Last week we made the decision to say goodbye to our dog Guinness. Last year he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. We amputated his front right leg to give him an expected 3-6 months of pain-free life to hike, and run and play and simply to be loved.
We celebrated when we learned that the cancer hadn’t returned after 3 months, and again after 6. He enjoyed pain-free hikes on his favorite trails, and all the treats and belly rubs a dog could wish for.
The cancer was gone, but we faced a new problem. In being a happy, active dog, his remaining front leg began to break down and eventually couldn’t bear the extra weight. We tried rest, massage, stretching, shorter walks, and pain management, but in the end, it was only fair to say goodbye.
The saying “Grief is the price we pay for love.” is true, but I can already say in the midst of our payment coming due that it was worth it. Our dog made us better people. The lessons are only starting to unfold, but loving and losing this dog has shown me that my capacity for joy, love, grief, and pain is so much greater than I had thought.
I invite you to consider your capacity for joy, love, grief, and pain. If it were greater than you imagined, would you be more vulnerable, more open to all of it? If you think that might be true, open up. It’s always worth it in the end.
When we were making the final arrangements, the vet clinic asked if we wanted a commemorative paw print, and through my tears, I smiled. I declined as I thought about the paw prints that are all over my life; on my furniture, my floors, my shoes, the patio and everywhere else. No matter how much I clean, I’ll be finding paw prints for months to come. And when they fade or wash away, those paw prints are all over my heart.