Broken heart

Sometimes you must sit down and make a mental list of all the things that are wrong, then realize those things are parts of a whole, not individually whole.

I did that on Friday, January 13, after a sleepless night when my nearly 17-year-old Jack Russell could not settle. After taking her out of the crate she slept in so as not to haunt the house in her dementia-riddled roaming, or mess on the floor, I sat hunched, up and down, hour after hour, watching her stumble on the lawn without going. 

By four am, I was exhausted, and facing the need to grab just a fleeting couple hours of sleep, I lifted her and her crate out of the spot beside my bed and placed it in the middle of the kitchen floor.

An hour later, that mental list I had kept revising, kept casting a gauzy veil of optimism. Finally realizing all those parts – were the sum of a very selfish whole.

The fact was, when a cry of pure frustration from my dog , who had been largely mute for months and months, had me bolt upright in bed and rushing toward what would be her last few hours. Totally unexpected, unplanned, and what is still breaking my heart.

We could not choose the time. The time chose us.

The Conversation only just came out with an article illustrating why losing a dog can be more devastating than losing a human; a relative or friend.

A routine broken, unconditional love lost, a desert of the pure joy expected and provided day after day, no matter your mood, no matter how bad their day, a dog provides perhaps a link to the best part of ourselves. To most of us, anyhow.

What I’ve realized is that my dog Snazzy’s death came when I had not yet, and still have not, recovered from the shock of what’s happened in the United States. I am one of those grieving for what is happening in my country.

I was carrying that in my heart, as I was carrying other things that were badly wrong, and I felt I should endure, not re-evaluate.  These days I am stuck, and trying to untangle myself. It has prevented me sharing, and writing for myself. For being creative.

But there is this other thing I understand now. 

I am within those five or seven or eight of ten stages of grief, though I am not certain which one I’m in. Certainly not denial. Anger, yes, but bargaining? No. I think depression is very likely. At least in some respect. 

Acceptance? Perhaps some day for Snazzy, but I don’t know when. Not for losing the tiny puppy born March 15, 2000, who tumbled toward me from her littermates at five-weeks-old, and I chose in a little boy’s bedroom in Nebraska.

Not for the 10-week-old fuzzy, dark-headed, impressively one-spotted little dog I eventually took home, who travelled from the Flint Hills of Kansas across the United States so many times, then at age three, to Australia.

She has so much a part of my journey for nearly the past 17 years, it is undeniable, I have lost part of myself. 


I held her as her ever-trustful life left with a peaceful rush. There was no stir, no whimper, no last breath. It was as though she was so tired of fighting her demons that held captive her small, joyful mind, now ravaged by her dementia. Her arthritis, her failing vision and hearing. All that confusion shed away.     

She settled into my arms, as the vet slipped the needle from her leg, in a compact heaviness and stillness. A permanent sleep. And I wished and cried for that same small bundle of surprises once alive in my lap. But she was gone.

Snazzy is now in a ziplock bag neatly folded into in a small polished wood box on a bookshelf in our living room. It is so hard to understand how that orbital power of joy, who seemed to live her life to the margins, can fit in such a tiny box.