Tag Archives: pets

Life Carries On. . .

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Last week found me writing a lot about Patty, who died in her sleep.

It felt okay.

That is, the writing felt okay.  It certainly did not feel okay that my friend died.

Writing felt like the right way to honor and feel my grief, and to mourn the loss of someone I knew and loved for many years.

I want to sincerely thank all of you for listening, for bearing witness with me during this time of great sadness and regret.  Your comments and virtual support have meant so much to me.

Life carries on.

I’m already getting swept up in the currents and tides of it as it carries me forward. . .

The greatest sorrow of losing Patty was the missed opportunity I had to reconnect with her during her life.  A very dear friend has suggested I might still communicate with her and that she might even answer me in some way shape or form.

Like the fluttering of a butterfly.

But it is hard and sad to know I’ll never hear Patty’s voice again, that I had the chance up until about two weeks ago to hear her voice.

Let it go, Darlin’, she would say.  It’s okay.

So, I’m feeling ready for life to go on.  I’m feeling ready for the memories of Patty to bind me to her evermore, as opposed to the stranglehold of grief.

I know it is what she would want.

I also know she would be happy to know I’ve reconnected with a couple of old friends who were mutual friends with her and that I’d also lost touch with over the past years of working motherhood.

I’ve been more cognizant of the urges I have to connect with people, and if it feels right, I shoot them a text or dial their number.  I don’t wait.  We never have as much time as we think we do.

Maybe that is Patty’s gift to me–  the awareness that we need to connect here and now while we have the chance.

Or maybe that is just something I am telling myself to be okay with the loss.

Either way, I am feeling peaceful about it.

In the vein of life moving on, it also seems like the appropriate time to share with you that we got a new dog.

For the sake of my blog, I will call her Muffin.  She’s a mutt.  We’ve had her for about three weeks.  She came into our lives a month to the day after we lost Doggy, and Muffin has brought us joy, love, and healing.  In this instance, a replacement pet was exactly what we needed.  And she is perfect for us.

I’d hesitated to say anything earlier, because of the trauma with Doggy, I wanted to make sure that this Muffin was the real deal.

And she is.

I’ll sign off of this post with lyrics from a Peter Gabriel song, “I Grieve.”  It is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite singers, and it has brought me so much comfort so many times in my life:

Life carries on
in the people I meet
in everyone on the street.
In all the dogs and the cats
in the flies and the rats
in the rot and the rust
in the ashes and the dust.
Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on.  

It’s just the car that we ride in
a home we reside in,
the face that we hide in
The way we are tied in.
And life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on.

 

 

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The Day the Dog Died

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The day the dog died started like any other.

I’d only had my little beagle mix for two weeks, but my days had already taken on the shape of walking, feeding, petting, scolding, and picking up after her.

The kids adored her.

The night before she died, Emily was shrieking with glee watching the pup dance and bounce around the living room, full of friskiness.

You don’t wake up in the morning thinking, oh, this will be the day the dog bolts away from me and I never see her again.

It isn’t in your agenda that you’ll get a call from a neighbor, in response to your desperately scrawled “MISSING” flyer, letting you know your small dog was hit by a car, her car, and that she died instantly.

There are not really ways your brain can grasp that she was hit right around the corner from where you so desperately searched and called out until your voice shook with sobs.

And there isn’t really any good way to teach your brain to be content with the image of your dog flying away from you like a flash of lightening, as your final memory of her.

I’d chuckled when I read that beagles rated five out of five stars for “Wanderlust”.  They like to sniff.  They are stubborn.  When they get an idea in their noses, they just have to follow it.  I’d never let the kids hold onto her leash outside, because I knew she was high risk for taking off.

I actually got a kick out of her stubborn streak because she was so willful, but she was so easy to just pick up and redirect.

She was just a little dog.

Was.

Past tense.

I’d searched the neighborhood with my neighbor for an hour, trying to locate her.  Then I called the cops and put up flyers.  I was consoled by friends that “dogs run away all the time!”  “they always come home,” and “it’ll be fine.”

I went off to work figuring the cops or pound would call me and tell me they’d found the naughty girl and I would collect her and chide her.  I planned to hug her and pat her and tell her what a wicked little girl she was…

My neighbor and some utility people who were working right there when she was hit, collected her body, wrapped it and put it in a bin.  My neighbor put the bin in her yard and let me know I could come and get it.

A school bus driver stopped and stood vigil over my dog with neighbors I didn’t know.  These strangers stood and prayed and cried over my dog.  Then my neighbor carried the bin back to our street and put it on the side of her house.

I drove home from work.  It felt I’d never stop crying.  My neighbor had left to pick up her kids at school, so I found the bin in the side of her yard.  I started to uncover the lifeless little body of my dog, but the rags in which she was wrapped were bloody and I could smell her blood.

So I left her be.

I put the bin in my trunk and drove her to the vet.  The wonderful vet who had been helping us work through separation anxiety and all those other quirks of little rescue dogs.  She held me as I sobbed and a vet tech went out to get her body.

They took the bin with her into the back and the vet told me she would look at her to see if I could go back and say goodbye.

She came back a little later and told me it would not be good for me to see her like that.

But she told me it was probably very fast.

She told me that my dog was curled in a peaceful position.

Peaceful.

No, I did not want the bin back.

Another tech let me know she could cash me out when I was ready.  They would send her body to be cremated.  They would wash off her little, pink collar and put it aside for me to come back and get.

Five years ago, I lost my dog who had been by my side for 16 years.  It was agonizing.  But it was not sudden and shocking.  It was humane and peaceful.  As much as it broke my heart, it was a good death.  I was able to hold her and tell her what a great friend she’d been, and she breathed her last in my arms.  I grieved for months after losing her.

I’d only known this girl for a couple weeks.

But it feels like losing my friend of 16 years all over again.

It is raw and tragic and just horrible.

Present tense.

I never thought I would love another dog.  I never thought I could go through the terror of losing and grieving for an animal.

Loving an animal is a voluntary grief we take on.  It is a grief to which we willingly open our hearts and souls, knowing we will love a being who will predecease us.

This dog weaseled her way into my heart.

When you lose an animal companion, the house is terribly empty.  It is quiet and still in a way that is haunting.

The kids sensed it the second they entered the house after their days.  We sat with them on the couch and told them about the dog.

My eight year old Jack’s eyes got very wide.  His face flushed and paled.  He did not cry, but he sank against me and stayed there.  He asked what happened to her body.  I let him know I’d brought her to the vet and the vet would keep her.

I used very simple, almost blunt words.

Mama was out walking our doggy.  You know how tricky she was and how careful we were with her?  Well, she bolted and Mama lost her grip on the leash.  Mama could not catch her.  I tried and tried.  She ran into the street and she was hit by a car.  Her body was too hurt to keep living.  She died.

Emily’s face crumpled immediately into a mask of pain and despair the likes of which I’ve never seen on either of my children.  I watched as she tried to grapple with the information.

“But where is she?”

“Mama brought her body to the vet.”

“Nooooooo,” she wailed.  “I want her!  I want to pet her.  I want our dog.”

“I know honey.  Me too.  It’s very sad.  But we have each other and Mama and Daddy will take care of you and Jack.  We will all stick together and help each other.”

The kids hugged each other and Emily cried in Jack’s arms.  It was a moment of beautiful and mournful sibling truce in honor of their pet.

A while later she went upstairs to my bedroom.  I knew she was looking for the dog.  I heard a keening cry come and ran up the stairs to find my four-year-old girl crumpled in a ball on the floor, having not found the dog but found one of her squeaky toys.

“She can heal?”  Emily asked.  “Will she return?”

“No, honey.  No.  She won’t ever be coming back.”  I did not know if I should tell her that maybe someday we could get a new dog.  I didn’t know what to do other than hug her.

She said she wanted some noodles with butter.  So we went down to do that.

“I’ll never feel happy now,” she sobbed as I cooked.

“Of course you will, sweetheart,” I said.  I wept with her, petting her head and rubbing her back.  “Our hearts are hurting right now, but we will feel better.  I promise.”

“My heart will never be better.  My heart was in Doggy and now it is broken and I’ll never have my heart again.”

I held her and hugged her and said all the things moms say when their children are devastated.  I walked back and forth between her and Jack, hugging and stroking and trying to make sense of not just my own shock and loss, but that of my small children.

The whole night was very painful.  The delicate skin under my eyes puffed out like someone punched me.  My skin burned from the salt of my tears.

Jack could see I was sad.  He came to me in the kitchen and put his arms around me.  His head comes up to my breast now.

“I love you,” he said, looking up earnestly into my face.  “Doggy will always be in our hearts and in our heads.  You are the best mom in the world.  I know sometimes you lose your cool and yell.  And sometimes I lose my cool and call you stupid.  I don’t mean those things.  You’re the best mom in the world.  And if Doggy hadn’t gotten away, she would have lived with us as long as dogs live because you are the best mom in the world.”

He finished his little speech with an extra tight hug.

I didn’t feel deserving of it.

I’d been terrified the kids would blame me.

Because I blamed myself.

I felt guilty as all hell; the image of little Dog darting away from me with her leash clattering after her, scaring her, spurring her on until she disappeared.  It took but seconds.

How could I have let her go?

I’d been adamant about having this dog.  My husband didn’t want a dog at all, but I pushed him into it.  I had to have her.

And I loved her.

For two weeks.

And now she’s dead.

Her ears were so silky.  Her paws were so tiny and smelled like popcorn.  She loved to lick and sniff.  When it snowed, she put her nose right down and tunneled into the snow, sniffing away.  She made us laugh.  She was lazy at night and curled up on the couch or bed with me.  Her belly was soft and a bit fuzzy where it had been shaved when she got spayed.

I loved her doggy smell.

I don’t get it right now.  There is no perspective or framework for me to understand this loss.  And dealing with my children’s confusion and grief is so immediate and important.

We will get through it.  I keep telling myself this.  We are strong and we are a close family.  We will help each other and our hearts will heal.  These are my mantras.

So that’s the story of the day the dog died.

It was a day that started like any other and ended like no other.

I’m thinking we will probably be reading and re-reading and telling and re-telling this story until it feels okay or gets boring.

I’m looking forward to being able to finish the last chapter, for the last time, so I can close the book, and go on to something new.

2/27/11

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It was my last day with my dog.

We woke up that morning and she couldn’t walk.

We took her to the vet and the decision was made.20131216-123403.jpg

She was 16.

She was decrepit and couldn’t hold her bladder or bowels any longer.  She was losing her sense of hearing and sight.  She had been with me since I was 21.

I can’t remember our last day together.  It isn’t like I had planned to put her to sleep, so there was no final supper or walk by the bay.  I had always known that it would have to happen like that- in an emergency, because I would never be able to make and keep a date to have her put to sleep.

I remember there was snow on the ground, and several days or a week before, she had been outside in the snow, sniffing at my son’s snowman, frolicking like a puppy-rabbit for one second before becoming elderly again.

She was a lab mix. She never got over 36 pounds in her entire life, even though she loved cheese with her whole heart.  Although she was initially terrified of water, she grew to love the ocean, and walked the beach hundreds of times with me.  She shed black fur everywhere, so I took to wearing mostly black so it would blend in.  She slept in my bed, curled up in my arms each night for years when I was single, lonely, and sad.

She was never like my baby, as some people call their pets.

She was my sister.

If there is a hell, and if I am destined to go to there, it will be a movie theater where I have to watch myself mistreat my dog in her elder years over and over for all eternity on a giant screen.  I yelled and scared her.  I hurt her feelings.  I had no patience when her bowels let loose all over my carpet and I slipped in it coming home from work with toddler-Jack in my arms.  I was frustrated with her when her toenails click-clacked on the hardwood floors in the middle of the night because she was startled or confused.

I did her wrong.

At one point, someone recommended euthanizing my dog “because you never want to make a bad memory with your dog.”  Wiser words have never been spoken, but wisdom was wasted on my shallow ears then.  I understand it now.  I didn’t have the compassion, energy, or insight to care for a sick and elderly creature.

Maybe karma will reign and I will be mistreated as an elder.  Gosh, I hope not, but I suppose it could be a possibility.

When I was much, much younger, before I ever had a dog, someone told me your dog always comes back to you.  When your dog dies, they somehow find their way back to their owner.  This thought stuck with me for over 20 years.  I pondered it quite a bit after my dog died.  I even contacted the person online.  He was a total stranger after 20 years, 87 years old and living clear across the country.  But we struck up a conversation of comfort an faith.

My husband said, if she comes back, it won’t be as a dog.  She lived too good a life as a dog to be reincarnated as one.

We gave her a good death, I believe.  It was peaceful and kind, and in her final moments, she was happy, in my arms.

It started snowing while we were in the vet’s.  I asked if I could take her out to walk her around for a bit before we made the final decision.  She limped out with me into the parking lot, making little footprints in the snow.  She stumbled, looked up at me, and let me know.  Or maybe I projected that onto her, as my husband suggested.

But in that moment, I knew it was time.

I hugged her and thanked her and let her know if she ever wanted to come back to me, I would always be waiting for her.  I apologized for being such a horrid human to her and told her I loved her.

After, the grief was intense, mostly because of my previous cruelty, but also because my life had been so shaped by her–  feeding and walking her, brushing her tufty old fur so it would shed less, hearing her trip-trapping across the floor to greet me after work.  There was an emptiness so vast it took my breath away.

And it still does take my breath away three years later.

Sometimes I dream of her still.  Her slightly square jaw poked up at me, her eyes looking at me like I am the only thing in the universe.

I don’t feel her presence in my life, and when I think of her, I am still mostly sad.  Sure, the grief has dulled, as it will over time.  A week after her death, I went to collect her ashes.  They were in a very small, wooden box.  Smaller than you would really think is possible.  I thought they would give me a sense of closure or peace.  They did not.

Someone at the animal crematorium made a print of her paw for me.  There was a black hair stuck in the clay.  The texture of her gritty, little paw was evident in the print.  I held it to my nose, only smelling a faint, chemical smell.  I had always loved the smell of her paws; like corn chips rubbed in fresh cut grass.  It was the best smell ever.

I keep the paw print with her ashes on a shelf in my bedroom, next to a picture of her and my husband when he and I were first dating.

We have not gotten another dog.  I don’t know if I could ever love again, as I loved her.  And I don’t know if I am much better of a human, if I could be better to an animal, although I would like to think I could be.  I’m sure I don’t deserve another dog.

But here is why I think the universe and karma might not totally be out to get me:

One week after the death of my dog, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.  I couldn’t help but wonder. . .  and sometimes still can’t help but wonder because Emily has an uncanny affinity for doggies, and an abiding love of cheese.

This post was written as a part of the WordPress Daily post series.  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/daily-prompt-sweet-dreams/