Death has a way of teaching us how to live. It teaches us to lean in to love.
Yesterday, we said, “goodbye” to our beloved dog of 14 years, Leroy. For those of you who knew Leroy, you know what I mean when I say he was dear, and he was crazy. On a sunny spring day in Huntington Beach, Caleb went to the animal shelter and picked-up a very handsome, and very rambunctious pup about 14 years ago. He felt like he had won a prize that day. And in a way he did. There was a waitlist for Leroy and Caleb was the lucky one to get the call. What Caleb didn’t know was that he was in for years of schooling. Lessons that only life can teach, such as how to not lose your shit when someone you love is losing theirs.
Caleb swears that having Leroy made him a better dad. When we buried him yesterday, Caleb thanked Leroy for being his “teacher of patience.” Luca looked up at Caleb and said softly, “Don’t worry Dad, I’ll be your new patience teacher now.” We both laughed and, of course, agreed.
For me, Leroy taught me also how to “hold on to myself,” a concept in psychology that
refers to the ability to stay grounded and stay true to yourself while in relationship with another. It’s incredibly difficult to do this and I’m still learning. But who would have thought that a dog could teach so much? Who would have thought that a dog who actually bit the ankle of our UPS man, snapped at anyone who seemed threatening on walks, and wailed like a walrus when a skateboarder rolled by- could teach us to love the parts of ourselves that seem unlovable.
And that was his greatest gift. Leroy taught us unconditional love. We worked hard to train him, to help him feel secure in his “place in the pack” (ode to Cesar Milan), and fought to give him grace when we were tempted to throw in the towel. We saw good in Leroy. And there really was a lot of good. We also knew that his less-than-desirable qualities were almost certainly remnants of trauma from his pre-Caleb life. He helped us to be better because he helped us remember that all of us have wounds and when we act in our own undesirable ways, we are acting from those wounded places. In this way Leroy taught us to love our family, our friends, our clients, our kids, and ultimately, ourselves on a deeper level than any philosopher or Bible scripture could conjure.
Thank you God, for giving us time with Leroy. He was a beautiful soul and we are honored to have called him ours. Now he is yours and he is free.