Along Came Attie
August has been quite the month. On August 1st my calendar was pretty blank. We had a trip to Curacao planned right in the middle of the month but that was about it. I can see now that the timing of this trip was planned with divine guidance.
It’s been one of those months that you could never predict how it was going to turn out, both devastating and joyful. One of those months that life shows you just how quickly your world can change without notice. One of those months that leaves you either bitter and better. And I’ve learned from past life experiences that the choice is mine. One of those months that living life on life’s terms really comes into play. One of those moths where acceptance and gratitude prove to be a bit more difficult to find.
My sweet Otto was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma—a rapidly growing, highly invasive variety of cancer that produces highly metastatic and malignant tumors. In Otto’s case, these tumors had overtaken his spleen, liver and lungs by the time he showed any symptoms. He’s a trooper like that. I walked into the vet’s office for an acupuncture appointment (being treated for arthritis) and walked out with this devastating news. My heart literally felt like it has broken into a million tiny little pieces. After much prayer, tears and conversations, we decided to put Otto to rest later that week. I couldn’t bear to watch him suffer like he was knowing his little body wasn’t working for him any longer.
It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. There was guilt. There was a whole lot of guilt. It’s not a natural decision to make. At least for me anyway. But it’s the most loving one. It’s the most dignified one. It’s the most humane one.
The days following Otto’s passing, I was lost. The grief was real. The house was empty. Everything was a reminder. My heart knew Otto wasn’t here but my brain hadn’t caught up. The days following, I’d go to put my yogurt container on the ground for Otto to eat. I’d look down on the ground to make sure Otto wasn’t under me before I stepped out bed or off the couch. His absence was everywhere—lying beside the tub every night while I took a bath, at the door when I came home, beneath my feet when I sat at my desk. My shadow of almost 12 years wasn’t there any longer.
It was a gift to get away for a week and be in an unfamiliar place where Otto’s absence wasn’t in every room. I still felt his absence in my heart and I’m guessing I always will but that’s a part of grief I have come to appreciate in a weird and complicated way.
When I found out Otto had cancer, I couldn’t imagine ever getting or loving another dog. I felt disloyal even thinking it was possible for me to love again. I’d question how people could get another dog so soon after losing one. Did they not love their dog as much as I loved Otto? That thought seemed judgmental and unfair and I didn’t like that I felt that way, but truth be told, I did think and feel that way. Then again, I had never lost a dog before so I’d never been in that position until now.
The next week Jason and I were sitting in the airport on the way to Curacao. Jason showed me a picture of a puppy on his phone and suggested we inquire about her. My head was saying “no way” but my submission of the contact form said otherwise. My phone rings and I answer. It was the lady with the puppy. I’m riding the escalator to the tram to catch our flight. I tell her we are going away for the week and I’d be in touch when I get back. I hang up and receive three pictures via text message. Without hesitation…or telling Jason, I respond “we’ll take her.”
I’m impulsive. I know this about myself. I struggled all week whether this was the right decision. But Jason isn’t impulsive and he was 100% sure about this. Something about that quality in him makes me feel safe and I like that. I trust that.
While in Curacao we picked out a name. Attie. We named her after Abbie and Otto. (Abbie was Jason’s “Otto.”) There’s something so uniquely special about your first dog. Abbie and Otto gave us so much love and left us with so much love to give that it made getting another dog the only logical decision. Attie is one lucky pup to be the recipient of that kind of love but we all know that we are the real lucky ones to get to welcome this sweet girl into our family.
So…lessons learned from the month of August: Life can suck and life can be beautiful at the same time. Your heart can hurt and your heart can heal at the same time. You can miss your old dog and love your new dog at the same time. There is no right or wrong time to get another dog…it’s up to you and when you are ready then it’s never too early or too late.
I’m so happy that Attie is in our lives. I’m happy that our home has the sweet presence of a puppy. I am so happy to have love to give to this new dog. And I am forever grateful and thankful for the heart Otto left me with. So, I introduce to you, Attie Mari Vargosko. She is sweet and perfect and needs us as much as we need her.