Missing Rusty

Rusty a few years ago. He still showed a bit of the white stripe on his nose and forehead.

Rusty a few years ago. His face and coat had grown so much whiter since then.

Thursday night (actually the wee hours of Friday morning) I was partly in shock, partly numb from crying. I wandered the kitchen and living room, gathering toys, leash, medicines, and putting them in the closet in my room so Mom wouldn’t come upon them in the morning. I dumped the half-empty plate of dry food into the plastic bin, emptied the water bowl, and stacked them with the little china plate next to the small food island, away from their normal positions. I put a huge sofa pillow in the empty spot at the far end of the futon.

I went downstairs to the computer to e-mail my brother in St. Louis the news and put on a Facebook post to inform friends and family. Back upstairs, I turned on the television as white noise and worked on needlepoint. I couldn’t face trying to sleep until four a.m. I didn’t fall asleep until after five, crying and replaying everything in my head.

Friday night I stayed up long after Mom went to bed around ten, as usual. I had a snack of potato chips, dissatisfied because I had them all to myself and fighting the urge to toss the last incremental bite of each chip to be snapped midair. I worked on my dollhouse, turning reflexively when I thought I heard stirring behind me. I shushed myself rattling a box of small wood pieces, then remembered there was no one to wake up.

I licked my wound the way he’d licked the open tumor on his paw, but there was no healing. Around 2 a.m. I went to the basement and sat sobbing at the computer. Any sounds I heard above wouldn’t be a summons to be let out into the cold winter night. I realized I was avoiding going to bed because, except on vacation trips, I hadn’t pulled up the covers without him under them for three years. I went to bed around 3:30 and didn’t get to sleep until after 4:30, even though crying used to be a way I could exhaust myself into slumber.

Saturday night I did better in those hours after Mom went to bed. I was becoming accustomed to the solitary experience of working in front of the TV without the familiar presence behind me. However, when I turned off the television and the lights to go to the basement around 2 a.m., the cold, sharp-rimmed emptiness cut me deeply. Again, I sobbed in front of the computer and reconciled myself to continual, fresh pain.

Last night, Sunday, I got through it all without crying—until I went down to the computer and finally read the brief blog post my mother had published about our loss. I cried, but I didn’t sob. And once I was in bed, although it took me awhile to get to sleep, I think I slipped into unconsciousness without tears.

I know it will get better. And part of me doesn’t want to stop feeling bad because it will be like not feeling anything regarding him one way or another. I’d rather miss him terribly than feel nothing. I wouldn’t mind moving past the point where I run my hands up and down my arms because I want to hug him so badly, or whisper his name as if he’s still standing in the doorway, or open my eyes believing he’s approaching my high bed so I can reach down and scratch his ears. That kind of pain has to be endured; but simple sorrow has a sweetness that makes me almost grateful. I’m glad to retain the sweet sadness. For love of him.

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One Response to Missing Rusty

  1. Carol Lawson says:

    I loved your tribute to that wonderful dog you loved so much,I lost my shadow i called her at age 16, i have`nt had another dog since, they take with them a part of you heart

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