kids had grown up and moved out. Chuck, Booboo and I had settled into
a comfortable routine…now that it was just the three of us. Rather
than being “the family dog,” Booboo had become our companion. We
spent a good amount of time just hanging out with him.
was getting older, 11 or 12 years old, and I realized that his time
with us would wrap up in the not-too-distant future. I was concerned
about how our family would handle his death. Actually, I was
concerned about how our kids would handle his death…for
decided I’d better nip this in the bud. Do a bit of preventive
communication. I made it clear that no matter how sad we were when
Booboo died, do
under any circumstances, get us another puppy to cheer us up.
in advance of Booboo’s death, Chuck and I were planning to be
pet-free…once Booboo was gone. As much as we loved him and would
miss him, we were ready for a phase of life when traveling, in
particular, would be less complicated.
you planning to get another dog?” is a regular question we’ve
gotten since Booboo’s death. For Chuck, the answer is a definite
“no.” For me, the answer is “not at this time.” Then comes
the question, “But what about the void?” It surprised me how many
people used the same phrase…the void…and talked about it as if it
were a power beyond our control. A black hole that relentlessly pulls
at your heart strings, reminding you of what’s been lost, until you
give in and refill it.
didn’t take long for me to encounter the void. The empty space that
used to be filled with Booboo’s energy, spirit, and personality…as
well as his physical presence. The routines that were so much a part
of my day, were now altered or non-existent. Routines like taking
Booboo for a walk when I got up in the morning and when I got home
from work in the evening…no
need to do that anymore. Bringing
a ball and his bed to the laundromat, so we could play fetch while we
wait for the dryer to finish…no
one to play fetch with now. Lying
in bed and reaching to pet Booboo, who always cuddled up next to
just an empty space.
void. The sudden emptiness that used to be so full of energy…and
love. Even when death is long expected, the emptiness feels sudden.
Like turning off a light switch that won’t go back on. Even if the
bulb has slowly gotten dimmer, one’s eyes have adjusted. When it
switches off for good, it’s quick and irreversible.
can only imagine how difficult the void would be when a loved one’s
health is good and death comes unexpectedly. Then you’re going from
full light to complete darkness…in an instant. The book Wave
by Sonali Deraniyagala,
who lost her parents, husband, and two young sons in the 2004
tsunami, tells the story of such loss, and the unbearable emptiness
that follows. I read this book shortly after Booboo’s passing.
While the intensity of her loss was much greater than ours, I found
many similarities in her process of grieving and healing…and
particularly her reference to the void.
can see why people will choose to get a new dog fairly quickly after
the death of their previous one. Even though it’s not the same
animal as the one you loved and lost, it allows you to keep a similar
routine and calm the power of the void. You again have someone to
take for a walk, greet you when you come home, and cuddle with in the
than filling the void, I wanted to understand it and learn to work
through it. I didn’t miss having a dog. I missed Booboo. I missed
my friend. The dog who converted many self-proclaimed non-dog people
to at least liking this dog.
The dog who would settle into my arms, and often fall asleep, while I
did a variety of activities…such as shopping, conversation, and
cooking. The dog who loved to hunt for Easter eggs and get his own
presents from under the Christmas tree, leaving all other presents
undisturbed. The dog who some people wanted to clone, because they
had never met a dog like Booboo and wanted one just like him. (I
always discouraged the cloning idea.)
another dog would not be the same. The void would be filled
superficially. I would soon have to come to terms with the fact that
the new animal is a dog, but not the same dog. And like I said
before, I didn’t miss having a dog. I missed Booboo.
first few months were the hardest. I still expected him to be there.
Every routine, every memory caused me to have to lose him over and
over again. Coming home and looking for him…no,
Waking up in the morning and reaching to pet him…no,
Seeing a toy or snack at the store that he would like…no
need, he’s no longer with us.
the reality of his absence sunk in and many of my routines had been
changed, I no longer had to keep reminding myself that he was gone.
At that point, my memories of him became a source of comfort, rather
than a painful reminder of loss. And the void started to calm.
am grateful that Booboo came into our lives, and I now delight in the
memories of our time together. Everyone I’ve known, and especially
those I’ve loved, are deeply a part of me…never to be separated
completely. Working through this void has been quite a worthwhile
lesson. Getting beyond what’s been lost, to the point of joy and
gratitude for what was gained. The lessons learned from Booboo, with
him, and because of him will help in all other areas of my life.
void can be filled or can be worked through and calmed…or some
combination of the two. My old routines have been replaced with new
ones. Some intentionally altered, like playing solitaire at the
laundromat instead of fetch, and others more naturally changed, like
being able to stay downtown after work, rather than having to come
home first. Life after the void is different, and yet in a new way
it’s still good.
we get another dog some day? Hard to say for sure. When I’m an old
lady, another dog might be a welcome addition. We’ll see. The void
has calmed. My memories of Booboo now bring a smile of joy, more
often than a tear of sadness. Change is a part of life. Loss is a
part of life. But the love stays with you…through it all.