What My Dogs Are Teaching Me About Slow Living

What My Dogs Are Teaching Me About Slow Living

May was not meant to be a month of silence. I did not intend to disappear. My plan with the slow technology experiment was only to take a break from social media – not the blog. I had planned to write a post about the role television plays in my life, these days. I had also planned to write a post about how I use technology, as a whole. Of course, as I continue to learn again and again, things don’t always go as planned. Life is not always in our control. In fact, I think it was Lauryn Hill who said, “We can’t plan life. All we can do is be available for it.”

And that’s exactly what I did in May. I made myself available to the two creatures who needed me more than anyone or anything else: our family dogs.

The girls, as we call them, have been part of our family since shortly after I graduated from high school. We brought Molly home in 2004, and got Lexie in 2005. There is no doubt we spoiled them, the way many small dog owners do (and sometimes have to). But they loved the same things as every other dog: going on walks (especially at the beach), eating food and hanging out with their pack. And they each came with their own unique personality. Lexie is a brat who plays by her own rules, and Molly quickly became her protector.

In April, Molly started showing signs she was aging. She ate a little slower, took the stairs a little slower, walked a little slower. We had one scare with her in early May, where we had to leave her in the animal hospital overnight. She quickly recovered, though, and came home the next day. Unfortunately, just 2.5 weeks later, we had to bring her back in. Again, I thought we were going to bring her home the next day, but things don’t always go as planned. Her test results showed us we had to let her go. We said goodbye to Molly (age 13) on May 22nd.

Since then, I have spent almost every minute of every day with Lexie. She’s been adjusting to life without Molly fairly well (probably because I rarely leave her side). However, she started showing her own signs of aging a few weeks ago. While Molly was slowing down, Lexie started doing circles; and walking around like she was drunk; and even bumping into things. It was easy to assume she was just going blind – until she had two seizures. With all of that combined, our vet says it’s likely she has a brain tumor. We got this news on May 26th.

It’s fair to say I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster, this past week. The pain comes in waves. Lexie and I will have a great day, then I’ll crawl into bed and be so uncomfortable in the silence that I burst into tears. Sometimes, it’s just the little things: doing a routine that would have normally involved Molly and remembering she’s not here anymore. I’ve even missed hearing her bark at the mailman. To counter this, there have also been a lot of smiles and laughs in our family, as we share our favourite things about her. Molly was truly loved.

If Lexie does have a brain tumor, there’s no way to tell how long she will be here with us. My heart is broken at the thought of having to say goodbye to her too. So far, two things have helped me not have a breakdown about it: 1) knowing she’s not in pain, and 2) knowing she is blissfully unaware of her condition. That second point is something I think about many times each day, and comes with even more lessons of its own.

While I’ve been trying to figure out what slow living looks like, the girls have been exemplifying it their whole lives. And while they have needed me this month, Molly and Lexie have taught me lessons I will carry with me for a lifetime. <3

  • Live in the moment. Dogs have no concept of time. They live one day at a time, and enjoy each moment as it comes. Whether they are laying in the sun, playing with a toy or going for a walk, they are simply happy to be alive – and to be spending that moment with someone in their pack.
  • It’s ok to cry. That’s not to say they have no emotions. Molly was one of the most emotional dogs I’ve ever met, and wore her heart on her sleeve. But she didn’t sit around worrying all day. She simply had emotional reactions in the moments they were needed (like when something was wrong with Lexie).
  • Make sure your basic needs are met. Dogs only have a few basic needs: food and water, a place to sleep and access to a patch of grass. They don’t care what colour their leash is, how cute their toys and beds are, or anything else. They just need food, water, exercise and sleep. And a human. :)
  • Be grateful your basic needs are met. One of the best things about living in the moment is that dogs also have no concept of wanting more. They don’t care about getting the newest or best of anything. They are simply grateful to eat their food, lap up their water, soak up the sun and get some attention.
  • Give people your full attention. Speaking of attention, dogs are the one animal that give humans all of theirs. They greet you with pure love and joy. When you’re together, they look at you – not at their cell phones. And for as long as you are willing to give them your attention, they will give theirs to you.
  • Nature is therapy. I have never met a dog who didn’t jump at the words, “Do you want to go for a walk?” They don’t care about climbing mountains or running personal bests. And they really don’t care about the pictures you can take and share on social media. Dogs are simply excited to get some fresh air and spend more time with their pack. It also helps them release some energy and sleep better at night.
  • Don’t take life too seriously. There is always a reason to play. <3

None of this is to say I’ve put it all into practice and am high on life right now. I’ve spent much of the past week in a daze. While I’m present with Lexie, I have ignored my inbox and my client work. I dragged the vacuum out last Monday, but didn’t actually vacuum the house until yesterday. I even forgot about an important interview, and wrote down the wrong date for my nephew’s birthday party. Grief messes with us. It’s human. I’m human. But my four-legged family members are doing their best to bring me down to earth and remind me to be present.

I’ll do an update on the social media detox next week, but for now I will say this: I don’t know what was shared online, but I know it wasn’t important to me. I don’t care what news I missed, which trends became fashionable or who made the top 10 list of whatever. The only thing that mattered was taking care of the girls, starting to grieve the loss of Molly and making sure Lexie was living her best days. There is nothing more important than the people and animals in our lives. Please give yours an extra hug and cuddle today. xo

UPDATE: Lexie lost her fight on May 31st. My heart is broken, but I’m so grateful I got to spend all her final days with her. The girls are together again. <3

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  • I am so sorry for the loss of Molly. It is devastating to lose a beloved pet. Our dog Shelby, who we lost on Thanksgiving, had many of the symptoms Lexie has and our vet also thought she had a brain tumor. She lived for 3 years after the diagnosis, I hope you are as fortunate with Lexie. It’s obvious how much you love your dogs. I wish there was something I could say to help your grief but I know from experience that time is the best healer.

    • Oh my gosh, Meg, you don’t know how much hope that gave me. Her quality of life is still so good: she barks for her meals, gobbles them down, loves her walks, cuddles and kisses. She just bumps into things and gets confused about where she is. But other than that, her life is good. She is content. I’m praying it’s slow-growing and we get to make many more memories with her. I’m so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your experience. <3

  • Cait
    My heart breaks with you. Our animal friends are our heart and soul, they make our life technicolour in so many ways. Stay strong, but let your grief play out whichever way you feel is right for you.
    Love to you
    Vivienne

  • Oh my sweet Caitlin. What a beautiful tribute to the girls and you captured their personalities and who they are perfectly with your words. Molly is watching and still protecting Lex. She will definitely be waiting for her when the time comes for us to say goodbye to Lex.

    I’m always here for you, I love you, my sweet Twin xo

  • I’m so sorry for your loss :( Made me tear up.

    I do have to disagree on the point that dogs don’t have a concept of time. My dog very clearly knows when it is 7 am and 8 pm. Those are walk times and she makes us very aware of it.

  • Both this post, and your Instagram post recently moved me to tears. We lost a family pet of 13 years almost two years ago and it’s still hard sometimes. Animals leave such an imprint on our lives, I’m sure Molly will be with you forever. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. But the quote you shared is so true- you can’t do any in life except be available for it. And I think you’re doing just that with Lexie! Sending hugs.

  • Oh, this one brought on the tears. :( I’m so sorry for your loss, Cait. My thoughts are with you with the loss of Molly and the worries about Lexie. We have a little dog that is like a child to us…and dread the day she leaves us. Thank you for the reminder of how those precious, little creatures can show us how to live!

    • Give her extra cuddles and kisses tonight, Amanda! And every day. Our lives are so short. We could all use a little more love in it.

  • I know that beach well! My dog loves it down there too!
    I am so sorry to hear about Molly, and I really do hope that Lexie’s condition doesn’t progress quickly and she can have many more walks to the beach. Your post did make me tear up a bit because I know how much animals are a part of the family. I have noticed that my older cat Casper is showing signs of aging, and he’s been with me for over 10 years… I think he’s got a lot of spunk left in him, but I don’t know what I will do when he passes. It will be very hard. So, I’m sending loads of hugs your direction…

    • Watching them change is so hard… and it’s even harder to remind yourself that change doesn’t equal the end, but that’s what we have to do.

  • My family dog passed away last week. After three seizures, the vet said he had to live out the rest of his days in the hospital. We all thought, what was the point if he’s stuck in a confined space for the last six months of his life. I didn’t see him for almost a year, it just friggin hurts. I wish I could go home and hug my mom.

    And yes to no social media. I actually took off Instagram off my phone/tablet, blocked Twitter and would do it for Facebook if it wasn’t for a client. I started a social media ban around the same time you did, and realized how 99% of it is so unnecessary. The people I want to keep in touch with I email or call :)

    • I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, Sarah. Your family definitely made the right decision, but I know it’s a difficult one to make. Your mom will feel your love through calls and texts.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. Both of our dogs are getting older, and they are definitely teaching me about slow living. Lately, I’ve been taking 1+ hour morning walks with them every single day, and it is something that makes me very happy.

    • I know, I always love watching your Instagram stories, Michelle. The walks make them happy too. :)

  • I’m so sorry you lost Molly.
    My little dog (spaniel) will be 13 on Friday but apart from having gone mostly deaf recently she seems pretty well. Dogs vary. I also have a cat who is 16 and doesn’t see so well, so we have a bit of an old pet’s home, here! They are both slowing down and sleeping more, which is normal, but their characters remain highly entertaining and they are loved family members. (Oh yeah, and you can set a clock for 5pm but don’t bother, the dog will let you know it’s dinner time on the dot…)
    I lost my beloved big dog Hamish in 2010 and we all cried buckets but he was 14 and had a good long life. In 2012 it was my pony’s turn, he was 28 and I had him 25 years… I thought I would be devastated at losing my pets but you know, they have remained lovely memories and at some point it is just time, I might feel differently if I had pets who got sick while still young. We still miss a cat we only had for a year 16 years ago :o

    I hope we have time with Alina and Sophie and I hope you have some time with Lexie, but we’ll enjoy every moment, for sure!

    • A common theme I’m hearing is the pain becomes more bearable, but you never really stop missing your pets. I guess that just goes to show how big a piece of our hearts they steal. <3

  • I’m so sorry Cait – I could barely read this because I didn’t want to cry at work. Much love <3 and kudos for being such a caring dog mumma.

  • Sorry to read about the family members. We get very attached to our pets. It’s a hard time to go through but the memories and joy you’ve had together will, over time, make for great memories.

    Thanks for sharing, my best to you!

  • What a beautiful tribute, Cait. I’m sorry for your loss but I don’t doubt for a minute that these dogs always know they are loved.
    I’m glad you brought each other joy and can savor the memories and stories, and I hope your time with Lexie is filled with walks, treats, and giggles.

    • They have definitely had good lives. Lexie’s day today was filled with a walk, food, raspberries and kisses.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this, Cait! I’m so sorry for the loss of Molly and the inevitable – though, I hope, far away – loss of Lexie. You’re too right that our fur babies – especially pups – have a lot to teach us about living a good life and it’s a beautiful way to process your grief and share it with us.

    • They are such special creatures, Max. If you have any at home with you, give them some extra love today. :)

  • While I know this is probably way too simple, is your vet sure that Lexie doesn’t have Canine Vestibular Disease. I thought our Ginger had a siezure, but it was Canine Vestibular Disease. She had a slight tilt to her head for almost a year, she went in circles when it happened, and her eyes couldn’t focus. Also, sick. It impacts their balance. Just a thought. We had Ginger until she was 16 1/2.

    I am so sorry for your loss. A piece of our hearts go with them. Our Sunny has been gone six years in June and we still miss her. We have two current buddies that I swear that Ginger and Sunny picked out for us. And our others before them. My sincere sympathy.

    • Hmm, he didn’t mention it. I just read up on it and it sounds similar, but the one symptom she doesn’t have is sickness. Her appetite is as healthy as ever. She has also definitely gone blind in one eye, which we’re thinking is a sign of where the tumor could be located. And she’s been peeing in the house, which is very strange for her (but we think she’s finding it hard to get to the door and feeling unsure about how to ask to go outside, etc.). I really appreciate you sharing this though, Peggy – and for telling me about all your dogs! Sounds like Ginger and Sunny are still watching over you. :)

  • Lost my Molly (also 13), April 3, 2014. Over 3 years now, and it’s still painful. But less now than before, so it does diminish. The memories don’t. We think and speak of her often. Fur babies, pieces of our heart.

  • I’m so sorry to hear the vet’s estimation of what’s going on with Lexie. I love you fiercely and hope you recognize what an amazing dog mom you are.

  • I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. I try my best not to worry about my dog.

    You are right though, they are a vital tool for us to stay well and can teach us so much. Buster will sulk if he is told off, but it never lasts. He is always so delighted to see us when we get home, my husband and I have promised to show at least half as much enthusiasm for each other as he does for us. It makes a difference in how we treat each other.

    • Aww, that’s a lovely idea – to show half as much enthusiasm to a partner as our dogs do for us. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Cait, I am so sorry for your loss!
    I have a five pound silky terrier who’s about to be 11 this November, and he’s like our firstborn. He’s sitting next to me snuggled up right now.
    As a dog owner my whole life, I got my first lab at 4, my grandma was a Newfoundland breeder, and my Nana, and Aunt had a dachshund obsession I’ve experienced the pain of loosing a pet a few times.
    Dogs do love life, always live it to the fullest, and do teach us lots of super important life lessons about being present.
    Theres really nothing to say that will make you feel better now. Just know I am thinking of you, your family, and remaining doggie. Xo!

    • I appreciate that, Jodie! It’s nice to know there are so many dog people looking out for us, right now :) xo to you and yours.

  • I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things I think any of us go through, especially those of us that consider them a part of the family like any of the humans.

  • So sad to hear your terrible news, Cait!

    Your posts are always inspiring. Today’s especially so! I’ll spread lots of hugs today. I send you virtual ones!

  • Cait, I am truly sorry for your loss. I’ve always said that our pets manage to touch a place in our hearts that nothing else can reach. I helped my dog, Scooby, cross over in December. She died as a result of terminal bone cancer at the age of twelve. The same week she left me, I was diagnosed with two brain aneurysms that required surgery at the end of January. I’m healing from the surgery well, but this double whammy has left me totally changed. All those lessons you list in your post resonate much more clearly for me now. They are not abstract ideas to me in any way, they are a tangible path forward to the best years of my life.

    Thank you for sharing…I have learned much from you over the past couple of years. Your skill at articulating exactly how I am feeling at a given moment is both wonderful and comforting during a time of big change.

  • Cait, I’m so sorry to hear about both of your beloved family pets. That is so hard. Your readers certainly understand! I look forward to ALL of your posts. All the best, Cari.

  • Cait,
    I am so sorry to hear about your family’s loss of Molly. I know how hard it is as I just lost my fur baby Ella very suddenly on April 22nd, she was only 7 years old. Like your dogs, she was our family dog. Not a visit to my parent’s house goes by without all of us falling into tearful state. It is very hard but what helps us is to remember how much unconditional love we received and how much she was truly loved in return. Just typing this and thinking of your family right now makes me tear up. Hang in there, it does slowly get better. As for Lexie, I truly pray that it is some sort of misdiagnosis and that you get a lot more of walks, raspberry snacks and cuddles with that little cutie.
    Sending you lot’s of love from Calgary,
    Lana

  • This is my favorite blog post yet. (And I’m a huge lover of your financial stuff. You helped me realize it’s okay to write everything down and watch it!) I’m so so SO very sorry for your loss, to you and your family, both of Molly and the impending Lexie. Dogs are treasures! I hope your days get easier. Thank you for your bravery in sharing your girls with us so we could love them too. Your bravery overall inspires me, Cait. Thank you.

  • I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, and to hear of further tough news. What a hard month! I think the takeaway lessons you learned from all this are just beautiful (and worth repeating—OFTEN—to ourselves so that we don’t forget).

    While I’ve missed reading your blog posts, I understand (as a blogger myself), that real life always should take precedence, especially when you need that time to grieve and work through the hard things.

  • Cait, as an animal lover, my heart breaks for you. My heart is with you and your puppy dog. Enjoy each and every moment, they do and so should you. Life is fast but with our animal friends, we can slow some and just be with them. I am so sorry and my 2 cats, will get even more hugs tonight. Be well, love and peace, Nancy

  • Cait, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. What a tough thing to have to go through – I’m grateful for you for sharing such a thoughtful post with your readers. I hope you will find comfort in the fun memories you were able to share with both Lexie and Molly, knowing you gave each of them a full and happy life. Dogs teach us so much about how to live well, don’t they?

  • I’m so sorry for your losses. As I commented on Ty’s blog (Get Rich Quickish) last night I saw the most tremendous rainbow I’ve ever seen in my life. I hope Molly and Lexie were right on the other side of it, basking in its glow.

    I’ve lost two out of three of my cats. Both deaths were horrendously difficult and they were over a year apart. I still cry when I think of them. In a way, I took their deaths harder than my mother’s. Seriously. I wasn’t totally responsible for her life but I was for theirs.

    Today we take Groovy Cat to the vet and we suspect he might have a tumor. We’ll know more afterwards.

  • I am so sorry for your loss. Pets are such a big part of our lives. We lost both of our cats last year and the silence was terrible. But it will get easier. We were putting off getting new pets but then this weekend we found a mother cat in our garage who had died but her two kittens were perfectly healthy and so we took them in. Life moves on. It has almost made me miss our other cats even more though!

  • Glad you were able to devote your time in a way that served you the best through this thought time. I learn so much from you:)
    I understand to some extent. My mom has been in hospice for the last three weeks.

  • I was doing okay until I read the update at the bottom of the page. I couldn’t keep the tears from coming at that point. So sorry for your loss Cait.

  • I am so sorry for the loss of your two cherished companions in such a short space of time. I can fully understand the heartbreak – the days following the passing of my beautiful, completely blind border collie Fynn went by in a daze. No more walks with me as his “guide human”, no more having him bumbling along behind me when I was in the garden, no more having Roxie the cat join us because she hated being left out (she stayed inside for a solid 3 months after he died!) At 15, we were very lucky to have him for so long for a big dog but that didn’t make the loss any easier. Take care of yourself as you grieve and cherish the memories.

  • Caitlin, I’m wishing you all the love in the world as you deal with your loss. I have two small dogs myself (one 10 years old now and I get what you mean about slower), and have lost two others to age and sickness unexpectedly too. The pain doesn’t really go away, but somehow it gets better with the good memories staying fresh as time passes.

  • Hi Cait,

    Sometimes the most painful of experiences can bring your being or consciousness to a new and deeper level.

    I highly recommend this profound book by Echkart Tolle: “A New Earth”

  • I am so sorry for your loss, Caitlin. Nothing can replace your girls, but rest assured that you and your family gave them the best life they could have had and that they were happy. Hugs to you.

  • Oh my god, Cait, I am so so sorry. I don’t know how I would cope with losing a furry family member, much less two so close together. Think on all of the happy, good times, though. :) Your girls sure loved you and loved life. I hope you can find healing, but take the time you need to not be okay. <3 Thank you for sharing your loss; I'm going to hug Zap the Kitten a lot tighter.

  • Cait, I am so sorry. I can’t imagine losing two so close together. When we lost Sunny, she was an ‘only’ dog. It was devastating. Broke our hearts. Our Dusty was an ‘only’ dog, too, and she was only four when she passed away very suddenly. I didn’t like Sunny when we first got her as I was so afraid something would happen to her. She was almost 17 when we lost her. It helps to have another fur kid to share your loss. I understand how you feel. The house is empty and it doesn’t matter how many people are there. The pups just have a very special place in our hearts. My sincere sympathy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • This is heartbreaking, Cait. My thoughts are with you. Off to hug my daft dog now. Such an important lesson here – to try not to take for granted all those you love – because life is so devastatingly fleeting.

  • May 31st was the one year anniversary of the passing of our family dog Bella. While she was technically my Mom’s dog, she considered me pack since I was there with her from the day she was born in 2004. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your girls. It hurts, but you are absolutely right about grief and slowing down and thank you for the life lessons. I needed to hear them right now.

  • May your memories of Molly and Lexie forever be in your heart and lift your spirits. It’s hard losing a pet. I lost mine several years ago. To lose two in the same month…that’s so much harder. Sending you lots of love.

  • Hi Cait,
    I am so sorry for your loss. The dog I grew up with, Kia, is now 14 years old. It is hard to believe and I try to stop by my parents’ house as much as I can to snuggle her. She is still a happy healthy dog, but I do get really upset when I see her stumble or fall and struggle to get up. It hurts to watch. I try to live in the moment but it is hard. I have a 3.5 year fur baby at home, and sometimes I find myself flashing forward to saying goodbye to her and that is even worse.

  • This is the first ever blog post that has actually made me cry because I can, unfortunately, relate to it all too well. Our family dog passed away in December and I miss him everyday and still cry far too often. Bertie was a beautiful greyhound and the life and soul of our family. Our animals bring us so much joy and happiness and it is incredibly hard to watch them suffer and let them go.

    Bertie became ill very quickly, showing no signs of anything at all until one day he started screaming in pain every time he moved. We had tests and the x-ray showed nothing significant. After four days of watching him suffer with no release or cure, or worse, not even knowing what was causing him so much pain, the vet recommended we have him put to sleep to stop his suffering. Keeping him alive would have been selfish and we didn’t want to do that to him after all the love he had given us. It was only fair.

    Not knowing what the problem was has been the hardest part – did we have him put to sleep too early? Should we have given him more time, in case he got better? Those questions plague me every day but I guess it comes down to the fact that he didn’t deserve to suffer and we made the best decision we could at the time.

    I still miss him so much but it will get easier over time. I’m so sorry you have had to go through this, especially losing two beloved pets in such a short period of time. It is unimaginable.

    Time is the only healer in these situations.

    All my love and best wishes, Zara x

  • I can’t help but tear up as I think about losing a pet. As much as we know that time will come, it doesn’t ease the pain but rest assured that you gave your dogs a happy life!

  • Hi Cait,
    Recently discovered your blog and really love it. So fresh and “real”
    As a dog lover, this post hit me so hard. We lost our beloved Lab mix Ruby in January of 2015 (yes, that’s 2 1/2 years ago…) and not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her terribly. I used to joke that she was an angel sent to earth in a dog-suit, but really…. I wasn’t joking. She was an incredible dog, and I imagine I’ll miss her for the rest of my days,
    We do still have another dog (a chocolate Lab, Diva) who we love very much, but she is aging and I know she won’t be here forever.
    It’s so terribly hard, but I do believe that our sweet beloved pets are waiting for us on The Other Side.
    I greatly look forward to that “someday” reunion!

  • I lost my beautiful baby girl Mussa yesterday morning. I had her since she was a pup, and she died in my arms on the way to the vet. They think she had a brain aneurysm. She was such a happy and healthy dog, all happened too quickly. I’m grieving. It’s horrid. I found your article while googling to try and find some peace / answers / help to cope. I’m so sorry for your losses. What a beautifully written post. Thank you so much. Xx