Desperate for comfort, I wear my favorite sweats, sit next to the outdoor fire pit, drink a beer and smoke a stale cigarette. Her cremation is probably complete: by now, she’s just ashes in some box marked #423: Shepherd Mix. I think of her fur singeing. Fur I brushed, petted, washed, vacuumed, cursed…but mostly kissed for the past 16 years. How many kisses did I plant on top of her head over the course of her lifetime? A million? I do mental math in an effort to distract my mind and conclude that yes, I kissed her head a million times.
“Are you okay?” my husband asks from the back door. I automatically smile and issue a humorous response; humor I don’t feel, but humor has always been my best defense. He shuts the door behind him and I continue to watch the flames in the fire pit dance.
But the truth is, I am not okay. In fact, I passed 'O' and 'K' so long ago, I cornered 'Z' and am speeding my way through the alphabet for a second time. No, I am so not okay knowing that my dog is dead. My dog of 16 years is dead. And I am not okay.
I am NOT okay knowing that I will never kiss her head, never scratch the spot on the base of her tail that makes her dance, never see her tail wag. I am NOT okay that she’ll never be at my feet in the morning when I wake up, never nudge me and bow her head for a hug, never bark at me in the middle of the night to let her out and then refuse to go because it’s raining. And I am so NOT okay that she spent the last fucking years of her life deaf and blind; stubbornly refusing to give up her will to live because she refused to leave me. But mostly, I am not okay knowing that she is just a bunch of ashes in some fucking veterinarian’s darkened back room, shelved and numbered, without me, as if she never existed. Oh no. I am sooo NOT okay with that.
Because she did exist. And she wasn’t just some dog. She was my dog. And I loved her.
Now, I just want to crawl out of my skin to escape this painful grief and return after life fast forwards to when I can speak her name without bursting into tears. I pray to God that wherever she is, because the hope that I might see her again is all I’ve got left to stop me from going insane, that she can see in Technicolor. In fact, it must be Technicolor where she is because when she left, she took all the happy reds, sunny yellows and joyous oranges in my world with her, leaving behind only shades of grey.
I guess there’s really nothing more to say other than, ‘Good-bye, my friend. I hope I served you half as well as you served me over the years. You were a good dog, and I shall miss you terribly.’
Casey AKA Pooh Bear. November 7th, 1994 - October 26th 2010.