My 14 year old black lab, Zora, died this week. I feel sick about it.
It is hard for me to express what Zora meant to me, or to sum up who she was. She was my first dog. She had soft ears, like velvet. She loved everyone, and would snort happily when you pet her. She was unflappable. She was utterly unconcerned during thunder storms, and once, when a bat was wildly flying around inside our Maine cabin, she was entirely unfazed; she fell asleep as the bat circled and swooped above her. She was completely gentle in every way. My Dad called her “Zora Baby,” and one of our friends claimed that she could surely cure any illness with the intensity of her love and friendliness. She was with us for my son’s baby years, and helpfully served as a reliable vacuum cleaner under his high chair. Through our walks with her we met neighbors who became lifelong friends. She went on vacations with us. Once she stole a massive hunk of parmesan cheese from the coffee table. Everyone loved her. She was our family member.
Pet loss is sometimes a disenfranchised or unrecognized loss because many people underestimate the importance that our pets hold for us. Some of us don’t speak much about losing our pets as we fear that others might not understand the depth and meaning of our relationship to our pet. All pets are unique, with their own personalities, quirks, and rapports with us.
Another thing that I am reminded of this week: new losses can often open up the wounds of all of the losses which we have accumulated over time. In other words, old losses are triggered when we face new ones.
We will scatter Zora’s ashes in our favorite place in Maine later this summer. It is a meadow where she walked with us; there are butterflies, wild grasses and flowers. I’d like to imagine her there, running and pain free.