It has been five months since my canine companion of more than sixteen years has departed this earth, leaving me empty and grieving. I did not expect, and therefore I am unprepared for, the depth of sorrow I feel at the loss of his presence beside me. There seems to be a bottomless well of memories and triggers that waft
into my life unexpectedly, and result in rendering me overwrought with emotions.
Often, in life, his and my attitudes clashed as we both believed that life existed for the sole purpose of pleasing each of us—individually. He was demanding, and I expected much from him; a chemistry that caused us to learn how to live together, but also created a ubiquitous connection. We always made our presence known to the other and developed a rapport and dependency because of it. The things that once irritated me about him eventually became customary, and are now so sorely missed.
I still look for that old guy with the gray hair and bad attitude more often than I could ever have imagined. I think he will be waiting for his turn, at the end of my meals, to share my plate of food with. I expect that he will magickally make any morsel of food dropped on the floor disappear, despite his waning sense of smell. Neither came true.
I hear the tags on his collar jingle, when I rise from the chair, signaling me that it is time for him to go out. Several minutes later, I anticipate him sitting in front of the refrigerator waiting for a carrot, or maybe by the cupboard that held his medicine expecting a capsule wrapped in food to be given to him. He is not there.
I unnecessarily panic when the gate is left open, fearing he will escape and not hear me calling him, as his auditory sense had long-ago disappeared. I remind myself to check the supply of food and medicine, lest he run out, but there is no need to do so.
Every evening I remember how I would boost his butt to help him up the stairs and in the morning strap him into a life jacket with a handle to carry him down again. As I go downstairs to do the laundry, I absentmindedly turn around to tell him to stay, only to be disappointed by his absence.
I am often shocked by the size of my house, which now looks bigger than I remember it being when I purchased it, but then I remember that the beds and rugs that were scattered about for him, both upstairs and downstairs, are now gone, and the floor is empty. I miss my ‘smaller’ house.
Habit dictates that the front door with the full-view storm, purchased specifically for him when we moved into this house, be open between the hours of rising and retiring, but the rug placed on its threshold is empty.
The car seat, known to him as his ‘box’, that he occupied since he was just months old, is starkly and visibly missing from the back passenger area of the car. I cannot bear to part with it, as he spent many hours, years, and miles in that seat as we traveled on this journey together.
As the time to leave work approaches, I instinctively look out the window anticipating and planning how long a walk he and I would go on when I got home…and then I remember. There is no need to check the weather, because the dog that used to run with me on summer days as a puppy, and later slowly meandered with me as he aged, is now gone.
Everything, new and old, is a reminder of what was, and what is no more. What there is left is a picture of him next to his urn on the fireplace leading to the staircase. Each night I touch his nose on the photo and give the urn a pat as I say, “Goodnight, Butter,” and then I imagine him whole and young; running up the stairs with me as he did so many years ago.