At the start of the month, I had set out to explore Gratitude by highlighting something I was grateful for each day. Now as the month is coming to an end, my exploration of gratitude has shifted into something heavier, filled with significantly more sadness than I had hoped or expected when I originally embarked on this challenge. This will be a very different 30 Day Challenge recap, and not one I feel particularly comfortable writing but ultimately, I don’t think I can side step this or just move onto the next challenge without addressing what I have experienced this month.
Twelve days ago we had to say goodbye to Zeke, our incredible puggle. He had lived a life longer than his predicted life expectancy filled with cuddles, chew toys and sleepy days. He was a one of a kind animal who was curious, stubborn, sweet and loyal who filled our home with love and joy.
In the immediate hours/days after we lost Zeke, the sadness and loss were beyond what I could have ever imagined or was prepared for. And I say this, because I don’t think people talk enough about what loss feels like. Before this, the only pet I ever had (not counting the random carnival goldfish that live for a week if you are lucky) was a mean old alley cat that passed away when I was 4 years old.
Sadness hung over my shoulders like a weighted shawl I couldn’t shake off. Guilt would sink in like it was stepping on my throat so I couldn’t breathe. Loneliness would sneak up and punch me in the gut at random moments of the day. But the worst of all was the helplessness of watching Tom ache over the loss of his companion of 13 years, breaking my heart into a million pieces knowing any words of comfort wouldn’t come out as anything other than my own sobs.
Through our pain, it was hard at first hard to find gratitude. But moment by moment, day by day, as we settled uncomfortably into life without Zeke we were able to recognize a lot of things to be grateful for.
I take deep solace in knowing he left this earth swiftly and relatively pain free. I am thankful that while his sudden departure was hard on us, he did not have days or weeks or months of suffering. I am deeply grateful that we were with him in his last moments and could say goodbye as a family. I am grateful we were ‘those dog parents’ who took way too many photos of him and am also grateful that I devoted one of my challenges to 30 Days of Zeke.
I also was overwhelmed with gratitude by the kindness of friends, families and coworkers that helped give us support at a time we really needed it.
The day after we lost Zeke, Tom and I needed to get out of the house and ended up in the quaint little town of Tarpon Springs, FL (worth a trip if you have never been). We filled our minds with distractions, our bellies with tasty Greek food and our hearts with the beauty from the seashore.
With each new day, we feel both loss as we recognize that more time passes since he was last with us, as well as growth as we move towards the future. Whether we wait or get another dog in the relative future, I feel pretty certain that it is unlikely that there will ever be another a dog quite like Zeke. And that makes me grateful to have had the privilege of having such a special puggle in my life.