This morning, I clicked on a blogger's link and wept as I read that her dog had died. I have been crying on and off all morning since reading about this.
She kept me company, that was the thing. Keeping me company.Precisely.
We lost our beloved dog Teddy last January, he had just turned 15 a month before. A long life for a dog, especially a medium-sized dog. Life expectancy is around 12 for his type. We had him from 8 weeks old, just three days after having to put down a fear-biting Border Collie. In a pet store, the last of his litter. He ran over to us, tail wagging, big head bobbing. And within half an hour, he was safely in the car going home with us.
I have always had a dog, except for perhaps 2 periods of my life when I lived in apartments. As a child, we had a dog, a runt Pekinese called Sammy. He often sat beside me, as I lay on a lawn bed. I had a childhood ailment which rendered me unable to walk for 3 years and for the first year of that period, I was bound in a body cast from chest to hips in order to keep the bones aligned as my hip joints began to repair themselves. So I spent a lot of time alone, watching the kids play, wishing I could join them, but I had Sammy with me.
There were multiple dogs after Sammy, Sammy #2 a mean-spirited Pekinese quite unlike his namesake, then Paddy the black Lab who alerted me in a park when a man began to chase me. I owe that dog my escape. After Paddy, there was Duffy, a mutt that my brother had picked up on the docks in Fort Erie. A beautiful Gordon setter with a disposition so lovely. But my parents separated and the house went up for sale and the neighbours across the street took Duffy to be their family dog.
I recall going over to visit my dad, who was still in the house, and when I left, Duffy saw me and chased after the car as I drove away. I looked in the mirror and saw him standing in the middle of the road, a symbol of everything that was being left behind.
You see, dogs have always been my companions. My kids joke that I am slightly autistic, in that I don't give or receive affection easily. But I can with dogs. Perhaps that is why I love them, I can be my emotional self with them.
Now Teddy became my constant companion for 15 years. During those 15 years, all of our daughters left home to go to school or to start a new life elsewhere. A friend of mine told me that it takes five years to get used to a child leaving home. One by one, the three girls left but Teddy remained. He was there as the house got emptier and emptier, always ready to go for a walk, always ready for some horse-play, always happy to see me. When either my husband or I were out, he would lie across the back of the couch with his head on the windowsill so that he could watch the street. He would get off once the person who was away returned, and he would contentedly go up to his bed in our bedroom.
Stay-at-home moms can be very lonely people. Your life centers so much around your kids and then, one day, they feel the ability to face life without you. And you let them go. They have your blessing but it is still lonely when they leave. So you cry into your dog's furry neck and hold them close, because they don't leave for a new life. They stay with you until the end.
I have slept curled up in a double bed, right on the edge, because Nick was on the other side and Teddy had decided that he needed to be up there too. Once he got up, he was pretty much of a dead weight and so I learned to sleep in the smallest positions in order to let him stay. I could make room for him.
The house feels so empty now without a dog. No pitter patter of nails on the wood floor, no crashing down the stairs to come and get a drink, no going to the back door and looking back at me to say 'let me out'.
Keeping me company. Carolyn, you are so right. Keeping us company.