A Gift, No Longer Present


Over time I reckon I have become a bit jaded. Numb might be a better world to describe how I feel about certain things, things like affection, love, the news. If someone were to tell me that they had found their soul mate, I would probably roll my eyes in a Pavlovian response.  Soul mates are fine for greeting cards, naïve adolescents and Hollywood. Now that I think about it some more, distrustful might be a better word to describe what I have become.

I did have a soul mate and his name was Otis. Somehow through the chaos of his early life and the numbness of mine, we found each other.  Anyone who saw us together would see that we were perfect for each other.  When I was at work for the day or away for a few weeks doing field work for my research, even when I went to the Loblaws down the street to get groceries, and when I returned home, I would open the door and we would great each other with such glee and excitement as if it had been a million years since we had seen each other.  We were incomplete until we were present with each other.

He loved the outdoors, as do I and we went on amazing back-country camping trips where we would truly get away from it all.  Just him and me, our canoe, our tent, deep in the woods with a lake all to ourselves and the only other things close to us were the stars, the sparks that crackled from the campfire and each other.

In the city, late at night, we would walk for hours along the Don River.  We both had an adventurous side and would separate at times if one of us saw something that caught our fancy, that merited further exploring. We would be on different paths, lost for a moment in our separate pursuits, and then I’d get that feeling; where is he? Often, I could hear him moving through the forest, branches snapping, movement from something that was other than each of us. There were times when I could see him and he couldn’t see me and I could see the anxious look on his face, the tenseness of his body language. He looked lost. He felt abandoned and my heart would ache, until he would find me.

Otis was very philosophical by nature. Everyone noticed that about him immediately. He was deep.  You could see it in his eyes. He was always thinking about something, deep in thought. I was always thinking about him.

He was stubborn. I am not. He would get himself into trouble, just stupid things like the millions of other stupid things that are happening at any given moment. He almost fell off a cliff because he was curious about a snake he saw and was following it without paying too much attention. He almost drowned because he thought he could walk on the ice but he fell through. I rescued him every time. He had rescued me a million times in a million ways.

When we were together, eating, watching a movie, zoning out, we would always find a way to be in contact with each other, always in touch with each other as if one of us were to get up an alarm would sound to alert the other.

I am a night owl. He was not. He was funny about sleep. He’d go to bed before me but if I wasn’t there shortly thereafter, he would get up and walk into the room or out of the tent or into whatever space I was in and look at me. He looked at me with those dark, deep, philosophical eyes.  He didn’t say anything because he didn’t need to. I could hear him thinking, with some disdain, “are you coming to bed soon?”

If I didn’t get up, if something engrossed me or I had company, he would sigh and leave the room and go back to bed.   A few times he would kick over one of the two litre bottles that were by the refrigerator, making it look like an accident, but I knew it was a statement. Stubborn but sensitive. It’s a beautiful hybrid.

I never fully got to understand the life he had before we met. I didn’t get all the details, but when he went to sleep, he would fall asleep immediately, like a quick escape.  I had problems falling to sleep but he didn’t. When he slept, he would change his breathing so that it was the same as mine and there was something hypnotic about it and I would fall asleep, much easier than I used to.

We were together for 14 years.  He was by my side all the time while I spent a horrific year on treatment that almost killed me and at times, during the treatment regimen, I wished it would. He stayed with me all the time and when people saw him they would observe and comment. “Otis, you look like you’ve lost your best friend.”  He almost did.

I completed the treatment. I survived and I was cured but it came at a cost. It changed me and it changed him. I am not the man I used to be, the treatment damaged me and it changed Otis. It aged him. Whatever trauma he had in the past, he was revisiting it. and he turned grey prematurely, but I thought it made him look more handsome, debonair. He could do no wrong in my eyes. He did no wrong.

His health deteriorated rapidly. He lost his mobility and basic body functions. He lost his dignity and his pride and that is what we gave to each other by finding each other. Now it was being taken away.

It was not much later that I was at his side and I was told that he would die soon, that he would be gone in a few moments. I held him. I told him I loved him and I repeated to him, how good he was. My hand was resting on his chest. His suffering ended. Mine began.

I didn’t say goodbye and I still really haven’t. Memories of our adventures are what keeps me from turning incomplete and empty. Otis was the most amazing dog in the world.

80 thoughts on “A Gift, No Longer Present

  1. This is beautiful. One that I relate to, I lost my dog of 13 years this year. The bond was great. But I agree with your feelings about soulmates. The word is way overused. I am enjoying your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful story, Harlon. You are so lucky to have shared that slice of life with him. I love reading Mary Oliver’s Percy and other dog poems. And we just finished reading with kids “Trouble with Tuck”, a book about girl’s patient love for her dog who went blind. I always wanted a dog, first my mom would not let me have one, then my husband. But one day, I know, I will have a dog, and a goat, and my chickens. Maybe what we truly love, it never dies.
    May you enjoy every moment, like Otis did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, and some say having a dog is a lot of responsibility, but it never felt like work. Hoping you one day will find yourself surrounded by the unconditional love of a dog – and goats and chickens too! 🙂 Harlon


  3. what a scary post for me to read. i am not ashamed to admit i love both my dogs and most of the ones I help to care for in a local kennels. However, Bob of decidinglyobob.wordpress.com is aging rapidly. Our walks were he was the one in charge protecting both me and Ellie have changed. He limps along slowly and she will stop and come back to nudge him and check all is okay. So I can truthfully admit this to you that your post filled me with sorrow and sympathy. All I can offer you is ; you were good to each other when it mattered and that is what counts, to be and to help others, after that all else is trite, Have a great 2017

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the connection and love between a person and their dog is so unique and powerful. The price we pay to love to deeply is their lives are shorter than ours. It’s a tough reality, but it is reality, so I hope the feelings of sorrow go away as I am sure you are enjoying every moment you are together, deal with the rest later, as we all must at some point, but not now. Have a great 2017 as well. xo Harlon

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautifully written.

    We pay a price for the blessing of loving any spirit with a life-expectancy less than our own. I have mourned several such losses, falling in love with each of my dogs completely during their time with me – and I will never stop missing them.

    I knew, by the way, that you were writing about a furry soul-mate – because I have been to the places you describe more than once.

    I choose to believe that I will meet them again on Rainbow Bridge, and we will all walk across together. Perhaps we’ll see you there.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My heart is heavy, yet expanding as tears want to spill out of my eyes. I hope that somehow me feeling a little of your pain will soften its edges so that it becomes not so big. When I was single, my Golden boy, Jesse, was like my boyfriend. He was my protector. I believe Jesse and Otis both knew deep love and that they were deeply loved. That kind of love lives forever. Sending big,soft hugs to comfort you, Harlon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It certainly felt that way, different I guess, but when you are single, the connections and the comfort we get from our animals are strong – Otis kept me going when there were times when I may felt like I didn’t want to. Peace and an xo to you, Harlon

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, it is difficult to find the right word to describe the connections we create with our animals, but they do indeed live forever in our heart. I am so full of gratitude; every single memory I have of Otis makes me happy. It doesn’t get any better than that. Hugs, Harlon

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Harlon, what can I say? There’s nothing. Nothing I can say can sufficiently compliment the tenderness, love, eloquence, and surprise that you shared. Beautiful, will have to do.

    My condolences.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, and I have so many great memories that I can reflect upon f
      or a lifetime. For some reason the “Theme Song From The Way We Were” is coming to mind….the line: it’s the laughter, we choose to remember.
      Happy holidays, Harlon

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Harlon
    I’ve never hear a better description of a life and love like you had with Otis. Only God knows why things happen. I see the slight hardness waiting, just find me, another love or even a guy best friend to hang with out of the house. You have been blessed by the carefree times of traveling the world, you were young. I believe you are a much stronger person and love. You’re not going to slink away because of another. The story was truly beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your kind words. I have been very fortunate in many ways and I do feel blessed for that. I try to turn to those memories as often as I can. I am always happy when I hear from you. Harlon

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, I think fellow dog lovers can understand the incredible bond we create with our pets. I love how you put it, “they leave footprints on our heart”. They do indeed. There will be another dog in my life, more foot prints on my heart, but not for a while yet. Otis is going to be a tough act to follow. xo Harlon

      Liked by 3 people

        • I had to euthanize our Australian Sheperd, the doctor found a large tumor near his lungs. We knew it was weeks. One morning my husband found him in the floor with a broken back. There’s no decision. It killed all of us, our other dog is so depressed. My animals have always been my child. We still cry about Banjo and we’ve started our search playmate for Shaggy.
          This is the weeping self no one has ever seen from me. I miss Banjo. Time will pass, the pain will pass over time.
          Have a awesome Holiday with lots of goodies with friends and family.

          Liked by 2 people

          • It’s true that time heals, writing this blog posting was actually very emotional but very cleansing. I wish you the most epic of holidays with the people you love and care for. Harlon

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Such a beautiful tribute Harlon! I wasn’t sure whether Otis was a person or pet until I read the comments! XD Either way, you’ve expressed your love quite beautifully. I hope that you can carry your love for Otis with you, a treasure to hold, remember and appreciate. hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Very moving post – thank you for sharing it. Glimpses into another person’s life usually has a profound effect on me, this is no different. What a blessing you were for each other. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. k, back, now. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this deeply beautiful part of your soul. You took me on this intimate, personal journey of love. It was exquisite.

    About half way through, I swear I was thinking, oh, wow, this reminds me of one of my dogs that passed away about a year ago. The way you described the walks, the drifting apart, his tense, anxious surveyance of the area to find you….

    But as I was thinking of that, I decided not to share. It seemed patronizing to talk about my dog when you were describing the grief from losing your soul mate (whom I, of course, assumed was a human partner!).

    So, I’m with you all the way, dreading the end, but wanting to stay with you until the end, like you did with Otis.

    Imagine my TOTAL SURPRISE when you reveal that Otis was, in fact, A DOG!

    Hehehe…you tricky rascal. I love it. Clever, heartfelt, sneaky ending! Perfect.

    The WHOLE time, I’m imagining this beautiful, sweet man, and the intricate way you weaved such loving descriptions of him….I could tell you truly lived in all of those beautiful moments, with him! The way you left out any hint of Otis being a furry friend until outright stating it at the end….brilliant. :o)

    Harlon, you have one amazingly beautiful mind. I find myself inspired by your soul, yet again. You’re spoiling me and I barely know you. Thank you a million times over. My condolences, by the way…I know the sadness of losing a beloved canine companion.

    xoxo ❤

    Liked by 2 people

      • The sentiment is very mutual.

        I went back and reread the first paragraph and that was some excellent foreshadowing!

        But reading about your numbness and distrust gave me a furrow in the ol’ eyebrow. But I do get it. Very much so. Incidentally, I hope one day to earn your trust, my friend. 🙂

        Good night, you…dream sweetly. I’ll give a shout out to Otis in my prayers tonight and I’ll ask my Mango (chihuahua who passed away a year ago) to say hi to him! ❤

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Reblogged this on Espiritu en Fuego/A Fiery Spirit and commented:

    Wow! Boom! I feel like Harlon is my Soul Brother of Another Color. His posts always hit the mark with my feelings, emotions and the things I’ve gone through. On my previous post Empty Chairs Harlon understood right away. His words were right on point with no judgement. I think we are kindred spirits brought together through Blogging! God Bless my friend!!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I am deeply touched and honoured to be consider by you as your Soul Brother of Another Colour. God Bless you as well, and thank you for our connection, it is truly meaningful to me. A kindred soul is te highest of tributes, and for that I am grateful. Much love, Harlon

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Harlon, as I got on, probably about 150 words in, I could feel the intensity of this. My heart began to ache and I knew you were speaking of your dog. Peace be with you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks trE, ’tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved as they say, and I think that can be applied beyond human beings. The person/dog bond is very powerful and I felt compelled to express it. I have such great memories, thousands, millions, I will always have them to draw upon for a smile. xo Harlon

      Liked by 3 people

  13. First off I copied this for you, “Numb might be a better world to describe how I feel about certain things, things like affection, love, the news,” because it struck me as witty, clever and funny, equating the first two with the last.
    Then I read the rest. I still went with the first quotation because you are clever, but you are obviously, so much more.
    What you have written here is heartbreakingly beautiful. During these terrible times (news) this shows the beauty and worth of human beings.
    Be well my friend~

    Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s