Thursday, March 28, 2013

A tribute: A girl and her dog

I'm going to write what will likely be the most indulgent post I ever create. And hopefully therapeutic. Feel free to skip if you aren't interested in sappy odes to childhood pets.

A year ago, on March 28, 2013, I said goodbye to my best friend, my dog, Lady.

Thanksgiving 2011

I woke up that morning as normal, hadn't even left bed yet when my dad called me. He informed me that he had to take my dog to the vet that morning, and there was a good chance he wouldn't be taking her home again. My dad was in tears. I remember being shocked, numb. She was older, by our best estimations about 11 (we got her when I was in middle school and were not sure of her exact age then). She was older, but not 'old' by any stretch of the imagination. She had been sick before, but to believe that this was truly 'the end' was incomprehensible. I told him to keep me updated and started trying to figure out if I could take off work.

Her happy place
Thirty minutes later he called to tell me that there was nothing they could do and that we needed to put her down. Her heart had expanded so much that the muscles holding it snapped, and crushed her windpipe. I begged him to ask if we could delay it long enough for me to get home to say goodbye. He shouldn't have to do that alone, and my mom was not going to be able to be there. I needed to be. He asked the vet, who said that we could delay, it wasn't inhumane, but that she wasn't sure Lady would live long enough for me to get home. I did the best I could, but she did pass before I could even leave Miami.

Dad and Lady with the painting I had commissioned for the parents Christmas 2011

In shock I drove home, angry that I didn't get to say goodbye. Desperate to see my family; to spend time with people who knew that this wasn't just an animal.. this was a member of the family.

We buried her at home in our front yard, and spent the weekend together, remembering, talking, working on her memorial, and loving each other.

Easter 2009

One year later, the memories are all still so clear, and fresh, as if it just happened yesterday.

Yet in other ways it feels a lifetime ago. I looked at pictures of her today and was shocked at how unfamiliar her face was beginning to look. While I am glad the healing process has occurred, I struggle with not wanting to forget.

Lady and Lilly

Sure she was just a dog, but she was more than that, she was a friend. From the time I was 14 she was always there. The nights I needed to cry, the nights I needed to vent. The happy holidays we spent as a family, and all the Easters we would go home in between services to bring her back simply for a picture with the family at the cross. Every time we had to move, Lady made it 'home'.

Easter 2010... even when no one else was ready, Lady found a way to smile for the camera

Life goes on because it has to. Life goes on, because it does.

Life goes on, and I've learned not to think. Thinking brings pain, and life must go on. I work with 'real' pain all the time. I watch my families struggle and I feel guilt for feeling so affected about a simple animal. I feel guilt for hurting, so I  don't think, and I continue on.

But tonight. Tonight, one year later, I indulge my need to cry. I indulge my need to remember. I indulge my need to grieve not just my dog, but the inevitable loss that comes from loving and living.

Mom and Lady
I relish the pain as it is a reminder of how deeply I have loved. The emptiness in my heart an indicator of how much joy and love she had brought during her life. That gaping hole is only so large because she took up so much space while she was here. I will take the despair as payment for the light she brought into my life.

And so I remember. I recognize that while I grieve her loss, I grieve a great number of losses. I grieve time passing, and age slipping away. I grieve old friendships. I grieve my childhood. I grieve it's simplicity, and the comfort that can only come from a beloved family pet. I grieve in anticipation my rabbit who has slowly been showing her age. I grieve the patients I have lost since last March, and I grieve the loss of family members. But mostly... I grieve my beautiful, stubborn, energetic puppy who choose me that day in the pound 13 years ago and spent her entire life living in gratitude for the love she found in our family.

And in another day or so, I will put away the memories again, pack up the relics, and continue on with my life because it is not possible to exist in such a state always. Dwelling only prolongs the pang and delays the healing.

Mom, Ally, and Lady Easter 2010

But I've realized now, a year later, that I will never forget. Time will take me farther from the life we had with her, and that's alright... because that is what time does. The tears will fall less frequently, and the sharp pain will dull a little more. Eventually I will be able to remember with nothing but joy.

But I will remember, always.

Right before I moved to Miami, August 2011

I love you Ladybug. Thank you for being the friend I always needed and the companion I always imagined. You were the best childhood pet any girl could ever ask for. I sure hope there's a puppy heaven, and you are up there right now, running around, playing with tennis balls, having your ears scratched, and enjoying the crisp fall air. Know that we love you. Always.

A girl and her dog: Age 16 and Lady in her younger years

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking this journey with me! I always love to hear your thoughts and promise to respond whenever possible.