Grief

We got Mocha when she was between 6-8 weeks old.  She was born on February 9, and our neighbours at the time got her from a breeder.  They also had a toddler and found it challenging to have both.  I don’t blame them; it absolutely was difficult.

At the time, we had another dog, Sammy.  He was two when we got him the year before.  He and Mocha got along so great that we knew we could keep her.  She and I connected immediately.  We let her sleep on our bed, and she would snuggle above my head at night.  We were terrible at training, and she constantly peed in the house; eventually, though, we were able to teach her to go outside.  But, even to the end, if we left her at home alone, she would pee or defecate in the basement to tell us she was angry.  When I would leave her at home with everyone else, then upon my return she would promptly tell me she was upset I went without her.  She would make a series of growling remarks at me, and I knew I was in trouble.  Yet, we were on the couch together a minute later, hanging out.

Her hair was soft and flowed like silk, and her eyes were welcoming and full of appreciation.  We did almost everything together.  We spent virtually every waking moment together.  She was there when I woke up and went to bed at night.  We would cuddle on the couch and in bed.  I wrapped my arms around her as often as possible.  I loved her so passionately, and I know she loved me.

She and I trained for four half marathons together, and before her back started to go out, my wife would walk with her in the mornings.  She was so loyal and obedient that we rarely needed a leash.  She would just follow along, at her own pace sometimes.  We could have her off-leash when we went camping, and she would stay close to us; she didn’t like adventuring unless I was going.  Sometimes she would go with my wife, but she usually stayed close, or she would race from one of us to the other, just because she needed us to be close.  She had terrible separation anxiety, which we never learned to fix.  I always told myself I’d help her get over it, and in the last few weeks, I was trying to help her enjoy her kennel again by putting treats in there.  She’d go in and grab them, then bolt out as fast as she could because she knew what could happen if she stayed.

She got to see the birth of our children, move into a new house, go camping in many places, lots of road trips, and was loved so much.  Through it all, she was a loyal dog that just wanted to be pet and loved.  It makes one a little jealous sometimes to have such an easy life where someone feeds, cares for you, helps you get exercise, and makes sure you’re healthy.

But this last semester felt like it had been in retrograde since it started.  In January, my wife and son contracted COVID.  Our youngest daughter was not fully vaccinated and needed to stay home from school until there was no longer a concern about exposure.  The entire month of January had us working together on her homework assignments.  She finally went back to school in February, and I was able to get some schoolwork done.  The months started to get busier with sports, Scouting, and personal appointments.

From there, the schoolwork started to slide.  Mocha, my best friend, injured her back and needed daily care.  The care didn’t take long, and she began to feel better for a little while.  Then in April, it got worse.  She had it x-rayed, and we found out it was mostly tissue, but then we got the news that she had developed cancer.  We all talked about our options, how we proceed, what we should do, how much time she had, and can we cure it? With some pain treatment, we were able to get her mostly back to normal.  But that was the limit of treatment, and surgery was not an option this time.  She was palliative.  We were devastated.  We all cried, held each other, and talked about our next steps.  We vowed that her last day would be the greatest day ever! We would pull the kids out from school, get some hamburgers, and steak, and keep each other company until it was time.

Then at 3:31 pm on April 28, 2022, she took her last breath.

Grief is a potent emotion.  I am having a difficult time processing it.  Almost everything I touch or see reminds me of her.  Everywhere I go in my house reminds me of our time together.  I am fortunate to have had 15 great years with her.  We spent every day we could at home together, and when we could, we went out together.  We would walk or drive to the school to pick up the kids.  And if I went out alone, she was beyond excited to see me when I got home.  She would often voice her displeasure that I didn’t take her with me or tell me how glad she was that I got home safely.  We spent so much time together that it was difficult for me to remember a time when she wasn’t there.

When it was time for her to pass, I felt this wave of sadness, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.  She was surrounded by everyone in our family who loved her.  We cried.  I might have cried the hardest.  We grieved together and told her how much we loved her.  We cried, touched her, said our goodbyes, and reminded her how much we love her.  In the end, we’re sure she loved us too.

Then we just left her.

We got in the car and drove away.

We left my best friend’s body behind.

As much as I am uncertain about a higher power, or a deity that looks over us, I hope that if she has a soul and spirit, that it went somewhere peaceful.  I have struggled with the idea of a God, one almighty force in the universe that controls and creates everything.  But, on the other hand, something brought us together.  A power beyond explanation set our paths to link.  From the moment I met her, I knew it was true love.  I knew because I’d already experienced it before, and I would experience it multiple times until now, yet I’m sure I’ll experience it more until my time is done.  If there isn’t a higher power, a God, a destiny, or some grand plan, then I’m not sure how to explain our friendship.  It is a force that I cannot explain in words.

My house feels empty, even though my family is home.  A piece of my soul is missing.  My heart is aching, and my mind cannot focus on the tasks I need to accomplish.

I have a massive hole in my life, and it’s one I’m not sure how to fill yet.  While everyone here can sleep, for the first few days, I found it difficult.  I feel lost and alone though family and friends surround me.  I sure didn’t think that day would end like it did, and how I would get up and experience not having her in the bed with me.

I’m supposed to move forward, but I feel stuck.  Part of me wanted alcohol to take away the pain, and the other wanted to feel numb.  Yet, another part felt guilty for wanting to push her through and just give her meds for a while longer.  I told my wife that it would never be a good time to let her go, and I couldn’t watch her suffer.  I wanted to put her down because I thought it was the best thing for her.  We talked to our kids about what was best for Mocha, and then we talked about what was best for us.  As the vet injected the liquids, Mocha was at peace with her family.

We all got to pet her, hug her, and say goodbye.  But what makes this difficult is knowing that we can’t have another pet like her.  She was there the day our children came home from the hospital.  She smelled them, protected them, and helped raise them.  She helped teach our kids what it was to be a good pup and how to behave in the pack.  She loved us all, and as they got older, she found that they were helpful and could help her get what she wanted.

If we left the kids home as they got older, we would tell them that she would be sad, and they will have to help her see that she’s not alone.  As long as someone was home, she was happy because she knew she wasn’t being left by herself.  It wasn’t as much of a concern when Sammy was still around, but she became the princess of the house after Sammy passed.  She knew we were wrapped around her paws.  In the last few months, we started to give her more treats.  I would feed her meat from the cutting board, get her a cup of whipped cream from Starbucks or a plain cheeseburger, and share my fries from McD’s.  I knew it was getting close to the end.  We’d been talking about it for a couple of years.  I wasn’t ready yet, my wife wasn’t ready yet, and I didn’t know if our kids would ever be prepared.  There was never going to be a good time.  We just had to rip the bandage off and hope for the best… It turns out the best is still a struggle—more for some than others.

I lost my best friend.  She was 15, and we loved her more than anything ever! I would joke with my kids that she was the favourite child.  I would also tell them that I love them all more than the world.  If this is what it’s like to lose your best friend, I hope that I am fortunate enough never to experience the loss of a child.  I know that I might have to lose my other best friend, my wife, one day.  And I will be just as devastated because the love I feel for her is my whole heart.  I can’t give any more love than that.  I’ve given more than I ever thought I would be capable of giving, and I always will.

I love you, Mocha, wherever you are.

I love you, Sammy, wherever you are.

I miss them dearly, and I know I’ll be able to move forward, but for now, I’m grieving—a lot.

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