“Stinky’s getting to be a Grampa Dog,” my sister pointed out two years ago when gray started showing in his muzzle and he started limping like me on rainy days.
Impossible. In my head he is still a puppy. He’s 180 lbs of drooling, woofing, farting Mastiffosaurus Wrecks, so it’s not his size… I guess it’s because my son is still a boy, at 10 years old. They have grown up together, and I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to accept that his life is very nearly over.
Over the last few weeks, his knee had begun to swell, so Lois took him to the vet. It’s cancer, it’s growing very fast, and he is too old and arthritic for amputation to be an option. We are treating him for pain and inflammation, but the bones can’t take much more. Very soon, he’ll have to be put down.
I keep telling myself that dying is a part of living. That 8-10 years is the life expectancy of a large breed dog. This still sucks. So I reviewed the 5 Stages of Grief Model.
I believe Kübler-Ross is right; grieving is a process. It’s normal to be angry, try to “bargain” loss away, get depressed and/or accept it. Sometimes all in the same day. These stages don’t happen in order, one time each, and then go away.
I always thought denial was such a terrible thing. Then a few years ago someone very wise explained that denial is actually a very useful coping mechanism. It gives our minds and hearts a little time to catch up to reality. While part of me is saying, “No no no no nope. Not today. Forget it. NO storm. E-I-E-I-NO,” etc. another part of me is slowly accepting life on life’s terms. And one of those terms is that nothing lives forever.
Sometimes, people use this as a reason to not have pets (or relationships..been there!). And I can see why it’s tempting. Losing a pet is painful. Every time we lose an animal, part of me says, “Eff this; never again.” But that doesn’t last long. (Anger, lol 😉 ) The benefits of unconditional love far outweigh the inevitable pain of loss. Every time.
So I guess now it’s real. I’m gonna go rub his belly and let him slobber on my face and WOOF at my big purple hat because it scares him when we wear different clothes.