My relief is giving way to anxiety and the inability to concentrate.
On the sixth day after I put my beloved Camilla to sleep after a long illness, I wake up refreshed, but that feeling soon gives way to dread. Thoughts of Cami keep intruding. Why wasn’t I able to save her? What did I do wrong? Could I have done something different?
I still have Isabella, my German Shepherd/Lab, but that doesn’t comfort me. I want Camilla. I want to pet her and feel her fur beneath my fingers. I want to tell her how much I love her. I want her back home.
I feel lost without her because I spent so long taking care of her. It’s really hard to refocus my attention. I feel a big hole in my heart and my life.
It’s Day 7 and I don’t want to vacuum. I don’t want to lose traces of Camilla, traces that are becoming fewer and fewer. I feel like if I can just leave one or two things the same, I can remain close to her.
My parents visited today. It was so kind of them to come and cheer me up. It was good for me to have some company. And Isabella was overjoyed to see them.
My father was the most affectionate I’ve ever seen him with her. It reminds me of how other people understand my loss because they’ve been through it, too, at one time or another, or one time after another. They might not say much, but they understand.
At 3pm a week ago, I was in the vet’s office waiting for the injection which would end her suffering and take her away from me. Afterward, they gave me a plaster impression of her front right paw. At 3pm today I went up to her room – the one she adopted because it was quiet and gave her space to think her doggy thoughts – and sat on the couch, my fingers resting in the plaster’s indentations. I don’t remember what I was thinking, only that I was in the moment. Isabella came up and laid down near me. Cami and I were together, in spirit, for a long time as I told her how much I love her.
Now it has been over a week since I’ve seen Camilla. It feels like I’ve reached a milestone, and she feels that much further away. My heart feels like there’s a small hand clutching it, squeezing, at those times when my mind’s eye sees a close-up of her eyes, her ears, or the side of her face. When I start to feel her fur like I’ve absent-mindedly ruffled it during a conversation. I don’t like this feeling. Time is stretching out and scaring me.
Day 8. I leave the house today for a little bit of time alone. I go to an art show in a nearby town. I want to buy a pair of earrings for my upcoming birthday – pearl, in a baroque, teardrop shape. I have seen them in my friend’s shop and decide to go back and buy them. They are luminescent and purely white, just like Camilla’s beautiful coat. I’ll wear them as a token of passing time, and as a reminder of her. How appropriate that I am so drawn to that teardrop shape.
On the way home, I stop by the ASCPCA and drop off a bag of donations: Cami’s halter, and a few towels I don’t seem to need anymore. As I drive up to the front door, I start to cry. I realize that I’ll never walk her again. I hold the halter to my lips and kiss it and then lay it down with my blessing. Some other dog can use it. It’s important to be practical and not to hoard items I don’t need anymore.
After two hours, I had missed Isabella. It’s hard for me to be apart from her now for even a little while. I come home and explain to her that I needed a little “mommy time” alone.
Cami’s memory feels like a dream which is receding. I can’t imagine the warmth of her body as readily. I’m forgetting the details of the face I thought I had memorized. Soon I’ll have to refer to photos to refresh my memory.
Tomorrow it’s back to work. I’m dreading the transition, but it’s time. I don’t want to indulge my grief, just experience it. I’ll take it easy tomorrow.
I feel her absence rather than her presence. She was a magnificent dog. She charmed everyone who met her. She had one blue eye and one brown eye and thick white fur flecked with black dots. She had black ears and a little bit of brown on her face. She was a Beagle/Husky mix. You couldn’t really perceive her as a Beagle unless she stood next to another Beagle with traditional markings. Then you saw her compact, sturdy body. She was just a little stronger-looking than a Beagle. You know – husky– but still ultra-feminine. She was the sweetest being anyone could want to meet.
She didn’t bark much, but always protected me when we were out walking. Once she almost grabbed a man by the seat of his pants when he passed by too closely to me.
We three lived together for almost ten years. Two sisters and me, mommy. I’ve identified as a dog mom for many years. I even bought the girls a house with a yard and a fence, and a Prius to drive around in. I decorated the interior of my home to match their fur, from the paint to the carpet to drapes and accessories. And the funny thing is that I didn’t realize that I did that until about five years after the decorating was completed.
Maybe I’ll hold my breath and vacuum tonight. It can’t hurt to sweep up some of the hair she left behind. Maybe it won’t be so hard.
Anne Hamilton 2012