Today’s blog isn’t about conflict. It’s a tribute to my favorite co-mediator, my dog.
My dog and I had a solid relationship. We spent a lot of time together and enjoyed each other’s company. She was a bossy thing, but my husband says that I am a bossy thing, too.
On Monday, just four days ago, my dog died.
For the first eight years of her life, I sheltered my dog from my work and my clients from her. She was only in the office on days that I didn’t have private mediations.
However, in the fall of 2015, I started bringing her to the office for private mediations as well.
I wonder what she thought at that first mediation session. It wasn’t as if I could prep her for it in advance. “I know that you’ve been coming to the office with me for eight quiet years, but now, when you come to the office, people are going to yell and scream and you and I have to maintain calm and keep the peace.” That’s what I would have said, if I could have said it and had her understand. Instead, she just had to figure that all out on her own.
It worked out better than I could have hoped, as she practiced her own instinctive form of mediation. She always greeted people enthusiastically, doing her part to make them feel at home. If someone didn’t like dogs or didn’t want her attention, she would generally leave that person alone after the initial greeting. Sometimes, she positioned herself between the two individuals. Sometimes, she stayed with the person she thought needed her most. Occasionally, she went back and forth between them. And sometimes, she felt like I had it under control and she curled up near me and went to sleep.
Clients looked forward to seeing her, asking after her if she wasn’t at the office when they came.
While she was being petted by a client, she would give me a look that said, “You see this? This is how you treat a dog at the office. You should do more of this.” I got a lot of those looks. I thought the office was for working, not just petting the dog.
One day, my dog had gone to sleep when the clients were having civil discussions, only to be woken by their loud arguing. She groaned loudly. We humans laughed. The tension was diffused and the argument softened to a disagreement. She went back to sleep, confident that I had it under control again.
She was a good dog.
I knew she had a health issue and she had been struggling with it. I had taken her to every vet appointment, trying to find some way to make things better for her, while watching things get slowly, inexorably worse. I had occasionally cried to the vets and to family members, asking, “Is she going to die from this?”
At the same time, it just didn’t seem that bad. She could still play with the dog next door or cop an attitude with a dog she didn’t like. For the most part, she was healthy. And most of the time, it just didn’t seem possible that she could die from this. It’s like when someone you know dies from the flu or pneumonia. You know intellectually that it is possible to die from the flu or pneumonia because people do die of it every year. However, the vast majority of people survive the flu and pneumonia, so when someone you love dies from it, it takes you by surprise.
We like to believe that our loved ones will be there for us forever. However, we all only have a finite number of days on this planet and we never know when someone’s time will be up.
Tonight, when you go home, please give your loved ones a little extra love, and let them know how much you appreciate them. Let’s put as much love out there as we can while we are here.