All Dogs Go to Heaven

I drafted this post three months ago, when I was home in Nashville, preparing to do a terrible thing.  Only now has the grief subsided enough to post it. I’ve felt all of the stages of grief over and over again since July. Now, perhaps, I’m reaching stage five, acceptance.

But mostly I have lingered in anger. Too many times to count, I’ve wanted to yell and scream out my window at dogs and their people, just innocently out for a walk in the sun. Instead I clenched my teeth and growled, dug my nails in the steering wheel and drove recklessly.

I’ve been unable to stop to admire, pet and inquire about strangers’ dogs at the flea markets. I’ve distanced myself, turned around, avoided getting close enough for the dog to be curious. Recently my radar was down; a dog approached me for a friendly investigative sniff and I jumped back, audibly shocked and threatened, such that the owner thought her dog bit me. I think it’s fair to say I overreacted.

I have choked and failed to ask my colleagues about their own dogs, unable to stand that they’re happy and normal and fine.  I’ve isolated myself from conversations just so the topic doesn’t even come up.

That’s not me. that’s not who I am.

But my heart was so broken by the death of my dog, the first pet that has been all mine, I’m still trying to deal. Writing about these feelings helps. I’ve been feeling guilty and angry at myself for being so angry. So in an effort to heal and get stronger, let me remember how I was feeling on July 9, in Cokie’s final days…

—–

My darling dog, the closest thing I have to a child, my Mississippi terrier mutt, has bone cancer. For almost a year, the vet and my family have been treating it as arthritis. But she didn’t respond to the medicine and supplements, and an x-ray confirmed that her bone has disintegrated. I look at the fuzzy on the film, with a visible lack of “stuff” in the middle of her bone and wonder how her leg hasn’t broken yet.

We’re putting her down this week as her left front leg is lame, and she’s lost all spunk and vigor. My poor girl just lays around. She’s had some accidents in the house as she doesn’t want to stand up, much less go outside. Her condition just breaks my heart, but confirms I’m making the right decision regarding her end of life. That’s a blessing, and eases my feelings of doubt that now is the time to end her life.

cokie 5-2013

I saw this on a scrapbook sticker today: My dog isn’t my whole life, but makes my life whole.

I believe all dogs go to heaven, they’re the most loving, loyal creatures on earth, with the ability to mirror us, to make us better. Dogs help us humans rise to become the people our dogs think we are: capable, confident and caring. My dog made me a better person, and I will miss her so much.

—–

Reading that now, “miss her so much” is an understatement.  My grief is deep and continues to perplex me. It bubbles up when I’m least expecting it. But with time I hope I continue to be better able to put boundaries around it, acknowledge it and put it in its place.

As we drove Cokie to the vet’s office for her final appointment, Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” came on the car radio, on cue from the musical gods that orchestrate those made-for-tv scenes in your life.

You’re the best friend/that I’ve ever had/I’ve been with you such a long time/You’re my sunshine/And I want you to know/That my feelings are true/I really love you/You’re my best friend.

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