Good Grief

By A.J. Llewellyn

It is nine weeks today since I lost my beloved dog, Venus. I’ve had pets die in the past…I once had a cat stolen and the shock and worry over her were tremendous but my grief right now seems endless. I cannot believe how broken I feel and how easily I burst into tears. Everything is an effort. My two cats are loving and sweet but it is not the same. I question everything I did in my baby’s last, trying few months and while I know I did everything I could I ask myself why wasn’t it enough?

I know she is not the only dog to die but I wanted her so much. I can’t rationalize that I wanted one more day because it isn’t true. I wanted more. I troll youtube and other sites obsessively looking for a new dog to love even when I know I’m really not ready yet. I have stumbled across horrible scenes of dog abuse and have donated money to people who rescue dogs from shelters and the streets. I have applied online for several dogs…but never hear back.

I loved my dog. We spent 15 years together. My brain is a mush of jumbled thoughts and my heart awash with emotions.

Well-meaning friends ask how I am doing then when I start to tell them, they say I need to get over it, I need to pull myself together. If they don’t want to know how I am doing, why ask?

A few of my friends know exactly how I feel because they are going through it too. The news isn’t good. I am learning that grief is profound and it takes a long, long time to recover. I know they suffer in silence and for the most part I do too. I have good days and bad. I can be absolutely fine and then all of a sudden it hits me.

Often, my mind spins back to the day I found her on the freeway and how I wish I could go back and start all over again.

I want more time. 15 years was not enough. Why doesn’t God allow our companion animals to live longer?

Dogs haunt me everywhere I go. I see people walking their dogs and looking bored…or checking their text messages. I envy the time they have. I envy their dogs’ mobility. I want to scream at them. “Enjoy every second. It does not last!”

I keep running into┬ámobile adoption units that leave me in tears. I fret over the ones from the East Valley shelter because of their high-kill rate. There was one little white dog I saw just before Christmas. I beat myself up because I wonder if the dog found a home…or…

The one dog I found recently likes to kill cats. Obviously, that won’t work. I try so hard not to dwell but it’s almost impossible. In those first dark days a friend called me and warned that the first six weeks were the hardest. She also warned that I’d have a lot of free time. That it would be a huge adjustment. She wasn’t kidding.

I was shocked to discover she was right. I had no idea how much time I invested in Venus. She was a huge part of every single day. Even at the end we walked five times a day. My entire writing schedule, my whole life revolved around her.

In the last six months when she couldn’t manage it up and down the stairs without help, it was physically difficult but she always kept a smile on her face. I will never forget how much she still wanted to be here. How she still stopped and smelled flowers on the stret tried to chase squirrels and barked at people with dogs.

I miss her capacity for joy and her funny ways. I miss her in the morning waiting at the kitchen door for cookies and her big kisses goodnight. I wake up in the middle of the night and remember…and the chain pr pain begins again.

I have tried to fill the empty spaces with work, long walks alone, long walks with other people’s dogs…I continue my volunteer efforts but it’s not enough. I drive home crying because I know she’s not there waiting for me for our next adventure outdoors.

The house feels so empty. I’ve cleaned and rearranged…it’s no use. She’s not there.

Mostly I miss holding her, talking to her, and I miss her bright, beautiful being. Her spirit was huge and my home doesn’t feel the same. I know one day I will find a new dog to love. I know my cats won’t be happy but I will feel better. I have so much dog-love to give and nowhere to put it all. Mostly, I will never forget and never stop loving the dog who taught me so much and still gives me moments of joy and yes, profound sadness.

I’ve been surprised how many people miss Venus…people who live in my building who didn’t hear the news see me at the mailbox or whatever and ask about her. They are so used to seeing us everywhere together.

Sometimes, I hear her…seriously. I heard her lapping water one time and I thought I was dreaming but the cats looked FREAKED so I know Venus was back just for a moment to let me know she is okay. I will never forget that moment…

I find it hard to talk about her but I love when people ask after her. I have five friends who all got dogs around the same time. We all became friends at the dog park and have stayed close all these years. We’ve lost them all…Last week her friend Bridey left this life and we dog parents talk about how all the dogs are together again in heaven. I like to think so…and I like to think I’ll meet my golden girl again on the rainbow bridge. I look forward to her special hugs and kisses and long walks where she feels no pain and her bark no longer sounds feeble.

I miss my girl, my bright, beautiful, best friend. I know she is in a beautiful place and free of all pain. I bet she gets all the bacon she wants, too. I will never forget her…I will never get over her. I will think of her often and thank her for choosing me to love her in the first place.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

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