Losing a Fur Friend
By Chelsea Irvine
Looking at Rocco slumbering dreamily on the couch, a little pang of sadness hits. Before, he would be giving a quick side eye while trying to maneuver around his little brother, who while ten pounds smaller would always manage to get the best seat in the house. Sometimes the older brother just has to suck it up and give in. And Rocco did it happily.
Now, however, it’s Rocco alone on the couch. No Bruce to be found.
My biggest fear as a pet owner came true suddenly and without warning. From our morning walk on a normal Tuesday to an evening trip to the emergency vet, we didn’t know when we woke up that morning that it would be the last night the three of us would share the bed.
Yes, I realize dogs aren’t supposed to sleep in bed with you, but I dare any one of you to look past those two sets of literal puppy dog eyes as I crawled into bed. No matter Rocco has an ear shattering snore and Bruce would constantly kick me in the back while scooting me ever closer to the edge of the bed. The three of us had a special snuggle thing going.
It’s an interesting thing, the death of a pet. I mean, I lost my father ten years ago, so I know a thing or two about pain. I always knew that my boys wouldn’t be here forever, but I never thought that I would get shy of eight years to spend with my sweet Brewski.
This causes a weird kind of inner struggle, wherein I know I shouldn’t be sad, but I can’t help but feel that lump grow in the back of my throat when I see his picture or think about his quirky little personality.
One part of me reinforces the fact that I should suck it up and move on, while the other part can’t help but long to have my boy back.
Bruce was a special boy from day one. He had a kind soul, you could just tell.
He would sit guard during our weekly porch wine sessions, waiting for friends and neighbors to arrive so he could greet them with eager tail wags and loving licks to knee caps.
Bruce’s sweet demeanor changed even the most avid “pit bulls are dangerous” believer’s mind.
Where Rocco does not always play well with others, Bruce would frolic with Misty, our neighbor’s pit bull, every chance he got. They would chase each other until their tongues nearly scraped the group in exhaustion, tackling each other on the grass to slow down the game.
Now there are no more front yard romps. And you can tell in Rocco’s eyes he misses his little bro. It’s been just over three weeks and it’s a struggle to get Rocco of the couch. Those times that Bruce ate Rocco’s dog bed, resulting in a dog bed restriction of sorts, are long forgiven and Rocco is ready for his buddy back.
But we couldn’t be so lucky. There will be no more jokes about Bruce’s affinity for licking walls (for the life of me I could never understand why he did that). No more “I’m sorry’s” when a friend would sit on the couch and Bruce would immediately snuggle up next to them, invading any sense of personal space. There’s no one running to hide when laundry is folded at the dining room table (another odd quirk that we never could figure out).
Don’t get me wrong, I realize I’m lucky. When I ended my long term relationship two years ago, my biggest fear was that my ex would insist on taking the dogs. Truth be told, that fear was what prolonged the decision an extra year.
But thankfully when the dust settled, it was me and my boys, starting over just the three of us. Walking into an empty house the first time (the problem with moving in with someone who has all the things is that when they leave, so do all the things) was bearable because those two tails wagged the same way they had for years and my boys sensed that their mama needed their puppy love, which they happily obliged.
Through the months that followed, my boys were there to drink wine with me at inappropriate early afternoon (ok, maybe morning) hours, sunbathe on the front lawn, take long car rides with no destination, cruise the neighborhood on daily (and sometimes multiple times per day) walks, cuddle on the floor, and couch, and in bed even when I said I wouldn’t do that anymore, and be my sidekicks and Josh Turner bulldog dance party buddies.
My heart aches that there’s only one pair of puppy dog eyes looking at me like a nutcase when I turn the tunes up loud and fly around the living room.
But today, we picked up that little wood box and the ceramic paw print that will forever remind me of my sweet sweet puppy boy, and I fight back that lump in my throat. I figure I’m allowed to be a little sad about it.
Pets are like children training wheels. While I have no maternal instinct pulling me to become a mother, these boys are the closest thing I will ever have to children. So it hurts. And I’m not going to apologize for feeling how I do.
So, I’ll snuggle Rocco extra tight and turn my head ever so slightly when a memory comes to mind and my eyes start to water.
But I’ll be fine and Rocco will get off the couch soon enough. And if you need us, we will be on the porch with our wine and our one dog, thinking about the good times.