Grief, a series (pt. 2): a letter to my babydog, mink
She was more than my dog. She was my baby.
I saved her life at least twice—three times, actually. She was an omen. She was a friend. She was a pillow and a comforter. She was a burst of life and light on a leash. Expert pigeon chaser. Mercurial instruction listener. Face licker. Underwear chewer. High jumper. Shoe chewer. Book chewer (avid reader). Mattress chewer. Pen chewer. Table leg chewer. Rug/carpet chewer. Couch chewer. Plant chewer. Limit tester. Full-time unconditional lover. Therapist. Love sigher. Cuddler (laps, legs, same pillow too close to my face), burrowing under covers. Made me late to work because I couldn’t stand to leave her by herself being this dang cute. Witching hour hallway runner hunter. Nosey neighbor. Bossypants. Always returns home. Answers to her name and ‘treat’ and ‘walk’ and ‘outside’. Always returns bounding with a smile and tongue hanging out the side of her face.
You taught me to trust you each time I let you off the leash and you came running back when you heard panic in my voice. You taught me patience with each carpet stain and each ruined thing I didn’t need in the first place. You taught me in-my-face-joy. Over and over and over again. I knew the lurch of fear and anxiety absorbing your pain anytime you were sick. I knew the guilt, the winding cycle of self-deprecation each time I couldn’t walk you because I was too tired or too depressed. The guilt of staying out late knowing you were waiting on me at home, alone. The relief of you loving me anyway. Of you being excited to see me anyway. The mutual joy of having a companion who never gives up on me. Never.
I am relieved and grateful revisiting the photos and videos of us. I loved you and you felt it. I loved you enough to see you in all of the small, tiny, precious things. The ants, the bees, the mice, the pigeons, every small thing took on your spirit (and continues to) because of my love for you. You have transformed my relationship to the world.
When I went in to the SPCA I was going to visit with dogs because I was more stuck and depressed and isolated than I had ever been. I had been trying everything to get out of it. When you came into the room and began munching on my hair, I couldn’t help but laugh. I knew you were mine. Despite the fact that five other people had come to adopt you while we played. Your love brought me back to life. Your energy reminded me of the joy and urgency of living. Of seeing things for the first time and accepting, even loving them, immediately. Your too-muchness made me build a relationship to my own too-muchness (that I’d kept pulled away and reserved only for solo sessions of target practice). I thought you were a burden because I was more concerned with how people would receive you. I also feared for you, a reckless puppy. At every turn you could have got off leash and into traffic or trapped under a fence or eat something you weren’t supposed to (like you had many times before). Like you did this time when you didn’t survive.
The first thing I felt when I got the call before 5am was—this is my fault. There’s nothing like getting a call at that hour—it makes me want to throw my phone into a fire just thinking about it. My belly turns just at the thought of a call before 5am. I was still optimistic, though. I asked my ancestors to keep you out of pain and to do what was best. I surrendered early on—praying for your health and recovery, admitting that I was so far away in New York and had so little control and wanted nothing more than to run from this situation—back in time, to our little home, to you prepping yourself for a comfortable spot for sleeping under me under the covers. Readjusting and warm.
When I got the call from the doctor they said you had staples or some kind of metal in your stomach. They said you’d gone into septic shock. ‘The prognosis was bad’. You most likely wouldn’t live. They recommended humane euthanasia.
I had been moving about the day shaking. But, I am an actress. I had my first-ever meeting with a literary agent and laughed on cue and made eye contact while my muscles made knots around themselves. While my stomach became a muscle that tied a knot around itself. I don’t even remember how the meeting went besides looking back and forth between the top rows of her shelves on either side of the room where she had standing copies of newly released books for authors she agented. She was a small woman and I remember only wondering if she’d stood in the chair I sat in to put the books up there. I came downstairs to receive the news.
You were alone there. I said I needed to see you before they euthanized you. A nurse said she could facetime me in. I was so afraid and so grateful. There was a wave made of white foam and a riptide. I saw your little batface—one eye blinking slower than the other. You didn’t seem to be in pain. They’d put you on pain meds by then. You were laying on your side, your head up and nodding. I said hi to you. Hi Mommy’s babygirl. And you weren’t responsive to my voice. What happened? I was outside in midtown. Sitting on the wooden ledge of a café, making a seat out of nothing because I couldn’t do anything standing. People walked by as I crooned into the front camera on my phone. Hi baby and hi baby and hi my little baby dog until I said my last words to you.
I thanked you for loving me and for letting me love you. I thanked you for saving my life and being the bright light that I didn’t know I needed until I knew. I tried to forget that there was at least one stranger I didn’t know, listening to me say my last words to you, holding a phone so I could see you before injecting you with a liquid that would extinguish you, immediately. I said that I looked forward to seeing and knowing you and loving you in another lifetime. That I was grateful that I got to know and love you this lifetime. That I was so sorry for what happened, it was a horrible accident, a horrible accident, a horrible accident.
The vet let me know that he was injecting the liquid. Your head dropped immediately. Neck went limp and you were gone. I saw the vet for the first time from a weird angle, he repeated that he was so so sorry before hanging up the facetime call.
I bawled on the side of the street. I cried with a knot in my throat all through the street. I called my grandma and she cried with me (you were the only dog I’ve ever seen my grandma hold and pet and love and buy Christmas presents for!). I told all my friends that I was planning to spend time with during my brief visit about you immediately—they prepared to hold me in my grief. They made me tea and rubbed my back and hugged me and sat with me and held my hands as I made calls and made arrangements—to retrieve your collar or put words on a commemorative urn. They went to dance classes with me and checked in while they were at work on breaks and ate food with me and took me to the beach with a bouquet of flowers to make my offering. They lead me in ceremony. They lead me to the rivers they knew so that I could talk to you from thousands of miles away and at least one dimensional plane apart. They gave me stuffed animals to keep with me to talk to in your absence and reminded me of grief as a cycle and love as a part of the same cycle, and the act of honoring love by grieving. They texted me to remind me to eat food and drink water. They gave me sunglasses to wear on the train because I couldn’t ride a stop without hiccupping into a good cry remembering that you wouldn’t be home when I got back. They sent their love because they knew how big of a loss this was for me—because they loved you too.
You gave me the confidence to build strong community (you were the social one!). Because of it, I am held fully in my loss of you. Thank you for being my babydog. And for being so much more than my babydog. I hope you are enjoying life as a brilliant idea reincarnated over and over again and shared between loving people. I hope you are enjoying life as a lightening bolt or an electric current flying through as much space as you dare to inhabit. I know you’re wild and offleash like you should be. I’ll make sure to leave a few treats on my altar for you in case you ever have enough time to stop by for a moment to visit.