Endings and Beginnings

When we moved to The Sandbox, I promised to share our personal change journey – believing that even titled leaders are people with real lives that have only one constant in their lives… CHANGE!  As expected our experiences have included examining urban legends, facing fears, laughing, crying, and crazy amounts of growth!  Sometimes I hold the experience for awhile processing, healing, or trying to figure out how to share it with you.  I wrote this in May of last year and stumbled on it earlier this week…

Before we moved across the ocean we really struggled with lots of decisions.

Expat DogOne of the biggest ones was wondering if we should bring Brutus, our 10-year-old White German Shepherd.

  • He had bad hips.
  • He had never been on a plane.
  • He had tumors and we knew that one of them had been cancerous.
  • We wondered if he could make the trip physically and emotionally.
  • We did not want to imagine life without him, but we didn’t want to think only of our desires.
  • We knew that if he came with us there was a good possibility that he would die here, and had a hard time imagining him being buried in a land we don’t call home and at some point not being able to visit his grave. (In reality our other pets are buried in our home country but in places we no longer own so we can’t visit them either.)

Our veterinarian was encouraging. Brutus had a great disposition and there are no guarantees for any of us in life so why not?

My husband knew better than I did how much I needed my white furry angel and was committed to figuring out how to make that happen.

My mother-in-law told us after we decided to bring him that it was the right decision. She said that if we left him behind he would have died of a broken heart.

Part of the transition for all of us included my husband going ahead for several months, while I stayed in the U.S. waiting on visas, movers, and all of the details to come together to get the approval to move Brutus with us.

During that time my “furry baby” and I bonded even more intently. I needed his presence and he needed mine.

Here’s just one example: In our final weeks in the U.S. – I met a friend at Starbucks for coffee and brought Brutus with me. After my friend ordered her coffee and came outside to sit with Brutus, I went inside to order my coffee.

As I approached the counter I heard a noise but thought nothing of it until the barista stopped looking at me and started staring intently at the door.

IMG_0199My “baby” had just pulled a very heavy cast iron chair from the sitting area in front of the café to the door and was frantically peering inside trying to figure out where I had gone. (I’m sure he thought it was a black hole!)

As we bounced from house to house over the next month he didn’t want me out of his sight. He knew “his Dad” was gone, the house we’d lived in was no more, and now I was his only constant.

Knowing how much he needed me, focused me on his needs, instead of my own stress and fears. Many nights we would lie on the floor together with my head on his belly or his head in my lap until we both relaxed.

When we arrived in this new land he was a mystery. He wasn’t the first dog in our compound but he was the first one to be allowed to walk outside during the day – simply because he loved everyone. Children followed him around like he was the Pied Piper. Many days our doorbell would ring and his adoring fans would be there, wanting just to see him and touch him.

For the past several months our four-legged furry baby has been really sick.

Monday morning his body let us know that we were at a point of no return and we needed to let him go. So we spent time giving him some extra love and attention and thanking him for being in our lives.

Monday night we said goodbye to our beautiful furry baby. (I wish I could say the experience at the vet was as sweet and compassionate as with our other dogs.) It wasn’t and I wasn’t at all prepared for how quickly it happened or how his body was treated. It was painful to watch and made me feel so bad about his final moments.

I was shocked, in pain and extremely tempted to be judgmental of the cultural differences between our home country and this one.

In spite of the shock and the grief, the beautiful moments and many lessons emerged:

  1. Loving is a risk. A risk of eventual loss and pain. But oh how love enriches our lives.
  2. Loving someone means looking out for their best interest, not your own.  

A wise friend knew how much I needed these words when I told her what we had to do….

Oh, Chery, I am so very sorry. I know that you are doing the exact right thing for Brutus, but I know that it hurts you. It’s wonderful that you are able to tell that he needs you to do this for him.

I am so glad y’all brought him, both for you and for him. His only want in life was to be with y’all, and you let him have his heart’s desire by bringing him here and letting him spend his final months loving and being loved by y’all.

  1. Focusing on the needs of someone else helps you move forward.
  2. Grief comes to all of us. It is so important to learn how to walk through the pain, to give yourself permission to feel it and to share it and at the same time not give into the temptation to think like a victim.
  3. When anything happens that is not in alignment with your expectations, seek first to understand. (Our cultures are very different. We don’t place the same value on the lives of animals period. I should have made my expectations known.)
  4. When you are tempted to feel guilty about something you could not have prevented, you must choose to have a strong mind. (Thanks LaRae.) I know I loved him with my whole heart, I know I gave him a beautiful last day and that I said my goodbyes many times throughout the day – even though I still wish I could have said a final goodbye.

On Brutus’s final day we sat together and cuddled as I watched a video that included the quote below. And as I’ve worked through his loss I’veoften focused on this…


Image Credit:  Ace Concierge

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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6 thoughts on “Endings and Beginnings

  1. Thanks for sharing so personally, Chery …

    I have been through this several times, with both beloved dogs and cats who were simply ready not to be. Sometiems, and most recently just yesterday, I had to make the other decision to sever ties with a pet who has given us much joy, but also has not adjusted to the realities of a multi-pet household. I delivered Bella, one of our cats, to the Human Society, with the hope that she would find a new and happy home, but also with the awareness of the reality of what I was doing.

    The lessons we learn through emotion are often those we remember best. I’m sorry you had to experience this with Brutus, but remain impressed with your ability to learn and grow from your experiences.