Thursday, January 15, 2015
It was a Thursday evening, January 8. I had a birthday party to go to at 9:30 that night. I got home from wherever I was, went straight to the bathroom. Olive pushed herself into the half open bathroom door and I asked her if she was ready for her walk. She was, so excited for it. I quickly grabbed her pink shearling sweater, the one with the cute skull and crossbones where the skull is wearing a bow, snugged her in her coat, and we ran out the door. No leash. I had been walking her off a leash for about a year and she liked it much better. Her walks were her few minutes of freedom in days she spent largely indoors. They were as much her sniffs and explores as they were her potty breaks. And besides, I’d left her leash at my partner’s house (his name is Kelly) the evening before.
We ran down the front steps and I decided we would make the “straight block.” Instead of looping around the block my house is on, I would cross one street and go straight two blocks, then turn around and walk straight back home. I was thinking about asking my friend, the birthday boy, if he would like to see Olive for the party that night. He had just watched her for about two weeks while I was out of town over the holidays and I sincerely believe he loved her as much as I did.
Right after we crossed the street, moving into block #2, Olive was about 50 feet in front of me and I heard fast rolling wheels. I looked up to see a guy on a skateboard, being pulled by his dog on a leash. The dog was running fast, the guy was guiding him with words, and his skateboard was rolling along quickly. I looked back at my little puppy to see her make a swift turn to the left and run full speed into the street. In the left side of my peripheral vision, I saw the SUV. I yelled “Olive!” She turned and looked at me, shearling color smartly flipped back behind her big alert ears, and then she was hit.
What happens next has gone in memory from a blur to an increasingly crisp, although punctuated, horror. I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I think I was saying “oh my god” and “what do I do.” The tire was still on top of her. I couldn’t save her with the tire on top of her. Her leg was hanging loose and I saw her insides. I knew at this moment that you don’t put this back together. That Olive was going to die.
I always sort of knew, but refused to let myself think it, that Olive was going to die before she got old. Just a few nights prior I was laying on my bed with her plastered on my chest. She fit from my pubic bone to my neck perfectly, her heart pressed right against mine. I was petting every inch of her, inside her ears, her nose. The extra fur and bunch of skin at the scruff of her neck. Even down to her cute little puppy paws, and the thought that I would lose her early crossed my mind again. I cherish that moment. That moment of really memorizing the sensation of my baby girl breathing and relaxing into me, her face in my neck, the smell of her ears (which I love), and a deep appreciation for what it is I had.
With her under the tire, with me screaming and beating on the rear wheel well of the car, I knew that this was it. I think I thought “THIS?!? THIS IS IT? This is how she dies?” I never, ever imagined her death being so brutal. So traumatic. So bloody.
After a couple confused forward movements, the wheel finally pulled off of her body. Her front half was screaming as loud as me, trying to do something, anything about her back half. We were both lost. We were both in pain. We were both terrified. We were both so scared. I reached down to scoop her up, her two halves, and she turned her head and bit down into the meat of my right palm. Hard. My screams changed to “She’s biting me! She’s biting me!” as I dropped her lower half out of my left hand and reached around to pry her teeth out of my right palm. Just as I got her mouth open, I reached back with my left hand to support her hind end, and she bit down again. Again I had to let her back end go, prying her teeth out of me. This time when I had her jaw open and her teeth removed from my hand, I instinctively dumped her to the ground. I saw her, flipped over, landing there bleeding, horrified that I had thrown her down in her pain, and suddenly a woman, an angel, flew in front of me and yelled at me. Yelled loud and certain and clear. “STOP SCREAMING. She hears you. Stop screaming.” I looked at this stranger right in her eyes and asked, “What do I do?”
And then everything stopped.
My vision cleared. I stopped screaming. I stopped feeling. Time stopped. I started to process through my dog’s death. Olive was dead. My best friend was dead. She was dead forever. But she wasn’t dead yet. She was in terrible, terrible, pain. I turned around to see a small semi circle of neighbors, some closer to me than others. I heard someone shudder “Ay Dios mio.” Someone else was on the phone talking about the vet nearby. Someone else said they told us to go to Dove Lewis Emergency. The man driving the car came out. Asked if we had a towel. I took off the outer layer of my raincoat and gave it to the angel woman. I looked at my hands and said in a monotone, almost whisper, “Her blood is all over me. Her blood is all over me.” I looked down at my white jacket. “Her blood is all over me.” The angel scooped Olive up in my coat. Olive was quiet now, whimpering a very sad, sad sound. I kissed Olive’s head, her and our angel got in the front seat, and I got in the back. We started to drive to Dove Lewis, close by.
Blood was literally dripping off of me. I said “She’s dying isn’t she?” And then I introduced myself. I asked for the driver’s name and the angel’s name. Her name is Deanna. I told them mine name and Olive’s name. And I touched the drivers shoulder and told him that it wasn’t his fault, it isn’t your fault. I looked in the passenger rear view mirror and saw my baby’s eyes, latched on to mine. We stared at each other in the mirror. And then we were there. I jumped out, opened Deanna’s door for her, and ran into Dove Lewis. I told them my dog had been hit by a car, it was bad, and she was being carried in. Deanna was far behind, walking so slowly. She passed Olive, wrapped in my raincoat shell, to the nurse. They were so calm, so prepared. They said I would need to sign papers and I told them I don’t think I can, I was bit. I looked at my bloody hands again, and was led to the bathroom. It was just Deanna and me now. I washed the blood, confused, in a fog. I kept stating facts out loud. “I’m washing Olive’s blood off my hands.” “I’m covered in Olive’s blood.” “I’m not crying. I feel calm.” “There’s blood on your hoodie.” “What do I do?”
The vet tech or nurse came into the bathroom and got verbal permission from me to do surgery. I still don’t understand why CPR is another question, but she asked me if I agreed to CPR. I didn’t understand why it was a big deal. Why I had to agree to CPR. I didn’t know if it could hurt Olive more for some reason. I looked at Deanna and asked “Do I?” and she said “Yes,” and I looked at the nurse and said “Yes.” Olive and I had been in Dove Lewis about a year prior after a dog bit her. That time, she was on a leash and could have benefited from being off a leash. That time I wasn’t the one walking her. That time, I calmly filled out the paperwork, worried but certain she would not die. This time, I knew she was dead. But she wasn’t dead yet.
I asked Deanna to stay with me. She had blood on her hoodie and she wasn’t wearing shoes. She had run right out of her house, right across from the wreck, and saved my life. I would have screamed until I died if she hadn’t stepped in. I would have screamed until I died in a circle of concerned but confused and traumatized neighbors with my dog screaming until she died with me. Deanna saved me, and tried to save Olive.
Deanna, now fully and completely my de facto functioning parts, and I were led into a small room. A nurse came in to treat my bite wounds. I stood. I sat down. And finally I got on the ground into child’s pose. I was bowing on the ground like that when the doctor came in. I asked if she was dead. I think I was waiting for it to happen. She wasn’t dead. They were stabilizing her, but she was bad. There was no response from her back legs, which could be due to spinal fracture or shock. She had lost a lot of blood and was very cold. Her insides were swollen and the doctor couldn’t tell what the damage was. She was still alive. And I was already processing her death.
The doctor left and Deanna and I were alone again. I remembered my partner, my boyfriend, my Kelly. I needed him. I didn’t know his number, didn’t have it memorized. I didn’t have my wallet or my phone. What do I do? I needed to go to the ER after this. I couldn’t remember the name of my health clinic. What do I do? At some point we came up with the idea to look at my Gmail contacts to find Kelly’s phone number. At some point I remembered the name of my health clinic and Deanna called. At some point, Kelly called back. He would be there in 30 minutes. When I heard his voice crack, the first tear came out of my eye. But only the one. After I got off the phone I mumbled a bit more to Deanna. This time facts, but also convictions. I told her I was trying to relax into what was happening. To soften my body and not resist the truth. I told her I was already right with Olive’s death. I accepted her dying. But she wasn’t dead yet. What do I do? I didn’t say it out loud, but I knew that putting her to sleep was going to be a decision I had to make. And I had known she was dead from the moment I saw her bleeding, falling apart, maimed, under the tire. But she wasn’t dead yet. And I had to decide. But no one was telling me I had to decide.
The doctor came back in. I asked if Olive was dead. She wasn’t. She had begun bleeding from her rectum. I knew it then that waiting to see what else would go wrong, or what would be possible, was not the choice. I couldn’t let Olive be in more pain. I couldn’t let myself be in more pain. Deanna interrupted the thought and let it come out, without a filter, “You have to put her down,” and I said it, three times, “I have to put her down. I have to put her down. I have to put her down.” The doctor kept explaining something, something about talking to another surgeon, about best case scenario is that her abdominal wall is in tact, her spine is not fractured, and a couple surgeries, multiple thousands of dollars, and nine weeks in a crate and she might be able to walk again. But also she might never be able to walk again. Never be able to poop or pee again. And she was getting worse, not better.
I didn’t need to hear any of it. I knew what had happened when I saw her. That’s why I was screaming. When I stopped screaming, I knew it wouldn’t happen right away and that a lot of pain was going to come in the next hour before Olive would finally be released.
The doctor told me that she didn’t think I was making the wrong decision, and said that they would get her Olive ready. She asked if I wanted to go back there, and the one regret I truly have in all of this is that I said no. I asked the doctor and I asked Deanna if that was wrong, that I didn’t want to see her hurting, bleeding, crying back there. I didn’t go. I wish I had gone, to be with her. I know she wanted me, I know she was scared. But I also know she doesn’t blame me, doesn’t feel betrayed. I know she felt me in the building. I know she forgives me.
Finally, Kelly arrives. He comes into the room with red eyes and hugs me. I start to cry, just a bit. And then take his hand and went forward with the end of the trauma, towards the point of Olive’s final death. The actual thing. The real thing. When her heart truly stops beating and her eyes close. It’s time to put her to sleep.
First, though, we are brought back into a comfortable room with a couch and we have to talk about charges. About what to do with her remains. We pay. And finally, we go back to see her. She looks weak and pale; she looks drugged up like after she was spayed as a puppy. But she’s covered with a towel and her head is fine and her front paws are fine and she looks like she’s tucked in and safe. I kiss her face. I smell her nose. I smell her ears and I kiss her lips. She is so cold. She is sticky. I pet her noggin and smooth the white twig of hair on her brown-orange head. She is so cold.
I kiss her more and whisper to her that she can be inside me now. That she can always be with me. We look into each other’s eyes. The pupils of her eyes are so big. I can’t even see the marbled olive green, the magnificence of her eyes, her namesake. But I see her and she sees me and we love hard. I let Kelly kiss her. I hold her paw. I let Kelly hold her other paw. And the euthanasia goes in. So quickly, in an instant, her eyes got big and bright. I see the green. And then they close. The doctor listens for a heart beat and confirms that her heart has stopped. I kiss her again, I kiss her puppy lips. I cover her head with the towel and Kelly and I walk out the back door.
The rest of the night was spent in a haze, some time in the emergency room. I didn’t have my jacket and was wearing short sleeves. It was cold and dry. It was dark. I was bleeding. I kept saying the facts out loud. Olive is dead. My dog is dead. Olive got hit by a car and died. I put her to sleep. Olive is dead.
Sometime in the ER, I started talking to her in my head. Asking her to be with me. I really felt like I was talking to her, and in real life I never talked to her. We cuddled, a lot, and we stared at each other. And I pet her and she licked my lips. And I loved it all. But, I didn’t talk out loud to her. I thought to her, but I didn’t think words back for her. But in the ER I was talking to her. It helped. I smiled. I really felt her.
The loss of my love began to set in the moment I saw her under the tire. The first thing my body wanted to do when I saw her was turn around and run away. To pretend I never had a dog. To go home and pretend nothing happened. Then I started screaming and I froze. I screamed and screamed and froze in space. This makes sense. It’s the amygdala, reptilian fight-flight-freeze response. Or, in my case, flee-freeze. That’s as far as I got. I was stuck there until Deanna showed up and snapped me into some sort of stupor, but a quiet one, where I was able to move with the flow and allow Deanna to be my brain. Thank God for this angel. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
When I saw her finally die, I knew it was over. It wasn’t a relief. There was no relief. Not until I started talking to her in my head in the ER. My heart was so broken; my heart wasn’t able to function. My gut, my intuition, had nothing. It had no answers, no innate sense of what to do, my animal instincts kicked in and my human intuition was silenced. By my intellect, my mind, it worked. When I said I was right with her death, I knew it, in my head. I knew it intellectually. My body didn’t know it, my heart didn’t know it, my gut wasn’t working, but my head knew. My head kept telling itself, out loud, the facts. I relied on things I’d figured out before the trauma to make the decisions I had to make during the trauma. To know I had to put her to sleep, that she was in pain and I was in pain, that the chances of her walking away were so slim, and that my finances could not handle delaying what I knew to be the inevitable. Prior to Olive’s fatal injuries, I had thought and wondered and reasoned and definitively stated my take on keeping your pets alive. I heard myself saying, a past self, before my dog was the one dying, that I think it’s wrong. I think you have to put them down. That keeping them alive in that pain, through the initial pain and through the recovery pain and through the sub-par, broken and battered lifetime of problems caused by the injury is not fair. There is room for every opinion and decision here, but this was truly mine. My take was, you had to let go. So I relied on that intellectual comprehension to make my decision in a time when there was no creative intellectual, heart-felt, or intuitive function in my body. I relied on a previous conviction. I’m glad now that I had thought it out.
And, surprisingly, my intellect was what carried me spiritually through the hours immediately following Olive’s death. This came out of left field for me, the reliance on my intellect.
The past year I have spent dedicated time in my practice connecting my heart and my mind, anahata chakra and ajna chakra, love and intellect. They are both wise and both must work together for us to optimally function (also the gut, aka the intuition, aka manipura chakra. That is anahata+ajna+manipura are your decision team, in my experience, understanding, practice, and teaching.) I’ve come to notice that I overuse my intellect and over-rely on the power of ajna, of my mind, my brain, my thinking and reasoning and analyzing skills. This past year has been dedicated not to my mind, but to cultivating an understanding of my heart. Of feeling, hearing, and using my heart. But even so, I pay tribute to ajna at the end of practice by drawing my hands from heart to third eye center. Symbolically and energetically connecting the two. Thank. God. I would always do this instinctively (thanks manipura), but never really knew why. How I would use that connection. How that connection between heart and mind plays out. Well, let me tell you, because I know a little bit more now. It plays out when your heart if fucking broken out of your body and an Olive sized hole fills the space. When your heart is choked and screaming. When your heart can’t pick itself up off the ground, the mind will step in. At least in this case. Sort of like me (representing the heart), and Deanna-the-Angel (representing the mind). She knew what to do. I didn’t. I gave up and gave in. She did it for me. It is the same. My mind did the spiritual understanding and healing for me at first. It gave me heart space.
Here’s what my intellect did. The same tool I used in business and in figuring plans and in analyzing my budget. It reminded me of what I knew to be true about death.
I have always felt like when someone dies, they are free from the confines of their physical body. Everyone has energy, that’s that thing you feel when you’re around certain people. It’s more complex than that, but to put it simply, I know that when you’re alive you’ve got to be in my space for me to feel you there and when you’re not in my space, and we’re not thinking about each other at the same time, then I might begin missing you. Because I can’t feel you. You are off living your life somewhere away from me, in your skin, inside your body, using your energy. I’m not with your energy. So I’m alone in that moment. At least I am isolated from you. But, when you die, your energy is no longer confined to your body. It’s everywhere. Like a supernova, you die and you expand forever. Whatever that other stuff is that makes you up, that isn’t blood and bones, it goes out into forever. Back to where it came from. It’s everywhere, all at once. This is just what I know. I’ve always known it, It’s true for me. But I hadn’t felt it. It was something that I think came from my intuition and that my mind and intellect thought made perfect sense. We all come from stardust, we are made of matter from the space we are in and that we share with Earth and Cosmos, and so we die and our biology decomposes and our energy expands forever. I dunno, it just makes sense to me. I don’t yet have a deeply known truth about the soul or the spirit, although I can tell you I believe it exists. I err on the side of reincarnation, but I don’t know that to be true. Not like I know this whole energy expansion, all pervasive thing to be true. It doesn’t have to be true for you. It’s true for me.
So anyway, without a physical body anymore, your energy is accessible to me. All the time. Isn’t that awesome?! But how the hell do I access it? How do I let it in? How do I feel it? In the ER, and in the next couple days, I had no idea. My body didn’t know how to do it. But my mind, my intellect, knew it was true. So my intellect stepped in. It held it’s own. It was stubborn when other parts of my mind would shift out of the present moment, whirring about the details of the wreck, the sound of our screams, the thoughts of all the firsts I had in front of me without Olive by my side: First time being home alone without Olive. First time practicing yoga and meditating without Olive. First night of sleep without Kelly and Olive. First nap without Olive. When my mind would shift away from the Here and Now, I would breathe deeply into my body, and then some other, deeper part of my mind would remember what I knew. That she wasn’t gone. That none of these things were without her, they were just with her in a different way. So, I set my intention to open up to it, every pore of my body, and feel the sensation. Feel the sensation I knew was available to me, but I didn’t know how to feel.
I’ve practiced this process a lot in yoga, specifically with the heart. The process of trying to feel something I couldn’t actually feel, until Eureka! I could feel it. I had no idea what the language of the heart was, what feeling the heart and making decisions from the heart felt like, this time last year. I knew I’d been in love and made stupid decisions because of the heart, so I knew it was a thing, but hearing it and using it wisely, maturely…didn’t know how. So I laid around in heart openers, such as a small backbend, with my heart and chest up in the air, exposed. I did that for a long, long time, until I knew. Until I heard it, heard my heart. And words cannot describe what that experience is. Words are the language of the mind, of the intellect, of ajna. The heart loves. And I now know how to hear it and how to use it. Except of course, when it’s broken. Because then it just can’t. Not until it mends a little.
So anyway, my intellect reminded my body that things were different and that it’s there and that you’ve figured it out before so you’ll figure it out again and you just have to open up and be patient and give yourself time and space and try. Set the intention. And stay in the present moment. Doubting my past decisions during the trauma, questioning the future pain…not useful. Not helpful. Definitely not necessary to facing my new reality, and in fact, detrimental to my reality. Just feel. Feel for it and know you’ll eventually feel it fully.
And it worked.
I was most afraid of practicing without Olive, since she would always practice with me. Standing over me or finding little nooks to lay down in within the shapes I made with my body. She often sat in my lap like a little bean (Olive Bean) when I did seated meditation. She almost always laid in the crevice between my legs when I was on my belly in a pose or on my back in savasana. She sometimes crawled right up on my heart and fit herself into my chest. I was so, so, so scared to be alone without her and to practice without her. I was afraid of missing her. But remember, I knew it, just knew it, that she was there in a different way.
My first practice I really laid it on thick. I don’t normally set up an altar, like many practitioners do. I have never been taught this, I don’t have a guru or just one teacher to dedicate things to, I don’t really have a God practice, like calling upon Him or Them or the Universe or Whatever when I start practicing. It just hadn’t resonated with me. I did sometimes light one of those catholic pope candles with Pope Francis on it, because Kelly bought it from a tienda and I had it around and I like what I know about Pope Francis and it was a nice touch before meditation. But the first time without Olive, five days after her death, I set up an altar, dedicating my practice to my connection with her. Setting my intention to feel her, my little soulmate, in whatever ways I could now. Dove Lewis sent me her paw prints and a lock of her fur. I had her photo and lots of flowers that friends and family had given me. I looped her collar around the pope candle. I lit sandalwood incense I had sitting around. And I got into child’s pose like normal and began to find my breath. I moved intuitively through the next hour, just trying to be open. Trying to relax. To soothe my body. To calm my mind. To respect and love my practice. To find the present moment, which is the answer to all my problems, which I know through my practice. To meet my grieving, broken, very, very sad self right where I was at, with the love and compassion and attention I always got from my puppy.
After I finished practicing, I kissed Olive’s collar, smelling her just a little bit. I blew out the candle. I put my hands on her paw prints. And I picked things up. Just like normal. There isn’t ever any sort of fireworks after a particularly potent practice. I open my eyes, get up. Pick up my things. Maybe eat, check my phone, get online. Read a book. Just normal things I always do. But always I feel clear. And I felt clear this time, too. Clear, and calm. And not crying. I was in such a slow-motion fog for the prior five days. Hazy, moving thick like molasses. The fog was lifting. Not completely gone, but I had energy. Not that much. But it was better. I repeated the same practice the next day, yesterday. I taught all day, two clients and a mid-size class. I practiced in between. And my roommate, who loved Olive and gave me so much love in the days following her death, commented as soon as I walked in the door last night that I look light. I used to look like I was carrying the weight of a ton of bricks, of the whole world, but I looked light, like I was closer to floating. I looked happy. And I told him thank you. Thank you for saying that, because I am. I felt good. I felt Olive. I felt like myself. I felt whole. Six days later, I felt whole.
I’m still healing, I still burst into tears. I had a good cry after a beautiful vinyasa practice this morning. I hugged friends and teachers. I was given even more love and I let myself feel sad. I’ve had tears in my eyes during the first part of this story, the part describing her death. But I feel okay. I even feel good. And I don’t feel guilty for that, like I should be mourning or more sad or that I’m heartless because I have found happy again after a week. Don’t get me wrong, I am not happy all the time, but I do feel happy. Sad and happy at the same time. One of those future-focused, depressed thoughts I sucked myself back into the present from was “I’ll never feel joy again.” It’s just not true. Intellect got me to this point, and the rest of my body, my heart especially, is catching up. I can love. And I am very loved. I can feel that.
And I don’t have fear in the same way anymore. I just don’t. I did a headstand in my practice yesterday and fell over backwards. Something I was acutely afraid of before Olive’s death and something that didn’t phase me yesterday. I took risks in my teaching, letting my insides show. Speaking my truth. Hell, I played Peter and the Wolf in class last night, not knowing if that would be the weirdest, most disruptive, and not soothing thing for my students. It came to me before my second Olive practice, I practiced with it, and I thought it was an experience. It was my experience at least, and that’s what I know how to share in my teachings. I guided a stranger in meditation for free. No doubt. No fear.
I always felt like Olive was a little piece of my soul that they forgot to put in. When they (whoever they are) figured it out, they were like “Oh shit, give her the puppy of her dreams, hurry!” And there she was, one random day, in my arms at a motor cycle rally in San Marcos, Texas while I was on shift with Red Bull. When she died, she truly could come inside me. And now I am whole. My last great attachment, the one thing I was most afraid of, of losing my love, my puppy, my best friend, my heart-healer, my little soul-piece. It happened. I lost her. And I’m okay. I’m more than okay, I’m good. I feel her inside my heart. And my words and the space I hold embody what it is she represented to me. Gentleness. Compassion. Joy. Excitement. Cuddly cuteness. Intensity. Pure and unadulterated Love.
So if you know me, if you see me in person, know that little Olive is living through me now. That what you get is what I was born to be, and that that little child of mine and her presence in my life was instrumental to bringing me to the world so that I can help create the space I want to live in. One where people see themselves, love themselves. Relax and not resist. See others, love others. Share. Live their truth, courageously and fully and with abundance.
Olive, my Love. All of my Love.