For those of you dog lovers out there who are familiar with the agony of losing your best friend know all too well how paralyzing and difficult the grieving process can be like. When I lost my beloved German Shepherd to cancer almost 2 months ago, I literally thought I was going crazy.
I did everything I could to keep myself busy in an attempt to stave off the tears, whether it was detailing my kitchen and bathroom, painting my dining room, working on my truck or in my particular case all of the above. All the simple things that I enjoyed most felt like a chore without Harley by my side. I barely ate, yet continued to push my running regimen beyond the limits I set earlier this year, because I knew that I had to continue on with my routine, simply out of fear of what would happen to me if I didn’t.
Harley was my first dog, and she was also the first major loss I experienced in my life. She taught me so many virtues that I thought I was immune to during our time together and she continues to do so from up above. My inexperience with losing such an important piece of my life carried over to the question of: When is the right time to think about welcoming in a new dog? The few people I let console me, who were more seasoned dog lovers themselves gave me the same 2 pieces of advice. 1) It’s one of the oldest cliché’s in the book, but it will get easier over time. 2) Think about getting a new dog.
I don’t know whether it was the desperate need to take care of something, or the timing of a friend of a friend’s text message about someone giving away 2 German Shepherd puppies while I was watching “I Am Legend” which also stars a German Shepherd that led me to visit a complete strangers house one Sunday afternoon.
I barely knew how to get there, I had no idea what to expect when I got there and came home with a 4-month-old puppy, which I had no idea how to take care of. I found Harley when she was already 3 or 4 years old, so the things I had to learn with a dog that was fully grown and house broken was a far cry from taking care of a 4-month-old puppy for the first time. After the first night I actually dialed the number of the home I got her from, in hopes of begging them to take her back. I went as far as contemplating paying for her food and a much needed vet trip as a way to convince them to let me bring her back, but I didn’t have the heart to hit the SEND button on my phone.
I took this little puppy away from her sister, and away from some deplorable living conditions with the promise of a better life, and a promise like that is something that needs to be carried out.
As the days passed and the more advice I got, the more comfortable we became with each other. I quickly learned how to “puppy proof” (if there is such a thing) my apartment and read up online on how to train a puppy. I never had a dog before, until I found Harley and that turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. I can only hope that my never having a puppy, until finding Stevie can lead to similar experiences. It’s impossible not to compare the two no matter how unfair it is to do so. Having another dog hasn’t stopped the pain or the tears for those are symptoms that can only be treated not cured.
I have to admit, it truly is a treat to see Stevie quite literally growing up before my very eyes and knowing her history and providence in a way that I didn't know with Harley. I swear there are days when I leave in the morning, I come home to a dog that is bigger than she was when I left. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s grown, just in the time it took for me to finish this blog post.
She does so many of the same things Harley used to do. She has a tendency to lay down in all the same spots and picks up pretty quickly in spite of her boundless puppy energy. I don’t know if it’s just a German Shepherd thing, or maybe Harley is somehow helping her to help me. The comparisons between the two of them will never go away, I can only hope to accept and celebrate them over time.
All I know is, in order to make this work, I have to open my heart and let her in.
At The Bend
-W.S. Merwin U.S. Poet Laurete, written about his departed dogs, his beloved Chows.
I look for you my curl of sleep
my breathing wave on the night shore
my star in the fog of morning
I think you can always find me
I call to you under my breath
I whisper to you through the hours
all your names my ear of shadow
I think you can always hear me
I wait for you my promised day
my time again my homecoming
my being where you wait for me
I think always of you waiting