To my sweet Bayley,
Over the course of the past few days as I try in vain to adjust to life without your large, ever sweet, physical presence in our lives, I’ve sat down to try to put into words what you meant to me. Not to anyone else – just to me. I haven’t been able to until now and still this doesn't begin to touch it. The grief is too profound. Too new. I haven’t been able to see through the hot tears that seem to be my constant companion. If they're not coursing down my face, then they're just under the surface. They’ve replaced the warm, living being who was by my side just a little while ago. I can still count your absence by hours and I know that soon it’ll be by days and then weeks, and life will go on without you. Every night, before I try, and fail, to sleep, I ask God to let you visit me in dreams to let me know that you’re OK, that you’re safe and loved where you are… So far, you’re elusive, my girl.
For now and always, I can still feel you. Your hair is still on the rug since I’ve been unable to bring myself to vacuum up that part of you that’s tangible and that I can still see and touch. I cry when I use the lint roller on my clothing to remove the soft fur that is still there so I can go to work…pathetic, but there you have it. I was only able to take up and wash your bowls yesterday and a few pieces of kibble remain on the rug where they landed when they fell from your floppy lips and where they’ll stay for a while longer. I miss the sloppy sounds of you eating and spreading kibble and drool all over the kitchen because you had to look up for me as you ate. Just couldn’t keep that face in that bowl…
I reach for your warm self all the time, both with my hands and in my mind. I miss the sweet sound of you breathing quietly and deeply, then snoring and snorting and chasing “something” in your dreams as you sleep. And I miss the surprising sound of your deep voice on the rare occasions that you used it to entice me to play or to alert your people of the presence of “something” that only you could see. I miss you waiting for me, without fail, just outside the bathroom door while I shower, and my body’s muscle memory still steps over the spot you occupied. I guess you always thought that somehow I’d escape through some non-existent window or door… It was always as sure as the sunrise that you would be there. And I miss you waiting for me, without fail, at the top of the stairs when I came home from work. I still open the door gingerly and slowly so that I won’t hurt you since you were always there. So does Bill. It seems you were always patiently waiting for us…
Today was my first day back to work after this long, hard weekend and I found myself avoiding eye contact with my co-workers and friends so that I could maintain some semblance of composure. People who have loved and lost a beloved companion have all been through the helpless feeling of losing control when someone gives you sympathy and that’s what I wanted to avoid. Most people got that and I appreciate it so much. And for the most part, I was able to get through the day focused on what I needed to do. Then I came home from work for the first time without the joyful greeting that I’ve grown so accustomed to. If you’ve shared your life with a dog, you’ve also all had that. But you were different, my sweet Bayley - not like other dogs. No running around in circles or racing laps. You would almost melt into my leg, pressing your face so close against me that it was almost as if we were one. And I would hold your face close to me and the love was palpable. And I would come away with hair and schmutz (or pupcus, as my friend Molly calls it) on my clothing and not care one bit. Then I’d change clothes and off we’d go on a walk… It was our routine and I think that’s why the loss feels almost more profound today. The weekend was terrible and lonely and I was deep in my grief… But the loss of our normal routine, our life together, the normalcy of it, has affected me more than I can say. The loss of everyday life with you, of the love I could set my clock by, is anguish to me. Now, I simply don't know what to do with the hands that always touched you.
The stories of your life, shared by many, are an amazing testimony to what you were: love, pure and simple. But those stories, while I will treasure them always and they will keep your memory a living thing, don’t speak to the deep love that you and I had together. Just the two of us. You were proof positive that there can be a connection so deep and so lasting that one is not right without the other. That one being needs the other. And I needed you, my sweetest heart, just as much, if not more so, than you needed me… You had a huge life; one that most dogs can only dream of, full of love and life and adventure and wonderful memories. But the impact you had on my small life, and I on yours, is immeasurable..
In the days before you left us…you were pretty snowed with all of the medications that we used to try to keep the pain at bay, but you were still game for a short walk as long as we helped you up those impossibly steep stairs. But then you started looking at me as though to say you didn’t want to try but would for us. And so you did. I did my best to help you and our little family got into a routine as your strength started to wax and wane…in the days before you left us. Once we got going, you would stop every few steps and sniff the cold air for some smell only you could detect with your big, beautiful nose. Maybe you were committing those scents to your memory…in the days before you left us. Walks took much longer, but I didn’t mind. We were together and I loved you and I would take as long as you wanted so you could sniff and enjoy being outside. And we looked forward to the day that we would move upstairs and you didn’t have to climb those steps to go outside…in the days before you left us.
On the day before you left us, we went for a walk in the afternoon, just you and I. You seemed to want to, so we walked a little farther than we had been in the previous days – down the alley toward the home of your little lab buddy that you always liked to visit. I think you secretly loved to tease him by peeing on his fence – he had such a crush on you and would cry every time he saw you… Anyway, we had been walking close together, you and I, since you hadn’t been able to walk as far or as fast for the past couple of weeks and I wanted to be sure to be there to support you. Of course, that was the day you decided to try to chase a cat and I didn’t bring your leash with me – and so you did! Scared that little sucker and sent him under a car!! And hurt yourself in the process… But you made it to the little lab’s house and fence fought with a dog who was there for a play date and one last time, I got to hear that beautiful, deep voice that you rarely used! But we needed your dad to get the car to take you home and I had a sick, sinking feeling that the time that I hoped to be able to spend with you wasn’t to be… How thankful I am, looking back, that you were able to chase that cat, and bark at that dog, and visit with your friend, and ride in the car one last time on the day before you left us.
On the day we sent you with angels, you didn’t want to go outside to potty in the morning even though it had been since the afternoon before that you went, but we helped you up the stairs to try… to hold off the inevitable just a little longer. And then you wanted to just lay in the snow, so we let you and asked no more of you then, nor would we ask more of you forever. On the day that we sent you with angels, you told us very clearly that it was time for you to go and I made the call for them to come to you to help you leave this earth. We didn’t want to take you someplace foreign. We didn’t want to traumatize or hurt you; we didn’t want to make you try anymore. We wanted you safe and warm in your bed, home with us… So, you and I spent all morning together with your head on my lap, or with me lying next to you, or with your dad giving you love… You got some good ol’ wet dog food, a Greenie, some chicken, some cheese, water with chicken broth to entice you to drink, and anything else you wanted. I told you the story of your life and the story of how you healed my heart and how it was OK for you to go and that you’d always be by my side and in my heart. And that you should wait for me just around the bend and that I’d be there. And that you wouldn’t hurt anymore and that you could chase cats, and squirrels, and bears, and gophers. And how much I love you, and always will, and how I know you love me, too. So they came, and you were ready, but we were not. We never would be. But we knew that releasing your spirit from a body that had failed you was the very best thing for you and that anything else would be selfish of us. I would have given anything to keep you, even for just a little longer, but you were ready to go, my sweet girl.
On the day we sent you with angels, you were gone in an instant, a heartbeat. Before I could take a breath, you were gone. You closed your eyes, those sweet, gentle eyes, one last time and you went to God.
On the day we sent you with angels, our little family was together, and we loved you, as we always did, as we always will. Nothing was different except that you went with angels…