It’s been nearly two months now since we had to put down our dog Gypsy. While some of the habits built of 10 years together have begun to slip away, others still cling. A piece of meat drops on the floor and I think, “No problem, Gypsy will get it.” Finding myself unable to sleep, I tip-toe through the house trying not to awaken the dog (who would then want to go for a midnight stroll through the neighborhood).
When one of these moments occurs, I usually pause and hover somewhere between tears and acceptance. Tears because I still miss her, and tears because I can’t believe I’ve forgotten that we had to put her down, and acceptance of the fact that I still miss her.
People tell me I’m being hard myself, that, after all, we were together for 10 years. Yet, still I find myself hurting over the fact that I could forget something so traumatic. How could I forget that we put her down, euthanized her, or any other flowery phrase you want to use for it?
Yet, that’s what makes us able to go on, I think. If we couldn’t forget, we could never move forward, and I believe Gypsy would want us to move forward. In fact, I’m beginning to think that her visits, and she does visit several nights a week (at least lately), are to help us move forward.
Ever since we put her down, I have been horribly torn up with guilt. I kept second-guessing myself; wondering if maybe I should have invested the thousands of dollars needed for tests and alternative treatments, or whether putting her down was the best choice. It’s hard to let go when you’re berating yourself for not trying everything in your power (if not exactly in your budget) to keep your furry friend alive.
But over the past 2 months both my husband and I have heard Gypsy whining, and one or both of us usually clambers out of bed and hustles into the family room to find out what is wrong. It’s habit mostly—10 years of built in response—but at least two-thirds of the times that I’ve responded I’ve seen her curled up in her favorite corner of the couch, and she doesn’t fade away until I reach out to touch her. Then she and the whining fade away until there’s nothing but her grin, much like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, and then even that disappears.
At first, when I heard the whining, I thought it was my imagination. But after 10 years of being conditioned to respond to the dog’s whining, I found myself up and in the family room before my brain had awoken enough to even think about what I was doing.
Of course, having seen ghosts and other denizens of the metaphysical, I wasn’t terrified or even truly upset to see Gypsy curled on the couch. What upset me was the whining. At first, I wondered if it was just me and maybe I was cracking up. I mean, I loved Gypsy, but was it normal to keep hearing and seeing your pets like this? (Not that I would ever consider myself normal, but we all like to think we’re not so abnormal as to be crazy;-)
Once my husband admitted to also responding to hearing her whines and having seen her several times, I then began to wonder about the whining. Why whining? After all she only whined when she was distressed. So, was she unhappy, hurt, upset? Well, that certainly added to my guilt. Maybe I should have tried more options, no matter what it might have cost. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to put her down just because they used the ‘C’ word.
As the guilt increased, so did my hearings and sightings of Gypsy. At first I didn’t get the connection, but then during one of the walks that my spouse and I have been sharing in the afternoons I brought up the Gypsy visitations.
He reminded me that during the last year or so of her life she had taken to whining simply to get our attention about anything, and not just because she was in distress or needing to go out. She had begun vocalizing herself nearly all the time. She whined when I got home from work, she vocalized her desire for wanting to play, she vocalized her wanting to go for a car ride, and she whined when she demanded to be fed. “Therefore,” he said “wouldn’t it be logical for her to whine at us when we’re sleeping? After all,” he continued, “how else could she wake us up.”
But why was she whining? Was she upset with us? Was she mad because we hadn’t tried harder to keep her alive? My husband, whom I consider a very wise individual, looked at me, and said, “Maybe it’s so we can see her smiling. Maybe it’s so we’ll know she’s happy.”
I hugged my husband and knew he was right. That was why Gypsy’s smile is the last thing to fade. She really is trying to help me get over my guilt. She wants us to know that she is all right and that we should be, too. She wants us to move forward with our lives. She hasn’t forgotten us, and we haven’t forgotten her, but there is no reason to feel guilt. We had done what we could, and she accepted that, now it was time that I did, also.