Next month it'll be half a year since my dog Atticus was put to sleep after suffering through a bone infection (osteomyelitis) for most of 2005. We were together for 13 years.
During that decade plus 3, as "dog people" know, the gnawing knowledge that you will outlive your pet - barring unforeseen accidents - is constantly riding sidesaddle. There's dread and a feeling that you won't be able to cope when the time comes. There's fear that the pain will be unbearable.
Six months later I have coped and handled and I'm getting on.
I love seeing other dogs at the park and stroking their fur. And I particularly love seeing Goldens. But as a friend who lost her pet at the same time shared: "If I could just hug him one last time". That and wrap my arms around Atticus and inhale deeply. But one last time would never suffice.
There's a gap. And all of a sudden I miss her desperately at times and begin to cry. And my 5-year-old will ask: "What is it, mom? Atticus?" Yeah. I'll reply through tears. "Don't worry. We'll get another dog. And we can name the new dog Atticus," he'll reassure. Aren't I lucky to have such a wonderful kid (playing an adult)?
I dunno why I decided to share that. I guess to de-mystify the feelings or explain how they morph from sharp and all-encompassing pain to deeper longing. And during my initial loss, judging from the deep feelings resurrected within my mother for her dog Sharon who died years ago, the feelings never completely subside.