I have this picture in my room. One day, my daughter asked me, “Mom, is that the day you married Lucia?” My answer was, “No baby, Lucia and I were already together forever.” You see, my dog and I began it all….
I bought my dog to celebrate my first job out of college. I had been lonely from leaving my college town and thrust into real life and big responsibilities. It was love at first sight. After I brought her to the vet, I was told she would most likely die from Parvo. That fluffy little ball of fur proved them all wrong.
My Golden Retriever was my life. She was part of my engagement, watched me get ready for my wedding and moved to an apartment and 2 different homes over time. She was our first child.
When our first human child arrived, she didn’t feel pushed out. My sweet dog thought our baby was hers. She had paced the floors with me and pregnancy insomnia. She sat with me during round-the-clock feedings. She was there for me as I had meltdowns about being over tired, over worked, underfed and overwhelmed. It was years of blurry joy and hustle and she was there through it all.
As a stay at home mom with a husband who traveled, Lucia was my constant companion during some lonely times. I had days where I spoke to no adults. I spoke to my babies and my dog. Conversations can be had without words and my dog was always my biggest cheerleader and best friend. Her tail, ears and eyes spoke volumes to me.
There was no better big sister for my humans than Lucia. She was patient while they played vet and poked her in the eyes. She was smart when she learned how to stand under the high chair to avoid flying sippy cups while reaping the benefits of fall out food. She was even ok with squeezing hugs and the occasional ear tasting. She was sensitive to yelling and was always a reminder for us to use our talking voices.
She was the emotional equalizer. As I walked into the house with 5 bags on my arms, screaming children chasing behind me from the car and everyday chaos we entered a home of love. Our Golden Retriever always came running with a stuffed animal in her mouth, a wagging tail, and an attitude that said ”Leave it at the door.” We all changed when we saw her sweet face.
She put my children to bed every night without fail. She’d lay on the carpet as I read to one and get up and move to the next room as I did the same. There was never a night she missed tucking them in.
As my oldest became school aged, my dog started picking her up from school. Everyday when my alarm went off, she went running for the door. She knew it was time to pick up her girl and go for a car ride.
Over the years, my dog had 2 knee surgeries, many teeth pulled, growths cut off and more. Even as she was recovering, she still took care of me. (link)
As she grew, so did my struggle with migraine. She became a therapy and emotional dog to me that no one will ever fully understand. She got to a point that she sensed my pain spikes. She learned how to comfort me and held my hand very early on and never let go. Her eyes were always on me. No matter how many humans we added to our family, I was her number one.
Feeling like number one when I give my full self to my family was priceless. I don’t even put myself first, yet she always did. She followed me from room to room. My shadow and my protector.
Over the years we spent countless hours in a cold dark room with my chronic migraine. There were many nights where I collapsed to the bathroom floor and she slept pressed up against me. She spent hours unmoving from my bed while I thrashed in pain. I’d be covered in ice and wiggle my fingers to feel her little kisses on my tips. She’d do anything to make me feel better and she did.
In her last days, our only concern was making sure she wasn’t suffering and that we showed her all the love that she provided for us over the years. I had a vet once tell me, “Goldens will wag their tails and eat until 3 days after they die just to please their owners.” On her last day, she did just that. We bought her lots of treats and threw her an early 13th birthday. She wagged her tail and cuddled us while we knew it was time for her to go. She knew and her eyes told us so.
Saying goodbye was, without a doubt, the most gut-wrenching moments of my life. I feel so blessed that it was in her best interest, we didn’t allow her to suffer, she went without panic and pain. As I laid with her, I felt God take my best friend, my four-legged soul mate, my first child and migraine warrior.
The days after, I saw her everywhere. I heard her everywhere. I felt her everywhere. My son was sick and I was trapped in my house and grieved over every hair, nose smeared window and inch of my house. My house was no longer the home I was at ease in.
She went to God on May 8th. On May 11th my turtle of 20 years passed away. He has lived in my family room of every home I’ve had since I was a teenager. My pets passing away in 3 days was extreme! The numbers 8 and 11 are hugely relevant. I was born on 8/11. My favorite numbers have always been 8 and 11 along with being my numbers in sports and more. It was not a coincidence that these were the dates they went to the rainbow bridge.
A week exactly from the day we said goodbye to Lucia my baby boy graduated preschool. I thought it would feel totally different, but it just felt like a tremendous loss. I’ve dedicated my life to my children and animals and it just felt like everyone was leaving me. It was as if my pets were saying, “We started this family and raised your babies and now it’s time”. It felt like an end of an era and one I was not ready to say goodbye to.
I’ve heard the phrases:
- Our pets don’t live long enough
- When it rains it pours
- You’ll never get over her but someday it will hurt less
I’ve been told to get another dog not to replace my four-legged soul mate, but to find another love.
I’ve been told that another dog can learn to be a therapy or emotional support dog too.
Here’s my answer to all of this:
This next dog will have a distinct difference from Lucia.
- My family belonged to Lucia. We started it all! I was her number one. Our children were hers.
- The next dog will belong to them. They will see her as their childhood dog when I will forever know Lucia as the dog who gave my babies joy and me sanity.
- Lucia watched my migraine become chronic and she evolved as my therapy and emotional dog.
- The next dog will hopefully see me get better. Her focus won’t solely be on me. She is coming into an already made family and connections will be totally different.
- There will never be another being on this earth that can complete me. Right now I feel this painful hole in my body that physically hurts with every breathe.
- With Lucia went a piece of me that I will miss forever. Yes, I will love another dog, but I know I won’t get that piece back. She will be missed each day! I know it will get easier but everyone has been honest with me in saying, it will never go away.