We have suffered a loss in our family. Our newest member to the family, a rescued Lhasa Apso, died last Thursday. As we explore the depth of our pain from the loss of someone we knew only a short time, we are also exploring how life has changed without him.
The two are intertwined but not the same.
In exploring how different our dynamics are without this 19 pounds of joy I have discovered what it is exactly about our Ernie that made such an impact on me.
Ernie assumed there’d be love.
He swooped into my life as if by magic. Like all great love stories begin these days, it was a chance encounter on the internet. I saw something in his eyes peeking through the cage. The next day the rescue needed transport for him from the rescue to the foster home. I wasn’t busy, so I said ‘why not’? I got to the kennel, let him out and sat in a chair nearby. Ernie leaped up into my lap with no hesitation.
The ride to his new home was filled with the same. He just needed to be in my lap. He expected to be in my lap. I dropped him off at his new home and never stopped thinking about him. I was obsessed, let me tell you.
I found my inner stalker. The foster mom was super accommodating, too, allowing me to visit every day. Every. Single. Day! When I wasn’t visiting I was texting her.
On June 23, 2018 we made it official…I was Ernie’s!
Ernie came in like a quiet storm. He was so chill. He followed me around the house and when I stopped, he stopped and flopped down. He played enthusiastically with Koda, our GSD mix. And when I say enthusiastically, I mean he was ALL IN. Ernie was short enough to walk right under Koda’s belly. He used this to his advantage to grab Koda’s back leg from the undercarriage. Then he’d let go and stand on his back two legs and use his front paws to reach for Koda’s face with mouth wide open.
He’d go full force at Koda and jump clear in the air doing it. He ran so fast through the house that you never actually saw his legs so he looked like he was just hovering. He was always into something…eating underwear, shredding tissues and napkins, eating pies off the table, cuddling up in unexpected places and jumping in laps.
Laps. He knew no strangers. There wasn’t a lap he didn’t jump in. Literally the second your ass hit the chair he was jumping in your lap. Absolutely bad manners. But Ernie was like your youngest child who gets away with murder because he’s just so darn cute. The fact that he just leaped without thinking for a second that you wouldn’t welcome it…that’s what I miss the most.
Ernie assumed there’d be love when he jumped. When he jumped into my lap that first day, then into my car. Then into our home. Then into our hearts. We don’t know the story he had before us, he was just a little street thug Lhasa Apso on the streets of Detroit. Whatever it was, he didn’t bring that with him. He just always leaped and expected to be received with love.
Even with our other dog, Bug – an old cranky Chihuahua. Ernie just didn’t listen to Mr. Crankypants. Every morning, no matter what, Ernie leaped out of his crate at 100 mph and went straight to Bug’s crate, where he waited very impatiently for me to open the door so he could barge in and antagonize Bug. Bug would bark and Ernie would bark back and then Ernie went on to find Dad in his office and jump in his lap for a second before sprinting off to meet me at the door to go outside. The thing is, for all his crankiness, Bug came out dancing and prancing after Ernie started doing this.
Ernie expected to find love wherever he went. He just believed nothing else would be waiting for him. Well, that’s not true. The only hesitation I ever saw from him, was the third time he ran out of the house and down the street. I followed him, calling him and talking nicely. He finally stopped to poop and I gained some ground on him. When he finished he walked a little further and then stopped to sit under a tree. He waited for me, but as I approached I saw he was shaking. I could SEE him shaking from several feet away. Yet, he sat there, apparently expecting something that would never come from me. Whether for lack of opportunity, or as a result, he never ran off again.
Ernie didn’t carry around his past like baggage. He embraced his new adventure and brought joy wherever he went. How many people do that? How many people make their past an excuse to assume there will be pain, instead of love?
There was a hole in our lives before Ernie, but his passing has left a canyon sized void.
I realize that Ernie came into our lives for a very specific purpose, expansion. What he accomplished in this short time is nothing short of a miracle. He expanded each one of us. Here we were, quite happy in our world of four, except for the lack of playmate for Koda. That one simple thought led to a universe of unexpected joy.
We weren’t ready for the joy to end…we weren’t ready to let go of the joybringer. But what he gave us while he was here can never ever be lost. We are not sure what comes next for us. The house is so empty and quiet without him. My grief is awful, but nothing compared to watching the boys with their grief. I feel sure that one day Ernie will send us another joybringer, unexpectedly. We’d love for it to be another Lhasa – maybe an runt puppy, or a castaway stray, or a retired momma – or maybe another type altogether, who knows?
For right now I am embracing Ernie’s philosophy of life: assume there will be love.
Leap into laps without hesitation. Ok, in today’s climate that might land you into trouble, but in what ways can you express your affection for someone that you might otherwise hesitate to do? What new situations have you talked yourself out of for fear of rejection? Leap.
Come out of the gate 100 mph. Don’t wait to see what kind of day you are going to have, assume it will be one worth rushing into!
Don’t let a Mr. Crankypants deter you. You have no idea how your energy affects others and those who resist it are likely the ones who need it most (and those who will secretly appreciate it). So, be you, the Crankypants of the world require it.
And most of all…
Be open to receive love. Take it all in. In whatever way someone can give it to you. Not everyone will be equipped to love you in all the ways you would prefer. Some only have so much to offer. Do not shame or blame them for not being able to meet all your needs. Your needs will be met by a unique collection of individuals as well as yourself. Do not shut others out because they zig when you would have preferred a zag. Accept love in all the beautiful forms it comes in.
One of those forms, might turn out to be your Ernie.
I love you, Ernie. Thank you so much for being my Teacher.