It’s been weeks since I’ve allowed myself to be still. To write, to be truly quiet, to feel. Today, is the first day in nearly a month that I’ve had both the time and the emotional fortitude to be still and so I made myself go into my studio and to my yoga mat. Two poses in and the tears sprang into my eyes and rolled down onto the mat, pooling like little wells of physical sadness, proof that my heart is indeed broken, my soul weary.
January 22nd my beloved beagle Abbey, died. We had been to the vet the day prior and he gave us some lasiks medication saying she would pee off the excess fluid around her heart and be back to herself in 24 hours or so. In my mind I wanted to believe him, in my heart I knew it wasn’t true. 24 hours later we were burying her in the front yard at my mom’s acreage, wrapped in one of John’s shirts and her favorite blanket, buried with her beautiful handmade bowl, carved with delicate flowers that was originally mine that she claimed as her own the last few months of her life. She was surrounded by things she loved and forever with flowers in place she couldn’t wait to get to and sniff and explore and never wanted to leave. Now she is always there among the grape vines, the lemon balm and the wild mint. My beautiful, soft best friend, my shadow now gone. Her kidneys had shut down and there was no hope after that happened.
I’m so grateful that the vet came to the house to administer the life ending medication. Her breathing was labored, gasping nearly, and when she died the blood in her lungs flooded out of her mouth and nose staining her favorite blanket and causing me to wail uncontrollably. I don’t really remember a lot after that. She was here and then she was gone. No real in between there, no space or pause between, she simply died.
Her death is complicated for me. I had given Abbey as a gift from a no kill shelter to John and he died exactly one year to the day later, September 20th, the third Thursday of the month. Abbey also died on the third Thursday of the month. I now hate Thursdays even more.
The months after John died I watched as she roamed from spot to spot looking for him. His office, his chair, his spot on the couch, his side of the bed. It took nearly three months before she stopped this nightly ritual of looking for him and I remember when it stopped vividly. After roaming, looking for him over and over again one night she finally stopped, she stood in front of me, looked up into my eyes, literally sighed in resignation and then jumped up beside me asking to be cuddled and reassured. In that moment she became mine and mine alone.
In the years that followed as she aged I knew that she was special to me because she was my only living touchstone to John, everyone said so and I agreed with them. She held an honored place of memory for me of him and the joy he had in loving her. She was a living testament to his loving nature. Everyone would say that she was so loved and spoiled by me because she was once John’s and of course part of that was true. She was the last living connection to a beautiful time of love and peace in my life, but what outsiders didn’t and maybe still don’t understand is that, that is not where it ended with her and I. Sure we grieved John together, we moved houses together, we made new daily habits and rituals together BUT we were also bananas about each other. I even broke off a romantic relationship I had early on because they didn’t like how close we were. I would have chosen her over any man any day. She was loyal to me and I was loyal to her.
You see she was my dog 3.5 times longer than she was John’s. And truthfully early on when she had just joined our family I thought it was serendipitous that a friend of mine had her at the shelter and brought her up one day, sort of on a whim and a hope that we would love her. John needed a dog and they were crazy about each other from first sight. But here’s the rub, not long after John died I realized the serendipity of it was more like divine intervention, because after John died it was me that needed a dog. It was me that needed Abbey. It was me that needed someone to love, to connect with, to show up for. Together we forged ahead, fumbling and getting lost together in all sorts of ways. But it was her constant companionship that eased my heart everyday after John died and her fierce love and loyalty to me, and me to her, that forged a deep love between us that honestly didn’t have anything to do with her once being John’s dog.
Even my vet said that our relationship was unusual, that you don’t see a two-legged and four-legged so in tuned with one another very often, that it was a rare and special bond we had. And that is true. In this last year Abbey stopped making any noise really. She had never barked really, but would whine when she needed something. As she aged, we got to know each other soul to soul. This meant that we could simply look at one another and know what the other needed and meant. She was my soul friend and I miss her hard. I miss her everyday. I miss the sound of her feet as she followed along behind me around the house, her claws making a clicking type writer sound behind me. I miss her curled up in just the perfect spot in the kitchen to be close to me but not underfoot while I marathon baked for an upcoming order or simply for baking therapy for myself. I miss her tucked in next to me at night. I deeply miss her in my studio with me, space heater creating just the correct amount of white noise, Abbey curled up on my meditation mat, long since claimed as her bed, for hours as I created in one way or another.
So today, I made myself go into my studio. A space that was never without her and so feels extra lonely now. I made myself get on my yoga mat again and I made myself write. But my heart has ached and cried out for her with each movement, each breath and thought. Because in the end and to even my surprise, her death isn’t complicated and harrowing for me emotionally only because she was John’s, it’s horrible and incredibly difficult because she was mine and I was hers. Because we were best friends who did everything together for years, and even though she was quiet her absence is a screaming loud wail in my daily life, pain and loss echoing along the chambers of my grieving heart.
It’s hard because I loved her, Abbey, my dog, was one of the best people I have ever known. Many don't understand that sort of grief over a four legged and it makes them feel that I am less of a basket case to attribute it all to the fact that she was once John’s, but I know the truth, she was sent for me that serendipitous day and I am deeply grateful that she was, and now deeply sad that she has died. I know too that it is not only okay and but healthily to love so fiercely, any living creature, and if you love fiercely you will certainly grieve fiercely too. My only consolation is, I know this map of grief quite well, and my feet are not afraid to travel it, fiercely loving and missing my loved one, my best friend Abbey, hard.