Last month we had the unfortunate adventure of losing our beloved puggle, Buddy. We were visiting friends on Whidbey Island, walking through the woods; one minute he was there, the next minute he was gone. The following 36 hours without Buddy proved to be some of the most difficult times I had experienced in quite some time, maybe ever.
I’ll start by letting you know that this story has a happy ending, but in the midst of the searching, yoga (the Big yoga), meditation and the support of family, friends and my partner were my saving graces.
Yoga was such a key ingredient to this experience, not because of down dog or up dog (although being physically in shape helped us to keep up with Kelsy, the search and rescue dog we hired), but because yoga has taught me how to be with what is. When my mind would go off into very dark places (i.e. Buddy has been killed by a coyote. I am never going to see him again. I am a terrible dog momma.), my yoga practice helped me see that these stories I was making up were just stories. One of my beloved teachers and friends, Stephanie Sisson, has said, “If you are going to make up a story, why not make up a good one?” I remembered this over and over when my mind would create stories that fed my desperation, my sense of powerlessness and my dread. I replaced those stories with, “We are going to find him. He is going to come home soon.”
Meditation was pivotal in our search because meditation has taught me to stay present. My mind kept bringing me to the past and the future (and the stories that went along with the past and future). At times I would create new stories, and at other times I would encourage myself to come back to my body, my breath.
On the second morning without Buddy I did a walking meditation and I intentionally felt my legs as they moved back and forth. I looked around and took in my surroundings. I allowed myself to get out of my head and into my body. I also chanted to myself since I learned that you are not supposed to call out a lost dog’s name (if he or she is scared and your voice sounds scared as well, the dog may not come to you even if they hear you). Buddy has heard me chant lots of time, and so my chanting soothed me as I let him know I was around and calm. When I was in this place of center, I could actually get more done. When I got into the present moment I could finish the flyers, create the Facebook posts and drive strategically around the island to poster and flyer. When I was lost in my head, I was crumpled into a ball crying. This happened several times, but when it did I remembered that allowing the grief, sadness and fear to be a part of my experience was also a part of being present.
Finally, we were completely supported in so many ways. We were fed and housed. Over 500 people shared Buddy’s picture on Facebook, while prayers and texts constantly came our way. People on the island helped search and post flyers. Buddy’s best friend, Muffet, came out to start a scent track, and a couple called us whenever they spotted Buddy. The search and rescue team, 3 Retrievers, helped us track and eventually trap our missing puggle. This experience reminded me that we can not do these things in isolation. We need community and support to deal with life’s difficulties when they arise.
In many ways, this experience also reminded me of the power of yoga and yoga therapy. People come into Satmato Yoga Therapy during life’s difficulties, and together we work toward becoming aware of the stories that are causing more pain, replacing them with new ones. We work toward being present and kind with ourselves and living in an embodied and grounded way. We learn to ask for support when we can not do it alone. These are some of the tools I use in my private practice and in my personal life because they work, and they can change our lives. These might sound like simple practices, and in some ways they are. Yet they are not easy, and they have to be continually practiced in order to become a part of us.
Buddy was spotted around 5pm, yet he was still not coming to our voice. We set a trap for him with salmon and some of our clothes, and by 3am he was inside the trap. Aside from a few scrapes on his belly from barbed wire fences, he came out of his adventure unscathed. We could not have asked for a better outcome, and he is an on-leash dog forever now.