And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
It was a difficult week, this first week without the dogs. Michael and I both realized that, with the exception of short stints in apartments during young adulthood, neither of us has ever been without a dog before. And our daughter, at 17 years of age, has always had a dog in the house. For the last 11 years of her life, there have been two. Blossom and Penny. And then Blossom and Donnie.
And now there are none.
I wasn’t aware how much noise the dogs created in our household. Or how much visual effect. The condo no longer jingles with the tags on their collars. Donnie’s tag was blue and treat-shaped and was engraved with his name. Blossom’s was pink and heart-shaped, and besides her name, also held the word Princess. Their toenails clicked on our concrete floors. Donnie talked constantly, emitting barnyard and zoo sounds out of his beagle mouth. They jumped up and down off the furniture. Sightwise, whenever I walked down the steps from the third to the second floor, my eyes automatically went over the banister to the couch in the living room, where two beagle heads lifted their noses toward me. Donnie usually jumped down and ran to me; Blossom winked or wagged a regal tail. They were at the door when we came in. They were at the door when we went out. Donnie’s nose was immediately there whenever anything opened: closets, cupboards, dishwasher.
This morning, when I took my box of cereal from the cabinet, I automatically closed the door, forgetting that I no longer had to. The cupboard can now stay open until I put the box away. There is no one to stuff his face inside, looking for crumbs.
It’s been a sad week.
The day the dogs died, I went to the humane society and made a donation in their names, arranging to have a plaque created for them which will be on a wall in the doggie kennel. This felt good, but it wasn’t right. I didn’t feel like they’d been acknowledged enough. Memorialized enough. We are having the dogs cremated and their ashes aren’t home yet, so I told myself I would feel better when the urns were here. But I was still bugged, poked, kinda like Donnie’s persistent nose on my calf when he was trying to get me to go faster (usually to the treat jar).
Sometimes, when we grieve, we feel driven to do unusual things. And mostly, we talk ourselves out of it. It’s not the proper way to grieve, we think. Olivia keeps asking me if she’s grieving “normally”, and I keep telling her that however you grieve is the right way. A couple days ago, as I said it to her, I heard it for myself.
The dogs’ collars have been sitting on our kitchen island. I was figuring on wrapping them around the urns, but in the meantime, there they were, misplaced, empty, sitting where the dogs were never allowed. And every day since their death, coming downstairs, I’ve faced that big empty couch. Donnie’s spot, on the left. Blossom’s, on the right. We’ve had that couch for years and I don’t know that I’ve ever sat on it. It’s where the dogs go.
Yesterday, I stood at the island and stared at the empty couch. It was my first day home alone without the dogs. Olivia was sick this week and was home on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was just me and the cats. And the collars and the empty couch.
And I felt the unusual urge. Any way you grieve is the right way to grieve.
I picked up the collars and took them to the couch. Donnie’s collar, blue treat-shape lying flat and his name in full view, went on the left pillow. Blossom’s collar, heart out, name shining, went on the right.
The dogs were in their places. And I was able to breathe. In my mind, I heard the jingle. I saw Blossom’s wink. I heard Donnie’s donkey-call, my favorite of his vocabulary. I saw them both wagging their tails, Donnie’s in his odd happy twirly circle, Blossom’s in her regal queen wave.
I was forgiven for making the decision that had to be made.
And now, several times, I’ve been able to walk by the couch, pat the pillows, and say hello to the each of them. The couch is not empty. It’s full of memories. It’s full of them.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.