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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Love And Loss

Apparently this Tuesday, August 26th, was National Dog Day, also known as National Dog Appreciation Day. I think we can all agree that everyone has their own unique relationship with their dog or dogs, as well as any other pets that they might live with. Some people see dogs as working animals, some as creatures that are meant to behave and stay in their yards or kennels, and some see them as members of their family. There are people who fill into any and every variation of the few relationships that I've described. Unfortunately, there are also some humans whose interactions with dogs prove them to be less than humane. These people sadden and infuriate those of us who actually love dogs and other creatures, and I don't want to focus on them right now. 

Dog Appreciation Day falling when it did on the calendar made me a bit sad and nostalgic as well, because the following day, August 27th, marks a sad anniversary for us. You see, two years ago on that date, one of the brightest lights that has ever shone in our lives was dimmed. Our girl Paris was with us no more.

We are two of those people who loved our dog as a member of our family. She was our friend, our companion, our guardian, our child-of-sorts. People who don't get as attached to pets don't seem to understand that losing them is like losing a member of one's family, one who loves us unconditionally and is always thrilled to see us. The first few days of grief were incredibly painful. The changes to our lives were immediate, and we were reminded repeatedly that she was gone from us.

There's no one to get excited and greet us when we come home now, and no one to tell that we will be home soon, so guard the house and be a good girl. Gone are the good night kisses and scratches and tummy rubs. When one of us gets up in the night to use the bathroom, no little head is lifted, dark eyes watching to see where we are going. The bed seems much larger now that there's no eight-and-a-half pound bed hog taking up more room in the middle of it that two humans did on the sides. Nobody trailing after us as we go to and from the kitchen, sniffing and watching to see what magic is being created there. The toys remain in the corner, no longer tossed across the room to be fetched and shaken and chewed.

The love is still here, but the pain has lessened. We still think of her frequently, but we can laugh about it more now. Whenever I get a case of the hiccups, we laugh because it always made her bark defensively, looking toward the front door as if she was saying, "Hey! Quit scaring my mommy!" When we cook or eat something quite delicious, we remember her following us, nose in the air, craning her neck trying to get a better look.  When I was hospitalized last December, we had a bit of a laugh about it, thinking how Paris would react. You see, when Trent got sick, she would look at me to see if I was aware of what was going on. But when I got sick, she would run and make sure Trent was awake and aware of the seriousness of the situation. We imagined Paris seeing me leave the house for the hospital and saying, "Oh, no! Mommy's sick! We're gonna starve!"

It's hard to make anyone understand how we felt about Paris and how devastating it was for us to lose her, especially if their relationship with pets isn't like ours. And I imagine that there are people who would think we are totally nuts when a bit of food falls on the floor and we laugh and say, "Where's Paris when we need her?" But I think that when we can remember those we have lost, whether they are pets or people, with joy in our hearts, we honor their memory in ways that our tears never can. Sort of like when I had a City Slickers moment just before Gram's graveside service, and whispered to my sister, "God, we send you Gram. Try not to piss her off." I think that Gram would have appreciated us having a happy moment. We also know that Paris didn't like to see us cry, but that she was filled with joy when we laughed. So the next time we eat something that we find truly delectable, we'll say that Paris said it was disgusting and not fit for human consumption, just for dogs. And we'll savor it while we remember the shining eyes, laughing face, and wagging tail of the star that shone so brightly and briefly in our lives. Good night, Poo-Doo, we love you.