Sweeping up the heart

Sage took this picture of Chaussette a little over a week before she died.

Sage took this picture of Chaussette a little over a week before she died.

Last night was my first night without Chaussette. It should have been wonderful and luxurious, my first opportunity in weeks for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. (Chaussette could tell when seizures were coming, and she’d figured out quickly that the best way to get some human attention when that happened was to jump up on my husband’s side of the bed. I’d taken to waking up in the middle of the night, shutting our bedroom door, and spending the rest of the night on the living room couch with her to prevent her from waking Paul and so I could be there when the seizure came. She would curl up on my legs, and we would rest peacefully until it did, usually around 4:00 a.m.)

But habit is hard to break, and I woke up as usual around 2:30 a.m. I tried to return to my much-needed slumber, but a tight band of grief threatened to suffocate me. I kept thinking I heard the tinkle of her tags; that if I looked out the window, I’d see her loping across the snowy yard, or that if I went to the living room, she’d be on the couch waiting for me.

I struggled to suppress my sobbing for quite awhile, and then I remembered that I have an herbal tincture called “No More Worries” for situations like this. It had been effective in the past, so I took a reckless amount of it and was indeed able to fall asleep not too long thereafter.

Now it’s morning, though, and the pain is worse than ever. I still keep looking for her, and a fresh dagger of grief stabs me when I remember she’s not there. “Handle this like a writer,” I told myself. “The world is story, and this is just one more, so write it.”

So here I am at the computer. Emily Dickinson’s “The Bustle in a House” plays over and over in my mind, especially the part about “sweeping up the heart/And putting love away.” That’s what I intend to do here. There are so many little things I don’t want to lose, and yet I don’t want to be running my fingers over the shards and drawing more heart’s blood on a regular basis.

These are the things I simultaneously want to remember and forget. I’ll stack the words in the box of this screen and confine them there. Eventually, as life moves on and I add more posts, they’ll sink into the obscurity of my blog’s archives, one more listing among many.

But they’ll still be there.

Here are some memories I want to preserve in the depths:

The sleek smoothness of Chaussette’s soft black coat; how it rarely shed; how no matter how covered with leaves and other detritus her coat would become, it would always magically be clean again by the time we went inside.

How Chaussette never had a “doggy” smell—in summer, her coat smelled of sunshine and earth; in winter, it was woodsmoke and snow.

The triangular warmth of her head resting on my leg as we curled up on the couch.

The night walks we would take when the weather was still warm; we’d go down the road after Sage was in bed, and I’d call my grandmother to give her news of the day and tell her I loved her. Then I would turn off my flashlight at the top of a hill and watch the stars, Chaussette sitting patiently, for a few minutes before going home.

How she was getting good at playing “Fetch” with a Frisbee, which was our primary form of exercise once the cold weather put a stop to our daily bike rides; how she enjoyed holding the Frisbee and playing Tug-of-War before relinquishing it for another throw; how she was never fooled by fake throws despite Sage’s efforts on that front; how she could always find the Frisbee even when it went off course.

The impressive speed at which she learned to let herself in and out, even though the process involved two dog doors and a set of stairs.

The relief I would feel when, after she’d been out wandering for a long time, I would see her graceful black form loping across the yard.

How Chaussette would run to the bird feeders and leap at the birds, unconcerned about the futility of trying to catch one, reveling in the joy of ephemeral flight.

The way she would lie patiently when Sage flung his body across her, exclaiming, “I love you, Chaussette!”

How she would stick her nose in the bathtub when I took a shower and lap the water along its edges.

The sense of peace and companionship I would feel when she lay near me as I went about my chores.

The last happy day, the Sunday before she died, when the sun shone and the mercury climbed to a tropical thirty-plus degrees. Sage and I hung a bird feeder from the maple tree in the front yard as Chaussette searched for fallen seeds, which she loved to lick up, and then she helped me pull Sage down the road on his sled. We talked about getting her a harness so she could pull him without choking herself, but even then, I knew it would never happen. But the sun battled the shadow of her imminent death, and that day will live on in my heart as the last truly happy day with her.

Chaussette’s joyful greetings every time I came home; her warmth and substance as she leaned against me; her silent canine reassurance that all was well.

I miss her.

Chaussette at the end

Chaussette at the end

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6 comments

  1. I’m so sorry. This made me cry.

    1. I’m sorry about making you cry; I’ve been so sad that I don’t want to make MORE people that way. I do appreciate your sympathy, though. Writing really is therapeutic–I still get flashes of sorrow when I remember that I’ll never see my dog again, but writing down the memories and then trying to move beyond them has helped a bit. I hope life is a little more cheerful for you! > Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2014 19:33:30 +0000 > To: reharris68@hotmail.com >

  2. I love the name of your dear-departed dog, and the sweet memories she evokes. As you say, writing IS therapy.

    1. You’re definitely right about the therapeutic value of writing; this blog helped me get through Peri’s death, and now it’s helped me do the same with Chaussette’s. I also really value the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know through blogging, including you. Thanks for all of YOUR ideas and stories!

  3. I’m so sorry that you lost a friend, and even more sorry that it happened so close to a holiday that celebrates the ones we love. Sending you well wishes across the web, Rebecca.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words; they really mean a lot to me. Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2014 17:11:27 +0000 To: reharris68@hotmail.com

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