The numbing sensation of my body reverberating down the gravel path became numb. The sun was dancing between the trees, somewhere between setting quickly and a dramatic closing act of a beautiful day in Texas Hill Country. The 4-wheeler uncomfortably bounced down the drive and the parents and I took a sip from our cold beers. A balmy breeze kissed my face and fireflies started to light the underbelly of the trees and brush surrounding the property. My parents vacation house is just outside of Leakey, Texas and is one of three houses within a new development called “The Ridge” which consists of 42 empty lots on nearly 300 acres. 300 acres of wild brush, cactus and trees with a few gravel roads connecting it all. As the burnt orange sky transformed into a deep red hue, jackrabbits raced across the path and deer began to appear slowly in the distance. The soft murmuring of the 4-wheeler was muted out by the natural beauty. We were racing around the property, eager to take it all in, but for me time stood still. Time has stood still for the past 41 days.
My therapist says that acute grief can last 1-3 months. It wasn’t until the past 1-3 days that I have actually felt like writing down what has been happening with my heart lately. It has been exactly 41 days since William, my 11 year 6 month old English Bulldog unexpectedly died. Go ahead, please stop reading this right now. If you understand what it means to lose a pet, seriously, I encourage you to not read this.
I used to think that people were absolutely insane to write about their pets passing. The movie, “Marley and Me?” – forget about it. I found the book to be insane and the film to be completely asinine. Why would anyone want to write about their heart ache to only make other people feel the same sadness? Why would you want to bring others down? But now that I am actually experiencing this type of loss firsthand, I understand why they did it.
For me, life events do not feel like actual events until I have documented them somehow. I have always, ever since I can remember, kept a journal. I have always written things down. And while I have been avoiding putting pen to paper for so many various reasons, I think that now, as I type on my cell phone at 11pm on a random Saturday night … now is the time. It doesn’t feel real until I write it. It doesn’t feel as though I am doing William any honor whatsoever by only sharing about his passing. I must, for the respect of my deep love for this animal, this person, this beautiful creature that entered my life a mere 11.5 years ago – I must write about his legacy.
For eleven and a half years we were the best of friends – we still are. The days were long, the years were short. We moved from LA to Chicago to Texas to Chicago and back to LA. He went everywhere with me. But the day that William died, time quite literally stood still. The air in my life was vacuumed out along with his existence. Where did he go? The hallways of my home were empty with the lack of sounds from his heavy white paws scraping against the hard wood floor. Why did this happen? The weight of his head laying on my foot was lifted as I work at my desk every day. My foot feels foreign without his head on it. I was having an ordinary day doing ordinary work and he was having ordinary tests run, tests that could have saved his life yet had the opposite effect. Going back to the day of his death in my mind feels like knocking on the doors of hell. I did get to say goodbye. He was gone, but his warm body was in my arms. I kissed his forehead, begging “Please William, just breathe, can you breathe for me?” And smelling his sweet face. I inhaled him as deeply as I could, knowing that it would be the last time I would smell my sweet baby. I never truly savored William’s smell until that very moment. I cannot go into much more detail about that day. It is simply something that I am not strong enough to do unless I have the unconditional love and support of William, but he is not here. So here I am, stuck, stuck in this distorted and grim sense of reality that offers very brief moments of normalcy and balance. Yet in my reality nothing is balanced. How can you live a life for over 11 years of having a creature love you so unconditionally, 100% every day, every night, every victory, every failure and every life corner to then have that thing disappear? No matter what life threw at me at any time William was there. He looked up to me and loved me in a complete way that no one can nor will ever be able to replicate. William loved me completely, without question or expectation of anything in return. How am I to continue?
I have always believed in my heart of hearts that animals were assigned to us by God to serve a purpose. It is with the saddest heart and heaviest of tears that I question that William felt as though I did not need him anymore…When, in fact, I go to bed each and every night crying in desperate need of him. Oh how it is life’s greatest question – why do things have to die? Why do people die? Why do animals die?
Every day that I wake up, the morning dampness slowly lifts along with my heavy eyes and there is a brief moment between sleep and reality that I believe he is still alive. It is the sweetest moment of my day until reality crushes my dreams and sets forth a spiraling truth of the deepest grief I have ever known. Eyes open, the day is here whether or not I want it to be.
I hate today.
I hate every day since August 11th, 2016.
When will a good day arrive?
When will I feel normal again?
When will I write “will i” without thinking about how that spells out half of his name?
Jacey. He is a dog.
I do not honestly know that I can count how many dogs I have lost. Doogie died of a heart aneurism. Sam died of a snake bite. Harley got hit by a car. Kramer got hit by a car. Libby died of old age. Minnie Me died of old age. Marley died of heart failure. Chloe died of an air borne illness and old age. Over the span of my life we have had dozens of dogs, dozens of cats, multiple pigs, ducks, rabbits and other types of wild life. Yes, it was always sad and hard when they died but nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for this type of loss.
But he wasn’t just a dog. He was my best friend. He was the little champion that pushed through the door to find me on the day I went to find him. He was the smell of home. He was the heavy piece of comfort against the small of my back each and every night I went to bed. He was the constant low snoring murmur that eased me to sleep. He was the kiss on my foot that told me it was time to quit working for the day and live in the moment. That is what William did, he brought me into the moments. So many moments we shared dancing in the mornings, playing over toys… Me getting down on all fours pretending to be a dog, just like him. He was stubborn and sweet. He was tough but loving. He was my mother, he was my Dad, he was my brother and he was my everything. I cannot explain it, but William loved and supported and pushed me more than any person ever could. The last thing I ever wanted was to let him down. It was like we had our own language, our own secret. Him sitting under my feet while I played the piano and me watching proudly while he drank water. Why was I proud when he drank water? I have no idea. I was proud of William every day that he lived.
I don’t know who will ever read this, and I don’t really care. I am really just writing it for William. I am writing it to feel connected to him in some extraordinary way. And to anyone who gets it, or relates to it, or feels something toward something the way I feel toward this extraordinary creature … Well, I can only say one thing: We are the lucky ones.