Today the house is empty for the first time in 14+ years. I keep listening for the sounds that are no longer here, the footsteps and voices of Maggie (14+ yr. old Westie) and Sebastian (13+ yr. old Shih Tzu -Bichon-Frise).
The day after Sebastian died on Saturday, Maggie’s tumor broke through the skin. She’s always been a brave trooper. The vet said that Westies are the toughest in bearing pain. But she was not herself. She was in pain. She couldn’t walk. She was grieving. She was bleeding. There was no way back. No way to make it better. There was no joy. I loved this dog so much. Maggie’s been my companion for all these years. They say Westies are the most human of dogs. It was true of her. She was all love and all play. I wept like a baby yesterday, as I had on Saturday, when we “put her down,” as they say.
The house is empty of Maggie and Sebastian. But it is not empty of love. Kay, who is more in touch with her feelings than I, expressed them well this morning in an email to her friend Mary.
Empty…..that’s exactly it. Empty….rattling around in a cage that used to have a wheel for multiple animals, moving, squeaking, flying high, deliriously fun and noisy noisy noisy…… And now dead silence, nothing. They left the cage for whatever eternal freedom awaits us all…..there had better be an assemblance of a heaven full of love and resurrection of all the bodies of those we love or I won’t go.
It was the right time, completely worn out caring for two pups that needed carrying everywhere all day and even “up” to get a drink in the night, or outside to pee in the dark of 2:00 am…..we’re too old for this…..but we had no need for NOTHING, no lovely, characterized soft dazzlingly sweet creatures, instead.
We went to bed last night, finally getting to hold each other without the crowding of legs and the sooo familiar and comforting creaturely bodies nestled together…but we were left without a “pack” and we had no “fam”……something that filled every crevice of our lives so completely. We cried together and held each other, but there was no real consolation, since right now it is ALL LOSS. This place will be filled in with new energy or new peace, we will get to be tranquil…..but we have less spunk and personality and affection, oh so much less of everything precious.
I hold the “rubber band of my ambivalence” in high tension. Here it is 4:45 am and I am having a quiet time by the fire with my morning coffee…..a week ago I would have to hope and pray that one or both (not simultaneously) would not have to be brought down to pee……so I would break into my warmth serenity to put on shoes, coat, ear band, get a little sack, a leash, different shoes, go out in the cold, wait endlessly for them to find just the right smell, or the right place that hadn’t been used before, and they never wanted to come in, because frozen smells from other dogs were infinitely more wonderful than house smells….so I would have to practically drag them inside again….then feed them, and put them on the couch on the soft blanket across from my chair, get them all settled…go back to my chair, get settled, my coffee, my ipad……and, you know what would happen next…..they both would come off the couch and want to sit with me on my chair (half the size). They were always undeniable, however much I tried, I would say no, ignore, plead, but if a Westie wants something, there is no denying her, however much you try to command that breed, why would I ever even try, after 15 years, I should know….so up goes the coffee cup to the table, the ipad to the table…..I reach down to scoop her up (and sometimes him too, all 3 of us on this little chair)…. I am scrunched sideways, contorted to get them to settle down so they will sleep again….and, again grab my coffee, my ipad, start reading or writing (which presented an even more contorted arrangement above their lounging bodies because I would have no lap then)……… And then….and then…..they eventually, 3 minutes, 5 minutes……they would want down again.
The sadness I hold in my heart – the desire, the physical ache for their return – is a study in ambivalence. I am nuts with sorrow for something I have been waited for for a long long time.
Love conquers all, I tell you. Even high maintenance love. Their 13-14+ years of collective memories will permeate my soul with sadness that will eventually lift to the highest level of sweet sweet melancholy……….but you and I will know the bottom line. The tension is now resolved, and with grave sadness I walk forward into my freedom unencumbered.
Thanks for hearing my 5:00 am confession, my soiled sadness. I know you understand. You spent years in the same condition with many of your dogs before they died. You would have similar tales to tell. I guess dog people are just special souls.
“Lord, help me be half the man/woman my dog thinks I am.”