Thursday, August 18, 2016

In the Year Since I Lost My Old Dog

A year ago today, I lost my best friend, my beloved dog Cinn, who'd I'd had since she was 12 weeks old. Cinn and I had grown up together, her literally, and me through life experiences. We went through my divorce together, my engagement and un-engagement, for two years we lived as part of a family of 5 (two adults, one pre-schooler and our other dog) with a yard and everything. We went through my starting my own business, my being diagnosed with cyclothymia. We moved to Philly and then back to NJ. And then, she fell ill for several months. And just as she seemed to be rallying, she was gone, physically at least, because I know she's still with me.

In the year since, my life has changed drastically. I bought a condo in Philly. I have a new dog, Gracie, who's adorable and smart and intelligent, and 100 percent her own dog. I would never expect her, or anyone, to replace Cinn. She's a completely different dog, and I like it that way. I have been in a serious relationship for the past eight plus months. In some ways, my life with Cinn seems lifetimes ago. In others, it hurts like a fresh wound. I won't lie, I cried all morning, played "our" song on the way to work. Yes, my dog and I had a song. It's "Leaving on a Jet Plane", which I used to sing to her before I traveled each time. It makes me ball like a baby every time. I'm not going to pretend to be strong and say "Well everything happens for a reason, I have a great life now." No, losing Cinn sucked. It will always suck, even though I know she couldn't live forever. August 18th will forever be tough. And that's ok. It's ok because she was wonderful and deserves to have her own special day (days, her birthday is Nov 18th) of memorium.

Cinn taught me so much about life. She taught me that you don't need a lot to have a good one. All she needed was love from me, food, water, and an occasional walk. She taught me what it's like to have someone (dogs count as a "someone", right) offer you unconditional, undivided love. I doubt I will ever experience that again. Gracie loves me, but she's a daddy's girl. She smiles and wags her tail when she sees me. She jumps around like she's just won the lottery of dog treats when she seems him, even if he's been gone for 10 minutes. Which is great - I'm just glad she feels doubly loved, because she's a wonderful dog. Cinn taught me that you often don't have as much time as you want or need together, and that you never know when you'll lose the opportunity for that time completely.

As humans, we so often divide our love an attention between a multitude of things. Our spouses/significant others and our kids of course, but also our work, our hobbies, our friends, the rest of our family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, etc), our tasks and chores. How often have you spent a Monday through Friday buried by work and tasks, only to spend the weekend cleaning, running errands, and racing around? How often have you divided your attentions, your love, your efforts so thin, not realizing that the things that matter most, the people that matter most, are not getting the time and attention and effort that they deserve? How often do you assume you'll talk to or see someone later or another time, taking for granted that they'll be there?

I think this last point is the most critical. Now don't get me wrong - I know we need to work to pay bills, support our families, have fun experiences together, etc. I'm not saying we should all quit our jobs and devote ourselves 24/7 to our loved ones. Nor would I want a human that was 100 percent always focused on me and with me every minute. There are words for that kind of thing, like obsession and stalking. But I think we take people and our situations for granted. How often do we really go through our day thinking "What if this person isn't here tomorrow? What if something happens to them? What if they leave me?" (situation dependent, based on the relationship of course).

Perhaps having a chronic illness gives me a different perspective. I, along with others who struggle with chronic illness, have a lot of days with zero to few spoons. In other words, they're shitty days where we are in the worst of our illness and unable to live life as we want because we are incapacitated by our illness. So in those days where we have more spoons, when can enjoy life a bit normally, we don't want to waste them. We want to focus on our top priorities, the people we love, the things pieces of life most dear to us. We don't want to take them for granted because we know, unequivocally, that those days will not last. We know that we don't know when we'll feel this way again, and that it can change quickly, often without much warning.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. About what we would do if pieces of our life were really on the line, if we really had to actively work on creating our life and our future as we wanted it. Because after all, we do. I've been working on organizing my life and focusing on my future - what and where I want to be, and when. In doing so, I've learned how important it is to focus on your priorities, and do the best you can with your health. And most importantly never, ever, take life or anyone in it for granted.

Cinn and I, circa 2009.

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