Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The pharmacy just called.  "We filled a prescription for M last week, and were wondering how he was doing?"
I stumbled over the words in my head before I came out with, "We had to put him...let him go...on the 1st." 
I could've done without that phone call, even though the lady on the other end was sympathetic.
I got rid of the medicines the day after he died.  I almost did it the same day, but once I had them in my hands, I started bawling, so I put them back.  They were staring at me from the counter, each and every one of them screaming failure.  That was so different from A, where I wanted (and still want) to keep everything I had that was remotely connected to him, little though there was.  But all those medicines, including the one from last week, all the trips to the doctor, all the procedures, and still I couldn't keep him here.  I got rid of the usable stuff by sending it home with my friend the vet to give to a client who could use it, and the rest went into the trash because I couldn't stand to see it.  You open up the fridge to grab a soda, and there's the insulin that won't be used, and the dozen bags of Pill Pockets that just arrived right before he died that have no purpose now.  E says we can use them as treats for the other dogs, and he's right, but part of me just wants them gone because until they are, they will be a reminder of what we're not doing.
We're not doing meds and eye drops three times a day.  We're not cutting up hot dogs to make sure M ate enough before getting his insulin.  We're not guiding our little blind dog through doorways, and around furniture, and past rocks in the yard.  There is so much time; our remaining dogs don't require special care--we let them out, and make sure their food and water bowls are full.  That hasn't been the case for us for years now.  It's weird. 
Last night I came home to mail from the vet clinic.  I suspected what it was, but half hoped for a moment that it was a note of condolence instead.  But no; it was the bill for M's cremation.  We don't even have his ashes back yet, but they were Johnny-on-the-spot with the bill.  It's revolting.  I haven't even moved his dog bed from next to ours yet;  he spent his last night there, a night where we still had a shred of hope that he'd wake up doing better, and while it doesn't give me any comfort to see it, I recall how trying to move or change things too early really stung after A died.  Eventually it will go into the wash, and then be given to the Shih Tzus for their own, but not yet.  Maybe not until he's home again.
So many times, in blog posts and in conversations and in my own head, I lamented the suddenness of A's death, how I wasn't there at the bitterest end, how I was kept out of the aftermath of cleaning up and paying bills and settling the estate.  Dogs don't have an estate, but there is settling up to do nonetheless, and it sucks.  I always knew it wasn't easier on those widows who had nursed their loved one through a fatal illness...or rather, I imagined and suspected; I couldn't know.  But I get it now.  Would that I could've been spared the basis for comparison.
What's weird is that after all the crying on the day M died, I seem to have skipped over the middle part, the confusion, the outbursts of uncontrollable tears, and moved right to the resignation and the quiet sadness stage.  I think it's maybe because I know all that pulling of hair, gnashing of teeth, and rending of garments doesn't actually change anything.  He was a little dog, nearly 12 years old, with multiple serious health problems.  There was no surprise this time; we saw it coming miles away.  I am sad, but far more functional than I was after A died, and I guess that's not too surprising, given the circumstances.  But it's launched me right back into the pit of existential angst I had really only recently pulled myself out of.  And I could've done without that, too.


  1. I had to put my 18+ year old cat this Fall. He had been my best friend for a lot of years, and as my mother pointed out, he had been a part of my life for almost my whole adulthood. I knew he was dying for the last several months, and I nursed him through his last weekend with angst and tears and dread. I had cried for that cat copiously off and on for weeks.

    Strangely, though, since he has been gone, since I held him heart-to-heart for his final purr, and felt him drift through me, I have barely shed a tear. It feels so complete, and he is more a part of me now than ever.

    This was one of my first experiences with anticipated death, with much of the grief coming in advance. The other deaths I have experienced have been sudden and brutal, as has the associated grief.

    Here I was thinking that anticipatory grief is experienced only in advance of the event; your experience clearly disputes this.

    The take home seems to be that grief is big, not wholly predictable, and awful no matter what.

    I don't mean to highjack, and I do want to express my sympathy. I may not understand what you're going through, but I get it.

    Thinking of you,


  2. Thanks, Sal. I think I did have a lot of anticipatory grief...but it's its own kind of grief, and there was the other kind after, too.