Lessons in loss: what my golden retriever taught me about love
I was driving home when my dad called. Him and my mom had just spent the last hour at the vet saying goodbye to Goldy. Our family's dog for 13 years. My gorgeous Goldy girl.
I broke down in tears as I drove. I had a moment of joy that she was no longer suffering...then broke down again when I walked in the door.
It still hurts losing a member of my family who we all loved as one of us. At first, all I could do is miss her before I could remember the joyful memories she gave us. We celebrated these this weekend with friends + family at Goldy's favorite place at her camp.
- Digging for gigantic rocks headfirst in the water
- Chewing on + scattering rocks all over the lawn
- Barking at rocks + thinking they would move on their own (yes, she loved rocks)
- Pushing her head into our hands for constant cuddles
- Getting excited when I grabbed my running shoes thinking she could come...even when she could barely walk
- Leading the way on hikes
- Loving all day, everyday
She was young at heart and kept her puppy ways through this past summer. Our camp on the lake was her favorite place to be, and I have to believe she wanted to celebrate one last summer there. She spent her days laying in the sun, rolling on her back in the sun, and quick swims in the pond. She was in her happy place until her last day, and that makes me happy.
Dogs are a lot wiser than we think. She lived the way I want to live.
She loved with her whole heart. Unconditionally. There was no expectations or judgment. All she wanted to give is cuddles to anyone, and that's all she wanted (except maybe treats + bacon). Too often we close up and cast judgments on others. It's not about them; it's usually about us. We are afraid of how they will judge us or that we're not good enough. It's much better to go through life with an open heart and attract those spreading good energy into the world. Yes, you will get hurt, but that's part of life.
She played and was a puppy at heart. Even when she struggled to get around this summer, she still dug for rocks and chased balls. You could see in her wagging tail and face how happy being outside in nature made her. I hope to never stop exploring or playing.
It's okay to feel the pain. My roommate texted me something that really helped the next day; "It doesn't matter how old they are or how well you think you've prepared yourself for it; it always hurts." Yup, it does. In the past, I didn't want to cry. I would try to hold back tears or skip feeling things because I didn't want to get emotional. You know, what? Emotions are there for a reason, and trying to avoid them usually makes you feel worse. I don't want things to build up inside only to get stuck. If I need to cry or take the day off or journal or whatever, I'll do that. Feeling my emotions is what feels right, even when it hurts.
I know the pain lets me celebrate and live in joy afterwards. You have to feel it to heal it.
If you have a dog at home, go cuddle it. Love it. Play outside with it. Don't hold back out of fearing the pain. If you're missing a dog, celebrate their life. Love like they loved.
I'll miss you Goldy, you golden beam of sunshine.