Since my dear Hailey died in March, I have been learning what it’s like to live with the absence of dog in my home. The powerful decades-old cord of connection is silent. No more not-so-subtle reminders to step away from my computer and GO OUTSIDE NOW and DON’T FORGET WE NEED TO EAT IN FIVE HOURS. I still reach to lower the volume when an excitable canine video comes on the screen.
There is no alert to visitors, wandering deer or answering the song of neighboring hounds. I try to ignore the finality of scrubbing dog drool from the bedroom wall next to her bed. The stillness when I arrive home is just not right.
I have always joked that my idea of dog insurance is to live with at least two dogs at all times. That way if something happened to one of them, I would still have a canine companion to lean on. I didn’t want to imagine This.
Now I am here. My friends and family help soften the weirdness of this new space. They share silly and heart-shifting photos of Hailey, offer affectionate stories and ask how I’m doing, unafraid of my crumpling response. I’ve gotten really good hugs.
I worry less about whether a dog needs to get outside when a ferry is running late. I have discovered the freedom of making plans without arranging dog care. I am spending less money on food and treats and impulsive “this will make us both happy” toys.
Friends have loaned me their dog for a day to keep me company on the patio, meadow watching made sweeter. I soak up the lingering life force in each room when canine guests move in for their vacation. I touch warm, breathing bodies, grin at their games, and focus on a nose reading the breeze. They balance my upheaval and help me walk on this shaky path.
I am mindful every day of the difference. It is not joyful and it is not without a measure of peace. I reflect. I treasure. This Now and I are getting to know each other.