Every day for the past 8 weeks, I’ve been waking up to this, times 9:
Can you imagine 9 of these sweet faces looking up at you, happy to see you every morning? No matter how tired you are of cleaning their poop, pee, puke and everything else that comes out of them, you can’t help but soften like butter on a hot day as soon as you see them.
Our mama bullmastiff gave birth 8 weeks ago and we’ve been watching these little angels grow from squirmy alien-looking blobs weighing less than a pound to the furry, rambunctious 12 pound pup you see above.
We took 2 hour shifts for the first 2 weeks, taking turns to wake up and bottle feed them and help their worn mama.
We also learned that bullmastiffs have a tendency to roll over on their babies so we had to constantly watch her to make sure she didn’t crush one. This became my office until they were old enough to climb out or run from the 120 pound mass about to plop down on them.
By the way, if anyone has the illusion that I lead such a glamorous life, you should know that sometimes I was so exhausted I didn’t care that I had newborn dog poop in my hair (lucky my hair is already brown)! In fact, in this photo, I’m wearing my boyfriend’s pajama pants because all of mine had been pooped and peed on, and it was more important to wash their bedding first than to wash our own clothes. We’ve been doing at least 3-5 loads of laundry every day for the last 8 weeks!
But despite how much work they are and even though I knew this day would come… even though I knew we couldn’t keep all of them… even though I knew they’d grow up and move out…
I’m still heartbroken.
Last Sunday was their 8 week birthday. That means they were allowed to be removed from their mama and taken into their individual new homes.
As each human mama and papa (and their kids) came throughout the day to take their new bundles of puppy love home, I cried. The goodbyes didn’t get easier as the day went on and I miss my furry babies as much today as I did last weekend!
We have 4 cuties left. 2 are still up for adoption and 2 are staying with us. We have another family coming over this Saturday to take another one home.
“Why can’t we keep all 4 dogs?” I plead desperately to my man in a last minute attempt to spare my broken heart, “We’re already keeping 2, what’s another 2?”
I know the answer before I even ask. We already have 2 big adult dogs (the lab weighs 80 pounds, the bullmastiff mama weighs 120). Keeping 4 would mean in a year, we’re going to have a minimum of 600 pounds of dogs running around the house! And 600 pounds of dogs eat lots of pounds of food and poop lots of pounds of poop in our yard and shed lots of pounds of hair all over our house.
Can you imagine having 5 of these full grown giants running around the house? (This is mama when she was pregnant)
Not to mention the vet bills. We already paid $1200 in less than 24 hours when 2 of our pups got sick on New Year’s day. The ER bill was $800 and the next day, one was doing worse so we took them to our vet and ended up paying another $400. Just like that.
But despite knowing the logical reasons why we can’t keep them, it’s hard for me to let go. My heart generally runs the show.
I’m sensitive. I feel deeply. And when I connect with someone or something, I really connect. I FEEL the other person or animal long after they’ve left my presence.
I smell them all day, every day, even when I’m not home. There’s something about the smell of babies and puppies… I wish someone could bottle it and sell it. I’d certainly buy it. It’s happiness in a bottle.
I tried not to get attached to them knowing that they would eventually leave, but they climbed inside my heart, nuzzled their adorable soft little heads against the edge and made a cozy home for themselves.
So for the past few days, I’ve been struggling with the sadness of letting them go. And I’ve been crying every time I think of it. I try to explain to my boyfriend why I’m crying (because non-sensitive people need logical reasons for tears whereas sensitive people know all we have to do sometimes is see a sun ray at a certain angle and a waterfall gushes out of our eyes).
But there’s no explanation other than I want them close to me. I don’t want to let them go. It hurts. My heart hurts.
And then I remember my teachings. I remember how I advise my clients and students when they’re dealing with emotional pain. I remember that even though I may not have control over whether it hurts or not, I have total control over whether I get lost in the pain or observe the pain.
So I choose to observe, with love. The same love that pours out of me for them.
I turn that love onto myself. Every time I catch myself getting sad, I take a deep breath and sit back energetically, as if stopping where I am and taking a seat to watch what’s unfolding in front of me. I become separated from a part of myself, one part becomes the observer, while the rest of me experiences the emotions. I call it “taking the witness seat”.
I become a witness to the pain instead of the identifier of the pain.
I’m not lost in the pain, I’m simply watching it.
I’m not pushing the pain away, denying, judging, rationalizing or resisting it, I’m letting it all unfold as I sit back in the peace and wisdom of the witness seat.
The pain no longer grips me, even though I’m still feeling it.
It’s a subtle yet powerful shift.
I can handle ANY emotion from this witness seat because I know emotions can’t truly reach me here. On one level, I’m experiencing loss and sadness, on a deeper level, I’m watching myself experience loss and sadness.
If you can understand this difference, you can begin to truly become free of emotional pain, trauma and turmoil. It’s never about controlling the emotion directly, it’s about stepping into your TRUE SELF so that the emotion no longer controls you. In a sense, that’s how you control the emotion.
In the movie, The Matrix, Neo thought Morpheus was teaching him how to dodge bullets. But instead, Morpheus told him that when he’s ready, he won’t have to. When you can learn to sit back in the witness chair, you don’t have to dodge emotional bullets as they’re being flung at you, you can simply observe them knowing they can’t hurt you.
With this new grounded awareness, I step over the gate of the puppy playpen, sit down on their soft bedding and let them climb all over me, playing and chewing the strings from the hood of my sweatshirt.
And I’m happy again.
The sadness has not gone away, but now I can separate myself from that pain and simply enjoy this moment with them.
Deeply, fully and puppily ever after.
If you’d like to learn how to take the witness seat, I dedicate an entire section to it in my course, Emotional Resilience. You can learn more about it here.