Squirrel — And Six Years

The best little dog ever…

It does not appear that I wrote about the scene above. I looked in my archive, because I thought I wrote about the sad story of Squirrel, but found nothing. Perhaps that is because I talked to Older Son about what happened quite a lot and I am confusing conversation with writing. Therefore, if the story is familiar to you please feel free to pass this story.

Late last year, The Girl and I were walking our circuit(s) around the old state orphanage one evening. I noticed a marker, a pot with some dianthus in it, and a paper fluttering in the evening breeze. I am the curious sort (not nosey, I promise), so I stopped to read.

What I read caused my heart to sink. It was the heart-wrenching story of another park visitor whose little dog was attacked and killed by a pair of larger dogs at this spot. Two “pet bulls” charged Squirrel, grabbed him, and tore him between them before they were called off by their handlers. “They must have thought he was a toy,” was what they were reported to say before they hurried away.

So, this man stayed with his little dog as the life left him, shocked and dismayed. I do not know this man, although we interacted a few times over the last couple of years. He is one of the afternoon visitors to the little park, where several others bring their dogs each day. He had three dogs, as I recall, and they would follow and play as he walked the circuit as part of their daily routine.

Later he returned with the marker to celebrate his little dog and remember what happened at that spot. I came across the marker only a few days after Squirrel died. Since that time, I have been quite watchful for the two white “pet bulls” and their “heavy” handlers. I have not seen them.

I spoke to one of the DPS troopers (Capitol Police Unit) who patrol the area every day. He was aware of what happened and asked if I had seen the dogs and their handlers. So, the authorities are aware of a couple of aggressive dogs who attacked and killed another.

I reflect on this almost every time I walk past the memorial. Since November, it has been enhanced and made relatively permanent. The groundskeepers seem to leave it alone. Passersby added some stones and other things to the site. I will probably bring a rock from somewhere and leave it as a token of respect for this man’s loss. I can imagine his grief at the violent loss of his beloved little dog. It saddens me to think of it.

And I know grief. One cannot live six decades and not experience a variety of loss. My grandparents are all gone. My parents are gone. My sisters are gone. I am the last of my generation’s nuclear family. I have a brother-in-law and an uncle still alive, and of course, my children and grandchildren.

But the most difficult loss was Wife. She died six-years ago, today. That loss, and the grieving that followed, was crushing. Losing my parents and my sisters was hard, but those losses paled in comparison to the loss of Wife. I recall the sound that emanated from me the moment she died. My sons heard it. I still have difficulty believing that I made that sound.

Like the moment of Wife’s passing, that sound did not last long. It marked my passage from caregiver to widow. And then… the grief-work began.

I learned to enter into my grief, not to let it possess me, but to fully experience it, to work it because that is the only way to get through it. Grief cannot be put away or buried. It must be lived in order to be healed. I did that work and it was not easy. It was a way to honor Wife’s life and the relationship that we shared for all those years.

It took me nearly two years to work through my grief. The first year was absolute hell. The second had moments of clarity and moments of darkness. But, near the end of the second year, life began to be interesting again.

The holidays remain difficult because of Wife’s love of them. They always bring memories of her joy in that season. I know I am not alone in that perception of a mix of joy for the season and sadness at my loss. I am alright with that and accept it as part of the gift that came with spending most of my life with her. Then, today is difficult as well, marking the anniversary of her death. But it does not hurt like it did five- and six-years ago.

I will grieve a little today as I remember Wife’s life and our life together. It is a good thing to do, so long as I do not let that affect me negatively. But, I am healed of my grief. I did that work and it was a good work. It celebrated and honored Wife and our communal life as a family. I think these are honorable actions.

And, I am reminded of another old man who lost his little dog, whom he loved. Maybe those dogs are his only family. Maybe he spends all of his time with those dogs and has little human contact. It would not be the first time such a thing occurred. In any event, I understand and relate. I nod at the memorial in salute every time I pass it, thinking about my own relationship with The Girl and often of Wife’s life and that relationship.

And today I celebrate and remember Wife, who died six-years ago today. I will grieve a little, but only a little. Wife would chastise me for dwelling on the negative. She would be right.

8 thoughts on “Squirrel — And Six Years”

    1. Thank you love. Hugs and love are always in short supply and always welcome. I hope and pray you are doing well.

  1. Your words bring healing and understanding to others who are living in their grief. I just had my 8th anniversary of my Mom’s passing. I have lost three friends since October—one just last night and I think about their grieving spouses. I wrote a chapter to my new novel…and it deals with this exact fact of life. We do live it out and are stronger for it. But its always around. With comfort always nearby to come and sit with us,.

    1. Thank you, Becky. Eight years seems like a long time and then it doesn’t as well. It is a strange thing, how time and grief intertwine. I think about your friends and pray that they understand the work before them. Grief is not something you can just leave sitting around. It reminds me of Jacob’s angel and his wrestling with it that was part of his struggle. Grief must be faced and embraced for healing to proceed. And it is not a single encounter, but many.

  2. I honor you and send healing light and love to you and all who face grief and all that it brings to those who are confronted with loss and the space and emptiness it can bring.

  3. My grief for Janet is not like your grief. I haven’t worked it, really, and so it seems an open doorway into an avenue of grief for other loss.

    The emotions just seem to want to pour forth, Dave. But I too will heed her advice on this day and refuse its possession. I can listen to her even now tell me such things are silly, perhaps over some very good lunch on a very pretty day in New Mexico after a very, very nice bike ride.

    That is what I will do, then.

    1. Josh, the thing about grief is that it doesn’t go away until it is processed, or worked through. After Janet died, the first thing I did (after her memorial services) was to read a couple of books about how males process grief. One of the common themes is that the grief-work must be done. There is no putting it aside, or burying it, or denying it without serious repercussions.

      I met a man who refused to process his grief. His wife had been dead for more than a year and he was stuck in that awful period that follows the loss. He wouldn’t do his grief-work and it really showed.

      I cannot imagine making the choice to stay there. It is a horrible place.

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