On this day last year, I lost my best guy-my 100lb lap dog Buddy. Not only was he a gentle giant, he was the most fun-loving dog you could ever meet. And while I was teaching him to; sit, give paw, and not drag me down the street while on his leash, without even knowing it, he was teaching me how deeply I could love. He was giving me invaluable life lessons that I didn’t even realize a dog could teach us, until he was gone.
When cancer took my best friend’s life May 16th, 2015, I finally knew what it meant to be completely heart-broken. I had never experienced that feeling before, despite losing other loved ones in the past. It felt like our time was cut way too short, like I couldn’t go back to my parents house if Buddy wasn’t going to be there to greet me, and like I had been stripped of this bond that no one could understand.
Buddy’s passing was the first time I didn’t shove the grief down so far that it would be locked away tight, with no key. It was the first time I let myself crumble and actually feel the sadness, heartbreak, and anger that came along with losing him.
It feels like I’ve attended more funerals than the average 24 year should, having lost a lot of loved ones and friends throughout my teenage years. But in those situations I would shove that grief down as far as possible, and not speak about it. I wouldn’t share my sadness with anyone, and would just let it all turn to anger.
However, Buddy passing (and this crazy amazing dog in general), made me realize that it’s okay to feel something. It’s okay to talk about them, to miss them, to cry about it (a lot), and to reflect on all the really amazing times you had together.
Who knew it would take a really goofy golden retriever to teach me something so important?
So, if you’ve lost a loved one (even a pet), understand that it’s okay to truly grieve that loss. It’s okay to cry in the middle of a get together because someone mentioned their name, it’s okay to laugh really hard after remembering that time he got on the counter and ate half a batch of chocolate chip cookies, and most importantly-it’s okay to not feel heartbroken forever.
Of course today, I miss Buddy with every piece of me. I miss him rushing at me when I go home to see my parents. I miss him sitting at my feet snoring and having puppy dreams. But I also know that I had an amazing ten years with him, ten whole years that I will forever cherish.
No one dog will ever replace Buddy, but I know that it’s okay to continue having other dogs in my life-even if I know our time together won’t be forever. Because it’s the memories that you build while you are together that truly matter.
My giant lap dog passed on a lot of life lessons (whether he knew it or not), but I’m most grateful that I was able to learn how to actually cope with loss and the bad times because of him.
When the brunt of the grief has passed, don’t forget to remember all of the lessons learned, the amazing times you had with your loved one, and all of the pictures and memories that you will be able to take with you wherever you go.
Because how can I not smile when I look back on that face?