July 23, 2002 - April 18, 2013
Said good bye to my very best friend today. My heart feels completely broken. I miss my girl so much. Breathing.
Looking back at her pictures I am reminded of how happy she was, how radiant, youthful, shiny - new. I look at the photos I took of her three weeks ago, and I see a tired, relaxed, calm, happy, and ready dog. No longer shiny and new, but worn and well-loved.
She saved me. She made me who I am today. With her by my side, I could navigate any situation - I could survive, because she needed me, I had to survive. While in her care, I transitioned from a teenager - 19, rather shiny and new myself, into a woman, a wife, a mother...a little worn, but with an endless amount of love in my life. I have that love because of Unique. She was my rock. My anchor. She held me together when all I wanted to do was fall apart. She fixed the broken parts and made me whole. The bond we shared - our love, our deep connection, gave me the confidence to shed fear, to love another person - to have children...to heal and be whole.
Unique came to me on sunny, crisp September day, the sky an intense deep blue. I nervously anticipated her arrival, I counted down the minutes until I she would be there - 4:15 PM, Tuesday, September 10, 2002. I knew, before I ever met her, before I saw a picture -- that she would change my life. She was sent via Alaska Airlines Goldstreak and we met in the parking lot at Alaska Airlines cargo. There were two kennels, each kennel had two puppies, one black and one yellow. I looked at both kennels and pointed to Unique and said “that’s my baby”. And it was. The first few nights she would wake up in the middle of the night crying, and I would scoop her up and wrap her in a soft green towel, swaddle her - like a newborn baby. She was my newborn baby. She was my first child. My daughter. My baby. My girl.
I fell, deeply, instantly - madly in love. The pain and sadness I felt with the passing of Crayonie nine months before, eased, and my love Unique was powerful, from the start. The loss of Crayonie was still fresh enough in my heart to remind me how much losing Unique would hurt someday, so I spent every moment of her life loving her deeply - with everything I had, knowing one day our time together would end, and I would feel crushed and lonely without her by my side. I cherished her. I celebrated our bond and I loved her with every ounce of my being.
A week or two after I brought her home I moved into a new place and was unpacking. Boxes were everywhere, I was unpacking clothes and the room was a mess. It had been quiet for a while and I looked around and couldn't find her. I panicked. I searched. Then came back to the bedroom and shuffled clothes around and there she was asleep in the middle of a pile of my clothes. Later that same day she used my hope chest as a teething toy and I couldn’t bear to punish her in any other tone than a soft “No”. I looked at the tiny teeth marks on the rich dark cedar chest, paused a moment - and smiled to myself, knowing someday she would die and I would be without her, but that I would always have those tiny teeth marks on my hope chest to remind me that she was here.
When I would get sick - say a stomach virus, she would get sick and throw up. She and I became physically intertwined. I could feel her - and know what she was thinking, even when I wasn’t right there with her. The bond we shared was like nothing I have ever experienced. We were two separate individuals, but it felt like we shared the same soul.
Yesterday, before I knew - I knew. Intuitively. Around 11 am, my stomach became knotted, nausea hit and I felt clausophobic. I couldn't breathe. I dry heaved on the way home. Rushed in the house, had Maya let the girls out and rushed to the bathroom where I dry heaved until I threw up bile. My head was throbbing. I was shaky. Then Parke came home and he helped me see what I couldn't see, and we eased into the pool of grief, one slow step at a time, hand in hand. I knew this would be hard. I knew I would feel sad, and lost, and confused. I didn’t know I would feel destroyed - distraught, overwhelmed with sadness and grief. Physically ill. How could I know? With her passing, I feel like part of my soul - my self has died, or is missing - or maybe it’s right here in my heart. Perhaps its like a puzzle piece that has been removed and turned around. I may need help sorting it out and figuring out where that piece goes. Unique wouldn’t want it any other way. She would want me to be whole, and happy.
I have a photo of her on my desktop - taken the day George learned to crawl, he crawled to “Sneeker", because he was so in love with her. The photo shows George crawling towards her, and she is just staring straight at me, her eyes completely reflective - white dots on a beautiful black lab. Piercing. I know that a dog who can look at their best friend like that, would never leave, I know she is with me. She has to be. Because I am not me, without her. So I am going to be thankful. Thankful for her presence in my life. Lucky for the extra time we shared - I feel like every time she went through another illness (food allergies, cancer, etc.) that death was knocking on the door of my heart. I feel like she prepared me, God prepared me, several times over for yesterday-for today and all the days that follow. I feel like I am experiencing this loss with such depth and pain, because I need to feel it. I need to wallow in it. I need to accept that it hurts and I am sad. I need to just feel the pain.
I just loved her so much. Words cannot describe the kind of love I had for her, and they cannot describe how I feel now that she is physically no longer with me. I just want to hold her. I want to curl up on my king sized bed with her in my arms, youthful - happy and carefree Unique, she would snort and shimmy in bed when I would snuggle her until the got comfortable. When I would sleep at night, in bed next to me - she had her own pillow. I would often wake up with her next to me, our spines aligned. In the darkest days of my life, she gave me a reason to get up - she demanded it. I actually remember her - rousing me up out of bed, forcing me to get up, to keep living. She needed me. She was the only one who could reach that part of my soul, she was exactly what I needed to heal. I feel forever in debt to her, for all the gifts she gave me. I feel in awe, amazed, and fortunate for the love - the bond, our life together.
I find myself working through the stages of grief. Acceptance - it happened, it was real, she is gone. Denial - I cannot fathom it. It isn’t real. What happened to the last 10 years of our lives. Where did it go? How can I slow time down? Anger - at myself, even though I loved her with everything I had and did my best to give her the best life I could, I wish I could have been more and done more, I wish I didn’t have allergies. So many nights she has needed me to hold her, because being old and blind, and being old and blind is hard and confusing and she needed me and I was here, but I couldn't give her all the comforts she needed because being so close made me so sick. It is one of my life’s greatest tragedies. I don’t know what that life lesson means. But I am upset about it, I have been upset about it for years. I may never understand. Maybe I do. Timing. Life. Curious. The Universe. God. Breathing. I work through bargaining, wishing - for one more day, then I think about her being in pain for another day, even if she were medicated, with me - crying, hysterical, it would have been so upsetting for her. I wish I could re-do yesterday, and cancel swimming lessons, lay on the blanket with her, alone - no kids, or Petzl, just us, feed her sliced apples, and icy cold water. Just us. One more time. I wish...I wish...but if she had been well enough to do that and enjoy that, and be there - in the way I wish she had been, she would still be here today. Yesterday she was not that dog. I watched her slip - scared, in pain, and hard to comfort.
I laid down next to her, held her neck and face cradled in my left arm, with my right wrapped around her underside, my hand opposite her heart. I sat there, wishing - wanting to scream - I had to make that call, and say it was time, I cannot believe I was able to do that. I don’t even know how I managed to nod or say something to initiate the process. When the medicine had been put halfway in, I wanted to scream, “STOP- DON’T KILL MY BABY”. I held it back, I tried not to sob - I wanted her last moments with me to be with me comforting her, staying strong, for her -- so that she would know it was okay. She was fine, then a brief moment where she just relaxed, not dead - alive, but pain free and okay and thankful, and appreciative, and loving, and then she was free. I have to keep going back to that moment in my mind, that pain free moment, where I swear I could hear her, feel her say “Thank you for helping me”, even though I know she didn’t know she would die. She trusted me. It is hard to feel like I didn’t betray her trust, but I also feel like I would have betrayed her trust if I had made her suffer so that I could have more time. If I had done that, she would have been okay - she would have allowed it, and stayed with me, she would never leave me, I had to help her cross over, because her loyalty and dedication wouldn’t let her leave. I had to help her, to do something, I did my best. I feel so sorry. So sorry she suffered a moment, that the cancer ravaged her body and made her life harder than it needed to be. I am sorry I didn’t know, but if I had, I wouldn’t have dealt any better - I would have days or weeks filled with this kind of pain, but she would have known that I knew, and it would have upset her. It was our time to say good bye,