Director Eliot Rausch put together a mini documentary called "Last Minutes With Oden," in which he documents the last moments he spent with his dog Oden. Atop the visual diary of this very tough experience of letting a pet go, Rausch tells the story of his life with Oden.
In July, I had to put my cat of 18 years to sleep, but I don't think I really went all the way through the experience and came out the other side until I watched Rausch's video.
Here's the video (get out the hanky). Be prepared because the film takes you all the way through the appointment at the vet:
Rausch's video covers so much territory I don't know where to begin. It's about the depth of pet love, about life, about growth, about self, about death, about God, and ultimately about grief and the intense realizations we get to uncover when we lose a deep love in our life. What's most strange about the death of another is that it often teaches us something about ourselves.
We see the ways we are selfish. The ways we are true. The ways we have grown and changed and how others -- even our pets sometimes -- play a critical part of that growth and change.
Rausch touches on this in the film when he says:
He showed me through his example how to love, and I loved him. I don't think I showed him how to love. I think he showed me how to love.
Back in July, I cried on the way to the vet, in the exam room in those final moments before my cat Celie was gone, and for a few minutes after. But then, I did not cry again. I know I turned the emotions off. I was completely aware of how that coping mechanism was working for me. So much to do and the kids and life and work and I just couldn't deal ...
The relationship with a pet is so complex. When we lose them, the bigger picture of our life doesn't change as much, but then again, all its little, serene moments do change. And because of that, I keep seeing my Celie's "ghost" almost every day. Now I don't mean she appears before me in the really real sense but more so in an anticipated magical thinking sense. I turn a corner, and I expect to see her. So I do. Until I remember she is gone.
The hardest part about losing a pet in this world is that they're yours and yours only. In most cases, other people in your life don't have the same relationship with your pet as you do. Can't possibly. Even in my case, I had my cat for five years before I even met my husband to be. My kids, while they loved Celie, didn't have the bond with her that I did. But just because no one else had that connection with her doesn't mean the connection wasn't real, and it surely doesn't mean the relationship didn't teach me and help me grow.
Rausch learned to stay open for people and to be true to how he feels. He believes he learned that from his dog Oden.
He also learned this:
God is love, and love is God. God was that dog I held today.
And that's the point in the film when I lost it and had my own realization. It really was and is all about the love. In part because of Celie, I got to learn and experience love in this world and that's something that will always be here inside me. That love is huge and it fills me up even now that she is gone. Knowing that I get to keep that with me, that it isn't gone or lessened in any way, I think I can finally say goodbye.
Has your pet taught you something meaningful in your life?
Image and video via Eliot Rausch