When you fall in love with a dog, you can fall head over heels real quick or the love can grow slowly over time. When we adopted our dog, I didn't immediately fall in love. I was too busy evaluating whether she made a good match for our lifestyle, our home and our personalities. Maybe being a dog lover I already knew how I could feel about Cleo generally, but as a responsible adult who knew how important it was to ensure this adoption was forever, I could be dispassionate -- at least for awhile. That "awhile" is now so far in the past that I can't remember what it feels like not to worry and weep over my dog's eventual passing.
Will I avoid having another dog because of the emotional toll?
With every passing day that Cleo loses more of her mobility, my heart squeezes. When I find her standing in the corner, my eyes well up. On our walks, if she stumbles for any reason, I am quick to pull her in close offering words of reassurance.
Seeing Cleo manage her stress from life as an old dog is honestly, gut wrenching. Each milestone in her declining health has left its mark on my heart. On the other hand, watching her bounce back from tripping over a shoe gets me applauding and cheering for her. Her joy from being rewarded for accomplishing a task is infectious. I smile constantly when I see her charge head first toward what she believes is the front door, and the mail or UPS man. Once a guard dog, always a guard dog!
And in the mornings, Cleo has the body language of the softest, sleepiest, Husky puppy. Yawning widely, she will smack her lips, give a soft moan, then spend five minutes wiping her face and paws on her blanket. Some mornings after you approach her bed, she will flop back down and try to pull you into a cuddle with her paws. Then there are mornings when she pops up, and stretches while her joints creak and pop.
After all these years, I have memorized and love every part of her personality. Now my husband and I sit, and talk fondly of "that one time she pulled the Thanksgiving turkey carcass off the counter." She can no longer jump and pull a 15 lb. ceramic dish from the sink and into another room. Ironically I don't have to worry about Cleo getting into the compost. No, instead I fear the day when she stops being food motivated. And I know that day is coming.
The unexpected emotional toll from loving a dog
I look at her now, lying halfway under my chair, and see my best friend. I see an adoption success story. I see my heart dog. We both went from reserved yet optimistic creatures to best buddies. We both let our guard down and accepted the other for who they are. Maybe having so few expectations from each other at the start made it easier to fall so madly in love and bond the way we have?
Maybe it's experiencing that complete acceptance is why I'm wondering aloud whether I will ever have another dog. It's been an incredible journey with Cleo. I honestly don't know if our time together has ruined me for ever having another dog.
Have you had a similiar experience? How would you approach this?