Losing a dog was difficult. I knew that. I wasn’t prepared for the deep, deep sadness.
For three days I felt like someone kicked me in the chest. My stomach is still knotted. At first the tears fell quickly and hard. Now my eyes just well up a bit when I see Joey’s empty spot on the couch.
Evening is the hardest. After we put the boys to bed and Dave and I relaxed on the couch, Joey always snuggled up with me, resting his head on my legs or my lap. It is so strange not to feel the warmth of his soft, furry body as I watch TV or type on my laptop. I took it for granted just a few days ago. Now I miss it so much.
Part of me thinks I’m silly, ridiculous and child-like to experience this much grief over a dog. I didn’t lose a spouse or a child. If the passing of a dog is so devastating I can only imagine how much worse losing my husband or sons would be.
“Just,” a dog some people might say.
But Joey wasn’t just a dog.
Growing up I longed for a dog, but never had one. When Dave and I moved into our first house it wasn’t long before I brought home two dogs. First Elizabeth, then Joey a couple months later. Joey and I hit it off, forming a strong bond. He was my dog. I have a little stuffed dog that was my favorite toy as a kid. Joey looked remarkably like that toy. He was the dog I always wanted.
Joey was sweet and gentle. Our neighborhood is plagued with stray cats. There was one motherless kitten we fed who took a liking to Joey. She waited at our steps for Joey to come out, then she followed him all over the yard. She would rub herself on his legs. Joey took it in stride, never threatening his natural feline enemy. I joked that she thought Joey was her mother.
Joey kept watch over us. He didn’t leave my side when I was pregnant. He kept track of where the kids were in the house, especially Wade.
Joey’s spirit was strong. He developed arthritis in his hips, and lost his sight. Still he kept up his morning walks around the field, he wagged his tail, and greeted us at the door.
Joey lost his life to a tragic accident. He didn’t deserve for that to happen to him.
The emergency vet thought surgery might help, but there was a chance Joey wouldn’t recover fully or maybe not at all. Joey was my dog, and I made the decision to put him to sleep. I knew he was terrified. I didn’t want him to be in pain. He lived a long, good life, and was loved well. I didn’t really get to say good-bye. I do wish I could hold him one more time. I am so sad it ended the way it did, but I don’t regret my decision. There is comfort in knowing he isn’t suffering.
There is also comfort in the small things. The night before, I scratched his tummy for a long time. He loved that. I never let the dogs eat people food, but I’d treated him to a rare piece of leftover pizza. As he left to go to the vet I patted him on the head one last time.
Finally, there is comfort in knowing Joey doesn’t struggle with his blindness any longer. His sight slowly grew worse over a few years. In recent weeks I believe he completely lost his vision. He was running into things he never ran into. The toys the boys left scattered in the house created a minefield for Joey to navigate. A couple times I had to find him in the field and bring him back, because he couldn’t see to find his way through the weeds.
When the first snow came he had a very hard time going up and down the slippery steps. Getting up in the morning was becoming more difficult for him too. It took him several minutes of stretching to get down from his spot on the end of the couch. I remember thinking a few days before his passing that this winter would be hard on Joey.
Joey was a friend, a constant companion to all of us. His happy disposition brought cheer to the house even on bad days. Snuggling with him was a comfort. I loved him. We all loved him. Wade doesn’t understand at only two, but Dave and David and I all shed many tears.
My six year old David and I were not getting along well recently. Sharing this sadness over Joey brought us closer, released the tension and closed the rift. Even in his death Joey gave me a gift.
The memories are starting to bring smiles instead of tears. I remember the year we planted strawberries. There were lots of blooms, but few berries. Eventually I discovered Joey in the strawberry patch eating the berries right off the plants. I called him Strawberry Puppy after that.
I’m on the couch right now. Joey isn’t at my feet. It feels empty. There is a hole in my heart, and the house is missing a piece.
There will never be another dog like Joey. I loved him. I miss him. I’m not ashamed to feel this grief over him.
Good-bye Joey. Thank you for loving us, for letting us love you.