Teaching humans: A dog tale

Oct 142010
Authors: Elizabeth Drolet

“Massive, uninvited change” is a phrase attorney, author and proud dog-owner Doug Koktavy would use to describe his book, “The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer: Lessons on Living and Dying from my Canine Brothers.”

The Argus Institute will host Koktavy’s “Animal Teacher, Human Student” talk at CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital tonight at 7 p.m. for which Koktavy will reflect on the lessons he learned through coping with the death of two of his dogs. This is something he says taught him about “living through dying.”

The talk allows Koktavy to not only give back to people through his lessons but also give support to animal resources.

Fifty percent of all proceeds from the book sales tonight will go to the Argus Institute.

Koktavy’s story begins when his 9-year-old Labrador Retriever, Beezer, was diagnosed with kidney disease.

He was given 90 days to live.

Koktavy was devastated at the thought of losing his best friend, and despite every measure he took to keep Beezer alive, the dog’s fate was inevitable.

Koktavy said fear and guilt were overwhelming emotions that took over his life at that point.

“Guilt was keeping me in the past over things I could have done to ensure Beezer’s health,” he said. “And fear was keeping me in the future over the thought of the day Beezer would leave me.”
Koktavy correlated his fear with a concept called “anticipatory grief,” or the grief people feel in anticipation of a known upsetting loss.

“It’s not limited to dogs; it is the same emotion a person feels when they are scared of losing their job, or their personal relationship is coming to an end,” Koktavy said.

Jane Shaw, director of the Argus Institute, first met Koktavy when Beezer was initially diagnosed. Shaw said Koktavy came in with a full “battle plan” on how to fight the disease.

“He pulled together as many resources and research as he possibly could. Being a lawyer and a hockey player, I think he had this idea that if he worked hard enough he could work through anything,” Shaw said.

That was until, Shaw said, Koktavy’s own health began to suffer and forced him to reevaluate his life.

The canine philosopher then came to an astute realization: The disease was the “destroyer of today” and was accomplishing its destruction through the debilitating sense of guilt and the “anticipatory grief” of fear.

Shaw said that Koktavy realized if he could just be present, he and his dog could do this together with “grace and dignity.”

Koktavy would be faced with this unbearable challenge yet again when his second beloved dog Boomer became sick with bone cancer. This time, however, Koktavy had a “running start” and was able to instill the lessons he learned from Beezer.

“What better animal to teach us the lesson of living in the present than a dog?” Koktavy asked. “In life, pain is mandatory, but suffering is optional. You think the way you feel.”

Koktavy’s event will be in the Animal Cancer Center in Room 120. The hospital, located on 300 W. Drake Road, will host a dessert reception and book signing will take place at 8 p.m.

Staff writer Elizabeth Drolet can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Attend the Event

What: “Animal Teacher, Human Student” talk
Who: Doug Koktavy
Date: Today
Time: 7 p.m
Location: CSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 300 W. Drake Road (Animal Cancer Center, Rm 120)
For more information: www.beezerandboomer.com

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