I’m idling at the intersection of grief and exhaustion, and what I think about is how much I am going to miss him. How much I dread the silence of coming home to nothing. Oh, how I’ll miss that full-on celebration of owner/doggie reunion, as if we’ve been apart for eons when, in reality, I have returned from a 20-minute zip to the supermarket.
I thought I’d die from the pain of having to make the decision for euthanasia. Playing God. Deciding that quality of life was non-existent.
To love a dog is to truly know the meaning of unconditional love. If you were lucky enough to share your life with a dog, especially a "soulmate dog" who has passed or is nearing the end of life, then you also have the flip-side of such a strong relationship: Grief.
Although you know it will happen sooner or later, since the lifespan of your loyal companion is relatively short, you can’t really be prepared for the loss, the silence and the emptiness afterwards.
Well, now I have an answer to the question of whether I’ve known love beyond my parents, sister, girlfriend and a few friends. And it is yes. Maybe not the conventional form, but love is love. When we feel it, we know it. It comes in lots of shapes and sizes. It’s a chameleon. And a prankster, too. Love surprises us. It hurts sometimes and that’s part of the bargain.
Love isn’t delicate. When we love, we do things we never dreamed of doing.
We clean up, for example. We wipe drool, vomit, snot, shit, pee, pus, whatever. We change the diaper. We hold the spoon and encourage just a little bit more applesauce. When the one who’s dying is a person, we hopefully manage to forgive whatever it is we have to forgive. That the person wasn’t there, that the person was too present, that too little was said, that too much was said, that perfection was never achieved, and so on…
So with this sadness comes a form of…wait for it…joy. Seriously, there is joy here. In the ability to be grateful, for example: For all the love I feel and all the love that has been returned to me. For the sloppy wet kisses, I received, every time I tried to take a nap on the sofa. For the shameful big round doggy eyes, looking at me, when he knew he had done something wrong; and me not managing to be angry. For the snorting companionship that I will both miss and always treasure.
Kipling said it best:
"THERE is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear."
We can beware all we like. But the poem is called the Power of a Dog, and it is a very real power, and it is, as Kipling knew, a good thing.
Tino was the best dog in the universe, I'm going to miss him so much, and I will always cherish the unconditional love he gave me.