Sunday, November 20, 2011

Restorative Support for My Old, Tired Dog

Scaramooch had aged suddenly at fifteen years old, or so it seemed to me.  He was thinning, loosing muscle mass and strength.  I'd found a garden apartment so he could avoid steps altogether.  I was at his service, loving his life, wanting to bring him comfort and joy for as long as he was willing to live.  I often got down on the ground to hold him, literally spooning him, lining the back of his boney spine up along my soft belly, to join, deepen and strengthen the rhythms of his breathing.   As his body got more brittle, I tried to cushion his environment.

All of Scaramooch's vital functions continued fine, and he could both offer and receive love. He was old, and he clearly needed my help.  He stopped being able to get up all by himself from lying to standing, but once I tipped and raised him up upon his feet, he could balance there, and actually take short walks, eat, poop.   He could no longer bend easily enough to lay down and achieve positions that might bring his body some ease.  I helped him lower himself slowly with alignment so he wouldn't just drop and break. He often lay on his side, but with increasing skinniness, his body seemed to cut off vibrant blood flow to the arm and leg crushed on his underside.  His spine tended to curve at its center away from the right side.

I was learning about restorative yoga, and Scaramooch was requesting my help.  I applied everything I was learning in Jillian Pransky's Restorative Yoga Training to my Scaramooch.  I created and used many pillows, pillows of all shapes, and lawn chair cushions, and exercise mats.  A long thick tubular bolster fit nicely under his torso.  Stratling it could allow his four legs to release their weight-bearing responsibility fully.  A wall lined with lawn chair cushions on his left side caught his weight, since his tendency was to fall out toward the left into the deep curve of his spine.  Each day, many times, with the bolstering and repositioning of pillows,  my Scaramooch hung out in the depth of his healing comfort.

In this restorative yoga process, Scaramooch's posture could anchor his peaceful energy, creating utter comfort within which his breath could deepen and thrive.  One day in this peaceful process, on his own time and at rest, he took his last breath.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Waiting for Family

-- a note from Audrey

Scaramooch was my birthday gift from Annie in the middle of the 1990's.  With his brothers and a sister, he waited for Human Family in the back of a red pick up truck.  His driver knew Park Slope was the place pups could find homes and live well -- a fact I am quoted on the front of the New York Times expousing a few years later.  The little blond pup shyly backed up in retro action as Annie reached for him  and she knew this was THE ONE.  He was my gift of love every day thereafter for over fifteen years.  Annie was with Valerie when she met me with this surprise pup and he was already named after Val's childhood dog, Scaramooch, by the time I picked him up and held him.  His little body wobbled on the wooden floor in the far front corner of Val and Andrew's apartment in the east village.  He was a flat nosed, soft eared creature, tiny enough to curl up in a pie plate for weeks. His ears and nose grew huge and distinct, as he became, in adolescence, "the barking deer." His widow's peak became regal, and his bark, unmistakable and persistent.  We learned years later from Val, that her original Scaramooch dog had been, true to form, an incessant barker too.

"A gift to me, a responsibility to you," I announced to Annie, fearful of commitment. Yet the truth  after fifteen and a half years is, the actual responsibility of caring for Scaramooch became life's most loving gift to me.  And now, dog has turned to god, and is everywhere, but here.  I feel him and cannot see him.  I talk to him but do not hear his bark.  I love him, and I CAN feel his love.

A lot of the pictures I've posted here are from our final processes together.  He became weak in his last few months, not eating much, and loosing weight and muscular strength, but still waking up to beam with the glow of loving presence.  I'd studied Restorative Yoga with Jillian Pransky and now I knew why.  Scaramooch needed comfort and ease while his body was weak.  I'd create an arrangement of pillows of all shapes and sizes that upheld his center taking the burden of weight off of his limbs.  Many of the photos I've posted are Scaramooch in this state of comfort in the final spring and summer of 2011.  There, in the restorative process, he nurtured readiness for his death -- his readiness and my own.  He took time to slow down, and let me work hard for him and focus deeply on him.  He helped me help him -- and since helping him is exactly what nourished me toward acceptance as his path fully unfolding -- helping him became my greatest gift.  He died when he was ready, beautifully, in his own center, on his own time.