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Spring - March 16, 2014


Our Silver Lining


Our younger Old English Sheepdog, Silverado (we called him Silver), suddenly passed away early Wednesday morning.  We feel fortunate to have rescued him 25 months ago.  I believe that to have a pet, love a pet, and lose a pet, improves our human experience.


It occurs to me that our Silver, like Baron (who we lost about 2 years ago) and Cutha (our remaining rescue), taught us much about our own lives:


Passion. Every morning for the last 2 years, upon awakening, Silver was there, waiting for me to take him downstairs to eat his breakfast.  He ate with gusto and passion.  He was in the moment enjoying what he had.  At night, when I came home from a long day, he was so happy to see me.  He would grab an old shoe and bring it to me to play, even though he was blind, disabled, and no doubt in pain.  He was in the moment enjoying what he had.  Silver had no idea he was disabled but he knew what made him happy.  Silver was passionate; he knew the time was now and the place was here.


Patience and empathy.  Silver was disabled, he was essentially sightless – an autoimmune complication of a prolonged respiratory illness – and he was in a harness because of lumbar stenosis and hip arthritis.  He needed assistance on stairs and even to stand.  He was not always this way; he slowly transitioned to this state and we adapted.  We needed to be on alert all the time for his needs and we knew this made us tap into ourselves to be there for him, just as all of us would hope to do for any family member, any friend, or, in my world, any patient. 


Kindness.  Having patience and empathy encourages us to extend kindness, and kindness breeds kindness. Kindness is free and it feels good.  No one is ever hurt by kindness.  I hope you see this always in the way my office treats you, my valued patient.


Changing it up.  Silver’s needs changed over the 25 months we had him.  That required us to keep changing our game plan – a metaphor for life, a lot like sailing a boat.  Our ultimate destinations are all the same; life, indeed, is about the journey.  And, just like sailing, we cannot change the way the wind blows, but we can change the direction of our sail.  And so, for Silver, we adapted to his changing health.  It did not feel like a sacrifice, it felt good.  We appreciated his daily passion, extending patience, kindness, and empathy and adapting to his needs.


As you may have heard before, I firmly believe that the way we think affects the way we feel, and the way we feel affects the way we think.  So, what is a thought?  At a molecular basis, it is electrochemical.  The manner in which we think determines how we feel.  If you’re good at making yourself feel bad by thinking negatively, it means you have a powerful brain.  But that same brain hardware can do the opposite, and make you feel good by thinking positively.  All you have to do is think about what you want to happen and then take steps to make it happen.  It starts with an intention to make things better.  Smile when you read this and you’ll feel what I mean.  Trust me; smile, and feel its electrochemical effect.  You see, your facial muscles that form the smile signal your brain to release chemicals and change the electrical transmission of the brain that cause you to feel better. Sights, smells, and hearing all evoke neurophysiologic changes in the way we think and feel.  Pets in particular do this; it’s been scientifically studied!


If you would like to read a moving book about the care and loss of a rescue dog, consider “Rescuing Sprite” by Mark Levin.  I read it after we lost Baron and will read it again after losing Silver.  Here is an excerpt from the introduction:


“I loved this dog.  Writing this book was both painful and cathartic for me.  Reading it may be emotional for you.  I hope it brings you some smiles.  I know it will bring you some tears.  I hope, when you're done, that you are moved to hold your dog closer in your arms--or in your memories.” Life is one big journey.  Stuff happens along the way – sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and sometimes bad – but onward we go looking for purpose.  If you are questioning your purpose, you might enjoy one of my favorite authors, Dan Millman.  Here is a piece of his writing that is meaningful to me:


“Kindness completes our lives.  We are all in this together.


For most of us, sharing a meal or a movie magnifies the pleasure.  So does sharing our lives. Humans are designed to interact, to serve and be served, to work and play together.  We all need privacy at times, but the habitual lone wolf, the separate self-staring in the mirror, needs to break out of solitary confinement.  No one is smarter than all of us, and no one truly accomplishes anything on their own.  All we have done rests on the shoulders of those who came before.  Offer and accept a helping hand; we are all in this together.”


We will miss Silver, and our lives are better having had him.  It’s a cloudy day today, but we know the clouds are lined with Silver.


Wishing you good health,




Harry Oken MD