It’s been three days since you left and I can still feel your little breadloaf of a body squirming around on the couch next to me, trying to find the perfect spot wedged between my leg and a pillow.
The word euphoria comes to mind when I think about our last day together. It was a January day with the rare warmth of the sun shining through the thick, cold air. I found you bathing in a single sliver of a ray in our living room, your favorite spot, so I decided it would be nice to go sit by the water like we’d done together so many times before.
I found us a bench in a quiet area of us to sit to soak in vitamin sea and the sound of the waves. I was trying to appreciate the present moments with you on my lap, knowing that with each passing second it could be your last. Your health had been declining rapidly over the week and I knew we needed a break.
The sun was warm, so we just stayed for a while. You didn’t squirm around or make a fuss. You were sprawled out on my lap; first hugging me with your paws on either side of my waist with your big round eyes looking up at me, then plopped down across my lap with your legs dangling from mine. I rubbed your little head in that spot you liked, just behind your ears. Your tongue hung out the left side of your mouth like it always did–goofy and flopping around. You just looked so happy.
Everyone that walked by us even commented on how happy you looked. Sometimes people would ask to pet you and you would wag your tail in excitement at the affection.
As we sat in the cool sun, I would kiss your forehead every chance I got, a habit I’d picked up when I realized you would nuzzle your head into mine. In your later years, you wanted all of the love.
Two hours went by before you started squirming to get off my lap. You had decided it was time to go.
You took your last breath in my arms. I like to think that you were at peace; happy and so full of love that your heart couldn’t take it anymore.
I am so grateful we got to be together for as long as we did. When I said goodbye to you for the last time, I thanked you for loving me. You will always be my first baby.
Sir Maximus Luna (8/4/2004 — 1/16/2019)
The saying goes, “dogs are a (wo)man’s best friend,” and obviously they’ve been human’s best friends for literally ever… but that also means they’ve been dying by our sides forever too.
I lost my pug Maximus on Saturday afternoon (1/26/2019). He lived to be 14, which is roughly 98 years old according to an old wive’s tale that calculates dog to human age by multiplying by 7.
Saying I’m devasted doesn’t even begin to cover the feeling of loss I am experiencing right now.
I miss his presence and his unfailing ability to follow me around the house no matter what, I miss all the farting/coughing/breathing/gasping/gagging/slobbering sounds he made, I miss his giant red-carpet lizard tongue, I miss the way he would look up at me with his big black eyes when he wanted something, I miss the way he would follow me into the bathroom when I took a bath and lick the side of the tub.
The emptiness of grief is everywhere, following me around like he used to, reminding me that he’s gone. I’m reminded of all of the goofy things he used to do, like lick my ankles whenever they were bare or hide under my bedside table when I was home sick or pose whenever I got my phone out to take a picture of him.
I want to think about all of the good parts of him, but also to acknowledge the 21 pound pug-shaped hole in my heart. I want to let myself grieve the loss of my best friend, my constant companion, my emotional support. I know it’s going to hurt for a long time, but I know it will get easier… hopefully.
Just because he’s gone doesn’t mean that I don’t want to talk about him anymore. He was a part of me… a part of my identity. Sometimes people would recognize Max before they recognized me. Even people that “weren’t dog people” loved Max.
I want the world to know how special he was. I want to remember the good times with him to help me honor his memory. In Judaism, there’s a phrase used to honor the death of someone, “May his memory be a blessing,” and I think that’s my mission as I write this.
In their deaths, we grieve so goddamn hard.
Like all kinds of death, it’s hard to talk about. We keep our pain relatively silent.
But grief doesn’t really care about that. Grief will reach up from the depths of your soul and bubble to the surface when you least expect it.
It feels like no ever talks about the loss of your best furry friend and the grief associated with it. They are our best friends, our furbabies, our buddies… and it’s really, really hard to lose them.
I think that we need to talk more about the relationship we have with our pets, beyond just how cute they are. We show our pets on social media and proudly declare that we are dog parents or cat parents or parrot parents. When they look at you, an animal is not thinking what the color of your skin is or who you go to bed with or what kind of a person you are or what you’re wearing or what things you have or have not done.
They just want love.
In my loss of Max, I received hundreds of messages from people saying they were sorry for my loss, but also that they had lost a pet and knew how hard it was.
They knew that feeling of being so upset they wanted to puke. They knew the feeling of walking into a room and looking for their dog, knowing he would never be there again. They knew the feeling of dreading going inside because there was no one there to greet them.
I would love to start social media movement called #DearMax to encourage other people to write to their pets that are gone too. I want to read your happiest memory with them. I want to hear about your childhood dog and the dog you adopted in college on a whim and the puppy you got when you were having trouble getting pregnant. I want to hear your happy stories to remember how incredible our pets were and honor their memories.