When we love dogs, we love them all the way. The experience is all-encompassing as you enjoy the highest highs, the lowest lows, and everything in between, during your time together, however long. This much I've learned to be true.
For about two years now, I've been dealing with anticipatory grief but recently it has been particularly bad. My dog appears to be reaching a point when it will be time for us to let her go.
I knew she would reach this stage but I've feared it, dreaded it, and for the past several months, tried harder to accept it, but I'm not there yet. Over a year ago I sat in on a pet loss support group, and I suddenly felt hopeful. I realized then that my emotions were normal and I wasn't crazy. Fast forward another year and I thought I would be further along in my embracing of Cleo's natural lifespan but I'm struggling. Will I ever be ready?
In a Huffington Post piece, the actress Marlo Thomas writes, "It's very emotional when you lose your dog; they're part of your family. When the heart loves, it loves -- it opens up wide and loves them. And when they leave you, it cracks and breaks. But the great thing about the heart is: it heals and makes room for love again."
She's right about the absolute nature of loving a dog. I've practically absorbed Cleo's genes into my own from our time together. I've written before about what I love about my dog, and how an older dog can teach us valuable lessons. My fear of the hole that will be left behind once Cleo leaves is great. I keep making promises to myself that I will work harder to focus more on the positive influence she has had on me and so many others, and focus less on my personal pain. It is hard to not selfishly get angry at how abbreviated a dog's lifespan is.
Will I be ready when she leaves? I honestly don't know.