I’m trying really hard this morning to adjust my thinking from: This is the day my dog loses his leg. To: This is the day my dog loses his tumor. It’s not totally working, but the second sentence is also true and it’s the reason for the first. It’s important. It’s the non-negotiable.
It was weird, sleeping alone in the living room last night. I don’t want to be morbid, but I admit the thought was with me all yesterday afternoon and evening. That: This is what it will be like when R is gone. Very quiet. Lots of objects scattered around my house that no longer serve a purpose. Lots of colorful toys without anyone to play with them. Three big beds with no one to sleep in them. Which, all in all, creates a strange, abandoned feeling, like everyone in a family up and disappeared right in the middle of a meal and never came back.
It’s also just weird that I can know R is going to have his leg chopped off today, but here it’s so calm. It’s that general weirdness that comes from the dichotomy that something really important, or really bad, or really violent can be happening a hundred miles away and you can be going about your daily life and not even know it. Like when the Twin Towers came down and for the first however long I was still sitting in my middle school classroom, no doubt preoccupied by silly middle school girl worries. I was giving a presentation in my social studies class, I think, when my mom probably died.
It’s that same weird dichotomy today, on a much smaller scale. That I know five miles down the road R is losing his leg, but here it’s just a perfectly still morning, unusually quiet and still even because R isn’t here and there’s no breeze and the rain clouds are lingering low in the sky and that always feels a little like a blanket hushing over the whole world.
I wonder what it would be like to be one of those people who love their dogs in moderation. Those people who treat their dogs well and seem to get real joy from them, but don’t seem to suffer paroxysms of grief when things go poorly or the end is near. Or, maybe I’m just particularly practiced in grief. Or, maybe this is why I have built most of the rest of my life around the very foremost tenet of: Keep yourself even keeled. This is why. This right here.
I’ve lived most of the rest of my life trying very hard to set things up so I’m not likely to feel wild swings of emotions because I wonder if my wild swings aren’t a bit more wild than might be… I don’t know the word. Reasonable? Healthy? Whatever. Just ‘too much’ works. So the rest of my life is very calm and orderly and I feel nice gentle ups and downs of emotion like casual friendships and mistakes at work that don’t really cost anyone anything. But then, is this experience an argument in support or opposition of that general Even Keel Plan? On one hand, clearly it hasn’t completely gone to plan, right? That wild swings will still sneak in, in the most banal places. On the other hand, this is certainly an unpleasant experience. If this is a wild swing, it’s certainly not one I’m keen to repeat in the near term.
Or, am I?
I wonder if I’ll choose to get another dog at some point down the road, once we’re through all this, once I’ve gone through the final grief. All of my other immediate family members have what might look to the outside like a weird tradition of only ever having one dog. But when you get down to the heart of it I think it’s because maybe we are all a little overly emotional and both my dad and my sister basically summarized single-dog-ownership as, “There are heartbreaks you can avoid.” Basically that there are sad situations you can’t avoid in life, relationships with people mainly, but that you know you are in for a sad ending with a dog and so both of them have gone through it once and decided they’d rather avoid the heartache in the future.
Of course, then you also miss out on future puppy cuddles and panting grins when you tell that little fur creature what a very good boy he is and the sound of snuffles as a little body curls up beside you to sleep. You don’t get to pull another pup from a shelter and feel pretty certain you gave that little creature a better life than the one he’d been living. Those are nice things. I guess it’s just the emotional arithmetic of whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Complicated math, hard to figure, but that’s it. Do you end up in the black or red?
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