Dearly missed by Leslie Lance
It’s been a week now since you’ve been gone. You can’t believe how bad this has impacted me. I always imagined that when the time came there would be enough warning so that my heart would be prepared, albeit reluctant, for you to leave me. I thought I would suspect something was up and I hoped to God that I would be there for you to calm you and love you into the loving embrace of the Lord who gave you. That is of course, assuming you wanted me there. I wondered if there are times when pet-children don’t want their Person to be there. Times when they would prefer to just wander off quietly in their sleep to spare their Person the anguish of knowing the time had come for their beloved Pet-child to leave them forever. Or what if wandering off quietly was a dog’s way of sparing their own selves from the pent-up emotion their Person might be internalizing at such a time as this?? Maybe if given a choice, a dog would just prefer to skip the bothersome human drama and let nature lead the way?
When at once I heard Pog’s voice crack on the other end of the phone, I knew. I knew, but I told him to wait, because I didn’t want to hear what I knew I was going to hear. As I walked from the car to the house a million thoughts shot through my head. When I boarded the plane the day before, I knew I left you in good health and spirits and in the best of hands, so why was he so upset. Though I didn’t yet know the details, I knew in my heart why he was so upset. I knew you were gone. How could you be gone? You can’t be gone!! It doesn’t make sense. There must have been an accident. And then another wierd thought occurred to me: Maybe it wasn’t an accident. At 11.5 years old, maybe, for your own reasons, you chose this time specifically to leave me, while I was out of town. Maybe you wanted to spare me. Maybe you wanted me far away to keep me from interfering. Call me crazy, but I know Dogs are wierd that way, as are all of God’s animals. God has given you guys a special “knowing” of things that we humans cannot comprehend. You know that when Pog spends the night at our house I am going to be gone for days. So maybe you thought the coast was clear and now would be a good time.
But its been hard Girl. If you had been a cat, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Nothing against cats, they are lovely and fun and soooo entertaining, but let’s face it, they are a bit narcisistic. They don’t give back like dogs do.
Its been especially bad when I come up the front porch stairs to unlock the door. You are not on the other side of it whining for me to hurry in to greet you with the traditional neck rub and kiss on top of your head. There’s no more familiar clicking of your toenails as you followed me down the hall. It always cracked me up how you knew NOT to follow me into the bathroom, so as not to chance getting a bath. Heaven forbid!! To you, bathrooms were pretty much off limits, unless of course you needed a quick drink when no one was looking. Still it was so cute to see you poke your head in then out, your quick reminder to me that you were still out there waiting.
Thankfully many of our close family/friend connections have rallied around me in love this week. When you’re alone, its nice to know you’re not alone. You had many in the human world who loved you, they were our people together. I’ve received numerous cards and flowers and precious sentiments. I’ve really been taken aback by it. I thought that only happened at human deaths. The other morning when I woke up I wondered if you knew how much I loved you, because of the times I wasn’t a perfect mom and for not being there when you died. Guilt set in and there have been many “What ifs…”. Before you died, did you wonder where I was and why I wasn’t there? I guess that’s probably not rational. But as far as I’m concerned, death is not rational. But at any rate, dogs don’t think like that. Never-the-less, I kept beating myself up with these kinds of thoughts, and the tearful and silent prayer of my heart was, “Oh God I wish there was some way of knowing if Francesca knew how much I loved her, oh, that she could’ve known”. After that, I pulled myself together and went about the routine of getting ready for work. That night, in the mail from hundreds of miles away I got a sympathy card from Rick’s mom (who had heard the news, but who I haven’t even spoke with in a couple of years). She had written, “Dear Leslie, I am so sorry for your loss. She was a wonderful dog (and here is the kicker…): and she knew how much you loved her”. Can you believe that?? That was so cool, and so comforting. God is so mindful of His creatures. All of them. Did you know that in the Bible, it says that a sparrow, which was only worth half a cent in Bible times, can’t even fall to the ground without our heavenly Father knowing about it. God is mindful of animals. He put us humans in charge of you to care and tend to your needs. He likens us as his sheep, and also as his baby chicks that he would gather under His wings like a hen to protect. God is alot more mindful of his animal creations than what we humans give Him credit for.
I think I’m starting the healing process now because they say anger precedes acceptance, and once you accept the death of the loved one the healing can begin and eventually the pain lifts. And I know this to be true as I have experienced this process with human death. Not with a pet though, this is new for me. I am having bursts of anger mixed in with my saddness so this is good. When I got home from work yesterday and entered my silent house again I got down-right pissed off, if you want to know the truth. All your stuff is here but you are not! What the Hell !! Your beds and pillows and toys are here. There is still water in your water dish. I can’t bear to move anything. Doing so feels so wrong right now. I went into my room and saw your blanket on the floor and I had had enough. I cried out, “GIRL, HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?? I AM ALL ALONE AND YOU ARE A.W.O.L.! I did NOT give you permission to leave!! Why did you leave me? Well, you and I both know how ludicris that is. The appropriate amount of guilt set in after that and I forgave you for leaving (it wasn’t your fault) and forgave myself for outburst blaming you.
Anyway, now that I got all that stuff off my chest, I want you to know that I count my blessings. You made me rich, Francesca, and I just want to say thank you for picking me. When you adopt a dog, the keepers say, don’t pick out a dog, let them pick you, that’s your perfect match. When I got you all those years ago, I had been to the kennel several times and nobody was picking me. And even though it was a squeeker and some could say debatable, you were the only dog that walked toward me and that, to me, was picking me. While all the other dogs ran by me as though I wasn’t there, when it was your turn to come out, you just stood there for the longest time, still as a statue not moving an inch, but with gentle coaxing (and believe me it took a lot of it) you took a couple of steps towards me then stopped. Ok, admittedly you were still several feet away, but for me that was slam dunk!! I said to myself, “She chose me, we’re in!” Later when I realized just how timid you really were and realized that for a painfully shy dog, taking two steps toward a stranger WAS your way of rushing into my arms! Thank you Girl for taking a chance on me. It was the right choice, wouldn’t you agree?
Â It took you quite a while to trust me enough to have eye contact with me or even wag your tail. At least a couple of years. But I was determined to give you your space and to wait it out. I had no idea what other greyhound parents were talking about when they spoke of their dog’s “soulful eyes”. But eventually you began to trust me and you opened up, and with each passing year you grew in confidence and even became more and more puppy-like, all the way to the end. Maybe you didn’t get to be a puppy when you were a puppy. But trust can reveal alot of things, can’t it? I think it was “delayed treat-time” when you finally decided to give me eye contact. At 8:00 p.m. I would give you one slice of New Balance, (you thought it was treat but it was really dog food, ha! fooled you), piece by piece. But by 8:10 if I hadn’t gotten up to get you your treat you would come and stand right in front of me and lock your eyes on me. I knew what you were doing but pretended not to notice.
When I turned my head, you would turn yours. You mirrored my every movement until at last I would accidentally look into your eyes and THENNNNN you knew you had me because your tail would wag, and that was your way of saying, “Gotcha Mom, ha ha”. And I could not deny you any further. What a scamp! Oh Girl that little nugget of communication was so much fun, wasn’t it. And by the way, I noticed your internal clock was amazingly spot-on. You knew exactly when it was meal time on weekdays from meal time on weekends (which was earlier), you knew when it was treat time and when it was walk time. Truth is, I didn’t even need a clock of my own because you always seemed to know what time stuff was suppose to happen and you kept me on my toes. What a smart girl. I loved it when you would bang your head on my thigh as a way of saying, “Mom, remember, I picked you. I want to be near you. so how’s about a good scratch behind my ears” Or the times I would be at the computer and you decided you were patient long enough and you would put yo
ur wet nose up under my wrist, lifting it from the keyboard as if to say “Hellllllooooo, is anybody home? Mom, I’ve been waiting for you to notice me. Check out my soulful eyes. Look how cute I am today. Can we go play?” Sometimes you were more serious and got lost in forehead massages and deep ear rubs.
Since you’ve been gone I’ve noticed so many things. Presents and treasures you gave me on a daily basis. We all know that angels are God’s ministering spirits to us humans. I’ve decided, therefore, that Dogs must be angels in disguise (greyhounds with an extra measure). In their purest form (untouched by human violence) dogs are ministering spirits, of the very nature of God himself. Like God, dogs will never leave you or forsake . By the way, have you noticed that God spelled backwards is Dog?. They are always there for you. I’ve observed in my life and in the lives of other humans and K9 relationships the following things:
Dogs are not predudice. They don’t care what color they are or what color their people are. They don’t care what religion humans choose, or if they are democrats or republican. They don’t care if you are a law abider or a law breaker. They are not particular if people are handsome or homely, rich or poor, tall or short, skinny or fat. They do not care if you are smart or dumb. Athletic or infirmed. They don’t care if you smell good or smell bad, in fact they seem to rather enjoy you more if you smell bad… (“Good morning, Morning breath, let me take you in, ahhhhhh”). They love you whether you are kind or abusive, attentive or neglectful. They’re forgiving and don’t hold grudges. They delight at the sound of their Master’s voice. Who else does that??
Girl, I’ve noticed that even though you aren’t here, my habits concerning you, are. My auto-pilot kicks in anyway. For a few seconds I forget that these things aren’t necessary any more. Like for instance, before I climb into bed at night, I automatically adjust my bedroom door open 12 inches so there’s just enough room for you to come in when you are done with your evening nap next to the t.v. Your blanket is ready for when I wake up in the night to cover you in case there’s a chill in the air. In the morning before leaving for work I consider opening the curtains, if its not going to radiate too much heat on you, during the day while I’m away. And if so, I’ll leave them shut but turn a light on for you so its not too dark. I am mindful that your dog door is unobstructed and you can go out if you want. The other mornng I caught myself turning the t.v. on so you wouldn’t feel so alone while I was gone at work. I forget that I don’t have to concern myself with these things now. But I want you to know that you were never a burdon and it was a pleasure and a privilege to see to your comfort. You gave me my motherhood back. You gave me a way to give of myself, and just so you know, I am mindful that you gave me more than I gave you. Thank you for gracing me with your presence. What a treasure it was.
I have to tell you what a joy it was those few times when I had to leave you, to come home after being gone for a few days to find that not only had you not forgotten me, but the way you displayed your joy at my arrival was so awesome! I had taught you not to jump on people so instead, you jumped high in place, very politely upon my return. And only after my silent invitation would you instinctively know it was not only ok but welcomed, for your paws to land gently on my shoulders with your special grand Hello! You would whine with doggie joy looking deep into my eyes and taking in my breath. I marveled at that, Girl, such worship. You really knew how to make a person feel good. On a day-to-day basis, upon my arrival, this was never a temptation for you. Only after I had been gone some days would you jump like this. You made me feel like the cat’s meow. Or better put: the dog’s bow-wow. I can only describe such exhilaration, similar to what I think awaits us on the other side of Heaven’s door. Everyone will be there. It will be so exciting! The Ultimate Homecoming. See you then Francesca. Thank you for the glimpse, my Sweet Girl.