When I walk through the house, I’m suppose to hear the soft pad of her paws on the carpets and the click of her nails on the wood floor when she misses a runner. She hated the wood floors, so we got her rugs to help her walk. When I walk down the hall, I’m suppose to be slowed down because she wants to lead the way, but then waits for me to walk in front of her to tell her where to go. When I’m in the bathroom, I’m suppose to see her black nose in the crack of the door as she impatiently waits for me to come out. When I sit on the floor, I’m suppose to feel her hot breath on my face just before she licks my cheek … and my arms … and my neck … and my legs. I’m suppose to hold her head in my hands, caress her snout up between her eyes and over her ears and feel her soft fur on my thumbs, her thick main in my hands, her forehead on mine, my arms around her shoulders as she wiggles in my embrace trying to kiss every inch of my face.
But she’s not there
Instead, I’m greeted by the images of the last two and a half months. The panting and pacing. The extra skiddishness. The late nights of getting her to the yard to eliminate because she can’t get up on her own. The smell of diarrhea and urine. The fear of losing my best friend. The realization that she is suffering and everything I can do for her is just a bandaid fix. The realization that she is choosing to not eat because she is fully aware of the same.
When I’m met with the empty void, I’m smacked with the memory of carrying her in my arms and how oddly comfortable it feels as we walk into the doctor’s office together for the last time. Letting her lay on my body with my sweet baby girl on my left and my adoring husband on my right as we squeeze together on a tiny couch meant for two very small people. The panting and wheezing. The sudden burst of love when the doctor administers the anesthesia and she can’t feel the pain any more. The stillness and softness of her breath. The weight of her body. The limpness when she was suppose to be so rigid and reactive to my every movement. Laying her on the floor expecting her to look up to see where I was going. Not being able to move because she hates being left alone, and in a doctor’s office no less! Realizing I’m the one who is, and perhaps always was, afraid to be alone.
She hid so much of her pain. When she would chase her ball as we played in the street, her paws became so bloody, but she refused to stop running and playing. When I hid the ball to take care of her, she would limp and then lay down. She always took care of me and hid what she was feeling. That strength she showed was the only thing that made me leave her lifeless body. She had so much courage for me. I needed to have the same courage for my family, put on my big-girl pants, and go on living.
But where does the grieving process fit in? With so much work to do, a house that has been neglected in the chaos, a family to take care of, and a marketing degree to finish, who has time to just fall apart? How do I efficiently and effectively answer the question of “How are you?” without losing my shit and yet wanting to be real with my close friends and family? I know I’ve been on the other side wanting to comfort someone who has suffered a great loss and it’s tough. I never know what to say. Now here I am suffering the greatest loss of my life and I’m trying so hard to keep it together. I’m trying to keep my focus on the ball and forget that my paws are bleeding. To the many sweet and loving people who have expressed concern: I’m sorry, I don’t know what to say or how to be. My world is upside down. Thank you for loving me. I have a drive to reciprocate and take care of you, but I can’t and I feel shitty for it.
Right about here, I’m compelled to add that if you’re reading this and thinking “it was just a dog,” I must encourage you to stop reading now and find your way to a compassionate life that embraces and respects all sentient beings and abandon the “us” and “them” mentality; its making you a miserable human being.
There is so much more I have to say, but since it’s almost time to get to work, I must leave it here for now.
December 16, 2016 – It is one month later. I’ve finished my finals and life has slowed down a bit. I still feel the loss every day. There is a new set of tiny clacking nails on the wood floors, but it’s not the same. There were so many days when I was in absolute disbelief that she was gone. How can she go from walking around just fine in July and then gone four months later? At breakfast on November 8 after we said good-bye, I had the realization that someday she will be a distant ghost of a memory. This being that was so close to my heart would someday be so far. Dogs will come and go and I will love them all. We may move. I may change. Life will happen. The world will change and the beautiful wooden box will still hold what use to be her. Will I keep her box forever? Will it somehow become a special family heirloom?
Here is my wish …
I wish I could bury her as a tree in a place where I could always visit. It would not be a place to morn, but a special place to remember that death is part of life and every part of both can be beautiful. It would be a special place to remember my purpose and from where I came. And all the others that come into my life, who find peace, who find enlightenment would be able to join her creating a beautiful forest representing the beautiful beings that once graced this earth. And someday, I will be buried in this Forest of Ancestors and someday my children and their children will forever be able to come to this forest to find peace. They may not know of Ebony or me, but the feeling would be the same no matter who they are visiting or why they are visiting.