“Grief is just love with no place to go.” ~
Last week, I wrote a story about how my Beagle stopped me from killing myself.
Losing her four years later highlighted my penchant for suffering and my inability to accept impermanence.
I found Macy in a horrible little puppy farm amidst the urban sprawl of Greater Manchester, an anonymous estate full of stone-clad houses, somewhere in the north of England. It was early in 2013 when I visited the unkempt house and to this day, I clearly remember entering the lounge with trepidation, knowing full well the “breeder” had been far from honest about the state of affairs.
There were eight or nine puppies in the corner of the room , all huddled around the side of a cruddy cream leather sofa that was long past its sit-by date. Seemingly spoilt for choice as the super cute welcoming wave of tri-colour and lemon Beagle pups all scarpered toward me, one of them stood out—the runt of the litter. As the others bullishly rushed to the front of the pack to be the first to greet me, the little one shyly held back, staring inquiringly in the most memorable of ways. It was as if she already knew me.
As she tentatively shuffled toward me, I did the same — cautiously parting the sea of eager fluff-muffins and providing nonchalant head pats until Macy and I stood toe to toe. The moment I picked her up and brought her face close to mine — feeling the tiny, cold, wet black button nose touch my own—I knew that this potbellied puppy and I were going to be friends for life. And so, regardless of the lack of any Kennel Club certificates, or without even seeing the parents of the marauding litter, I handed over a thick wad of cash to the guy and exited as quickly as I had entered — squeaking fur-ball in my hands and a bloody great smile on my face.
For six years, she was by my side. My play-pal, my sofa-sharing hug-buddy, my pub-visiting partner in crime. She stuck with me through some of the darkest years of my colourful life, and once even stopped me from taking my own life. What a pair we were.
Because she came to work with me every day, she was a fond favourite on the dawn trek from Peckham to my south London offices. Brightening the early mornings of the daily downtrodden commuters as she trotted carefree across London Bridge train station; keen to arrive at work and to give and receive love to her “pack” (my wonderful team; her colleagues). We even gave her a job title at the creative agency — she was the “Head of Tails & Barketing.” The daft mutt wound up appearing in her own series of videos, which I dubbed “Macy’s Paws for Thought.” Free of even a whiff of anger or bad-temperedness, Macy O’Toole was a friend to all. In fact my ex-girlfriend and I used to regularly declare that “everybody loves Macy!” We even had a song for it, which I’m singing as I write this.
When Baguette-nose and I arrived in Bali, my little friend — a passionate fan of the River Thames — had the gleeful epiphany that the Indian Ocean was now in her back garden. She quickly became famous and beloved by the many faces along the beach. Locals, tourists, fishermen, and hospitality workers all waved and greeted her on our daily walks. She would cause people to laugh out loud as she wandered up and down the beach with sticks, which were often so ludicrously oversized that she would clear the path of pedestrians in fear of injury.
Part-Beagle, part-dolphin, my marginally mad mutt would unsubtly and relentlessly encourage people to throw sticks in the ocean for her, just so she could rescue them over and over again. Her passion for the sea often made me wonder whether she had been a sentient sea creature in a past life.
In June 2019, my little sandwich-nosed compadre went missing from my garden. I launched and maintained an island-wide search for her, gaining national coverage, and even appearing on Bali TV’s evening news. Despite a hefty reward and so much unfathomable loving kindness from people all over Bali (and friends and strangers all around the world), Macy never did come home.
As the days went by with no news, an old pal contacted me and suggested I might wish to prepare for a grave lesson in impermanence. I remember internally questioning whether I had already accepted the worse, or perhaps the thought was entirely inconceivable to me. Nevertheless, I took heed of his words and for the first time began to entertain the idea of what life would be like without ever seeing my best pal again.
“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Weeks went by without a word or sign, and then in August, my wonderful friend Terae introduced me to Angela, a respected and compassionate animal communicator based in South Africa. “Animal communicator?!” I had no idea such a profession even existed, but having done some research, I quickly realised they are a widespread phenomenon. Out of options and beside myself with worry, I contacted Angela and provided her with a minimum amount of information including photos, the dog’s name, and where she was last seen. I asked her if she might help me find Macy’s location. Two days later, I received the following response:
I have picked up that Macy has crossed over the rainbow bridge. I am sorry to tell you that your anum cara (soul friend) is not here anymore…Not in the physical sense.
I am deeply sorry for your loss, in this friend and soul mate, though she does wish to talk to you.
Half-expecting this news, I naturally requested to hear more from Angela (and Macy). A few days after, I received the following:
I am grateful to speak. To let Martin know what my story is. That I miss him and am grateful for the friendship and love he gave me. We have travelled a long journey together. We have an opportunity to shine our souls in unison…Once again. To extend ourselves into a new future.
On the day I left him, I woke up tired. A deep tiredness in my heart. The tiredness became a stress and the heat of the day seemed to make it worse, so I walked to find deep shade. I needed the cold earth against my body.
She says that you are not to feel guilt. You are not to feel despair. You are an incredible human who cared for her and put her needs as equal to your own. Your service and love are so gratefully received. She said that you needed the release of loyalties to an old life…That you needed a clean break. A reset of sorts. She merely facilitated the shift and took the ends to be tied off on the “other side.” She has created an opportunity for nothing to pull you backward out of alignment with this new life you are creating.”
Also know that while you might experience her body as gone, her spirit is an intrinsic part of your life purpose. To honour yourself completely with compassion and forgiveness opens new avenues for your souls to walk on the earth together again…She says that you can let go of sadness…She can only come back when you look for love inside.
I received this bittersweet message at the end of a long road trip across Bali. It filled me with joy and broke me in two all at the same time. I didn’t want to believe it, yet the details and the depth of consideration were so uncanny — especially coming from a complete stranger who knew absolutely nothing about mine and Macy’s lives together.
The night after receiving the message, my sleep was filled with busy dreams. I was with Macy again; she was curled up in the diamond-shaped space between my crossed legs as she always had in the past. We were happy, we were love.
The following day, I searched for my little friend’s body. Angela’s message made mention of foliage and there were many areas close to the house that fit the description, so much so that I had no idea where to stop.
I wondered how far her tired heart might’ve taken her before she succumbed to the overwhelming pressure and sought solace in the deep shade.
As I trudged through the endless mesh of 50 shades of knee-deep green, I used a large stick to pave my way in case I irritated a sleeping snake. The sun was blazing hot that day; my T-shirt stuck to me with a mix of dirt and sweat, and despite its strength, the sea breeze did nothing to alleviate. Every time I found a cool spot under a densely covered tree and parted the branches and the tangled creeping vines, I fully expected to find my little buddy — dust-covered and curled up, her eyes closed and her sandwich-snout resting on her front paws — finally at peace. But I did not find her, and after six hours in the blistering heat, I reluctantly gave up the search.
I never did find Macy, but I still imagine her at peace — resting in the deep shade — becoming part of the earth once more. And whilst I miss her dearly, my heart sings with feelings of love and joy considering the character that she was and the precious time we spent together.
Call me crazy, but all things considered: I choose to believe the wonderful message I received from my four-legged friend. I have absolutely no doubt that the bond we had transcends physical form, and that the love we shared has an unseen mystery to it that one might never fully understand in this life. A type of energy, if you like.
I like to think we’ll meet again one day, or perhaps another moment — in no space and no time. I choose to believe that my little mate knows my feelings and that she knows I am happy for her to be free from her canine form and free from her duty as my dog-buddy.
I read somewhere that “Grief is just love with nowhere to go.” I think there’s a great deal of truth in this. Moreover, if one believes that love transcends all and that the ripple effect of that frequency can be felt through any and all boundaries, then, like me, you will know that our love does in fact have somewhere to go. And so whenever our hearts sing (as mine does so regularly these days), there can be no doubt that on some level, that vibration will be sensed far and wide.
Believing in Angela’s message isn’t really the point though. My lesson was, I believe, exactly as my pal (Dan) had forewarned: to accept this event simply as another event in my life. To have further firsthand proof of a Universal law: that nothing in life is permanent. A test to invite me to choose to suffer — or to suffer not. Thus another lesson in impermanence was delivered, welcomed, and learned at a curiously timed juncture of my life’s journey. An opportunity to see the good in the situation, instead of being entirely consumed by the bad.
It was most certainly a test, and had this happened to me a year earlier, it would’ve been a different story. My previously woeful and self-sabotaging mind would’ve proactively filled with pain and suffering as I unconsciously focused solely on the “bad.”
This time, there was no crippling fear, nor irksome and extended suffering. I met this lesson head-on and, having sat with it and taken that which I felt I needed, I let go and I took away a deeper sense of understanding of the reality of things. A pacifying realisation that nothing earthly lasts forever, and that form is indeed an illusion.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t think about her every once in a while! Man oh man, I love that hound.