Loss. Losing a loved one. Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to deal with. Drowning in grief and getting harder and harder to come up for air.
Some people, probably those who have never had a pet, don’t understand why someone would have to go through the grieving process after losing a dog or cat, rabbit or hamster, turtle or hermit crab – any kind of animal companion at all really. It was, after all, JUST a dog.
But losing a pet tears your heart apart. It hurts. Sometimes your heart aches so much you wonder how you’re going to go on. It was NOT JUST a dog.
She was my friend – best friend, confidant, buddy, and most of all, she was family.
I know this kind of pain. Her name was Rosie. She was a beautiful beagle; my first dog. She was a dream come true for a pre-teen who had wanted – no, yearned – for a dog most of her childhood.
She was brown, black and white; and she had a flower-shaped marking on her back from which she got her name. Flower-shaped, a rose – Rosie.
Sometimes, I think I can still hear her deep, hound-dog howl. Even after all these years, I still miss it terribly.
And then, when I see a stray tissue lying around the house – maybe on a table or one that fell on the floor – I think of Rosie and how if she were still here I would have to wrestle it away from her before she rips it apart and makes a mess!
I lost her not long after graduating high school in 2002. She died when she went into cardiac arrest during surgery to fix a diaphragmatic hernia, meaning all her organs were pushed into her chest. The veterinarian believed it may have been congenital.
At the time, and still now, all that medical talk didn’t matter. All that really matters is that she’s not here anymore, with me. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance… I went through them all.
It didn’t help that a few months earlier I had lost my grandfather, too. That was my first real experience with death. Losing him, and then losing Rosie was a lot to deal with.
But in the end that’s where I ended up drawing comfort from. You see, Grandpap and Rosie were best buddies! Walks around the block, sneaking her bologna under the kitchen table, playing in the backyard, new toys, all sorts of treats; he really knew how to spoil her. He was a soft touch, too. One look from Rosie’s big brown eyes and she’d get those table scraps she wanted so badly.
Every time Rosie got in the car she thought she was going to Grandma and Grandpap’s house. She was usually right! And when Grandpap’s old blue clunker would pull up in our driveway, she would get so excited.
Now, I’m a believer in a higher power. Heck, I’m a born and raised Catholic school girl, so that has had a lot – not everything, but a lot – to do with shaping my religious beliefs. Plus, I’ve had other experiences with losing loved ones (those stories are too long and for a much different kind of blog than this one though) that have cemented my belief and faith in God.
And so, my comfort came and comes from knowing Grandpap and Rosie are together now.
So, do all dogs go to heaven? Yep, I really think so. I’d like to believe that when Rosie left us, Grandpap was there. Now I’m not sure if there are pearly gates or anything like that, but he was there to welcome her with open arms. She’s his dog now, forever. I would imagine he and my Grandma take Rosie for a walk around the block still every evening.
And while that thought puts a smile on my face, it also makes me tear up a little because I still miss them all so very much. I suppose I always will, but that’s okay. I never want to forget them.
So, to Rosie, enjoy that breaded pork chop I know Grandma is making for you tonight. And I hope you guys have a nice walk afterward. I’ll be thinking of you and your howling bark often, my dear friend!
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