by Risa Green
I know I’ve been a bit of a downer lately what with The Horrible Tragedy of My Father  and all, but I’m sorry to say that things have not brightened up. Just because my year wasn’t ending on a crappy enough note, Chloe, my sweet, wonderful, ten year-old Wheaten Terrier, died suddenly last week. If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, you may remember that Chloe had been diagnosed with a genetic, protein-losing disease about two years ago, and we almost lost her then. But we put her on medication and restricted her diet, and she made an amazing recovery. About six weeks ago, however, we started seeing signs of the disease again, and the vet confirmed that she was, indeed, relapsing. So we put her back on the medication, put her back on the stinky, prescription kibble that she hated, and we thought that she was doing better. But then over the weekend her symptoms got worse. On Sunday night she collapsed walking up the stairs and seemed to be having trouble breathing. We rushed her to the animal hospital, but we were too late. Her little heart stopped while they were examining her, and my Chloe bear (my puppy pie, my bunny, my sweetie wheatie) was gone.
It was, I have to say, one of the saddest moments of my life. My husband had given Chloe to me as a birthday present, just four months after we got married. I picked her out of the litter because she had a spunk and an attitude about her that I loved – she was definitely my kind of girl. For the next three years, we poured our hearts and souls into that dog the way that all married people without children do. We took her everywhere with us, bought her fancy dog beds and organic dog treats, made her scrambled eggs for breakfast on Sunday mornings. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I remember asking my husband if he thought it was possible that we might actually love our new baby more than we loved our Chloe. I simply couldn’t imagine it. But, of course, we did, and Chloe went from being the center of our world to the periphery of it. It couldn’t have been easy for her, but she was a good girl, and she welcomed my daughter, and then my son, into her pack without incident.
People keep asking me how my kids are doing with Chloe’s death. My kids are doing fine. The truth is, Chloe was not their dog. She was ours. She just never loved our children the way that she loved us. She tolerated them, sure, and she loved swiping their food when they weren’t looking, but that was about it. In fact, it was only in the last few weeks before she died that she had started to develop a relationship with my daughter at all. I began to notice that her tail would wag when my daughter came home, and two days before she died, she tapped my daughter on the hand with her paw because she wanted to be pet. She’d never done that to one of the kids before – it was as if she was finally acknowledging that my children were not, in fact, going to be sent back to whatever strange, annoying planet they had come from, and she’d decided that she might as well make the most of it. It’s too bad, really, that they didn’t have more time together. After all, my daughter has spunk and attitude too, and I think they would have made a great team.
And yet, while my kids are doing okay, my husband and I are a mess. It’s a funny thing, losing a pet. With a pet, unlike with a person, there’s nothing complicated about the loss. There’s no anger, no conflicted feelings, no words you wish you had said or wish you could take back, no unresolved emotions. There’s just love, pure and simple. Which makes it easier than losing a person, but it doesn’t make it easy. My house is just so quiet without her, and every time I look at her favorite chair, I keep expecting to see her sitting there. But, of course, she isn’t, and then I find myself missing her profoundly. I miss the sound of her nails clicking on the hardwood floor. I miss her barking frantically at the gardener every Monday. I miss her moving around at night from her doggie bed to the couch in our office to under our bed to her spot behind the curtains. I miss seeing her in the morning, asleep on her back, her little legs splayed up in the air. Most of all, I miss coming home to that waggy tail every day. We used to joke that if you could somehow harness all of that energy in her tail, the power problems of the world would be solved forever.
My son asked me the other day where Chloe was, now that she’s dead. I told him that she’s in heaven, running around in a huge yard, eating nothing but people food, getting belly rubs all day long. He thought about this for a minute, then asked if my dad was the one rubbing her belly, up there in heaven, and I had to smile through my tears. My father loved animals, and he adored Chloe. When I was a kid, he had to put our dog to sleep, and it was devastating for him. And for me, one of the most difficult things about Chloe’s death is that he isn’t here for me to talk to about it. I didn’t turn to my father for support hardly ever – in fact, I stopped turning to him for pretty much anything a long time ago. But when Chloe died, my first instinct was to pick up the phone and call my dad. The truth is, not everyone gets how hard it is to lose a pet. Some people, I’m sure, must think that I’m totally overreacting. But if anyone would have understood how I’m feeling, it would have been my father. And yet, as hard as it is, there’s something comforting about the idea that they’re together now. Now, when I think about them, I keep coming back to the image that my son conjured for me: my dad and my Chloe bear, hanging out together, getting belly rubs in the clouds.