What My Dogs Taught Me About Slow Living

Originally published on May 29, 2017.

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