A friend of mine contacted me on Facebook recently and told me that she missed me here. Here on this website. She missed my words and she missed my photos. Her words meant so much to me. To be honest, I miss me being here as well. I've thought about this place, this tiny homestead I've carved out as my own on the web. But it lost its meaning in the past months. I let the weeds grow and I really didn't care. My attempts were half-hearted. I gathered some loosely formed ideas and I threw a net over my emotions, tried to pick through the muck and find the gems. I considered stringing it all together, but I didn't care to make the effort. Words became shapes and writing became stringing the shapes together and nothing more. I wanted to be here but intentions are not actions are they? Nope, they are not. In truth, the last place I could be in the past several months is right here.
If I acknowledged what my thoughts were, expressed what my feelings were, tried to figure them out myself, then I would have had to slow down enough to not only realize but accept what was happening with Cheyenne. I did not want to do that. I could not do that. Not then and certainly not here.
I didn't want the record of it. Recording it would make it real.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I knew it was real. Somewhere inside of me, I knew that Cheyenne would not reach her 13th birthday. But I locked that away and put it in a dark place, wrapped a blanket around it and shut a door on it and then locked that door tight. Then I turned out the light.
I chose to carry on, to take each day and move forward with it and her. I attempted to keep one step ahead of the inevitable. Each vet appointment, each ailment, each treatment would rattle that door and I would shut my ears to the noise. I cooked her food, measured protein, balanced chicken and sweet potatoes and green beans. I blended solids into mush. I took her on slow walks, counted our steps and counted the grey hairs on her paws. I rubbed her soft ears and tried to freeze time. I gave her the best care I could and did my best to ignore the passage of time. After all, I used to joke that she and I had made an agreement early on in her life that she would never ever ever die. Silly stuff, that sort of mental game, but when you do it, it's childlike and magical, and on some crazy level believable. In other words, sometimes when you fool yourself it is perfect and you can swim in those warm waters, but only for a while. The truth catches up with your foolish self.
Of course I knew I would lose her some day. There was nothing to process, no rush of time to speak unspoken words or seek forgiveness. Her death was as inevitable as her being alive, as sure as all the ground we crossed together on our walks. I just didn't want to face it, to face the calendar, to talk about her slowing down. I wanted to absorb all of it and keep it ours, hers and mine. I wanted her aging and her death to be something we shared, like our walks, something we experienced together.
And in the end, it was that. The last weekend we spent together, her many dog beds all over the living room floor, and for me the mattress from the upstairs sofa bed also down on the floor. I wanted to be on her level. I gave her water with an eyedropper, rubbed her head and her body while she fell asleep, stared at her while she snored, fell asleep with my hand on her shoulder, waking every few minutes just enough to know she was breathing. I guided her and helped her carry the burden of her own weight downstairs when she needed to get into the grass. I cried. I cried a lot. But I did none of that here.
No one could have told me what it would be like to lose her, to let go of this incredible animal, this beautiful dog, this beautiful brown girl. No one warned me, though I heard so often that perhaps I loved her too much. They worried, my friends did, I had unzipped my heart and let it glow all over Cheyenne. I knew it too, the risk, the inevitable heartbreak I would have, to lose her to the inevitable end to a life that nature designed to be much shorter than my own. But who is to say how much love is too much? It felt like gliding, when I saw her smile at me. It's a different love, that which we feel for our pets. The grief is equally different, no less real and no less deep or familiar to me than times I've mourned the death of loved ones and my parents, but so different.
I have her paw print in a frame and I have a snip of the curl from her tail in the same frame. They remind me that she was here. I have her ashes. I have hundreds and hundreds of photos of her, of us, of places we traveled together, of places I might have walked past had she not called me to her discovery. I have my memories and I have my gratitude that her life was in my care and that she provided me with so much joy. My sweet Tiny Hiny, Banana Monster, Shiny Cheyenne gave me so very much happiness in our years together. Her life gave mine meaning, responsibility, fun and joy.
I have all of that and it is enough. It has to be enough. For a time in my life, for an all too short period of time, there was a beautiful brown dog who walked beside me, lived beside me. She was my friend, that brown dog was. She will forever be in my heart. With every step I take.