The Missing Piece of My Heart

I haven’t written a blog post since “Bonnie is in Puppy Heaven“. I have been dealing with losing her along with all of the other things that are necessary to maintain a family and home.

I have a few things that I am working on and I will write posts about those, but some things have been bothering me since we lost Bonnie and essentially, these things are giving me writers block.

I want to bring something to light, that I have the feeling most people feel but they won’t discuss. Some people might take this post the wrong way and be offended by it. But I know that some folks will appreciate me speaking my true feelings.

My dog died. Seems simple enough. Its “just a dog”, right?

The day after Bonnie died, I spent the day crying uncontrollably. Its only to be expected. I didn’t get much done that day. I wrote “Bonnie is in puppy Heaven”  and I took my daughters to the skating rink to try to get their minds off of it. All I could do was cry. I was in public crying. Driving and crying. Doing the dishes and crying. Showering and Crying. Lying in bed Crying. I could see it on my kids faces. The deep sadness sitting just below the surface. We all tried to keep it together but inevitably, we cried.

Things “got better” as the days went on. Basically, I got used to my dog not being there. But things never really “got better”. The heavy sadness still sits on my heart. I still see and feel my fingers gliding over her fur and tracing her wrinkles as I said good bye to her for the last time. In an instant things are not “better”.

At first it felt like she just wasn’t home at the moment. I kept expecting her to come back home. Like she was on some vacation or at the vet or visiting grandma….I don’t know, just “not home”. Then my brain would tell me “no, shes over there, rotting in the ground”. Yes, I know that’s terrible, but that’s what my brain told me. And it made me mad. Did I bury her properly? Did she deserve something better? Should I have cremated her? How could I just let her rot like that? These were the thoughts that went through my head.

I was almost ashamed that we buried her. But then I realized something. She was not her body.  And her body was becoming a part of our property. It made me love my property more because I knew that her body was a part of it.

I have always heard that when you lose someone you love they never really leave you. You’ve heard it too, I’m sure. All those emotional sappy romantic ideas of someones love staying in your heart and you’ll always feel them in your heart because once you love someone they become a part of you..blah blah blah. Yada yada yada..WHATEVER! When you lose someone you love, they are gone physically and all of that “always in your heart” idea is bullshit. They are gone, and no romantic idea can take away the hurt you feel when you can’t find that missing part of your life.

As the days went on, I began to feel foolish. She was “just a dog”. I began to feel like people were thinking the same thing “why haven’t you gotten over this yet, it was just a dog”.

The truth is, she was not just a dog. She was my partner. EVERY DAY. FOR ELEVEN YEARS. She relied on me, and I relied on her. She was my responsibility and I was hers. I had to feed her and care for her, every day. And she had to show me how much she loved me and follow me around to make sure I was safe, every day. I have spent more time with her than I have with my own children and my husband. She was always there. ALWAYS. I’m not speaking metaphorically. She was literally ALWAYS there. Even if I wasn’t physically with her, she was at home thinking of me and wondering when I would come back to her so she could watch over me again, and wag her tail and show me she loved me. ALWAYS.

I realized that even after death she was still with me. In my mind. In my memories. Those memories will never leave me. Even if I wanted them to. She would always be there, just like when she was alive. I know, I’m contradicting what I said. But not really. Her memory is in my head and it makes my heart ache for that piece it lost when she died. Does that make sense? I don’t carry her in my heart. I carry her in my head and my heart hurts for her. There is no romance in that.

It has been exactly one month since Bonnie died. I still cry, pretty much daily. But now its a sudden bust of sadness that comes unexpectedly. From nowhere a moan will come from me and I will weep, for no reason at all. And it leaves as quickly as it came. I don’t know why. Nothing triggers it,  but everything triggers it. The memory of her intertwines with whatever it is I’m doing at the moment and reminds me of my aching heart.

I know that Bonnie was “just a dog”. An animal. My brain knows that. But my brain is the one that keeps reminding my heart of its loss. Logic is causing my sadness. So, I stopped feeling foolish for my sadness. And I don’t care if people think I should “be over it”. And she was not “just a dog”.

I know that one day I won’t cry from the hurt of the missing piece of my heart. My heart will learn to function without that part. But I will never view Bonnie as “just a dog” and my loss is real. Please don’t ever think any less of it. Please don’t ever think that there is a loss that is worse than mine that I could compare it to. I know there are terrible tragedies that would hurt far more than losing a dog, but non the less, losing any size piece of your heart is an important loss and it is painful.

She will be waiting for me in the meadow, along with the other pieces of my heart that are missing. And I will be whole again. I know this is true because both my heart and my brain tell me it is.

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Crossing the rainbow bridge

No homestead is complete without animals. Whether its goats or dogs, most homesteads have some type of animal living there.

On our homestead we currently have 4 humans, 3 dogs, 1 rabbit, and 5 chickens. We also have plans to have at least 1 bee hive and possibly a couple goats. And those are just our current aspirations.

Our oldest dog, Bonnie, was diagnosed with Lymphoma at the beginning of this year. I knew something was wrong when I found golf ball sized lumps on my girl’s throat.

I avoided taking her into the vet at first. I couldn’t bear the thought of hearing the words I knew I would hear. But of course I had to put my fur baby’s well-being before my own.

The vet took samples of the lumps and within a week I had a confirmation of Lymphoma. My heart was broken. When I received the news my daughters were in school so , thank goodness, they didn’t see me break down.

For a few weeks I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I couldn’t make the words come out of my mouth. I didn’t want to hear myself say them because then it would be real. I kept it a secret from my daughters. I hid in the bathroom and cried then blamed my puffy eyes on allergies. I didn’t tell my friends or family. In fact, some of them may just now be learning this news.

I still haven’t told my children (for those of you who know my girls please respect this decision and do not speak to them about it, thank you). I know that one day I will have to tell them, but what is the point of telling them now when Bonnie shows no signs of illness or discomfort? Why would I upset my, still young, daughters? I see no point in my daughters grieving until the time has come to grieve .

Part of life is death and that is very much a part of a homestead or farm. Yes, raising chicks into chickens is adorable and fun but it is also a huge responsibility. When you bring a living creature into your care, you have to put that animals well-being before your own.

I went into owning chickens knowing that one day I will cull them when they stop producing eggs or if I end up with an aggressive rooster. On most homesteads an animal has to produce more than it costs or it will not be a part of the homestead any longer. Thats just a fact, Jack. You don’t take chickens to the vet if they are ill or injured. You put their well-being and comfort first and either nurse them back to health or put them out of their misery. I don’t have experience raising other live stock, but I know that a cow or a goat or pig, etc. would, in most circumstances, be treated the same way.

A dog, in my opinion, is different. Most people have dogs as companions and they are part of the family. They live in your house. They greet you when you come home. They go for rides in the truck. They play with your kids and lick your toes. They lay with you when you are ill and set their heads in your lap when you are sad. Dogs are amazing creatures that I believe, without a doubt, have souls.

When a dog is ill you have to take it to the vet. Wether you can afford it or not.

When you find out your dog is terminally ill you have to decide if you are going to pay for treatment or keep her comfortable until its time to leave this world.

I chose not to treat Bonnie. Chemotherapy would be the best option, and I don’t want to put her through that. She is 9 and a half years old. Shes had a great life filled with lots of love and adventures. Most dogs with lymphoma only live a few months after their diagnosis. DOgs that do get treatment live, on average, for an additional 1 to 1 and a half years. But the norm is an additional 6 months.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you will have to weigh the options for yourself.

We have our vet on call for when we feel SHE is ready to go. We’re lucky enough to have a vet that will make house calls when putting an animal to sleep. We know that when Bonnie stops interacting with us, has lethargy, stops eating or using the bathroom that we may need to call Dr.Panada.

For now, we have been giving her extra love, attention (and ice cream!!!) and enjoying the time we have with her.

Bonnie

Bonnie

*Update: After 8 months of fighting lymphoma, We had Bonnie euthanized. Her illness suddenly progressed quickly. 
She was at home with her family when she passed. She is buried on our property. She took a huge part of our hearts with her. 
You can read the story of her last days on earth, here. *