I remember being puzzled when my mom would pick up the newspaper and immediately turn to the obituaries. She’s not big on current events but that part of the paper, section A12 or whatever it was, spoke to her. Her explanation was that her father, a doctor, did the same thing. I suppose it made more sense for a doctor to be up on happenings like those but my moms fascination baffled me.
Fast forward a decade or two and I’m doing the same thing.
I should clarify, I’m not a regular obituary reader. But if I read one, I usually stay and scan the others. Despite what I thought as a child, obituaries aren’t always morbid and awful. Often times they are extraordinary tributes to lives lived well. They can be beautiful perspectives from the people that loved them most. I especially enjoy the ones written by the deceased and even the ones where you learn new things about people you’ve known for years.
Here I am, weeks after losing my beloved Pippin and the right words are still eluding me. I have never been so heartbroken and sad in my life. Really and truly, this grief is devastatingly hard. I avoided writing this for a million reasons, one of which was fighting back too many tears, or in other words, processing some of the complicated emotions that come with loss.
She was just a dog, get over it.
Wrong. She was a dog but she was so much more than that. I thought I was prepared. I thought I was ready to live without her. Maybe I was, maybe I’m not, but regardless it’s still harder than I could have ever anticipated. With the encouragement of some very dear people I’ve mustered up the courage to share.
In all of my reflection, I’m learning that my grief is deeply rooted in the fact that I’ve never had to be an adult without my Pip. We grew up together. She was and still is my greatest teacher. Common consensus is, I let very few in. Pip was in from day one. She always was the exception for me. And from day one she’s been my shadow. I’ve never been so close to anything or anyone. My husband and friends loved to say that she was the furry version of me. I guess it’s hard not to resemble something when you spend every moment together.
We don’t have human children but Pippin was very much our child. Pippin was my best friend, shotgun riding adventure buddy, support and keeper of all my secrets. She never judged or held grudges. She was clingy, hyperactive, so loving and audacious all at the same time. Pip could feel emotions better and probably deeper than any human. She was a nurturer but only to her people. I cancelled more plans, then I care to admit, just to stay home with her. Her company was more valuable than I am capable of expressing.
Occasionally, she was a gigantic pain in my ass. She was a hunter (naturally) without proper training but with a solid prey drive . She’d hunt most anything but her favorite prey was groundhogs and squirrels. Once while walking along the canal path in our town she murdered a groundhog and an onlooker shrieked in terror. It was quite the scene and I’m mortified by the memory but mainly just the woman’s scream. There was a family of squirrels at my parents old house that lost their tails to the stealthy hunting skills of Pippin and her brother, Cody. And as a puppy she’d escape our downtown Charlottesville yard and roam the streets at mach speed away from the sound of my voice. She was stubborn as hell with way too much energy, some might even classify her as neurotic. Even after episodes like these, and believe me, there were plenty, I couldn’t make myself stay mad at her. One look at those brown eyes and I melted, every single time.
She was my protector. I always felt safe with her. A secret I tried to keep was that she was incapable of harming a human but I loved that she sometimes made it seem like she would if she caught whiff of the wrong vibe. I guess to some she seemed fierce but she was a total ham unless of course you were a groundhog. She calmly patrolled her domain and loved to sit watch on all of our front porches and witness the world go by.
We began each day with a walk. Every single day. Rain or shine. It was like mother nature therapy for us both. I often pondered whether or not Pip thought she was walking me. It seemed like it was her duty. She was an off leash kind of walker. She’d charge ahead to explore making sure the way was safe and then circle back to check in or maybe to hurry me up. I miss our walks immensely but still can’t encourage myself to do it alone. The time I spent outside with her was where I would reset, prepare for life, think, meditate and receive so much inspiration and guidance.
She had more personality packed into her spotted being than most people. She was sassy, sweet and bossy. As complicated and deep as our bond it was all very simple. She just loved. And encouraged us to do the same. She brought out the best in us, always. She had a beautiful way of offering perspective and calming nerves. She was a therapy dog.
She loved carrots, sweet potatoes and popcorn. I wish I had given her more. She was my sous chef and master kitchen floor cleaner. She always knew when it was time to eat and she’d make sure you did too.
This past spring has been emotional and challenging as it aligned with her decline. It’s hard to not feel robbed. She had so much more life in her but her body just couldn’t fight anymore. From the very moment we found out that she was sick I vowed to make sure she didn’t suffer on our behalf.
As I attempt to channel my thoughts and memories into word form I can’t help but notice the faint scar on my wrist. It’s from poison ivy I got while petting her. I even miss that. I miss that pesky itch simply because it means I’ve been without her long enough for it to heal. Time is such a healer and I understand that it will make my grief more bearable with each passing moment. But even with that knowledge, it’s hard to believe that the void I still feel from her departure could ever be healed or filled.
Even though I’ve contemplated and edited this post numerous times I’m coming to realize that the right words just don’t exist. There is nothing I could ever say to honor my Pip that will ever sound like enough to me. My tribute to her is to try and live the way she always encouraged me to, by always putting love first, always. That’s how I’ll honor her.
Here’s to all the good dogs. May we all be blessed enough to journey along side them, for the opportunity to love them, to take them on walks, to greet them before we put the groceries away and to make sure they never doubt how special they are to us.
I am grateful beyond measure for the gift of Pippin. She was that dog for me.