Life is beautiful. It’s even more beautiful if you share it with a dog. Sure, call me biased. I won’t argue. Because I am. And there isn’t a bone in my body that feels bad about it. When you share your life with a dog, you share a piece of your heart for a lifetime.
The cruel reality is that dogs will devastate you. You’ll spend years, if you’re lucky, loving your companion as the member of your family that they deserve to be, and then one day, they’ll break your heart. They say goodbye, leaving you with questions, tears, regrets, and complete demolition of your soul.
The day I said goodbye to my angel continues to weigh heavy on my heart. I thought about getting dinner in town after work, but turned my car home instead. This allotted me a beautiful hour outside with our dogs on a gorgeous March St. Patrick’s Day. While sitting outside, the wind blew and the sun kissed my skin. I remember thinking how complete my heart felt. I had always dreamed of giving Dusty a farm to grow old on, and here we were.
Then, out of the blue, she collapsed. Weak and unable to stand, I broke down and held her outside on the lawn. We lay under the beautiful trees while birds chirped and a breeze blew. I didn’t feel a sense of urgency to rush her to the vet because I knew that I would not be coming home with her.
As her breathing was becoming labored, I knew it would be our last moments together. I Skyped my father so he could say goodbye, then I made the painful Skype call to my husband, who told her, “Goodbye, Dusty, you were a good doggy.” He worked out of state two weeks a month, and it killed him that he couldn’t be here for our little family.
At 12 years old, our beautiful golden was closing her book of life. Her story was filled with glorious chapters of adventures, love, and friends. She had seen the Grand Canyon, the Colorado mountains, the South Dakota Hills, the California beaches, the Tennessee rivers, and the warmth and comfort of being a valued member of our family.
Our younger dog, Cinder, approached Dusty and began licking her face and nudging her. While talking softly and stroking her fur, I reminisced about our amazing time together, and I thanked her for loving me with all that she had, and like I say to each of my dogs during their last breath, I told her, “You were my best friend.” I have a deep rooted belief (one that I developed when I was a young girl) that a dog’s purpose is to be a best friend to somebody. I guess it may be a superstition that a dog hasn’t achieved their Earthly dog responsibility until they hear those words. Yet the words don’t seem to do them justice, do they? Is there a word that can accurately describe how intensely we love our dogs? What about intertwining? I know there was no delineation between my dog and myself. She completed my life and I loved her so faithfully, just like she taught me.
I tried to be strong. I knew that whatever pain I was feeling, she would feel as well, so I tried to make her last moments with me beautiful. We listened to Alison Krauss and sang, chatted about our farm life, and I told her how I would continue to honor her after she was gone. Then, I told her things that only she will know. Some things are to be kept between a girl and her dog, right?
With so many memories to choose to blog about, why did I choose my last one? I think it’s because my last memory brings me so much pain. How lucky am I to have been given the gift of an amazing companion that I still mourn?
I remember crying for weeks. I even told my mom that I had no idea how to be an adult without Dusty. My husband told me that it would heal over time, but I am not sure it will. I know that life goes on, and there are more dogs that I’ll love who need me and who I need. But I also know how lucky we are to be given the privilege to love on a dog.
I documented about every day of her life in photographs. This is the first time I’ve looked at these photos since she passed. While I never intended to share these photos with anyone, let alone the Internet, I need you to see how it feels to love a dog so deeply that you hurt so immensely. I want to encourage you to seek out this type of pain. The type of pain that only occurs because you’ve been loved so deeply, genuinely, and unconditionally and you may not have deserved it. It was a beautiful evening and as the sun was setting, so was our time together.
We made the difficult decision to bring her to the vet to make sure she wasn’t in any pain. By the time we arrived, it was a matter of minutes before it was time to say goodbye. Sadly, a sudden tumor took her from us, but I’ll forever cherish our quiet moments alone in the grass on our farm.
While I am still figuring out this life of mine, I do know that a faithful dog will only break your heart once: when they say goodbye one last time. And for that, I will take the deepest and most painful heartbreak in the world, because if the love of a dog isn’t worth it, I don’t want to feel a thing.
My best advice for someone who is grieving the loss of a dog is as follows:
1. Cry, cry, cry. Cry without restraint. Without limitations. Without guilt.
2. Don’t let anyone trivialize the loss of a dog. If they do, then they don’t understand, but that’s on them, not you.
3. Share stories to anyone who will listen. It may be painful, but it’s what your dog has left behind: its legacy of adventures.
4. Adopt again. This is the hardest one. After Dusty passed, I never wanted another dog again. We had two at home, but I swore I’d never get a third. And then I met Huckleberry. He’s been so healing and has filled my heart with so much joy. You know, people say that one dog leaves so that another doggy has a chance to live the life they, too, deserve. It will hurt. You may feel like you’re betraying your dog, but you’re not. You’re honoring your dog with love, because of love.
Does it still hurt? You bet it does. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat.
Yes, my dog broke my heart, but only because I am selfish. I wanted her for all of the days of my life, but she was old, and it was her time to go. I hated it then, and I hate it now, But then again, she could have lived to 48 and I would still be begging for one more day.
Give your pup an extra squeeze tonight in memory of Dusty.
She spread so much love to everyone she met, and if you give me the opportunity, I’d love to talk your ear off all about it sometime.
Til I meet you at that rainbow bridge…
Your best friend,