I made a conscious decision to sit on the couch with Brooke, the last six days of her life. I learned to administer the IV fluids. I went outside with her every time she wanted to go. I took her for some rides in the car. I washed her rear end when she needed it and made sure she was comfortable for her last days.
Brooke was my once-in-a-lifetime girl and she was amazing. I lost her just days before her 10th birthday. Two weeks earlier she had stopped eating. I thought she had pancreatitis or something easily fixable. Her blood work was the best it had been in a year, but she was not. Only 6 days before she died I learned she had malignant canine stomach cancer, a rare form of carcinoma. It is one of the most aggressive cancers known for dogs. It had started to kill her only 7 weeks before. We were told there was nothing we could do. This was just the tip of the iceberg. I never saw it coming.
How could this happen? I did all the right things: no vaccines, a raw food diet, plenty of exercise and love. We were never apart. She went everywhere with me. I was the ultimate parent and she was the ultimate companion. We took walks and she played with her friends. I had lost my other beloved poodle Eli, just five months earlier. I was devastated.
When Brooke died my husband and I put her in my car. I checked on her that night and again in the morning. I still felt her presence. I wish I could have done more. I wish I could have had more time with her. I apologized to her that I couldn’t save her. I told her I loved her. In the morning I drove her to the crematorium. One of the hardest moments of my life was having her emaciated body carried into the crematorium — placing her on a paw print blanket on a gurney — and leaving her — walking away, then driving away — without her.
For 25 years, almost half my life, I had had a dog. Now I had none. I felt a tremendous void. My identity had been wrapped up in my dogs, and especially Brooke.
I show people how to work through their emotions for a living, so it’s humbling when I find myself stuck, avoiding my own feelings. I felt a part of me was gone with Brooke. Just weeks earlier, my life had been feeling really good. A couple weeks later I was finding it hard to get out from under the covers – – no matter how many times I counted one, two, three. I knew I needed to get back to the things I loved. I wasn’t doing them. I needed to cycle. I needed to do yoga. I needed to be out in nature and walk. I needed to laugh.
When painful stuff came up, I would dive into a project and avoid feeling empty. Some people use drugs, alcohol, food or shopping. Losing Brooke made me realize I had a choice to make between filling the void, or feeling my way through it. The easy thing would have been to just get another puppy and fill the void. I could immerse myself in the raising and training of a puppy. I could choose the path of least resistance as I had done so many times before.
We never know what the universe has in store for us. If I try and control what I know I can’t I know I will likely miss what is around the corner. So I’m giving myself time to see what is around the next corner.
I’m trying to find the balance between doing and being…between moving forward, feeling and grieving. It’s not easy. Eli and Brooke gave me so much. I learned to do my best training with them. I learned to groom for pets and for show. I learned to do obedience and agility. Eli was a therapy dog and Brooke did therapy with my clients. Brooke was the voice behind many of my blogs. I learned to play more and love more and be a better person because of my dogs.
So have learned to trust myself and the universe more. I miss Brooke every day. I believe her final gift to me was a challenge — to step into my life and to live it fully. So I’m going to try it Brooke’s way-living in the present moment, playing with friends, feeling passionate about every single thing I do and wagging my tail.