A year ago today, we put our beloved Bernese border collie rescue dog, Beau, down after 18 years with us. He was there to raise all three kids & see them through good and tough days. He was there to see all of use through career moves, market crashes, a divorce and junior high. On his final day and final walk, he had one last lesson to give me that I had forgotten during all of the craziness of the past years. He reminded me, despite whatever is going on in my life, to enjoy the moment…to enjoy the simple things and the loved ones around me. We all are feeling this whirlwind of distraction in our lives between COVID, market corrections, inflation and other reversals. As the Stoics always emphasized, be present and grateful as all you are promised is today: Momento Mori
I think we both knew that the vet was going to visit that afternoon to help him transition. He was holding on but struggling. As we left the building, we turned left and walked towards the main street as we always did. However, unlike normally when he made a quick move to the grass by the street, he stopped, leaned over and smelled the new colorful flower arrangement along the walkway. He had never done this before. But on this final day, he smelled the flowers for about a minute and looked up at me, almost with a smile, as if to say the proverbial “Matt, on your way to the grass (or meeting or deal or…), stop and smell the flowers and be present.” I remember like it was yesterday that moment where everything stopped and I felt him echoing the Seneca quote.
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it.Seneca
We continued forward on our walk and he stopped about 100 feet further, closed his eyes and felt the breeze blow against his face. I could see the fur on his neck wave in the wind. After about 20 seconds, he looked up at me as if to say “You try it”. I did. I closed my eyes and I felt the breeze on my face and the sun on my skin. I could not remember the last time that I had stopped long enough between tasks and locations to feel the breeze on my face. I was struck by how the velocity of my life had stripped away the intentionality of it. In moving through A to B to C in the most efficient, impactful or profitable way, I was living reactively vs intentionally determining how I wanted to spend my time in ways that were important or energizing to me. As David Whyte said:
“You increase your velocity and speed of work. But are afraid that if you stop you won’t know who you are. You have no affection for what you’re doing but you have an abstract thought that this is what you must be doing in order to be liked. The key to getting out of the cycle and the rut that we often find ourselves then is to become sick of yourself and what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to and how you’re saying. Throw yourself away and shed the skin. As Nietzsche said, the snake that does not shed its skin must die”David Whyte
All of this is ironic since the key thing I focus entrepreneurs I coach on is Intentionality. Are they intentionally focusing their time and attention on things that matter…that energize them vs that drain them. Do we live out of our email which, in essence, is someone else’s to do list or do we intentionally structure our day to focus on things that are core to us. Deep work time blocks, family time blocks, romantic time blocks, fitness or sleep time blocks, etc. We are like the Steven Covey woodsman who doesn’t take time to sharpen his axe because he is too busy chopping…insuring that the dull blade will double the time to cut.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”Marcus Aurelius
We came home and later that day and the vet administered the injection. Beau was there in form with me and my son, Nicholas, but gradually he faded away. He was there and then he wasn’t…Momento Mori. We sat there in my barely furnished new apartment crying, realizing that he had given us his most powerful lesson and act of love ever during his last walk. Stop living from fear, stop protecting your heart, stop pushing others away. Hug your kids, tell your partner how much you love him/her, stand in discomfort, feel gratitude for the small things, connect with your good friends and remember to stop to feel the breeze of life on your face.
9 thoughts on “The Lesson from Beau’s Final Walk”
What a poignant and insightful piece of introspection, Matt! We had a similar experience with our own dog, a positive presence of unconditional love that helped raise our whole family. Truly enjoyed your insight on the irony of the struggle to live what you teach, too. Not enough of us pause to reflect in this way, and fewer still have the courage to openly share such lessons.
Thanks, Jack…incredible creatures, no? We can only aspire❤️
I have a hanging old black lab or I consider to be one of my children, words cannot describe how I feel about her.
It is so incredible to dogs due to you, and now they get under your skin, and it’s very hard to explain. You captured a really important sentiment.
I hope you’re doing well. Wish you the best!
They are amazing, aren’t they Jeff? True unconditional love and patience.
I just saw you and Nicholas and the whole family this week during an important transition in our lives… Chris and I have just arrived home to an empty nest for the first time. maybe its an empty “next” as spellcheck just suggested…in that spirit I feel curious and excited for this phase of our life journey… the newness vs sameness.
So glad you posted this today… I will embrace the daily chore of walking the dogs… see it as a reminder to walk alongside our dogs and in doing so appreciate their pauses to sniff or point at (birds, deer, bunnies etc) as cues for to us to breathe fully and consciously ourselves. look up and shift perspective… imagine how Beau-ti-Full the world would be then 😜
Kendra, this is wonderful. I love the Beau-ti-full concept…having days full of Beau (or rather full of presence & appreciation for the here & now and life’s beauty. Just realized Beau is beautiful in French❤️). Life as full of beauty. Love it!
Matt, this is insightful and beautiful and timely, thank you.
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