in a totally unconscious way, like he had been possessed by some evil spirit. Then he’d come back down to earth and be totally confused, hurt, and traumatized by whatever destruction he had just laid in his path. And this kept me locked in that reality in which I was guilty for bad things happening to other people, because I hadn’t found the answer, because I hadn’t tried hard enough, because I was unable to fix a problem that I kept telling myself was curable.
But now I was moving on in my life, outside of the “bubble.” In fact, I was headed far outside of every comfort zone I ever had. And I truly believe that Hektor was not able to go there with me. It wasn’t that there was anything “wrong” with Hektor that needed to be fixed. He was a one-woman dog and I knew it. It wasn’t that there was something I could have done better or that I hadn’t tried hard enough, and it wasn’t some mistake I had made that I was being punished for. For the time that Hektor was in my life, we co-created something that was important: space for me to feel safe, the journey that lead me to figuring my way out of the bubble, as well as the desire to do so. Hektor wasn’t here for me to fix him, he was here to fix me.
In the last days of Hektor’s life, the one’s following his attack on the vet tech, his vibration was quite changed. He wanted nothing more than to stay in his crate. It was as if every touch had become painful to him. He was fearful of everything, including the wind. I couldn’t relate to Hektor anymore. I didn’t want to stay at that frequency any longer. And the way his precious soul was tuned, he couldn’t relate to me anymore either. I was moving beyond the fear and unconsciousness that had bound us so tightly. And as our web began to unweave itself, I found tremendous grief, but an equally astounding amount of relief.
In the past few years, I have been one to judge those who euthanize on grounds of behavior. I have to say my heart has softened now that I have done the unthinkable. For three years Hektor and I suffered together in a world that too scary to deal with. And now he’s free of that pain. He gave me my freedom by insisting that I let him go. And so I had to give him his…
Kevin once said to me, in regards to Eva (my pit-mix) who has a ton of prey drive and a solid bite but the inability to let go of (or give up) the tug toy: “Holding on is a way of holding back.” Because sometimes there’s as much fear in holding on as there is in holding back. And that’s the heart of this matter. Letting go was the necessary evil that I didn’t want to commit. But by holding on, I was holding back.
My heart is broken, of course, flooded with an overwhelming grief. But do I regret our time together or the decision to end it? No. I cannot. I have to have the faith that Hektor and I spent the exact right amount of time together that we needed to in order to create the exact reality I’m experiencing today.
In my mind, I will always see our gentle walks in the woods, where he and I could feel safe, isolated from the larger, scarier world. This is where he felt good, and where I did too. These were the times I recharged my batteries and steadied myself for my continued “battle” with the outside world. Except now it’s no longer a battle. I’ve moved onto some safer ground, some steadier ground, but only by letting go of the only ground I had ever known. So the lesson in this for me is that once I think I’ve found the answer, found the “way,” what I’ve found is a rigidity in myself. And that’s the very thing I needed to let go of…
So when I think of how I let go of Hektor, sent him off to the beyond, to some higher vibration that I believe is only achieved in leaving the physical world, and I feel how painful it is to be without him, to grieve his short existence and the incredible agony of being the one responsible for his exit, I have to remember: “
Zen is all-inclusive. It never denies, it never says no to anything; it accepts everything and transforms it into a higher reality.” –Osho