My son lost one of his dogs this past weekend. His dog was ten years old and had a stroke. That’s not particularly old for a dog, but not young either depending on the breed. It came on fast and was not expected, which makes the loss more ragged and raw. No one is ever ready to lose a member of the family, whether human or animal, but when it is unexpected there is a huge sense of loss.
His loss made me remember Buddy, our yellow Labrador. He was probably the best dog ever. He always had a smile on his face. Buddy was our constant companion going everywhere with us. He was about twelve years old when he woke me up very late one night bumping into the cabinets in the bathroom acting disoriented. His abdomen was huge and rock hard and he was panting heavily. I thought that he needed to go outside to go pee or maybe he had to poop badly. I had no idea what was wrong with him. I took him out and watched as he stumbled outside. He collapsed in the yard so I rushed back inside and woke up Mitch to help me get him in the house.
Mitch carried him in and laid him on the kitchen floor. AJ laid down beside him, I sat on the floor by Buddy’s head asking Mitch what was wrong mentally imploring him to fix it, make it better for Buddy. Neither one of us had ever heard of abdominal torsion. We sat on the floor helpless watching him take his last breath.
As Buddy took his last breath, AJ laid his head on Buddy’s neck. I believe AJ was trying to comfort Buddy. I looked at Buddy but it didn’t dawn on me yet that he was gone. I asked Mitch what happened, to fix Buddy. Make it better. Make him well. As an adult, I knew Buddy was dead, but the little girl in me, wanted a higher power to fix everything, to right the universe, turn back time. It wasn’t possible and I sat on the floor sobbing over Buddy, the best friend I’d ever had and beloved family member.
Family and friends all tried to comfort us, say something magical that would make us feel better. It did and it didn’t. Knowing that Buddy had touched so many hearts and we had so many friends helped, but the loss of him hurt so much. It was a physical pain, in the chest, and behind the eyes, trying fruitlessly to hold back tears. Trying to be a grownup, knowing it was just a dog and dogs die, but a dog isn’t just a dog, he was part of our family and it hurt as much as if he were a person.
I tried to comfort my son, saying all the things people say when you lose a family member. Saying all the wrong things, realizing as I was saying them, it wasn’t enough and couldn’t find the magical words that would make him feel better. But there is no magical word out there. Loving and loss are the yin and yang of life and both are needed in our lives. It’s what makes us compassionate and whole.
Buddy died in 2005 and I still miss him terribly. I will laugh out loud as I remember some of his antics and shed a few tears occasionally, but that’s all part of loving and I am so glad that I have that ability. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Buddy – 1994 ? – 2005