Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘losing pets

Lonely Walk

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I took a walk on the perimeter trail through our woods yesterday for the first time since Delilah died. That path was getting footsteps (boot steps) up to three times a day with Delilah to give her exercise that would expend her high energy. Sometimes I wasn’t all that interested in making the trek for a third time in a day, but I never regretted the opportunity once I was out there getting my own exercise and experiencing our precious wooded acres.

Without Delilah needing to be walked, I have been avoiding wandering our trails, partly out of respect that it was her thing and she isn’t with us anymore, but also because it would poke at my grief over her passing. Yesterday, I decided to trek through the crusty snow for the first time in almost three months to see if any trees have fallen or what wild animal tracks might be visible now that there isn’t a dog living here.

There were a few branches down and several spots where limbs burdened by snow had tipped over, now frozen in place. No large trees have come down in all the winter weather we’ve received thus far.

It was a lonely walk and it did poke my grief.



Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2023 at 11:30 am

Greatest Accomplishment

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I’ve been contemplating a life well-lived after remotely participating in a funeral online last week and then learning of an anticipated death in our friends’ family. Being in the phase of life when I’m closer to my death than I am to my birth, it occurs to me that my greatest accomplishments are quite possibly behind me as opposed to yet to come.

Most days, I feel that my greatest achievement happened when I took action to get treatment for depression. After many years of self-denial about what I was battling, receiving the confirmation of a professional diagnosis was the key that opened the door for my journey toward healthy thinking. Initially relying on medication and talk therapy to interrupt a life-long pattern of dysfunctional thinking, I eventually gained enough command of my faculties to cope on my own, medication-free.

One book I found helpful is “Undoing Depression: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You and Medication Can’t Give You” by Richard O’Connor.

I still need to treat my natural inclination toward depression every day with healthy thinking, a reasonable diet, regular exercise, and good-quality sleep habits, but reaching the point where I don’t require support from the medical health industry is something I am proud to have achieved.

Last November and December brought a fresh challenge for me in managing the chemicals bathing my brain in the face of grief and fatigue. The combination of needing to first put down our cat, Pequenita, and then our dog, Delilah, mixed with striving to cope with Cyndie’s unexpected injury pushed me to my limits. I was the sole person tending to the horses (during which two highly stressful horse-health challenges arose), cleared snow after two significant snowfall events, and took over all tasks caring for Cyndie and the house while she is laid up.

The physical fatigue left me susceptible to allowing my old familiar depressive behaviors to return. I don’t find that worrisome because years of good mental health have provided a fresh setting for “normal” that I use for reference, allowing me to notice when intervention is warranted. I have a variety of options to employ but the key to being able to self-treat my depression is the “noticing” and consciously changing something in response.

Mostly, I change my thinking. My thoughts are a major trigger to the chemical reactions going on in my brain and body. Sometimes I just need a nap. Often times I just need more time. Especially when the trigger is grief.

Speaking of grief, the horses were giving me some grief recently. This is a case where it would have been nice to have a camera recording what goes on under the overhang when we are not around.

Somehow they picked up the grate in one of the slow feeder boxes and turned it sideways. I guess they’ve got some great accomplishments of their own to neigh about.



Grief Grind

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The confluence of stressors we’ve been facing this fall has combined to make my days a repeating pattern of responsibility that is almost more taxing mentally than it is physically. There is a possibility that I will be learning how to bake Christmas cookies this year as Cyndie’s able-bodied kitchen assistant.

One of the more painful repetitions I’m enduring is the lonesome walk to and from the barn three times a day. With Delilah gone and Cyndie unable, I am on my own –morning, noon, and night– on excursions to feed and clean up after the horses. I am curious about whether or not the horses recognize Delilah’s absence.

She didn’t have a close relationship with any of the horses, but I would think the lack of being barked at might seem refreshing for them.

Oh, how that repeated barking annoyed me. Too bad I am too grief-stricken to enjoy the serenity now available in its absence.

Being a little shorter on patience than my more happy self, horse shenanigans quickly raise my ire. I was granted some respite this morning as they cordially volunteered to assume convenient positions and stayed put to finish each of their own pans of feed. Cleaning up under the overhang is an imperfect science during extreme cold but the horses seem to understand my process and kindly grant me unhindered access.

They have grown more interested in eating hay from the boxes which is nice for me because putting an entire bale in a box is less work than filling multiple nets with a couple flakes from bales. I’m filling both for now since they still seem to prefer eating from the nets but there may be a day when just the boxes will be enough.

Probably not until the fields are green again next spring, but a guy can hope. Maybe by then, my heart won’t be so broken over losing Delilah and Cyndie will be able to walk on both feet.

Surviving the grind of fresh grief is helped by envisioning the future time when immediate stressors have abated. In the meantime, it’s one foot in front of the other. 

My daily grief grind.



Written by johnwhays

December 4, 2022 at 11:09 am