I’ve been hesitant to write. Not because I don’t know what to say, but because my dog is dying and I don’t want to talk about that publicly too much.
I know you’re animal lovers and that you understand. But stoicism is the message we’ve been given all our lives; you don’t grieve animals. You bury them and move on. And that has been just what I have done with everyone who has gone before. I did it with Lucky. With Sage. With DeDe. With Precious and Lover Boy. I cried when I took each of them to the vet that last time, cried that night. Then I got up the next morning and went to work. Because that is what you do.
This time is different. I will not tamp down my grief. I will experience it, and will not feel ashamed for doing so. This time I am being in the moment… for the most part. I’ve been self-soothing with sugar and practicing avoidance by playing Candy Crush Soda. Otherwise I am here.
I am frightened by how I feel. Grief to me feels like I’m out of control. I need to do laundry, but i don’t want to. I need to cook the veggies before they go bad. I’ll do it tomorrow. I need to go to bed, but i don’t want to sleep. Then the next morning I don’t want to get up.
I’m afraid that I’ll be written off as just another depressed middle-aged white woman who can’t get her shit together. It’s just a dog, for christsake! Be strong! Lift yourself up by your bootstraps! Suck it up buttercup!
Grief is a normal reaction to loss. Even though Rumpy’s not gone yet, he’s leaving me, and I’m hurting. I want to avoid the well-meaning but condescending comments like, “I hope you feel better soon,” or “have you thought about getting another dog?” The DSM-V identifies grief as a normal reaction to loss that can last for as long as two years, and even after that can pop up from time to time. I’m pretty sure I’m right on schedule.
So how is Rumpy anyway?
His breathing has been more labored. I know it’s partly due to the warmer temperatures. I’ve had the a/c on and cranked down low so he’ll be comfortable. Rumpy lies quietly in the floor to breathe easier. He’s still eating well, and doesn’t act as though he’s in pain. He is playful and lights up when we get ready to go outside, but it wears him out pretty quick. A long trek for us these days is a walk around the backyard and back to the front door.
Sometimes I wonder if maybe they got it wrong. Perhaps it’s not cancer after all. The vet could have made a mistake. And the breathing? Yeah, I haven’t found a fanciful explanation for that one yet, but I’m working for it. I think they call this denial. Then I get mad because my dog is dying. Then I feel guilty for being mad. Then I become frustrated. Then I cry. Then I eat a cookie and play Candy Crush.
I don’t know how much longer I have with Rumpy. I have today, and I’m grateful for that. Tomorrow will have to take care of itself.