Our home is sadly quiet these days. I never realized how many every day life sounds a dog contributed to a home. The foot-patter, gulping water from a dish, heavy dog sighs, barking at doorbells and the thumping of a happy tail on the floor—these are all sounds we never really noticed until now that they are gone.
It’s taken me several weeks to steel my emotions enough to tackle this topic. Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is the most difficult, but inevitable right of passage a pet parent endures.
It’s true. You do know when that time comes. On July 10th, we said goodbye to Buck, our beloved 13 ½ year-old yellow Labrador-chow mix.
Although Buck was a tough-guy who embraced life, despite a myriad of painful orthopedic and emotional anxiety issues, we knew what he was trying to tell us when his sleeping time increased dramatically, and his precious face began to look tired and worn.
Buck left us peacefully, in my arms while sitting shotgun in his golf cart after a long ride around the neighborhood—his favorite pastime. Our amazing veterinarian, Jim Lutz, came to our home to make the goodbye process easier on Buck and on us.
In the hours, days and weeks that followed, the thing that helps us heal the most is not trying to put him out of our minds, rather finding ways to keep his memory alive.
I’ve spoken to several others who’ve recently lost a pet and we generally agree that there are two essential parts of the grieving process. First, sharing your experience and feelings with others who can lend a sympathetic ear is a healthy way to acknowledge and express your loss. Second, preparing a memorial, privately or publicly is another step toward healing.
So far, the most therapeutic exercise in healing from Buck’s absence has been the photo and music montage we put together to share with friends and family.
Buck was adopted from the SPCA Tampa Bay in January of 1997, so the most logical memorial was to make a donation to the SPCA in his name. Soon a lovely red brick will join many others paving a pathway to the barnyard at the shelter. (Buck loved to chase our donkeys, so this is strangely appropriate).
Beyond those public remembrances, Paul and I have unintentionally choreographed a “memorial routine”, so to speak. Every morning, we light a candle next to Buck’s photo in the living room. Every night before we go to bed we turn on a ceramic Labrador night light in the hallway—the one we used to leave on for Buck at night because he couldn’t see so well.
And, on Friday’s after work, we take a ride in Buck’s golf cart that we bought him two years ago. It was by far, his favorite thing to do. (Until July 10th I’d never even ridden the cart without him.)
There are a few things I’m just not ready to do yet. For now, Buck’s toys remain in a basket on the mantle in the living room and his car-ride towel and spill proof water dish remain in the back of my SUV. Putting them away now is just too difficult, and as I see it, not even necessary.
While Paul and I know we’ll never be able to replace Buck, we do know that we are “dog-people”, and we will share our home with another dog (or two) in the future. As soon as I’m feeling stronger, I look forward to making trips to the SPCA to find another dog like Buck. None will be as wonderful as Buck, but I’m sure we’ll find one who’s pretty doggone close.