This one hits close to home for our Pet Perennials family. Ann Hoff's dog Lucie was such a cornerstone in Ann's life and our FB group enjoyed "chatting" with Lucie on our monthly calls. To Ann we send our love. To Lucie we say, "until we meet again."
There are a thousand little ways you miss a dog. It isn’t a one and done thing. It is more of an “every single moment” of the day thing.
Tonight, my cat’s heavy breathing made me look around the room for my absent dog. In her older years I could hear her deep adorable breathing, sometimes with a sigh. It was what the tempo my life was set to, a living breathing sound machine that kept me motivated during the day and soundly sleeping at night. I marvel that my cat may have allergies or wanted to comfort me by impersonating the dog’s breathing. The dog who had been here for fourteen years and now is not.
I wove our lives together, the rhythms of waking up, feeding the horses, working quietly while she napped, and then the daily five pm walks. At my favorite fast food take out, I am reminded that I always order a side of teriyaki chicken without sauce for the dog. Tears slide openly while I am at the check-out.
The next day at the grocery store I had tears running down my face thinking of how I shopped for food for the both of us. I’d get those really thin pieces of lunch meat to use as a treat before the full meal, and play “can you get the lunch meat off your back to eat it” with her. After years together, I leaned she loved fillet mignon cooked rare, and cut into tiny pieces. If I cooked meat too well done, she wouldn’t eat it, so it was always cooked rare. I would cook liver in butter, always a treat that was also good for her. I splurged and got her rotisserie chicken every week.
She lived in this house for 14 years. Her energy belongs here. I feel her energy around the corner, expect her when I open the front door. I feel her in the places she hung out most, on her dog bed couch, the entrance to the hallway where she loved the cool tile in the summer. I picture her jumping up and down at the door, ready for our next adventure. Coming to nudge me off the computer at 5:30 because it was time for our daily walk. The jaunty walk she got when I pulled out the therapy dog bag, because she knew it meant she got to go somewhere and make people smile (which, in turn, they just might give her treats!).
Worst of all, I haven’t slept in the bed since she has left. I sleep on the couch. You see she always slept with me, up by the pillows like she was a person, you see, I had this ritual that I would touch her side the very last thing before I went to sleep, thinking, she’s breathing, and everything is right with the world. How LUCKY I am to have this dog, she’s a miracle. She made me grateful, and I felt blessed.
Today, on the couch, the two tortie foster kittens ensconced my head like stereo speakers blasting purrs. I am so grateful they are there. They are my respite to the pain of a dog empty house. I look a kitten in the face and can tell she knows my pain. That is why she is here. Foster kittens have never belonged to any human, but they have left their cat families. They know the pain of losing everything.
My dog was force of nature. All through my chemotherapy, she made me walk regardless of how I felt. She would come to me with a strange mixture of excitement for the walk, and duty that I must participate. She didn’t mind that I had slowed down some. The purpose of the walk was to “be Alive” and interact with all that nature could show us in our county neighborhood.
Then lately, she looked at certain bushes and smelled them for minutes. When she was younger, it was walk fast as she could. With her and her sister, we would play the Disney song, “I like to move it” and move it we did. There was palatable joy in those walks. Now, the last few years she has slowed, but act as though it was all her idea, she could still go faster if she really wanted to. She would stop and smell the smells, going much slower but every but as rapt with her excitement about walking.
I don’t know how to tell the therapy dog community that my dog is gone. She spent twelve years going into hospitals, hospices, mental health centers, rehab centers. She was always excited to meet everyone. In the 12 years she never refused to go to anyone. Now I look at our therapy bag and wonder when I will use it next. Not every dog will want to do therapy dog. Of all the dogs I saw at the hospital, my dog threw her heart into it the most, while still retaining that “I’m a good happy dog” vibe. I am gutted that we won’t ever do therapy dog anymore. The years of my dog making patients smile are over.
These last few years my dog went mostly everywhere with me. She was up in age, and I wanted to be around her every minute that was possible. She was great in restaurants, meetings, shopping. I never had to apologize for her. If she didn’t think she was human, she knew what it MEANT to be human, and lived up to the idea of being kind.
Gracie & Lucie at ACE Hardware awaiting treats!
I miss her palatable joy to go for a walk, the happiness to just enter Ace Hardware (They gave out dog treats), her entertaining people at my art booth. We loved each other with every fiber of our being. I even made a doggie-short movie on her, on what a great therapy dog she was, and how she overcame a life-ending illness. She could be tough. Which is actually hysterical because she was a Bichon with poufy hair and pink ears.
I loved her flat out, put her needs and desires as a priority. I can honestly say there is nothing I regret doing with this dog. I never treated her badly or yelled at her without meaning to. My three dogs before her got me trained so I could love her at the next level. Every other dog that died, I felt remorse at the times I didn’t treat them as good as I could have. I didn’t have any of those feelings with her.
I haven’t been able to force myself to lie on the bed, I have been sleeping on the couch. The cats surrounding me in stereo, closer than they would be on the bed. I think they know I need them around.
If you have a dog you love, hug them. Don’t make them wait for you any longer than you must. Give them the best life that you can and keep improving on it every day. Don’t just buy them things, give them your time. Make walking your dog your sacred meditative space. It will benefit both of you. That way, when you wake up one day to a house bereft of a dog, you will be sad, but you won’t feel sorry that you could have been a better pet parent.