When my lurcher Daisy was ill, she became very picky about what foods she would eat, even as her weight plunged to dangerous levels (from a healthy 42 to an emaciated 29 pounds). As Danielle has written, her kidney disease caused stomach ulcers which made eating quite painful for her. One way we dealt with this was by having a wide variety of her favourite foods on hand so that we might, each day, battle to find the one particular thing that would overcome her reluctance and mean we could avoid the trauma of force feeding. Tripe, kidneys, steak, minced beef, chicken, liver pâté — we tried it all at one point or another.
And then there were kippers. Daisy always liked fish — we used to joke she was part cat, because of her occasionally aloof nature (with everyone but me, anyway) and disdain for dog toys. Perhaps it was that. During those final weeks we managed to get her to eat a couple of packs of kippers, often with encouraging gusto. I recall being quite heartened at how much she evidently enjoyed them the last time she ate any, with her wolfing down an entire pack in quite short order. Sadly, my hopes that this pointed the way to a recovery were misplaced.
Now that she’s gone, we have disposed of most of those treats. But these kippers remain, the second of two packs I bought early last week when we still had hope she would make it. They’re past the use-by date now, although they are sealed up in plastic so they aren’t stinking the fridge out.
I know I should throw them out. I’ve taken them out of the fridge a few times, meaning to do just that, but I can’t bring myself to do it yet. I hate how the passage of time, even less than a week, has begun to eliminate some of the small signs Daisy ever existed, washed away her metaphorical pawprints through our lives. And I hate how that process will inevitably continue.
And in the end, isn’t that the most insidious thing about grief? That it lessens over time, and even while its talons dig into your heart with cruel abandon you know deep down that it will inevitably abate. And that feels to me like a betrayal, like something that should be feared, even as another part of me craves the coming day where I can look back on happy memories of Daisy with a fondness that is untainted by sorrow.
My grief for her has been unexpectedly sharp. I’m mostly over the crying; still, though, unexpectedly encountering something that evokes a memory of her leaves me with a deep and abiding sadness. This isn’t my first rodeo — we had several family dogs who died through misadventure or advanced age when I was a child, and I had to put down a dog, Crispin, that belonged to an ex-girlfriend and who I had lived with for several years. On each of those occasions, I cried.
But Daisy was different. She was the first dog I raised from a pup, and the first dog that clearly held me in higher esteem than the rest of the human race: she was mine, on some deep pack-animal level. With her brother Jake, she was there for me after I discovered my ex-fiancée’s infidelity, which lead to the only time in my life I’ve live alone. Just me and the dogs for a year or so, until I met Danielle, and that was fine — though I don’t know what I’d have done without them. And Daisy was only seven; middle-aged to be sure, as her whitened beard would attest, but far from old considering her mongrel heritage. She deserved a longer life.
I miss my dog. I did not throw those kippers away today. I’m not ready yet.