My best friend and beloved dog of thirteen years, Teddie, closed his eyes on May 29, 2022. His tiny body was nestled in my arms, his face snuggled under my chin where I could feel his soft breaths. His head lay on my shoulder and was comforted by his scent while stroking the soft curls of his white fur; our hearts beating in the same rhythm, chest to chest, until that moment when his heart stopped.
A moment is defined as a brief, unspecified amount of time that our brain records an experience. Catching those moments requires paying particular attention to what’s happening at that time. We cannot capture moments by looking back to the past or looking forward to the future.
Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize-winning scientist, suggests there are 20,000 moments we experience each day. So, 13 years X 365 days = 4745 days X 20,000 moments = 94,900,000 moments over those 13 years. That’s a lot if I look back, yet not nearly enough if I look forward.
This is my tribute to a tiny, gentle dog who rescued me. Many will relate as I share some life-changing memories of the approximately 94,900,000 moments of our lives. To begin, Teddie taught me that there is no “in a minute” for dogs; there is only a now.
I adopted a four-month-old puppy named Teddie in 2009, a few months after my husband’s death. He was a rescue puppy and had been thrown from a speeding car window when he was two weeks old. Workers laying pipe on the side of the road rescued him. They took him to the local animal hospital, where he was cared for by talented and compassionate medical staff for the next few months. They nursed him through puppy strangles, oozing infection sores and bald spots on his face and body. He wasn’t expected to survive, but he did through God’s grace.
Teddie was my second introduction at the adoption meeting. While I walked the first dog, my daughter walked Teddie behind me. When I would stop and tell the dog I was leading to heal, it was the four-month-old, seven-pound Teddie that followed my commands. When it was my turn to meet him, I looked into his dark eyes, and he went home with me that day. I knew that God was working. After all, the name Teddie means Divine Gift.
My grief fog began to lift, and life with Teddie started to connect. When he wanted to go outside, whether to potty, go for a walk, chase a butterfly, or — stand still, his small face raised in the air. His pink nose twitched with the smells that told him of the secret activities in his world at that moment. The wind would blow his fluffy ears back, and the look on his face was contentment. I was included in his moments and my heart seemed to melt, and a tingly peace would spread throughout my body at the wonder of him. Other everyday moments could have been lost if he had not taught me how to pay attention to these fleeting bits of time.
Teddie refused to eat those first days after I took him home. I would sit on the floor with him in my lap, put a piece of kibble in hand, and offer it to him. He ate this way for many moments until I put the kibble in his bowl and held it while he ate. Soon I put the bowl on the floor, then stood by him as he ate from the bowl until finally, I could pour his kibble into his bowl and do other things. What I could never do over the years was put his food in his bowl and leave the room or the house, for he would follow me wherever I went.
As a recent widow, I was confused as I could only look back on what was gone; while the future was spent peering into a dense fog where there is no up, down, or side to side. Teddie sensed my pain and would sit in my lap. When the tsunami of grief washed over me, he offered quiet comfort, never accepting “not now,” even if it was only to sit by my side. I would sob until my strength deserted me, but Teddie never left. It seemed he had enough courage for both of us.
Our life became a routine of moments when we were together. Eating, going for a walk, napping, watching tv, watching it rain, planting flowers, jumping to catch the fall leaves, or shivering as soft flakes of snow falling from heaven.
He always made time to greet every person or animal who came close to him. The neighbors declared him the unofficial “mayor” of our community. I taught him tricks like sit, stay, rollover, come…he even helped a six-year-old boy that was a selective mute to begin to talk again. It seemed a miracle to me until I realized that since Teddie only lived at the moment, he provided everything the child needed – just as he did for everyone.
Teddie’s moments never included the need for voluntary separation. Although he adjusted when I left home – somewhat – he always waited at the door for my return. When I arrived home, I could barely get the door open and inside the house because he was on the other side of it. But when I finally did, he would rise on his back legs and, with front legs waving in the air, would do his “pick me up, pick me up, pick me up” poodle dance. Of course, I did, and holding him in my arms, at that moment, we continued our most happy of all happy dances – being together.
He was fierce, stubborn, brave, gentle, loving, and all-knowing. He guided me through confusing times, comforted me through sorrowful times, and loved me at all moments. I’ve learned from him that moments are the perfect time to be kind, brave, or silly. He was never wrong.
Mornings ebbed into nights, days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. Seasons changed, and we explored them all. Teddie’s opinion of rain and snow was avoidance and best left outside. He would stop at the doorway and dig in his tiny legs when I insisted we go out, glaring as if I had lost all reason, ultimately letting me win this one.
Windy and warm days were his favorites. When I was the busiest, he would jump on me and tilt his head with the message I’d learned to read: “Let’s go out.”
Our walks were always a great adventure. We had a deer who often joined us. At first, Teddie was curious, but soon, we walked down the cove toward the lake, lost in our own thoughts. Teddie didn’t seem to notice when the deer would leap in her graceful way and disappear into the woods. It was as if he knew where she was going and why.
He taught me that a sunny window is the best place to be because the warmth from the sun provides moments for contemplation or for taking a nap. I sit here now at my desk, feelings from somewhere inside me trickling down to my fingertips, tapping words with the keyboard and onto the computer screen. I glance to the floor beside me where the sun’s rays had warmed him during his naps, expecting him to be there. But that moment had become the minutes that make up a memory.
Each moment of each day, when I awoke and before getting out of bed, I would reach for him, and he would flip to his back to get a belly rub. I used this time to pray, beginning with, “Thank you, God, for Teddie, for he loves me through all moments, good and bad, leading me, guiding me, and directing me – just like you, God.”
He gifted moments to others. The upstairs window looked down at the house across the street that was under construction. If the carpenters didn’t see him up there, someone would ring my doorbell and ask where he was. Just his presence in a window made a difference to their day.
My friend had an irrational fear of dogs. Teddie seemed to know this. He would sit patiently waiting for her to make the first move until finally, he knew the exact moment to give her a puppy kiss or the moment to play.
We volunteered at the elementary school in the R.E.A.D. Program. The children were so excited to see this little white puppy, and they used their best manners. We worked with a homeless child who was also a selective mute. Teddie was not briefed on any of that, yet the moments we spent with the boy brought a tremendous change. The boy began to speak again. I know this to be true because when we went to the boy’s classroom, I heard a joyful voice saying, “It’s Teddie! It’s Teddie!”
I glanced at Teddie, who glanced right back with his dark eyes to say, “No big deal.”
Life went on, cycling as it does. Spring became summer, and summer became fall. Fall became winter, and winter became spring. The sun sat every evening and rose every morning. He remained at my side with unconditional love and faithfulness through it all.
Teddie was one of my heartbeats, and now that beat is gone. The morning after he died, I reached for him, and the pain of his absence seized me with grief. I prayed to God, giving thanks for the gift of Teddie, and at that moment, I gave this same gift back, knowing God has him.
At moments like this, I realize that grief comes because Teddie is gone. My sadness comes from the unconditional love that we gave, one to the other, at all our moments. Although the sadness will walk with me always, I give thanks for the love for and of my dog — Teddie.
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