Cinco De Mayo


What is the expiry date on grief? When do we suddenly decide our hearts are no longer broken?

Is it the day you wake up, and realize you no longer expect to see your dog on the end of the bed? Or is it the day when you realize that you have not heard her bark, not once, not even thought you’d heard it.

Perhaps it is the day when you start to remember her as she was, when she was young.

Have I said it before, how fast she was? No one told me that French Bulldogs could move so quickly. Before her, I’d been used to a more sedentary kind of dog, a slower moving one. When we were at the park, when she was young, there was nothing sedentary about my girl. Her best friend, a whippet, could beat her for endurance, but for the short stretch, the ‘chase me around the tree’ stretch, she could keep up and then some. And, if she couldn’t keep up? Well, she was still a bulldog – she’d smash into him with her head, knock him flying, then turn to me and laugh. She was so funny, my little girl.

Is grief gone when you can think about her eyes, her liquid, beautiful, soulful brown eyes, and not find your own filling with tears? No matter where I went, those eyes kept track of me. She maybe didn’t have to get up and follow me, not when she was young, but she liked to keep track. “People are wayward”, you could see her thinking. “It’s best if I know where mommy is, in case she gets lost or wanders off. Better safe than sorry”.

I don’t know what the expiry date is on grief. The experts say, at least so I’ve read, that six months is enough for a dog. I guess the experts never had a dog like mine.

Today, tomorrow and always, I will grieve for her, and I will remember. I will remember my shame that her death was not a good death. That is what breaks my heart, and leaves me unable to celebrate the best parts of my sweet girl’s life. I can’t blame anyone for that but myself. I knew she was afraid of the vet, and I could have done more to find someone who would come to us, instead of taking her to them. She should have never felt fear, but she did, and I let her. She reacted, badly, to the sedative that they gave her before that final needle, and I could do nothing to help her. I let her down, and I know that I could have done more to make her final minutes a release from pain, instead of a terror.

The joy and the wonder of our dogs, the thing that lets me continue to breathe, even on today, is their unending capacity for forgiveness. I know that, even while I can’t forgive myself for how my girl died, she herself would have forgiven me. I don’t know if that makes it better, or worse.

I miss you, Tessa. I miss you every single day. There is no expiry date on grief.

15 replies
  1. karen
    karen says:

    your so right there is no expiry date on grief, may cat Molly passed last Oct. and I still miss her very much, my only comfort is I have her playmate still with me

  2. Eleanor Deberry
    Eleanor Deberry says:

    Oh, Carol, I feel for you so much. The night my Ludwig was dying from bloat, I slept through it and woke up to find him dead at the foot of my bed. It makes no difference that if I had been awake I probably would not have realized I had to get up and rush him to an emergency room, I should at least have been there for him. He was vomiting a little before I went to sleep, but I didn’t think anything of it. You are right. No expiration date at all, until my expiration date.

  3. Susan
    Susan says:


    Time eventually burns away the pain and leaves the love and happy memories. How much time? It depends. But I lost the best cat ever about nine years ago, and I loved him insanely. Eventually, I found myself smiling whenever I spoke or thought of him, which was – and still is – often. I’ve never found a cat like him since. How lucky I was. I love looking at the zillion pictures I have of him. I love telling stories about him. Anyone who thinks I’m weird to talk about a dead cat – well, tough. They didn’t have, and probably didn’t deserve, MY cat.

    Tessa will live on for you as Notrump lives on for me. In our hearts.

  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Don’t blame yourself for anything Carol…I’m sure Tessa wouldn’t. She knows how much you love her. I had a similiar experience with my Shiba Inu with the sedative, but he was giving me kisses till the end…you were there for her and that’s what counts. How long does grief last? Forever, it just gets a little easier to cope with time.

  5. maryetta
    maryetta says:

    I know how you feel completely.There is not an hour goes by that I do not think of my little Tweaker.I miss him so much I sometimes cry at the thought of him.He so filled my life from the time he was born and even though I have other babies he is my heart. I agree that there is no expiration date on grief and love.God please take care of my little man and let him know how much I love him.I know you will.

  6. Karen
    Karen says:

    Carol-there is no expiration date on grief, nor does there need to be one. As time goes on some of the pain eases, and as you said, you start to remember the good times. It’s your ability to love like that, that makes you a good person, and a good human being. Enjoy your memories of her, and if tears come, let them. Just think, she’s up in Heaven giving all the other Frenchies and Pugs a run for their money. With fondness, Karen.

  7. The Cletus Residence
    The Cletus Residence says:

    I just got off the phone where I was happily telling Hammer stories to a friend of mine – I have so many Hammer stories, I never seem to run out – and I opened up the FrogDog Blog, and found Tessa’s face. Hammer all over again… He was Tessa’s litter brother, and he died just over three years ago. His pictures and little clay Hammie sculptures are still on my mantelpiece (dusty like everything else!). His name is embedded in quite a few of my passwords. I don’t want to forget him – why should I? – but I’ve let go of the grief. I just kept all those wonderful stories. I know you have a million Tessa stories too. I hope the grief will go away, and you’ll just be left with those stories.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      Beside Tessa’s ashes is a framed copy of the photograph of Tessa and Hammer, sitting side by side and looking angelic.

      Only you and I know that Tessa was secretly poking him in the side and saying “I’m touching you. I’m touching you. I’m touching you”, while Hammer was looking at you and saying “Please let me kill her”.

  8. Laurie
    Laurie says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I know that pain and I think each individual is different. My German Shepard Maxie has been gone for 13 years and I am still in agony over her loss. Like Tessa Maxie was afraid of the vet. My husband thought to spare me the pain of watching her be put down and took her to the vet when I was at work. To this day I am still so mad at him that I wasn’t there with my baby at her last moments. I feel guilty because she was my baby and I couldn’t sooth her as she went. The only consolation is I know she loved me and wouldn’t want me robe sad.

  9. Alex
    Alex says:

    I miss my Gaia but smile now rather than instantly cry. I let her be terrified as well. I do not know ANYONE let me say that again. I do not know ANYONE who would not have done something different at the end. We are in fear sorrow grief and loss. But my dogs always felt like yours, uh mommy may wander off it’s up to me to be prepared and show her around. Sometimes I even catch them asking each other how the hell I feed myself I am useless so I figure my girl, or her father Deacon, who got stage 4 cancer 1 week to the day after she started seizing would want me to honor all their hard work they put into raising me right. I try to honor them in all I do to give back. Carol you do so much that this mothers day Tessa must be so proud of the mommy she raised so darn right. One day maybe your grief will lighten, or maybe not. But I know for sure she is damn proud of you.

    • Susan
      Susan says:

      I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s true for me. I dropped my Notrump off just for some tests. I had no idea he had anything wrong with him that was potentially fatal. They called and said they needed to keep him overnight because he was constipated. I wasn’t happy but I said okay. At seven the next morning the vet called me to tell me he had died in the night. I was hysterical, inconsolable. I was convinced I had killed him by leaving him there. I didn’t get to say good-bye. His last hours were alone in a scary vet clinic (they were wonderful people, but he didn’t know that). I felt like the worst person in the world and I had lost my best friend. I cried for days and days. It turned out, though, that he had been riddled with cancer. Not that I was happy to hear that, not that it made my guilt go away, but leaving him there had nothing to do with his death. If I could go back and tell him how I loved him and thank him for his love before he died…

  10. Judy
    Judy says:

    Carol, what can you do? You loved her, and she loved you. You did your best for her and she was happy and healthy for as long as she could be. I know the burdensome cloud that comes over you when you think of her last moments — I feel the same guilt, shame, and regret every time I think of my Boston Terrier’s last moments (RIP, dear little Wiggy girl), when the sedative made her freak out and flail about. I had no idea until then that the bad reaction was possible, and I remain devastated to this day by the thought and reality of how her sweet little life ended. Nothing will take that thought, vision, and feeling away, unfortunately. But that was 8 years ago now, and I am also able to easily smile, reminisce, and laugh at my memories of that dear, crazy dog. I kiss pictures of her sometimes — I bet you do the same.

    • Judy
      Judy says:

      Also, it might cheer you a bit to watch this (even if you’ve already watched it before):


  11. Marian
    Marian says:


    You brought tears to my eyes as I read your story about Tessa. It took me years to “get” the entire thing of having to put a beloved animal to sleep. Finally, the last time with my girl, a white standard poodle named Winter, I got it right. The vet came to the house after she’d managed to drink a milkshake, her favorite treat, She’d spent the whole day with her head in my lap, and she stayed there, while he gave her the sedative and I held her. As she died, my wonderful vet and I cried together and after he wrapped her in her blanket and put her in the back seat of his car to take her away. God bless vets like him and the amazing animals who are our partners through life.

  12. Marie
    Marie says:

    Grief is a rotten f’ing bastard. Just when you think you are on the other side of it something happens to bring it all back. My Moo’s leaving was also not an easy one. The vet couldn’t get a vein and she made these awful squealing/grunting noises. (Thankfully because I worked there I got to hold her myself and we did it on a day they were closed.) I try not to think about it but you know how well that works. I also think I waited to long. She didn’t really know where she was or what she was doing by the end. She tried to eat a rock on her way in to the office that day. But sometimes hindsight kicks you in the face. We do the best we can in the moment.

    Our family has talked a little about getting another dog and I have these moments where I think Why? It wont be our Missy. I only want HER back. I know I would fall in love with other dog and it would be fine. And I’d love it if it were another frenchie. I scan the rescue site alot and think about getting an older one but hubby would love a puppy. I figure it will work out in some way when it is meant to. I hope Missy will see to that.

    P.S. This post totally needed a tissue alert.

Comments are closed.