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If You Love Fiercely You Will Certainly Grieve Fiercely Too

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.

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Comment by Hornet (Cindy) on February 26, 2015 at 7:29am

How true, flannery, that many do not understand the soul connection we two-legged people have with our four-legged counterparts. I almost lost my beloved pug, Ody, last month to pneumonia. A sudden attack, it almost took him from me too soon...he is only 7 years old, you see. I am 16 months out from loosing my two-legged best friend, and just couldn't let go of my four-legged buddy. I still need him with me, so I spent a huge amount of money...but it worked! Death did not win this time...and I am so very grateful. I know one day I will have to say goodbye to him, but not now. Not now. Hugs to you, flannery. I do know how it feels.

Comment by katpilot on February 26, 2015 at 4:36am

Nothing is harder than loosing the spouse you love but a dog you close to the same.  When I met Kathy she had a two year old Shitsu which was her baby as she never had children of her own.  Mindy died three years before kathy and it was so devastating for me but so much worse for her. You can't explain that loss or the grief we feel but Kathy could never get another dog. Some things just can't be replaced. Mindy was kept in an urn in our home and before Kathy died, she asked me to combine her with the dog she loved so much. I did it and now I have them both in my home till we are all combined. I could never replace that sweet dog any more than I could replace my bride. It just is what it is.

I hope peace in your heart flannery in the memories of your two great loves. JK has it right. True love never ends. It can only be delayed for a little while

Comment by RainSong on February 25, 2015 at 3:48pm

Flannery,  My dog was chosen by my husband...rescued because of an e-mail sent by one of his co-workers.  We weren't looking for a dog..we had a cat and said we wouldn't think of a dog until something happened to the cat.  I feel like you, though..that this dog (Bella) was brought into our lives so that I would have comfort when Gregg was gone.  She has given me fits (ate my door frame...needy as heck, getting out of  on $230 worth of medicine a month)  but I don't know what I would do without her.  Hugs to you Flannery for this new bout of grief that you must trudge through

Comment by JK (OK) on February 25, 2015 at 2:02pm
There is a great poem about animals that pass called "The Rainbow Bridge" Of course John was already there waiting for her. Someday you will all be reunited again. Its not goodbye, just goodbye for now. Wishing you peace Jenny, and big big hugs to you.
Comment by flannery on February 22, 2015 at 5:34pm

Thank you JK (OK). She was certainly my grief companion and my daily companion. I know you too are a dog lover and completely get it. And you're right she is with John. Right before she died I whispered exactly that too her, "it's okay to go, go find John sweet girl," and then she was gone. I like to think they are together, both safe and loving one another. Peace and hugs to you:)

p.s. auto correct is not my friend either-;) 

Comment by JK (OK) on February 21, 2015 at 7:37pm
Abbey the Beagle* Damn auto correction!!
Comment by JK (OK) on February 21, 2015 at 7:36pm
RIP Abbey the Beat me
I'm glad y'all had each other when you started your journey of grief. Hugs to you Flannery. She is with John now!
Comment by flannery on February 21, 2015 at 6:28am

Norman, thank you, thank you for you kind words and thoughts. I love your words, "one of the best friends we will ever know." such true words! Peace and soft days to you. Flannery 

Comment by BESTBUDS1 [Norman} on February 21, 2015 at 3:22am

What a beautiful tribute to one of the best friends we will ever know.. I know, you know the path quite well Flannery but i wish you Peace Love and Sweet Memories  of your beloved Abbey......

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