Three hundred twenty-seven miles.
My heart has ached as those miles seemed so much longer, the distance so much sharper.
It started with a text message from JJ that chimed in at 8:02 this morning:
So today is the day we have all been dreading since September. The trip to the vet.My heart squeezed hard and cracked. I knew what this meant.
JJ had been forced to retire Aussie back in September when neurological issues led to lameness in one of his rear legs, and thus an inability to work. Aussie could not guide effectively and safely if he could not walk. It would be dangerous all around...and the vet could offer no treatment that would allow Aussie to regain full use of his body.
As idle as it could be with the arrival of a new retriever puppy, anyway.
When we lost Pa'ani so unexpectedly back in December, it was JJ's shoulder I leaned heavily on. Tear-filled emails and texts...it was so unfair to lose him, so young, so unexpectedly, so right before Christmas. Aussie was 7, and she was quite literally watching him wither away...JJ understood my grief, moreso than many other friends. She knew what was coming for her beloved four-footed friend, all too soon.
|Thatcher & Koa, long ago.|
Aussie's deterioration over the last week meant she would be facing the valley again.
This time would be different, I knew.
It's always different when your kids are grieving too.
Thatcher's loss hit JJ hard, but not so much her boys. T1 wasn't a year old when Thatch retired, and only four at the time of his death. T2 only really knew Thatch as the doggy at his grandparents' house, and he was not quite two. T3 wasn't a glimmer yet.
And when JJ went back to The Seeing Eye in late 2008 to be matched with a new dog, I got an email from her after match day with a subject line declaring, "It is Thatcher 2.0!"
|Me, JJ, and Aussie at TSE, 11/08|
The boys knew him. Loved him. Played with him. Probably trapped him under laundry baskets, too.
They would remember this time.
Aussie...he loved those boys nearly as much as he loved their mom, and slept in their room every night, because Uncle JD (JJ's younger brother) had told them that Aussie ate under-the-bed monsters.
Tonight, I hope the boys know that angel doggies eat monsters, too.
I hope JJ knows that.
For watching your children grieve the loss of their beloved monster-eater is worse than your own grief at times.
These are deep waters for any parent.
It's a fine line to teach your children how to grieve, to stop yourself from trying to fix that which cannot be fixed, to show that it's okay to be sad, and yet still teach how life continues on when all you want it to do is stop for awhile.
|Hard at work.|
Goodbye, dear faithful friend, hard worker, conscientious guide, monster eater, and love walking on four legs.
See you later, Aussie. See you later.