Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Little Dog Lost

My beloved dog Daisy died suddenly this summer, on the fourth of July in fact.  We'd had a fun, relaxing holiday planned--search-and-rescue training in the early morning, some yardwork during the day, a small barbecue with friends in our quiet suburban cul-de-sac.  Isn't that how these things happen?  She started vomiting in the morning, and by late afternoon she was gone.

In the middle there were several hours at the emergency vet's, where they gave her some fluids and anti-emetics and pronounced her well enough to come home.  She passed away quietly soon after, laying on her dog bed in the living room where I'd been lazing on the couch with the newspaper.  When we rushed her back in, the clinic staff were stunned.

The two months that have gone by since we lost a healthy, vibrant, 4-year-old dog, my search-and-rescue partner in training, my wingman, have been a blur of shock and grief.  My wife and I cry every time we find a ball in the yard.  It's true we have two other dogs that we love to bits, but none that crawl up in bed at night to squeeze in-between us for cuddles.  None that I can take out for a ten-mile trail run, and that will turn around to look at me with that particular gleam in her eyes.

Maybe this is inappropriate for a blog post.  The relationship between technology and story-telling is a smoky one.  But Daisy, my "problem child," was the reason I clung so hard to any new scrap of dog behavior and training knowledge I could find; she's the reason for this business, the reason for this blog.  Dogs like her are maybe my reason for being.


I realized how lucky I am to be surrounded by friends and coworkers who know dogs as family members, as close friends, just as powerful and precious in their lives as their human loved ones.  My community blessed my household with company, phone calls, held hands, casseroles, and check-ins to see how we're doing even now, two months later.  For grieving families without that kind of community, or who just need more support, I've found the following resources.

The Pet Loss Support Page is a comprehensive on-line list of California hotlines, support groups, counselors, and cemeteries and cremation options for pet families.

Stacy's Wag 'n Train also offers an up-to-date events listing for NorCal/Bay Area dog resources, including a pet loss support group at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and one at the San Francisco SPCA, both on the first Tuesday of each month.  On third Tuesdays, there's also a group at the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society.  These group sessions are free, typically offer printed handouts or other resources for you to take home, and are a nice way to feel you're not alone and to help other pet families feel heard and understood as well.  The grief counselor can also help you sift through difficult emotions about getting another pet, as well as offer ideas about rituals or other ways to honor your pet and come to terms with your loss.

Daisy's ashes are still in her urn in my office; we can't bear to scatter them yet, although my wife and I bought beautiful glass lockets to store a bit in, when we finally open the urn.  We plan to take a driving trip to lay her to rest in all her favorite places: Stinson Beach, Fort Funston, the In 'n Out Burger at the Oakland Coliseum.  She was a fierce, beautiful soul, a bright star, and she lingers still in all the places we knew her.

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