I haven’t been here for a while. I think it was just too much and I was too sad.
About three weeks ago, we had to say goodbye to my absolutely beloved old dog. He was 14 years old and came into my life as a goofy 6-month old puppy. I was 24 and in graduate school. He was my first dog as an adult on my own. And then we were inseparable for 14 years, what’s been essentially my entire adult life.
My buddy was with me through the ends and beginnings of relationships, moving from city to city and state to state, through loneliness and illness, and lots of fun and snuggles. He was a mostly lab mutt that came to me through a rescue organization. So cute. Such a sweet face. Before he came to me he’d been starved and neglected in someone’s backyard. His littermate didn’t make it, but my buddy did.
At first, he had serious separation anxiety and he would bark and bark and destroy things if left alone. With time he became mellow and the most wonderful dog. He was so friendly and happy, so full of joy and love. An inexhaustible supply of it. As a young dog, we’d play fetch and I just couldn’t even wear him out no matter how many times I threw that tennis ball. He always wanted to be together and always wanted to please. He was goofy, not the smartest, but generally the happiest and sweetest creature I’ve ever seen. I feel so blessed we got to spend so much time together.
My buddy even brought me and my husband together. About five years ago I went camping with my dog on a lake in a state park way out in the woods. It had been raining so most of the other campers left, but I stayed warm and dry in my camper with the dog. One evening the rain stopped and there was a lovely sunset. I took my buddy out to the beach to play fetch with sticks and let him run into the water. He loved the beach. Then a man came walking down the road. I felt nervous being alone – thought I’d maybe get in trouble for having my dog off-leash or that this guy would be a weirdo. Instead, when he sat down, my dog actually went over to say hello and gave him the stick. He started throwing the stick for him and we struck up a conversation. My buddy would run back out of the water and then shake his cold wet dog fur onto this man’s legs and he didn’t mind, just casually and gently threw the stick again. They really got along well and we continued talking and throwing the stick for the pooch. That man turned out to be the love of my life and husband!
In the last year, my buddy slowed down and nerve trouble began to cause his back end to weaken and lose balance. He eventually had trouble walking and couldn’t keep his balance. While he was enjoying life and had good quality of life, we did our best to keep him happy and comfortable. When his pain grew and balance got worse, it eventually became clear that we had to help him and make the terrible decision dreaded by every dog lover. Our veterinarians were so wonderful and compassionate. I really couldn’t ask for better. A vet came to the house and my buddy quickly and peacefully left us.
It’s been months and months coming to this point. We’ve known it would happen. Dreaded it. It’s been heartbreaking. So hard to have that responsibility, so hard to watch him decline, so hard to lose him. It’s been even tougher than I anticipated. So I’ve been doing a lot of crying. Grief upon grief.
Like infertility, pet loss is another somewhat disenfranchised loss, serious for the person experiencing it but generally dismissed by others. It has really thrown me for a loop, but it feels lonely and unrecognized. So thankful for my family and our puppy we got before my surgery. She’s a godsend.
Image: Carved heart by Melanie Major, Wikimedia commons.
Text copyright Snowdroplets 2017.