Dealing with Loss

“I don’t know how you do it,” a friend remarked to me the other day. “It” meaning “welcome another dog into your home.” Or — in the words of George Carlin — knowingly bring another “tiny tragedy” into your life.

It wasn’t easy. And this past week was especially hard. We took Luna to her first vet appointment, combining it with Sierra’s already scheduled wellness exam (because, as you well know, vets are BOOKED UP for months!). Since Vesper is still “off,” we got permission to bring him along as well. I should have seen this coming, but didn’t: This vet visit was a trigger. In a big, big way.

I’m still so hurt and angry with how we lost Dylan. I fully realize we were operating on borrowed time; he was nearing his 2 year “cancer-versary” which is practically a miracle for osteosarcoma patients. And he clearly had something going on we couldn’t figure out. But one side of his “three pronged medical team” led us on such a dramatically wrong path that it’s hard to let go. I won’t name names because no good will come of that. But I hold that person fully responsible for Dylan’s accelerated decline.

The last time we went to our “normal” vet was our last day with Dylan. He loved going to the Animal Hospital of Hinesburg. Though he hated car rides, he was always excited to see his vet clinic pals. As soon as we stepped into the waiting room, he’d wag his tail and wait for someone to come out from behind the counter so he could lean into them (if you know the “greyhound lean,” you know that special feeling I’m talking about) as if to say, “go ahead—tell me I’m your favorite patient. I know I’m a good boy.” I missed his energy so much while we sat in the exam room this past Wednesday. I think the staff did, too. To make matters worse, we ended up scheduling minor surgery for Vesper next week — complete with chest x-rays and a possible ultrasound — to remove what could be a mast cell tumor from his knee (and see what else might be going on).

It’s been a tough few days.

So why do we keep doing it? We can’t…not. You know what I mean. “That’s the whole secret of life,” George Carlin also famously said. “Life…is a series of dogs.” The unconditional love you get from your pets is like nothing else in the world. It’s been over a decade since we lost them, but I’ll still find creative ways to work a Katie Greyhound or Ellie Boo story into daily conversation. It still makes me laugh to think about Vishna the Evil Whippet and all her antics. And who can forget Big Dumb Dingo, the sweetest mushiest greyhound you ever did meet? Stories — and memories — I’d never have if I didn’t adopt again and again and again.

Getting Luna Mae has helped. She’s no Dylan, but she play bowed and barked in the exam room (Sierra was not impressed). She’s brought Vesper, who has so dramatically missed his both buddies, back to life. She’s no Heidi, either, but each evening, she fills that empty space on our couch as she snuggles up next to me. And she forces me to go on more dog walks, which is crucial for my and Sierra’s physical and mental health.

Everyone grieves differently. And, I’ve learned, the same person grieves each loss differently too. There’s no timeline, no rulebook. What has helped you in the past?

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