Deeply aware that I am writing of one of life’s deepest mysteries- the suffering we face from the death of those we love- a suffering from grief, sorrow and loss which none of us escapes, I write this morning anyway.
And I am more than aware that for many of us, this was ‘just a dog’. After all, we simply turn on the news to hear the plight of thousands…perhaps millions of souls as they battle with the loss of children, spouse, entire families in this beleaguered journey we each travel…alone; struggling with far greater than the loss of a pet.
I know this…and yet must ask myself if it matters…I mean that if one’s heart is breaking for the loss of a dog or the loss of a child or family, is the loss of the pet less valued in the commodity of the world of grief?
Of course, there is no answer. But I write anyway. Mostly because I know that the only way I can hope to put anything to rest is in the act of writing: The act of searching for the right word and the right phrase is somehow redemptive.
my psychologist husband talks of the need of the brain for what he calls completion. Our brains are wired, John has learned, to search for and complete the answers to the smallest questions and the largest traumas, losses…so that our cerebral cortex can remove the emotions surrounding the event from our cortex where they remain alive and present until this action of ‘completion’ where all of the emotional baggage can be re-located to more remote areas of the brain where memories are stored- freeing up the cortex to experience and make sense of events happening now.
John specialized in the treatment of post-combat veterans…of PTSD and spent 25 years counseling men and some women to aid them in this act of completion…to help free them from events in their past. And I guess that is exactly what my brain has been doing for the last 8 days. Because now, the physiological signs of grief are abating…and the vividness of his collapse and death on the living room rug is diminishing. This rug where he and Shadow lay during better times.
Yesterday, after I’d finally researched sudden death in Doberman Pinschers and had called to speak with Candace, the breeder in Texas where Ally was born of her splendid Aeolus pedigree about exactly what had happened, John asked if I felt better knowing now why he had died. But I’d known it had to be a fatal dysrhymia…had even suspected it would happen-often while on my lap, I could too readily feel Ally’s heart beating and intentionally pushed away what I knew to be isolated or short runs of premature beats, harbingers of what killed him a week ago last Thursday night…it was knowledge I did not want.
And yet, I was unprepared to see the pages of articles about sudden death in Dobermans or to hear from Candace that this sudden death from either cardiomyopathy or damage to the electrophysiological systems of Doberman hearts was not isolated–it was becoming all too common among her Aeolus lines and those of all the breeders of champions in the country. Everyone wants a baby from champions, Candace explained…the problem is apparently familial and appears too late to prevent–Candace has taken steps to dilute her gene pool by breeding what she calls a “pet quality” mom with her male champion is hopes that this litter will not carry the genetic marker for this poorly understood cardiac condition more and more common in Dobermans. I am delighted to see the new boys- the one in the yellow on the right looks exactly like Ally.
There is no doubt in my mind that your suffering and mine has meaning; the act of loving another, whether 2 or 4-footed presumes pain. Our only escape from it is to protect ourselves from the love in the first place. For me, that is not a choice. If I’d known, when I picked him at the Sacramento airport, just a little over 6 years ago, would I have invited him to curl up and take over my heart?
My yes is absolute.
Is the death of a dog somehow less valued that the death of a human…I can answer this simply by asking if there are degrees of grief…is there a little grief?
Or is there simply grief?