Not “Just” a Dog

You’re probably tired of hearing about my dog. You might think I need to get a grip. I can’t help it. I need to tell you about him one more time. It’s long winded. I’m sorry.

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.

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6 Responses to Not “Just” a Dog

  1. Thank you for sharing. I get it, I still see Betty in the shadows of our house and miss her….even though when she was alive I complained about her stinky litter box. Pets are a part of our family and deserve to be mourned.

  2. Truly sorry for your loss. I’ve also had a great loss of my cat Faith, who was my best friend. The first day, that my hubby & I met we heard this little meow sound. My hubby (not at the time) went and found this cute little kitten that was all by itself out in the middle of nowhere and brought it back to me. I thought it was faith that brought us altogether, so I named her Faith! I just knew this guy I met was going to be the one I spent the rest of my life with, so I thought it was kind of crazy we found this kitten the first night we met. I had always been a cat lover. My Faith aka “Faithers” learned to play hide n seek with me. She would go hide, and I’d come and find her- she would dart out at me, running into the other room. She’d give me time to go hide, and then come find me, and I’d jump out & say, “BOO!” She’d take off running so fast into the other room, where she’d hide all over again! We’d play forever like this. Everyone thought it was so amazing! We’d stay by my side through everything, and loved to cuddle! She wasn’t the type of cat that’d jump up on kitchen tables, or counters (which I loved) she was really intelligent! I found out I was pregnant, and at the very same time Faith ended up pregnant! How weird was that? Once again, this must be faith right? We were so much alike! I loved her from the very beginning, and we had a special bond. I was so excited to have my baby girl & to have Faith there with me too. I knew my daughter would love her. Unfortanely, Faith gave birth but had complications during birth. It was the most awful thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t even want to type what happened because it’s so awful, and disgusting! My poor baby was laying there dying, and I had her helpless babies. I cried uncontrollably nonstop for a good straight hour. I was pregnant, and lost a cat that had been there through everything (tearing up as I write this) so how could this be? A pet that I loved like no other before her. She passed away, a few days later her babies did also. I wanted those babies to live so BAD to be apart of my Faithers! I was so damaged and still so emotional about the loss of Faith that I haven’t had another pet ever since. Losing a pet is hard to get over, and can never be replaced. They become your baby just like your kid. If you ever need someone to vent to, or share your emotions with you have my email! Sorry again for your loss. My thoughts go out to you!

  3. I’m really really sorry about your baby. We lost our beloved cat, Zorro, a year ago on the 17th of December & the pain is still raw & oozing. He had kidney failure & we fought it for a year, but in the end he gave up the fight & we knew it was time. Like you, Zorro was my baby & I had to make the decision. I at least got to spend 4 days saying goodbye to him – they were agonizing, horrorifying days, filled with pain, but at least I had those days to say goodbye.

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