Grief is a snake. It slithers up and down your body, first winding itself around your heart before briefly relenting and moving to your head, where it shakes loose memories at random intervals. It meanders down to your feet, wrapping its body around your legs so tightly it makes walking difficult. It snakes its way to your stomach, releasing battery acid that kills appetite. It moves to your eyes and shuts them, infecting you with fatigue. It manipulates your tear ducts, so you find yourself crying without warning.
After some time, the snake starts to feel familiar enough that you don't fight it the next time you feel your heart beating fast, your stomach tightening, your legs dragging, your eyes closing. There's a comfort to its abuse; facing the silence of absence is too difficult. And so it goes, until one day you realize you don't need to hold onto railings, or bring tissues with you; you can eat a full meal again. The snake is still there, but its attention is elsewhere, as is yours. You convene every once in a while, when the snake wants attention, but most of the time it mercifully leaves you alone. And you're grateful, because when it hits, it's ruthless.
Three weeks ago, I lost my dog suddenly and brutally; she collapsed from a heart attack in the middle of the dog park we attended almost every day for the past four years. I tried reviving her, attempted CPR, and got her to an animal hospital, but I believe she was gone instantly. The only solace I have is that she was living her best life until the very moment her heart gave out.
If you've read one of my reviews over the last four years, or listened to the Android Central Podcast, you know that Zadie, a Great Dane, was an enormous part of my life, physically and emotionally. She was the kid I had before I had a kid; she was my rock, always quietly filling my home with the kind of steadfast commitment and affection I hope everyone has the chance to experience at some point in their lives.
In the hours and days following Zadie's death, I vacillated between the emotion I expected, a sadness so great it bordered on despair, and one I didn't: anger. I was furious at how unprepared I was for her to die so young — she was just four years old and in otherwise perfect health — and how I may not have appreciated her enough in the waning moments of these endless pandemic days, before scratching her soft neck and kissing her goodnight. I was upset with myself for not even considering that an acute illness could suddenly take her from my family, instead of the predictable cadence of canine senility, the indignities of accidents and vet trips, of lumbering assistance down steps and into cars.
The idea that really broke me, though, and the one that still snakes around my heart even today, is that my daughter, now two, probably won't remember Zadie, her sister and perpetual presence on her bed, quietly acquiescing to every possible way an infant, and then a toddler, can menace a good-natured family pet. In the early days after Zadie died, my daughter would walk through the front door, used to her lumbering towards us in beaming greeting, her tail a relentless windshield wiper of joy, and remark, "Zadie's not here," so casually it sent me spinning. I miss Zadie so much, but I miss them together so much more. Seeing them bond and become fast friends was a parent's ultimate privilege.
Zadie wasn't just an incredible companion, but a social animal in the most literal sense; she loved everyone and everything. People, dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons, skunks (ugh) — she engendered herself to every species by adapting to whatever requirements they had in acclimatizing themselves to a 120-pound supernova of joy.
For small dogs and puppies, she would get down onto all fours and let them climb all over her, thrilled to be perceived as one of them. For cats, she would inch closer, combating their bristling hackles by pretending she wasn't actually interested, all the while trying to get as close as possible. For people, even complete strangers, she would stroll over and stick her giant head underneath their arms as if she wanted them to give her a headlock. After a few attempts, the recipient usually relented and gave her the attention she rightfully earned; if she saw that person again, she would run deer-like towards them and perform a dance I can only describe as circular poetry in motion, before settling in for a lean-in pat.
She made me a happier, more social person. Her insatiable desire to meet people and dogs in the neighborhood made me want the same. She was the genesis for so many meetings with people who eventually became friends, and the formation of a community of dog owners that has held firm even though I no longer visit the park every day. (As an aside, why has there never been a sitcom centered around the people who frequent dog parks? They're fascinating.) Even in death, Zadie continues to give.
Last week, I realized I'd gone a whole day without dwelling on Zadie's absence. The snake slowly released its grip on my insides, which gave me the space to remember her, to appreciate her, to focus on the myriad tiny moments that comprised my love for this incredible animal. The way she would rest her head on my legs as she fell asleep, her giant chest rising and falling in a peaceful, rhythmic cadence, her dog dreams a gentle sigh.
Eventually, I would extricate myself, scratch her soft neck, turn off the lights, and tell her, as I did constantly and without reservation, "Goodnight Zadie. I love you."
Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.
So sorry for your loss man. She seemed like an awesome family member. Condolences.
That sort of loss is like being gut shot on an emotional level. At my age Ive lost many loved ones both humans and animal companions. It's hard. Very hard and sad.
I am so very sorry for your loss. Dogs are the soul we didn't know we had. When the leave, they take a part of our heart, but they leave a different soul behind. A better soul. Run free, Zadie.
We lost our cat Desmond to cancer. Not even 2 years old. I'm so sorry Daniel. I feel your pain, man.
We lost a rescue mutt several years ago. She loved to sprint out the front door with our son and his friends racing behind her to get her back home. We consoled ourselves by picturing her in dog heaven leading the chase to her heart's content.
The hurt dulls over time but never completely leaves. Dogs steal your heart forever.
Teared up a little reading this. I lost my cat, also 3 weeks ago, so it hits close to home. He was 16, which is decent for a cat, but that doesn't make it any easier, especially as it was also fairly sudden. I'm sorry for your loss man. It really sucks.
Thank you for your heartfelt words about your beloved furry family member and I am just so sorry. What an amazing rock of love and foundation Zadie continues to be. It goes without saying, like so many of us- we get it, have been through it. I believe all our furry family are the souls and lights of the world. Hands down. Again thank you for sharing that. Truly they are gifts to humanity- right there with you.
Got emotional reading this. So sorry for your loss!
Zadie was gorgeous! The picture of her on your lap is the sweetest. I have a 14 and 1/4 year old mutt who is also a big part of my life and the thought of losing him, even though he is "seasoned" (I will hurt anyone who will call him old) is incredibly painful and not a mental place I want to visit or stay in. I cannot imagine the pain you are going through, although I am afraid I will unfortunately get to know it at some point. Please know that you are not alone. There is not much we can do to help lessen your pain, but at least know that you are not alone and we are thinking of you. Like you say, canines (and felines) bring a type of love and joy to your life that everyone ought to experience at some point in their lives. Their love is priceless and free. No one, not your spouse, your child, your mother or father, your siblings, your bestest friend or favorite relative, NO ONE will be 100% happy to see you 100% of the times, like a furry one will. No one will make you feel as completely loved and accepted, which will lead you to think what the title of your piece states: we don't deserve them. Hang in there and may the snake let you be in peace.
My soul is also altered from losing a beloved friend. Never gets easier either each time you go through it. Unhaltered and unrelenting grief, is our final and purest gift to them...for their priceless devotion to us. Thank you for sharing this here.
Beautifully written homage to your loved, blessed and gone too soon Zadie. Beloved pets are such a huge part of our families, especially young ones. We had our Viszla "Hank" and fur baby before we started our family. He knew we were pregnant before we did. All of a sudden he wouldn't dare leave my wife's side. From that point forward he was our silly, goofy, loving nanny dog. After our daughter was born they were kindred spirits. Loving, playing, giggling moments all throughout my daughter and sons childhood. Hank was blessed with dog longevity but It made it so much harder saying goodbye. One morning my wife woke me in a panic noting something was wrong. A strong, always energetic animal awoke confused and listless. Of course we rushed him to the vet. He seemed to stabilize and they calmed him and us for the time being. We brought him home with pain medication and the reality it was soon time to say goodbye. The next day I slept on the couch and didn't leave Hank's side. He was getting around and doing his thing outside but I/we knew the time was near. That afternoon I took him out back on a leash to guide him and he stopped, sat and looked to me for loves. It was then I knew. As if he spoke to me with his eyes. That evening we sat at the vets office with Hank on his favorite blanket, wife and me, our then 11 and 9 yo kids, our newer adopted dog and Hank's surrogate dog child, my parents who loved him so and the vet. We all were touching and loving on a dog that gave us so much as we said goodbye. There wasn't a dry eye in the room and I don't think I have ever cried or hurt emotionally like that moment and for quite some time after. We have so many beautiful photos and moments of great times shared and we often think fondly of our adopted Hank. We paid homage to him @ 2-3 months later by my wife pushing the family to adopt "Sully" a then 4 mo old "blue" Staffordshire Terrier who had been rescued. When your ready be sure to open your heart again. And when you do look to shelters and rescues as there are SO many phenomenal dogs that need a loving home and family.
Sorry for your loss, wonderfully written eulogy for your friend.
My condolences on your loss.....
There are no words other than sorry for your loss. Dogs are truly the greatest of creatures. I cried for days after we had to put our previous dog down. We were her 5th owner (fifth time's the charm. right?) and had her for 11 years (we won't talk about those first four years of her life with those four other owners, they never knew what they had). That Basset Hound was one of the best dogs I've ever had. We still miss her, even four years later (of course, my family still talks about the dogs we had when I was a kid, lo those decades ago). She was amazing. And a remorseless eating machine (which my current two dogs are not). When you are ready to add another family member, I'd highly recommend a rescue. I'll never get a puppy when there are plenty of other doggies out there that need love and a good home. Damn, now I need to go hug my doggies. Again, so sorry for your loss. Dogs are the best, and you're right, we don't deserve them.
I’m really sorry for your loss. We lost Diesel a little over a year ago. He had a chemodectoma, which is a heart tumor. It was about two years of treatments, ongoing doctor visits, medication changes, diet changes...you name it. A search for “the hardest choice for me chemodectoma” should turn up a link on my website that explains my little guy’s story. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think of him...and I cannot imagine that future days will be any different. These aren’t sad thoughts, they’re thoughts that bring a smile to my face; Diesel lives on through memories. I’m so thankful for the time we had with him. And you are right, we don’t deserve dogs. But, I’m glad that they overlook that.
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