I was going to write about something else today. Then, Kathryn Freeman Vita sent me this Washington Post article by Joe Yonan, "The Death of a Pet Can Hurt as Much as the Loss of a Relative."
I read the article and the tears started. I took a shower and they kept coming. I have been doing better. An increase of my Lexapro helped the sobbing. A new dog is getting me out of the house. I adore Tyler and have much to share about this new precocious partner. But, I miss Darby and it's difficult not to compare.
Why doesn't Tyler lick my ankles when I step out of the shower?
Why doesn't he smell like warm milk with honey and fresh-baked sugar cookies?
Darby was as beautiful and soulful as a Romantic Poet. His long, brown, wavy hair amplified his sensitive persona. People always thought he was female. I liked that. I liked that they saw his tender nature because it was real.
Every holiday I tied a different colored ribbon on Daby's collar; red for Christmas, pink for Valentine's Day, etc. Yesterday, I was cleaning out my studio and I opened the box of ribbons.
"I am not going to be tying any bows on Tyler," I thought.
Tyler is a dog. Darby was a Dachshund. Sleeping with Tyler is like sleeping with a field hand. He smells like he's still in his work clothes. I volunteer at a farm. I know this smell. It's testosterone, and sweaty leather, and dirt (or soil if there's something growing in it), and wet canvas, and broken pine needles.
Many of you wrote to me about loving a second dog. You told me about this strange overlap of grief and joy. I had planned on waiting until I was finished my Darby Calendar before I got a new dog. I wanted to be able to focus on my second muse once I had completed the tribute to my first one. It didn't work that way. There was nothing rational or ordered about adopting Tyler. I looked at him and he was my dog.
As my friend Allison described my experience saying "yes" to keeping Darby when I had plans to travel and be free, "You got knocked up." Well, I got knocked up with Tyler, too.
Anyway, I am so grateful to Joe Yonan for writing about grieving the loss of a pet. When Darby died I looked around a lot and couldn't find anything that so eloquently describes the loneliness and unbearable sadness of losing one's animal companion. As you can see by the comments that keep coming in to Joe's article I am not alone. I needed for someone to spell out with experts, I always like experts, what my friend Barbara said when I told her I was worried about how much I was crying.
"Moira," she said, "When I lost Lenny I was really f#*ked up."
Read the full article, "The Loss of a Pet Can Hurt as Much as the Loss of a Relative" by Joe Yonan.
There is also an informative Q + A with Joe Yonan and Sandra Barker, the director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University.