Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Grief

in the two weeks since Pinko left my life, i’m sad to say i haven’t dreamed about her once. i keep wanting to and asking her to visit me, but she hasn’t yet. maybe that’s because i’m sleeping poorly and there hasn’t been many solid stretches of time when dreams can happen. i’m hoping both these things will change soon, because i’m chronically tired from the lack of sleep and chronically sad from missing her.

i get that she is not coming back. there is no “magical thinking” happening where i’ve saved her things with the expectation that she will need them when she returns home. wherever home is for her now, it’s no longer with me. accepting this has made the grief more manageable. i don’t come home expecting to see her sweet face, despite thinking about her all day long. of course, the house is hollower without her. of course, my life is, too.

but once i made my way through the initial devastation — when i cried until i ran out of tears and drank until i felt numb — the dull, familiar ache of heartbreak settled in. i realize it will dissipate with time, as all my other heartaches have, flaring up intermittently when triggered. sometimes, it’s by my memories of her, like how she had one floppy and one upright ear and how she would put her face on the edge of the bed to greet me every morning. other times, it’s the realization that i’ll never see that face or hear her howl again. 

a few friends suggested i get another dog right away. i know this is good advice and there will certainly be more dogs in my future, but a new dog can’t fill the void of wanting my old dog back. i need to heal first and prepare myself to appreciate a new dog’s unique personality and idiosyncrasies instead of searching for one that reminds me of Pinko.

at least i have Juice. this is another refrain i’ve heard, and it rings exceptionally true. i couldn’t imagine walking into or living in a dogless house, now or ever. i need to see a tail wagging daily and have access to a furry face i can nuzzle. it’s good for my mental and spiritual health. Juice has delivered, though she’s less affectionate than Pinko was, so i find myself following Juice around the house and trying to coax her into giving me love and attention, as Pinko used to with me.  

if there is any bright side to this, it’s that i now have more opportunities to connect with Juice — and in many ways reconnect. Pinko’s rough origins made her slightly needy and insecure, while Juice has known no other life than the one she’s been living with me since she was six weeks old. rightly or wrongly, i gave Pinko more attention, sometimes at the expense of Juice, who has become more solitary over the years. but now, Juice has begun falling asleep with her head across my lap more, something she used to do regularly as a puppy.

i keep wondering what she is thinking through all this. i worry that she is lonely and bored without Pinko. i know i shouldn’t project my human sensibilities onto her, but there have been several times when we’ve locked eyes for a good while and i recognize a certain sadness in her, the same one that lives in me now. after these moments, i’ll always kiss her head and whisper, “i miss her, too.”

i know Juice understands that Pinko is gone. she stayed in the room with me and smelled Pinko’s still body when it was over. sometimes, Juice smells whatever remains of Pinko’s scent on my clothes and begins wagging her tail and pawing at me. she also seems far more interested in her dog toys, which Pinko routinely stole out of Juice’s mouth, but they are now carried around the house and brought onto the couch to snuggle with.

then there is Tico and his grief. in the days following Pinko’s death, he painted the basement, planted much of the front yard, vacuumed and washed my car, built a shelf for the hallway closet and reorganized the spare bedroom and bathroom cupboards — all while i sat on the couch, drinking, crying and looking at old photographs. i guess this sums up the difference between how men and women grieve. thankfully, he also slowed down plenty to offer his comfortable arms when i needed them most, cushioning this journey for me immensely.

i’m also indebted to my friends and family, whom i’m convinced are the most amazing people in the world. from them, i received money for vet bills, condolence cards, flower and food deliveries, a spa certificate, and several personal messages of love and support. i take none of it for granted and vow to absorb these inspirational lessons in friendship and pay them forward.

and even though i’m brokenhearted and going into the holidays with a member of my family missing, i still consider myself lucky for the many remaining blessings in my life — and for the six years i had with a cuddly creature that howled in my ear, warmed my side, brightened my world and grew my heart with her limitless love. i would do it all over again.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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