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How Do You Heal a Broken Heart?

RemyHeart“You know how it feels?”  My 8-year old son finally put it into words. “Like my heart has cracked in two, and a piece of it is now gone.”

Yes, I know.  I feel the same.

We lost a member of our family over the Thanksgiving weekend – our dear sweet Remy – who will always be remember by us simply as the best dog in the world.  She was 14, and as I’ve mentioned before, had been with me longer than my children OR my husband.  She was such a special dog – and in her quiet, unassuming way was such a big part of our family – and now she’s gone.

“We must have done something REALLY bad,” my son announced before he crawled into bed that night.  “Because when you do good, good things come back to you.  Since this is a bad thing….” he paused.   “Oh no, no!” I quickly corrected him.  “That doesn’t apply to this.  People and animals die, honey.  We are all born, and we all eventually die.  It’s the circle of life.  It is as it is meant to be.  Karma has nothing to do with it.”

The truth of it is we must have done something really good to get a dog as wonderful as Remy.  Sweet and loving, gentle, yet protective of us (especially of me – and the children – actually ANY children).  The only time she ever kind of hurt anyone was once while we were renting a beach house and the man next door scooped up his nephew and ran down to the water with him.  The boy was screaming and shrieking (in playful type of way) and Remy, hearing the cries, galloped across the sand and into the waves (something she didn’t care much for) without thinking twice on her quest of saving the boy.  After barking and barking at the man to no avail, she apparently gave him a little nip.  Not enough to pierce the skin (and we applaud her for her self control) but certainly enough to get his attention.   He of course didn’t think it was so little and ran out of the water yelling, “Hey!  This dog just bit my ass!”  He immediately set the boy down safely on the sand, Remy’s mission was complete, and she went back to lying on our deck as if nothing had ever happened.

What THIS is, however, is lousy.  Crummy.  Plain yucky.  (And those are the words this Zen Mama Wannabe feels safe to print).  I used the can opener tonight but had to stop halfway through.  Remy would always come trotting into the kitchen the second she heard that noise, because she thought maybe, just maybe, I was opening a can of wet food for her – and like all dogs, ever the optimists, she had to come in and see if she was right. But tonight, no Remy.

In the mornings, she wouldn’t get up off her dog bed until I got up and headed down stairs.  No matter what the time, she waited for me before we headed down for the start of our morning routine.  I keep looking over to the spot on the floor where her dog bed used to be – but no Remy.

At night when I would read stories to the kids in bed, she would often come and join us, curling up on the floor until it was time for me to turn out the light.  She would “sing” when my husband stood in front of the kitchen cabinet where her treats were kept – as if him standing there must mean he was about to give her one.  And if he didn’t, she would “sing” even louder and more persistently, until, ever the softy, he would give in to her demands.  Now the cupboard is empty, the treats are gone, and the hole in our heart feels enormous.

I loved her so much, yet took her for granted, moving her down the totem pole of hierarchy as I suppose many do as their family and life expand.  Still, she never faltered in her devotion to me.  When I went up and down the stairs, she did too, even though lately her steps were slow and the effort was great.  When I worked on my computer, she slept right by me, curled up on her dog bed.  As soon as she’d hear me come home, she’d again make the effort (and towards the end it was an effort) to get up and greet me.  It just doesn’t feel right to be here without her.

I still can’t bear to go outside on the paths we walked each day.  I’ll get over it, of course, but for now it feels too soon, too raw, to be out there without her.  The daily walks I often begrudgingly went on got me out in nature – often the kids too – and more times than not were a great way to clear my head or gain some perspective.  Our life revolved around her to a certain extent and we didn’t even realize it. But then, isn’t that how too often it goes.

Her stomach suddenly turned or flipped.  The same thing happened in Marley & Me.  Guess it happens in deep-chested dogs, especially older ones.  They even say some dogs are predisposed for it.  I’m relieved we got home in time from a day out and about to see that something was wrong.  I’m glad my husband insisted we rush her to the Emergency Urgent Care Clinic (since our vet was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday).  I’m grateful I got to hold her and say good-bye and tell her how very much I loved her.  But still, the whole thing sucks.  Decisions had to be made so quickly – it was so rushed and intense, urgent and of course heartbreakingly sad.  I guess it often is.

“I think when dogs die, their spirit goes up to heaven and then comes back as another dog,” my son decided.  “So when we get another dog, we just need to make sure we get Remy!” Don’t know if he’s right about that, but wouldn’t that be something?

“Still, I don’t think my heart will ever be the same,” he said.  “Because of the crack and all.  It’s like that piece is missing.” That I know he is right about.  I know it because I feel the same.

I’d like to think Remy was such a great dog because of all the love we gave her.  My son disagrees with me: “She was a great dog because that is just how she was.” Yeah, probably so.  She gave us so many gifts, never asking for much, even when she got bumped down the totem pole.  Hearts heal over time, but somehow I feel like that piece never will.  After all, it’s got Remy’s name all over it.

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3 Responses to “How Do You Heal a Broken Heart?”

  1. GLoria Says:
    December 1st, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Oh….I am so sad for you and your family. I know that I will be facing the same thing within the next few years (or sooner, Boo is 14)
    I’m so sorry Fer Fer. I am just so sorry!!!

  2. Laura Says:
    December 1st, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Kids learn so much by having and caring for animals. They learn about compassion, empathy, and responsibility. I think you can add learning about birth, life, and death to the list as well. Learning about death is never easy, but I think that loving, caring for, and losing a pet is a great way to learn so many life lessons.

    Give your son a hug from us!

  3. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    December 6th, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Thanks so much for all the sweet notes. Yes, caring for animals really does teach you so much. No matter how you might be able to sympathize, it just doesn’t become real until you go through it yourself.

    What was interesting though to me was the process my 8-year old went through — the questions he asked really showed where his mind was going and what he was thinking about. To what do they do with her bones and her fur to how did they REALLY know she was dead to how her spirit would come back in another dog some day.

    Good lessons for all of us – but oh, so much sadness too!

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