Emily walked into her house after work on a Friday night, it was dark and quiet. She was taking a shower when her girlfriends were sending her multiple messages about meeting up later that night for cocktails. She declined the meetup, she told them it was a long day at work and she just wanted to go to bed.
She spent hours fluffing the pillows, drawing the sheets, and drinking tea but nothing helped. The bed felt big and cold. She was not used to sleeping alone.
She drove to her parent’s house for the weekend, it had been a long time since she had visited. She was going to see Tiger their German Shepherd more than her parents. Saturday was spent playing with Tiger, eating her father’s homemade chilli and taking her parents out for a Marvel movie. She almost felt normal again.
She was back home by Sunday evening and it was dark and quiet again. The worst part of getaways was that you have to return to reality. There was a box labelled ‘Donation’ lying in the corner, that she was supposed to part with weeks ago. She decided it was time.
The shelter was delighted to receive a box full of well-maintained goodies. “How lucky are the doggies today!” the volunteer exclaimed. “I’m the lucky one” Emily responded.
It was a Tuesday when she opened her refrigerator to find an unopened jar of vegan ice cream. She was trying to enjoy it when her best friend called her to catch up. “You don’t find vegan cookie dough ice cream delectable anymore?! That has been your favourite ice cream for 5 years woman” her best friend pointed out. “It used to be Marco’s favourite too, I can’t enjoy it anymore because every time I ate it, I offered him a tiny bite, now there are no more tiny bites to offer,” Emily said.
“Emily please, it’s been several months already and you have still not recovered from it. You aren’t going out as much, you’re not eating like before and you are certainly not acting normal” her best friend told her with her hands up in the air. Emily was going to end the conversation when she was told “Marco was your dog babe, he was amazing and he crossed over to the other side. This is not your husband or your mother, please remember that”.
Emily was grieving but nobody wanted to see it. They wanted to see progress, growth and a positive attitude to life. Victoria her colleague bumped into her at the coffee station, “hey, I didn’t see you at the company anniversary party last night, I know you are dealing with your dog’s passing away, it’s just that Lee expects us to attend these events. He was not happy that you were not around last night”. “I don’t feel like it at the moment, I’ll attend the next one for sure, thanks” Emily told her with a grateful smile. The conversation ended with “it’s just your dog, some of our colleagues have lost their spouses”.
The days dragged by. Every day ended the same way, with her coming home to a quiet house. Nobody was waiting at the door to greet her, nobody waiting for her to finish her nighttime routine so that she could take him for a walk, nobody to cuddle with her at night and nobody to listen with attentive black ears when she cried gently into her pillow on the days she felt broken and useless.
It’s just a dog they said, an animal who had given her company and his time had ended. But he was never just a dog she silently screamed. He was a gift, a gift of unconditional love and patience that had stood by her for 10 years. He had seen her grow from an introverted teenager to a confident young woman. He had cried with her on the days she felt alone and unloveable.
Was a dog’s life not as valuable as a spouse’s or a parent’s life? Was it fair that she was expected not to grieve for too long because it was not for a person? Emily went home to grief every day just like anyone else who had lost a loved one.
It was her company’s pre-Christmas bash, everyone was expected to be there and Lee wanted Emily there. But Emily had other plans. Every year, she bought a present for Marco and opened it for him and let him try it out. This year she would honour his memory by getting him a gravestone.
She sent her manager an email, ‘Sorry Lee, I cannot make it for the party tonight, I am visiting my dog’s gravestone for the first time. And no, he’s not just a dog.’