family Posts

Pets that Add Meaning to Our Couple and Family Bonding

It is fall and I am missing the family dog Kirby. It has been awhile since she has been gone, dying of old age. Kirby was a lovely chocolate brown lab that belonged to my son and his family. I was privileged to be the sitter when the family was away and the sanctuary cabin when Kirby got older and the company and their lively puppies became too much for her. We were all, including lots of friends and other family – very attached to her – she had that way about her. We have all been grieving some time over the loss of her. I have many clients who are struggling with the grief of their pet and they can be quite surprised by the depth of emotion evoked by the loss of their pet. It is a shared experience and very real for many of us.

You have probably read pieces titled, “10 things my cat or my dog or my rabbit or whomever taught me”. I was thinking about my relationship with Kirby and all of her characteristics that enriched me. I think that these memories and characteristics do have meaning for our lives and relationships. As with all labs, water was very attractive to Kirby. One of her favourite places was the cabin right on the ocean. She had the idea that when I drove up to her house for any reason, that there could be a chance that she would be hitching a ride to the cabin. She quickly made her desires known that she would be more then glad to join me by jumping into the car and settling where she could, between the packing. On hot days, I would open the window for her and she loved the smells of the journey and the wind on her face. As soon as we arrived at the marina, her tail would be wagging like crazy and she would reacquaint herself with the scents of the paths that other animals had taken, while I unpacked to go to the boat. Kirby was not so fond of the boat ride over to the island as she had some motion sickness. However, she was not going to let a little thing like that stop her and she quickly made her way on to the boat. She often jumped off the boat before it had been securely tied and was looking in the water for any sticks that she might dive into the water for. Fun was her priority. When we arrived at the cabin, and after she had made sure we were staying, she sniffed out all her favourite haunts and then she found a warm place to stretch out and have a little nap.

One of Kirby’s greatest joys and appreciation was food. She knew how to celebrate feasting. I had such fun planning for, purchasing and cooking for Kirby. She loved the giant Christmas bone waiting for her each Christmas. She was very adept at unwrapping the Christmas treats awaiting her. She loved the steak I packed for her for the cabin and the treats in between. When her food ran out next door, she was very happy to have people food cooked for her. Apparently even after I left and went home, Kirby would bark at my cabin door, hoping she would find some gourmet food instead of boring old kibble she had at her cabin.

I remember when the kids were little, how much patience Kirby had with them. One of my favourite memories is of my granddaughter Clara sitting on the floor with her legs apart(she was not of walking age). Kirby would get a ball and pass it back and forth just the few inches that Clara would roll the ball to her. Kirby was happy to do this forever, way past when Clara was done! I remember Kirby’s patience as both my next grandsons would lay all over her and love her and she took it all in. She was very very responsive to compliments and patting and rubs on her back. She would have conversations with you where you would talk and she would answer. You would be sure that she knew what you were talking about together. She was very attached to my son and his family. Her security rested in their presence and relationship. Even though she was happy to be with me she was really connected to my son’s family, her owners. When they left her with me she was very diligent in her watching for the vision and sound of their boat. She did not leave her spot under the trees where she would watch and wait for hours. She knew how to be loyal and loving.

As mentioned, Kirby loved any kind of water play. Even at a very advanced age where she had difficulty walking, she did not let that stop her enjoyment of water. She would still swim for balls and sticks and would follow behind the rowboat as the kids went out for the crab trap and to visit other islands. She knew how to take the time for fun and to engage anyone else she could to join her. I think we all engaged at some point or another, in Kirby’s obsession with flying sticks. I remember when she was a pup that she was fearless in her cliff jumping in the water and would end the day with red rimmed eyes and a wildly wagging tail.

Like the rest of us, she did have some fears. She was very afraid of thunder and lightening and would be very restless and try to find a spot that would enclose her and be close to me when she was visiting me. During the actual storm (which I loved) she would wake me up and dive under my legs between the bed and me, making a cozy nest while she rode out the storm comforted by another. She knew where to find comfort and safety in the presence of those who cared for her.

It was so good to have Kirby as part of my life and I feel blessed by what she added to me by being a part of my life journey. I loved who she was to me and to her family and I miss her today. I know there are others who are also grieving their pets as I speak with you often. I hope this sparks your memories and that you will celebrate the memories as I do of Kirby.

Posted by Lynda in Healthier Marriages, How to Love Well and tagged with , ,

Creating Roots to Keep Your Commitment Strong

Our families today are often scattered around the country and are not easily accessed. Our friends from childhood and the memories of our childhood are often distant too. It is important to our health as a couple that we find a way to touch our roots and to make new roots when we need to. When we are not connected and try to be everything to each other, it does not work well. Marriages need a social circle with rituals that we can count on. We need to keep in touch with our families by phone or skype. Make trips both ways to connect with each other. Taking this seriously affects our mental health in every way. It affects our chemistry. Research shows that touching someone you love reduces pain. With married couples, the stronger the marriage, the more powerful the positive effects on all variables. Five hugs a day for four weeks increases our happiness – do you remember that old song about 4 hugs a day? – turns out it was right. Give this a try in your relationship – be sure you are present when you are hugging. Research shows that when you put people in a stressful situation and then let them visit loved ones or talk to them on the phone or in person, they felt supported and their bodies respond at a cellular level as they reported that they felt better. And if you think that texting works, apparently not. In this research, they also had people texting their loved ones. If they texted, their bodies responded biologically as if they had no support at all. As I have blogged about before, emotionally connecting has huge health benefits all around.

Now remember that I am talking about the best case scenario. What if you come from a very dysfunctional background and after much trying you are mostly disconnected from your family? In that case, you must make as many connections with others as is possible. According to research, it seems as if you need to each have a least four good friends to have the kind of health benefits that are important. It probably holds true for the health of your marital connection as well. Having good friends that you are not biologically connected to takes time. Building the kind of memories and trust where you have a certainty that the other will be there for you – takes time. Put it in your calendar. You need to see it there and bring it about. Continue to have balance, however. Your time with your partner needs to be on the calendar as a number one priority too. Make this positive change. Go forth and be wonderful!