I was around four years old when I had my first clear memory. I was playing in the living room with a doll, trying to comb her hair. The family dog, a Poodle named Brandy, was sectioned off in his playpen watching me, calmly.
A family dog Brandy was almost 16 years old and had lost most of his bowel control. My mom kept him happy and content in his little area. He didn’t live much longer. I don’t remember him passing away but I do remember that I liked him being around me and that, of course, made me sad.
Even at that young age and without much interaction, having a dog around brought me comfort.
Fast forward to when I grew up and got engaged, my fiance and I got a dog named Cayenne. A white Boxer that had the sweetest disposition. She was my first real dog because she was my responsibility.
I fed her, bathed her, took her to vet appointments. I trained her too. My fiance traveled a lot for work and she was my sole companion many nights.
She was my rock. My protector. We then got married, had kids, became legitimate “grown ups.”
Through each memory we made as a family, Cayenne was there with us. She took to my kids like they were her siblings, gently chasing my eldest son as he learned to walk, then run. She lied nice and still while my younger son, our artist, discovered that she made a great canvas with her shiny white coat.
The poor dog always had a doodle drawn up her side. As my boys grew up and discovered bigger toys like the trampoline and jungle gym, Cayenne was always right in the mix. If she couldn’t be totally involved, she was guarding the boys closely.
Sadly, a week before Cayenne’s 10th birthday, her breathing became erratic. We rushed her to the vet and he said her heart was enlarged. We were referred to a specialist and while driving her there, she began slipping away.
I was in the back of the truck with her as my husband drove. I knew she was leaving us, I couldn’t control myself. And I screamed, wept, prayed. She passed away only 2 miles from our vet’s office.
I’m not sure what happened next. I was in a haze. A fog. A cloud of grief had swept upon me and I went into a deep depression. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t leave my bed. I couldn’t carry a conversation, I couldn’t even care for my kids.
Cayenne’s death felt like the end of the world I had grown to love and depend on. That world was no longer there. It had changed. Shifted. Morphed into a world without my dog in it. A world I wanted no part of!
Family members and friends called, emailed. They were, of course, sorry for my loss but I could sense judgment. Like they wanted to say “get over it already,” but of course didn’t (not out loud anyway).
And I wanted to scream at them for judging me! Didn’t they understand she was like my child? How could they not see that? It was a bad few months. Real bad.
Maybe there are some people out there that lose a dog and grieve for a short time and then get on with life. Maybe that’s their normal. But I know my normal wasn’t that.
My normal was going through a whole grieving process that took a very long time.
I still grieve and it’s nearly 7 years later. I had to shut part of myself down permanently and put it away on a shelf with Cayenne’s pictures and cremated ashes and just accept that I will keep going, but that part of me will always want her back. That part of me will always ache.
I write this after the loss of friends and some family members and I can’t help but feel a deeper hole from losing her.
And I don’t feel a bit guilty about that. Losing my dog was one of the greatest losses in my life– but I will never regret the time we had together.
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