Thursday, March 11, 2010

This thing.

We are adults. We do the things nobody wants to do. If the sleepless nights as new Mommy and Daddy didn't define our parenthood, this does. We walk the footsteps of those who did these hard things for us when we were young. We mark our steps on that path as though we know how to follow it. We tamp down our own hurts out of parental duty.

Painful thoughts about Gus and Cal visit me in the hours before and after sleep. My mind doesn't want to believe they're gone yet, and each time I look, expecting to see a grayed muzzle or caramel coat, it tears my heart a little. I know that won't go away for a while. It hurts me beyond words to think about their pain. It hurts me to think that they might have missed us as they were wandering at night. I try not to let myself anthropomorphize them like that. But they were good boys and I wish I'd been able to protect them. There's a hole in our home that's a direct shadow of the mountain of love we had for them.

Yesterday E and I did what parents do. In fact, I'm in awe of the strength and direction that E took in being the one to do all the difficult things: find the dogs, call me, bury them. He didn't falter. He was a dad. Instinct and obligation trumped the myriad emotions he felt about our loss. My protective instincts took over and I had to tell the kids. We had to cry together, I had to hold them and know I couldn't make it better. That's indescribable pain. It's duty before selfishness--I wanted to shut out the world and cry alone. If marriage is designed to "grow us up," parenthood is designed to narrow the scope of our priorities.

E buried the dogs together on my grandparents' property, near the creek. I have a lot of peace knowing they have each other, and as Henry said yesterday, "they're buddies in Heaven now." Gus and Cal were above all else completely attached to each other. It hurts my heart more than twice as much that they both left us together, but I'm glad that one of them wasn't left without the other. Both dogs had such gentle, sweet dispositions. Both did exactly what dogs do--they loved us unconditionally and excitedly. Cal had a quiet, sweet spirit with sad eyes and a droopy jowl that was like soft microfiber. He loved to paw at us or recline in the sun every morning and sit on my feet just to be near me. Gus was a soft black bear who spoke his loyalty with his eyes. They were E's constant companions when he worked in the garage. They kept me company and made me feel safe when E moved out and I cried alone. They loved to do anything with us. I miss them so much.

Marrying young came with so many lectures about how we weren't ready, ostensibly for adulthood or adult decisions. But I'd say that E and I have managed to float along the breezy cloud of young marriage until about a year ago without having to really feel old or responsible. We had our share of problems and our share of responsibilities, but our thirties have brought a mantle of otherness, a cloak of necessary maturity. Along with the peace of mind and stability we've built come duties that we'd rather avoid but can't. Dishes break, can openers won't, marriages need repair and death becomes a part of the family conversation. Just like that. Hard decisions need making, bad news needs breaking. We are at a point where we say "I'll do it" purely out of the knowledge that it must be done.

My shoulders are heavy today with the weight of this thing. I've yet to walk in the backyard to smell the cool air of dog food and earth, but I tear up just imagining it. I wasn't ready for them to go. I'm glad they knew that we loved them and they were happy with us. I'm glad they loved us so kindly and they made us laugh. It's new enough that I can feel their sleek brown and fat black bodies still. I can feel the pressure of Cal's head against my leg or Gus' "kisses" on my hand. I'm sorry I'm going to lose that, but I'm glad I got to know it.


  1. I'm sitting at work holding back the tears for you after reading your post. I am so so sorry. I will be praying for you.

  2. Oh dear... you brought tears to my eyes. I know your pain all too well as I had to put my own pup to sleep a couple of years ago and it was the single most difficult thing I've had to do to-date. I look at my little two year old Baylie right now - the same dog who drives me crazy to no end sometimes - I can't imagine life without her. How oh how do pets wrap their little selves around us like that. Better yet, how or how do DOGS manage to do that?! I am so sorry - again. I know there are not enough sorry's out there to make you feel better :(

  3. Hugs...thinking of you lots these last 2 days.

  4. What a blessing that you and your husband can lean on each other during times like this and each do things that the other may not be able to right now. Continuing to pray for you xoxo

  5. Aw this breaks my heart, but I am glad that you guys have each other to lean on.

  6. oh doll, I am soo sorry. I hope your hearts heal soon.

  7. Oh, Heather. I am so, so, so sorry. Terribly sorry. I'd be a mess if something like this happened to my Cub. Jesus, I'm sitting in bed next to Joe with all the lights off at 2:30 in the morning, reading this post, totally unprepared for what I'm about to read and crying ...

    I'm sending you a hug from across the country. :)