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The Blanket of Longing

In the state between sleep and awake, I let the blanket cover over my face, keeping out the threat of reality and a new day outside my bed, like blackout curtains keeping out the sun. I contemplated what may be waiting for me. It had not been good as of late, and I wanted to stay in bed and ignore it all. Then I heard the reminder that I was needed and my self pity would have to be closed into a tiny container and placed under the bed for another time.

My girl needed me. Not the human girl I had loved and was now forbidden to see, but the four-legged girl who stirred in the corner of the bedroom. The one who couldn’t understand why her little human girl no longer came to see her. The one who checked the empty pink bedroom every day, and her eyes always asked me if she would ever see her two-legged puppy again. I didn’t know how I could make my sick dog understand something I did not understand myself. But she felt my pain. She always did. And I needed that.

Almost a month had gone by since our relationship with the human girl had been severed, and just a few, excruciatingly long days had passed since we found out our fur baby had a cancer that could not be cured. Losing both my girls… well, getting out of bed each day now required me to muster all the strength I could. These girls loved each other and needed each other, and they might never see each other again.

But I needed to shower the girl I still had with as much love as I could during the time we had left together. So I lifted the blanket.


I very recently read How Dogs Love: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns. There are so many reasons for me to recommend the book, but the following excerpt captured perfectly for me the essence of the entire book.

The defining trait of dogs, therefore, is their interspecies social intelligence, an ability to intuit what humans and other animals are thinking. Wolves do this to hunt prey. But dogs evolved their social intelligence into living with other species instead of eating them. Dogs’ great social intelligence means that they probably have a high capacity for empathy. More than intuiting what we think, dogs may also feel what we feel. Dogs have emotional intelligence. Just like people, if dogs can be happy, then surely they can be sad and lonely.

Throughout the Dog Project, I had been struck by how perfectly dogs and humans complemented each other. Humans, even with our powerful brains and capacity for abstract thought, are still slaves to our emotions, which dogs pick up on and resonate with. And the most powerful emotion of all is love. Despite the complexities of human relationships, the fundamental attribute of love is empathy. To love, and be loved, is to feel what another feels and have that returned. It really is that simple… People become intensely attached to their pets… This is why it hurts so much when we lose them.


One Lonely, Empty Nest

I never intended to have any baby birdies flittering around in my nest in the first place. Robert and I were happy, free little birds. Then a little baby bird crash landed into our nest, changed our lives completely, and then left. Now we are left trying to figure out what to do with this lonely, empty nest.

Enough of the animal metaphor now, which makes it sound much cuter than it is in reality. Truthfully, I feel more like some abandoned sloth. Sure, I continue to live my life and go through my daily routines, but the world seems to be passing me by faster than my reeling mind and emotions can seem to keep up. Life refuses to stop long enough for me to figure things out. And that is awful, because I thought I had finally figured it out. I thought I had found the thing that was missing in my world- the thing I never knew was missing until I had it and loved it and it called me Mommy. But now she’s gone. Taken away. Separated from my daily routine.

stitch lost




And I feel so lost.






If you are reading this and do not know the story, it’s pretty long, so the short version is:

My niece left her children behind when she headed across county to find herself or something. Guess she assumed my parents would raise them both. They aren’t so young anymore and though they had been raising the boy already, could not take the girl as well, so they asked if my husband and I would.

What kind of heartless people would turn away a homeless four year old?

Not us!

We took her in without a clue as to how long it would be or how to take care of her. We rearranged our lives for her and fell in love with her and she with us.  She even eventually decided to call us Mommy and Daddy, which definitely made me cry the first time it happened, right after watching Finding Nemo.

Sounds like a fairy tale, right? Everyone should have lived happily ever after, except…

Her father, whom we had been told not to involve as he had not been reliable in the past, filed to have custody. About four lawyers and eight months later for us, he was granted custody from the mother (turns out we could have no legal standing even though we were the ones raising her). A couple months later, and for a grand total of 23 1/2 months of her living in our home, she no longer is.

So maybe that was the medium version, but definitely not the long one. That would take a book to tell.

Anyway, her father has allowed us to remain a part of her life, so we are obviously grateful for that. But it’s a confounding feeling…am I a mommy or not? She still thinks of me as one and calls me one, but am I allowed to encourage that now? I don’t even know how to sign the letters I write to her.

In my heart, she will always be my little girl, my baby, my daughter.

Sometimes I peek down the hallway towards her room. Sometimes I even walk into her room. I may even sit on her bed from time to time and cry silently, because if I make a sound the dogs will hear me, run to comfort me, and mess up the bed. Oftentimes, I avoid her room. It’s pink and purple (her two favorite colors), with sparkles and glow-in-the-dark decor, Darth Vader and tea sets, dragons and books. Her room reflects her perfectly, and sometimes, most of the time, it just hurts too much to stand in the midst of it when she isn’t here.

I miss singing her awake with “You Are My Sunshine.” I miss breakfast with her, making silly faces, blowing up the Death Star, group hugs, eski-mo kisses, tuck-ins, story time, and snuggling. I miss her calling our dogs Wookiees and walking carpets, and seeing her drag them happily around the house. I miss the incessant talking or singing that once filled every moment. The house is far too silent now.

I thought getting back to a routine would help, but she was my routine. Without her, I feel empty, lost, and without purpose.

We went through grieving for months before we actually lost her. The process was slow and agonizing. Once we knew it would happen we tried to deny it, then optimistically thought maybe it would fall through, and then we grieved and cherished every tiny moment with our tiny girl that we could, making memories as a family, but fighting back the tears. Every moment with her in the last few months she lived here was bittersweet. Sometimes I had to walk away because watching her and trying to imagine life without her made me cry, and I didn’t want her to see because then she would be sad too.

So maybe we went through the hardest part already. The part where my emotions were all too often falling right out of my eyes. Then the day came for her to leave, and numbness struck, with fits of rage in between. And then just numbness again. I would probably feel better if I could cry more.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel. I don’t know anybody else who has ever really gone through this. So…I go on. I exist. That’s pretty much it.

I just exist.