“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.”
I have lost many pets throughout my life. As an adult, with my own family, we just lost the first dog. My 10 year old Husky/Great Pyrenees named Ghost passed away unexpectedly. We expected it within the foreseeable future, but not as quickly as it happened. We were having a family movie night when I noticed she didn’t come into the room. Ghost and my other dog, Khaleesi, always need(ed) to be where the family was and Ghost would snuggle up on her dog bed and snore. I gave her a hug and tried to lead her into the room but she wouldn’t budge. I told my husband that I thought she was acting off. Later she came in on her own. The next day, as we were about to attend my grandmother-in-law’s memorial, we noticed that Ghost had collapsed behind me and was laying in a pile of her own pee. We took her to the emergency vet that day and they gave us some pain medicine, a tentative cancer diagnosis, and set us up with a specialist to do some further tests two days later. The following day she was wobbling and her legs gave out as I helped her to her dog bed, where she began breathing really hard. I knew then that she was ready to go. Alex and I rushed her to the emergency vet and as we brought her in, she passed away. It was traumatizing and at the same time, comforting knowing we were with her as she passed.
I am writing this blog because there’s something in me that needs to write down my thoughts when I am grieving. At times I almost feel silly for how deeply this has affected me. As an adult, I have experienced people close to me dying, and I never feel bad about the grieving process. I shouldn’t feel silly about grieving for our pet, our family. I wake up in the morning, ready to let her out and get her food for her. I’m not used to not being woken up by a whine or a nose nudge, as Ghost had always been ready for food before the alarm went off. I see an empty food bowl and I feel melodramatic as I pick it up and wonder what to do with it. I think of the bags of dog food in our pantry that Khaleesi can’t eat, as she’s a diabetic. I look at her dog bed and wonder if I should try to get Khaleesi used to it or move it around to a new spot. I look at everything that belongs to her, feel pain and am keenly aware of any part of my routine that she’s missing from. It hurts. Dogs rely on us so much that there’s a glaring hole when they’re gone. Every part of my day feels wrong.
Watching a living thing pass from this world isn’t easy. I’ve been with relatives as they’ve passed and pets. Death isn’t glamorous. There’s noises and facial expressions that will haunt you whenever you think on it. I think of how I should have let her have one of my fries earlier in the day, how I should have given her an amazing last meal. I think of all the things I would have done if I had known she was going to leave us that day. Did she know how much I loved her? I hope so.
I just feel desperately sad. This year has not been very good to us. But I also try to remember that Ghost lived a good life with us. Not every animal has that, unfortunately. I remember that she went on long trips to the cottage with us, to Traverse City, state parks, on the boat. She looooved going on the boat or sitting by the campfire, even though we had to watch her tail to make sure she didn’t catch fire with that cotton-like fur. She smiled, truly smiled, constantly. She skipped like a pup whenever she heard us say “Walk” or “Up North” and eagerly awaited the click of the leash onto her collar. She’d scare you with an abrupt, loud bark whenever you were petting Khaleesi and she felt she deserved attention too. Ghost would sit behind me while I did my make up, outside of the bathroom while I showered, next to the hammock while I read. She got puppy ice creams and peanut butter cakes on her birthday, and she was known to sneak behind our backs while we sat around the campfire to take a slurp from our White Russians (don’t worry, we stopped her when we noticed). She only got on the furniture when her bones were really aching, so we always let her in those moments. When I was sad or needed a moment to unwind, I would rest my forehead against hers and she’d close her eyes and soak in that moment where it was just the two of us. She turned heads everywhere, people delighted in seeing her wolf-like prowl, wanted to pet her lush fur.
We were truly lucky and I like to think she lived a great life with us. I don’t know when the sadness I feel will fade but I feel fortunate to know the love of a dog.
“All his life he tried to be a good person. Many times, however, he failed.
For after all, he was only human. He wasn’t a dog.”
Charles M. Schulz