i’ve talked before about how i believe the world works the way it is supposed to.
i’m having more than a little trouble understanding it at the moment. i know we aren’t always going to understand- and it may take time to see the big picture. But quite honestly, at this moment in time, i don’t want a big picture, i don’t want the future to come with answers, all i want is to turn back time.
September 12 was one of the worst days of my life. And i am trying to constantly remind myself of the year and a half of magic that led up to that day.
You see, 2013 was a year of ginormous changes in my life. They were good changes but hard ones. They happened in a way that i wasn’t emotionally prepared for and the depression monster became my closest frienemy. But in December of that year while i was struggling to make it through each day i learned that there might be a light in my future in the form of an emotional support animal.
i have always had a connection with animals- dogs especially. Growing up in the household i did my dogs were my protectors, my confidantes, and the greatest source of love. In college i had a pet fish who died, some friends wanted to know what would make me feel better as i sobbed. All i wanted was my dog. They couldn’t give me this so they went and bought me one of those electronic dogs that was so popular for a bit.
i spoke with my doctor, she agreed this was a good plan and something that would help me. And at some point in January of 2014, i started seriously looking at Petfinder to see who was out there. i saw so many faces and stories that touched my heart and then one night i stopped. i saw a face looking at me and i knew. i knew with no doubt i had found the answer i had been looking for.
On January 14 i drove about an hour and a half, it had snowed recently. Usually i am terrified to drive on slippery roads, i’ll avoid it at all costs but it felt like the middle of summer to me that day. When i pulled up to the shelter my heart was pounding in my ears, my mouth felt dry. i was anxious and excited. i started panicking that someone had come for her earlier that morning.
i walked in and let them know which dog i was there to see and the woman said, “Are you sure?” She went on to tell me how this dog was too wild for all the people who had come for her before. How she had been at the shelter for over 6 months- had had a major surgery. She finally let me know she would bring her out and i could see what i thought, she had a look of doubt and amusement on her face. Like she knew once i saw this animal i would turn around and walk out the door.
They brought her out and she jumped up to sniff me, i sat on the ground and she crawled into my lap, rolled on her back and looked up like she were saying, “rub my tummy and let’s go home.” And that’s what we did.
In the car she was nervous at first, she didn’t want to explore anything but the floor of the passenger’s seat. And then i started singing along with my music. She crawled up to the seat and started licking my face, she would stop and stare when a song changed and when i started singing more kisses. She started watching the other cars on the road- she loved them. Even when we stopped to pick her up some new treats and toys she wanted to stay in the parking lot and just watch the cars driving.
The next day i gave her a bath and she fell asleep in my arms while drying off. i knew that this was the best relationship i had ever opened the door to.
My Maguire was named after Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting. Those of you who have read my previous posts know how much that movie means to me. Sean Maguire says things that hit my brain in ways other words have never been able to. And since she was my emotional support dog she was like a little therapist herself. i thought it was fitting.
The difference in my well being was astronomical. There are so many people who can tell you this. Not only did i have someone constantly beside me to face whatever demons crawled into my head but i had someone there who i knew i had to be there for. i had to get up each day to get food and water and trips outside. i couldn’t hide away the way i could before.
When i tore my ACL Maguire would greet me like normal but when it came time to snuggle she would rest with her head on my knee like she was protecting it from anything else happening. We practiced jumping through a hula hoop while i was recovering from surgery so she would still get exercise and fun while i wasn’t able to do as much.
She loved her aunties. One day one of them came to visit and i kept trying to do other things so Maguire would spend time with her. It wasn’t until i sat down and she was able to fully greet me and make sure i was okay that she went and crawled into someone else’s lap.
She refused to sleep without touching me. In the winter she was under the blankets curled up right next to me and in the summer when she got warm, she would stretch her paws so they were touching part of me and then fall asleep.
To say i was in love would be an understatement. My heart has never been filled with the love and magical-ness of anything like this before. At my college reunion people commented about her in the same way i asked and commented about their children. i was so proud. My Girl Scouts would ask to see pictures. And almost everyone i ran into at work mentioned her. She was my world, my light, my heart.
So when i got home on September 12, i didn’t know that my world was going to change. Maguire greeted me like always- we had our mom just got home from work talk and snuggle in her chair and then came to snuggle more in bed. About an hour or so later everything changed. i knew something was wrong, i thought maybe she had a tummy bug. We went to the vet and by the time we arrived she had gotten even worse. After way to much time waiting and running tests they suggested i take her to the emergency vet. We sped out there to find that no one had any answers. She was deteriorating more and more and i was trying to be strong but i couldn’t stop crying. We decided to try a course of treatment and see what happened. A few hours later i got a call telling me that she had only gotten worse. The doctor said she had never seen anything like it in a dog. Whatever was happening was in her brain and it wasn’t stopping. My heart was breaking- i’ve never felt anything like it. And i said yes when she asked if i wanted to stop her suffering. i drove out in a blur of tears and they brought her in on a table, she couldn’t walk anymore, she was blind in one eye. She was trying to dig into the air as they put her on the ground and told me i could have as much time with her as i wanted. i curled up next to her and started talking while the tears poured out. Her paws stopped and rested on my tummy. i apologized to her for the day and for anything else i might have done to cause her suffering like this. i told her how much i loved her over and over and over again. i gave her kisses and i hid my face in her neck and sobbed while begging her not to leave me. i don’t know how long i was there- it never would have been enough time. i got up to get the doctor and she started digging again. The doctor came in and i curled up next to her again and held her while the shot was injected. i held her after. i didn’t know if i was going to be able to let go.
And now there is nothing. No clicking of nails on the wood floor. No protective barking when the neighbors get loud. Everywhere i look is a reminder. And all i can think is, why? Why her? Why me? Why in that way? Because as whiny and cliche as it sounds, it isn’t fair. And the truth is, i need her. i still need her so much.
Sometimes i have a good day, or hour, or few minutes, and then something reminds me and i can feel my heart being torn all over again. It never stops hurting.
Some people don’t understand, to them she was a dog. She wasn’t a dog to me. She was everything. You don’t ask someone who has lost a spouse or a child if they are going to go find a new one but they ask me that. i can’t look at a picture of any dog without making comparisons to Maguire or cursing it for not being her right now- i know that in time my heart will be open again but right now it is grieving and i don’t know when my next step in that process is.
It’s taken a few times sitting in front of this screen to be able to get this far. It has been a daily struggle to deal with the world and my own brain. i don’t have a pair of paws jumping onto my tummy in the morning to force me out of bed. i don’t have eyes looking at me or a body getting comfy on my head when i want to reach for a sharp object. And thus far i’ve been able to avoid those objects but i worry about how long that will last.
i’ve been shutting the world out, shutting people out. It isn’t so much that i want to be alone, though that is the only way i know how to put words to it. It is more like none of the world is Maguire and i don’t know how to talk about everything very well yet. All the words and the emotions feel like mush and i don’t know how to take that mush and turn it into a conversation or a moment in time with another being.
i’ve talked in the past about fighting this monster- there is a part of me, right now, that thinks. . . what’s the point? Because the things and people i love all just go away. Everybody leaves, my heart is always going to be crushed over and over and over again. So why try and fight? Why ask for help when i’m just going to end up alone anyway?
i’m lucky to have people in my life who don’t let me listen to that very long. But it’s a struggle. It’s hard work to fight while you feel so defeated. And hard to push through when you don’t see anything at the end to be fighting for. No amount of hard work or fight will bring Maguire back.
So i struggle, every single day. And this along with my fucking uterus has made for one of the most mentally and physically painful months that i can remember. i’ve been trying to take each day one moment at a time- that’s all i can do right now. Grief takes time. Our society doesn’t allow for that. We hear time and time again that you can take as much time as you need, and that in time things will feel better but there is no magic Delorean out there providing this time for us. We are expected to take that time around the schedule of everyone else- grieve as long as you want, as long as you don’t miss work and perform to normal standards. Grieve in your way, as long as you are still a functioning member of society. The pressure is enormous and makes my head want to explode.
i’m not saying this to call out any particular person or group. But it is hard enough to deal with mental health bullshit every single day. There are still so many taboos and fears. When you add a traumatic experience on top and are made to feel like those things don’t matter- that you just aren’t strong enough or trying hard enough it’s a recipe for disaster. i know this, i’ve eaten disaster more times than i’d like to remember.
i’ve taken some steps to get help through all this and i’m trying to be proud of myself for that. i know Maguire would be.