My dog Willow has died

Willow was a good dog. We adopted her from the Humane Society in 2011 at the age of 4. I had been wanting a dog for years, but I was working ridiculous hours at the university and taking night classes. It wouldn’t be fair to have a dog stuck at home when I was on-campus for 10-12 hours a day.

She joined our family the day after I graduated with my BA.

Her name had been Tarheel, and it seemed to me like she hadn’t been well-socialized with other dogs. She was small for a Labrador Retriever, and I suspected she had been kept in a run because, when let loose in our backyard, she would just run back and forth in a straight line.

But she bonded with me immediately. She was my constant companion, rarely even tolerating being in a different room from me. I spent months working with her and other dogs, and she got better and better. She lived to love me and to make me happy, and I never felt like I quite deserved it.

She had two nicknames:

  1. Widdershins, because for the longest time she would spin in circles whenever excited for dinner, or excited about anything else, but would only spin counterclockwise. Willow Widdershins Stublefield.
  2. Triangle-Ears because her ears would perk up whenever she thought food or anything else interesting was available.

She didn’t mind the cats at all. Eventually, they came to tolerate her.

She was definitely my dog. She liked everyone, but I was the one she followed and obeyed. For the last 6 and a half years, I have been working from home and she has been my co-worker every day, on the sofa in my office right next to me. For 10 years, she has slept on the floor next to the bed, right beside me.

I was hers and she was mine. But she liked April too.

She generally pretended like our kids didn’t exist. If they were between me and her, she would go right through or over them if we weren’t careful.

She lived 13.5 years. On the way home from the vet, who diagnosed her with kidney disease, I checked online and learned that labs typically live 10-12 years. In dog years, I think that means she was 94.

I think we gave her a good life. I know she made my life better.

I cried so hard at the vet. I knew when we adopted her that this day would come. I’ve been prepared to mourn her since that first day. But it was still hard, so very hard, and I wept on the floor in the vet’s office while holding her.

I’m crying now.

I’m going to be expecting to see her come around a corner in our house for days, maybe weeks. I keep expecting to feel her nudge my hand or put a paw on my leg.

She was such a good dog.

I’ll miss you Willow. I love you. Thank you for being my friend.

Funeral Leave

Flossie EadesApril’s grandmother passed away over the weekend, so we are on our way to Fenton, Missouri (near St. Louis) for the visitation and funeral. We will be back tomorrow (Wednesday) evening.

I don’t really know April’s grandparents that well, and of the two sides, I know her mother’s less. Flossie was already afflicted by alzheimers when I met her, and though she was able to attend our wedding, she and I never conversed.

The general sense I have gotten from April’s family is that her passing is something of a blessing. She lived a long and happy life with lots of children and grandchildren, and the suffering caused by her disease is at an end. She is with Jesus now, and we would all agree that is a good thing.

As I thought about her and her husband last Sunday at church though, I began to choke up a bit. I can’t picture April’s grandfather in any way other than stoic–a hardened old man who doesn’t let anything bother him. I thought about seeing him at the funeral and what he would look like, how he would act, and I pictured him standing normally, accepting condolences, thanking people, but generally speaking he would be OK. He doesn’t seem like the sort who would break down in tears.

When I put myself in his place, however, it makes me weep. The thought of losing the woman with whom I spent my entire life, to whom I have been married for decades, and now being alone… it is terrifying. I met with someone after church to pray for him and for the rest of the family, because I simply cannot imagine stoicism in the face of such loneliness. It is one thing to have always been alone, but quite another to lose the one you love.

In addition, I prayed for the married men I know, that they would become strong husbands who can support their wives, and that they would be vulnerable and devout. I pray that God strengthen us so we can continually support our families better. So we can become holy like God is holy.

With every death, I think of Walter Slovotsky. I leave you with these valuable words:

When you say goodbye to a friend, assume that one of you is going to die before you ever get to see each other again. If you want to leave something unsaid, fine… but be prepared to leave it unsaid forever.

Severely Disturbed

OK, maybe not severely, but enough that it’s bugging me. April and I just watched a few episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (we’re trying to finish this season, which is due back to the library tomorrow, and we’d like it to be overdue as little as possible), and one of the main characters died. This was followed by the most intense two episodes of grieving and sorrow I have ever seen on television, and it brought two things to mind.

The first was that, though I am intimately familiar with those reactions, those feelings, those heartaches, there is no one I would feel that way for anymore… except April. I would not grieve like they were, like I did for Lynette, for anyone but my wife, and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. Part of me longs for that intense emotion in a somewhat macabre fashion, because any intense emotion is indicative of life to me, but I fear it as well. Because April is the one closest to me, and the only one, I have to really work hard to keep myself from worrying, obsessing even, about her safety and health. What would happen, if something were to happen to her? I’m not sure if I’d be completely and irrevocably broken, but it’s hard to tell.

The second thing it reminded me of was Lynette’s death and subsequent funeral. Seeing her in the coffin, seeing the coffin at the funeral. Memories of its colour (white, with blue highlights, birds, blue flowers and ribbons…); that they didn’t actually lower the casket while we were still at the cemetery; of speaking to all these people who had no idea who I was; of walking around for hours the night before the funeral; of weeping like I had never wept, uncontrollably; the piano keys wet from my tears because that was the first place I could find to sit after seeing her lying there, white and terrible.

I was able to stop mourning after about three years. To let go and begin to move on from all the death that accompanied my high school career. To remember and cherish the memories, but to stop grieving over Lynette, and Rick, and Dallas, and Jennifer, and everyone else, more than a dozen in all. To let the sorrow go and start healing.

But tonight, I remembered. I don’t know whether to thank Joss Whedon and admire him, or curse his name.