My family’s dog passed away this afternoon, peacefully, on his favorite kitchen rug where he would lay in order to be close to my mom while she was cooking or doing her homework. (Her “desk” is her kitchen table, and considering where I’m sitting as I type this, I’m growing up to be just like her.) He was 14 years old and led a full and happy life, and made our lives fuller and happier as well – even sticking around long enough for his birthday last week so that we could all eat steak and cannoli on his behalf.
No, really, I am. It’s been a longtime coming. I told my parents a few months ago, when they thought they might have to put the dog to sleep, that I didn’t want to know anything until it was over. The idea of having to prepare for the dog’s death, like at a specific day and time, of having to choose whether or not to be there to say goodbye, was overwhelmingly crushing.
This way, there’s closure, and I can focus on the memories. Like how I used to come home from high school, mad or frustrated or upset over something, and I would close all the windows and doors in my house and just scream – and Simon would be there, howling right alongside me. Or how I used to try to get him to go running with me, and he, a typical if well-behaved beagle, would have no interest in moving faster than he could smell. Or how he was the perfect height to rest his chin on my lap at the dinner table, knowing I would feed him. (But he also knew I, more than anyone else, wanted him to do tricks for his treats, and would readily offer me a paw or sit up on his haunches, whenever he encountered me standing in the kitchen.) Also, his face covers my ex-husband’s in every applicable family photo in my parents’ house.
Simon was a good dog, and I am sad, but not devastated. I will probably cry over this a little during the next few days, and then I will move past it. It seems so easy, so manageable, to grieve and then move on. Which beggars the question: why have I been unable to do that with my miscarriage, if I’m being so damn healthy about the loss of someone I knew and loved for 50% of my life?
I found this answer the other day, when I read or heard or saw the explanation that, when we lose a loved one, we have a wealth of happy memories to cling to. The person (or dog) who has passed lives on through those memories, which are an essential part of the grieving process.
In the case of a lost pregnancy, however, there are no happy memories. There is just one memory, and that is the sad and painful memory of the loss itself. All other associated memories (like my excited, hopeful, pre-miscarriage ones) become tied up in the memory of the loss. It’s a very hard thing to move past because it’s very hard to find a bright side.
For now, though, I’m going to put aside my devastation at the two-year-old loss of my first chance at motherhood, and focus on the six-hour-old loss of my first puppy, who opened his own Christmas presents every year, stole socks out of people’s laundry baskets and suitcases whenever he could, and, uncharacteristic of a hunting/retrieval hound, made friends with every pet rabbit I ever introduced him to.
Simon: 10/25/96-10/31/10. Photo circa 2001, by Martin Marandola.