Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For the Love (and Grief) of Dogs

This is a piece I rediscovered today. I wrote it in September of 2012. The piece takes on new meaning for me this fall. I’ll leave it at that, for now. But this rediscovery and reflection is what I love about writing.
-AFW 9/17/13

There was something safe about grieving for my dog Charlie. It had been an expected loss. It was difficult but acceptable to mourn for her. The loss was not complicated, just sad. Her aging, her dementia at the end, the seizures that told me it was time, and then ultimately her death on that winter morning...it was now permanent and concrete. There was no shock, no questions. But also, no coming back. 

For days and weeks afterward, I’d tear up on my way to school. But soon I began being able to talk about her, our experiences together, and even the final hours of her life without crying. I was able to look at her picture again and tell the many stories of our nearly 17 years together. 

I smile at Ziva now. This new pup, who entered our lives in June of 2011, has the goofiest way of looking at me at times. Emma calls it her DERF face. Her black fur, not nearly as soft or as fluffy as Charlie’s, looks sleek. She is agile and quick. I watch her zoom from the front yard to the back and I think from time to time, “Will the Lyme disease she was diagnosed with having ever show itself?” 

I realize I am still comparing Ziva to Charlie. How does one love a dog as much as I loved Charlie without comparing every other dog that comes next to her? Then I think of Henry, the dog I loved from age 12 to 25. I think of Scamp, the dog that was in my life from age 1 to 12. Didn’t I feel the same? Yes. 

I am sitting in the leather chair playing on my laptop when I see my pictures of Ziva taken a few hours earlier. The one where a football, a soccer ball, and a stick lay at her paws is my favorite. The girl can’t decide. She wants to play with them all. She wants them all right there at her disposal. She knows she can’t carry all three with her at once, but as she runs off with the one physically closest to her, she returns to the other toys later. This is how it is with me. I’m enjoying Ziva to the fullest today, but I’ll come back to Charlie from time to time and I’ll think of how great a dog she was. I’ll even think of my childhood days with Henry and Scamp. It never seems to matter whether I understand how things come to be; it’s enough to know that in some deep, evocative way, life just takes care of itself.