This post is about pet loss. It’s an issue that has always been traumatic, even when it’s not my pet. I’m ultra-sensitive. And the more I think I’ve outgrown that, the more I just prove myself wrong.
Facing our little dog Dodo’s somewhat unexpected death over the weekend showed me that grief has nothing to do with age or maturity. We all feel loss relative to what we’re going through. And if we could flip a switch to feel better, I’m sure many of us might consider it.
But this sorrow for Dodo was so well-earned, so I need to let it in to honor her.
Above: a few of Dodo’s most classic lewks
My husband Derek described her best when he said she was everyone’s friend, despite whatever she’d been through before she got to us. She was so trusting and sweet, unlike our other dogs who are generally hellions with strangers.
Admittedly, I have fleeting moments of wishing I could be an “it’s-just-a-dog” person because grieving sucks the wind out of me.
Another part of me wishes I could channel this pain into painting a mural or sculpting her statue in beautiful marble. But writing and crying, sometimes simultaneously, are the only ways to get some of it out. And pictures, of course.
When I think of how she came to us, I imagine her floating into our home like a little cloud. Really, my mom found her, scared and filthy, near an animal shelter, turned her over in case someone was looking for her, and then went back for her when no one claimed her.
Long story short, she ended up with us. My nieces had each named her Rainbow Toto and Dora, but my son Connor melted those into Dodo accidentally. That name stuck with her, and she stuck with us.
A vet guessed she was around 7-10 when we got her at the end of 2017. And we all loved her right away, including our three other dogs.
She always needed extra care, as she was probably used for breeding in her mysterious prior life and was already losing her eyesight when she moved in.
So, she didn’t always know where she was going, but she was always Dodo-ing around, making little pig snorts as she followed her nose from here to there.
On the surface, Dodo was a muppet of a dog with barnyard manners. She could make a mess of herself and her living area faster than any other critter, but she belonged in our family. She fit right in and headed straight to the hearts of all of us.
Dodo has been declining in some ways for the last year, but we couldn’t have gotten ourselves ready for her to go. Even when you know they can’t possibly have much longer, you always hope the next day will be another good one. But she took a sudden turn, and the end came pretty quickly at home.
I’ve realized now that I used a few emotional defense mechanisms to avoid this kind of devastation because we got Dodo later in her life. But, for the record, they didn’t do me any good. I still feel the same regret that there wasn’t more quality time with her and the same sadness that she’s not here.
Connor concisely noted how sad and different the house feels without her. And, speaking frankly, we all wish we would have been less frustrated by the messes and general upkeep that came along with her than we sometimes were. Hindsight is such a bummer.
Dodo required a lot of care in a relatively short time, but she was worth all of it until the very end. As the last to join and the first to leave our pack, she taught us lifelong lessons about what it means to love someone or something with needs that aren’t really that convenient to us.
Ultimately, we would have kept fighting with the universe to have her. We couldn’t win, but we really wanted to.
I miss the days of finding her curled up on things that weren’t necessarily meant for her and just letting her have them. Or her climbing on top of any warm body she could find.
Now that she’s gone, I feel her absence a hundred times a day in different little moments. When I think I’ve heard her clinking her bowls together, or when I’m sure she just sighed, I hesitate to glance over at her spots, knowing I’ll still be able to see her there for a moment.
Even things that don’t have anything to do with our memories remind me of her, like falling leaves and a colorful sky. But it’s nice to think she’s somehow behind those reminders — that she can feel our love out there and sends it back to us in the things we’re looking to for comfort.
The sadness goes on and on, and I don’t really know how to end this. So, I’ll conclude with some Dodo photo bombs — some of my favorite pictures.
“I reach out my hand to stroke her hair,
But she’s not there.
Oh, how I wish that wasn’t so,
I’ll always love a dog named Do.”
Jimmy Stewart, ‘A Dog Named Beau”
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