It’s just a dog …..Don’t say it!

Barney Bella

My anxiety levels are hitting the top of the scale, I am desperately trying to focus on the positive outcome to make everything right for my little companion, I have sent prayers in sack loads – I wrote that line what now seems an eternity ago, and at the same time a mere blink of the eye, and I never returned to complete my thoughts….. everything changed, and so did I.

He, my Shih Tzu Dog Barney (on the left) was in surgery, in for a dental procedure to remove a broken tooth that had happened while he was in the vets a little while prior; I will never know how that happened and I have to let it go.  I was writing to keep my focus.  Intense emotion has always drawn out a need in me to express myself; one of my ways to positively release the churning anxiety from within before it wreaks havoc on my own body and seeps my strength.  I have difficulty verbalising my thoughts and feelings.

So, to anyone who says, “Why get in such as state? It’s just a dog!” My reaction is – there is NO justification to use the word “just” alongside anything that is so important to anyone! Our pets (those who are animal lovers) give us so much; love, comfort, companionship and we likewise give them all of this in return, their wellbeing a priority, a responsibility not to be taken lightly.  They give us the experience of unconditional love.

A child will often bond with their favourite toy, or item, and if lost or damaged they will be in emotional pain.   Loss hurts.  Again, it isn’t “just” a toy, but something they have cherished, needed, loved, given a meaning to their life that nobody else can know to what extent.  “Loss”, a small word but with hefty impact, and the loss is never “just” the thing gone, it’s everything the loss of presence means.  There is no replacement, no placation.

Why was I in such a heightened anxiety?  Only 6 weeks prior poor Bella (on the right) had to be put to sleep, after not healing from an ulcerated abscess that was getting worse.  My vet said it changed quickly and actually then looked to be sinister, my love for her meant not letting her suffer, but left me devastated.  She was only 7.  The strange thing was, when it first started I had a “feeling” it was not good; I didn’t believe the vets.  I wish I had taken a different action 2 months sooner, insisted on more treatment, but it’s hard to fight against those who have the “greater” knowledge.  So the anxiety over Barney was probably because I had another gut feeling I shouldn’t have taken him in to have his tooth fixed.  I was told he would be fine.  He would be getting pain from the broken tooth and it was kindness and care to have this done.  How could I fight that logic?  I am often told I “over think” I am too “sensitive” that my anxieties are brought about from these traits and that I need to distract myself.  Hence I started writing to try and expel my inner feelings, but I didn’t get to finish as instead I received a phone call; he had a cardiac arrest on the operating table – he was gone.  My world fell apart.

Only days before Bella started to become ill, I lost my very best friend in all the world to Cancer.  She was only 56.  I admired her courage and acceptance, she seemed so calm and remained positive to the end.  We had been friends since we were 5 years old, I found it hard to accept she had gone.  She went through numerous treatments, believed to be cured, then it came back.  She didn’t want tears and pity but wanted strength and normality and for our relationship to be just as it always had been; I tried.  We talked so much, we spent quality time doing such little things, pretending it wouldn’t end but knowing it would.  I believe we knew each other as much as any human can know another.  We were connected.  She loved my dogs.  We would sit for hours talking and Bella would cuddle next to her with Barney snuggled with me.  She was an only child like me, we grew up like sisters, and she never had children.  She had lost both her parents in recent years.  She didn’t want to be a burden, but she really wasn’t.  The day she passed, I didn’t just lose her, I lost my strength.  I miss her.  I miss our positive talks, we spoke the same language.  No matter the problem, we could put the world to rights, what started in tears would end in smiles.  When I lost her I seemed to lose my positive thinking.  I believed  bad was stronger than good, anxiety took over and fear was winning, I lost her, then Bella, then Barney ……. and I fear what next?  Was I now attracting bad outcomes?

It is a year today she took her last breath.

A year and a week since she was last able to speak to me …..

A year and a month since the last text she was able to send to me….

When she couldn’t speak anymore, she refused visits until her very last day.  Then it was hand holding,  me doing the talking….. me, who doesn’t find talking easy but I could always talk with her; we had talked all our lives.  Sometimes it seemed we didn’t need to say things out loud, we just knew what the other was thinking anyway,  But in her hospice room, her last weeks, I talked more and more and she listened.  She started a sentence, waved her finger and I would finished it for her.  She would nod, scowl, raise her eyebrows; but mostly she smiled.  We communicated, we smiled lots.  We said goodbye without ever actually saying goodbye.  It was agreed at the end of every visit it had to be “See you later” and no lingering, whenever later would be.  Any tears I shed in the car.  I had written poems and short stories for her, and I always had a book I wanted to write, she knew the plot and I promised I would write it, I still owe her that promise.

At her funeral I shut down.  I wrote her eulogy that the clergy read for me; I had no voice.  I closed up.  After that I couldn’t even write to express myself, the thoughts stayed in my head, my body became an anxious time bomb.  Bella got ill, I looked after her and lost hope; the anxieties worsened.  Then Bella passed and the tears flowed again.  Then Barney was in the vets and I tried to write, just that one sentence and the phone call came….. I lost control, why so much loss in such a short time, I couldn’t cope, couldn’t function, couldn’t do my yoga I so enjoyed, couldn’t write….. couldn’t see the sense in anything, couldn’t see a way to become me again, all I felt was fear, fear of loss, fear of my anxieties, fear of fearing anxiety, complex and escalating panic that only prescribed meds could reduce.  I didn’t want to feel this way, I wanted me back, but I was gone.

I couldn’t even read, I couldn’t focus on reading.  I downloaded an audible book.  I just listened.  I listened to self help books on grief.  I had counselling for anxiety and panic, I joined grief support groups.  I guess I was looking for answers but I didn’t even really know what my questions were.

Then the other day, something made me look at the last few weeks of messages to my friend.  I had one of my gut feelings that I needed to look at this.  The very last messages from me to her I saw were actually pictures of my dogs! They made her smile.  She was struggling with her eye sight but could make out pictures, so I sent funny snaps of them doing silly things.  When they made her smile, it made me smile too.

I looked at the pictures again today and found the pictures made me smile, I saw the joy in the pictures and the fun and happiness I had wanted to share with her and it was there for me too.  Then I scrolled up to find her last serious message to me 25th March 2022, a week after her 56th birthday, she wrote, “After today I do truly understand the meaning of this beautiful relationship.  I love and I thank you.  You give me such comfort that comes from your strength in being able to deal with me, so that I feel joy in being around you not embarrassment.  That means so very much to me.  People can love you, but the inadequacy of illness can be hard for them.  I have no adequate words to express my feelings in the overwhelming sincerity you showed me.  I’m very happy and will always love and watch over you…..”

Oh wow, something clicked in me.  By not being able to delete her as a contact on my phone, I read and looked at our last communication and I felt her understanding at all I have been through.  She brought me comfort today, she dealt with me and I feel her love and watching over me.  We didn’t have to talk over the years but still seemed to know what each other were thinking – not telepathy but something deep.  What would she be saying to me now?  I am not displaying any strength.  She wouldn’t be happy to see me like this, life is too precious I can hear her say.  Love never dies.  She said she would watch over me and would hate to see me like this and not keeping my promise to write her story…..  My Bella was ill, like my friend, but as a dog she couldn’t understand and I had to take that decision to not let her suffer.  As humans in the UK we do not have a choice…..  Bella went peacefully and is with Lisa.  Barney, must have been ill, we just didn’t know it yet.  Maybe he was meant to go to be with his life companion Bella, and I was not meant to have to make such heart-breaking decisions again.  My prayers were to make things right for him, maybe that was his kindest way…  I sent her pictures to make her smile, I now see her smiling with them now, looking after my babies and they are all together cheering me on.

Last night, I asked for a dream that I would remember, a sign to let me know what I should do, how to stop this awful anxiety.  I often have vivid dreams but what I experienced was totally unexpected.  I saw a green circle on a black background, it must have felt so strange I almost woke and remember thinking, “why am I seeing a green circle?” I just kept seeing it in my mind and then it turned from green to red.  It felt strange.

This morning I received a text from a friend who wants to resume her reiki practice and asked if I wanted to be her “practice” as she feels it might help my anxieties.  Not knowing much about it I said I would get back to her, and read about it.  I was amazed to see the green circle as the heart chakra; the centre of emotions, love and grief, and might experience heart problems like an elevated heart rate!  The red circle, the root chakra which needs to be open to unblock other chakras.  The root chakra is blocked by fear!  When blocked you might experience anxiety, nightmares, spaciness and an inability to take action.  I have a lot to learn on this practice but I want to learn more…. I want and need to listen to my sixth sense, my intuition, and act on it instead of wishing I had in hindsight.

Then this afternoon I come across my wordpress account, I had forgotten about it, forgotten my password so I requested to reset, and logged on to find the last sentence I wrote on here, (the first line above).  Is everything falling into place again?  I did go for a walk today and didn’t panic.  I have put my thoughts on paper once again; how clearly I am unsure.  Maybe a year on I can start to smile at memories and let the love stay in my heart.  Maybe I can start to live again, never the same me, but a new me, my new chapter and to live fully as my loved ones would wish me to do.  I do feel a positive seed growing again, and like one of my blogs, BE POSITIVE (B+) is my blood group.  If I can start to write, maybe it is time that I keep my promise and write my book after all…?  Maybe by writing I will once again find a release of the unhelpful and unhealthy anxiety that has been threatening to control me…?  I can but try …..

Nothing is ever …”just” – it’s always something ….

If you read this far, keep well in body and mind, and positive….

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