I got stuck in shavasna pose this week. It’s ridiculous to even write on paper, much less say out loud. If you aren’t familiar with yoga, shavasna is the ‘corpse’ pose wherein you lay on the floor on your back, completely relaxed. After 35 minutes on the elliptical, I transitioned to yoga poses and stretching to complete my exercise. Taking seriously the modifications my pregnancy-yoga video suggested, I placed a blanket under my hips and started to lie down. Quickly, it became apparent that I would not be able to lay my legs down to complete the pose. With knees bent, I became stuck attempting shavasna. Thankfully, Nick had made it home already. Calling him over and laughing as I explained, he picked up my legs and pulled the blanket out from under my hips. Isolation work with the body is not uncommon for me as I stretch and move with yoga and old ballet habits coming into memory. Isolation work with extreme pain and an inability to move; well, that’s new. Chalk it up to pregnancy. My chiropractor has been working diligently on my hips that are giving me fits.
It was a hilarious scenario, something that felt straight out of a sitcom. Even after I had been rescued, I was rolling from back to stomach to push my aching body upright. I couldn’t see Nick at the time, but I could feel the look of confusion on his face as he asked me, “what are you doing?” Making it up, I went about my business making dinner and talking to the dogs. As I shared this with my chiropractor, his response was “that makes quite a sermon illustration.” Yes, yes it does, Dr Lau. When life changes, can we really continue to do things the same way, even modified? Can we listen to the innate wisdom in our hearts, minds and bodies in a way that creates new methods of living? Then the last couple days happened and I discovered a new connection, the way in which I am beginning and ending this week.
Nick and I have been trying to take a break from fostering German Shorthair pointers. Our last foster was with us for nearly a year. Given that and being pregnant, we thought it was time for a break. That worked for all of 5 minutes. I keep seeing the posts of dogs who need a caretaker. The leader who recruits fosters reminded me of our desired break, in a healthy way, since she had just had her own baby. But, then this elderly male popped up in my facebook feed with the need for someone to share with him hospice care. He was pulled from a shelter that put him at 3 years old with major health issues. That, we can handle. The vet we use for the organization put him at 10-12 with major health issues. The OK GSP Rescue decided to give him some time with a foster until it was truly time to end his suffering. We thought we’d foster him for a few months, maybe less. Nick was rightly concerned about exposing our girls to anything he might have. So, we were to pick him up Monday and bring him home for love then. I couldn’t escape this deep desire to care for this dog in his last days. Perhaps it is this privilege of caring for a growing life within that pushed me to care for this dog who was at the other end of the cycle. Perhaps this strong heartbeat we heard yesterday for the first time encouraged me to pick up this drum for dignity at death. Perhaps my getting stuck in shavasna was only the first time this week I’d deal with death. You see, this sweet male won’t make it to our home on Monday. He is simply too weak. I’ll be meeting his current care taker at the vet at 5 p.m. I’ll meet him for the first time in order to be the last human he knows.
People often share with me the stories of their long-gone pets. They wonder how Nick and I can foster dogs and pass them along to their forever homes. Occasionally, I’ll go into a hidden-until-home rage when someone tells me about how they let their dog have pups “because we wanted her to do it once.” I pass over the statistics and Sarah McLachlan commercials because I don’t need to be reminded of how many pets get put down each year simply because people are too lazy to have their pets fixed or self righteous enough to think they ought to breed them for profit. All I need to do is remember Sally the beagle, our first foster, who wasn’t sure about walking on grass because she’d never really done it before. Her life before rescue was in a lifted chicken wire cage. She now lives with an awesome couple in Columbia, Missouri.
Maybe fostering brings me closer to death than I’ve ever realized. It keeps me with one leg in shavasna and one leg moving around. Being closer to death, however, brings me closer to the true meaning of life; that all life matters enough that it should have full dignity. I’m more and more convinced that ignorance surrounding death both as individuals and as a culture keeps us from truly appreciating and living lives with dignity. It certainly keeps these companion creatures called dogs from having full lives. An obsession with creating more life oddly enough brings about more death, and those deaths are not ones that end with love and human tears on shining fur.
Shavasna, catch me. I need to see death to know life.
Update: Little Buddy was a sweetheart. He could barely walk with his bowlegged front paws carrying the most of his weight. He let me carry him in and pet him softly. I told him he was a good boy as they relieved him of his suffering peacefully.