Farewell to Our Forever Dog

Two weeks ago I typed this:

I am still shocked. A month ago I would have never guessed the smallest symptom would actually be the clue to the most heart wrenching diagnosis for our dog. Our lovely Rudie, despite the best care at the Western Veterinary Centre and the huge love of her owners and her massive extended fan club, was not going to be able to overcome this challenge in the way we so wished. What followed was the decision that our heads knew was the very best, most loving, most humane act but our hearts were screaming “No, not now, not yet, not ever!” She and I spent every day together this year, side by side, as I navigated through my full-time course load at grad school. She stayed up until 3 am with me (she did the sleeping for both of us), nudged at my elbow when it was time for some fresh air and a walk, listened to endless hours of editing read aloud, dodged flying wads of Kleenex as I cried with the fear I couldn’t do the work, and above all she was there for me and with me…tirelessly, reliably, lovingly, loyally. Just as she always had been for my husband her entire 12 years of life and for me for the 6 years since I joined their pack. We were a family.

Photo by Flare Photography

I am so terribly sad. Without her the house is deafeningly quiet. It feels like a vacuum is continually sucking something out. This version of quiet is so loud my ears ache. Rudie was a quiet, well mannered, easy going girl…anything but noisy. But her beautiful presence filled up this home in a way I did not fully realize when she was here. So it is not a noise that is missing, it is a presence that is absent. It makes my heart ache.

In the days and weeks following our farewell I realize there are a million crummy firsts. I am trying to reframe these as a million special reminders showing me how embedded Rudie was in even the tiniest moments of every single day. The first time I mowed the lawn without having to throw a tennis ball so carefully laid in my path. The first morning not giving her a big belly rub before letting her outside. The first thunderstorm during which she did not need to be reassured and comforted. The first load of groceries I brought into the house which weren’t thoroughly inspected by that awesome lab nose. The first walk through the neighbourhood without her by my side. The firsts are seemingly endless right now and they are such a glaring reminder of her absence but also of the magnitude of her presence while she was here. I believe our hearts are forever changed by the love we share with a pet. A part of us that would otherwise not bubble to the surface is released through this relationship. I know it hurts so much right now because the time together was so fantastic. Big love means the potential for big loss. However, I would not trade the love to spare me the loss. I would never sacrifice the fun, the silliness, the adventures, the connection, the companionship, the joy just to ensure I didn’t one day feel the way I feel right now. The love far out weighs the loss, and one day in the future the love will also eclipse this loss. But in this moment the hurt takes my breath away.

In a year in which the themes of my learning have been openness, sharing, community, connections, and the power of stories I thought it was fitting to share the beautiful lessons I learned from our Rudie dog.

Life Lessons from My Dog

  • Greet everyone
  • Stick together
  • Do what you love
  • Be in the moment
  • There is always room to add to the pack
  • Don’t be shy to show your enthusiasm and passion
  • Smile often
  • Be loyal to your people
  • Love and live large
  • A positive attitude never lets you down
  • Be open—to new people, new experiences, new places, new adventures
  • Fresh air and a good walk always put life into perspective
  • Forgive and forget (Thanks, Jeff!)
  • Never miss the chance to nap (Thanks, Sarah!)
  • Always eat more than one cookie in a sitting (Thanks again, Sarah!)
  • Don’t judge (Thanks, Lindsay!)
  • Go as hard as you can for as long as you can (Thanks, Norm and Marilyn!)
  • Kisses are for everyone (Thank you, Stephen and Murphy!)
  • It’s okay to lie down in any place, at any time (Thanks again, Stephen and Murphy!)

The love is deep, the memories are beautiful, and I am forever grateful. Farewell sweet girl…until we meet again. xo

I wonder: What lessons would you add to this list that you have learned from your pet?