My dog, Griffin, is dying. I don’t have children, so I cannot put a nice, neat label on this love that will give others a form of reference. I can’t even assume that if someone has lost a dog they would know how I feel. Everyone’s experience is entirely unique and this one is ours alone.
Griffin came to us out of a newspaper ad. We already had a puppy of the same breed and were absolutely smitten. The first night he spent the night on my bed with me spooning him – he seemed a little shell-shocked but at the time I had no idea just how much. That would be the last night he would ever allow someone to be that close to him.
It became apparent right away that something was off. If you moved too fast near him, surprised him from behind, made any loud sounds, tried to touch him uninvited, he would cower – terrified. To this day I do not know what happened to him in the first year of his life but the signs were frequent and became clear.
It would be a full year, before he let us touch his face.
We worked with him, trained him, read the books, did everything we could to help him and develop a trust between us. Eventually, it worked but baby steps stretched into years and we had to accept that his affection would always be on his terms and we had to work for it but when it came around, boy was it sweet….
They say that a dog communicates through its eyes and Griffin’s eyes are a library. I have never known a love so silent and so deep, as the one I have shared with him. The devotion is absolute. My dogs have been my only experience as a mother and I am fully aware that those lucky enough to have children – and many not so lucky – will never give this love the respect that they would a child’s love. I have not anthropomorphized him, but in my experience he made me a mother and now that his time is coming to an end, I am grieving in a way that knows no words. The hardest part is that he cannot tell me what to do now that decisions have to be made. He cannot tell me what he needs. He cannot tell me if it hurts.
Some things are obvious and we are taking each day one at a time but this cancer, hemangiosarcoma, is aggressive and unforgiving. It could be a day or a month, or two. We just don’t know. This is one of the most painful things I’ve had to do – and I am not working from a short list.
We found out two weeks ago and took him camping in the new RV over Labor Day. It was touch and go that weekend and he spent most of it sleeping and not eating but one thing he did do was let me spoon him again. Twelve years later. It’s been a beautiful twelve years full of laughter and love and balls and squeaky toys and big eyes. He has been our companion, our confidante, our trial, our tribulation, our celebration, our teacher, our student, our protector.
Every time we take him outside, he walks straight to the camper and waits to be let in. So we think we might start doing a little camping in the driveway.