Denial – I knew he was sick. But I didn’t think he was that sick. Sure, cataracts blinded him, but that didn’t mean death. In fact, I was working on an inspirational post to show how pets don’t let illness ruin them. Rascal ran up and down the stairs just like normal; he didn’t mope about because of his visual impairment. However, about three months ago, he’d started vomiting. It wasn’t a lot, but throwing up is a sign. The vet had switched him to a prescription dog food. He refused the dry. He loved the wet. Still, he threw up. By the time I’d taken him back for a wellness visit, he was six pounds and his skeletal structure poked through his apricot fur. Dr. B. guessed that it was lymphoma of the intestines. But I still didn’t think the vet would suggest euthanizing him.
Bargaining – I should’ve taken him to the vet sooner. I should’ve been a better pet owner and friend. I wished I could’ve done more for Rascal. I snapped out of these thoughts. I cared for Rascal close to twelve years and I wasn’t going to let the last three months dictate my dedication. None of us holds the fate of another being in our hands, no matter how intertwined we become.
Anger – No, I didn’t want a “replacement dog,” as my best friend suggested. No, I wasn’t going to get a fish tank, as the mail lady recommended. Fish and dogs are not remotely similar. No, I didn’t want to talk about it and re-live trauma over and over again. And no, I didn’t want to be cheered up. Unlike many, I’m comfortable being sad and angry because I know it won’t last forever. No emotion does.
Depression – I take that back. I’d never felt so much pain for so long in all my life. Uncontrollable sadness ruled me for a few days. My mother died 27 years prior. My father died less than a year ago. I’ve attended a barrage of funerals in between. But I never could’ve predicted the heartache associated with losing Rascal. I thought I would sit in the car and quietly weep. You know, poetic-like? I didn’t. I wailed. I made noises I didn’t know existed. The person who always has it together, who analyzes death as a part of life, who writes about attachment and detachment as natural occurrences could not stop crying. It continued throughout the day when I felt compelled to walk a deceased Raz that evening. It persisted the next morning when I opened the blinds and porch door for an absent Rascal to sit outside. I held myself together long enough to teach, and then when the last student left, tears streamed down my face. Surely, this would end. I just didn’t know when.
Acceptance – You never think about your own dog actually dying. I didn’t, anyway. The day he was euthanized, I washed all of his belongings and donated them to the Humane Society. I knew it was an important step in my grieving process. I thought about how grateful I was to be able to have a dog that fit our family. I’d chosen a Toy Poodle due to Dwight’s allergies. He was little and smart, just like the rest of us. He cuddled with Desi when she rested, and when Kesi allowed him to, he slept in his favorite place, a blanket next to her bed. He traveled many states because if I could bring Raz with me, then I did. I suppose that’s why there was an outpouring of love when I announced it on Facebook. If you know me, then you knew Rascal. I’m grateful that I experienced pet-owner love. People say pets are like family, but I disagree, if you welcome a pet into your home, then s/he probably is family. I know Rascal was.
RIP Rascal (April 15, 2004-March 23, 2016)