It took me almost two years to write this blog post. Not that I started it two years ago. Rather, I’ve known for almost two years that I didn’t want to write it. It still has its hard parts, but writing it now feels good, so that tells me to do it.
I am bad at all kinds of things, but like anyone would, early experiences in my life lead me to a few things that I’ve really focused a lot of attention on. Fortunately for me one of mine is love. I can make your knees weak with a birthday card, and it’s my understanding that I give a pretty enjoyable massage. Regardless of the form love takes, physical or mental, I am always simply translating how I genuinely feel into whatever form seems best.
Since maturing as a person I have found it quite easy to love someone fairly unconditionally. The way I look at people means I usually don’t even notice the sort of things that other people will. When I look at someone I feel like I’m seeing their soul. Literally everyone is beautiful to me. I love everyone, there are some people I just prefer to spend my time with. One of those people wasn’t even a people—it was my dog, Mo.
Was. Yes. My dear Mo is gone. I lost him just before my birthday, almost two years ago. I won’t complain. We had 17 years together and he was healthy right up until the end. Mo taught me a huge amount about love. I truly did study under him. I would meditate on why he would continue to be so consistently in love with me, even if I was so busy I had little time to spend with him, or even though I might have been tired and hadn’t played with him as much as he would like. He just loved me whenever he could. And it occurred to me that by doing that, he was offering the famous unconditional love that we’re all looking for. He doesn’t care about any details. Just the love.
Mo and I were together for about 5 years before I went through the significant changes that lead to how I live now and what I write about here. Our relationship changed a lot in that time. As I went even quieter inside, I could “hear” him much better. I realized that he had very specific kinds of barks for specific events (surprise surprise!), that he had body language that was quite specific, and he was very clever about working around my previous lack of awareness. He had found ingenious ways of communicating with me.
When I lived with a girlfriend Mo had a bell hanging on the door. When he wanted to go out he would walk to the door, swat the bell and I would come and take him out. When we moved, the new house didn’t have the bell. One night I was watching an edit of my latest film and I suddenly got up to take the dog out.
Just as I suddenly stopped myself and asked how it was that I knew he wanted to go out. And that’s when I realized I had reacted to the jingle of my dog’s tags as he shook. And when I saw him waiting at the bottom of the stairs, I realized that when he lost the bell, he had switched to ringing his tags, but I was only picking up on it subconsciously. When I finally went quiet and we connected on an even deeper level, I really got the sense that he was relieved that I had finally figured out how to communicate properly.
Part of what changed in me in Budapest was my sense of life. I knew from my accident that it’s temporary. And you can feel that with a dog, who’s going seven years for every one you are. But I was now very much back in touch with everyone’s lack of permanence and that was making me even more loving. I was fully aware that every time I said goodbye, that it might be for the last time. I got very present with people. I got very present with Mo.
What made my love for Mo so consistently was that I always stayed aware that I would lose him. I always reminded myself that he would die and that I only had so much time left. That made me really focus and be with him, and I really do know he could tell. Out of compassion, I wanted to do all I could to ensure his departure from this world would be gentle and loving. To that end I began a ritual.
Once a week I would take out a special blanket from the closet and I would put it on my bed. In time Mo knew to jump up on it, and he would lay down in his favourite position and open up a bit for a belly rub. I would give him his favourite food, and he would swallow that, then he would lay back and sigh the most beautiful little contented sigh. I would rub his belly the way he loved, and I would say repeatedly into his ear, “Scott loves Mo, Scott loves Mo, Scott loves Mo….”
It made me cry with happiness every single time we did it. And for the last 12 of those 17 years we did it every month of the year, like a ritual. We both knew it backwards and forwards. So in a strange way, both Mo and I were ready for that fateful day a week before my birthday.
Two days before we’d been at the vet. She said it looked like it was his time. We weren’t sure what the problem was, but he was losing control of his rear legs. Whatever it was, it wasn’t something you’d put a 17 year old dog through an operation for. She said to take him home and see if he was better tomorrow. If no miracle, then I could bring him back in to say goodbye. Because I had thought about his death so much, about the only thought I had was that I realized I now knew the details of the story I had known to be true of all those years.He didn’t get better, so I had his closest friends come by to say goodbye while he lounged comfortably on the sofa. That night he and I spooned like we often did, with his back against my chest and my arm around him. We had slept like that for years, and just like every other time, neither of us ever moved. I just petted him and told him how much I loved him. I loved him. That’s what I did. That was the verb of my time that night. I was Being in Love with Mo.
My dear friend Christina had a lot of fears around the subject of death, so she asked if she could come because she loved Mo very much and she thought it would be good practice for her. We took Mo to the vet and he seemed quite comfortable. I laid down his special blanket and laid him down on it. He immediately rolled back for a belly rub, which I gave him. I skipped the food because he had lost his appetite even for treats, but otherwise it was just like every other time, and he seemed to feel that way too.
The vet is a wonderful woman, and she asked how I wanted to go about it. I told her I would say my goodbyes for a couple of minutes, I would let Christina do likewise, and then I would call her in. We would attach their syringes and I would commence my ritual. I explained that as I petted him I would be saying “Scott loves Mo,“ and on the third one she should push in the syringe. It went just like that, and I just kept petting him, and on the fifth “Scott loves Mo” his breath shifted and on the seventh, Mo sighed his last beautiful sigh.
Of course Christina and I bawled. I mean BAWLED. And then I took a big breath and I felt acceptance sweep over me. My Mo was gone. His drop of ink had returned to the well. He was now one with everything. And I really felt as though I could feel him everywhere. I did cry hard a couple times after that, but mostly I was feeling blessed. Out of seven billion people I got to be the person who lived with him all of that time. I got to live with his beautiful loving spirit. I wasn’t unlucky to have lost him. That was inevitable. I was lucky to have recognized how deserving of love he was while he was with me. That was an awesome 17 years.
Yeah, for a year every time I saw a white plastic grocery bag I would turn thinking it was him. Every time I unwrapped cheese I would listen for his nails on the floor. And at night there was a strange empty space in front of my chest. But all of those things just reminded me of how lucky I had been.
Dog, cat, person, whatever. If you’re sharing love with another Being in this lifetime, then cherish that. Because it’s the most beautiful and unifying connection we can have with another person and it absolutely will come to an end. So while you have it, make sure it’s getting appropriate attention. Trust me. It’s easily worth it.
Enjoy your day, and your life. And God bless Mo. He taught me so much. And I still love him, to this very day.
peace and cuddles, s
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.