Before October of 2021, I saw myself writing a blog with a big focus on living with and caring for an elderly dog. But since River got sick and passed away, I have had great difficulty clearly envisioning my future, let alone my blog.
Even so, I have to keep moving and I have to keep trying. That’s what this latest book I’m reading is telling me at least. It’s about grief and loss and moving on. It’s called, Life After Loss: How to Deal with Grief and Bereavement after the Loss of a Parent, Spouse, Child, or a Loved One. Well, “moving on” seems rather harsh. It’s more like, moving with this new grief and moving in a new way with this great loss.
I do not have any great wise words on grief or loss at this time, I may never, but I have this tug to write. It may just be to get this out of me, but if it reaches someone who feels more seen and heard, all the better.
Losing River has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through because I loved him the most and I know he loved me in the purest sense of the word. I know in my heart and in my bones that he was mine and I was his. We were meant to be. The both of us having lived through some violence and neglect, still cupping a little light of hope against the cold wind while we tried to be cautiously optimistic about life.
His was the best, most loving eye-contact I ever had and I know I was that to him as well. River nervously looked away much of the time in the early days. Having been abused by humans and hurt by dogs, he didn’t want to go looking for more fights. And with me being shy, traumatized, and autistic, I mostly avoided much eye contact or faked it as much as I could. But I could get lost in the warmth of his big brown eyes, and I did.
I just realized this week that’s what I was missing so much from having him in physical form - his loving eye-contact. River was so gently expressive and though he grew in confidence over the years, he always needed to be able to see me if we were in a new place. That was constant. He didn’t need to be physically touching me, but he kept a close eye on me.
That’s another thing we had in common; didn’t love to be touched, only a little and only sometimes and on our terms. For all of my life I had been fighting to keep people from touching me because so much of the touch was not comforting or comfortable and even done against my explicit wishes. And then I learned as an adult that I was autistic. Then when I brought River home, I spent all the years he was with me helping to make him comfortable with touch and with being cuddled. It happened more and more as he got older, but it was still rare enough when he would share the couch with me, for instance, or lay next to me on the bed, that I tried to take pictures every time.
River made me feel like the most beautiful and most fascinating person on the earth the way he beamed love to me through those gentle eyes.
I’m so grateful I still have my cat, Daphne, for companionship. And while she does often give me eye contact and slow blinks of her pale green eyes, it’s just not the same. She is simply not River.
River was the absolute best dog I could have asked for to be my first dog. My heart joined with his and is still with him even now. I was so lucky. He was my soulmate dog.
There will be no “moving on” with my life. There can only be moving with this heavy, heart-wrenching grief.