The day after I first published this post, Pi took her last car ride. It is with a terribly aching heart that I announce her passing.
The first time I came to this house, Todd brought me here. He had wanted me to see the work he had done, his beautiful handmade kitchen cabinets, and the huge addition full of light. In the interest of privacy, let it suffice to say that he too was transitioning out of a long-term living arrangement. There were a great many animals still residing here, in a kennel downstairs. When we passed through the front door I could hear the barking of nearly a dozen dogs, and I knew Todd’s dog was among them. He had spoken frequently and lovingly of her, yet I was not to meet her that day. At the time, I assumed that he purposely had kept her away from me. I wondered whether she would like me, or be jealous of me in some way… because he was hers.
This girl – formally named Blackberry Pi – was a blue-ribbon show dog. She also had a few litters, of which Sabra was one. In Todd’s words: he went to the breeder where he found her – or rather, she found him – and it was love at first sight. She was the most “human” that a dog could be. She gave him that look I came to know and love, the one that said, “get me the fuck out of here.”
Todd told me about her show days, how she would find his face in the crowd and lose all sense of propriety – leaping about during her presentation like, “hey daddy! Look at me! Look at me!” And so Todd was banned from the show floor.
Like our first date in 1985, I don’t remember the details of my first meeting with Pi. But I can say that she nuzzled her nose between my legs (her common way of greeting everyone she liked) and welcomed me with open paws, without question. She shared the bed with me, on the nights I slept over, often leaning her warm body against my legs. She loved me from the start, Todd says, because HE loved me. And as the last three years passed, he increasingly told me that she had dumped him for me. She wouldn’t have done that, I know.
While I couldn’t articulate or accept it at the time, the earlier post was my preparing for what I already knew. On the last day, having stopped eating the day before and yet vomiting periodically, I knew. She gave me that look, the one that surely was the same as that she gave Todd at 6 weeks old. I knew. I didn’t want to know. Todd came home early, and we drove to the vet in silence. I sat in the backseat, Pi’s head on my lap as I stroked her frail old body. What I felt from her, with her head heavy on my lap, was profound peace. I can’t describe it, but it was as if she knew, too.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve never had to DO this before. And I never wanted to, nor do I want to – ever again. How hard it is to let go! To shut out the mind clouded with doubt and second thoughts, to acknowledge that this is the best thing for her… because it certainly isn’t the best thing for US. I stood there stroking her fur, her ears, and leaned in close to whisper in her ear. I tried not to tense up as I pressed my head to hers, praying with every fiber of myself that she would know how much I loved her. Funny how closure is never really closure. It’s like a lie we tell ourselves, to get through the pain.
I haven’t cried the tears that release the suffocating emptiness or the broken heart inside, in what seems like forever. But I remember the feeling, and I want desperately for it to just go away. And my heart feels the heaviness inside Todd, as he grieves this in a way I can only begin to understand. Which is why I have been reluctant to write about this at all. I don’t want this post to sound like it’s all about my loss, because this is his loss too.
Everyone who has loved an animal believes that he/she is one of a kind. There is no dog like Pi. The desperate need right now to have her back – her personality, her smile, her eyes, her energy, her wisdom, her love – is palpable. That sick feeling in my gut that comes from heartbreak, knows that there will never be another, and that adds to the pain. Coming home is the hardest, when I pull in the driveway and know that there is one less dog waiting at the door for me.
And the one left behind? She is hurting too. My focus has turned to her, as I knew it would, as she lies in the bed that holds the scent of her lifelong companion, her melancholy head resting quietly on her paws. Grief is a complex thing. I’ve already begun the compartmentalizing. And, as I turn to Sabra, I know that she needs me now – more than ever.
Apiele Blackberry Pi – “Pi” – December 17, 2000-August 18, 2016