I will keep today’s post plain spoken. Goodness knows if you go back a year on this blog you can read the whole before, during and after with richer language and vivid images, but for today I just want to tell it as it is without regard for fancying up the words and simply say it was a year ago today that I lost my furry friend who had been with me through thick and thin for many, many years. He was family to me and my best friend. On this blog he was simply referred to as Dog.
I wasn’t ready to lose him, though I don’t think we are ever ready for the losses life brings our way, and though I may not have been ready, Dog was. Sometimes life just has a timing all it’s own, and I knew it was time.
In choosing to accept and let go, I found that something irrevocable changed inside on that day. Though that may sound trite or overstated, it was my simple truth. Loss changes us, and for me change was an odd mixture of pieces rearranging themselves that I have since tried to piece together.
My little buddy had seen me through a massive metamorphosis and losing him meant losing the bridge between two worlds, my old and my new. Goodbye meant saying goodbye to one last link to the past, and I could feel things uncomfortably shifting as an important chapter closed, and I faced an uncertain future which did not contain his prints.
I also had a deeper sense of sincerity and gravity towards my life which arose from two realizations after that day: 1) The only kinds of people I want close to me in life are the kinds of people who are there for you when your dog dies. I decided I was done with relationships that did not offer emotional availability and reciprocity of care, and I meant it as I started releasing ties that no longer supported my full self. 2) I had a new found knowledge of the massive amount of strength I possessed that allowed me to navigate such a difficult loss with presence and love. I found a deepening belief in my own abilities to stay open to life and face whatever came my way.
I was sorrowful and accepting and terribly lonely and very brave. I could feel the earth shifting beneath my feet and wondered where I’d land.
A week later I found myself in Oregon running on a trail for a marathon I’d signed up for months earlier. I was running faster than normal, spurred on by the events of the week, feeling that if I somehow put in a good time during this race it would honor the loss of my friend whose tiny, arthritic legs overruled his giant heart, never allowing him to run with me. Then I ran past this guy who has since confessed he liked the look of my orange running pants and the good energy he could feel coming from me.
We ran together for awhile and chatted, I noticed the way he laughed and tilted his face up to receive the rain. He looked grateful to be alive. We bonded on a wicked downhill section that he took at full throttle discovering he couldn’t shake the chick from Alaska who spends her summer running mountains. We took pictures of our muddy shoes after the race. He got my number then asked me for coffee the next day.
I almost said no. A random coffee date with a guy who lived in another state didn’t seem to fit where I was at in life. I wanted comfort, stability, and healing. Not change, frivolity and the potential for more hurt.
I surprised myself with saying yes and proceeded to have the best conversation with anybody I had ever had. I told him about losing Dog. He told me how he lost his dog a few years earlier and had considered Sam his best friend and life saver. I told him about my tiny apartment whose walls were painted blue the minute I moved in, because I don’t believe in white walls with so much color in this world. He told me about his small home with red, yellow and sky blue walls. We had strong coffee and as he told me I had a place to stay in Oregon if I ever needed one.
I went back to Alaska that night thoughtful about this man I had met. He called a few days later to talk about chocolate peanut butter ice-cream and the cold freeze settling into Bend that made his home feel more like my corner of the globe than the high desert where he lived. I called him a few days later to tell him about the little white dog with the magnificent snaggle tooth I had just rescued, having decided that a single girl without her dog was a lost girl indeed.
We talked a lot. Every Sunday night for at least 3 hours we shared minuscule details of the day, life stories, favorite books, relationship histories, family matters, how we looked at the world, what we believe is beyond this world. I wondered where this best friend had come from who I’d met with such happenstance, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt this was a person who would take my sunshine and my clouds.
He came to visit in January, and everything changed after that. I even found that my writing started spontaneously changing as I stopped writing the whole story and started writing poems, tiny word pictures, short vignettes. It was all so new to me, and I felt a sense of protection towards this beautiful seed that was sprouting, as if too many words would somehow make it too cerebral and keep it from being exactly what it was. New life. Potential. I needed to give it space to become what it would without analyzing it. I couldn’t tell the whole story, because I didn’t know it.
I went to visit in February. And March. And April, because by then we’d already figured out that this was the unexpected game changer for both of us and with his portable job he was the better candidate for “Most likely to move as soon as possible, because long distance relationships start to suck after awhile.” He moved on June 12th accompanied by a rather unhappy cat in a carrier cage.
Since then there has been a whole list of events. One thing I’ve found is that the world keeps on spinning and life doesn’t stop for anyone. Various ailments, buying a home, an engagement, moving into said home, emergency surgery, a painful recovery, setting up our colorful home, the very unexpected loss of a cat who was no longer unhappy and was finding his place in the household. The addition of a new cat, because you can never replace what you have lost, but you can choose to share the love you have and let that heal.
And that brings me back to today’s post. You can never replace what you have lost, but you can choose to share the love you have and let that heal.
I am sad when I think about the loss of my friend. Profoundly so. But there has also been great joy that has accompanied the loss and new love in my life, and I wanted to tell that story on this anniversary day. It is a story of the sad loss of my wonderful friend which ushered in new joy and new beginnings.
I like to think it was Dog’s gift to me. All the love in my life now. That somehow he knew I needed an extra push to run just a little bit faster that day and arranged the whole thing. He was always very clever that way, that Dog of mine. And whenever I get to really missing him I just think upon these words.
*She asked where he lived.
‘Second to the right,’ said Peter. ‘And then straight on til morning.’
And I know he’s up there looking down. Happy with what he sees.
*J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan