One of the saddest things you ever have to do is say goodbye to your pet. So many individuals face this situation every day that I have decided to dedicate this post to sharing an attention training technique that has helped others (and me too) while in hospice as well as relieve some of its inevitable pain.

Those of us who have had to care for a pet in hospice know that we try our best to do everything we can to make things peaceful and comfortable as well as to be present to our moments together. That the situation will at times feel overwhelming is predictable. Sometimes it is a demanding regiment of meds and other treatments that makes the “to-dos” hard for you and your pet. Or maybe it is a sudden handicap (or worsening condition) that is making things difficult, repeated trips to the doctor. Then, there are the physical realities of the situation – e.g. where will the time to nurture come from, what about everyone’s stamina, what about your own health? Maybe you are getting up at all hours of the night to be your companion’s nurse and, of course, you want to give your best effort. But as you know, it isn’t easy and sometimes your energies and awareness run low. Instead of creating good memories, what are rising to the top are painful ones. What can you do – if anything?

Here’s something that may work for you as it did for someone I know.

Lora, who is single, works in management. She had been nurturing her golden retriever, Essie, through her last phase of life, for over a year. Essie’s issues were such that she needed to “go out” periodically each night. This was partly due to her meds and partly to her condition. Complicated by her partial paralysis, she couldn’t always get up on her own. As such, she came to rely on Lora’s help. So she would bark her awake.

Lora had spent nights waking like this on schedule, every couple of hours or so, for months. She was weary. Sometimes she said she felt like she was sleepwalking through the care. Sometimes she would awaken abruptly and find herself having to “get into the mood” to help. This wasn’t the way she wanted it to be.

She wanted to be more present and offer her long-time companion calm and loving care – not just go through the motions. She decided the fix was in her focus.

Here’s what she did:

She thought of a song that she knew could elevate her mood and help organize her - one that, for her, would be fool-proof. That song, for her, was from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Spring.

She decided to play the song in her mind when her dog, Essie, barked her awake. The first time she did it – play the song in her mind that is – she had to remember to do it. Her cue, to herself, was “as soon as she placed her feet on the floor.” Then it was as soon as she turned on the lights. With each time afterward, the song started coming to mind quicker. Eventually, Essie’s bark would trigger it. Soon it was virtually instantaneous.

When she heard the song, she not only became alert and organized, but she became alert and organized happily. This allowed her to flow to her pet and also flow through whatever needed to be done. She sometimes played the song in her mind more than once if it was a particularly difficult moment or night. She discovered that she was a lot more relaxed this way and so was her dog as a result. She spoke to Essie more gently and with loving self-awareness. She felt better about herself and the care she was offering her companion.

Lora says that her calm yet enhanced attention during these golden moments helped her to several rewarding epiphanies, which she now holds onto. One was that her dog was barking because she (Essie) knew somehow that it would be Lora to be there to help her.

Music can help focus your attention, even in painful circumstances. It can, in situations like Lora’s, help make positive memories of the time you have left with a loved one and help soothe the situation, for both present and future, with dignity, peace, and warmth. Perhaps, it is right for you.

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