Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 8: Grieving for My Soulmate with Paws

By Cal Orey
Day eight. Today marks one week since my canine soulmate has been gone--to the other side.  I have been here, done the grieving game with many dogs and cats but it never gets easier. Here's how my hellish week went. Thinking of the heartbreaking film Still Alice but in dog...

Happy, healthy, balanced with two dogs

Day 1: No eating. No bathing. Crying, crying, crying. On Saturday the day after the event, I got out of bed, walked like a zombie to the dining room drawer; grabbed dozens of pictures from more than a decade...

Photos of me and my dog named Simon. I should scan all the images but my energy level is low but up and down on the grieving scale. One call to the Crisis Center surprised me. The counselor said I was no longer an 8--"in shock" but slid down the slippery slope to a 5 on a 1-10 scale of doing superb while dealing with loss. I am still dog is not.
The first night in bed I tossed and turned. I couldn't sleep. I called my understanding ex love of my life (who knows the real me and my real love for dogs and cats) and we talked and talked as he promised me I'd get through this challenge like the others. But then, the intense headaches like I got before the Loma Prieta earthquake and vivid nightmares followed. A telephone man/part-time cop who fixed my phone said I was suffering from PTSD as if I didn't know it while holding an icepack on my forehead when I answered the door to let him fix the phone filled with static (somewhat like putting the pieces together of diagnosing my dog's demise).

Day 2: Forced myself to eat a veggie sandwich. Drink water. Savor tea. More tears in the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom, and bathroom--everywhere my dog had been for 12 years...and now nowhere.  Gone. Another ring to the Center with people who have become my lifeline. Some listen. Some dish advice, others not so much.  
I work the psychic networks and read people. I get it. Strangers with woes can be angry, sad, rant and rave or even hang up on you. I now had become a caller with loss--unrequited love because my dog can no longer love me back.  Still in shock. Dementia? My brilliant Brittany's brain was fried.  Images of the mean-spirited infected dogs in I Am Legend come to mind. I am now the man played by actor Will Smith in the film who had to let his best friend go because his canine was attacked and morphed into an evil monster.
Oddly, my body felt like someone bandaged it from head to toe like a mummy. I felt so tight. Aches and pains paid me a visit. Stress, I wondered? I took my blood pressure (usually 117/72/58)--now 158/90. Fight or flight response also came to me as well as isolation. I didn't want to be around anyone with two legs. 
My sleep mate for more than a decade

Day 3: I go through the hours day and night that feel like eternity. Motions of feeding my cat Zen and dog Skye...Both sense change in the household. Minus one dog and being calm for one unbalanced alpha leader--me. Our home has been hit by an earthquake of sorts: The diagnosis of canine cognitive disorder is one shaker to process, not to ignore the death of my canine with mush for his brain. He did not know who we were. My once strong canine has been sliding back to puppyhood, bit by bit, like the big fish devoured in Hemingway's tale.  
Our bond is unbroken 

My healthy, strong boy
Hellish Days:  I see me running away or to hike somewhere, anywhere but here, like angry Cheryl, the character in the film Wild. I watch the movie (each night) and flip through the pages of my graduate school thesis novella "Blood Tie"...
Ironically, it's the same story. My mother died. I took her small brown wrapped box of cremated bones and hitched and hiked with my dog. We traveled from Northern California through the Mojave Desert. Mission: To deliver daughter to mother--my grandma. It is a story of loss and trying to find inner peace while I stumble through the stages of grief and acceptance.

Bliss to Purgatory: Images of the past days before I left to Canada in early October and after I returned haunted me. My cat Zen sensed Simon was no longer Simon. My once centered canine was hyper aggressive with food and my zen-like cat. He was staring at walls, getting stuck behind furniture, and ran 10 circles like a show dog in a ring when he had to do his business (but usually it was on my rugs), sleep cycle off for months--but we all thought it was just aging as I was awakened at 5 AM every day to let him outdoors. My dog had lost memory of day and night, most commands. He did not recognize my sibling at the vet who announced to me: "Canine Cognitive Disorder" as I looked at my paper with the words scribbled "Dementia?" and "Is Simon okay?" We were on the same page. The diagnosis was bad; prognosis worse.  The end was near.
No longer in denial. As a caring soulmate I got it. His body was atrophying, he had a difficult time climbing onto the bed (the stool I got did not help). The bones in his face protruded. My dog, my best friend was an aging 12 1/2-year-old canine who was tired. He was telling us telepathically the confusion and anxiety he felt was too much, too much to endure, hour after after. He was done. 

There was a better place. I knew this earlier in the day when he laid next to me. I knew because of our bond and communication without words. The truth was an epiphany that hit like a sharp jolt, an earthquake. Light shed on the reality now that the pieces of the puzzle completed the picture. My soulmate with paws' spirit was absent. A limp, lifeless body was all that was left for me to hold. We made the decision. It was time. It was time to let go. It was the humane and selfless thing to do. No indecision--it was the right to decision to say goodbye to my canine soulmate. And the painful departure followed as I knew it would one day but tried to tune out reality: dogs are not immortal.

One Week Later:  Eight days. I'm still alive. Simon's death did not kill me. I survived the crisis.  Yesterday I forced myself to swim in the morning. But at 4:00 PM it hit me. I forgot to bathe and brush my teeth. I go through the stuff we do in daily life but my heart and soul are in another place. I'm here physically but spiritually I feel an enormous hole. How I yearn for my soulmate with paws to touch me.  I gave my heart to a dog and despite the extreme pain of loss I have no regrets. 
During a photo shoot for Complete Woman 

Today, the last day of October it hits me. I lost my other Brittany, at six, two-and-a-half years ago to a neurological disorder--it was fall, once my favorite season. Here I sit and images of my dog Simon visit me like waves in a tsunami. As a puppy at eight weeks he was a joy to love. At six months my brother took him for walks in the snow. At two I walked with my boy in the autumn, off season at Tahoe. He'd leap over logs at a campground (no tourists, ours). At three he met his best friend forever--a Rat Terrier--they'd play in the snow and house of my neighbor. Hours and hours. His energy was boundless. 

Memories of a Canine Companion: Of course, there were the book signings he'd accompany me at, from Borders to Barnes and Noble as well as hotels. As a pup and adult--he was a gentleman. Simon was seismically sensitive and helped me sense oncoming earthquakes. So, I am a News Segment Guest on Coast to Coast AM and tagged an "intuitive"; plus this four-legger evacuated with me during the Angora Fire and other challenges in life. He was my constant. Not to forget he raised my Brittany Seth (whom thought he was a God)--and helped me grieve when we lost him; and did a repeat of surrogate alpha trainer with my "healing" Australian Shepherd pup. Enough of good and bad memories, my heart is heavy. Our bond is unbroken.
 A pup to love, a dog to cherish for 12 1/2 years

Zen is no longer hissing, walking on counter tops and hiding high up on the furniture. And the Aussie has adapted to the fact that his alpha leader (he allowed him to keep the position to the end) gets it. Simon is not coming back; his fur friend is gone. We are now moving forward to the next chapter. 

But I sense my feline, young pooch, sibling--all of us--will never forget the Brittany that was loving, intelligent, alert, balanced, good-natured for 12 years, and a strong force in the family.  A wooden plaque "A house is not a home without a Brittany" stays on the wall. Simon's spirit is still present. Our bond is eternal. We will remember Simon, my rock--my soulmate with paws.

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