At six a.m. on the second morning of the John Friend workshop, I awoke to the sound of my dog falling down the stairs. The slip and crunch of claws and bone was unmistakable. With much wincing (ooh, the hamstrings, eesh, the triceps), I descended the stairs to find Ada, our agile and chipper border collie mix, limping aimlessly in the hall. She minced over to the living room, where she lay down between two pieces of furniture and commenced to breathe short, raspy breaths.
Matt and I made arrangements for him to take Ada to the vet while I went to the morning Anusara workshop. Before I left, we wrapped Ada in a small yellow quilt and loaded her into the back of the station wagon.
"I'll call you at the first break," I said to Matt, and took one last look at the dog. She was lying stiffly in the position we'd placed her. She looked terrible. This was really happening; I might be saying goodbye for the last time.
At the workshop, our theme was gratitude for our teachers. We were supposed to be thinking of them and praying for them and remembering all they had done for us. Instead, I kept thinking of my dog. When John said, "Remember that time when you needed your teacher and she was there without judgment for you," I thought of Ada.
I had complex feelings around my dog. I'd made a lot of my first parenting mistakes with her. I'd also never been so devoted to any living creature as I was to her in her early years.
But children happened, and a new career happened, and a bigger house and more demands on my time and attention. Over time she really became the lowest person on the totem pole. And sometimes, worse than that, I saw her as a nuisance. We no longer had a lifestyle that supported the needs of a high-maintenance working dog. There simply wasn't space in our life for daily hour-long walks, frequent trips to the off-leash park, agility classes, etc. I felt sad for her, because her potential was being squandered.
She had gotten fat and a little despondent. That was entirely our fault.
But back to the yoga workshop. John was talking about the power of being present. "You must be present to win!" he said. All 200 of us laughed. I was present.
I was present with my dying dog.