I know people mourn the death of their dogs. I have felt sad for my friends when their dog died, and I have consoled them. But I never realized how much a dog becomes part of your subconscious, of your very being, until my dog King was gone.
I never realized that when I thought of food, I thought of King at the same time. Slicing a carrot meant sharing a carrot. Slicing a peach meant sharing a peach. Any noise I made in the kitchen would bring him to my side. He may not come when called, but he was right there when the refrigerator door opened. I knew he would be there without even thinking about it. I am still expecting him.
I went to the supermarket last night and made choices based on King’s likes and dislikes, and on what is healthy for him. He loved apples but wasn’t as interested in bananas. So, I bought more apples. I bought meat for meatloaf. I imagined his doggy smile as I prepared to make it. I felt his presence on the floor next to me at the dinner table as we ate the meatloaf. In my head, he was still ready for anything that fell from the table. I felt him. Only, he wasn’t there. I found myself beginning to use my knife to create a small pile of left-overs for him.
In recent days, I began to order meals in restaurants according to what kind of left-overs I could bring King. I used to avoid fried foods or those with heavy sauces. Dried fruits are poisonous to dogs so I couldn’t order dishes with those.
I never realized how much I thought about him when I made plans for each day. I realized yesterday that I didn’t have to rush home from the airport. I didn’t have to get to the kennel before it closed. He won’t be there. He won’t settle at the top of the stairs to keep an eye on the front door and on me, upstairs rushing around. Yet, as I climb my stairs inside my condo, I expect to see him sitting there. The landing is uncomfortably vacant and I see the strands of carpet he snagged. Today, sitting at my desk, I still expect his nose to nudge my elbow.
This morning I waited for him to wake me up so we could go on our morning walk. I had just awakened from a dream he was in. Then, I remembered he wasn’t there. I never realized how much I depended on his presence in my home, how I waited in bed at night for him to sneak into the bedroom and into his bed when he thought I was asleep. An odd noise never worried me because he would protect me. Now, I hear a noise and have to remind myself that he is not close by, that the noise isn’t him, that it might be something I have to think about, respond to.
I never realized how many of my daily routines were created around him, until he was gone. I had to walk no later than 7 in the morning. Dinner had to be somewhere around 5 p.m. If it wasn’t, I still had to schedule King’s dinner. If I had an event or meeting that kept me away from home, I had to put it in my calendar and arrange for a dog walker. My days have been broken up into five-hour increments. That’s how long I would allow him to go without a walk. Those thoughts are so part of my subconscious that it is as if I have lost the structure of my daily life. If he were here right now, he would not have let me write through lunchtime. He never forgot a meal.
I heard on the weather report this morning that there may be thunder tonight. The first thing I thought of was how frightened King will be. If there is lightning in the night, he always wakes me about 20 minutes ahead. How did he know? I had to remind myself this morning that I didn’t have to worry about him.
I never realized how much happiness it gave me when he was happy, how much I looked for that doggy smile on his face. I felt so happy when we walked on the beach and spotted a large dog ahead because I knew his favorite thing to do was to say hello to another big dog.