Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cast of Characters

I have to warn you, this one is a little emotional.

I'm one of those people that "forges on" when things get difficult. I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to deal with my losses, I don't want a hug. When I need to talk about some ache that feels too big, I just want to put my arms around my dog and press my face into his fur.

I've lost dogs before. I got a little terrier mix from a shelter when I was 20, and I held her when I was about 30 as they put her to sleep. I lost one to a divorce, and found out later she was dropped at a shelter (rather than given back to me.) I lost the best companion off my childhood, a vicious Dobie-GSD-something-huge mix named Nibbles (not kidding) who passed away when I was in college.

And still, those were Before.

I've always liked dogs. What's not to like? They listen as if you're brilliant, they love everything you feed to them, they think you're a genius, they care when no one else does.

And then I met Drive. And just like that, dogs ascended in my view. I understood "dog people." I became one of them. There can never be another Drive, I know that, but never again in my life will I be without a dog. Actually, just the idea of having only one dog seems a little strange, but that's a matter of finance rather than preference for me. When I think of my future, of the "lifestyle" track I want to be on, there's dogs everywhere in my imagination. When I answer the question of a hypothetical lottery win, I get teary-eyed thinking of all the puppies! With a million dollars I could save so many puppies...

This new worldview has an unexpected bittersweet twist. I didn't just lose a pet a couple of months ago. I lost a person. I lost a living soul who took up a big space in my world and now, all these weeks later and after an emotional few days, it's hitting me how much I miss my Bullie.

I'm not even going to put his picture on this post; I linked to it up there with his good-bye post. Even looking at that makes me remember, I was holding him when he passed. I was looking into his eyes when the lights in them faded.

We go to McDonald's, and buy the $1 box of four chicken nuggets. I hand the extra one to my husband.

"What are you doing?"

"That's the extra one. You can eat it."

And about then, I remember that we only have two dogs. That they can just have two damned nuggets apiece and there's no extra anymore.

And then I think of Drive, who is 11. And Lanie, who is 12. And I take a breath and remind myself that I'm strong enough to love this much and then say goodbye.

Bullie was almost 9 when we (accidentally, I'm serious) adopted him. It was a few years for us, that's all. A couple years with an old stripey dog, followed by months of this heavy, pushing grief and a place for him in my heart forever.

It's worth it, because for Bulldozer, it was the rest of his life. He did not die a lonely and unloved dog in a shelter. He didn't spend his remaining time in a kennel waiting for someone to want an old, shy dog that didn't attach quickly or trust easily. He died held by arms that loved him. Someone wept for him, and still does. He died with toys. He died after a thousand wonderful meals and uncountable treats. The rest of his life was warm, loving, interesting, and full of delicious surprises.

It's worth it.


  1. It is hard and it is worth it. I look at this pack and remember those who have come and gone, as well as the herd. If nothing else the rest of their lives, as you say, is and was filled with love. What more can anyone ask? It's really the best there is.

  2. Bullie was so fortunate to have you all in his life, and the feeling is obvious mutual from your viewpoint. I know you must miss him every day, but I hope the pain eases with time and you can remember him with a smile. Roxie is the first dog I adopted as an adult, so I can't say that I've been there, but I sure dread the day. By the way, I'm glad you're a dog person, and better yet, my dog person friend. Hugs!

  3. You've summed up beautifully the love we have for our four-footed family members and brought me to tears in remembrance of my own fur-babies at the Rainbow Bridge.


  4. Woof! Woof! Beautiful!!! Golden Thanks for sharing. Happy BLOG HOP Weekend. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  5. Our 20 year old miniature poodle died in her sleep a little over a year ago (and gave me the greatest gift possible by going in her sleep - she was terrified by the vet, and I am so glad her last moments were asleep in my arms, and not shaking at the vet's office), and I still have a miniature poodle sized hole in my heart. I joke (but only sort of) that I married my husband for his dogs, and this little girl in particular. She was already 13 when I met her, and she lived WAY longer than we ever expected. And I consider myself extremely lucky that I got to spend all those years with her. The other dogs and cats I married my husband for have also crossed the bridge, and while letting them go was the toughest thing I've ever done, I feel so lucky that I got to know and love them. I look at our current dogs, both youngsters (the oldest is 3), and I know that in 10 years or so, I'll be facing the inevitable. Again. And as heartbreaking as that thought is, it also reminds me to enjoy ever moment I've got with them. Of all of the things I have accomplished in my life, I think being loved by dogs is one of the best. It's hard, but it is wonderful.

    Thanks for letting me share.

    -Dr. Liz (Fiona the dog doesn't spend much time thinking about her own mortality)

  6. Oh, you already know how much I agree with you! I thought we were just doing Lilac a favor at first, giving her a loving home for the last few years of her life, and now she's still here with us, and teaching my how sweet and precious every day is. Some days I think that we're near the end, but she always rallies and comes back to us, and I just can't bring myself to make that awful decision. After all this time, I just hope that she can quietly go to sleep one night or afternoon and not wake up. More than anything, I want her passing to be peaceful, and not one of those horror stories you hear where the dog falls and is in pain and then has to be put down. I guess everybody wants that for their pet, but I feel it a lot more keenly with her for some reason. After Treat died, my husband quietly put her food bowl away in the basement, so there wouldn't be that moment of picking up the fourth dish, but I remember finding that bowl, and it just seemed so awful and final in that moment. It always seems to be those little things that trip up your heartstrings!

    Thank you for your good wishes for Bunny today! She seems to be feeling a bit better tonight, and I'm betting that when she gets to eat tomorrow, she's a lot livelier!

  7. I totally share your feelings about never being without a dog. You know they're going to break your heart when they leave. You hope beyond hope that they'll spare you the decision of when they leave. But you also know that's unlikely. You also know that to say you couldn't bear to have another dog and go through that grief again is denying a lucky dog a place in your home and heart. You know that you owe it to the dogs who have loved and left you to keep letting more dogs into your heart. To me it's a tribute to those I have loved (and still love the memory of) and lost.

    Lovely post.

  8. Well said. Going to get a tissue now.

  9. I could have said this - "And then I met Drive. And just like that, dogs ascended in my view. I understood "dog people." I became one of them. There can never be another Drive, I know that, but never again in my life will I be without a dog." - just replace Drive with Dixie. She is my heart dog and just turned 9 today. Still young, but I know we are on the downside slope of years left with her. I cherish each moment. Dogs are a gift from God and I am so thankful I have had the privilege of loving and being loved. ♥

  10. it's clear that you understand...and by that i mean truly grasp...the importance of your lives and bullie...i just want to remind you of the difference you both made...for each other.

    love ya, kiddo. ...have to go fetch tissues now, and hug my 10 year old furmonsters...

  11. Beautifully said. I adopted Aspen from our shelter at age 9. I only had her a year, but in that time she was loved, cared for, and held in my arms as she left me. I don't regret one moment of it and I still cry too. They touch us so deeply.

    I am so sorry for your loss. I didn't know Drive, but as a fellow dog person, I understand the pain. And, from all the kind words I have seen on everyone's blogs, he was clearly loved by many.