I miss my dog. Both of them, I miss both of my dogs.
Amadeus died in April 2015 at the age of 13 and Alexander died in January 2016 at the age of 14. They were littermates and had been with me since they were barely eight weeks old.
That’s a long time to love a dog, much less two.
They were big guys – both over 100 lbs at their peak – and intimidating with big ferocious barks and deep-throated growls that I taught them to make when we played. They were cuddle bugs who loved to lounge on their dog beds and have their bellies rubbed.
Xander was the guardian of the perimeter, determined to one day catch that damn squirrel and sure to let anyone passing by the backyard know that he knew they were there. He chased tennis balls for hours, mastered sit/lay down quickly and exuded lifelong nervous energy that even prozac couldn’t tame. He had no issues with cats, but wasn’t fond of delivery people. He was attacked my a neighbor’s dog that got over the fence, but fended him off. He also fought and beat cancer at age 12. He was tough, soft and attached to my hip at most times.
Deus was the gentle giant. He stood attentively while Xander bounded after squirrels, tennis balls and pedestrians, only leaping into action at the very last-minute. I have dozens of photos of Deus with his tongue lolling out of his mouth just happy to be grooving in the moment. He was always afraid of steps. As a wee pup, he was car sick and I was advised to distract him while we took practice trips. I would sing a made-up tune “the happy puppy song” for countless trips. I sang it to him while he died in my arms. He never met a treat he didn’t greet with appreciation. He was also known to occasionally groom a cat and not resist their overtures to snuggle with him.
After Deus died, probably due to congestive heart failure, I was sad but there was Xander to attend to along with the other critters. And when Xander faltered, I was awestruck by how different the world had become.
These big guys took up so much space – 80 lbs is more than all of the other critters combined, much less 160 lbs. Suddenly, I had too many big beds and extra comforters and an endless supply of dog dishes. There are three baskets of toys. Deus and Xander rarely destroyed a toy. In the past five years, they moved from basement crates during the day to fulltime occupancy in the living room. They and their stuff took up half of the space. Rugs, kongs, pillows, dog coats and brushes and combs and so many half empty bottles of medications.
How do you fill half of a living room space? With a throw rug? Where’s the living in that?
When I walk into the house, I catch myself looking for them to put them outside to potty. I expect to see their heads pop up from the dog bed when I get up from the sofa. I listen for them and look for them.
But they are gone.
Technically, their ashes are in the book-case. Their sweet spirits, I hope, are in a better place. I know from my experience losing other pets that I will one day feel less sad. Right now is not that time.
We do still have little Ana, our chihuahua mix who is about 10 years old. She’s lost, too. She’s never not had big dogs to keep her safe and warm and comforted when her moms are not available. She’s grieving in her own way. She eats fine and is relatively healthy and seems chipper, until we leave her alone. Then she sits on my side of the sofa and won’t budge until we return. Does she know that they are gone?
The other big change is the cats’ behavior. They are exploring the space once dominated by dogs, testing the beds and sniffing the toys. They run to the door now to greet us without fear of being trampled by elderly half-blind hounds. They are engaged in laying claim to the new territory. It is rather fascinating when it doesn’t make me cry.
I don’t know how people who have only one pet do this. I can’t wallow too much because someone needs fed or medicated or attention or there’s a brewing hissing match or something has to be laundered or a vet called or so forth and so on. Life goes on just like it did the very moment after Xander drew his last breath. I’ve always had other pets requiring me to step out of my grief and care for them.
Xander and Deus supported me emotionally in a way I hadn’t realized. They made me feel safe and secure. I could count on them as much as they counted on me. And I miss that.
I think about getting an emotional support dog. I’ve spoken with professional dog friends who have advised me on how to make that happen. Not a service animal, but a dog that supports me with intention in all of the ways I had taken for granted with the boys. But that’s an overwhelming process.
And I’m still just too sad.