I recently interviewed my dear friend and mindfulness coach, Cara Coulson, from Pearl Mindfulness, on my podcast Laugh Long and Prosper. Cara works out of the GTA. She teaches at Durham College and works with a group called Psychology for Growth.
This means that most of Cara’s services are covered under insurance plans, which is a big help for a lot of folks.
Cara is a regular on my podcast and she has recently been helping a lot of people get through Covid with her advice, knowledge and humour. Recently, however, Cara lost two of her beloved pets. I know there are a lot of folks like myself who have been leaning extra hard on their ‘furry people” to help them get through the pandemic. I know that a lot of pet lovers can relate to losing a beloved pet. Here is part of our ‘Pawdcast’…
Judy: Hi Cara, welcome to Laugh Long & Prosper. Today is Monday which means it’s time for Just Another Mindful Monday. Over the past months, we have been talking about using mindfulness as a Covid coping mechanism. By the way, I read a fantastic article in the Globe and Mail awhile back that called 2020 the ‘Year of The Dog’ because so many people got dogs and other pets during Covid. The article noted that pets really help to alleviate a lot of the day-to-day stress brought on by the pandemic.
Something happened to you recently. I wanted to talk to you about it at the time, but I knew that you needed time to grieve. If you can, please tell folks what happened to the furry people in your family.
Cara: Well, our almost 14-year-old dog, Flynn, passed recently. We woke up one morning and we went for a little walk. He stumbled a bit. He was almost blind at that point. As the day went on, he was just wasn’t himself – he was crying a little more. I had planned with the vet beforehand. She had actually told me that Flynn might have a month or eight weeks – she wasn’t sure but we were approaching end of life. I was just grateful to experience every day with him that I could.
As the day went on, by about noon, I contacted the vet’s office. We knew it was his last day. Before we took him to the vet, my oldest daughter and I gave him lots of hugs and told him that we loved him. We took lots of pictures with him.
That dog truly carried me through the absolute most challenging parts of my life. He carried me through a divorce. He carried me through my kids going to two different homes. He carried me through all my needs and neediness. He walked many miles with me. There is one path in particular that I call The Trail of Tears because, at that point and time, emotionally, it had to come out of me and he was there.
But really, truly it was my time to be there for him. I had prepared for months. Then exactly one week later, one of our cats, Rusty (my daughter’s therapy pet) started to act really weird. We thought he might be grieving the loss of Flynn because he and Flynn were really good pals. For example, when there was a thunderstorm, Rusty would get right next to Flynn and he would snuggle right onto his back. Rusty was a big orange cat big and he would do this big, big purr. If he had a voice, it would be like Morgan Freeman. (laugh)
Judy: (laugh) What kind of voice would Flynn have?
Cara: Flynn was Irish.
Judy: So, would it be like Liam Neeson?
Cara: Well, he was also anxious so probably more like Tom Cruise in Far and Away.
A fighter but a real butter ball inside.
Morgan Freeman was always with Flynn. I posted some pictures on Facebook. In the end, both cats (Rusty and Hank) would get into Flynn’s bed with him by the fireplace.
Those three were the best crew.
So, it really came as a surprise one week after Flynn passed, when I had to take Rusty to emergency. Within two hours, the vet discovered that he had an orange- sized tumour in his chest. Sadly, we had to let him go as well. There was no choice.
Within a week exactly we lost two of the fur fellows.
Initially, I kind of built up this huge resiliency to move forward- to kind of truck along and ‘Winston Churchill’ it.’ Keep calm and carry on.
I had close friends who said, “Cara you are handling this really well”.
I surprised myself.
I prepared myself for Flynn. Rusty was a bit of a shock. I thought I was okay.
However, a month later, a series of events brought up a trigger for all of the pain.
Prior to that moment, I had put everything into a box. Besides, I work with mindfulness every day!
Over time, it kind of accumulated.
I wasn’t expecting it and then one evening, I just had to let it out.
Tears for Fears have this great song called Shout, about primal scream therapy. I mean, for me, it wasn’t screaming- it was just crying. It had to happen. From a mindful perspective, I had to just let it be instead of judging it. I had to let it come out. That really kind of got me over the hump.
Mindfully speaking, we learn more and then we grow.
I went onto a healthier part of the grieving process.
Funny, at the time, I didn’t even think I was grieving.
I’m wondering if there are a lot of people out there who are also losing their pets, family members and feeling very isolated and alone right now with Covid-19?
Funerals are very odd.
Even when you have to take your pet for that ‘end of life’ final moment, you are wearing a mask and you’re only allowed to have a couple of people there. You can’t have the same kind of grief process that many of us would utilize with our friends and family. There are no hugs or touching.
For some people, it’s even harder. On top of Covid, behind closed doors, they could be dealing with abuse or the loss of a parent or being sick and not being able to see anyone.
These are very strange times indeed.
I’ve noticed many people getting jealous or angry that somebody got a vaccine or a ‘better’ vaccine. Who would have ever thought we would have the words AstraZeneca or Moderna in our vocabulary?
Now here we are and we are living it.
Some people are cycling through being angry at the government. Other people are cycling through being angry at their place in life. They’re saying things like, “How come that community got their shot and my community didn’t?”
It really has been an experience. Of course, you try to bring that mindfulness piece in to just allow the moment and practice self-compassion. From a mindful perspective, we are just all struggling. These ARE hard times.
Our life after Covid-19… is it ever really truly going to be the same? There’s that loss of innocence, a loss of goodness. We have to allow ourselves to let it happen and just BE with it. We have to learn how to be compassionate with ourselves and with others.
Yes, Hank is still with us. He is the final rider of the fur posse.
Judy: Are you going to get another rider for Hank?
Cara: Yes, we’ve considered it. He did go through his own kind of kitty grief but over the last couple of days, he has come back to his Hank the Hellion self (laugh).
We had considered getting a friend for Hank and then got hit with “it will never be the same as it was”. I think many of us are going through that thought as well with Covid. Our life is never going to be truly the same.
I can’t recreate the posse but can Hank have a new friend?
Would it be a different thing? Sure.
Would he be like that old dog in The Incredible Journey? Hank would be like the wise old golden retriever. (laugh)
Judy: I cannot watch animal shows and movies. They are too sad!
Cara: Have you ever seen Phar Lap?
Judy: No, I hear it’s horrific. It’s an ugly cry.
Cara (laughs) Another ugly cry movie if we are looking to relieve some tears during Covid is called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.
Judy: Forget it. I read the premise and I was crying. Worse – it’s a true story! I need a drink.
Cara: The dog keeps waiting…
Judy: I KNOW. Stop talking about it. I can’t handle it.
I can’t watch anything with animals. I was watching Goliath with Billy Bob Thorton.
It’s a totally violent series, but my only thought throughout it was, “Please don’t let anything happen to that little stray dog!”
Thankfully, it didn’t. Body count was like 8000 bad guys but the stray dog lived.
Cara: Have you watched shows recently and noticed that sometimes the best actor IS the dog?
Judy: I’ll let you in on a little secret. This is how I get through watching animals in TV shows and film. I always think of the animal handler sitting two feet away from the camera.
Whenever the animal looks sad or happy, there is an animal handler giving them a command and a treat afterwards. That’s how I think I cope. Meanwhile, I’m in therapy for six months.
Cara, on a serious note, I want to thank you for sharing your wonderful story and inspiring words about pets, love, courage, mindfulness and getting through Covid.
Cara: Thank- you Judy. I just want to say one last thing. There is nothing better than the unconditional love of a fur friend. Do it. Go out there. Rescue, volunteer, join an organization. See what you can do. These pets aren’t expecting anything from you but they will bring you happiness- especially during this time of hardship and beyond. They will get you outside and will get you caring for something other than yourself!
Judy: You are absolutely right! On a lighter note, before I let you go, what kind of voice does Hank have?
Cara: That’s easy. Clint Eastwood.
Judy: (laughs) Nice! Thank- you, Cara Coulson. You just ‘made my day’.
To our listeners, thank you so much for joining us.
Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.
Laugh Long and Prosper is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point. On Mondays, I host the podcast Just Another Mindful Monday. The full podcast interview with Cara Coulson aired Monday May 10th, 2021 and is available online here.
If you would like to reach Cara Coulson, here is her contact info.
Website Pearl Mindfulness
Until next time folks,