Months have passed but not a day, not an hour goes by without thinking about Bubba. There’s always something that reminds me of him, like seeing another dog that looks like him, or passing by a favorite place of his. The other day I needed some gloves that had been in my closet since last winter, and found the pair that he’d chewed one of the fingers off of (must have tasted like treats). Even without any physical reminders, he is still very much at the forefront of my thoughts all the time. I think about him especially at night before I fall asleep, and early mornings when I feel his absence and miss our daily routine the most.
Because there was so much pain and stress wrapped up in the end of his life, it’s very hard to feel anything else when I think about him. In a way, that sadness has robbed me of the happy memories of good times we had. I can smile thinking about his goofiness and sweet moments with him, but those feelings almost immediately turn to hurt and regret for all we went through. I don’t regret our decisions to adopt Bubba or ultimately to put him down. I still believe it was the right thing to do, and over time I feel more sure of that, but nothing makes it easier.
Recently I’ve been spending time with some other dogs of different breeds, sizes and temperments. For a while I was caring for some friends’ older, nervous dalmation mix at their house. For the first few days, every time I came into the house she would tremble and growl at me. She spent many years in a shelter before being adopted, and has had some tough run-ins with other dogs in her lifetime, so I knew to be prepared for some difficult behavior from her. She is a tremendous sweetheart though, and even running into other dogs on walks was managable without much trouble. By the end of my time with her she was greeting me with a wagging tail. I think that probably had a lot to do with the peanuts I was feeding her but I’ll take it.
We also spent a long weekend in a cabin full of friends and two of their dogs. These are “sister” dogs who live together. One has a hard time with other dogs and the two of them still sometimes get into a scrap. We’ve talked about the challenges they’re having trying to peacefully introduce a new puppy into their apartment building (different household but shared yard and common spaces). For the weekend we were away, both dogs behaved incredibly well and I was impressed by how calm they were, and how quickly they adjusted to the new space and to having different people coming and going. They could do things like nap in the car while we went out to dinner! One may have needed a little more guidance and attention than the other but they were both able to relax in the house and have some off-leash time outside too. I enjoyed watching the relationships between the dogs and their respective owners, nothing really like it.
I have a lot of good memories from times at that cabin with Bubba and Natasha. He loved swimming and hiking and chasing sticks and running up and down the stairs to his heart’s content. We spent some weekends with him and other friends there, too, and it always felt like a constant struggle to calm him down, wear him out, or keep him from running away. He couldn’t settle down if anyone in the house was moving/cooking/stocking the stove/speaking in a loud voice. More than once he reacted aggressively to our friends when he was stressed. It was all just too much for him to handle, as so many things in life were.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving and the day before that was my birthday. It’s a season for reflection, which is leaving me with a heavy heart this year. This has been a year of difficult growth and disappointment on a few fronts. There isn’t much good to say about what we went through with Bubba. We did what needed to be done, and there is no satisfaction or reward for that. I don’t know if time will ever heal that wound but it has given me some perspective about Bubba and his challenges, and about what kind of things are manageable and which aren’t when it comes to dogs in general. I have a much greater respect for all dogs and the people who care for them. I have a different understanding of myself, my ethics, and my capabilities. I am trying to foster a sense of peace to balance out the hurt and loss I still feel so strongly. I am thankful, I suppose, for the opportunity to grow through it all.