Grief, Loss and Furry Freedom
If you’ve read my book, heard me teach a class, read most of my posts, or even lived nearby, you know about Pup. She’s been a stalwart member of my household for nearly two decades.
Even when she’s not physically present, I bear (or wear) reminders. Well-meaning people are forever plucking long, multi-colored hairs from my sweaters, jackets, and scarves. My response? “I love Pup so much that I carry her DNA with me wherever I go.”
You may have noticed her furry face on the back cover of my book, FibroWHYalgia. She’s one of the topics I enjoy discussing most. I’ve taught classes on nutrition, cooking, essential oils, positive lifestyle management and more. I share topics that help others discover healing their own levels of healing from fibromyalgia and chronic illness. Yet, even in these seemingly unrelated classes, I’m often asked about Pup. People want to know what she eats, how we care for her, and how she cares for us.
I think the comfort and love we gain from our pets
is a unifying emotion shared by this caring community.
We all need to share our stories … and this is mine.
I lost Pup on January 12th of this brand new year.
As, I mentioned, I’m asking for your indulgence. I’d like to share a bit about my girl. I’ve read comforting obituaries for loved ones that shared information new to me. I’d like to use this forum to share information that may be new to you.
Early Dog Days
We believe Pup’s first year or so was spent at an unethical breeder. (We have a few clues). She was found running along a highway in a rural California area. She was tiny, malnourished, and had recently had pups at an early age. She was around two years old and about six pounds.
We were lucky she ended up with friends at a local Sheltie rescue center. There was a waiting list of those who wanted to adopt her (more on that in a minute), and gratefully, we were first in line.
The day we adopted her, I planned to include the whole family in her naming process. I had a list of super-cute names including Smidgen, Kirby, and Itsy. As she trotted around the backyard, my husband said, “She runs just like a little fox.” When he said it, she looked straight at him. He said, “Here Foxy!” and she came running.
She chose her own name, Foxy. But for most of the time, she was known simply as, Pup.
Prime of Life
Dogs are very aware that they have a job to do. Did you know that?
Some know they’re there to be pretty. Others live to entertain. Some want to comfort or protect. And still others want to pull their weight (literally) and more. Pup didn’t really care much about any of these. She wasn’t a cuddler and hated being brushed or groomed. All she cared about was being fast.
She ran at a lightning pace and loved acknowledgement of her speed and accuracy. When she chased a thrown toy, all you could see was a horizontal blur of fur. Nothing made her happier than chasing, catching, and returning a toy only to wait for it to be thrown again.
Well, almost nothing. Her real moments of bliss came from chasing bunnies in the backyard. She loved to chase and had absolutely no interest in catching the bunnies that visited our yard at dusk. It seemed like a mutual game (some bunnies may disagree). She played her part and they played theirs.
Sick as a Dog
Shortly after she came to us, her fur started to fall out. Not like shedding. More like balding. Her large patches of missing fur sent me to internet searches and books to see what could be wrong. We’d already tested for various diseases and it wasn’t a skin-deep problem.
Turns out she had autoimmune issues. I knew all about that.
Together, we traversed the path of food, environment, and stress as it relates to chronic illness. She made a miraculous recovery once we began making her food. She demonstrated to me (and to my medical influences at the time) that food really does matter.
I was knee-deep in my own healing journey and was battling the status quo. Doctors told me to my face that eating differently couldn’t help my fibromyalgia symptoms. It shocked me that an MD saw no correlation to nutrition, but a DVM did (thank you Dr. Jang!) When I asked my vet if changing Pup’s diet could help her to heal, he said that there was a lot of interest in the veterinary community in the subject of diet and autoimmune disease in dogs.
Gee. Perhaps MD’s should consult their veterinarians for nutrition advice?
Anyway, Pup and I healed together pacing ourselves and learning as we went. I’ve written a bit about this journey in the past. You may wish to read this popular article, Does Your Greatest Teacher Have Fur?
She naturally came along on all of our family trips. She enjoyed apple picking adventures in the fall and trips up or down the coast in the spring. She went trick or treating, chased our grands as they searched for Easter eggs, and weighed in on the decision of which tree to choose at Christmas.
I thought these years would never end.
Pup’s Career That Wasn’t
Have you ever seen dogs perform on agility courses? Shelties and Border Collies are particularly good at it. If you’re not sure what I mean, here’s a YouTube video featuring stills of Shelties running the course.
Shelties run in a specific weight class and often dominate that category. Because Pup was so unusually small, she would have been able to run the agility course in a smaller than typical weight category and compete against different small agile breeds. For this reason, there were agility trainers eager to adopt Pup.
But, she chose us.
The shelter operators felt that Pup wanted a home and family rather than the spotlight in the arena. Their loss was our gain.
Maturity Looked Good on Her
From 2006 to 2015 or so, Pup became my writing partner. She slept under my desk and served as inspiration and support for me as I typed away. She was my confidant, my collaborator, and my co-conspirator.
You may recall that she contributed a regular column in my newsletter called Pup’s Perspective. She wrote about health and healing from the canine point of view.
In her geriatric years, she became much more relaxed and satisfied with life. She never really enjoyed cuddling, but she tolerated it with grace. She was an amazing and enduring comfort to us. She knew exactly when we needed to be distracted from life. Her daily constitutionals benefited us all.
About four years ago, we discovered that her kidneys needed a little support. She needed a few medications and made adjustments to her food. By 2015 we were giving her subcutaneous IVs to keep her hydrated. She tolerated our attempts to keep her healthy with aplomb. Not that she liked it, mind you. She simply seemed to know that it was done for her benefit.
Pup’s Furry Freedom
Pup has been gone now for more than two weeks. Apparently I needed space to collect my thoughts enough to write this. Through this, I’ve gone through various phases of grief, loss, acceptance, and remembrance.
I think that’ll continue for quite some time.
There’s nothing quite as sad as the thundering silence that bowls you over when you walk into a newly dog-less home. It catches me off guard at times and her absence feels as tangible as a brick on my heart.
To process this (as I’ve done before), I know I need to shift my expectations. I expect her to remind me it’s mealtime. I expect to see her under my chair. I expect her to charge at the door when delivery drivers come. In fact, I answered the door just this week holding my foot to one side to keep her from scooting out. The UPS driver looked puzzled and asked if I had a dog. I replied, “Yes” and then quickly, “No.” He still looked puzzled as he walked away.
I think that’s probably how it’s going to be.
In time, I won’t try to hold her back as I answer the door. I may not think of her every time I come home. I may not drop her favorite foods into my grocery cart and then have to go and put them back.
Loss is pretty darned permanent.
I could draw parallels to the journey and how grief, loss, and acceptance play a role in the whole healing from chronic illness process.
But I won’t.
I’ll leave that for another day.
For now, I simply wanted to share a few things about my girl. This image is a lovely drawing of her done by an artistically gifted and dear friend. She gave this to me for my birthday a few months ago and I’m so grateful to have this beautiful remembrance. (You can learn more about her amazing Pet Portraits here.)
Thanks again for bearing with me today.
For being such a little smidgen, Pup’s personality was bigger than Broadway. I just wish that she could entertain us for a bit longer.
But, that’s my selfish desire. She’s happy where she is now. She’s free from pain. Free from physical limitations, and free to run at lightning speed.
Have you lost a beloved pet? Do you have tips or strategies to share with the Rebuilding Wellness community? Please share below!