I’d like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support my family and I received since my last post. It’s going to be a rough next few months (especially once I’m home again), but it’s good to know the little dude was loved, even by those who only knew him through his annual Christmas letter and my Facebook photos.
If by chance that last heart wrenching post gained me any new followers, welcome. I promise I don’t always post such emotional entries. We’ll get back to fat pugs, complaining about the weather, grocery shopping, baby pandas and zebra wieners in due time. But first, some more mourning talk.
My first real experience with death was with my childhood guinea pigs. Mr. G. crossed over the rainbow bridge at our home, while Hershey required veterinary assistance. At the time my little heart had never felt such sadness, and I dealt with it the only way 11-year-old Renee knew how: by crying and writing dozens of poems and stories about them. If you’ve ever seen or had a guinea pig, you know that they don’t do much — eat, poop, repeat.
But my younger self gave them each personalities and elaborate back-stories and lives. Those two deaths affected me so strongly, yet we had four other guinea pigs after them. As I was speaking to my mom the other day I had to ask her about each of their deaths because I honestly could not remember. I felt so bad, but then I realized that’s probably the best thing that could happen — I remembered them in their best of times and not in their last. It makes me almost feel guilty that I was not there for Squirt in the end because my images of him are not at his worst. I’ve been dreaming about him a lot lately, but in my dreams he’s always youthful, running around the kitchen like Speedy Gonzales as he used to do after a bath, or chasing after his rope in the backyard — two things he hasn’t done in many years. My parents and I have been texting memories and photos back and forth.
“I just don’t want to forget anything about him,” my mom said to me the day after they put him down. It seemed almost silly — with old home videos and both print and digital photos in the thousands, that seemed impossible. But then I realized with grief comes nostalgia. As I said in my last post, in the end he was not the same dog anymore. Even if he lived 10 more years, he would never walk down to the lake lot or fetch a rope again. So while I will miss even his annoying “Feed me!” bark, what I really miss is the old times, just like I miss my old schools, apartments, jobs and friends and the memories I made with them. But life goes on. You remember the good, try to forget the bad, and make new memories. Even though I am alive and well, my mom can still be nostalgic for Baby Renee, since I no longer make animal noises or get food all over my face when I eat … OK, maybe those were bad examples (moooooo).
This year I made a new friend in London whom I really got along with, but she recently moved away. In a fit of sadness a part of me thought “If I had never met her then I wouldn’t be sad right now.” But you could say that about every relationship that ended, pet that passed or friend who moved. We would have less sadness, sure, but we’d also have less joy from the good times we did have together. Alfred Lord Tennyson said it best, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to have loved at all.” And as Elphaba and Glinda sing in Wicked, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” (I saw the musical with my friend who moved and told that to her before she left.)
So now I’m trying to just focus on the good memories. I’ve pulled myself out of my pit of sadness. Just today I was finally able to look at the pugs frolicking in the park and smile instead of thinking “How cute, but one day they’re all going to DIE.” (Yes, I became Emo Elmo for a bit recently). Both my parents and I had the same thought as we were going through the last few weeks — we can’t go through this again. We can’t get another dog. Instead of the happy memories I could make with my hypothetical pug or corgi, I was focusing on the fact that one day it would die. My parents were too. It’s still too soon for them to even entertain the notion — it’s like asking a widow at her husband’s funeral if she thinks she’ll remarry. But I told them not to get rid of his crate — disassemble it and store it away, but hang on to it… just in case.
(And now, for no reason at all, a baby panda!)