Losing Emma: The first 24 hours

The outpouring of warmth and connectedness via comments here, facebook, email, phone and visits has been nearly overwhelming, and deeply appreciated. While I don’t have the energy to respond individually, know that you are loved as the Love of the universe pulsed through the quivering, eager being of one little white dog, Emma.

Here’s what happened: we were on our walk, as I said in yesterday’s post. She often started behind me for a few blocks, better to pick up on neighborhood dogs’ steady tinkling on street poles. I always laughed at her multitasking talent — stretching her neck to take inventory of that day’s harvest while peeing a few drops on each spot. She was also a tiny alpha dog who needed to “get the last bark” when we’d stop and try — and usually fail — to greet big dogs without getting freaked.

Yesterday, she was still behind me on East 7th Street, between Clark and Hillside, on her long retractable leash as I threaded my way through two empty trash cans lying on their sides about 18 inches apart. I expected her to go between them too, and, without looking back, tugged her leash a little bit. Instead, she must have opted to dart around.

Next thing I knew, a whomping sound, and the nightmare of Emma shreiking. She was lying on her side, in the street. I ran to her, knelt down, put my hands on her. She kept shrieking, and as I tried to cradle her she was in so much pain, and I in such shock, that she bit me, three times, on the thumb, before I moved my hand. By this time, I was also being hammered by a tsunami of crashing grief. Tenderly, I picked her up, and, both of us loudly shrieking, started to walk back home. It was about 8:30 in the morning. There was no one around.

A car drove up. “What can I do?” The driver obviously and horribly concerned. “I heard the shrieking.” “You were the one who hit her?” “Yes.” “It’s not your fault.” I asked him to take us to her vet on Smith Road. As we sped away, her cries died down and her eyes started to glass over. She was leaving. It took awhile, but during that eternity’s t five minute drive, she slipped away.

He stayed with me for a while, and then, when the vet had not yet arrived, left to go to work, giving me his cell phone number for the ride home. I was so grateful.

Emma was dead. There was no sense staying, but I did anyway, standing next to her still little form on the stainless steel table in that little room, my hands moving over every beloved inch of that cooling furry little body. It reminded me of when my husband Jeff died, how I had washed his body. How my hands had needed to be on his body. How what loses touch with the being who has just, after all, slipped into a higher, finer dimension, is the body. How grief is held, and felt, in the body. How, both as individuals and as a culture, we are riddled with layer upon layer of frozen grief. Unaware of the cause of our constant, low- or high-level anxiety, we medicate ourselves or fall into any manner of addiction in our constant frantic search for a way out. Distractions, endless and obliterating, litter the inner landscape of our souls.

The minutes crawled by. Still in shock, I was nevertheless given clear understanding: that her contract had just completed. That this “accident” was how she chose to go. Quickly, and, but for those two minutes in unbearable pain, almost cleanly. I could feel Jeff’s presence in the room. She felt joyous, as he had, when he passed.

(Later, my son Colin and I went out to dinner. He said he had also felt Jeff’s presence that morning, and that at first Jeff had been reluctant. “Oh my god, what have you sent me now?”! So like Jeff! I was always pushing him to take the next step on his own path. He was (and is) always hooking me to the larger universe. (While incorporated, he had refused the consider having a dog.))

The assistant came in and determined that yes, she had no heartbeat. Finally, the vet arrived, very concerned and sensitive. Asked me if I wanted to cut a bit of her hair. Yes. She handed me the scissors and left to get a blanket and a box, since I did not want her cremated.

This vet hospital is the same one in which another vet, a few years ago, with my cat cradled in his arms, said, his big liquid eyes beaming: “And they say animals have no souls?”

All day, shocky. Came home and called a dear friend, Rhonda. She drove over immediately. After a while she drove me to the co-op for some Rescue Remedy (a Back flower remedy), since I couldn’t find mine, and she didn’t have hers with her. (Later on, a reader of this blog in England wrote to me via email and suggested Rescue Remedy. She said she had used it during a time of grief, and that if I couldn’t find it here, she would send it from there . . . thank you thank you for your kindness and generosity! Luckily, we are still able to purchase this blessed product in U.S. stores.)

From my experience after Jeff died, I knew that the first night would be the hardest. Also, my thumb was throbbing with pain. So I did what I don’t usually do, I dug out an old Vicodin prescription bottle, of which there were still six pills left from an oral surgery a few years ago. Took one pill, twice, during the night. It helped relax me, though pictures and situations with Emma paraded through, all night long.

I noticed that I didn’t have to be careful not to thrash my legs now, since I wouldn’t disturb her sleep.

I noticed that there was no reason to get up so early, since she wouldn’t need a walk.

I noticed that I had hardly eaten anything the day before. And that I did not feel hungry.

I noticed that there were lots of strange sounds in the house, especially nearby, in the bedroom and hallway; when she slept with me I had always felt at ease, since I knew she would bark at any real danger. Knocking, tapping — the strange sounds continued for quite a while. I finally recognized them as coming from her.

A remembered that our cat, Paoli, had sat like a sentinel nearby while Colin and I were digging Emma’s hole. Just as another cat, Felix, had stood sentinel when I washed Jeff’s body.

I noticed that Emma had burrowed her way into the interstices of every aspect of my life, every minute of day and night. She was at the top of the stairs when I’d come up from putting a load of wash in the machine. She was lying in a nearby chair or at my feet, whenever I sat here to work. Her little face was at the bottom of the picture window, chin on the sill, every time I returned home.

Periodically, every day, she would give a short little bark, signalling that she wanted something. Usually it was a treat. I’d ask, “Do you want a little greenie?” She would lick the right outer edge of her lip, once. “Yes.” Or, “Do you want a toy?” I’d dig in her toy box, with her standing by, expectant and eager. I felt for her, the clumsiness of having no hands. And I envied her casual ability to suddenly leap to three times her standing height after a squirrel she’d just treed, and how when at play, she would suddenly turn, like a quarter horse, and duck between the front and back legs of a big chasing dog.

On and on. Memories, and how they embed into routine. My routine was, basically, constructed to accommodate her daily needs. Her needs became my needs. The two of us moved through life together in wordless communion and joy.

Every day, on our walk, we would start out with, out loud: “We are soooo lucky! This is the best day ever!”

Meanwhile, as day one of Earth life without Emma wore on, I could feel her spirit expanding into an enormous sphere, full of light, more intense than sunlight. And I could feel myself, my own little animal self on Earth, located in the very center of the light. Protected. Loved, as ever, beyond measure. As I write this last sentence I cry. Finally, after a whole day of tears, and then no tears all night, more tears.

Yesterday, the first day, not just tears, but lots of howling, the deep, gutteral wailing humans make when they acknowledge and allow their animal containers to express. The howling that I uncovered in myself when Jeff died, and that I encouraged to express for the first full year, whenever a wave inside built up. I could feel it, the grief, as a standing wave, building, building, to a crest, and then spilling over, leaving me spent, and at one with the universe. Grateful. I remember being glad that as a new widow I lived alone, and knew no one in the brand new town to which we had moved just before he died. Grateful to howl and not be considered crazy, not have to modulate my grief, to pretend that it was manageable, or over.

When the dear soul whose car thumped Emma came back to the vets office, as we were carrying out her box I noticed that the car he drove was a Prius. As a reader of this blog pointed out to me, that’s why I didn’t automatically rein her in when I heard a car coming. It was a Prius, quiet.

At the time we were carrying the box, I didn’t remember this fact about Priuses. No. What struck me then was that Emma had grown up in, and loved to travel in, my Prius, whether it be for errands locally or to Boston where once a year she graced the family of my son Sean, wife Sue, and grandkids Drew and Kiera with her fierce, gentle, sweet presence.

She loved traveling with me in the car, especially after I deemed her old enough to ride in the front seat next to me, rather than in the carrier behind. That last year, for her, riding in the car, was heaven, her little snout out resting on the window ledge, making people in cars idling next to us smile, and scouting, as usual, for dogs to bark at, while picking up a billion subtle scents of which we humans are completely oblivious.

No, what I noticed, was that the blessed executioner’s car was a white Prius. As she had lived much of her life in a black Prius, so she conjured a white Prius to be her Angel of Death.

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10 Responses to Losing Emma: The first 24 hours

  1. Susan McElroy says:

    Ann: I remain stunned that Emma is gone. Just stunned. I recall that after I lost me beloved dog Keesha many years ago, I said to myself in those first agonizing moments of utter aloneness, “I will never be the same.” And I never was. My heart is with you, and I can feel Emma on my lap when I think about her, or at my legs, or panting in my ears. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss.

  2. Edda says:

    So am so sorry to hear that you lost your furr person. I remember years back when I lived on Hillside a rather busy street and it on St Nick day when my kitty got hit. All he did was try to come home in the morning on a Sun from hanging out in the school playground across the street. I know how that feels and I too had sighting of him for a long time after he moved on.
    Your little Emma will be protecting you from up high, kinda goes with that higher pitch bark she had I am sure. Interesting too re the color white and the vehicle. I hope her next mission is a fun as the one she had with you.

  3. Brian says:

    ann, thanks for sharing this. if there’s anything meg and I can do, please let us know.

  4. Donna says:

    I only met Emma a few times (strange – I had no idea that she was so young!) but I can relate to your loss. My little soul mate cat Terra passed on from cancer going on four years ago, and I grieved great howling sobs as you do, grateful for being on a leave of absence from work. I lost many pounds during the week and a half that followed, having no appetite. Even those of us enlightened enough to know that death is a blessed homecoming for the one who passes, must grieve our own loss of that direct physical connection.

    Terra has remained with me in spirit, popping into my conscious awareness numerous times over the years since she dropped her body, and now when she graces me with her presence I greet her with a rush of joy followed by comfortable fondness, as I would a much-beloved old friend who I just happened to run into after a long separation.

    While you move through your process of adjustment to the change in your relationship with Emma, know that you are thought of and loved. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. Pamela says:

    I Have never even met you or Emma and Im crying my eyes out…I cannot finish reading as Im also feeling and experiencing your grief. Oh my, life is certainly shaking us all up every which way we turn. Namaste dear Anne x0x

  6. 4D says:

    It is our thumbs which make us human. A trinity of bites to reinforce and evoke feelings. Love transcends: grief anchors. Peace.

  7. jenn will says:

    love to you. so sorry for the loss of your dear friend.

  8. Paula Assaf says:

    Just logged in and read your sad news. Sharing your grief. Love you, Sistah. Paula

  9. Gail Hale says:

    Thanks for sharing Ann. I will be thinking of you with love and healing energy.

  10. Dancing Kimbit says:

    So much support to you, Ann. You have been an amazing companion for Emma. So much love to you.

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