Baby Stella

My ugly encounter with dog-impermanence eventually gave way to beauty.

But to reap the blessings of impermanence we must first acknowledge the pain of it.  We acknowledge our resistance to the way things are.  We witness our attachment to the way we want things to be.  Our willingness to befriend our reactivity eventually leads to release, in timeless time.

In the airport shuttle, that first trip to India, I didn’t think I could get on the plane and leave my dog.  I plotted a quick turnaround.

Becky called as we arrived at the airport.  She had taken Stella to the vet.   “He isn’t sure what’s going on,” she said.  “It may be lung metastasis from a hidden tumor.  He’ll X-ray her in two weeks when you get back.”

Two weeks.  Magic words.  That meant the vet thought she’d survive two weeks.  The vet thought I should get on the plane.

I didn’t want to.  But the passengers pressing behind me nudged me across the threshold. Now there was no escape.  Fifteen hours to stop one, Hong Kong.  I found my seat and the door sealed shut like the lid of a coffin. 

There was nothing to do but wait and worry.

Try not to think about it, I thought.  Distract yourself with in-flight movies.  This Bruce Willis epic with explosions looks good… 

The explosion movies worked for a while.  But eight hours and three movies later, halfway across the Pacific I was done.   I couldn’t avoid myself anymore.  I descended into an aching love story.

I did not intend to fall in love with Stella.  I didn’t even want a dog, much less a high energy Vizsla.  But Hugh and I adopted her because she felt meant to be.   The day Stella arrived home she grinned, trotted through the living room, peed on the couch, and chased our rabbit.  This began a saga of dog mischief– teething on custom slipcovers, endless pointing at birds and squirrels, and standing on me in the wee hours of the morning to persuade me to feed her.   It should have been annoying, but I found myself perpetually endeared in the vortex of her joy and intelligence.

I spoke to her in full sentences.  She understood “Go in the backyard and help Daddy feed the cockatiels.”   She was my best friend, my canine alter-ego.  I promised her from the beginning that I would stand beside her always, I would usher her through her living and her dying.  So how could I betray her like this now, flying to the other side of the world when she needed me most?  The shame of it overwhelmed me. 

I prayed.  Please, please, please keep her safe until I get back.  Don’t let her die alone.  I’ll do whatever you want.  I’ll pray more, I’ll be a better person, I’ll stop saying the F-word.  Just let her live. 

I watched myself bargain with God, the opposite of what we say in church: “Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind.  We pray to change our hearts.”

I sat in the darkness and whispered, “We pray to change our hearts.”  I pondered these words.

Ever-so-slightly, I felt Love change my heart.  I began to wonder.  What if it’s selfish to cling to Stella?  What if she’s suffering?  What if she’s on her own path, separate from my need?  What if real love is letting go?


Reflections:  How do you befriend “unholy attachment”?  What happens when you make this shift in consciousness?  How do you feel about real love as letting go?

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18 Responses to Befriend

  1. Bernie Austin says:

    Looking at this photo of baby Stella, it is no wonder you fell head over heels in love with her.
    she captivated your heart…”she had you at hello” Such a sweet girl.


  2. Megan says:

    What a precious (precocious?) little bundle of spirit! 😌 Hope before she sprouted her “silky little wings” you pre-warned the Absolute Reality she was on her way??? 😳 🐕✨


  3. Lynn Smiley says:

    Beautiful story, beautiful pup!


  4. sjehler says:

    I am experiencing this now with my 16 year old son. He just got his drivers license and every day we get letters from colleges inviting him to come for a campus tour. The thought of letting him go horrifies me but it also fills me with tremendous love knowing that he is ready.


  5. Anne Bradley says:

    Thank you Bonnie for the gift of these so-helpful & loving reminders.


  6. Barbara A Jelinski says:

    Why was I so peaceful, calm and at ease that morning driving to Valley Hospital that morning in 1972? In just a couple of hours Jim would be on the operating table undergoing open heart surgery. Doctors knew something was wrong with his heart, his body was failing, and this was there last hope to find out what was causing his body to shutdown.
    The night before I found myself alone in my room sobbing for hours, begging, pleading, judging myself as unworthy, fearing the future and my ability to raise our 4 children (ages 10, 9, 5, and 3) alone? I was exhausted and then a calm came over me. I remember asking God to give me the strength to accept whatever might happen and guide us on this journey.
    Why was I so peaceful, calm and at ease that morning some 45 years ago — I think because for a moment I was able to let go and put our lives in the hands of God.


  7. Dawn Gorman says:

    I think our weeks of Fire and evacuation helped us along in our journey of learning to let go. And then yesterday, when I heard that my favorite uncle had just died, I had a sense of relief along with the awareness that his time of letting go had finally come. In June of last year, he chose to go off dialysis due to repeated complications. He was told he’d live for a few weeks. 7 1/2 months later, he was ready, and he finished his time here in his sleep. His wife of almost 70 years and their 3 children had come to terms with the need to release him. The blessing of the many months his life was extended gave them all the gift of time to say goodbye and the desire to let his spirit move on in peace as they held him in their hearts.


  8. Linda Dye says:

    A lesson in letting go is so perfect for me today! And enjoying the time together that we have. Thank you!


  9. Lanene Waters says:

    I see why you fell in love with her with those eyes with her heart in them! Thank you for the reminder that letting go is soooo important! Thank you!
    Hugs, Lanene


  10. Pingback: From Coffin to Cloister | Daily Beloved

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