Ryder was not my dog. Sometimes, like when he was at my house for boarding or for workshops, I felt like he was. He got to stay in my basement and snuggle up with Napoleon right at my feet while we watched movies. I really miss him.
Over the weekend , I boarded a few dogs, and on Friday when I got home from the vet, I heard one of them barking. Without thinking, I asked my husband, “Is that Ryder barking?”
My husband looks at me and says, “That’s not Ryder, Heather.” And that’s when it really hit me. At the vet, it felt like he was going to wake up at any second. He looked like he was just sleeping. I was honored I got to spend the last few moments with him and whisper to him how much he meant to everyone and how much I loved him, and how this wasn’t his fault. How he’ll be able to play all day with the other dogs and chew on as many bones as he wants. He’ll be free.
I don’t believe in a heaven or hell or God or devils. I believe that all life is returned to the planet. No, I’m not stealing the plot from Final Fantasy VII, it’s just the best way I can explain it. When a person, animal, or plant dies, their spirit is returned to the planet so we can keep living on this Earth. I believe this, and I believe Ryder lives on in a different way. I won’t see him again, but I’ll feel him. I’ll feel him in the air, and in the trees, I’ll see moments of him in my clients’ dogs or within my own house. I’ll remember him and laugh at how goofy he could be.
I know I made the right decision, and the family knows that too. But I’m feeling all the things anyone would feel for making a hard decision. Guilt, pain, sadness, depression, anger. Sometimes, I’m inconsolable. I’ll be sitting at my computer, or talking to a friend, and then I’m completely overwhelmed with sadness and I just end up crying.
I’m experiencing the 5 stages of grief, and as soon as I feel like I’m ok, I remember something about him that was goofy and silly. Like how, when he thought he was going to get some food or a treat, he would sit automatically and back up about a foot so that his long legs could comfortably sit on the ground. Then he’d stare at you with his adorable face. If you waited long enough, he would paw at you to give him what he wants. No, this isn’t ideal behavior, and we had really worked on this. But last week, he got away with it. Why not? He was on death row, he could have whatever he wanted.
Or that time when he was at my house for the workshop and was exhausted at the end of the day. I accidentally dropped the leash and he bolted into my house, down into the basement and snuggled up in his kennel all on his own. I miss these moments, and he’s not even my dog. I just… got attached.
And it will take time to be ok. Sometimes, it’s only once a day where I am in a depressive state. Other times, it’s pretty much the whole day. I know I’ll feel better with time, and I know this was right. Sometimes, it feels like I have to remind myself that this is what he needed. Because it feels like I made the decision to kill him. Which isn’t what happened, but emotions sometimes overcome logic.
Today, one of my coworkers asked me how I was doing, and I could barely speak. If I kept talking, I would start crying and would have to step out. So I said I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. But on Sunday, I could talk about it, and I felt confident with my decision. Yesterday, I had a migraine to keep me occupied, but then when I was feeling better, I just wanted to curl up in bed and go to sleep. So, I went to bed around 9:00 pm and didn’t go to sleep until after midnight because I was crying. It just hurts so much sometimes. So, if you ask me about it, there is a chance it could go either way. I could be fine and tell you about Ryder and about my decision, or I could be completely overwhelmed with sadness and be put into a depressive state… walking on eggshells, I guess.
In time, everything will go back to normal.