Lucy was Paul's dog. You need to know that.
Certainly, she and I developed a bond over the last four years. I would pick her up and hold her like a parent might hold a child, and - when the mood struck her - she would give me kisses. One, two, or three -- sometimes as many as five! -- quick little licks on the cheek. How joyful those kisses made me.
When I brushed her, particularly when she was overdue for a grooming, she went limp and made a sound somewhere between a kitten's purr and a hungry stomach. It was a happy sound. (Until I tugged too hard on a snarl. Then she'd nip me to remind me who was boss.)
But in the same way you know, deep inside, that the guy you're dating never got over his ex, I knew that I would never be more than runner up in the pageant of her dads. Her excitement upon my entrance into a room was more about her (justifiable) confidence that I would soon be giving her a treat. Her genuine enthusiasm – the kind that made her bounce her front end up and down and grunt and yip in pleasure – that was reserved for Daddy Paul. Long after cataracts had diminished her vision, Lucy’s gaze and attention always pursued Daddy Paul first.
I say this as a disclaimer. For no matter how deeply I have grieved Lucy's passing in the last four weeks, my grief is second to Paul's. As Lucy's daddy for the last 13 years, his sorrow is the kind that weeps in the quiet hours of the day and steals the mirth from your eyes and the peace from your heart. I know this sorrow, from the time I lost Angus, but it is not my sorrow now.
But I do grieve.
I miss Lucy in the morning, when we used to walk around the block, and she would smell the ivy and pee on the mondo grass and trip on that same uneven sidewalk no matter what I did to alert her to its presence.
I miss Lucy in the afternoon, when I'd get home from work, and she'd leap up from her bed and try to figure out where I was and how quickly she would get her biscuit.
I miss her at bedtime, when I would take her on her last walk of the day. In recent months, she had not been sleeping through the night, so we would wait as late as we could to take her out, hoping that going potty at 11 or 11:30 might push her wake-up time back to 5 or 5:30 instead of 3. (It only rarely did.)
I miss the enthusiastic grunting sounds she made when devouring a treat. Those noises earned her the nickname "Piglet."
I miss calling her Piglet.
When I lost Angus, I think I was most struck by how much his absence disturbed my routine. Nothing went the way it had. Even something as mundane as eating a banana felt wrong. Angus always ate the last bite of my bananas. I didn't know what to do with that last little bit. I could hardly eat it myself. It wasn't mine.
What I realize now, with Lucy's passing, is how much we give of ourselves to our dogs. It's like our souls are velcroed together, and when a dog dies, there's this horrible ripping sound and something that is a part of us -- not just a companion, but a physical part of us -- is torn violently away.
Both Paul and I had behaviors, and language, that were exclusive to how we interacted with Lucy. We each had a tone of voice, a litany of phrases, a repertoire of gestures and actions, that were unique to Lucy. And we will never use any of them again. I'd say a good 30% of our daily selves abruptly became irrelevant with her passing. 30% of our daily affection and attention has nowhere to go. We can't use it. The sensation is unsettling. It's haunting. And it hurts like hell.
It makes tears roll down my cheeks to recall Paul calling Lucy "Baby." That was his special way of addressing her. He never calls anyone else "Baby." And I still hear him, huddled over her limp form as it grew cold at the emergency vet's, asking over and over again, "What am I going to do without you, Baby?" That is the sound of heartbreak.
If you asked me, on any given day, what I believe about God or life after death, I wouldn't be able to say anything with certainty. I'd say some noncommittal thing that shows a desire to believe but reflects an utter lack of faith in my own worthiness to enter heaven, should it exist.
Yet, ask me about what happens to dogs after death, and I will tell you with absolute conviction that they go to heaven. That their souls in heaven are like their physical bodies in the prime of life. That they have fields to play in, toys to chase, ponds to swim in, and endless supplies of treats. I will tell you that Jesus can carry messages to them, messages that they understand, messages that they are glad to receive before they bound away into a grassy glade dappled in sunlight. I believe this.
At night, when I walk my dog Murphy now, I will stop at the driveway where Lucy had her final seizure. I will make Murphy sit and I will kneel, and I will talk to Jesus, that great Western Union of Departed Canines, and send messages to Lucy. Sometimes I tell her what made me think of her that day. Sometimes I apologize for not realizing that she must have been in pain for a while. Sometimes, I tell her to go find Angus and play with him. Every time, I tell her how much her daddies miss her. I look up to the sky and I wish I could give her one more treat, or brush her one more time, or feel her kisses on my cheek. And I cry.
I miss you, little Piglet. Farewell.