Grief is weird. It’s something that is hard to imagine going through, when you never really have before. My dog died a few days ago, and it’s the first time I’ve ever really “lost” someone that I love. For the record, I hate when we express death by saying that we “lost so-in-so…” I feel like it’s demeaning to whomever it was that you loved. They aren’t a jacket that you left on the bus.
Maggie was a West Highland white terrier and she was a gift for my seventh birthday. She lived 13 healthy, beautiful, and happy years that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The only signs of discomfort she had ever shown were in her last few days. A small lump had grown on her back and she wasn’t as content with eating as she usually was.
The day before her appointment, I somehow knew deep down that it would be the end. As I drove to work with my stomach in knots, a Nickleback song began to play on the radio, and tears began to fill my eyes. This was surprising to me, because I have never been overly fond of Nickleback, nor have I ever really felt a sense of nostalgia toward their music. It’s not like I ever sat around with Maggie, chain smoking listening to their albums. That would have been weird. I just had a feeling that something was wrong.
The ominous feeling I had in my stomach proved to be warranted, as on the day of her appointment, the vet informed us that Maggie did in fact have cancer, and needed to be put down. This was a difficult decision, but it was the right decision. We had caught it early and Maggie was in no real pain, but at 13, prolonging this process would’ve been cruel and unfair, and not at all the way we treated and loved this dog.
So she felt no pain at all and can now rest in peace, and I’ll be forever thankful that she did not have to suffer. Yet I’m still hurt by the loss of the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Which in my mind is strange, because it’s not like I ever actually had a conversation with Maggie. It’s not like she was Brian from Family Guy. She did not speak English, and I did not speak Dog. It was, however, a language barrier that my family and I were able to overcome and mutually understand when she was either hunger, thirsty, or had to shit.
It’s not like we were old war buddies either. We weren’t “in the shit” together in the trenches of Nam. In fact, I’m almost positive that Maggie had no army training whatsoever. I know I don’t. I mean, sure she could have underwent some sort of training while I was away at school, but I still doubt it.
So why am I so sad? Why does my stomach hurt, yet I still fill it with waffles? Waffles are such a happy food, yet these are sad waffles. Why did I cry during a Nickleback song? That one sparked the biggest conundrum.
They say dog is “Man’s Best Friend,” but I don’t think Maggie was my best friend. I feel like that title is an injustice to the love my family and I shared with her. She was more than a friend; she was family.
So, I’m trying my best to remember all the good times I’ve had with her. Which is very easy, as there wasn’t a single bad moment. She was a true joy, which I think is why I’ve been so up and down about this. I’ll always love Maggie and I don’t think I will ever not miss her, but I’m hoping it will get easier over time. Just as long as I don’t hear any Nickleback songs.