Losing Bear

Two weeks ago we lost our dog Bear. I haven’t wanted to write about it because it makes me too sad, but I can’t bring myself to write about anything else so I had to either give up writing for the foreseeable future or write this out and let my heart move on.

We lost Bear

Bear, who walked into my life when she was just a tiny puppy. Bear, who saw me out the door on the day I graduated college, the day I got married, and all of the days that I left for work each morning. Bear, who moved out to Oregon with me and back again. Bear, who slept at my feet. Bear, who went hiking and running and swimming with me. Bear, who never said no to a walk. Bear, who was always up for an adventure a nap, or a snack. My sweet Bear, who snored like an old man and growled when she was happy. Bear, who I left behind so many times but who always went wild when I came back again.

Me and Bear on the top of a mountain in 2009

Me and Bear were on the top of a mountain in 2009.

Swimming with Bear in 2010

Swimming with Bear in 2010.

Bear walking with her sister Macy and Brian. March 2014

Bear walking with her sister Macy and Brian. March 2014.

She was the first and only thing that I have ever loved unconditionally. I don’t care what that says about me, it’s the truth.

Two weeks ago she woke up blind and the vet diagnosed her with a brain tumor. Nothing he could do it could take her at any time. She did not seem to be in pain but her blindness made her disorientated.

Brian and I were in North Carolina at the time. It was Brian’s parents who took her to the vet, who called to give us the news. We had a decision to make. I did not want her to suffer. I did not want to wait until she had nothing left of herself. Brian and I could make it home the following day so an appointment was made.

Brian’s parents deserve so much credit. They did not leave her side. On her last full day of life, she slept in the sun for hours and they sat beside her. They held the water bowl up to her face so she could drink from time to time. Brian’s parents held vigil while we made the mad dash home. They fed Bear all the treats she could handle. They guided her outside to pee. They loved her, not just at the end of her life, but then, too.

Bear in her happy place (sleeping in the mulch)

Bear in her happy place (sleeping in the mulch).

Her loss just hangs over me, like I’m dressed in a shroud of sadness. I’m fine, most of the time, but then I remember that she is gone and I am knocked over again by a wave of grief.

This is the sad truth of life: that you will lose the things you love or the things you love will lose you.

My last photo with Bear taken February 2014

My last photo with Bear was taken in February 2014.

I wanted to honor Bear’s life by sharing everything she taught me over the years. I was going to make a list. But when I sat down to make the list the only thing I could think of was that last car ride out to the vet. I keep replaying it in my head.

Bear loved being in the car. Even in the middle of winter, cold, I’d put the back windows down and Bear would stick her head outside like she was cruising down the street in the summertime in the Bahamas. In the front seat, Brian and I would turn the heat up full blast and shiver. But it is hard to deny something you love that brings you joy. So Bear always got her way with the windows.

On the way to the vet, Bear got one last car ride. And so although she could no longer see, and she was having a difficult time breathing, she sat on my lap and we sat in the window seat and I put the window full down.

And that dog smiled.

We roared down the highway and Bear closed her eyes and let the air blow all around her. The fine little hairs on her face waved and her ears flopped in the breeze. I believe she knew something was wrong. She knew where we were headed. Still, she smiled. She was happy and joyful. And I thought that I’d never seen anything so brave in my life.

Bear taught me so many things through the years. But mostly she taught me about now. Because now was all that Bear ever had. And everything she did, she did with total enthusiasm commitment, and trust. And one of the joys of having her in my life was the constant reminder that now is the only thing that any of us have. She taught me that the biggest blessings in life are the things that so often get overlooked- springtime walks around the neighborhood, evenings cuddled near the ones you love and drives with the windows down.

So Bear is gone now and we miss her deeply. But I also feel incredibly lucky that for 12 years I was hers.

Goodbye, Bear. Thank you for bringing so much joy to our lives.

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