Okay, that was a rhetorical question. But why — forgive me — does it sting differently, perhaps more, than when we lose a (human) loved one?
I just had to put down my Yellow Labradoodle, Pebbles, because she stopped eating her kibbles and didn’t want to stand up anymore. She was a lumpy old girl with the gentlest disposition to the point where she was almost too chill. Like come on, I wanted to chase her around the lawn sometimes.
That’s okay though. Pebbles was an angel sent from her previous elderly owner who saved me from countless lonely nights. She was frizzy beyond recognition, loved peanut butter spoons, belly rubs, and squishing her face into the wall for some mysterious reason. Hey, we all got our kinks. I’m not even sure how many years she had under her belt because my family adopted her “secondhand” as a senior doggo. (Plug: ADOPT SENIOR DOGS! THEY NEED HOMES, TOO!)
Pebbles’s passing hit hard despite weeks — maybe even months — of warning signs and emotional preparation. Can you really prepare for this sort of thing? The house is quiet now. Eerie. The energy is awkward and low. Dog-less homes have always weirded me out for some reason — no hate to the allergics of the world, though. I just think I’m not ready for the sterile quietude of an exclusively-sapien household.
When dogs — and people, I guess — leave us, I think they leave behind an imprint that cannot be scrubbed away with the sandy winds of time. The relationships we form with the people in our lives are complicated, dynamic, and often turbulent. But dogs are simpler than that.
Yeah, it’s annoying when they eat our shoes or take a fat dump on the brand new rug, but our relationships are based on love and only love — maybe Milkbones, too. These furry homies stick around in our fondest of memories, untainted by falling-outs, breakups, or bad blood. Our mental images of them in all their hairy, bouncy, frivolous glory remain. And thus, they do too.
I can’t stop visualizing Pebbles sticking around as a little yellow orb of love that, without warning, could wake me up in the middle of the night with a gentle nudge. That’s because my old dog, Austin, did just that.
I was lucky enough to see my old Portuguese Waterdog again in a dream a few months ago, years after he actually passed. Standing in the rain on my front stoop looking out toward the wooded ravine, I saw a hairy, four-legged creature waddling toward me from the misty greenery. He walked right up to me, I read his familiar blue PetsMart dog tag, and it read: Austin. Shocked, I yelled, “is it really you?” He wagged his tail. It was him… I think.
I’m not one to read too much into dreams, but that was some comfortingly stirring stuff right there. Just to see Austin’s face again was moving and sad and weird and lovely all wrapped up into one unexpected REM cycle. I woke up teary-eyed, feeling nostalgically pensive and approached the wooden box where I keep the real blue PetsMart dog tag in my bedroom. It was still there, and I held the cold metal bone in my fingers for a while.
That dream definitely stuck with me, and I think about it all the time. I think about him all the time. I hope that Pebbles isn’t too busy barking at nothing, wiping the wetness from her nose on our hallway walls, or hanging out with Austin to come say hello some night. And I hope it’s soon.