“What else am I neglecting?”
I couldn’t help but think as I slowly rode the fourwheeler back to the house in the dark after moving water on the field next door. Tears left cold streaks down my cheeks as the cool breeze of the night air brushed by.
The hurt was deep as I thought about the friend I had just lost a few days before. She had been a close companion for the last 11 years and I wasn’t ready for her to go. Even so, I was struggling trying to understand why this loss hurt so bad. Even now emotion brims to the surface as I remind myself that she’s gone.
I’ve experienced loss in my life. I should be better at this process, maybe even desensitized a bit. Beginning with a daughter that didn’t make it beyond 19 weeks of a pregnancy and only lived for about 45 minutes outside of the womb. Then a father-in-law who I helped care for through the last several years of his life. And most recently the loss of my dad, a man I miss on nearly a daily basis. All of these were deaths I experienced first-hand. So I was no stranger to that as I sat in the small room and kept her company as she took her last breaths.
“Why is the hurt of this passing lingering so long?” I continued to wonder for days and weeks following her passing. That hurt is part of the reason it has taken so long to document it here.
The question kept coming with every wave of emotion. And why do I question it? You see, this is different. “Her” is a pet. A dog. That is why I keep having that question arise. Yes, a human friend or loved one, it makes sense to mourn their loss for some period of time. But I feel like with a pet that bond doesn’t run as deep. I don’t allow myself to become that attached to an animal.
But apparently I do.
We adopted Izzy from a family who had brought her into their home for their kids. Having a puppy was so much fun at first, but then she grew, gained a youthful energy, and the work began. Soon none of the kids wanted to walk her, play with her, feed her, and so the responsibility fell to the parents. That was not their plan.
Word spread to us that this puppy needed a home and we already had a young dog that needed a companion, so we went and picked her up.
Izzy needed a lot of work. She was energetic with no sense of direction. But with some consistent input, she picked up manners and commands quickly and became one of the best dogs I have ever known.
It was pretty evident from the beginning that she was mine. She loves attention from anyone who will give it to her, but I was always in her sight and it was my side that she wanted to be next to.
Because she was such a well mannered dog, it allowed me to confidently bring her with me regularly. She would come to work with me, camping, adventures. She loved the ride even if that’s all it was; just a ride, never to leave the vehicle.
She learned to heel, so she rarely was leashed. She learned to stay until I, and only I, gave the “ok” to get up and follow. I could walk across the street with her, stopping at both sides of the road to look for traffic, with her in perfect step. I would then have her lie down next to the door of the store I was entering and tell her “stay”. It didn’t matter how long I spent inside, she would not move from that spot. Strangers could visit her, other dogs walk by, it didn’t matter the distraction, she was waiting for me to return and give the “ok” to move.
She was also great around food. Especially in a situation where you have many young nephews and nieces around, holding food at just the right height for a dog to snitch a bite or two, it was important to me that she wait for my “ok” before she help herself. Then, she would very gently take the food with her lips first, as to not “bite the hand that fed her”. I never worried about even the smallest child giving her a treat because I knew she was a gentle pup.
One of the things I loved the most about my pup Izzy was her companionship. She became my faithful companion on my adventures. Hot or cold, long or short, she was eager to go with me and loved it just as much as I did, maybe even more. Down dusty, bumpy roads, up steep nail biting climbs. Leaping across washes and bush wacking through the sage brush. She did it all with me and loved every minute of it.
I never had to worry that she would run off. She would wander and roam but always return back to check in. On morning runs she would criss-cross my path over and over again heading out into the bushes to explore smells. Sometimes getting far ahead of me, or lagging far behind. But never loosing sight of me and all it took was a quick whistle and she would be at my side.
Recently I could see age taking it’s tole on her. She couldn’t quite keep up with the fourwheeler as I headed to the field to move the water line anymore. Just two or three throws of the ball was enough, where as before she’d go till she was foaming at the mouth and we were worried about heat stroke. I now had to help her into the back of my truck where before she was already mid-air before I even let the tailgate down.
But I thought we still had a few more years before I’d have to say goodbye.
She stopped eating and a physical change was evident. She lacked energy and was visibly unsteady on her feet. At the vet clinic it was discovered that she had a very large tumor in her abdomen that was crowding and shutting down her organs. An attempt at surgery could be made, but at her age, and with damage that was already done, it was unlikely she would make it through.
I don’t know that I could count how many miles of road we’ve driven, or how many hours of hiking, how many nights under the stars we’ve spent together, or how many sticks and balls she’s chased at my hand. But it adds up in my heart as I realize that she won’t be coming on my next adventure with me.
I miss her daily, as she was apart of my life daily. The hurt comes back again and again as I think about her.
But missing her is only apart of that hurt. The other part is regret.
This year has been such a hectic year for me. We are remodeling a commercial building to move our business into. Our largest client is considering major changes in their production which could be a huge game changer for our business either for the good or for the bad. These two things on top of other every day life changes and commotion has filled my days with tasks, duties, challenges, etc.
……..oh not to mention the STRESS!!!
Hours turned into days, and weeks, and months. I can’t believe I am already seeing Halloween decorations in stores and talking about upcoming dates in November. I have had my nose so deep in these projects I have hardly come up for a breath.
I have neglected my hobbies with my Samurai parked under a shed and my camera sitting….somewhere. My shoes don’t have any sand in them from being out in the hills. I’ve been camping once. I’ve been fishing once.
I’ve neglected the things that feed my soul as I’ve put the business first each day.
That’s what contributed to this death hitting hard. She was my pet. She depended on me for food, shelter, water. But she also depended on me for companionship and love. Sure, I’d see her each morning as I brought her breakfast. Most mornings she’d follow me out to the field as I moved water. She’d get a few pets and a “good puppy” from me. But then it was back in the kennel as I headed off to work for another long day.
Mom would get her out, J6 would play with her, but there was a visible excitement when I arrived on the scene. She loved me and found joy in my companionship as I did in hers, but she didn’t get to choose when she got that interaction. That was dependent on me.
This last year, the last several months of her life. I did not provide her the joy and companionship she deserved. I have been so tied up with these projects that I have neglected, not only her, but many other very, VERY important things in my life, all with the precursor of; “just give me a little longer and things will get back to normal.” “Give me a year” is a common promise that comes from my lips again and again.
These projects are important and my hope is that they will provide a future stability that will allow me to give more attention to my loved ones and hobbies. But I think there is more I can do now to not allow them to overshadow everything else.
Now I’m not saying that I should be turned into the authorities for animal neglect. Izzy had a great home, better than most. What I am saying is that, again, I lost sight of the things I loved because of the focus I had put on my business. It took the loss of, who I truly consider one of my best friends, Izzy, to realize that. It has been a stiff reality check.
The collar I made for her from a length of chain now hangs from the mirror of my truck, along with a couple of other visual reminders of important pieces of my life. I hope to not forget the gift she was to me during her life, but also the reminder she represented in death.
The final service I was able to preform for her was to wrap her in a covering and carry her from the clinic, lifeless, in my arms. I dug the deep hole in the earth that would act as her final resting place as I considered the deep love I had for that pup. She was quite simply the best.
I gave her one last pet as an attempt to transfer the feelings of love and appreciation I had for her and I lowered her limp, lifeless body into her grave to be covered by the dirt I had just shoveled out.
This would be the final resting place for that pup’s body, but I’m sure she’s now chasing shadows of birds and butterflies in a long grassy valley, splashing through a cool creek with a big grin on her snout.
Izzy, I’m sorry you didn’t get more of my love and attention over the last few months of your life. But know that I am grateful for the faithful companionship you provided to me throughout your life. My adventures just won’t be the same without you. I will remember you with fondness and gratitude.
Love you pup!