Today marks the first day in 13 years without my Heart Dog, Maverick. It's been just over 24 hours since saying goodbye. All attempts at productivity failed during the first part of the day. I have been working on this blog/website for weeks now and today is the hardest by far to scrummage up the words to describe the hollow pit in my stomach.
Maverick was my buddy, my confidant, my "mini-me" in so many ways. Through over a decade of constant and significant life changes, he was my faithful and devoted companion. Where I went, so did he. Whether it was the washroom, upstairs to grab something quick, or a trip in the car, he was my shadow. Friends and family would frequently comment "He's always at your feet! How can you not step on him?" Admittedly, we've had a few minor mishaps over the years but overall, him being at my side was as automatic and effortless as breathing.
Today he's neither at my feet or even a few feet away sleeping (as he has been the last week more than anything else as his illness progressively took over making it difficult for him to walk). The result: a house that feels empty, quiet, and incomplete. My other beloved sheltie - Marti - is as quiet as a mouse compared to Maverick. He was the main act while she the doting sidekick. This morning, Marti went over to the tree where we said goodbye to Maverick and laid down. She wouldn't come when called. Although their relationship could best be described as aloof, clearly she recognizes the loss and misses him too.
After work, I went out to the tree with the blanket he laid on and spent time, Marti at my side, going through his recent pictures and giving myself the opportunity to begin finding some closure. It brought comfort and felt as though he was still there with us in some way. I also communicated with close family and friends about having to say goodbye. Sharing with the world (i.e. Facebook) is going to have to wait another few days because it's still too raw and I need more time to process this on my own.
The day ended with some self-care (aka yoga class). It helped me to complete this entry and have a few moments not completely engulfed by that agonizing feeling of loneliness and disbelief that he is gone.
So what's the bottom line for managing grief on the first day after your Heart Dog has passed? First of all, give yourself permission to let your feelings out (whether that be talking to someone you trust, writing, or simply looking through pictures and videos and letting the tears pour out). Also, find a physical outlet to help transfer your emotional pain into healing energy. For me, it was yoga and singing in the car helped too! For you, it could be anything at all – cooking, cleaning, going for a drive - that gets you moving and actively providing an outlet to release and process your emotions. Finally, if you can manage taking the day off from work or whatever you have planned, please do. Grief, whether from the death of a person or animal, is experienced the same way and pretending to be “ok” when you’re not will only extend the grieving process. Take all the time you need – there is no stopwatch to tell you otherwise.
How do you recall managing your first day without your Heart Dog? Please share your tips and words of inspiration so we can all learn from each other.
How can this blog help you?
This website and blog originated from the experience of learning to let go of my beloved Heart Dog, Maverick. By sharing my story and offering the opportunity for you to share yours, I hope we can all truly celebrate their lives. pay tribute, and heal from the loss of our one true canine companion. I hope this website will also raise awareness of the meaning of a Heart Dog because it is a concept that is not largely understood.