losing one’s heart.

Henry’s death is hitting me hard.

We’ve lost dogs before, and I grieved for them every time, but this one is a deeper hurt that any of the others. The ones we lost before Henry had been barely born, or they were old and had long and happy lives behind them. Even Sam, my Golden Retriever who died accidentally back in 2002, was nine years old and had lived almost a full life. Henry hadn’t even come into his own as an adult dog yet—he was barely three, and still infused with the vigor and hotheadedness of youth.

I can’t really pinpoint what hurts the most about his untimely death. It’s the sum of all the contributing factors, I suppose. Part of it is the speed of his decline. There was no time for me to even prepare for the possibility that he might not come back.

Part of it is the bond I had with him. He was truly my dog, and I was his favorite human, and he loved me deeply. Sitting in this chair, I won’t ever see him rounding the kitchen corner again and then just taking a quick sprint and an effortless leap into my lap (whether I was working or not), for the customary expression of love where he tried to merge his face with mine and nip at my nose.

Part of it is the way in which we went. I was there at the end, but I will always hate the fact that he got to spend the last two days of his short life in a place he didn’t like, with people he didn’t love. I should have been with him then.

Part of it is the knowledge of all the time that was taken from him. After having suffered through this winter with the rest of us, he won’t get to experience spring again, won’t get to lie on the warm patio stones with the other dogs and joyfully bark at passing bicyclists and joggers. We won’t get to walk out in the autumn air again, just him in his chest harness and me holding the leash and letting him map the world with his nose.

The house is much too quiet now. All the activity that used to annoy me a little when I was trying to work—the scurrying, the probing of cabinet doors for an unlatched one, the patrolling of the kitchen for dropped food—all of it has ceased. The three remaining dogs are snuggled up in front of the pellet stove and quietly napping. Little Ygraine keeps looking for her playmate and protector on occasion, and it breaks my heart all over again because we got her as a companion for him, and he’s gone, and she will be all alone when the two old dogs are gone too.

I have a deadline, so I have to go back to work and write, and maybe it will take my mind off thinking about my little buddy, who will never sit on my lap and look out of the window for squirrels again. But I go back to work with a broken heart. It will come back together in time, as it usually does, but a piece of it will be gone for good, and it will have the shape of a stout, happy, smart, and loving black-and-red dachshund.

18 thoughts on “losing one’s heart.

  1. I wish I could make it better for you, Marko. I know this kind of pain, made worse because of a poignant absence, that aching void. It hurts to lose like this. But for what it’s worth, just as you were lucky to have his as your dog, Henry was lucky to have you as his human. Sending so many hugs. <3

  2. Marko, you have my most sincere condolances. Dogs are a special part of our family too. I especially enjoy the lastest addition, Ginger. She’s a champiom mouser and is much more comfortable with me or the oldest son (35). He belongs to her :-) but she’ll jump in my lap after a good day and put her face right up against mine.

    Be at peace, I truly believe we’ll have them again.

  3. If it helps at all, know that reading your stories helped me get thru a hard time. I’ve also lost dogs, and it truly hurts because they are members of the family. Very sorry for your loss.

  4. I understand your pain. My Mother Lost her dog Charlie last week. He was 13 and in constant pain. Mom was holding him at the last. He wasn’t my dog but I was crying for his loss to. I believe he’s in heaven with my ancestors and all our other pets, he’s no longer hurting and I’m sure having a good time while he waits for us.

  5. I hope this will offer you some comfort as these words were written during such a time for my family. – Brigid

    As I come home tonight, I understand that he is not here. Still, as I step up the steps, I desperately want to hear the soft “woof” of a black lab, waiting in the kitchen for me to step in. But I can only approach, in that utter quiet that is now the house, sensing those who are absent who inhabited this place but exist now as only ghosts of my past, living on the breath of memory.

    I stand outside the door, hearing hushed wind, hand on the doorknob, hesitant to open the door to every memory, hesitant more, to leave them behind. I stand there silently, my presence not detected by dogs forever silent, motionless, trying to blend in with the house, the dark wood and trees, listening to the living presence of a home, all the lives and love and heartache that went into it, that formed these four walls, that now form me.

    I listen, as a churchgoer does, to chants in ancient languages that no one understands, but listens to anyway, the words a peace that flows like water. There is no bark but that of the trees, and the baleful sound of a wind that speaks the name of one departed. I listen for things I’d dream of, if only I could sleep.

    I open up the door to go on in. I have no words for what I am feeling. I have no name for the quiet that waits inside. But that is OK. There are no words for the sun’s warmth on the skin; of the trinity of earth and sky and water, There are no names for the bones that lie in quiet mourning, bringing richness to the earth. There are no names for the rocks that direct a streams flow, for the fur and leaves that line an eagle’s nest. Yet they are, and always will be. Strong. Necessary. Waiting. – From The Book of Barkley

  6. It’s a heartbreaking thing to lose that friend, that companion that you had such plans and expectations with. Fortunately or unfortunately it does get easier over time, but occasionally the pain surfaces anew. I lost MY dog last Fall and am still heartbroken to this day. We have others living with us, but none of them have my heart like he did.
    You have my deepest sympathies and I wish for you peace in your memories of Henry.

  7. Hang in there. It hurts, I know, I’ve been there too. At least you were there at the end. That matters a lot. When you feel like you can bear it, find and bring another pup into the house to love. It won’t replace him but it’ll help.

    All the best to you,

  8. Oh Marko, I’m sorry to hear of your loss. It is a terrible thing to have to part from a beloved, and loving, companion.
    Having a dog is not really the same as having a “pet”. A dog is a family member, a bonded part of your. He is the heart of a family, always ready with love and affection, a well of goodwill and love, regardless of tense situations or harsh words. He is selfless and accepting.
    While we feel grateful for having dogs in our families, and all that they give us, when we lose them they is just as deep a hole as the space they filled in life.
    This parting has left you wounded and you have my deepest sympathy.

  9. We had what I think is a close call with my “first” dog this weekend. She is 12 1/2 and seems to be getting over it. I am not ready for her to go. I find it oddly comforting knowing that dogs don’t live longer, a bond so strong after so few years would be worse given more.

  10. Ah Marko :( I am so sorry for your loss.

    While I am not a dog person, I will be shattered when we lose my Shadow (black lab/rottie mix); he’s already 13 but still acts like a pup; it was bad enough when we lost Bailey (maine coon cross, solid grey and white) he was just two years old and we suspect he was knocked over by my one neighbour who is often drunk.

    I fully believe that they will be waiting for us on the other side of the Rainbow bridge; it’s the only reason why I’m so well-behaved and won’t commit any crimes, is because I want to be reunited with all my children.

  11. The loss will always be with you, but thankfully the pain will ease over time. Henry is still with you, and that’s the best part of memories.

  12. My condolences, Marko. It takes a lot of time for the hole they leave to heal over. And to some extent, it’s always there. But the joy and love they bring while they’re with us is well worth it.

  13. So sorry, Marko. It’s hard losing someone – human or beast – so close to us so soon. Animals especially dogs. They bond to us so tightly and learn to anticipate our needs and serve us unconditionally. I was watching a documentary on people living in the Siberian Taiga well above the Arctic Circle, hardy people who make almost everything they need. Their dogs are integral to their living for hunting and protection. It was amazing to see this grizzled ancient Russian hunter get teary about his dog dying. That bond goes back thousands of years.

    Henry was a good servant, child and friend. I believe all dogs go to Heaven. he is for sure in a better place where there are boundless treats, warm spots to sleep and scritches infinite. So sad that he’s not here with you for sure. Grieve well and be well.

  14. Sigh… We love them all, but we love them all differently. Some hit so much harder than others. I know what you mean by the silence being too much. Mary Ann Kennedy wrote a song ‘Shooting Star’, and a line from it says that perfectly “When the silence screamed…”

    Fair Winds and hope for the best.