When life intervenes

Joe’s Post #2 — In our past posts, we’ve talked a bit about the obstacles that get in our way.  Distractions.  Obligations.  Life.

This week, for me, it was one of those life events that happens to all of us at some point.  Loss.

My dog, Freya, finally reached point where she had to be put down.  It wasn’t a sudden thing – she was 13 and had been battling cancer for over 2 years, but as much as you tell yourself “I’m ready,” “I’m ok with what has to happen,” sometimes you’re just not.

I want to say that I was stoic when I carried her from the car to the vet.  Her back legs had gone all wobbly and she barely had the strength to stand, let alone walk.

I want to say I that I was strong for her, shed no tears, controlled my emotions.

But I didn’t.

I couldn’t.  Somewhere in the journey of my life, I’ve lost the ability to be stoic, to be the strong, silent type.  I was able to be that guy when my dad passed when I was 14 or, later, when my mom then my mother-in-law passed.  But not anymore.

I was a mess.

Part of that may have been lack of sleep.  I spent Freya’s last night curled up with her on my bed, my arm over her, telling her what a good girlie she was, telling her how much I loved her, how much I would miss her.

Then, in the morning, I made the call to the vet and brought her in.  To be fair, I was dry-eyed when I came in but when they left me alone with her, Freya lying on a comfy blanket, too tired to raise her head, the fight gone out of her, I lost it.

I wanted to tell her, again, over and over, what a good girlie she was, to bolster her spirits, maybe even get a tail wag or two.  I wanted her last moments to be happy ones.

But instead I just buried my head in her fur and cried and held on to her and muttered good girls between sobs.  Somehow I rallied when the vet came back, and dried my tears and stroked Freya’s head and found my voice, repeating the litany of ‘good girlies’ while looking into her eyes as the vet slowly put her to sleep, then ‘to sleep.’

I stayed with her a long while after she was gone, why, I’m not quite sure, tears flooding out again, my face aching, and then I took her collar, the one with a dozen dog tags on it that made a tinkling sound when she walked, and left.  Alone.

As I wrote on my FB page:

Freya’s put up a good fight for 2 years. 2 years of dipping her tummy in the water or rolling in the mud , of chasing balls and roaring around with them, of licking feet or snuggling on the couch, of bossing Vegas (and, let’s face it, ME) around, of charging down every day, so excited, so full of life.
13 years is a good, long life for a retriever, especially since she could charm anyone into loving her. But she’d reached the end, and now I have to do what I hate, HATE, to do.

And, in the end, I did what had to be done, no matter how hard it was.

Now, for some things, this loss, this grief, can be worked through.  But writing is the business of the mind and soul, and when they are both in pain, it’s nearly impossible to sit in front of a computer and write fiction.  At least for me.

So, nearly a week lost on the writing front.  A few days leading up to Freya’s passing and a few days, I hope only a few, afterwards.  With luck and a little healing, next week I’ll be back at my world building, at creating a story that everyone will want to read.

I’ll post more about that next week.

I hope.

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About Joe Cummings

Aquarius. Traveler. Gamer. Writer. A New Parent. 4 of these things are easy. One is not. But the journey is that much better for the new people in my life. A life I want to share with others, to help them, maybe, to make them feel less alone, sure, to connect with the greater world, absolutely.

11 thoughts on “When life intervenes

  1. That was a very poignant entry. I went though this recently with a friend’s dog while the owner was away and I could really share some of what you experienced. Hope writing about it helps you get back on track.

  2. This must have been so very hard to write Joe. I know how difficult it was when I made the same journey with my old dog, Angus. His ‘last trip’ to the vet was set for the end of the day, one fine sunny day in May, and I carried him out in the sunshine and hugged him and took a dozen photos of him, and told him what a good dog he was. At the vets, I made sure the last thing he tasted was a liver candy, and, as he slipped away, like you with Freya, I made sure that the last thing he heard was my voice telling him he was ‘the best dog in the world’.

    I cried that day too, but in the days afterward, I found a kind of peace knowing that I’d made that last journey with Angus and done the very best I could to keep him with us for as long as possible. If anything, you’ve done even more with Freya, and I hope in the days to come you can find that same sense of peace.

    Oh, and I’d never seen that picture of her as a puppy, I’ve only known her as an ‘old soul’ but that photo made me smile.

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Joe. Everyone who’s ever loved an animal knows exactly how you felt – and, like Paula, we’re all reliving our own experiences when we had to say goodbye to a pet.

    My toughest loss was my first cat, Slink, a hardy tuxedo-marked alley cat who had certainly been through 8 of her lives by the time she left us. Together we’d been through moving, kittens, life changes, and one nerve-wracking adventure when she decided to stay up a tree for 21 days. She was family for nearly half my life. At 21 (100 in cat years) she had been struggling with arthritis and other complaints. One day I came home from work and she was waiting at the door for me. She blocked my way with a long, yellow-eyed stare, swaying slightly. I never received a clearer message in my life.

    “I’m done,” she said. “Help me.”

    While your loss stings like hell right now, I promise that when you think of Freya in the future – though it might be tinged with sadness – it will mostly be a loving memory that warms your heart and makes you happy.

  4. Thinking of you Joe. No matter how many people or pets we’ve lost, the losing hurts to the core and the letting go is a process that is different for all of us. I know that when you’re out walking your other dog that Freya will be with you both. That’s the beauty of memories.

  5. Joe, no words can truly convey the hurt when you lose your long-time canine companion. How could it? They give us their unconditional love, something we humans have yet to learn. The closest we come is to love them back, like you did Freya. I lost two, Sofie and Tuva, our Black Labs, and after all these years, they still appear in my dreams. They own a big chunk of my heart. I owe them so much for enriching my life, as Freya did yours. And she will never leave your heart, Joe.

  6. I have no words of wisdom. I’m just crying for you and for losing someone I loved to visit, because she was always so happy to see me, and always welcomed me to your home. Hugs.

  7. Hello Joe,
    Last night I heard about you losing your dog, and read your moving post this morning. Afterwards, I could’nt help but cuddle my little cocker spaniel Holly who was sitting patiently on the sofa waiting for me to finish on the computer and take her for her walk. She knows she is loved….and so do I, and it is a marvelous thing.
    What a wonderful privilege we humans enjoy, to share a part of our lives with an animal. To nurture them and protect them, and to receive all their love in return. And inevitably to mourn our loss when they have to depart.
    But there is another certainty.
    Although you will still shed a tear right now, soon you will be able to take a deep breath, and smile, and remember just how privileged you were to have Freya in your life.
    Looking forward to reading your posts, Joe, and to watching your novel progress over the coming months.
    best wishes

  8. Stoicism is over-rated. Writers need to be able to feel deeply and love big and hurt for real and live to tell about it. That’s how you get powerful and meaningful writing. Like you just did with this post. Love ya.

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