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This is one of my all-time favorite photos.
This week of December was always when my dogs, Rincon and Chloe, would don their reindogs outfits (I say that like it was their idea) and then prance around town with me, spreading their good cheer to everyone who stopped us.
And everyone stopped us!
I remember it so clearly.
This year is my first holiday season in a looong time without a reindog. At almost 12 years old, Rincon moved on to reindog heaven a couple years ago, and at almost 15, Chloe followed him just two months ago.
And although I notice their absence...oh, I don't know...about a hundred times a day, I've learned something.
It took me a long time, but I think I've finally got it.
I've learned that...
All that I really love and cherish about my dogs still exists in me.
Because it always existed in me. The love, joy and companionship I experienced with my dogs always happened in me.
My entire relationship with my dogs happened in me!
Nowhere else. Not outside me somewhere. Not in the air space between my dogs and me.
It all happened in me.
And it's all still there. And accessible. I can tap into it whenever I want.
Yes, the dogs were the catalysts when those wonderful feelings happened. And the focus of my attention while they were happening.
But the feelings that I enjoyed and cherished so much whenever I looked at my dogs, or played with them, or pranced and jingle-belled around town with them all happened in me.
And those feelings are still there. Imprinted. They didn't go anywhere.
I used to think I had to have the stimulus present in the form of my wonderful doggies to be able to keep feeling those doggie-specific loving, joyful feelings.
Yet now I know...or rather, I experience...that that is not so.
Those loving, joyful feelings happened in me so many times when I was with my dogs that they got formatted into my soul.
So that is where I look for those feelings now: into my own self. My own being. My own soul.
And those feelings are there!
And now the memories of my dogs take me there.
But wait -- not the wistful, I wish they were here kind of memories that just make us feel sad and lonely.
Instead, I'm talking about "enhanced" memories that have threads on them. Threads of awareness that connect me directly to the feelings of love and joy that are still imprinted in me.
And as I follow those memory threads, they lead me not to my dogs, but to myself and those imprinted feelings.
Then the love and joy reawaken and stream through me again.
Lighting me up, warming me up, from the inside.
That's what happens when I look at this Reindogs photo. I am lit up and warmed up, from the inside.
And I can't stop smiling.
This holiday season, may your inner circuits of love and joy light you up and warm your heart.