My heart is broken.
Since April 21st 2018, my world has not been the same. On that day, my heart broke and I knew I would never be the same again.
We said goodbye to our beautiful dog, Lloyd, just one month shy of his 13th birthday. He was our soulmate, and had been our boy since September 21st 2005.
I met our sweet baby on September 17th, 2005. It was a Saturday. I was checking out BARK – Bytown Association of Rescued Kanines online.
From the moment I laid eyes on him, I was deeply in love with him. My husband took a little longer, but ultimately felt the exact same way.
He had that effect on people. He made people smile, and brought joy to those who saw him. We loved taking him for a walk and seeing people’s reactions to him. We can’t even count the times people would smile at him and tell us how beautiful and unique he was. Because he was so unique. We spent most of his life never seeing any other dog who looked like him. He was a very special hound.
Since that Saturday in April, my husband and I have been living in grief. In the first few days immediately afterwards, each moment and each minute felt insurmountable. We could barely breathe.
Losing your best friend, your reason, your purpose, is like losing yourself. Or maybe it’s worse than losing yourself. It is a feeling unlike any other feeling I had ever felt. The pain was so intense and searing, so horrible. I found myself sobbing, wailing and collapsing to the floor. And it did not matter where I was or who I was with. My grief was all-encompassing.
The day after we said good bye, we had to pick up all his stuff. We could not handle seeing all of the reminders all over the house. His bowls on the food bench my husband (and his thoughtful doggy dad) had made for him; the tennis balls, his Kong he would enjoy each night before he came upstairs to bed. How he would lay down and cross his paws and just relax. We put away his food, his treats and his brush.
We put all his stuff away. But that night as I was getting ready for bed, I looked around my bedroom. He was gone. All of his stuff was gone. It felt like he had never existed, like that last 12.5 years had not happened.
I needed something. I need to hold something of his. Something that smelled of him. That Dorito-feety smell that I loved so much when I kissed his paws. I dug through the bags of stuff. There were the clothes I was wearing when we said goodbye. When we sat on the carpet by the sliding glass door in the living room. Where we held him and rocked him back and forth and sang to him and kissed him and held back our tears so we could be strong for him, and he could feel safe and secure. Like he always did, knowing that his mommy and daddy would always do everything to keep him safe.
Like when we had his lumps removed, his teeth cleaned, got him neutered, gave him ear drops and eye drops, cleaned up after he was sick, made sure he did not feel stupid or shame after his dementia became too much for him and he started to poop in the house. How we brushed his teeth, brushed his tri-colour fur and removed any foreign objects from where they should not have been. How we took him to the dog park, making sure he enjoyed himself and was safe from the other dogs that were too aggressive.
As he was passing, we told him we would honour him by rescuing another doggy friend when the time was right. When the amazing vet team told us he was gone, we both broke down. The tears flowed down our cheeks. We were now members of a very sad club that no one wants to join. We had lost our baby boy.
So many things have happened since that time. We held a celebration of his life, and 12 of our friends came to support us. Half of them had never ever met him before, but he had made an impact on their lives through our stories, our FB posts and our mutual love affair.
He was beyond sweet. He was sensitive, and kind and loving and fun and wonderful. He is in my heart.
I feel him there.
But the one thing I want most in the world is to hold him, to feel his body, to stroke his velvety soft fur. I want to hear him breathing and want to see him staring at us during his nightly Vulcan mind meld he would do to get a Milkbone. Do you want… was all it took to get him to run to the old dishwasher that held his treats and had never been used as a dishwasher.
Our friends were there for us. The love and support they gave us was overwhelming. It was so appreciated. The vet team from Claire Place and the after-life care provided by Eternal Companions was exceptional. Both teams treated him with respect, dignity and love.
We started going to Pet Bereavement support groups. Twice a month we meet with other pet owners who are going through the same profound sense of loss. It is not a past tense. It is an ongoing thing.
Meeting other people, sharing our stories in a safe space with no judgement and only love and support has meant so much to both of us. We have met some truly wonderful people whose pain matches our own, and somehow, we feel less alone.
I still stop and talk to pretty much every dog I see; especially the black ones or those who resemble Lloyd in any way. I still talk to him every day. I wake up in the morning, walk past the office where his ashes are kept and I say good morning. At the end of the night, on my way to my bedroom, I stop in to the office, tell him how much we love him and miss him and wish him good night. The last thing I see at night is the beautiful portrait my friend Erin painted of him, and the pictures of him I have taped to the side of my dresser beside my bed.
This incredible portrait was waiting for us as we got home the first day back at work.As I go to sleep, I clutch his orange plastic ball and hold his puppy blanket. At times, I have been able to smell those Dorito feeties and have run to my husband imploring him to smell it. He does and most times he can actually get that smell. Recently it has been harder to detect.
But we still try.
Before, years ago, I would think about living life without Lloyd. How would it even be possible to go in life when he is not with us? I was scared and anxious and would remind myself of the need to breathe and live in the moment.
Now, as we continue our life without him, I realize that my fears were baseless. In fact, we are not living our lives without him. He is very much still here. In my heart. And in a strange way it is almost like he is closer than ever because he is living in my heart.
There are a few poems that I have leaned on during this incredibly sad time.
And this one:
Lloyd is up at the Rainbow Bridge. He is playing with countless other friends, jumping and rough housing and having a wonderful time. He is safe, healthy and waiting for us to cross over the bridge together. He will always be part of our lives and live in our hearts.
For the past almost four months, I have been distracted and unable to focus and concentrate. I would make foolish mistakes because I was not paying attention to what I was doing. It was my first time to experience grief in this full-on, in-your-face, no holds-barred kind of way.
It has changed my life. And this is why I have not been actively posting any blog posts since this happened. It has taken until now, to this very moment for me to be able to sit down and share this story on my blog.
As I wrote this, I cried. But I know that with each cry or sob, I know I am healing. I will never be the same, but I know that we will get through this. After we lost him we kept repeating “we are not okay now, but we will be okay in the future”. It was the only way we could get through that horrible time. Just knowing that Lloyd was in pain, feeling anxious all of the time, made the decision easier for us. We had kept a log of his quality of life index.
My husband and I had countless, passionate discussions. We had both heard the maxim – better a day too early than a day too late. We used that as our guide and when we made the decision, it was without doubt the most painful and horrible decision one could ever have to make.
Thankfully, since that moment, I have never felt conflicting emotions. I knew it was the right time. I looked into his beautiful brown eyes and told him that I knew he was tired and it was time. I never once had a moment of guilt, and I am deeply thankful for this.
Our lives feel empty, filled with an urn of Lloyd’s ashes and memories and pictures. We printed over 550 pictures of him. A friend of mine created a stunning scrap book of his life, filled with his socks, a clean poop bag, some treats, one of his collars and a Milkbone. Not just pictures, this book captures his entire life.
We are grateful for each and every moment we got to spend with him. He was the best thing that ever happened to us. We want to honour him in any way possible, so we started Lloyd’s Legacy of Love. We are not sure what that looks like, but so far it looks like making donations in his name to animal-focused charities like the American Lurcher Project and the Western Quebec SPCA. after a tragic fire destroyed the shelter. Quite late in his life we learned that Lloyd was a lurcher (a cross between a sighthound – his case, a greyhound, and a working dog, a smooth coated collie). But not just a lurcher, he was a lurcher cross because he was also part border collie and part black lab. He really did have the best attributes of all the different breeds.
This was a very long post, so thank you for taking the time to read it; for getting to know our Lloyd.