Friday, June 26, 2015

When a pet dies and you are dying

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
-Rudyard Kipling

Until one has loved an animal,
a part of one's soul remains unawakened.
-Anatole France

The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less
binding moral responsibilities than the friendship of a
human being. The bond with a dog is as lasting as the
ties of this earth can ever be."
- Konrad Lorenz

I hear a scratch at the door and I walk towards it, but it is just the wind. I see her on the couch and my heart leaps, but it is a shadow. I feel a movement at the foot of my bed and I bend down to pat her, but the pillow is empty.

There is a saying that when one door closes another opens. It reflects the choices we make. Sometimes there is later regret, but most often we believe that door is not permanently closed. We can finish our degree or learn that new skill or language later.

When you are terminally ill, however, doors slam and lock closed. We live in the constant unpredictability of a disease where the only certainty is progression. Easy decisions are made difficult. Should we invest in new running shoes, new spectacles, new underwear or even that large size laundry detergent?

Nothing is quite like the crashing of a door blocked by a rockfall that happens when a pet dies. You know with certainty that a new pet will outlive you. You will never have time to build a new relationship. Even the decision to get another pet is ripped from you because you know someone else is going to have to take care of it when you are gone.

You have no time to mourn slowly and you mourn intensely. The grief is expressed in loud sobs that rack your body and soul as you try to let out the overwhelming pain and you wonder why there is so much hurt in the world.

Your friend, companion and treasure has gone. There is no enthusiastic welcome when you come in the door. There is no warm presence that cuddles up on your lap when you are tired or sad or in pain. At night when the dementors come bursting through your sleep to turn the air in your lungs to ice, you reach down to the bottom of the bed where she used to lie and feel for the warmth that would melt the ice and slow the fearful beating of your heart. But the space is empty.

You are alone.