posted 3/20/14, written 2/6/14

When you grow close to another living creature who expires before you do, loss is inevitable, as is the grief that goes along with loss.  No matter how well you understand that the pain of loss is related to the joy that came from knowing this creature, time is always needed to adjust through the loss.  Different losses have different experiences.  This time, the morning after we buried Parker, I had this dream:

We were taking a trip with a group of other Newf people to a new location.  The water at this place was supposed to be very clear, and you could see the bottom.  No one had been here before, but we had decided to try it.  There was a bed & breakfast type of facility at the entrance where we stopped to register.  As soon as we had our room, we went out the back to where the lake began.  Other people were “jumping right in”, wading out and swimming toward the main body of the lake.  The lake appeared to have been more recently created.  It flowed into what appeared to have been part of the back yard at one point, including a fenced area with a gate that let you into the main body of the lake.  To take the dogs swimming, we put a long flat leash on the dog, waded in and began swimming as we approached the gate.  I wasn’t wearing a life jacket, but decided to go with the others.  The gate was a bit narrow, maybe 42 or 48 inches wide, and someone else was going through ahead of us on our left-hand side, trying to hurry past and bumping the side of the gate post.  I realized that we would be swimming beyond this point and didn’t want to bump the post, not being sure of myself once we were swimming.  I decided that it would be OK and relaxed.  Then Parker/Jade swam out strongly toward the middle.  (This Newf was swimming like Parker did in his later years, strong and calm, not excited and trying to break through the drag of the water.)  The lake became 4-5 feet deep at that point.  I became concerned that if he/she tired, I may be in trouble, not being able to swim.  I decided that I would relax and float, and we could drift toward the bank where it would be shallower if that happened.  So we continued toward where the water was flowing, and then it became clear, and you could see the bottom.

We swam on for a while, but he was becoming tired.  We moved toward the bank on the right-hand side and walked out from the beach onto a path, then up the hill to the front of a store, where we waited and rested.  Parker laid down and I sat in a chair on the porch.  A man approached and smiled, and said something as a friendly greeting.  I smiled and replied.  It was taking a while for Parker to rest and I thought he probably shouldn’t go back into the water, but we would walk to the hotel/B&B when we left.

Later when I woke, I was thinking about Parker where we had buried him, lying with a sweet expression on his face.  He was lying in his rug, surrounded by some of his favorite toys:  the Caterpillar, his first Giggle toy, a Squatty Chick, his favorite blue & black basketball, the bright yellow dimpled softball that he was very excited about this Christmas, a clown toy that had been Gracie’s, from Mary and also from Jade.  It was one that she liked.  I had asked her if it was OK to send that with Parker, like I would ask her if I could take a toy that was losing stuffing or for some other reason, and her expression was consenting.  She has never been through a loss before; I don’t know how much she understands of what has happened, but we let her see and sniff his body that morning.  Her response showed that she thought this was very weird*.

I had picked up the Woody Woodpecker toy, one of his birthday presents, to leave also, but it was still sitting in the cab with us when we left.  I kept some toys that remind me of his personality, including the purple chick and the Frog.  There are other reminders, too, and eventually many of these will be stored or expire from use by other Newfs.  Knowing the eventual process that results in loss of memory, I want to keep some things that can freshen memory, so that memory, and the emotions associated with it, stays more real than intellectual.  Parker has always had a very good memory.  He knew many toys by name.  With age, I may not be as lucky, so I take pictures, I write and I keep mementos.  His was an experience that I would not want to forget.

How Sweet the Sound

[*Since then, whenever the Newfs go with me in the van, she doesn’t want to get out.  I thought she may have expected that we were going swimming, but last weekend, while we were camped at a dog show with the trailer, I made a comment to Banner about being like Parker, and when Jade heard his name, she suddenly looked at me with intense concern.  I wonder whether she thinks when we leave that maybe we are going to get him to bring him back.  When we got back home after this long trip, she still refused to get out of the van, in the way that she and Parker used to stage a “peaceful protest” when they wanted to go swimming.]

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