As many of you know, I like to joke about my dog Edmund. I’ve written here about how in early sobriety I hoped for his early demise because I thought it would be a good excuse to drink.
Of course, I didn’t really want that to happen. And these days I no longer think of drinking as something I wish I could do, thank God.
But still, over the years, I’ve had some fun pretending I don’t adore Edmund. Since most dog owners are so over-the-top devoted, it cracked me up to act the opposite way. In a sick attempt at humor, I’d say things like, “Edmund went missing the other day and I really had my hopes up.”
None of that seems funny anymore.
In recent months, Edmund hasn’t seemed himself. I thought he was getting old (he turned ten this summer), or that he might be upset about the chaos caused by this impending move. Last week, I took him to the vet and he got on pain meds for a possible dental issue or pulled muscle.
Then, over the weekend, he took a sharp turn for the worse. He was totally lethargic, wouldn’t eat even human food, and his spark was entirely gone. I rushed him to the vet yesterday morning for more tests, and within a half hour was shocked to learn he had advanced cancer and internal bleeding.
I called Dave, who rushed to join me at the vet. After talking over his prognosis with the doctor, we realized he was suffering—and we had to let him go.
The staff left us alone to say good-bye. Naturally, my tears turned to sobs. The hardest moment was when Dave gently removed Edmund’s leash. What I did next might seem kind of weird. I got on my knees and held Edmund’s face close and begged his forgiveness. For not always loving him well, for making fun of him, for taking him for granted.
I used to tell Edmund to keep his “garbage mouth” away from me. Now, for the first time in ten years, I let him lick my lips as much as he wanted. And when he began to lick all the tears on my face, it felt like forgiveness. It reminded me of the simple truth that when we make amends to people (or animals), we do it as much for ourselves as for them.
Today, it seems surreal that Edmund is gone. No squeals of delight when I emerged from the bedroom this morning. No little black dog at my heels begging for a walk.
Before Dave left for work, he reminded me of those rare occasions in the past when Edmund was gone for some reason and we marveled at how big the house seemed without him in it. How could such a small dog take up so much space?
“But what felt like spaciousness then,” Dave said, “feels like emptiness now.”
He was right, of course. And yet, as the day has worn on, I’ve realized how often the opposite is also true. When I choose to feel my emptiness instead of run from it, it becomes something closer to spaciousness. A place where grace and hope can flow.
So this is what I’m trying to do today. Let myself feel the sadness. And be grateful I don’t have to drink my painful feelings away.
I’m also remembering all the lessons I learned from Edmund. About living in the present moment. About being content with small gifts and pleasures. About not holding grudges.
I called him Edmund the Arrogant once, but from now on I’ll think of him as Edmund the Great.
And he was.
P.S. We’re moving to New York on the 15th. I hope to write more about things in Raw soon. Maybe in January. In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!