My life is no worse for the death of Dot, I think.
I’m not the one she greets at the door with kisses and excitement; she doesn’t snuggle me when I’m feeling blue. My name isn’t one that Dot recognizes when called out, and the sound of my car pulling into the drive means dinner, or treats, to her; probably not much else.
The times I’ve kissed her belly I’ve been bitten–once. She was so contrite after that, so humbled, but I never dared kiss her there again. I’ve learned through Dottie not to push my luck.
This Jenna’s loss, I say. This is Jenna’s rite of passage; the death of her first dog. It’s Jenna’s mourning; it’s her best friend who has died. It’s she who will miss the kissing, the snuggling, the unconditional love that only your dog gives to you. It’s her house that is silent today; empty. And it’s her routine–feeding the dog, walking the dog–that is bereft of the mundane tasks that our dogs think are so incredible and generous.
She’s been gone not even 48 hours, but it feels like a week. I walk from room to room; I cannot concentrate, I can’t feel happy, even with the anxious footsteps of my own three dogs following me from here to there; there to here. I see Dottie’s bed in my room, taking up valuable space, but I know I will not move it. Maybe ever.
When Jenna told me she was sorry for my loss, I thought to myself, “my loss?” This is not my loss. I have put down over half a dozen dogs in my adult life, yet my own child reminds me that this is in fact my loss. I’ve grown to love Miss Cranky Pants, as I affectionately called her when Jenna was not around. I will miss caring for Dottie. I’ll miss her old lady growl at the other dogs when they passed too close to her; the canine equivalent of “get offa my lawn!” I will so miss her delight at having a baby beside her bowl when she ate; her confounded insistence on taking the new squeaky babies out into the dirty grass, sometimes into the dirt.
She was the worst at hiding toys and treats. She was last to get a cookie or dinner, and she took her own damned time about eating it, leaving my dogs to writhe in anticipation that she would leave behind the last piece or two of kibble. She never did. I will miss her sleeping under the covers against my back on the early, cold mornings after Jenna dropped her off.
Dottie spent most weekdays with me for the past several years; she spent many nights here with all of us. I thought of her as a cousin to the Vatos, and then to Mouse. Though they never played together, they all accepted one another; and I was so glad that Dottie, in her later years, was able to appreciate the company of another dog while napping in the sun, or while guarding the house from the rude people who dared to cross our lawn.
For nearly 15 years Dottie has watched over my daughter as she’s grown from a teen to a young woman to an amazing, beautiful and kind person. A person that while in the greatest grief of her life, thought to console me for mine.
One of the few regrets I had in my life was returning a rescue dog that didn’t work out for me, but with whom Jenna had fallen in love. Bumper, a one-eyed Pug, slept in my hamper and peed in there too. She peed on my pillows. Jenna’s heart broke the day I returned Bumper, and I never forgot how shitty that felt inside. But I can let go of that now, because if we had kept Bumper, there wouldn’t have been a Dottie.
And Dottie was such an important part of our lives; all of us. She was one of the family dogs. She was loved deeply, and fiercely, and she will never, ever, be forgotten.
If there truly is a Dog Heaven (and really, who are we kidding? We know there is!) then I’m sure Dottie is there, trying desperately to find her way to People Heaven.
I’ll miss you Dots. I love you.