This is probably the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write. It’s a week old now, but I’m still in a period of disbelief.
The week before last we had to say goodbye to our sweet, beloved pup. Words can’t describe how hard it is to let go and how devastated we are. It was the hardest decision we’ve ever had to make, but knowing the pain he was in, it was the only decision we could make.
It’s hard to post this – and truthfully, I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk about it. Or that I could find the words to wrap him succinctly in a special place in my heart yet. But Willie is as much a part of this blog as I am, and I knew the big, gaping Willie-shaped hole would not go unnoticed. And in some weird way I felt I owed it to him to try.
I’m not sure I have the words to describe the chaos in our lives right now (though I’ve tried over these past many months). But from plane tickets and shipping containers and frantic attempts to organize our lives, we would always say that so long as we had each other and our two furry dudes by our side, we didn’t need anything else. This past week, I started my brand new job and was launched into teaching two upper level courses. Our shipping container had completed her journey. I could almost hear the last piece of the puzzle click firmly into place. And just as it felt as though our lives here could finally begin, our family was suddenly one man down.
And I know how grief works. I know the sadness, over time, will start to grow fuzzy around the edges. There will be a time when I can look at photos of him and feel happy instead of sad. Where the house doesn’t feel too quiet in the absence of his snoring and his snarfling. When the spaces between moments are filled with his memory and not his absence. But knowledge can never make the emotions move any more quickly, and we have no choice at the moment but to experience the sadness.
As I’m sure is the case for most bloggers, I take a lot of outfit photos in advance. Going from styling to pictures to editing to writing a post is far more involved than I ever realized, and it helps to have a backlog. It’s been pretty painful to go through those existing photos taken a week or more ago, when it was normal to see Willie ever-present beside me. Or for a tail or a snout to photobomb the corner of a frame. I can’t look through them without tearing up, too sad to think of how much has changed since those photos were taken. Finding photos for this post was like taking a bullet. And yet I am almost more terrified of the day when there are no new pictures where I might find him. Because much like my grandmother’s letter (which I still have not read), the moment I post the last photo where there is a chance he may appear is the moment when I have to accept he is really gone. Imprinted on these cyber pages, with nowhere to move but forward.
And taking new photos is just as hard. Because ohhhh how Willie loved outfit photos. And I don’t mean he was just there with us, as a normal dog would be. I mean he LOVED them. He would actually pose, angling himself just so. Staring soulfully off into the distance or grinning goofily at the camera. And on days when I would come downstairs dressed and ready to go to work – he would gallop towards the door, sure we were taking photos together. It was his favorite thing in the world. And doing it without him just feels wrong.
Pets play a different role in everyone’s life. Personally, I’ve never been one who referred to our pets as “fur-babies” – it was just not for me. As far as I was concerned, Willie was my pup and I was his person. We chose each other. We were simply family. And our family rituals are all off, because they no longer include him. The things you never realized you took comfort in – from the click of his nails on the hardwood floor as he gamboled into a room, to the way he would sigh like an old man on a park bench when things didn’t go his way, to the way he would sit at my feet when I was on the sofa, facing the door. As if to stand in silent sentry of anyone who may cross the threshold and dare to mess with me. And to no longer have those things feels as though the universe is somehow off kilter.
And at the same time, I am so grateful. That we got to love him and be loved by him. That I watched him soldier through some pretty tough stuff – from being hit by a car before we adopted him (and losing his eye), to a serious spinal surgery when he was only one year old, to being diagnosed with a liver disease and early kidney failure as he aged, to more medications and vet visits than we could count, to moving around the world (twice) – all without complaint. All while wagging his tail and trailing in our wake for 15 long and awesome years of his life. Such a simple, pure heart with such a simple, pure joy, such that I have never known. And with quiet resolve, he made his way home again.
I thought in starting to write this I would have something really poignant to say. Something perfect to sum him up and sum up what he meant in my life. But even after this long missive, I feel as though I’m at a loss for words. So I will simply borrow someone else’s.
Tears over his departure?
Nay, a smile.
That I had walked with him a little while.
Sleep well, sweet Willie.
You will always be my favorite accessory.