Losing a beloved pet.
The idea has always felt so far away to me — until one week ago when I lost my beloved dog.
Pepper was a spunky, courageous, forward-looking dog who lived and moved with purpose. He was also a dog who allowed me to own him — which is often the case with a Scottish Terrier. The Scottie dog is about having an independent life even as he shares his life with you. I had them all my life as I grew up and I guess it was always my fate to have a wee lad as an adult.
Pepper hailed from Utah — one of five in a litter that summer of 2010 — he was the last of the litter to be taken from the breeder at 14 weeks old, which is kind of late to get a puppy. Yet, when I called I wanted a brindle Scottie dog that was 14 weeks old and I told the breeder his name would be Pepper. She said his Grandma and Mom were named Piper and Poppy — this dog is yours.
And was he ever. We were independent of one another and yet completely in sync. For the first five years of Pepper’s life, I walked him four times per day. We would walk and walk and walk. From there, we moved and he had a small urban oasis backyard where he ruled the corner of our neighborhood. Nothing got past him – and he always was chasing squirrels and looking for kitty cats. At night, he came inside and took his place on his window bench and would rule the other end of the corner keeping guard nightly.
When the time came, I lost Pepper quickly. Apparently he had cancerous tumor in his spleen that was causing him to bleed into his abdomen. This went on for quite awhile and we thought these were gastro episodes as he always had a weak constitution, most likely he was the runt of his litter. After treating him with some pain meds, he would be back to himself in a day.
Until the day came last week when the pain was not taken away no matter how much pain meds we gave to him. I always knew I did not want Pepper to suffer and would let him go before that truly took hold of his entire being. And so the hospice vet came in and we euthanized him in our home in his favorite spot. There was no real ceremony — I know many people make a loving plan. For us, it was just apparent that morning and we needed to help him out of his pain as quickly as possible.
And so I ended up holding him close to me as I said all the favorite phrases he loved and then laid him down and I saw his beautiful brown eyes sweep his corner one last time — and then he was gone. Just like that.
I am a childless woman and I suppose that makes me – like many others – turn to my pets to take on the role of children in my life. With our pets, they are only with us for a short amount of years and Pepper was no exception taking his leave at the age of 10. However, for me he was 2 forever. In this way Pepper’s loss feels like the loss of my second child. He was mine and I was his — all the years.
When I first met Pepper at the Salt Lake City airport, I looked at him in my arms and said to him, “You are going to break my heart.” And he did. But that day one week ago, I know my broken heart was so worth it. We had such a fun ride together. I really wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t trade it for not feeling the pain I feel today.
Now is the time for grief, for remembering, for hurting, for being with myself and extending compassion to myself. I know he had an amazing life and I still have regrets. I have a new puppy, who came in before Pepper departed, and I wonder is my love for him taking away from my fidelity to Pepper? This is the complexity of grief. In time, I will sort it out and come out the other side.
For now, I remember and love on my Pepper.