Gratitude for Life (Even in Death)

anubis

Anubis, dog-headed God of Death. “Tutanhkamun jackal” by Jon Bodsworth http://www.egyptarchive.co.uk/html/cairo_museum_50.html. Licensed under Copyrighted free use via Wikimedia Commons

Over the weekend I celebrated my 30th birthday. This milestone has become a rather ambiguous one in Britain; although it symbolises reaching a certain level of maturity, and therefore status, many young people dread this birthday as it also represents the closure of youth and the approach of middle age and all those things that come with it – weight gain, failing health, lower energy levels and so on. People who are turning 30 may also feel like they have somehow failed if they haven’t reached other milestones by this age, such as getting married, owning a house or progressing in their career. And for women, turning 30 is a big reminder of the tick of the biological clock. It’s no wonder so many people have mixed feelings about this birthday!

But really, it should be treated as a celebration. Not everyone is privileged enough to reach this age. And attaining maturity is a good thing – it means you are wiser and more experienced, and probably more knowing of yourself than you were in your twenties. If only we could get Western culture to celebrate maturity again! Aware that I should be feeling grateful for the 30 wonderful years of my life I’ve been blessed with, I made a prayer and an offering of mochi (rice cake) to Inari Okami to thank her for my life.

This year’s birthday however was tinged with a different sort of sadness. The day before my birthday, our family dog had to be put down. He was 15 years old and had a lot of health problems (arthritis, digestive problems, neurological problems, you name it) and after months of different treatments and very strong painkillers, my parents and the vets mutually agreed that the kindest thing to do would be to put him to sleep.

It’s very poignant that at the same time I was celebrating a milestone in my life, a member of my family had come to the end of his.

I made a prayer to Inari-sama for my dog as well. Some Shintoists hold that because foxes and dogs are natural enemies, Inari-sama finds dogs offensive, but I see both foxes and dogs as members of the canine family, and therefore brothers. It therefore seemed natural for me to ask for Inari-sama’s blessings on my dog and to guide him safely to wherever he is destined to be now. I also wanted to express my gratitude as well, for the years of joy and love that our dog had brought us, and for easing his passing into the next world.

Next Full Moon, I think it would be appropriate to make offerings to some of the other deities associated with dogs – such as Anubis or Diana – in honour of my dog.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Gratitude for Life (Even in Death)

  1. Happy belated birthday, and many happy returns! I don’t know if you will feel the same way, but my twenties were an awful difficult period of my life. I too was a bit anxious about turning 30, but now that I’m 32, I must say that I’m enjoying my 30s quite a bit more than I ever enjoyed my 20s. Perhaps you will think differently, but here’s hoping that the next decade of your life is a very happy one indeed!

    Also, I am deeply sorry to hear of your loss. It’s never easy when a member of one’s family passes away. Personally, I think your view on dogs and foxes relating to Inari makes sense. Why wouldn’t He appreciate all members of the canine family? I pray your dog is happy and well-fed over there on the other side.

    • Thank you so much for your kind and reassuring comments!

      I’m sure the 30s will actually turn about to be fine after all 🙂 I’m pretty content with how life is going at the moment!

      As for my dog, yes I’m actually glad that he’s not in any pain any more. He’d been going downhill for quite some time now (ever since our other family dog died, in fact, so I can’t help but feel he’d just given up in grief). So although we’ll all miss him very much, I do feel a sense of closure and relief that I’m not going to see him suffer any more. I knew this time was coming soon, and when I was dog-sitting for my parents a week or so ago, I made sure I took some time to say goodbye to him in my own way. I actually feel worse for my parents, as they’re the ones who’ve really raised him and their house must be feeling so empty now, with no dogs 😦 I’ll have to make sure they’re looked after!

      • Well whatever you do, don’t let anyone suggest to them that they just go and get another dog right away. My wife and I had some people make that suggestion when we first lost our cat last summer, and all it did was make us feel worse. We eventually got a new cat, of course, but we waited several months until we were ready. (Getting past Samhain and saying hello to our old kitty at the ancestor shrine that night was a big help.) Sometimes if a pet dies and we try to replace them immediately, all it does is send a message to the subconscious telling you that you aren’t allowed to grieve for the last ones, and even though it’s painful and it sucks, grief is really quite a healthy thing for us to go through. Of course, none of this may be an issue for your parents; I just know that when people suggested that idea to me last summer, it really got on my nerves.

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