Articles

My Aging Greyhound and Regrets

How often do you stop to truly appreciate the finite time that we have to live on this earth?

It is so easy to breeze through our lives. We take for granted the time that we have. The end seems so far off in the distance that we don’t even give it much thought. We think that there is always more time.

When my husband and I first looked into adopting a greyhound – I was determined to get the youngest one possible, only a year or so old. I wanted to our time together to last as long as possible. But I soon came to realise that, understandably,  many other people had the same idea. Which is fine in theory – apart from it meaning that there were many beautiful dogs over 5 years old who were largely overlooked.

We decided to give one of these oldies a second chance and ended up adopting beautiful guru dog Neve. She was 7 years old – but unlike her litter mates who all had white muzzles, she did not show her age one bit. Her jet black coat was only interrupted by the white markings on her chest and paws. She bounded and played like a young pup, moving freely with no sign of arthritis or stiffness – so it became easy to dismiss her age and forget that she was a senior dog who wouldn’t be with us for ever.

However – in the past few months, I have begun to notice the white fur coming out in Neve’s coat. At first I would only notice it in certain lights or angles, and  tried to ignore it. My friends would remark about her changing look – which I dismissed as poor memory or eyesight on their behalf. But there is no denying it now. The evidence is (literally) staring me in the face.

MY GREYHOUND IS GOING GREY.

Not to be a Debbie Downer – but the reality is that we all have a time line. For each of us, one day in the future will be our last day. How far in the future? That is unknown. It could be when you are wrinkled and old, after living a long life. It could be next week, after stepping out onto the street without looking carefully. But what is known is that it will happen. And when it does …. how will you look back on your life? Will you be fully content with a life full of rich experiences and satisfaction. Or will you have some regrets?

An Australian palliative care nurse recorded the end of life epiphanies of her patients over several years, and found they all had similar regrets. The top five were:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

The first time I read this, it was like a smack in the face. I was only 22 years old and I was experiencing them all right then. My current trajectory had me set for a life time full of regrets and wistful “I wishes” on my deathbed.

I did not want that. At all.  We don’t enter into this life to create misery for ourselves. Our lives are meant to be so full of joy, love and amazing experiences that when the time comes to go we are ready. We would be at peace, knowing that not a moment of our time on earth had been wasted creating regrets.

And so I got to work creating a life so aligned to my true calling ,that it means when the times comes, if asked what are my regrets I will be able to honestly smile and say “None”.

Although thinking about mortality and our limited time on earth can feel uncomfortable, it can be a gift to helping us realise there is only a finite amount of time available to us, and really examine what we want to fill our days with.

As for Neve – well, I can’t take back the 7 years she spent living in a cage. But I can enrich her days with play, adventures and a soft bed to snooze on, to give her a lifetime’s worth of love.

I would love to hear about what on this list resonated for your, and any steps you have taken to create a regret-free life. Please feel free share your story in the comments below.

Love,

Ollie Neveu