All 3 of our doggie babies are now gone. The sadness, emptiness and finality of losing them from this world literally takes my breath away if I think about it for too long. Grief is a fickle beast, whose swelling waves bash into you like an ocean tide against the rocks when you least expect it. Memories along with tears come flooding back with a smell, a sound, an old collar I find in our junk drawer or a chewed up toy I stumble upon mixed in with little girl dolls and Lego’s.
Louie left us almost 5 years ago now and it was undoubtedly one of the worst days of my life. I will forever be saddened that he didn’t meet Lana and Roslyn. I know in his younger days he would have loved them immensely. He was a handsome white Maltese just shy of 13 years old and my first child. Only “dog people” will understand when I call him that. Louie was magnetic, he drew others to him everywhere he went. They loved his sweet nature, beautiful soft, white hair and the way he looked at you and always seemed to smile.
A few years after Louie came home with me, his sister Lexi joined us. I knew that he needed a partner in crime while I worked full-time and this little white fluff ball fit the bill perfectly. She was tiny with wild hair and huge brown eyes that seemed too big for her head. Always a sweetheart, she loved to snuggle, run like grease lightning after squirrels and jump in the air like she was on an invisible trampoline.
Long before careers and baby girls came along, I was lucky enough to receive their unconditional love for many years. They moved with me to numerous apartments and homes, kissed away tears from countless heart breaks and never failed to show excitement when I came home after a long day of work. They slept in my bed, sweetly laying their heads on my pillow, keeping me warm on cold winter’s nights and never failing to be my guardian when they heard an uncertain sound.
On my third date with my now husband, Adrian, he brought his adorable puppy over for me to “attempt” to groom. I’m pretty sure meeting Boo Radley (aka Boodie, Boo Boo, Boobie- haha!) helped seal the deal for my future love. Boo was a rascal, full of spunk and completely wild. He loved diving into snow head first and had the thickest, most gorgeous hair. Becoming his mom led to a lot more grooming, a lot less wrestling/biting and MUCH better listening skills.
Then Came the Girls
The last 3 years are admittedly a blur. While we raised our infants into toddlers, our sweet puppies grew into elderly seniors without us truly realizing. While we changed hundreds of diapers, did tummy time and watched our little girls learn to crawl and then walk, our pint-sized companions grew slower, thinner and slept more often than they played. Gone were the days of running laps around the coffee table and barking at the FedEx guy dropping off our 278th Amazon package of the week.
“Lexi and Boo died…but they’ll always be in our hearts. Right mommy?” – Lana
I have to admit that I feel horribly guilty. NEVER did I think that I would feel any differently towards my doggie babies after I had children. I always assumed that I would still give them just as much attention as I always had, but this just wasn’t reality. I envisioned my four-legged besties would love my kids, they have always loved kids! They would snuggle up with the infants for cute photos, give them sweet kisses and guard them with their lives.
In truth, Louie never had the chance to meet them at all and Lexi and Boo were already tired and grouchy by the time my girls arrived. They wanted nothing to do with the babies. They were annoyed by loud crying, ran to avoid getting their hair and tails pulled (which I completely get- I promise we worked hard on “nice touches!”), and really just preferred to sleep 80% of their day away. I think deep down I was a little resentful of this.
The Days Are Long…
On top of that, raising a 2 and 3-year-old, 14 months apart is no easy task. The quiet nights of watching TV with Lexi and Boo snuggled sweetly in our laps were over. Every evening our house turns into a whirlwind of dinner making, pajamas flying, food throwing and plenty of running and screaming. The girls took their place in our bed and we found ourselves yelling at the dogs more often than not for being constantly underfoot or making another mess to clean up in addition to whatever the girls already did. “Who just peed on the floor? Lana or Lexi?!”
I wish now that I would have worked harder to dote on them in their old age. Although this is not to say that they had a rough life by any means. I think most would agree that we spoiled them in almost every way. I do regret, however, that my patience thinned as much as my hair has over the last three years.
How Do You Know It’s Time?
Explaining death to a toddler is the opposite of easy. I have a hard time understanding the concept myself. The moral and ethical entanglement of “putting down” our most faithful protector and friend (is it our right? Our responsibility?) left my head spinning each time. Our vet asked us simply, “Is he having FUN? Truly enjoying life? Or just getting by, surviving?” We also read about the rule of “Five Good Things.” This is where you pick the top five things that your pet loves to do and when they can no longer do three or more of them, you know that quality of life has been impacted beyond repair.
Louie stopped eating at the age of 12 and had numerous health issues. Boo, just shy of 14, had a brain tumor that we treated for years. Finally, Lexi, at almost 15 years old, passed suddenly just 3 weeks after Boo from a very aggressive liver cancer. Our hearts were and are broken from our loss.
Living with Loss
The girls are having the hardest time understanding what happened and where their furry pals went. They noticed immediately (to my surprise) that Boo and then Lexi were missing. Initially I thought it would be better for them to be with us when we said goodbye (a healthy teachable moment?), but I’m so glad I changed my mind. They are simply too young to understand the idea of death, but they do understand emotion. We were forthright in saying that Boo and now Lexi have died and this means that we won’t get to see them anymore, which makes us very sad. We assured them that they will always be in our hearts and we can always think about them and the fun times we had to make us happy. Of course 10 minutes after having this conversation, Roslyn asked again, “Where’s Boo?” Sigh.
Our doggie babies, Louie, Lexi and Boo will forever live on in the millions of memories that we made over the years. I don’t regret adopting them and loving them for a second, even through the heartbreak that we all feel now. It was ALL worth it, they are worth it.