I am writing this ahead of time, as I often do, but the expectation is that I will post this on the day that SP left us. I don’t know if I will blog again on that day or not. This is the second anniversary…I’m not sure how I will feel or how I will handle the day. Writing may help me on the day, but then again it might not. I just won’t know until I’m in it.
It’s been two years since I held my precious Sweet Pea. Two years since I’ve been able to kiss her sweet snout, the spot between her eyes, the top of her head, her soft silky ears. Two years since I’ve been able to hug her close, smell her unique doggy smell, rub her furry tummy. Two years since I’ve been able to do anything in regards to her except grieve. Grieve and remember…and struggle.
When Sweet Pea came to us, I was in the first year of my first set of chronic illnesses. After some adjustment time, she became my constant companion as I stayed home through illness after illness. At 75lbs, she was big and had very long, black hair. She was hard to miss, hard to step over, and easy to love. She was charming and adorable, and everyone fell in love with her. She used to sit with my 90-year-old grandmother, big head on my Nana’s leg, so that my grandmother could pet her with a gnarled and boney hand. She would lay on the floor and let you fawn all over her. She would insinuate herself in between Hub and me when we were hugging to join in the hug. She loved people, and loved to be loved.
For the entire time we had SP, I was either at home because of illness, or I was working from home (with illness). So I was home for the entire 9+ years she was with us. And she was home with me. Every day, all day, all the time. She was a herder, and preferred not only to keep me in sight, but to be with me. When Hub came home after work, she would be with him as much as possible, but oftentimes she would position herself so she could see both of us. During the day, she was with me. It didn’t matter if I was working from bed in the bedroom, or in the family room eating lunch while watching the noon news. She was with me. She wasn’t necessarily right under my feet, but she was in the same room or in the vicinity, where she could keep an eye on me. I talked to her all day. I sang to her when we went downstairs to make her (and me) lunch. I was the one who fed her, who let her out, who kept her happy during the daytime. I played with her, I gave her treats and toys, I petted her, I kept up a running commentary with her when she was in the room with me. When I turned around, she was there with me. When I was in bed–working or resting or sleeping–she was next to me on the floor. Right along the side of the bed or in front of my dresser next to the bed. When I felt poorly, she would stay with me and check on me. When I had no energy to get up and do anything, she didn’t judge me. She didn’t even make me worry about getting her out during the day to pee or poop. But the truth is, even when I felt like shit…even when I was dizzy or on crutches with two bad knees, I still got up for her. I still made sure she could get outside. I still found a way to comfort her when she was frightened of thunderstorms. I did it because of the amazing love and joy she brought to my life. I never wanted to let her down or make her uncomfortable, so I pushed through the issues I had as best I could to be the best owner I could for her. And she never asked for more than I could give her. I didn’t (and don’t) have a lot of friends, so she was the one I spent my time with. When Hub was away or at work or out for the evening, she was with me. She was a part of me.
In 2011, she started slowing down. Not surprising to us, because based on what we knew we adopted her, she would have been going on 12 years old. That’s old-age for a large dog. Then, in late July of that year, she developed a cough. It scared me. We took her to our vet, but he found no reason for the cough…but found an auto-immune disease that would explain her increased and pretty marked lethargy. And as the tests continued–along with medications–the news got worse. And so did Sweet Pea. She became unable to walk the stairs to our bedroom, so Hub began sleeping on the couch in the family room to be near her. She started having trouble walking down the three deck stairs to the yard, so Hub began helping her out to the front yard down only two concrete steps (one step out the door, then the concrete porch and one step off the porch) to do her business. Then she began having trouble getting up…and the medications made her pant heavily…and they made her painful. And every day, I died a little inside. Not only because we knew this was serious–likely fatal–but because she was suffering. Even though it was only a little at that point, there was no uphill from there. I prayed she would give up. I prayed G-d would take her in her sleep–though she only dozed during the day, she was restless at night. I prayed that we would get some kind of report saying there was no hope and that it was time. I got none of it. The tests were inconclusive, but experience from our vet said there was likely nothing we could do except extend her life a few weeks or a few months…maybe. But in the end, she was not going to last long…and it was not going to be an easy time for her. And letting her hang on and die “naturally”…our vet said it would be painful for her. Like drowning, or being unable to breathe…struggling, gasping. It was three weeks from the first vet visit for a cough to the day we took her in for her last visit. In between was medication, tests, an emergency drive two hours away to an ER vet for a transfusion (where she had to stay locked in a cage overnight without us) during a bad hurricane, there was a bad reaction to the infusion, more tests…and pain. My sweet, loving, gentle girl snapped at a vet tech who barely touched her, snapped at our vet when he tried to help her, and cried. She’d never done any of those things in the nine years we’d known and loved her. She’d never snapped at anyone, ever, over anything. Man or beast. And then there were the eyes. She watched us every day, with these big, sad eyes. Pain seemed to radiate from her gaze. We hesitated to touch her because we thought it caused her pain. I laid on the floor with her in our dining room…the softest carpet in the house, and I stroke her paw. I stroked the spot from between her eyes down to her nose, so lightly I barely felt her fur. I wanted to hold her and hug her close, but I couldn’t. I wanted her to make the decision for us, but she refused. She refused to stop caring for us. She refused to let go, because she knew it was her job to see to us first. We had no choice. We had no fucking choice.
We took her in to the vet. I talked to her from the moment they put her on the table until long after she was gone. I told her that we were letting her go, and that her job was over. That it was our turn to take care of her the way she had taken care of us for the last 9 years. I told her it was all right, that she could go, she could be free of her body that was betraying her. And I cried like I’d never cried before. I told her how much we loved her. I told her how thankful we were to have her in our lives. I told her how much we would miss her. I sobbed and I petted her and I held on to her. I smelled her fur and her feet and touched her ears. And I cried. And inside, a part of me curled up and died with her.
We took her to our property and laid her to rest in a pretty spot near my parents’ dog, who had died one year prior. It was incredibly hot and humid, but my family–my brothers and my parents and Hub–dug a hole. Deep and wide, so there would be no concerns about the animals in the area. And it was so hot out, but they did it. And they put her in the grave, wrapped in her two favorite bed covers, with a couple of her favorite toys and an unwashed shirt of mine that smelled like me.
I can’t tell you the tears I’ve cried for my girl. I can’t tell you the hole in my heart from the loss of her. I can’t tell you how much I’ve changed because of her. I can’t explain how much I’ve changed with the loss of her.
I’ve written about her a lot. A lot in the first year she was gone. Not as much during the second year, though I’ve talked about her often in a professional and personal setting. I think about her every day. I’ve gone back and read the things I’ve written about her…and cried like it was the day that we let her go. I did it today in preparation for this post. It was incredibly painful. It IS incredibly painful.
I posted this on her six month anniversary, elsewhere. I re-read it earlier and every word is still the truth for me today.
I woke this morning early, looking directly at the clock by my bedside. The clock shows not only the time, but the date…and I almost felt my heart stop. I had been crying most of the night after I turned off all the lights. Images of the day we let SP go were running through my head, making me sob like it was the day it happened. I am crying now as I type. So when I woke this morning, I was fuzzy-headed, and I could swear the clock was telling me today’s date was 3-3-12. How could that be? I knew today was the six month anniversary, and that SP had left us on 9-2-11. I couldn’t believe I had missed the day, although I have been feeling the pain of this date for weeks.
I stayed in bed for hours, long past my husband let Le Moo out and went on his way to work. I stared at the clock, tears clogging my throat as I berated myself for missing the 2nd. It wasn’t until I was standing outside with Le Moo, staring at the trees in our back yard, when I realized that my clock must not have allowed for leap year. I KNEW today was the 2nd…I knew today was the day. I had spent hours thinking about it, not knowing how I could have been mistaken.
I feel whipped and beaten. I spent most of the hours crying last night and early this morning thinking that I desperately wanted to go to the basement and bury myself in the dog bed SP slept on in our old house in our bedroom. It’s an atrocious 70s orange color, something I found at overstock and bought merely because at the time it was the only memory-foam dog bed I could find big enough for her that we could afford. She loved the bed and we put up with it because of that. I mean that color would burn your retinas and I have no idea why it was ever made, but she loved laying on that thing. I suspect before the afternoon is over, I will be sitting with that bed, trying to find her smell and looking at the dog hair I hope it still clinging to it.
I cannot tell you how often I ache over the fact that I do not have a pawprint from her. I know there is one embedded in my heart, but I wish I had one to look at and touch. I have finally put one picture of her on my wall in addition to the polaroid picture I keep next to my bed. I want to put up so many that I fear it would cover the entire wall…but then I think it would kill me to see them.
I feel like I cannot get past this loss. I feel like I will never get past it. I still think of her every day. I still wish that she was here with us. I still look to step over her next to the bed. I cannot believe I have woken up without her every day for the last 180 days…how is it possible? How have I made it?
SP, I carry this pain of your loss every day. It is a part of me and will always be. I miss you so much that sometimes it hurts to breathe. And he misses you, too. I see it in his eyes and I feel it in his heart, even though he doesn’t show it the same way I do. You know how much he adored you, how he lived for those early morning and late night conversations with you. How he looked forward to coming home from work every day to see you waiting for him at the window, or at the top of the stairs, wagging that gorgeous tail of yours. How we both loved your big brown eyes and the “eyeliner” that Mom swore you woke up early every morning to put on. I miss touching your soft fur, feeling you snuffle my face and my eyes and my hair. I miss hugging you and calling you Sweet Pea. I miss singing to you when we went downstairs every day for lunch. I miss you, dammit. There isn’t a thing about you I don’t miss. The way you would eat your food, then come find one of us and burp right in our face like it was a “thank you”. The way it felt when you leaned against us, sharing your love with us. The way you used to run out into the yard to see neighbors walking by the fence…the way you used to run back to the house looking happy and “lighter” after you poo’d.
And as I sit here, I remember your last days, and I sob for the pain. I remember sitting on the floor in the dining room, on that atrocious pink carpet you loved to use as a scratching post for your toenails…I was already in pain as I considered what lay ahead of us. That we would have no other option but to let you go, to take away the pain of your disease. I remember posting here, asking for guidance and support, knowing that we had to do the right thing. I remember laying there with the laptop nearby, wishing I could hold you close and never let you go, but knowing even the smallest of caresses could cause you physical pain. I remember touching your paws, hoping it would not be too much for you. I remember using one finger to stroke the spot between your eyes and down your snout, praying it would not bring you pain but give you comfort and show you my love for you. I remember sitting in the family room, begging him to take a picture of the two of us because we had NONE….but only hovering over you because I was afraid to touch you. I hate those pictures. I remember taking you to the vet hospital, and sitting in the car with him, both of us dreading the moments because they were our last with you. Your beautiful gorgeous face, watching us, looking so tired and old and sad…the pain from the meds and the disease having beaten the life from you. And when we arrived, how you tried so hard to get out of the car on your own, but we wouldn’t let you. We were so afraid you would hurt more. The moments when we stood with you in the exam room, as the vet gave you treats to say his goodbye to you. The way you laid there on the table, so trusting and loving, but so tired. I hated every second of it. I hated that we had to do it. I hated that it had to happen. I hated that we had to let you go. It was so bittersweet to see the pain lift from your body as your life ended.
I am literally doubled over in pain, sobbing with the pain of this all. Of the memories. Of the loss. Of the regrets.
I love you, Sweet Pea. I love you, Sweet Pea. I love you my precious beautiful Sweet Pea.
I suspect between today and the day this posts, I will cry every day. I will cry every single day, the ache in my heart and the hole in my soul still raw and ragged with my loss.