In a week, it will be three months since our family lost our dog. Sookie had multiple tumors in her body, one of which was large, pressing against her stomach, and was likely the cause of her not being able to eat. When I think about the day she left, I do so knowing that there is beauty in what happened–both Dan and I were there, she went to sleep quietly in our arms, then left fast. I suspect everyone in the room was a little shocked when I started talking about feeling this overjoyed, happy puppy running around me, licking my face, being overjoyed, and then running out of the room through the wall I was sitting against.
The first week was the hardest; then it got easier. The vet called and said her cremated remains were ready for pick up. I though tit was going to be easy. I cried when I got into the car, holding a carboard container that held the ashes of my dog. We opened the card from the vet when everyone was home. I saw the paw prints they’d taken. Again, tears.
I started looking for a new puppy about a month in. It helped with the grief, but it also helped to know that the desperate silence that engulfed my life might not need to be. Sookie was beside me almost every moment we were in the same space. She was my shadow. When she got older, I’d lift her into bed and she’d duck down and snuggle into my face, laying belly to belly, sniffing. I’d make the same happy grunting noise she’d make when we were close. She bonded with Dan. That meant something important for me because Sookie, until that point, had always not taken to the guys I brought home. Dan became a papa, we became a family.
It’s still so desperately empty. And when I thought the tears were gone, they’ve returned. Quieter, not nearly as forceful and intruding as they were in the beginning. But the loss is still there. Some days it feels like it won’t be going anywhere. Yes, the grief will likely not be quashed by bringing another dog into the house. But the silence might cease.
It’s not that I don’t like quiet. I love quiet. This is emptiness. This is silence when I pray at the end of the day, and there isn’t a dog in the chapel with me sleeping; this is the quiet of not hearing the dog snoring on my chest while watching television, or the smiling barks that came when we went for a walk.
I suspect that dogs are angels in disguise, that they in many ways are embodiments of what our guardian angels must be like. Unconditional love so intense, so utterly freely given that it can only last for 10 years, longer if we’re lucky.
In all the experiences of fear, anguish, depression, anxiety, in all the changes that I went through in terms of my victory over the darkness that had infiltrated my life, Sookie was there for it all. Warts and all. She simply loved me when I felt unlovable. When I felt down, she would curl up next to me and give me comfort. She got me out of the house, walking daily, helping me get the sun and fresh air that was so essential to my mental health.
The emptiness weighs heavy on me. I go to prayer for some consolation, but even then, in praying, I am brought back to the words I whispered over her head in the last embrace:
“Lord, now let your servant go in peace.”
I told her to run to the lady in blue. For if there was a dog that would be a good companion to Our Lady, Sookie would’ve been.