Kind people are thinking of us when they learn of dogs who need a loving home. One was a Bernese, the other a Saint Bernard. (Seriously? As if a Bernese weren't a big enough dog for two little girls, no matter how mighty we are in spirit.) We would love another Bernese when the time is right, and I am grateful to be part of a breed club with an outstanding rescue program and to know the people who screen and foster those dogs. People who love a particular breed will understand how the one you know so well is particularly winsome and suits you better than any other ever could and leave a gap, in this case very large, that can only be filled with one silhouette.
There are a lot of ways it's too soon, and others in which it feels like too big a gap already. We ought to be fixing a dog's dinner at a certain time, or his breakfast, or refilling her water dish.
It turns out that the walking schedule of an older dog who thought 20 minutes or so around Greyberry Woods in the morning and another 20 around the neighborhood in the afternoon was perfect was also perfect for the little joints in my feet affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. 30 minutes at a time is just bearable. 35 minutes at once is a little too much.
But it's too soon. We have other adjustments to make, LP and I, and I have things to figure out, like a new, one wage-earner budget.
I really hope Molly and Sam aren't the only two dogs ever to be part of my life, but I can't say the way is clear. Not yet. It's just too soon.
A friend shared this quote from Alban's magazine, Congregations:
"We must support those who are grieving and give them sufficient time to grieve. To shortchange grief is to rush people to a false sense of acceptance which diminishes their ability to accept the reality and finality of the loss and blocks their capacity to attach anew."
We have two cats, Puss Puss and Baby, both 15 years old, just like LP. (Yes, I am living with three 15-year-old girls now.)
Baby, once a mighty mouse huntress, is The Cat Who Lives Upstairs, and who resents anyone else's demands on my time and space. She had a lot to put up with when Sam started sleeping with us, even though I have a ridiculously large bed for one person. Sam took up as much space as he could, and I did not mind a bit. Every night I would lie there with my hand placed gently on the closest part of him, aware of his breathing and his restlessness and for some time each night, his peaceful rest. Baby would circle my head, warily, eventually finding a place to land, away from Sam. But on the last few nights of his life, she got as close to him as she could. Now she is downstairs far more than she has been in years, and I'm not sure she's pleased about it.
Puss Puss is our Cat Who Patrols the Neighborhood. She also has exhibited grief for other pets in our family who died. I remember after Pepper, the best big kitten ever, was hit by a car in 1998, Puss Puss went into a decline. When Molly left us, Puss Puss seemed to be physically sick, but the vet could find nothing wrong. And this week she is grieving again, seems depressed, and shows little interest in going outside. She's spending the day curled up in a corner of the couch, though this evening she's made a move to use my Kindle as a pillow.
We're all like this: unsettled, unhappy, uncertain. I turn down the street and sigh for Sam. At 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. I want to fix his dinner. Even in my office, new though it is, I'm wistful thinking of the days he was lying on the floor next to me.
I took Sam to the beach Tuesday night. The tide was low, the sky heavy and grey, but there was no rain. The city felt like a woman who wants to cry but can't find the privacy to let go.
We met a woman with a big, black dog, a Black Russian Terrier, bigger than Sam. She wanted to talk, not just because our dogs were both big — that happens a lot — but because she used to have two Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, the even larger though short-haired Swiss dogs that resemble Bernese. She wanted to talk about those dogs, how it broke her heart when they were gone. They don't live any longer than Bernese, I guess. She marveled at Sam's age, his apparent good health, now mostly thanks to an expensive series of Adequan injections he's been getting for arthritis in his elbows and a wrist since early June. She wanted to drink in his tri-colored coat and the gentle expression in his big, brown eyes, so sweet they brought tears to hers.
She loves her new dog, but it's not the same. She couldn't bear to have the same dogs again, she said, because it "would have killed" her to lose them.
I told her about Molly, about the the heart-quaking experience of having her put to sleep because she was in so much pain. Then I told her Sam and I needed to walk down the beach, because my heart felt like the sky, close to bursting with things lost.
I hate to cry. People who know me well know this. Maybe it's because there were times in my 30s that I thought I would never stop crying. Maybe it's because I hate the feeling of losing control. Maybe it's because my mother taught me to keep things inside. Maybe it's just the type of person I am. I don't want to cry at the beach on a Tuesday evening, talking to a stranger, even about dogs. I want to walk down the beach and clear my head.
Sam trotted along behind me, faithfully. Molly would never have done this. You could never be out with Molly off the leash and not be keeping a sharp eye on her. If she could have figured a way to flag down a ship or climb aboard someone's sailboat for a trip around Casco Bay, I'm sure she would have, and the people she met would have found her an absolutely charming companion.
But Sam trots along behind, keeps an eye on me, to be sure I don't founder.
I have the luxury of a place to go with my private woes. I can close the blinds. I can tuck up on my big bed, and I can even pull the curtains around it if I like. Because it's on the north side of the house, it's easy to make it dark, to hide and feel safe from the view of the world, from anyone who might judge me or rank my reasons for being weepy as less than valid.
Even still, I hate to cry.
She caught my eye as we drove home from the beach, headed down the hill on Congress Street toward town. We had passed the light by the cemetery, and I saw a woman sitting on the bottom step outside the door to a shop, I think, crying. Her face was red, her expression one of misery. I only had a moment to look, as my car moved slowly down the block. She had long, brown hair, may have been in her late twenties or early thirties. Something was wrong with the picture, so I glanced at the road then back to her. Her denim shorts were in the wrong place, I thought, she had them pulled down closer to her knees, and before I could think another thought about why she might be uncovering herself (drugs? alcohol? mental illness? all three?), I saw the stream of urine.
She had no privacy, no privy, beyond those public steps.