Given the current protest re: animal cruelty, our upcoming retreat featuring Cindy Barg “Anatomy of Happiness – Hope, Heal & Bloom” and ABJ’s Pet Loss Grief Recovery classes, I asked Cindy to share her wonderful dog companion story with us. Enjoy! …Barbara J Hopkinson, ABJ
My Beloved Shanghai
by Cindy Barg, , M.Ed, LMHC
I could hear weeping. It was more than a whimper. I was taking a leisurely run along the James River in Richmond, Virginia in 1979. I had this sense that something was foreboding, but I was unable to identify it. Slowing my pace down, my eyes shifted to the left where a mangled garbage can was bent against a patch of worn grass. Adjoining the garbage can was an over sized lid affixed to the can with a thin wire, and a rusty hole burrowed on top. As I got closer to the receptacle, the weeping sounded more agitated. Struggling, I pulled on the lid, but it did not budge. Placing my head as close to the top as possible, I stared into the decayed hole and caught sight of something moving. Stunned, I jerked back. The wailing became piercing. Scrapings of worn out lids and paper cups trimmed the outside rim of the can, along with a sharp piece of broken glass. Grabbing the glass, I began to slice the wire that kept the lid hitched and within milliseconds, the cover spun off. Frightened eyes peered at me. Gasping, I reach inside and pulled out this disheveled young dog. I was so taken aback by this little creature as much as I was with the burning rage mounting inside of me toward the human being who put her in there. And as you can imagine, the rest is history.
Shanghai and I were the best of buddies. She accompanied me everywhere: Hiking, camping, white-water rafting, marathon-runs, car rides, picnics, college classes. She was my comrade, best friend, co-mate. How is it that one critter can love the best in me, never ask much of me, share my days and nights with me and continue to journey with me both in miles and time, and teach me what is truly important in life despite being dumped in a garbage can?
Shanghai had an extraordinarily wise soul. On the day of my best friend’s funeral, Shanghai watched the house fill with people and offered unadulterated comfort. She was my mutt, the master of hope and my biggest love. And I fell completely under her spell. She showed up in my life at the precise moment she was suppose to and perhaps I did the same for her. I would hold her body next to my mine and I could feel her heartbeat. She mattered. I could never lose her.
One day, I noticed that Shanghai was straggling across the floor. Shanghai had profound dignity. She never wobbled, neither in thought or in stance. She never balked. She never complained. As I reached over to help her, I heard her yipe. I called the vet and brought her in the next day. After a myriad of blood tests and looming anticipation, my vet relayed to tell me that Shanghai had cancer. He looked at me with endearing eyes, but also firm ones. He stated that Shanghai was in pain and it would be selfish of me to continue to keep her alive. Though I understood he knew what a devoted an animal lover I was, what he said was in the best interest of Shanghai. I just could not hear it, nor did I want to. I was flushed with dissent over what my vet had said to me. Yet, in my innermost core, I knew he was right. I had to let Shanghai go.
That evening Shanghai and I lay on the floor together, her snout nudged into my neck, my face burrowed in her luscious fur. I sat next to her attempting with tremendous humility to tell her all the ways in which I loved her, and what she meant to me. She closed her eyes and just felt me, us. That was enough. She got it.
Early in the morning I brought Shanghai to the vet, carrying her in my arms. The vet and I walked into the barren room and I placed Shanghai on a warm blanket on the floor. I sat with her, holding Shanghai tightly, letting her know that I would see her again someday. With his soft eyes, the vet administered her vile of death. Shanghai looked at me, put her paw on my hand and she was gone. That single moment her life ceased, the shock of her heart stopping shook me to the core, leaving me utterly dazed. Five seconds later, I began to wail so loudly, I had to hold my chest because my heart hurt so badly. The vet told me to stay as long as I needed to. Twenty minutes later, I walked out of the office, still weeping, with a swollen heart.
It was not the same as death as I knew it, losing Shanghai. It has absolutely nothing characteristic with losing your parents, your friends-all losses I have suffered and somehow withstood. I still have days when I miss her, her soulful spirit, her wise stance, her smashing face, her gorgeous black coat and her fritto-smelling head, that made everything appear less grim. There are days I truly yearn for her. Or perhaps it was what she represented: That in the most darkened moments, I could find hope, through her playful howl or her wag of her tail, she had this magical way of wiping away suffering.
“When an eighty-five pound mammal licks your tears away, then tries to sit on your lap, it’s hard to feel sad.” …Kristan Higgins
Cindy Barg, M.Ed, LMHC is an International Public Speaker, Intuitive Psychotherapist & Author, Founder of Sacred Space, Inc.
PPS: Cindy is co-hosting a seaside retreat with Lauren L’Amour (founder of Life Visionary) & I on Sat., March 25th – check it out!
…supporting your journey to a new normal.
Barbara J Hopkinson
President & Executive Director