When a dog dies, the physical space a dog filled while living–the bed by the fireplace, the worn circle of carpet under your desk, the harness on the hook by the door–becomes an echo.
When a dog dies, some people say, “You’ll get another,” or “He was a good dog.” Other people, my people, send love and lift you up, but say little because there are no words. At least, not any that make sense.
When a dog dies, the world moves on from the loss that cracked you open and split your heart because, yes, your dog was a good dog, and yes, you’ll get another someday, but not this dog. This dog is gone, but he fills so much space with his echo.
When a dog dies–no, when your dog dies–the world contracts because there’s literally nothing that will ever recreate or replace that specific bond, that specific relationship. Of course you’ll love other dogs and develop wonderful, strong relationships with other dogs, but this dog is gone. This relationship, this friendship also dies when a dog dies.
Emmett died a year ago this past Saturday.
Emmett was my light. He changed my life.
I have the tactile memory of my hand in his fur: His back was short and wiry, oily. His neck was thick and fuzzy below his ears. The fur on his forehead was soft and silky, especially along the blond patch on his forehead.
I have the muscle memory of my right arm holding his leash: He walked so nicely alongside me until there was a possibility of food or being petted by a stranger, then he lurched forward in joy.
I have the emotional memory of the many hours we spent in various animal hospitals as he waged two battles against cancer and numerous battles against non-food-items that he shouldn’t have consumed.
I have the pride and humor and love and tenaciousness he brought to everything he did, from his therapy dog work to traveling the country to playing games with his brothers and sister to napping with abandon.
I have all that and so much more, plus gobs of pictures and videos that I can’t look at yet without that aching echo.
But what I don’t have is him.
When a dog dies, it changes everything: the landscape, the color.
When a dog dies–no, when your dog dies–that echo simply becomes a part of you.