There is something so heartbreaking and beautiful in watching your old dog becoming more dependent on you. Their own body starts to slow down and you are their guidance. Their eyes search for you in every room to know they are safe. They wait patiently by the side of the bed to be helped up because they can no longer jump. Their movement slows so they hobble along on your daily walk, still watching to make sure you are right by their side.
Twelve and a half years of love, gone in a split second. Their presence lingers and you will have to get used to not feeding them in the morning, not hearing their excited bark for food, not having them excitedly greet you when you walk in the door. It probably won’t even feel real for the first few hours, days, maybe even weeks. This is something you learn is normal from all the loss you endure within your lifetime.
You will forget how much it hurts. Even after having dealt with grief many times in your life. Even if you’re prepared, if you’ve known it’s been coming for months, and it’s your decision to help them go to sleep; you will ache, and it will be so confusing not having them asleep on your bed. Not having them follow you to the bathroom or react to a food wrapper. Not licking everything in sight, or hear their sleepy little sigh. Not hearing their snores in the middle of the night, or the pitter patter of their paws coming into your room.
You learn that this hurt becomes proof of a love so strong. That you may not have been able to explain why their body was shutting down, but they knew you were there by the gaze they would give you every day. By the need to follow you into every room to make sure you were still around. That while existing will hurt for a while, you were lucky enough for all those years you had the love that only a pet can give.
After many days spent unmoving in bed, anxiety attacks, depression episodes, he always knew how I was feeling. He would rest his head on my chest, or curl in a ball by my side, watch me from afar just to let me know he was there. He was my reason to keep going for so long. As he fell asleep forever, he held my gaze and in that, I knew that he knew he was safe.