Where Love Can Go
When our dog Max died last year, Mario and I received numerous messages from friends and family. They expressed condolences for our loss and sadness. Many expressed what a great life we gave Max. They said Max couldn’t have had it better than he did with us.
While I believe that’s true, I also know all that Max gave back. Max gave me complete love and devotion. There was no one else Max wanted in his line of vision more than me. His tail wagged constantly, and even wider when he’d see me.
Max was a beautiful black cocker spaniel rescued from a high-kill pound in Kentucky. He joined our family when he was about a year and a half old and our Shih Tzu, Mia, was six-years old.
Mia bossed all of us around – me, Mario and Max. Max let her be top dog. He was in awe of her and stepped aside whenever she made it clear that he was getting too much attention in the room. I loved them both deeply.
When people tell me that these dogs had the best life, I agree. And yet, I also know that Mia and Max gave me more than most people would ever understand.
Mia came into my world the same year I was married, when my hopes for having children felt so close to being realized. Then, she comforted me through the years that followed when the prospect of being childless became reality. I cried often. In those moments, Mia would jump onto my lap or crawl up my chest and look straight into my eyes. For a dog that didn’t typically engage in eye contact, Mia’s gaze into my crying eyes felt like a balm. It was like she was trying to absorb my pain. And she did. Mia absorbed my grief more than most people would ever understand. Mia also absorbed a lot of the love that I would have otherwise given to my children.
Max joined our family after I realized I would never give birth. But I still had parenting hopes. Adoption training was underway and it would be another five years before I faced the fact that I would never be a mom.
Max wanted nothing more than food and to have me beside him. He became my sweet boy. Though I called him this, I never felt that my dogs replaced the children I’d long wished for. In fact, I bristled when a neighbour suggested that my dogs were my babies.
Any suggestion that my dogs are replacement children was always negated by the pain of my childless grief. But these dogs have given me so much. They comforted me through painful times and helped my life feel lighter. They gave me a lot of reasons to smile. I had so much love that needed somewhere to go, and they cheerfully received it.
And now, we have Ella. She joined me, Mario and Max after dear Mia died.
By the time Ella came into my life, I knew having children was never going to happen for me. Since most of my tears have been shed, Ella and I will not have the same experience together that I did with Mia and Max.
Ella’s a shih tzu whose disposition is mainly about being happy. Happy is her nickname. I’m grateful for the pure joy this little creature brings each day.
I’ll always be grateful for all that each of these loving, little creatures have given me. Mia’s direct gaze and bossiness helped move me through heavy grief. Then, Max’s constant sweet, loving energy lifted me beyond grief. And now, Ella inspires me toward playful days again.
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