It’s been like a strange journey. I had my own demons to battle and Kaktus had his. He helped me a lot with mine and much of the time me and him battled his. While dealing with his issues I learned a lot about myself, about basic psychology and values of life. He changed a lot about how I think about the world around me, about people, strange and known, about dealing with frustration, to be more humble, about responsebility and about empathy.
We had a shift at one point around when he was a year old. I showed him I would be his backup and that I would give him tools to help him and that those tools would always be there. From then on he put all his trust in me. It was beautiful and it was scary to see that he was so dependent on me. He had this look he gave me when he was uncertain of how to handle a situation, it was slightly desperate, very humble and anticipating. I gave him one of his tools and he jumped to it like it was a gift he had been waiting impatiently for. We had many of those moments and whenever he was about to get in over his head I got this look.
He used to be so distracted and unfocused and training him seemed impossible, but I learned so much while teaching him to love training tricks or helpful everyday commands. He told me very clearly when I was becoming a drag, when I was too predictable, when I was annoying him and together we found a way to communicate and have so much fun together. I loved suprising him with new things and he was beaming with joy when he got a new challange. I liked rewarding him for being creative and think for himself and he surprised me so many times. He demanded of me that I be more creative and fun and it worked. I had full on depression but he was the one that could bring out the silly child in me.
I usually felt like we were teaching each other. It wasn’t me teaching him it was just as much him teaching me. I heard in comments from people that they thought I was too wrapped up in him, I was too worried, too connected and he was dictating my life too much. I understand the thought but I wish they also saw all the things that both of us got out of it. How much we learned together. How many incredibly good moments we had, how much joy we shared. And it’s something very basic to this joy, it’s purely in the moment, just small things that were so fulfilling. I was very wrapped up in him but I don’t regret it. We both needed it and even though it ended as it did, I still don’t regret. The days when he was at his best was worth everything. I loved him just as much when he was stressing or when he was too tired to be a dog, it was tough and it was painful, but I can relate to what he went through.
I have a friend on facebook that I only know form online. We met on Grisha Stewarts group after I asked for help during one of Kaktus stress periods. She could relate to our situation because her Springer Spaniel is struggling with frustration, OCD and stress and since then we have shared thoughts, worries and experiences. I see the same in her. The wish that people knew why we go that extra mile, why we get so wrapped up in our four legged family member. For some it’s just a dog. For us it’s an individual with strong prefrences as to how they want their world to be, an individual with strong emotions, a strong will and a huge personality. You only know this by living with them and communicating with them every day. And you try as good as you can to make the world the way they want. To tend to their individual needs.
I feel a bit lost without him and I have lately been pushing away any thoughts of him, because now they have shifted into only guilt. The trust he had I feel like I didn’t deserve. I see that look he gave me so often and in the end I deprived him of all his tools. I also saw the trust fade. I didn’t have anymore tools for him. I didn’t feel like I gave up, I felt like I had no way to give more. In the end I remember it so vivdly when I tried rewarding him for being relaxed. It worked really well for a few days until it suddenly didn’t. When I gave him a treat for being calm, he got frustrated and I think I know why. He tried his best to relax, I know that so well, he didn’t even need that treat, he usually had a very good off switch, but he tried so many times to just lie down but there was too much restlessness in him and in the end that treat just became annoying. It seemed like it just reminded him of what he tried so hard to do but couldn’t. One thing that often worked was to lie at my feet, but then I couldn’t move a muscle. If I moved a toe just a little bit he would jump up like he was stung and then he would start stressing again. It also worked to go to bed so he could lie under the covers at my feet and when I felt his breathing was nice and slow I could try and move or go out of the bedroom. I did get frustrated myself. I felt like I was in prison and I felt frustrated because I didn’t know how to help him. It’s so painful to see him begging for help and you don’t know what to give him. We were all stuck and all we saw was to start the circle again or to end it. I am still searching for answers and I know I might never get them. At the house I have become manic with painting and getting everything in order and I know why. I am trying to fill a void. Bella fills a lot but no dog or person can fill the void yet. I trust my decision and know I, Reidar or Bella couldn’t do anything more. But I struggle with the fact that I told him to trust me and I betrayed that trust. I just remember those eyes. This is not an attempt to explain to others, this is me trying to put my thoughts in order and to write to my future self. I know that I will go back and read this a year from now and again a year after that…
I do like that my memories of him are mostly of him being a goofy clown. In the beginning all I could see of him was the last days of stress and what I saw coming next, the exhausted apathetic dog. Then it was in a way easier to handle the grief but now it’s a lot harder. I get these feelings of dread and anxiety and of murder. So now I am trying to escape it. I shouldn’t and I do let it in at times. I can begin my life again, I can leave the house and I can do things that earlier were not possible but for now it’s not that comforting. I hoped for so long that I could do that and still have him with us. I don’t see any lessons here other then the ones he has already given me and those are precious.
There has been so many amazing moments with him. He was a strange fellow and a beautiful soul. He tried so hard, he was so eager and enthusiastic and he could be so incredibly happy, he was clumsy and wierd, he was creative and surprising and he loved his little family. For me he still is the perfect little dog and I still have the tools he gave me.
We have his ashes now, they came a couple a of days ago. On a nice sunny day we will spread them out in the field behind the house and a little bit we will put somewhere in the house. Some of his ashes will be taken by the wind, some will fall to the ground here and then the tiny bit will be in the house. This way he can choose where to be and he can wander and not be stuck. And we can say goodbye together as a family and continue to see him everywhere. Who knows, maybe some of his ashes reach Kongo and he can see where he originates from and he can hunt in a pack. I have never truly been spiritual but I have always liked the thought of reincarnation. I probably believe in it just because I want to but still I can hope that we meet again.