Take it from me--when you bring home your 3-month-old Golden Retriever, the last thing on your mind is where you're going to scatter her ashes. Yet one day, there you are.
Not so long ago--not quite 10 years--our lives were turned upside down by the excitedly anticipated arrival of our newest family member. Kids were still a couple years off and she was the perfect addition to our new house, carpeted entirely in off-white berber.
To this day, I maintain that raising kids--twins, even--was made more bearable by weathering the chaos that comes with training a puppy. What was changing a couple of diapers at once after you've mopped up massive pools of you-know-what from your previously off-white berber? And no toddlers could wreak havoc on our landscaping like Hayley when she put her mind to it. She dug up azalea after azalea like Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel.
When the boys came home, the jealousy was apparent. But she was our first "baby," and only girl, so we were careful to keep her included whenever possible. And she returned the favor by shredding the occasional baby toy. But not once did we fear for our children. She never raised a cross paw to anyone, ever. And I've never heard a dog bark less. It's true--they do make lousy watchdogs. But that's not why we got her.
We got her to enrich our lives, and that she did, beyond all expectations. She appeared in our Christmas cards, took our family vacations with us, attended nearly every party we threw (including a one-year blowout for her) and even found her way onto the nursery wall, where I rendered her in acrylic paint above each of our boy's cribs.
She was, above all, a trooper. She could ride ten, twelve hours in the minivan to Florida or New York and never utter a peep. She'd take her bathroom break at McDonald's with the rest of us and you wouldn't hear from her the rest of the trip. Ear infections, pancreatitis, tail-pulling, being ridden horsey-style, little yappy dogs barking at her through picket fences--she took it all in stride.
Even the hip dysplasia. She was probably hurting a lot worse than we ever knew before we figured it out. But with therapy and meds, she bounced back from that as best she could.
But something finally caught up with her that she couldn't shrug off, try as she might. Every day, her breaths came harder and faster. The vet told us four to six weeks. A mere four days later, we said our goodbyes years ahead of our schedule. We weren't ready to let go, but she was.
I'm picking up her ashes from the vet today. Since she loved digging in the yard so much, it makes sense to put some of her there. The rest of her might end up at the beach, because that was truly her favorite place on earth.
The healing will come, eventually.
But until then, there you are, with a dog-shaped hole in your heart.