Next month will mark one year since Casper died. Casper was our first dog together, an old brindle gray, black, and white pit bull we adopted from the West LA Shelter when he was probably about 8 years old. We had just under three years with him, and those years changed our lives forever. We have a huge painting of him in our house that Grace commissioned for me as a gift while Casper was still alive, and Grace always says to our other dogs, Casper is the only dog that gets a painting. He started it all.
A few weeks after Casper died, I wrote this post about fear and anxious thoughts after losing a pet suddenly. It is actually one of the posts that I've gotten the most emails about, and I was thinking that it would be worthwhile to post an update on how I'm feeling. SO much has changed since Casper died. We've adopted not one but two new dogs, we got engaged, we moved in together and made a home in our little house in West Hollywood, and honestly, life is good. I don't post much at all on this blog, or on IG or anywhere else, about continuing to grieve Casper because, well, it's not easily explained and doesn't feel right to solicit sympathy months and months after the fact. Without any ill-intention, people do expect you to move on.
That being said, I know that the loss of a pet can stay with you for a long time (and really, forever), so I just wanted to write this post to say that you are not alone if you're not "over" the loss of a pet! I also want to share a little bit of my feelings in case anyone reading this is just now experiencing the loss of a pet and is wondering how they might be handling it in several months. Of course, everyone's way of processing is different, but here's how I feel a little less than a year out:
I still sometimes, out of the blue, feel like a shot of ice water floods my veins remembering losing Casper and the fact that he's not physically on earth any more. Random little things can make me feel this way. Recently, on the first day of spring this year, I just had this sick feeling of time being relentless, of another season without Casper, and how spring was the last season we had with him. Last fall, when I went through a couple of months of the worst anxiety I'd ever felt, I remember crying my eyes out and thinking that Casper had never seen me in such a dark season, and he would have protected me from this. I know this all sounds like TOTAL crazy dog lady stuff, but Casper was like my little baby and my big brother all at once. Without him, I would (and sometimes still do) project hard feelings onto his absence and feel like I would "feel better" if only he was still here with me.
One of the most persistent, unbearable thoughts I had after Casper died is imagining my life stretched out in front of me--decades and decades, if I'm lucky--and never seeing Casper's face again in all that time. Being an old lady, still lonely from missing my first baby (and I have a huge lump in my throat typing this). Feeling like his exact features and quirks would become a distant memory is too painful to dwell on.
One thing that I think less and less about is the actual day he died. I grappled with a lot of trauma after that day, but that has subsided. Though I realize this post is probably coming across as BEYOND extra if you're not as much of a dog person as I am, Casper's death was nonetheless very traumatic for me. He literally died in my arms, in the back of Grace's car in the middle of nowhere, and I held his (80-pound) body for two hours before we could reach our vet to get him cremated. It happened so fast--only three days from the first sign of illness (after which we immediately took him to the vet, but they said he was okay for the time being)--and only about an hour where he was actually dying. I had never witnessed any death before that, except maybe a bug or something. So this was huge for me. I'd had family members and family pets die, but I'd never been there. After we took Casper to be cremated, Grace and I went home alone and just cried beside each other for so long. I felt like we were so impossibly tiny, and that the huge powers of life and death had just ripped through us and left us like little leaves blowing in the wind. I have never felt more drained. I replayed what had happened thousands of times in my head, and I had to tell the story to so many people who were as shocked by his sudden death as we were. But actually, telling it helped. It got easier each time. And writing it out was so healing. So even though I felt like I would never get my strength back after what happened, I of course have.
Lastly, I am definitely okay. And if you've lost a pet, or are worried about losing one in the future, you will be okay too! It's a bit overwhelming to think about losing either of my current dogs, because as this post shows I'm not done grieving Casper . . . so I don't know how I could handle going through another loss. But, I know I could. Also, my best advice is to adopt another dog or two as soon as you can :)
If you're going through this, hang in there!