Exercising Life in All It’s Complexity

One of my goals during these two weeks of “stay-cation” is to maintain my exercise routine. Said routine is: one day of a 30 minute strength building workout with weights followed by something cardio – a 20 minute YouTube by Dennis Austin or a dog walk. Some days I do all three. The next day I will take a 20+ minute bike ride followed by 20+ minutes of yoga (using a podcast video from Yogamazing), and of course, if it’s not too hot, a dog walk.

Walking my dogs has been a regular part of my routine for 14 years. It’s one reason I have dogs – to encourage me to get outside and walk! Now, however, as my dogs age, this more of a challenge for them. Oh, they still LOVE their walk, but we simply cannot go very far. This is particularly true for my 14 year old Roxie.


The other day my husband and I leashed up all three dogs and headed off for a walk. It was a relatively reasonable day, only in the 80’s. We ended up taking one of our longer, but usual routes. I’ve been a little concerned about Roxie’s ability to manage a long walk, but she seemed good. In fact I was commenting on how well she was doing as we rounded the corner to head home, some 35 minutes later.

We crossed the street and just as we were stepping up on the curb Roxie went into a full blown grand mal seizure. Right there in the street, in the right hand turn lane. This is her third seizure since the beginning of May when she had two a week apart. This is the first one she’s had outside while on a walk, but it was by no means unexpected. Still it was traumatic.

I took the other two dogs and tied them up on the railing at the entrance to the church. They were completely silent – very rare – obviously aware that something bad was happening. Then I returned to my husband who was applying chest compressions to Roxie. Her body was stiff and contorted. Cars were driving by. I was worried that a car would hit them. I helped my husband lift Roxie to the sidewalk. She was slowly regaining consciousness. A man approached us and asked if we needed help. He thought our dog had been hit my a car, but I explained that she was having a seizure, something she is prone too. He waited a moment, offered water. But slowly Roxie got to her feet, wobbled a bit like she was intoxicated, and then slowly got her bearings. We thanked the man for his offer of help. Gently we walked her home.

This seizure was a bad one. It took her two hours to recover and gain full use of her hind legs again. And so Dan and I have had the conversation – do we do chest compressions the next time? Or, as my daughter said, perhaps next time she will not revive. One way or the other, it is only a matter of time.

As I think about that I realize that today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 73, not old at all. She died suddenly at 65 from a heart attack, which happened in the middle of the night. My mother’s health was not good. She was not well physically. She was not well emotionally. As her only daughter I was not looking forward to caring for her in her old age. Because of her emotional fragility we had a strained, difficult relationship. Caring for her would have been very hard. And so there is in me, sadly, some relief that I have been spared that burden by her early death. The truth, is for me, she died the year I finally understood, from therapy, that no matter how healthy I became emotionally and physically, my mother would never be capable of a healthy, normal relationship – such was her damaged self. Her physical death was, nonetheless, very sad for me. Sad even because it was also a relief.

Caring for this old dog is not the same as caring for a human being. I can’t really draw a relationship between the two, however, because of the love I have for this dog, and the strained relationship I had with my mother. Still, my mother was my mother – she gave me life and despite all the challenges I loved her. And, I understood that she was who she was. I harbor no anger, just sorrow that she was so damaged – she was so smart and witty – she could have had an amazing life! Were it not for the high degree of emotional and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her alcoholic parents…and her own fragile nature that was broken by that abuse. In her own way she did the best she could do as a parent…

On this day I give thanks for the gift of life – for good health (emotional and physical), for the long healthy life of my sweet dog, for the time I have yet to spend with her, and for my mother, who even in her woundedness encouraged me to go to college and make the best of my life. I’m grateful too for some time to rest and renew, so important for good health.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


About Terri C Pilarski

I am an Episcopal priest serving a delightfully progressive, interesting, creative congregation. I have been married more than half my life to the same man. We have two grown children, plus two dogs and two cats, although the number of four legged household members changes from time to time. I love to garden, knit, read, and play on Facebook or with my blog. I have been a practitioner of daily meditation since I was nineteen. I practice yoga five days a week and walk every where I am able too.
This entry was posted in family, rest, thankfulness, vacation. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Exercising Life in All It’s Complexity

  1. Thank you for such words Terri. We lost our dogs over the course of a year and it has been hard to adjust. We are now getting ready to adopt again. We still miss them so much and I have a rawhide bone and their old beat-up collars on a shelf in the library to remind me, as well as a few wisps of Brandy's hair that I have in a plastic bag. Sounds silly I guess but we adored them so much. I have not had contact with my mother for about 14 years now. Our relationship was never good but it only got worse as I aged and I didn't turn out as she had desired. Finally I severed contact as the only means to keep well myself. I appreciate your words so much, and wish I had tried harder I guess.

  2. Terri says:

    Oh Sherry, trying harder does not always bring a better result…i tried hard with my mother but in the end I had to just let go. I still saw her and talked to her but with no expectation of any kind of mutuality. I think each of us does the best we can…and sometimes letting go is it…

  3. Jan says:

    Poor doggy. Glad you're continuing to exercise on vacation; that seems easier for me, but I'm stretching my intentions to meditate daily, which doesn't always happen! Thinking of your mother, with my mother, who died at 72. Thought that was way too young until I heard your mother's age. Love.

  4. there are connections… whenever we love, whatever type of creature we love… loss and impending loss, illness, tending to those our heart cares for most… it all overlaps somehow.my heart goes out to you and Roxie… and your husband too.

  5. Wendy says:

    Moved by this. Thinking of you…

  6. Katherine E. says:

    Thank you, Terri. Such a beautiful reflection. My relationship with my mother was much like yours. And I appreciate your wise words to Sherry.

  7. Terri says:

    Thank you, Katherine E. that means a lot to me.

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