I think many of my friends would describe me as "tough as nails and hard to rattle". Today I'm sharing my vulnerable side.
In my last Coffee Talk post I hinted at some tragedy that my family experienced last year. I have sat down to write this post countless times and I've had to walk away. The tears are welling in my eyes and it's hard for me to see the screen.
But I need to do this. I need to share my pain. I'm a firm believer that it's part of the healing process.
And I know I am not alone in the sadness I am feeling.
In the years before we had our Two Sugar Bugs, Mr. Two Sugar Bugs and I had four legged children. The original girls ~ Hannah and Sahara.
Hannah came first; our sweet, gentle chocolate Labrador Retriever. We got her about one year into our marriage and she became an immediate part of our little family. Hannah didn't have a mean bone in her body. She loved everyone and I loved her with all my heart.💗
We lost Hannah a little over three years ago. She was 14 ½ years old. I was completely unprepared for the depth of loss I would experience. I sobbed for days. Mr. Two Sugar Bugs and I couldn't even look at each other without crying. I think it was two weeks before I started to be able to smile. This past week we've had so much snow and my sweet Hannah came rushing back to my memories. She loved the snow so much.
But when we lost Hannah, we still had Sahara at home. Sahara, our wee-bug-chug-a-lug, the naughty, but oh so lovable Whippet.
I never knew my heart would have the space to love another dog the way I loved Hannah, but that's the thing about love ~ my heart grew and I loved little Sahara just as much.💕
We are coming up on six months since we lost Sahara. She was weeks from her 12th birthday. Her death caught me absolutely off guard. It was so unexpected and I grieved in a very different way. Even with the passage of time I still find myself fragile. I walked into the garage the other day and saw her collar and leash and I burst into tears.
Sahara was a cancer survivor. She had a mast cell tumor on her tail when she was eight. The veterinarians we consulted with felt strongly that they could remove it completely if we amputated her tail. So the Wee-Bug became a tail-less, but cancer-free Whippet. She started having seizures in the last year. She'd had four that I knew of, but her body just couldn't take the fifth one.
I take some comfort in the fact that I was with her. That I was holding her in my arms and hopefully giving her the love and support she needed to move on. But it rattled me and I'm still very emotional about the topic.
What I've come to realize in our loss is how embroiled the original girls were in my life. How much they were part of my routine. For a combined 17 years they were my first and last priority for the day. Even after having Big E and then little e, my days started and ended making sure my original girls were taken care of.
I miss the pitter patter of their toe nails on the hard wood floors. I miss the way they ran to meet me at the door when I'd return home. I miss the way they would beg for their daily walk and I dearly miss how they would snuggle against me.
Our Wee-Bug was my constant companion for her time with us. She became even more attached to me after losing our Hannah. Mr. Two Sugar Bugs works nights at the hospital and Sahara was my company in the quiet evening hours once the Sugar Bugs went to bed. I miss her more than I can put into words.
At seven, Big E is old enough to understand the finality of death. Little e was three when Sahara died and she is still grappling with the idea that Sahara isn't coming back. Weekly, little e will comment, "I miss Sahara. I want her to come back." To which I respond, "I miss her too and I wish she could come back." The conversation then turns to her declaring we should get another dog.
I'm not ready. After losing Hannah, I honestly didn't know if I'd ever be able to get another dog. The pain was too deep and I couldn't imagine going through the loss again (although I knew it would come with Sahara too). That's the funny thing about pets ~ we bring them into our lives full well knowing we are going to lose them. I was talking with a patient about this yesterday and he said to me, "a new dog will never fill the missing space in your heart, but it will help to make that space a little smaller".
I grew up with lots of dogs (my parents still have four dogs!) and I know we won't be dog free forever. I also know the time commitment a new puppy takes and I know I couldn't devote the time necessary at the moment.
As the days continue to pass, I feel like I am slowly healing. I've cried a lot preparing this. Looking at all the pictures and having all the memories of the love and joy the two original girls brought to my life has been good and very hard.
The last six months have been tough. We lost our Wee-Bug, my sister lost her Layla and my parents lost their Paris (all three girls were litter mates). I've also had another friend lose her dog and another lose a cat. We're all grieving and I realized that we don't talk about the loss of our pets often enough.
Earlier this week I had a memory of the weeks following our loss of Hannah. Big E, who was four at the time, saw me crying and asked why. When I told her that I missed Hannah she looked at me and said, "but Mama, you hold her in your heart so she's still with you." (the words I told her over and over in the months of anticipation of our loss)
If you've stuck with me this far, thank you. Please give your fur babies an extra snuggle from me.
I believe my original girls are waiting for me at the rainbow bridge, until then I will continue to carry them in my heart. 💗
Oh Tasia, I am so sorry. They are such a part of our family, and I think anyone who loves their animals as much as you do understands the deep level of grief. It sounds like they both had wonderful lives, and I'm sure they're waiting for you. What kind of place would heaven be, if we weren't with our best friends? So much love to you!
Thank you so much Kirsten. I know you understand the bond we have with our fur children. Our lives are so much better off and so blessed by having them in it. xoxo
Janet Lettice Otto
My face was completely wet by the last sentence. I was lucky to have Whoopie my black lab who could easily handle 4 young boys for a sleep over. She was my soulmate and I have her tucked away in my right ventricle where she owns that whole space and always will. I too want a dog and now is not the time for me either. Maybe we can get a pup from the same litter! I am partial to a lab. I know Tasia, the longing to just reach out for that silky loving head that rests against our leg.
Thank you Janet. Whoopie sounds like such a sweetheart, I know she loved you dearly too! I'm partial to another lab too ~ the girls want another Whippet, but I'm guessing I'll win when the time comes.😉 Getting litter mates would be so fun! Maybe we'll both be ready in another year or two.
You're right that we should talk about this more often. It's hard to understand the depth of loss until you've experienced it. I'm so sorry and am sending you so much love. You know I get it. <3
Thank you so much Rebecca. I know that you are still grieving and feel the same pain and emptiness in your life. Sending love your way too!😘
Oh Tasia, crying tears of joy, hope and sadness. What a beautifully written post about the pain we experience with our unconditionally loving pets! I know I will be in this same space in the next days, months or years, whatever we have with our sweet Bella. Thank you for your vulnerability!
Thank you so much Kathleen. Our pets come into our lives and fill us with so much joy and love; they are truly a gift. I continue to pray for your sweet Bella and wish you many more years with her! xoxo
So beautifully written from the ❤️. Our babies are our babies whether human or fur or ??? Thanks for sharing, such a tough subject. Hope your ❤️ heals completely and you all get the perfect addition when the time is right! Xoxox~ much love!
Thank you so much Heidi. I'm continuing to heal everyday. I'm so thankful for all the love and support! xoxo
So great to share! It made my eyes well 😢. Nothings like the bond of a pet! I was blessed to always have a pet in my life. It’s hard when you lose them. Our last pet, our cat Scooby, had cancer and also had a seizure as we transported him to the hospital. I cried like a baby! I’m certain some lucky pet will find a way into your home and your heart again soon❤️
All the best,
Thank you so much Peggy. It gives me comfort to hear other people's stories; thank you for sharing about Scooby. The Sugar Bugs are asking more and more frequently about getting another dog so I know it will happen at some point.💗
Oh Tasia, sweet of you to share. When my first dog died, I was 40. I sobbed for ten days, hard enough and without warning, so that I would have to pull over on the freeway or just stop what I was doing at that moment. Or apologize to the person in front of me at the grocery line lol!! I was flabbergasted that I hadn’t cried like that for even my dearly beloved and influential grandmother’s death! The intensity and timing surprised me for ten days! I finally cried out in prayer for help and I received what I think must have been a vision of my dear dog just lying curled up next to me, nonchalantly looking at me when I called his name in surprise. He seemed so real until I reached out to touch him and then he vanished. But the weird thing is that the crying stopped immediately after that event. I still missed him, but I never cried again. It felt like a gift given to soothe my distress, which it accomplished.
Thank you for sharing your story too Jessica. It's incredible how deeply we are touched by the love and loss of our beloved pets.