Warning: My dog died. Read on at your own risk.
Last weekend we had to say goodbye to our sweet Cosmo. It’s a sad story with a sad ending that I don’t feel like telling on the Interwebs. In fact, I’m late posting this week because I don’t feel like telling that story, but it’s the one story taking up space in my mind.
I finally came to a few thoughts on grief I do feel like sharing. These are things I’ve noticed after losing 6 dogs since I moved away from my parent’s home. (Six!! My heaven will look like a tail-wagging pack.) I’ve also lived long enough to lose a few humans.
In the beginning, I always forget they are gone for tiny moments and then remember with a slap.
I once read that this feels like climbing the stairs and expecting another step when there isn’t one. The moment of falling into space when I thought something was under me comes closest to that moment when I remember my dog won’t bark to greet me when I get home.
I always think about the lasts and the firsts.
I think about how this last summer went by without me knowing it was his last summer. I think about the last bath he endured. I think about the last night he woke me up to reposition himself on the blankets at the foot of my bed.
I think about how my mother-in-law first found him shivering on her front porch on a below-zero February day and how I went out to help my husband take him to the shelter.
I think about looking at those brown eyes that first day and deciding we should help him get over his kennel cough before taking him in. And then how we could never take him into an animal shelter after that.
I always think of the others I have lost.
New grief pulls up memories of other losses. Losing Cosmo reminds me of the other five dogs, of the people I still miss, of the cats who have come and gone. (I know Cosmo would not like me to think about cats, so I left that for the last.)
I always miss the things that annoyed me most.
I miss having to keep the baby gates in front of the bathrooms, so he wouldn’t raid the cat boxes. I miss having to step over him in the middle of the night. I miss seeing him beg at the edge of the kitchen when I make the lunches.
And the other day I was practicing ridiculously high notes on my clarinet. I worked myself up to the G above the staff and then felt hollow inside when Cosmo didn’t howl about it.
I always feel guilty after they go.
Whenever I am grieving, I think of all the walks I should have taken. I think of the times I didn’t stop to notice Cosmo or pet his head. I think of how busy I got and how I snapped at him when he got under foot while I tried to get out the door.
I even regret getting the cats who stressed him out. If I had known he was so close to the end, I would have waited, I tell myself, so he wouldn’t have had the aggravation.
Now when I hear others tell me of their own regrets, I’ve started telling people it’s normal to feel guilty. I miss the one I lost. And I am only human. No matter how much I love someone or some dog, I cannot take all those walks or avoid all irritation.
When I lose my dog, I’ve discovered, it’s normal to see what I did wrong. I still wish I could go back and fix it, but it soothes me to know this ache is a part of missing someone.
And that’s all I have for today. For now, I sit here this morning with a calico cat on my lap ready to love those I’ve got the best I can.
May you make your own way through the guts of grief when it comes your way-