June 22, 2017 by Julia
I recently went through a period where my left leg was giving me some trouble. Nothing major, just soreness and aches and minor strains that seemed to crop up one after the other. One day I was laying on the floor, massaging my thigh, when a sadness crept up and overtook me. I went from texting a friend for stretching suggestions to being wracked with anguish.
Since Dash’s death, I had not felt much grief. I felt stuck, numb. I would occasionally be sad but it did not feel like I was sad enough. The proportion of grief to the amount of love I felt for him seemed out of balance.
There was one thing that I needed desperately but had not been able – or dared – to express. It will sound strange to anyone who hasn’t experienced something like it: I needed to tell someone that I had failed Dash and have them accept what I was saying. A few weeks prior to my moment on the floor, I saw an old Facebook post from when I had started behavior mod with Dash. One of the trainers made a comment that she knew we’d “get there” and she couldn’t wait to see that day. It nagged at the back of my mind until my grief overcame me. I put off saying what I felt to anyone because I knew they would not “allow” me to feel it. Nearly anyone who had seen the work that Dash and I did together would want to reassure me that we had succeeded or at least done the best we were able. That I had “done right by him” and should be proud. It was the kind of feedback I got most any time I mentioned our journey together. But I had always felt that I had failed him in some way, especially after we chose the date that his journey was coming to an end. And I did not want more earnest comments or platitudes about how far we’d come.
That day, after trying to express this to Dave – and receiving the exact response I expected* – I finally texted my childhood best friends. And there, finally, I found acceptance. They didn’t agree with me. They didn’t pile on praise. They simply accepted that I felt the way I did. They empathized that sometimes when we are lying on the floor, grieving and feeling broken, what we need most is someone to sit beside us and meet us where we are. Being allowed to acknowledge that feeling brought a sense of relief.
(*This is not a slight. Dave saw me punishing myself for something I did not do and could not change. He wanted to reason with me and help me feel better. But what I felt was visceral not logical.)
My grief for Dash lingered like clouds on a summer day – I didn’t realize how much of a shadow it cast until the clouds moved and I felt the sun on my face.
When I let those feelings out I saw how much I’d distanced myself from Delta. From the outside I doubt anyone could see it. I wasn’t cold to her – we ran together, goofed around, doodled with obedience and agility, snuggled. But a part of me had closed off from fully loving her. I found myself more eager to pick her up that week and in the weeks since. I miss her more when she’s gone. I engage with her more. Kiss (and get kissed by) her more. Play with her more. I feel my heart fill up when I watch her do something sweet or silly.
I’m open to the journey still ahead with the dog beside me. I’m not just with her, I’m present. And I am curious to see what our future brings.
In Memory of Dash
And in Living Tribute to Delta