When Your Lap Feels Empty

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

I have always had a general rule of thumb when it comes to the question of “how many dogs is too many dogs?”, to whit: more dogs than can fit on your lap at any one point in time.

I fully admit, I have less lap that I used to, but even so – two dogs on your lap leave an empty space, both there and in your heart.

It’s been a rough two years when it comes to loss. Delilah, who left a weird, unique, one in a lifetime hole in our hearts. Kelda, who went too young, too soon, and too shockingly to be processed. The puppies I lost, again, too young, so young that they never had names, in such a mysterious way (a virus, so say the expensive and yet frustratingly non specific pathology reports from the University of Guelph, and how can something so mundane as a “flu virus”cause such trauma?).

Penelope, however, leaves us with a hole in our hearts, a space in our laps, and an ache that we are still trying to fill. Our tiny little teddy bear girl, who sat up on her hind legs like an imbalanced Buddha, balancing on her butt like a circus seal. Who loved to randomly bark at the ceiling, apparently for the sheer joy it. Who shrieked to introduce herself to every new person she met (“Here I am! Say hello! hi hi hi hi!”).

I don’t care how old your dog is, a death from cancer is never a good death. We took her home for one full week after her diagnosis, a week filled with ice cream and laps and extra treats, and walks that usually ended up being ‘carries’, not that we minded. Weeks come to an end, however, and when pain outweighs joy, it is time to say goodbye.

I have last photos of her, but I won’t share them, because she is and always will be our small, shining, silly girl, running alongside the lake with her sister, her mother, her grandmother, all of them now – gone, and gone too soon, and the holes they leave in your lap and your heart and your life, are holes that no other dog can fill, even though they in turn will leave their own holes, too, and too soon.


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