I’ve been going about my business, shuttling kids to and from sports events, walking the dogs, accommodating the holidays. I paused for a moment during Thanksgiving to remember that Floyd, our 14 year old Malamute had died at this time just last year. I buried my face in the closest thing I could get to his fur, a dog at the shelter. But it wasn’t the same.
So I walked Charlie today, my usual route, a little later than normal. I saw an old friend walking her dog toward me. She has an easy black lab and has always been supportive about Charlie’s leash reactivity. But as she got closer, and I said hi, I noticed that it wasn’t Luke she was walking. And Lynn was crying.
We rushed our dogs into the dog park and shared a long hug. Luke had died over the weekend. He was 9, not old for a lab, but had had a seizure, then complications, then an inoperable tumor was discovered.
As Lynn told me about the details and processed it all over again, I thought about Floyd and Kiko and all the dogs who have shared my life. It’s never easy to say good-bye.
We talked about other things and caught up on life. Then we leashed our dogs and walked.
Finally, it was time to get on with life and start our separate days. Before we could even hug and I could repeat my condolences, we were both in tears again. Lynn said that one day, she’ll be ready for another dog. She hasn’t been without a dog in 22 years. She said, “I’ll do it all over again, because I’m crazy.” But really, she’ll do it again, like we all will because it’s necessary and right. For us animal lovers, a walk downtown just isn’t right without a dog at our side. An empty lap is just empty without a cat to curl up in it.
The unexpected, gone-too-soon, furry friends who have left us before we’re ready, know that they make room, not for their replacement, but rather for the next one to complete us.