It’s been three weeks since Dutch passed away, and I’m slowly trying to get back to myself.
I thought about coming back to blogging last week, but I just wasn’t ready. I’m not even sure if I’m ready now, but I’m trying. I need it, even if the words don’t come as easily as they used to. I mean, I spent two days just trying to figure out how to start this post, deleting paragraph after paragraph.
But I’m here. And that’s all that matters.
In the last three weeks, I’ve tried to figure out how to live my life without my best friend and it’s so hard. Every morning is a constant reminder that he’s gone. And when I’m asleep, I dream of him. I still expect him to be waiting for me when I come home. I hear phantom noises when I’m alone in my apartment. I receive these little reminders on a near-constant basis, like when I opened up my laptop for the first time after losing him and saw a pop-up from Pinterest: “20 more pins for dog birthday party,” because I thought about planning a birthday party for his 16th birthday back in early January. It’s these little things that remind me of the significance and impact of losing him.
But I’m not going to lie: as heartbroken as I am, life has been easier for me. I was not shy about how hard it was to be the sole caretaker for a special needs dog, and my whole life basically revolved around him. I couldn’t leave him alone for more than 3-4 hours, which meant I always had to have someone check in on him in the middle of the day (usually my mom) and I had to race home after work to take care of him. If I had evening plans, I would either have to ask my mom to check on him for me or do it myself, rushing him through his evening walk so I could get to wherever I needed to go. And if I did have evening plans, I would always worry what kind of scene I might come home to because in his last year, Dutch had developed a habit of pooping and then stepping in the poop and spreading it all around. (Sorry to be TMI, but damn, I had to deal with this constantly and it sucked.) There were times when it took thirty minutes to clean it all up, between washing him, cleaning the floors, and disposing of the mess. Listen, I don’t miss that. Not one bit. There’s a sense of freedom in knowing when I come home, I won’t have a poop-splosion to worry about. And let’s not forget his sleep struggles, which were especially bad in the last year and prompted me to put him on a pill that essentially made him lethargic at night so he (and I) would sleep.
So, yes, life is easier in a way. There’s less worrying – about him and if he’s happy and thriving, about his sleep struggles, about arranging my life to suit his needs. I can say “yes” to evening plans without checking in with my mom first to make sure she can take care of his evening walk. I can go to the gym after work without first going home to check on him (which, let’s face it, when I’m home, I’m staying home). I can run errands and not worry about the logistics of what time I need to be home for Dutch.
But life is also a lot more empty, a lot more purposeless, a lot less happy. Even as hard as Dutch was to take care of, he was my buddy. My best friend. I always knew I could come home to him after every bad day, bad date, bad experience. He was there, exuberantly happy to see me and ready to slobber kisses all over my face. He was my constant companion and I really don’t know what to do with myself without him.
I’ve thought a lot about my next pet because yes, I’m pretty sure there will be another little one running around my apartment before 2018 is over. Before Dutch passed away, I didn’t think I would. I thought that I would just wait until I was in a serious relationship, so I had someone else to help me with taking care of a dog, but who knows when that will happen and I don’t think I want to wait until it does. (If it does.)
However, I’m also not making any decisions anytime soon. I’m just not the type to adopt a new pet immediately after losing one. After my beloved dog Minnie died when I was in college, it took me about six months to be ready to start looking for a new dog and suddenly, that’s when the opportunity to adopt Dutch happened, which was serendipity at its finest. And there’s also the question of whether I want to adopt a cat or a dog, which may surprise some people, as I’ve long identified as a dog person. But I like cats! I love them, even. And I’m really intrigued by how much easier they are to care for than dogs, so all my cat people: I want all of your advice in the coming months! I don’t plan on beginning to look for another pet until the summertime, which will give me time to be alone and grieve Dutch, as well as save money for a new pet and make the decision between a cat and a dog.
In the weeks after losing Dutch, I’ve leaned on my mom more than I have in a really long time. And she’s been there for me every step of the way. I slept at her place the day before we put Dutch down because I just didn’t want to wake up alone that day. She was there in the room with me when we put him down and stayed in there after I left sobbing. She’s checked on me constantly, sometimes just showing up at my apartment unannounced, which was so needed for someone like me, who has the hardest time reaching out. She’s the one I can text when I’m having a bad day and she’ll help me take my mind off my pain – or let me talk it out, if that’s what I need.
And my friends have been great, too, especially my friend M. who has checked on me almost every day, even now. And that’s what I’ve discovered from this period of grief – sometimes, I just need someone to text me “How are you?” and allow me to word-vomit about what I’m feeling. She allows me the space to do that. Other friends have taken me out to lunch and let me be a big cloud of gloom, not asking anything more than that of me. I’ve had blog friends send me emails, care packages, messages to check in, and one special friend who donated to the Florida SPCA in memory of Dutch, which made me cry big tears when I found that out. It’s times like these when I find out how loved I am, and it means the world to me. I can only hope I can pay this kindness forward.
And now I’ve talked for 1,200 words, after saying writing has been difficult for me. Obviously not. But I think it’s so helpful when people talk about grief and get real about how they’re feeling. It’s this weird taboo topic in a sense, and I can understand why because it’s so vulnerable and hard and dredges up so many emotions that we’d rather keep tucked away. But I’m trying really, really hard not to keep my emotions down. I have a tendency to do that – so much so that I have been relieved that I’ve cried a lot in these past few weeks because crying is not something I do often, not even after my grandma died – and I’m trying to allow myself the honesty of grief.
So that’s what my life has been like lately. This isn’t a fun season in my life, unfortunately, but I’m learning to live better with the grief of losing my best friend. Certain days are better than others, but I have also been surprised about how easily grief slaps me back on my knees just when I think I’m doing okay. I guess that’s just the way grief works, though. It’s not linear and I just have to accept that I will never understand it. One step forward, four steps back – that’s grief in a nutshell.
But I’m doing okay most days. I’m finding my way through this season as best I can, and that’s all I can ask of myself.