I always loved how, whenever a dog would meet Daisy Mae – our fifty-two pound puggle – they were always a little beside themselves. Even the little, ugly muts that bark at everything and won’t shut up somehow managed to stop in their tracks and look at her like, “What am I supposed to do with this?” or “Does that thing even know how to dog?” with their heads cocked to the side just so in confusion.
And that’s the best way I can describe to you what those first few months were like for everyone. A puggle that’s supposed to weigh in at between fifteen and thirty pounds and this one was easily double its weight: a brown fuzzball that could barely move. And it was hard finding the balance between serious concern for a serious weight issue with the sincere fact that everything about a fat puggle is absolutely adorable.
Her name was actually not “Daisy Mae” but–and no, time has not changed how ridiculous this is–“Lady Gaga.” Her previous owner, having died, had some sort of memory loss where she would feed her, forget she’d fed her, and feed her again. And so, Lady Gaga ate and ate, and by the time she came to us and was “Daisy Mae,” she was dangerously overweight and very clearly depressed.
Her breathing in those first days was scary. Honestly, she sounded demonic in the sense that her breathing was less, y’know, “breathing” and more a snort, a cackle, maybe the sound of something you hear in your worst nightmares. She would rest in her bed constantly, sleep a lot, snore a lot and loudly, and just seemed generally grumpy (although “grumpy” is kind of the puggle status quo already), so you could stare her in the eyes and she could be smiling big and it wasn’t entirely clear whether she was happy or hating you or both.
The overeating–it turned out–had grown into a thyroid issue, which was good news for us, because once we were able to replace her inactive thyroid with a pill, she started losing weight quickly.
And with that there were several firsts, some of which were more noticeable than others: the first time she jumped, the first time she ran, the first time she played with her toys, etc. It was like slowly watching a brown fuzzball go from being nothing more than a blob to gaining a personality with feelings and decisions and love. Lots and lots of love.
Actually, I should say that when the weight started coming off, Daisy was cat-like at first, and a cat-like quality always remained in her making me think she was raised with them the first six years of her life. She would rub up against your leg, turn around and rub up against your leg on her other side and then do it all over again. She would even paw at you to get you to play with her and occasionally demand to lay in your lap or walk all over you.
But eventually, she turned into a dog, a real dog, that is healthy and does dog things. She even barked in her dreams–the only time she ever really barked at all. And as her personality came out more and more, the more and more we fell in love with her and she fell in love with us.
And that’s how it was. We must’ve gotten a solid year or more of that, of Daisy finally, maybe for the first time in her life, living the way a dog should live.
So, you can imagine how devastating it was to find out she was in end-stage lung cancer just a few weeks ago and deteriorating quickly. Or how devastating it was last night when she finally said goodbye to us, even though we’d had some time to prepare and remind her in those last few weeks how grateful we were for the short time we’d been gifted.
I’m not going to come up with some platitude the way I normally try to in my writing where I end on a semi-happy note and the story arc comes full circle. Put frankly, losing Daisy just sucks. And it’s gonna suck for a while, and it’s not fair, and all the things anybody feels when they lose something so good.
What I will tell you though is in the moments after she left us, I could picture her leaving the house, moving through it almost like it was in a vision, with someone who loved her very much and loved us very much, a woman in red and blue. But in the vision, Daisy wasn’t a brown blob or a cat or even a dog. She was just this bright, beaming light. All I could see of her or know of her was that she was that light.
I think she was that light before she passed. And she remains that light today.
But now comes the tough part of deciding how far and how long you carry that light with you or look to it and know it’s better off for where it is or use it to shine light elsewhere. I’ve spent a lot of time today just thinking about the people and the animals in my life who have come and gone, graced me and mine briefly–memories that are good but gone and need to be gone, memories that are good and because they’re good are painful now that I can’t seem to get them back as easily as I might wish.
What if Daisy was here for the perfect amount of time, for her and for us? What if every ounce of every moment that’s gifted us is what it’s intended to be? I’m not sure I’d be satisfied with that even if it were proven true. I’d always want, demand a little more out of the precious time in front of me. Too often wanting and demanding that in hindsight rather than in the present.
The only lessons I can come up with are that this sucks, that it’s okay that it sucks, and that that’s maybe how it’s supposed to be even though we weren’t made to be satisfied with what’s supposed to be.
But whether we’re satisfied or not, it doesn’t change what that light is or where it comes from. And it doesn’t make it shine any less bright. The question is, can you see it? And are you willing to let it embrace you the way it’s supposed to?
My best answer is, I don’t know. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, and I hope I can let that be good enough.