Pet Loss – Missing My Late Dog Mandy 11 months now
The loss of a beloved pet is a heart-wrenching experience that really, has been like no other loss for me.
Today, it has been 11 months – short-very long months since I had to make the decision to have my beloved dog Mandy put to sleep. It was, and remains, the most gut-wrenching moment of my life. I didn’t want to have to make that choice. I felt like I was playing God. It was a decision that seemed to hold more responsibility than I thought I could stand up to. The moment I had to make that decision was a moment that I had often thought I’d never survive. The moment that Mandy was losing her life, going to sleep, – the moment she died, I was dizzy, overwhelmed, bawling, feeling as if I’d die along with her, feeling like there wasn’t a deep enough breath left in the universe for me – God, what pain and grief. It is a moment that I still feel at times in utter grief that is still palpable. It felt, then, in that moment, that nothing else mattered. It felt as if life was in slow motion. It was devastating – life changing.
A few months ago I moved back to the city where the journey of our 10 and 1/2 year relationship began. Mandy died October 28, 2006 in the city I used to live in. A city that I actually never wanted to live in. At any rate, moving away some 8 or so months later, from that apartment, that city, where I was last with Mandy felt as if I had abandoned her all over again. It really made me wish I had kept her ashes, something I’ve never done but something that in retrospect would have helped me with this grief I think. To have had those ashes to spread and let fly in the wind in the places where we walked and played years ago would have really meant something to me now.
But, I have to radically accept that I didn’t make that choice then. I didn’t know I was going to soon move at that point. So much was going on in my life.
Now that I am back in the city I feel at home in and the city where Mandy I shared 7 years of our 10 1/2 it is bitter-sweet really. I bike around and pass all the places that we were together. It’s getting easier now but when I first moved back here I couldn’t go for a bike ride without crying as I’d stop and stare at a few places I lived in the past with Mandy. I have gone to the parks and sat and just taken it all in, crying in public and all. I have walked around some of the blocks we’d walk. Very bitter-sweet indeed. I so wish that Mandy had made it to come back home with me, you know?
From time to time I hear sirens and there is no Mandy here to howl like she always would. I hear people’s voices outside my apartment door or outside my apartment window and there is no Mandy here to bark the way she always did. I open the chewy drawer for my other two dogs and there is no Mandy pushing her way to be first in line.
Today is difficult as it has been each 28th of the month for the last 11 months.
The picture just below is me with Mandy on the morning of her last day around 11 am. She was in pain. She was put to sleep around 1:45pm October 28, 2006. Ironically when I last hugged my late cat Duke before he was put down he too put his head under my chin just as Mandy did as you can see in this picture.
However, I do feel somewhat intimidated by the 28th of the next month, October, which will mark the one year anniversary of my losing Mandy. In some ways I hope it is a day that I can begin to move further forward with my grief and turn a corner. But, turning that corner means remembering less and feeling her absence less and while that is already happening it is sad too because there is a part of me that just does not want to let go.
When you lose a beloved pet, all you have left, besides the experience of the relationship and the memories is really the pain of the loss. The pain of the absence. I think that is what makes it so paradoxical and bitter-sweet to really let the pain go.
I will no doubt blog on October 28th about how I experience that day. I am planning to go to a park near where I live again - a park where Mandy and I spent many a day in her first few years of life and our journey together and to remember, to feel what comes up and I am going to set a few balloons with notes to Mandy, in heaven, inside of them. I hope this ritual good-bye that will mark the year anniversary will help me make the next difficult choice I have to make, to allow myself to heal further and to give myself permission to let go of the pain – which of course feels like a further letting go of Mandy and a real distancing from what it felt like to have her here.
I so long for her touch. I long to feel her paw on my arm as all 50 pounds of her would sit in my lap. I long to lay beside her on my bed like we often would, and she’d cuddle up beside me, and I’d pet her, rubbing her tummy and Mandy, Mandy would flash such a cute doggy Mandy smile.
I also need to let go of the almost endless second-guessing I’ve been doing at times wondering if I could have done more for her and the sad reality is that I was in a terrible and abusive relationship for almost the last 3 years of Mandy’s life and yes, so many times I sit and wish that I could get that time back. But the reality is, I can’t.
And… the most precious thing about having to let Mandy go and having to live without her wonderful companionship is that Mandy taught me something so important and so huge. Mandy taught me what I needed to know to get myself out of that complicated and tragic relationship. Mandy and the lessons of her loss and having to make that painful choice to let her go helped me to win my freedom and to come to know myself in a much deeper and fulfilling way – the legacy of Mandy in my life – the legacy of our relationship and the love that we shared.
Mandy taught me that sometimes, no matter how much we love, or care, or how much we have invested in a relationship we have to know that it is actually more loving (for ourselves too) to let go than it is to hang on anymore. Sometimes no matter how much we love, we just have to let go – we in fact need to let go as change and personal transformation are afoot.
Mandy taught me that in an emotional and spiritual way. I was then able to apply it to the person that had wreaked havoc in my life for too long. The loss of Mandy was a turning-point in my life and as grief will, grieving the loss of my beloved dog Mandy took me through other unresolved grief and brought me to the tears I so needed to weep. Tears and weeping for the loss of Mandy and my missing her so much that there are no words. Tears and weeping for Mandy that were then weaved in and out of the loss of that relationship and the work I had to do to heal along with other losses that I still had residual grief inside about.
I remember when I got Mandy. I had arranged for the man bringing her, I had called about an ad in our local newspaper to bring her to my ex’s – at that time, in 1996 – My ex and I were sitting on the porch waiting for hours. My ex had the dog that we’d gotten together before I ended that relationship. I am sure that’s what lead me to really want to get my own dog. Finally the man pulled up in the driveway and to our horror, he went to the trunk of his car. He opened the trunk of his car and took out a small pet cage. That poor little puppy had been in a cage in a trunk of a car. Mandy had been abused in her first 7 weeks of life. Mandy and I had the reality of being young and helpless, and abused in common. Mandy was with me and comforted me through some very difficult psychotherapy in my life as recovered from so much. I wish I could have shared more of the best – better of me with her.
When he put the cage on the porch, I immediately opened the cage door and out burst this little dog. She was so cute, shaking and non-stop whining. She wasn’t at all what I thought i was getting. She wasn’t a sheltie that’s for sure. She cost $75. I wasn’t sure she was the dog for me but I sure as heck wasn’t going to let that guy put her back in a cage and in the trunk of a car. It took all I owned not to get very angry with that guy. I just paid him the money and asked him to leave.
My little pup smelled very nasty. She had brought the barn with her. So my ex and I bathed her about 3 times. She still had a little smell. Then after we dried her off a bit with towels my little pup went whining all the way out into the living room where she found my ex’s dog and immediately started to bond and it helped her to settle down.
It took a few weeks to really get rid of the barn smell. Many a night watching tv and cuddling up with that little pup at night it was as if I was in a barn but I didn’t mind because this little puppy was a bundle of love and loyalty, curiosity, playfulness and fun.
It would take me almost 3 weeks of calling that little dog – puppy, pup and so forth before her name would come to me. With other pets I had the names would be ready for them when they arrived or the names would just come to me. Not this time. This little pup was to be a different experience in so many ways. Finally it came to me – Mandy. And it fit well while she was little. As she grew and became the sweet to me (aggressive and protective to the world warrior) sometimes I thought she would have been more suited to a "tougher" name. All in all though, no, Mandy it was and Mandy it was meant to be. I named her after Barry Manilow’s song, Mandy. I even knew then that some day when she was gone that would torture me – and I was so right. And of course, many times in the last 11 months I have heard that song because I listen to an old ’70′s music station and I am reduced to a pile of tears each and every time. I sometimes avoided the song months ago. But now, now I listen to it and go through it. It is getting easier but I still find it takes my breath away.
"I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice, shadows of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night, night goes into morning, just another day, happy people pass my way, looking in their eyes I see a memory, I never realized how happy you made me – oh Mandy, you came and you gave without taking, oh Mandy you kissed me and stopped me from shaking and I need you today oh Mandy… the tears are in my mind and nothing is rhyming…oh Mandy…" (Manilow’s Song – Mandy)
I ended up moving to this other city for all the wrong reasons (that were the right reasons for all I needed to learn to continue to grow – mistake = growth opportunity) the city where I both lost Mandy and welcomed Lucy into my life. Lucy is a wonderful yellow lab who Mandy really didn’t like all that much. Lucy loved Mandy though. When Lucy was a pup, in what were Mandy’s last months, though I didn’t know Mandy would need to go so soon, she was 10 1/2 when she died, Lucy emulated so much of what Mandy did. It is such an amazing and at times almost haunting thing now though. Lucy learned to play with Tyler the way that he and Mandy had played. So I see in their play, at times, the spirit of Mandy through Lucy as I watch Tyler’s joy at the sameness in the play.
And though I’ve gone on here I must also share that in my initial grief Tyler was right there with me. He was grieving too. Each and every time I’d cry and be missing Mandy (even to this day) Tyler would come and be all sweet and curl up with me – he doesn’t do that as a general rule. Or at least he didn’t before we lost Mandy. And it is very true that losing Mandy wasn’t just my loss it was also Tyler’s loss. Lucy, well she was young and her and Mandy had issues, Lucy didn’t miss Mandy, didn’t miss a beat and that was great for her but a little tough at the time.
If you are, like I am, grieving the loss of a pet in your life, know that it is normal and it is important and you need to give yourself permission to feel what you feel and to express it when you need to.
I can still feel Mandy’s energy with me. I really can.
I lost a few other dogs in my childhood that were given to me by my parents only to be taken away again. The longest I had any of them was one for a year. A beautiful Irish Setter, I loved so much, named K.C. – for King Clancy. I went away to a summer camp and my father took K.C. – he was about 1 year old to a vet to be put down claiming he was viscious because he ate a hole in his couch. It was a senseless and tragic death and a loss that was huge I couldn’t greive until years later.
I do believe I will always miss Mandy profoundly. She was my first dog (that I had a lasting relationship with) and the first loss of dog that I’d had from being a puppy to the end of her life. I lost my first cat Duke who was very close to me in 2002 and while it was difficult it didn’t seem I grieved as long. Also, when I had to have Duke put down he’d been ill for sometime, it was more planned, we spent a last special night together, he and I. I was awake all night crying, petting him, saying good-bye – he also in his own way was very sweet, close, and saying good-bye to me and the relationship felt more successful over-all – meaning with Mandy I have some regrets that have been tough to deal with and that I think have prolonged some of the deeper grief.
Just as an aside I am a Toronto Maple Leaf fan (NHL Hockey) and their initials, as I have on a few t-shirts and a couple of hats – TML – ironically enough were the first initials of my 3 dogs when I had Mandy. I named them each with no thought to this and didn’t discover that Tyler, Mandy, and Lucy, were the initials of my team, Toronto Maple Leafs. I actually didn’t realize this until after Mandy was gone.
It’s not overly important but it is noteworthy in terms of the fact that all things small and large, in life, have purpose and levels of meaning.
It is once again hockey season – at last – and the neat thing is that each and every time I watch a game and see those initials TML on their sweaters I remember Mandy and that feels neat to me – really neat. It is cause and pause for a smile that is sometimes accompanied by a few tears. Go Leafs Go!!
Pet loss is profound loss. Pets are loyal. Pets love us unconditionally. It is so healthy and so okay to grieve and miss that when your pet has passed and you so miss that relationship. I may be close to some people but I know that I am way closer to my pets than I am to people and more and more people will also admit that these days.
I am very grateful that I have my wonderful two dogs, Tyler (4 1/2) and Lucy (almost 2). They are terrific companions. Tyler still misses Mandy. I can see him looking around at times. Or when I come across something of Mandy’s that isn’t put away with most of her stuff, like an old collar, Tyler sniffs it madly and looks around, runs around, still remembering Mandy – still looking for Mandy. Lucy has a few little Mandy-like quirks – things she no doubt learned from Mandy. Lucy as a puppy was always paying very close attention to Mandy.
And I have my 5 year old calico cat, Baylee who is an amazing little soul. She is playful, very affectionate and loving. And yes, Baylee misses Mandy. As silly as it sounds I’ve seen Baylee running around, looking behind her and wondering why there isn’t a dog there chasing her as Mandy would numerous times a day. Baylee misses the chase and Tyler and Lucy don’t chase her.
It still feels surreal at times. It is what it is. It is loss. Mandy is gone and I am grateful for the time we had together. Yet at times it feels impossible that she is really gone. Then the that longing feeling comes for a few minutes, then more tears, then I take a deep breathe and shift my focus until the next time I remember Mandy or am reminded of Mandy or miss Mandy.
Mandy, I love you. I miss you. I hope that you are running in the tall green grass of heaven, once again chasing Dukey like you used to here on earth. You are so loved and so missed and somehow I know you know. "Oh Mandy…"
© A.J. Mahari September 28, 2007
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