She’s been gone almost seven days.
I now live in the after; there was the eighteen years I had a dog, and now the after when I don’t. I’m heartbroken.
I want to do a proper memorial post for Sophie, something positive and celebratory, but I’m still dragging myself through this swap of the after.
I’m trying to focus on the many ways in which I am lucky: I had those eighteen years. Her health was excellent for most of them and we managed the months it was not. And she was ready–it was the right decision. Since I made the call and started counting down our last two weeks, she rapidly began to deteriorate in a way even I wasn’t expecting; by the time last Tuesday rolled around, she didn’t even want to get out of bed and we moved up the home vet visit by a few hours so she didn’t have to wait any longer. She knew, she was ready. She went peacefully surrounded by those who love her–even her two cats sat on either side of her and watched. It was a good life lived, a good death. I am lucky.
The final veterinary and cremation costs were well over $500, plus two weeks of all her favourite (fucking $4/can) foods and freshly cooked chicken that cost god knows how much total–I am lucky I didn’t have to even think about it, from generous donations sent my way by friends and family. There was no scrambling to figure things out, and I got to spend her last days without taking time from her to worry about work. I am lucky.
Not a single person suggested to me she was “just a dog” or that my grief was/is misplaced; I am lucky (that I am not in jail for having to kill anyone for saying something stupid like that).
I have so many someones who care about me to check in and help out, chief among them a someone who would cross timezones and spend a small fortune to fly here last minute, rent a car, and ensure I didn’t fall into the black hole of depression and be unable to climb out again. I am lucky.
I am lucky. I am grateful. But I am still so wounded it’s hard to breathe.
The apartment is quiet now in a way I tried to prepare for but couldn’t. My life is quiet in a way I couldn’t anticipate. Everything about my entire day has always been about her: I got up because she had a food/meds/pee schedule, I dressed because she had to go out, I knew I took my meds because I had them after I gave hers. These last few weeks, I only slept when she did.
I expected to feel guilt for the fact that I’d be relieved I can now sleep the entire night through without stumbling down the stairs with her in my arms for a pee break, that I can sleep in, that I don’t need to climb over baby gates (meant to keep her from the kitchen floor where she could slip), that I don’t need to scramble to figure out how I would pay for her hundreds in medication this month, that I can leave the apartment for more than four hours at a time and don’t have to schedule it around her bathroom breaks, that I don’t have that constant knot of anxiety in my gut worrying about something happening to her.
But I don’t. There is no guilt because there’s no relief. I would happily spend the rest of my life with those sacrifices if it meant she could be here forever. The only relief to be found is that she’s free from any pain or discomfort.
Her two cats know something happened. What they understand, I can’t say, but they’re somber. I’m glad they were there to witness, that I didn’t just leave with her and have her not come back, although I’ve still found Doombuggy crying inside the door when she hears me come up the stairs, and Mo sits and looks at me with some sort of knowing in her eyes.
Tomorrow I have to ease back into work, to keep up the cleaning Dina did while she was here, to keep breathing (with the chemical assistance) even when I want to stop. Another tool for my coping toolbox: to not forget how so many rallied around me during this, and to not let myself slip over the edge when Dina and others were so willing to sacrifice (and spend) to keep me standing. That the value I can’t see in myself could not only be glimpsed in Sophie’s eyes but the eyes of those around me–if I pay attention and look.
It was three years ago today that I was dealt such a crushing blow, it still steals my breath and my will to live–and if you’d told me three years ago today that I’d still be standing, I wouldn’t’ve believed you. I’m here, in no small part, because Sophie needed me. Now she doesn’t, and I have to find a way to be here for myself.
When she was a puppy, she was a holy terror. Smart and energetic with a terrible attention span, she was hard to train and constantly in trouble.
The year before I got her Disney’s Tarzan released, and that first summer with her, the theme music was still on heavy rotation. I used to walk around with her cuddled to my chest singing that song, because I knew she might be a brat, but I knew no matter what anyone thought or said, she’d always be in my heart.
That wasn’t entirely accurate, though–she was my heart. And now it’s gone.
Still, I am lucky I recognized how special she was, that we had that bond right away. I am grateful.
This played while she took her last breath.