It doesn’t get any easier to say goodbye to a beloved pet even after you’ve said goodbye to so many before. Today my heart is heavy with loss and sorrow as I look around our home and see one less sweet face looking back at me. Last night, Kyle and I said goodbye to our sweet Chewy. One of the best dogs I have ever known, Chewy was sweet to the core and so brave in the face of ravaging arthritis, vestibular issues, and aging in general. She was a gentle creature, living a long life of nearly 17 years on this planet but not long enough for those of us who loved her so deeply.
Chewy was Kyle’s baby from the start. He adopted her just over 15 years ago from the Michigan Humane Society and they were constant companions throughout his late 20’s, his entire 30’s, and now into his 40’s. I can’t help but recognize how lucky they were to have found each other and to have been together for so long. My personal sense of loss is deepened when I think about how empty I would feel at the close of a 15 year life together. I know he’s feeling it and I am filled with love and respect for him knowing the pain he is experiencing in his heart and soul. It’s not easy. Even when you know that you’re making the most difficult and loving decision you’ll ever have the privilege and authority to make.
Each time I become overwhelmed with emotion, I try to catch myself and think of a memory with Chewy…our Choo Choo. Chewy has been ‘my’ dog too for seven years this month. Nearly as long as I had my first baby, Mya, in my life. I remember the first time I met Chewy on my first visit to Kyle’s cute little bachelor pad of a house. She had the longest and softest fur I think I’d ever felt. And she shed…the entire time I pet her, she shed and shed and shed. There were tumbleweeds of Chewy fur all over the house. But she was so sweet and gentle and friendly. She loved the attention and I adored her.
A year and a half later, on Mother’s Day 2010, Chewy would be there by my side in the days after I let go of Mya and wandered an empty feeling house picking up Mya’s toys and putting them away. I did that a couple of times and suddenly realized that it was not Mya who had brought all of her toys out and that it was Chewy recreating the scene of a life lived with Mya. A dog’s dog to the core, Chewy had fallen instantly in love with Mya and, I realized in that moment of picking up toys, was deeply grieving the loss of her best friend and sister. I looked at Chewy in a new way that day and knew that I had found yet another soul mate with which I would share my life.
Chewy came along for the ride with us on our year-long Texas adventure, welcomed Anya into our family with zeal, and journeyed back to Michigan with us in 2011 and, eventually, settled into life in our suburban home. The seven of us have lived a relatively quiet and peaceful life together for over five years and, now, our world is rocked without her here. Anya is distraught and worried, whining periodically and looking for Chewy. Lily and Lucy are quiet and curious about the change. And, Zoey…well, I think she’s a little shell-shocked too. She has always preferred to be close to Chewy whether on the floor cuddling next to her or simply being in their crates near each other. This morning, I think, Zoey realized that Chewy was not in her crate below and started to cry. Then, when I let her out, she made her way to a spot that Chewy often curled up on the floor and proceeded to roll around and rub her face in that spot.
So, I am here trying to “act normal” amidst tears; washing the dog bed covers, blankets, and Zoey’s pants because laundry is a normal thing in our home with five…now four…fur-kids. Even as I sit here and type, all four of them are nearby watching…watching to make sure that I am normal and that life will go on. I know – we know – that life will go on. And we will cling to these sweet little faces to help us move forward.
I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination but I have faith in one thing beyond this life: the Rainbow Bridge. I find a little peace and a lot of hope in knowing that I will one day be reunited with all of my fur-babies and that, in the meantime, they are running and playing free of pain and discomfort. I told Chewy last night to go wait with Mya…that one day her daddy and I would be there to pick them up and we would be together again. One day.