On Grieving, Coping, and Very Good Dogs

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting author and TEDx speaker Greg Bell, who shared (among many other wisdoms), this fundamental truth: 99% of the world’s problems can be distilled down to the failure of human relationships.

On the other hand, he pointed out, dogs have this relationship thing figured out.

Dogs love easily and trust easily. They give you their whole heart, and if you come home late or forget to fill the food bowl, they forgive you. They don’t hold grudges. No matter what happened in between, or how long you’ve been gone, they will always greet you with the same level of unguarded enthusiasm when you walk through the door. They’ll comfort you when you’re sad, celebrate with you when you’re happy, and selflessly ask for minimally little in return. Dogs are the friend every person should strive to be.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I report that our family’s dog, Stella, passed away this weekend. My family (and in particular my 14-year-old sister), called me in hysterics on Saturday night, and we bawled together the loss of such a tremendous addition to our family.

Stella was six years old, a tiny white papillon and sparkplug of bouncing energy. She loved nothing more than using the crease between your legs as her own personal hammock, resting her little chin tenderly on your knee.

She knew exactly 9 tricks, and my mom rounded it up to an even 10 – saying that the 10th one was “Stella, BE CUTE!” (which was arguably her most impressive trick; she could do it in her sleep.)

Stella was the very best dog anyone could ask for, and she was was taken from our lives swiftly, without warning, and well before her time by a coyote attack in my parents’ rural neighborhood. Hearing my loved ones in such pain from 1,000 miles away was nothing short of torture. I held the phone with two hands, I cried until my face ached, I could scarcely croak out a goodbye when we hung up.

Afterward, I was struck with the same notion that plagues many other grievers: the world kept spinning. There were still chores to be done (although of course in this case my saint of a boyfriend did them), the World Cup still wrapped up the next day, I still had work this morning. Not that I expected the Earth to stop in its tracks, but it seemed somehow bizarre to me that the whole world wasn’t grieving along with us. Shouldn’t we all shut our doors, turn off the lights, and sit in silence awhile? How is it possible that everyone is just going about their lives?

The most profound conclusion I can conjure from this is that it taught us all how precious and fleeting life can be. How crucial it is that I see my family as often as I possibly can. How we have to hold each other tight, every second of every day, because not one of us can promise a tomorrow.

…That, and I can only hope to honor Stella’s memory by being the same friend to others that she was to us.

stella 2

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