This post has been a long time coming. This is my therapy session. It will most likely be a mess of unfinished thoughts. But I'm getting them out there.
Saying goodbye to a pet is such a bizarre experience for those of us who think of our animals as family. People feel sorry, but don't always understand the magnitude of the situation. How unstable and lost you feel. My Pitou was my best friend. I know I'll never have the same relationship with another living thing that I did with him. He was special. And maybe you think that's what everyone thinks of their dog, but mine really was. He took care of me when I was young. When I grew up, I took care of him in his old age.
Pitou had two near death experiences in his life. The first was a mystery disease that my family refused to give up on. Our veterinarian was all but ready to tell us to end his suffering but we insisted on a referral to another animal hospital who diagnosed him correctly and saved his life. During the time that he was sick, I said my goodbyes and distanced myself. I was younger at the time and it was too much for me to handle. Having him cured was like a new life. The second incident was more sudden and scared me to the core. It's still something I don't like to think of because it tears me up inside. Even with both of these experiences, I wasn't numb to losing him. He lived to be 15 and a half and although I tried to ready myself it still shocked my system when he died.
I wanted desperately for him to fall asleep at home and not wake up. I prayed for it so often in those last few days. In the end, it more or less did happen that way. I'm having a hard time typing this post because when I start a sentence about his suffering my mind tells my fingers to erase the words. It's too damn hard to continue with those sentences.
(Pitou went through a phase of pink mohawks while I was in high school, as seen in the first photo.)
The days after he was gone were so strange. He was sick for a long time and was really all I thought of. I went to work, but that was mostly it. I called home to whomever was around while I was away to check on him constantly. I had to hold myself back from calling too often. I inspected and logged every bit of food, water, and sleep he had. I didn't sleep through the night. I woke up early in the mornings to rest my hand on his side to see if he was still breathing. He consumed my every thought. Friends and family would ask me if I wanted to go on weekend trips with them and I couldn't say yes, even if they were months away. It was hard to say the reason, but I couldn't plan them without knowing if Pitou would be gone yet or not. When he finally died I just didn't know what to do with myself. I continued to worry about him despite my best efforts to believe he was finally resting. The night he was buried I had a panic attack when it started snowing because I didn't want him to be cold. Being his care giver was hard to let go of.
A couple weeks after he passed, my mom found a bit of his fur in the fence outside our front door. We did most of his grooming's at home and the bits of fur were from his last haircut, which hadn't been for months. Maybe that should have been a nice thing to find but it was like a punch in the gut. I remember holding it crying and saying "he was just here." It was so strange to have seem so gone and to have found this piece of him. I carry that bit of fur in a clear locket around my neck now. I get questions about it more often than I would like. It's getting easier to answer them, though. People don't have to understand. In fact, they don't need to. I'm comforted in knowing that few people have as special of a bond with their dog as I did.
I had this portrait started before Pitou got sick and it was completed shortly after he died. The timing was impeccable. I have it framed on my desk and am also having it printed on canvas to go in a frame in my bedroom. (The artist, Gia, blogs here.)
Sometimes getting these words out of my head helps. I still cry. I still feel like I'm forgetting to do something when I have time to relax or go away for the weekend. I still panic when I can't find my locket. I cry when I see dogs that even mildly remind me of him. I'm meticulous about the neatness of his grave, even though I've only brought myself to sit by it twice in the last four months. I cry when I hold my mom's dogs because they just don't feel the same. I still cry when I drive down certain roads because they now hold bad memories. I'll cry when it snows for the first time next winter because I know how much Pitou loved it. But the years I had with Pitou were worth every bit of pain I feel now and there's no doubt in my mind about that.