I used to think about the day. How would it be? Would she die suddenly? Would I have to put her to sleep? I read stories about the final moments, saw pictures of those last walks together, a final meal, or the last car ride to the vet. I could never finish reading, since tears would overwhelm me. Even just imaging the day sent me into a place of fear and sadness.
The day arrived. August 13, 2017. Anyone who has a pet will not be excluded from this day. It will happen to all of us. The question becomes, how will you handle it? Will you fight it or will you lovingly accept it?
This is a story about the days leading to Ingrid’s departure from this world. A story about how I moved from control to surrender to acceptance of the inevitable. Only through acceptance could I fully experience Ingrid’s final days and minutes – an experience that taught me all I need to know about life.
Part One- Six Days that Seemed to Last Forever
Day 1: Tuesday, August 8
Something is wrong. Ingrid did not get up to greet me when I came home from work. Chris said she’s been lethargic all day and he blamed it on our long walk the day before. I felt something was different. I tried to get her to stand up and excitedly said, “Show me. Come on. Let’s go in the yard.”
Normally when I got home from work, her tail would wag, I’d take off my shoes, and she would run through the yard to show me yet again her favorite tree and my favorite bench – sunset bench – the area in the yard that sees the last rays of the setting sun. Today, I walked alone. It was cloudy anyways.
Day 2: Wednesday, August 9
She had more energy when I got home from work today. I felt my mood shift. Funny how we label a situation as good or bad and how we let these labels determine our level of joy or sadness.
My deep attachment to Ingrid and her wellbeing is apparent. I never had children. I got a dog instead. I wish I could stay with the flow regardless of how she feels. I cannot.
I begged her, “Show me. Let’s Go.” She got up and led me to the backyard.
I felt relief and happiness. In my mind, she was healthy again. A few minutes later, that all changed when I noticed black tar coming out of her as she squatted. It was blood. At that moment, I knew something was terribly wrong.
After making a vet appointment for 8 a.m. the next day, I ran upstairs to my safe place, my yoga room. I wanted to be away from everyone, including Ingrid. I screamed, cried, and pleaded, “Dear God, if this is the end, please take her. I cannot put her down. Please, I cannot make that decision. I am not that strong.” I remain locked in my room until I could pull myself together.
Day 3: Thursday, August 10
The vet was worried. So were we. Ingrid’s blood counts have dropped by 20% since June. She’s losing blood and fast. I am not ready for this. I keep crying. Chris was silent and strong. We just had a great long walk on Monday in her favorite park.
This cannot be happening. I am not practicing yoga. Instead, I am resisting what is. I should be more prepared. I give up and cry. After hours at the vet, we came home and went in the backyard. She lied down and I sat next to her. The sun hit our faces, we felt peaceful.
I find myself wanting to control the outcome. I want her stool to be normal so I can be reassured that she will be ok. I created a list of all the medications and many questions for the vet; just to be sure I covered it all. What a trick of the ego, the mind.
The reality is I cannot control anything. This is about her journey and between Ingrid and her creator. I know the soul is eternal, I know these things logically, but it still hurts.
Day 4: Friday, August 11
Another vet visit with blood tests and medications to stop the bleeding. Good news was that she’s improving with her counts. I came home from work and she wagged her tail, begged for more treats. She guided me to come outside. She walked a bit faster to the backyard, but she only went half way and watched me. I was happy to be with her. Gracious for this small gesture and our walk to sunset bench.
I waited for her to squat, with the hope that her stool would be normal again. It was not. I continue to chant, play mantras, light oil lamps and candles, whatever I can do to create a peaceful environment for her. Chris remained positive and laughs with her even though he was hurting. He cheered her up. I went upstairs and cried.
There is a song by Snatam Kaur that I used to play and sing to her when she was a puppy. I would hug and squeeze her and she would do whatever she could to escape my smothering. It goes like this – May the long time sun, shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on.
I played it to her tonight. I hugged her and when I said the words, “May the pure light within you guide your way on.” My heart stopped, my breath stopped and I could feel myself screaming inside. The pain was so great that my heart broke into small pieces, scattered about the floor, not to be found again.
I never felt this before – my heart opening, not out of joy, but out of deep sadness. Is it not the same thing with just a different label? The energy of love has many different faces. Sometimes a breaking heart can be a way to open the heart to feel a deeper love. Whatever the energy was, she felt it and immediately stood up and took me outside as a way to make me happy again. She squatted and it was the same color. My happiness lasted a few minutes.
A Message from Beyond An hour later I got a Facebook message from someone I met three years ago at a workshop. We only spoke a few times since that day. For some reason, he felt compelled to message me. He said, “I just thought about you because I thought about fear. First time we spoke you told me that you do not fear anything.”
I replied, “Interesting you remember that. It’s somewhat true. Fear is only imagination. It is deep memory, subconscious programming. My faith in spirit, in the universe, in God allows me to know I’m taken care of, but quite an interesting time for you reach out. I do fear something and it is in front of me right now- the one thing in my life that has had a big grasp on me is the fear that my dog will age and leave me. She is very sick.”
After a few more messages, he asked me, “What does your dog love about you?” I wrote, “The attention I give to her and how she’s seen me transform from a frantic, high stress, too much alcohol, party NYC life to a more peaceful and stable life. She also loves that we left crazy NYC to come back to Ohio to be by family.
She loves it here. I only came back to Ohio because of her. Her purpose was to help me get back on the path and now my purpose is to remain calm and help her to know that she is free to go.”
He then told me, “Recognize that your evolution together is complete.” I asked one more question, “What can I do to help her complete her purpose?” A simple reply, “She already completed her purpose. Let these final moments bring you even closer.”
The fact that this person reached out to me and we exchanged these honest messages did not scare me. I started to accept the reality of the situation. It still hurt like hell. She really was getting ready to leave. Her reason for being in my life was coming to an end.
Day 5: Saturday, August 12
Early Morning We woke up early after another night of sleeping on the floor. Her restlessness at night seemed to be getting worse. As I opened my eyes, she was staring at me. We locked eyes. The same golden eyes that looked at me when I saw her in the dog shelter 14 years ago. Now these eyes told me a story.
At that instant, I realized that she came into my life to help me evolve. After my parents, she is my first guru, my guide. The only reason I left NYC, moved back to be with family in Ohio and the reason my whole life changed. As I blessed her and put sacred ash from India on her, I saw she was already enlightened. Whatever happens, Ingrid will be ok. I will be OK.
By 7 a.m. we were on the road for the early Saturday morning vet visit to test her blood counts. We waited for the results and Ingrid was at my feet. The vet walked in and she did not have to say a word. Her face said it all. The end was near.
The vet talked about options, blood transfusions, more tests, and one more medication. I sat and stared at the wall. Numb. Not processing any words. Then I forcefully said, “For what? Nothing is working.” I was angry. I looked at Ingrid and she looked at me as if to say, “Let’s go home.”
We opted for one more medication. I felt so sad leaving her at the vet, since we had to go pick it up at the pharmacy. In hindsight, I should have just taken her home. But, there was that part of me who still wanted to control and do whatever I could to stop her from dying.
Surrounded by Grace On the way to the pharmacy, as I cried and looked up to the sky, I noticed the name of the street sign – St. Francis Way. I felt a sense of peace. It is his way – St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, who Ingrid and I honored each St. Francis Day by attending the blessing of the animals.
Despite the intense pain in my heart, I felt surrounded by an infinite grace, which helped to take away my worries and fears and made me feel more accepting of what was about to happen.
With the medication, we went back to vet and picked up Ingrid. She was so happy to see us. I just wanted to leave and be with her. On the way home, I sat with her in the backseat and stared out the window. A black car passed us on the highway and the license plate said – ‘I am That’.
I started to think about these three words. What is THAT? It was not the first time I saw these words. ‘I am That’ in Sanskrit is So Hum and refers to all of creation and how we are all connected to the one universal energy of That. We are part and parcel of all that exists. We are one with God. These words reminded me we are more than the body and the mind. Ingrid is more than her body and when she leaves it, THAT never dies. Tears of gratitude ran down face. I knew that God was close by.
After coming home, she wanted to be in the yard. A somewhat cool, but sunny August day, we set up a tent to shield her from the sun. We brought out her favorite pillow, water, her favorite toy and she rested. Family was there and we stayed with her all day in her favorite spot in the yard. She was hungry and Stacy fed her some steak. Grandma gave her a puppy pop.
I tried to talk to her, to let her know that she was free to go. But, the words were hard to say. Instead, I told her, “No more treatments, no more vet visits. We will just be here with you. We are ok if you are ok.” She wagged her tail.
My dear Ingrid was dying. I can’t control it and I can’t throw more money at it. All I could do was accept it and shift my need to her need to help her peacefully transition. Now was the time to practice everything I knew about yoga.
Yoga is willingness to be involved – no matter what you do, do it willingly. This now meant helping my dog die. After two days at the vet, by Saturday morning it was apparent. I didn’t yet fully accept it. As she lay peacefully in the yard, she accepted it.
Evening soon approached and Chris carried her in the house. A very special mantra, Brahmananda Swaroopa, played in the house all day. Shortly after midnight, I shut the lights off, blew out the candles, and we rested on the floor close to each other; absorbed in her and in the mantra. Suddenly, the most beautiful feeling overcame me.
I felt a presence in the room and Ingrid felt it too. As if God was there. I was overcome with joy and peace and a huge smile came to my face. Ingrid became alert, lifted her head as her eyes followed something that she could see. I could not see anything, but felt unconditional love.
All of my fears dissolved in the presence of whatever was surrounding us. Even though I knew deep down her death was near. In this unbearable pain there was so much love. It was God’s love and this love is what would carry me through our last day together.
Day 6: Sunday, August 13
The sun came up, another day with perfect weather. Grandma came over. Sadness. Ingrid was in the backyard, under an umbrella. Yellow wrapped around her, helping her to become clear.
Right before my eyes the love of my life was being taken away from me. I cannot stop it. The morning was brutal. She was next door and could not hear me. I went to my yoga room.
For a few minutes, I prayed desperately that she would be better. “Make her live”, I pleaded. Deep down I knew this was all about me, about me wanting to have her healthy and with me for just a few more years.
I cried so hard that I was on the ground in pain. At that instant, all my tears stopped, crying was no more, and I realized that this was not about me, but about my dog, who was dying. I asked for courage and strength to do the right thing, stood up, went in the yard and sat next to Ingrid. It was time for the conversation.
I talked to her again. This time, I was more together. “Ingrid, I love you so much, but I want you to know that you are free to go. You can do whatever it is you need to do. Know that I am ok and I am around family and people who will take care of me. You don’t have to feel you need to stay in this body that is breaking down. Thank you Ingrid for finding me and for all you taught me. I will always love you.” She looked at me with her deep brown eyes as if to say, “My job is complete. I’ve done all that I came here to do.”
She stood up and walked under her favorite tree and tried to dig. I thought she would stay there to die, but she came back to be with me. Once I accepted that it was a matter of time, whatever she did was ok. I told her that she could do what she needs to do and if you are ready you can go.
My father arrived. She had been waiting for him. The only person she did not yet say goodbye to. She sensed he was there, woke up, and wagged her tail. All of us spent a few more hours in the yard. When no one was looking, Ingrid got up and walked across the soft, green grass to take one last walk down Ingrid’s Path – a path worn over the years by running back and forth between the yards and houses. A proud dog, she did not want anyone to carry her this time.
The Final Moments The last walk home used every ounce of life she had left. She started to breathe faster and faster as the levels of oxygen dropped. By 9 p.m., she was uncomfortable. I remained present, intuitively attending to her, spraying holy water and water from Mt. Kailash, releasing her chakras with sacred ash from India. The minutes got harder so we did the best we could and carried her into the car to take her to emergency care to end the misery.
Ingrid and I were very close to each other, lying on the floor of my brother’s van, with our heads on a purple pillow. I wanted it this way, since our vet talked about surrounding her with purple when the time was near.
She inhaled and exhaled quickly, gasping for air as the oxygen left her body. This went on for less than a minute. All of a sudden, there was a forceful exhale, so strong that I felt her breath on my face. She whimpered a little bit as her lungs shut off. There was no more inhale. There was something else.
There was a presence of immense love, perfect peace, and absolute stillness. God did not give her another inhale, God did not give her another breath, but God granted her the most compassionate gift one can receive. An insane freedom so big that it permeated my being and all I could feel was an extreme happiness for her.
Ingrid was now free from the body that ailed her. Then, at an instant, she opened her eyes very wide. We looked at each other one last time. It was as if she wanted to tell me, “Wow, Mom, this is amazing. Now you are experiencing the reason I came into your life.”
We locked eyes, inches apart from each other, our hearts forever imprinted with this moment. For a second, I was confused and thought she was still alive, but then her eyes closed again and this time forever. As her head fell to the purple pillow, there was an electric jolt, an energy moved through her body and went out of her head. I could feel her soul leave, it was an essence, a huge force of energy and then there was nothing. Emptiness. She was gone.
At that second when there was no more inhale what was once inside of her was now outside of her. It was merging with me, it was merging with all of existence and it was one with everything. It was the THAT which I saw on the license plate. The life force, the prana left her body and I was so blessed to feel this, to be close to her and to hold her while she journeyed back to her creator.
My brother continued to drive. I held Ingrid so tight and did not cry. All of my years of worry and fear on what the day would be like were for no reason. The moment was absolutely beautiful and I did not want it to end. As I held her, I fully closed her eyelids, gently moved her tongue into her mouth and closed her jaw to now put her to rest.
I looked into the night sky and could see the stars. A strong feeling came over me to pray for all beings who are suffering at this very second, for them to be free, just as Ingrid now was. I chanted over and over, Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu- “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
At some point, I told my brother to turn around and go home. I wanted Ingrid with me and did not want to leave her body with some stranger at the ER vet. We brought her home; she rested on her favorite pillow in the back room near the door that she scratched on hundreds of times to go in and out.
I tried to sleep in the next room on the floor where we spent the past nights together. All of a sudden it hit me. I was in shock from what just happened. I was alone and numb. My best friend, my fur child, the only one with me every day over the past years, the one who helped me through my lowest times, the greatest love of my life was gone.
Part Two- A Broken and Empty Heart Can Only be Filled with Love
The Morning After When I opened my eyes after a few hours of sleep, I hoped it was a dream. Slowly I went to the back room. Ingrid was on her pillow and it looked like she was sleeping. But this time, she did not get up.
I inched closer, fell to my knees to be in front of her and cried so hard. I knew that her death was real. In front of me was truly an empty shell. The energy in the house already felt different and knew that Ingrid was gone.
I walked in the backyard where just 24 hours ago she rested so peacefully. Ingrid wasn’t there anymore, but there was a bright red cardinal feather. Now it made sense. A few months ago while on a walk in the forest, Ingrid pulled me down a trail. We were already near the car, but she insisted we turn around. At the end of the trail was a bright red cardinal feather. I picked it up. She knew back then that this would be her way to let me know that she was ok.
It was time to forever say goodbye. We had a small send off with prayers and mantras and I knew I needed to let go of her body. I kissed her head one last time as they wheeled the cart away. A brown, furry body that was no more. A brown, furry body that brought so much joy that I must have kissed thousands of times over the 14 years we were together. The body was gone, but the immense love was not.
There was a greater love that was, is and always will be. The connection and love we had was alive until the last seconds. Now it was even stronger. There was no fear at the moment of her death. Only love. I feel that my purpose in her life was to be able to help her when she died and her purpose was to prepare me for that moment so I could experience our love, God’s love, instead of the fear that I worried about for years. Love always wins in the end.
The ultimate sacrifice she made was for me to experience her death. She could have stayed under the tree on Saturday and peacefully left her body there. But no, there was one more lesson she needed to teach me, the lesson that changed my life forever. There is such a fine line between our inhale and exhale. What gives us the power to inhale? What is the source of our next inhalation? This became my question and my desire to get an answer burned intensely within.
The Next Days and Years The days and weeks following her death were unbearable. Part of me was relieved that she was not in pain, but another part of me wondered if there was anything else I could have done to save her. This was the controlling side of me, the ego, which I needed to release.
Her death was the most traumatic thing I ever experienced, but at the same time the most loving. Even at the moment of death, she still gave to me. A great gift to be able to experience THAT, So Hum, I am That. That which never dies and that which was not her body. This was her purpose. To force a change in my lifestyle that brought me to a more intense spiritual path, to help me understand the inevitability of each moment and to then let me feel a glimpse of what THAT really means.
After her death, my only saving grace was I could still feel her around me. Her presence was and is quite large. She came to work with me, we went for walks and I acted as if she was still around. I even left her water and food bowl, as it was, for 40 days. Helping her journey as she crossed over. They say that animals are more attached to the body and this is why they hang around after death and why you can even hear them walking through the house. I could hear her panting at night, I saw glimpses of her, and could hear her barking.
I acted as if she was still a part of my life. Shiny pennies, grasshoppers, butterflies, and feathers were everywhere and always a reminder that she was close by. Eight days after her death, on my Mom’s birthday and the solar eclipse, I came downstairs and for some reason sat on the kitchen floor.
Given the angle where I sat, I could see that a beautiful image appeared under her water bowl, a face of a dog. I cried with joy saying, “She’s here, she’s here.” Then I asked her, “Where are you.” A voice came back and said, “Wherever you are.”
Just last week as I watched the sunset at the Abbey of Gethsemani, all of a sudden, I could feel her sitting next to my feet. She pops in every now and then to remind me about big love, the space between the breath and how discovering and feeling the presence of the source of that space is what this life is about. When we are connected to the source, we are in the presence of the divine and in this space there is only love.
Through her death I realize what it means to be alive. Our breath, our life, is a gift. As I walk on my path, I often think about Ingrid’s path that she trampled down going back and forth between the houses. Surely she had a mission with each step she took on that path.
Extremely devoted and focused to get what she wanted; either more treats, a second meal or just a comfortable place to nap. I want to walk through the world like she did, like most dogs walk, full of love and devotion. As long as I walk this path, I will always be walking with her. If we could only give to all those around us just as our dogs give to us, then surely hearts would open and the world in which we live would be a more peaceful place.
The Burning Question I did not let my search for an answer stop as the question was still alive – What is the source of our next inhale? About a year and a half after Ingrid left her body, I was blessed to participate in Sadhguru’s advanced 8-day meditation program, Samyama. I got an initial answer. As I watched my breath for days and days and with Sadhguru’s grace, I experienced something beautiful at the source of my inhale.
Samyama was about going to a place within myself, a place where God exists. It was in the space between the breath, the space before the inhale. In that space I went deep within, in my belly a bright light with an entry point to someplace else. While I was there, I could see my thoughts, the same ones that caused the same story/pain to be played over and over. There were 7 of them with large labels and one by one they came to the surface. This time, they became insignificant and faded away.
Then there was an opening. I went to a place, deep, deep within. I experienced a very beautiful, blissful feeling in this blue, fluffy, cloudy, white and liquid place. It was in this place where I stopped breathing and my breath seemed to be carried by someone else. Something/someone was breathing for me. Was it God, Shiva, THAT? I felt as if I merged with the source of creation. I was in the place of the breath beyond the breath. My life will never be the same.
Wherever I went in the meditation, I could feel the same freedom when Ingrid’s soul left her body. Looking back, I see how blessed I was to be so close to a being that I loved, inches apart, during the moment of death.
Samyama was a big turning point in my life. As if the material world and all its surroundings, games and illusions became completely insignificant. I was still part of the world and played the game, but from a distance. As if I had new eyes to view everything around me. Participating, but yet removed and aware of the illusion.
A Changed Life
It is this quest in my life to go to the source, the source of the inhale, the blue magic. There is a world within myself, a portal to so much more of life that I don’t know anything about. What lies within is where lasting and true happiness exists. I want to spend the rest of my life exploring inside, to this place of the breath beyond the breath.
I close this story with an intention. Whatever I do in my life, may it bring me closer to the source of the inhale, that I may have courage and strength to leave behind parts of myself, the ego, fear, anything that stops me from connecting to this source.
For in this place is where the love of a dog lives. It is a place of pure, honest and authentic love. A love so big that it gives and gives without wanting anything in return. This love carries us through all of life’s ups and downs and we can feel it each time we connect to our breath.
Since we become what we behold, the love within will be passed on to others. May my interactions with all beings and what I bring to the world be authentic and pure. Never doubt the love of a dog. Always look for the lessons that our four-legged friends want to teach us. After all, they are placed in our lives for a reason.
Listen to the “Long Time Sun” by Snatam Kaur
“On Death” by Kahlil Gibran
Then Almitra spoke, saying, “We would ask now of Death.” And he said: You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honor.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.