Dogs have a simplicity to them, they are so totally themselves and live so completely in the moment. Loving a dog is a very pure, satisfying kind of love — there’s no need to think about the dog’s motivations, or worry about what it thinks of you, whether it likes your career choices or your taste in music. There’s just the dog and you and the possibility of opening your heart as wide as it can go. Dogs challenge us and teach us to love and be present (though perhaps not if you’re a cat person).
The flipside of that is when a dog dies. The purity of love you have for your hound becomes pure grief. When a person dies, no matter how much we love them, there’s always other feelings — anger, abandonment, guilt — tied up with the grief and it’s complicated. Grieving for a person is a complicated process which, even when entered into mindfully, can take months, even years, to do properly; to really work out all the kinks and knots in how you feel until you’re just left with gratitude for that life and love.
Grieving for a dog is simple —they’re gone, you have a hole in your life where they used to be, it hurts like having your whole heart pulled out. So you weep and cry and howl because that’s how grieving is done when you’re a people.
I think the other thing about the simple grief for a dog is that it’s a lot quicker. It all comes pouring out and then it’s done. Sometimes it can feel like it hasn’t been enough, that you ought to be sad for longer, that they deserved more. But the contour of your grief is a testament to the purity of your love. It’s stronger but quicker and none the less for that.
And in the end, we all end up with the same thing: love and gratitude for that life you got to share. That’s what grief finally refines into, no need to rush it.
In honour of Tammy, Sara, Chino, Scamp, Max, Allie and all the good hounds of the world who are with us no longer.