This poem was written by a friend and colleague, Catherine Young. I hadn’t seen her in awhile, and then ran into her at a local coffee shop, where she handed me an envelope with a poem she’d written in it.
Oh thanks, I said, focused on other issues at the time. I stuffed the envelope into my purse and thought nothing about it until a few days later when I dug it out to clean up my purse before traveling.
And then I read it, and sat down and read it again and got all soppy-eyed and petted Willie and went to the couch and got Tootsie on my lap and read it again. It’s the best description I’ve ever read of how many of us feel after we lose a beloved dog, and it seems especially fitting after so many evocative comments from last week’s blog about “dogs as family.”
Here it is, with a wave of gratitude to Catherine for letting me share it with you:
Things to do after your dog has died
Sweep the floor
Look out the window
Make a cup of tea and some toast
But then not eat them
Change the sheets on the bed
Try to sing
Start to cry
Forget what day it is
Stumble into a corner of the floor and hold your knees tightly
Pull yourself together
Make another cup of tea and this time drink it
Look out a different window
Stare at that spot on the floor where your dog used to stretch out, languid and happy, his paws twitching as he raced across sleep meadows and into dream ravines filled with moss and ferns and the scent of foxes
Look for the Kleenex
Use toilet paper instead
Wander around the house, your heart like a damned anvil in your chest
Heat up leftovers
Push them around the plate before leaving the entire thing in the sink
Look for what is not there
Feel the forgotten fur beneath your fingertips
Feel the forgetting begin
Hold a memory, any memory, bright and shining, soft and sad, smelling of wet fur and leaves, with a whisker there and muddy paw prints left on the stairs, of a walk of a hike of a trip to the park with a treat and a bone and a belly rub snacks stolen off the counter and tug of war and the squeaky toy a glance of complicity in play with your hand on head with tail wagging and breath misting in the morning light or the moon over the trees while an owl croons ears are pricked and nose to the ground sniffing, sniffing, sniffing following the invisible trail to its joyful finding
Put on your pajamas
Turn around three times before you curl up by the rope toy and find yourself chasing the echo of a bark into a night that will never end
Grow a tail
Catherine Young 11.27.12
Wow. Good, hey? It helps to know we’re not alone, in our love for our dog, doesn’t it, and that someone can express how we feel when we lose one? If this strikes home because of a recent loss, you might want to read the post I wrote, Love, Guilt, and Putting Dogs Down, which continues to get comments every week.
MEANWHILE, back at the farm: Well, not really, because I’ve been on a family vacation on Vancouver Island. Soon I’ll be on my way to Boulder to give a talk on communicating with dogs and cats for the Animal Behavior Society this Sunday. (Lots of great talks on Sunday, free and open to the public, from Suzanne Hetts on dogs getting along with cats, Mark Bekoff and his research on play, Julie Hecht and new research on canine cognition, Pam Reid from the ASPCA on their new programs to help animal victims of cruelty and neglect. It should be a great day, come up and say hi if you make it!)
Here are a few photos from my time on Vancouver Island. Photo credit goes to Jim, in part because he’s a great photographer, in part because I dropped my point and shoot camera in a tide pool. I’m afraid it did not survive the experience. Oh well, I did want a new one.
I love Vancouver Island, I think it is one of my favorite places on earth. We didn’t make it to Buchart Gardens this time, but we all spent lots of time hiking in gorgeous forests and playing in the tide pools. The woods are so cool and peaceful…
Lots of fun discoveries in the tide pools, including this green anenome. I’m not sure who had more fun, the six-year old grand daughter or the parents and grand parents!