Today we are grieving Danny. His loss has left a painful hole in our hearts. We are flooded with memories:
Every now and then when JJ was younger, he and I used to stop at a store in a nearby town called Soldan’s. It primarily sold pet supplies, not animals, but it did sell a few lizards, frogs, and even ferrets. JJ and I used to enjoy looking at them. One day, EJ had a few things to buy at a store–probably a hardware store. JJ and I decided that while EJ went there, we would go into Soldans, which was located a few doors away, to look at the animals. We didn’t know that occasionally the local animal shelter had an Adoption Day at the store and that this was one such day. I was stooping down to look at the ferrents when a little black head suddenly pushed into my lap. I gave the dog lots of lovings until the volunteer walking him through the store pulled him away. As long as I was in the store, the dog kept finding me and insisting on pulling his volunteer over to me. It was remarkable. When EJ finished his shopping and joined us, he saw the dog constantly finding me so he decided that the dog and I were meant to be together. So the next day he and JJ snuck off and adopted Danny for me.
From the moment we first met in Soldans, Danny has always been completely devoted to me. I have loved and bonded with dogs through my life–I’ve rarely been without a dog–but none has been so devotedly intertwined with me as Danny. Danny was so devoted that when he first joined our family, he wouldn’t let any of the other pets near me. I think he kind of made the end of our other dog’s life rather miserable. Jake loved me too, but Danny wouldn’t let him near me. He would growl if Jake got too close. Danny learned to accept the cats in our lives, but we never tried to get another dog after Jake because we believed that having to share me would break Danny’s heart. Every now and then through the years, we would see a photo of an adorable dog needing a home, our hearts would melt, but we would say, “Nope. We can’t adopt another dog. It would break Danny’s heart.” A few months ago, EJ’s current boss had to get rid of his awesome dog that he couldn’t keep. He offered to give it to us. EJ told him, “Nope. We can’t adopt another dog. It would break Danny’s heart.”
Throughout his years with us, Danny was never far from my side. He followed me from room to room and slept near our bed. A few years ago I had a problem with Plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes pain on the bottom of the heel. It occurs when the band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes inflamed. It was too painful to take Danny for his walks, so I asked JJ to take him. JJ would return home a few minutes after leaving, exclaiming, “Mom, something is wrong with Danny! We get a little ways down the street and then he pulls me back home!” Although Danny absolutely loved his daily walks, he didn’t want to go unless I went with him. Danny also wouldn’t tell EJ or JJ if he needed to go outside. He always waited patiently until I was free to take him outside.
Danny loved people, especially children. When we went on walks through our town downstate, he always stopped so they could fuss over him. He didn’t see many people on our five acres here in the north, but he loved to run up and greet the UPS or FedEx delivery men.
We always called Danny “our introverted dog” because he was so quiet and sweet. He almost never barked. He was mostly obedient, but he had an independent stubborness in him. If he didn’t want to do something, he would stand his ground with a smile on his face as if to say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do what you want.”
These memories and others are flooding us today.
I think the hardest times are the forgettable moments–the moments when we forget that Danny is gone. Usually Danny sleeps next to the bed so when I get…got…out of bed, I had to be careful that I didn’t step on him or trip over him. I started to get carefully out of bed this morning…because I forgot Danny wasn’t there. I almost asked Danny if he needed to go out this morning, and then remembered that he wasn’t there. The empty moments are difficult too. Last night I put away Danny’s food dish because I didn’t want it to be a reminder that Danny is gone. But not seeing it there is just as difficult. I put the portions of the cats special treat of canned food on the floor this morning because Danny isn’t there to gobble it up. EJ is struggling with these things too.
We’ve always said that we wouldn’t get another dog while Danny is alive because it would break his heart. But now that Danny is gone and we could get another dog, it’s our hearts that are broken. I was thinking that I didn’t know if I could handle loving and losing another dog. Then I got to thinking about a Doctor Who episode in which a mother during World War 2 received a telegram that her husband’s plane had been shot down. Here is the scene:
This scene came to mind because I told EJ last night that I can’t imagine ever not having a dog around, but the pain of losing a beloved dog is almost unbearable. So what’s the point of loving a dog again if we are just going to be heartbroken later? The answer is that although you know you will be sad later, you still enjoy loving your dog now (or anyone). I think it would be an empty, barren life if a person refuses love and happiness now because they will be sad later.
Eventually, after we have grieved, we will get another dog–because life without a dog is empty.