Saturday, May 7, 2011

Just a Dog

They creep up on me every so often. I think I'm doing okay, that it's getting easier with time but then I find myself unable to finish a sentence. I get choked up at the most unexpected times. Grief is a strange phenomenon. Those damn tears.

I can have a house full of people and all of a sudden I am in them again. I can be driving to school and feel my eyes watering. The other morning they hit me five minutes before my first class began. It's embarrassing at times. I should be toughening up by now. I find myself wanting to say what others might think if they saw my distress, "Honestly, she was just a dog".

It's been three months since losing Charlie. The toughest part is when I come home and imagine I need to put her out. Or when I wake up to my alarm and think to avoid stepping on her as I go to the shower. Today I took cans of food out of the pantry, food I had purchased in her final few days thinking it might be more preferable to her. It wasn't. I also put the last of her treats into a container and grabbed her medication too. I then went to get her dry food from the laundry room where I always keep it. I started to think of how in the last two years I'd always thought twice about the size of dog chow that I'd purchase. In the back of my mind I'd think, "Is she going to be around long enough to finish this big bag?" And as if tempting fate, I'd buy the biggest bag. Today when I went to retrieve the bag, I realized for the first time that there was less than a cup of dry food left in the bag. No more than that. I found myself laughing to myself for "getting it just right", and then I started to sob. Again.

But that's the thing. She wasn't just a dog. She represented so much more. She followed me from the age of 26 to almost 43. She watched my babies grow. She guarded this home and warned me not to trust a few unsavory characters who came by. She was the most loyal and the truest companion. She loved me unconditionally. And that is incredibly hard to let go of. On my toughest days, she'd be there for me. There have been way too many tough days recently.

I find myself needing her attention, her devotion, her love. I miss her terribly. I know that she couldn't be around forever and that I was incredibly lucky to have her for as long as I did, but as much as I thought I had prepared myself for her death, I still find myself in disbelief that she's gone.

On May 20th she would have been 17 years old. I've thought of her often and I've told myself that it is time. It is time to get this family and myself a new puppy. For weeks I have gravitated toward dogs I see on the streets and in cars going by. I take in every dog commercial and video that I see. My children and I discuss which breeds we think are the cutest. We have started brainstorming names. Oh, I am more than ready. In her final weeks, I talked a lot to my girl. I told her I knew I had her permission to get a new pup quickly. Charlie knows I'll cry more tears. I'll remember her own first few days with us, her own puppyhood, and the grief will continue to ebb and flow. But I'll also cry tears of relief, because for me, even though I realize it will never quite be the same without my Charlie girl, it is never quite a home without a dog.

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