I was 22 and finishing up my senior year in college when my childhood companion, Little Kitty, passed away. She had a cancerous lump removed in February that year, and she was gone by May. Although I had moved nearly a dozen times in the next six years, I could have gotten a cat and taken her with me on my travels, but I didn’t.
Because my heart was broken. And I never thought I could love again.
The next animal companion I ever shared my life with was Trooper, who through the alchemy of her pure puppy love, stretched and pushed and grew my heart in ways I never thought possible. For 15 long joy-filled years, she and T and I were a family together.
Yet, for almost a year now, she’s been gone, too.
It feels strange to say I’ve enjoyed this time to recalibrate, relax and regroup. To stretch and push and grow in new ways that were almost exclusively about me. I’ve been grateful for this time of less responsibility and way more freedom. A time of endless possibility, creativity and exploration.
And though it’s been good — so much better than good — now that I’ve made some strides with my personal journey, connecting with my purpose and the work I want to do in the world, I can tell that something’s missing. I can tell that there’s a part of my heart that isn’t being stretched and pushed and grown the way it is meant to by virtue of being a heart, theoretically capable of unceasing amounts of love.
It’s time for something — or someone — more.
He’s so adorable, I could eat him up!
We went to see him at 2-1/2 weeks old, when the whole of his litter had just opened their eyes and were wobbling around like a bunch of tiny drunkards, with only mama on their minds. Being a lover of black-and-tan pups as we are, and he being the only one of this coloring in the mix, we decided he was the one for us.
I’ve spent the past week-and-a-half trying the idea of this puppy on for size, and it’s been exciting. In fact, scary hasn’t even been on my horizon. T, on the other hand, has been reasonably reticent about a new addition. Just the idea of all the stretching and pushing and growing to come is unsettling.
Choosing to willingly test the healing of our old heart wounds is a profound act of faith. If I’ve learned anything in the year since Trooper passed on, is that the grieving process is as individual as we are. Where it has worked for us to wait to jump back into sharing our lives with another pup, so many others in our lives have prompted us numerous times to get back in the game sooner rather than later.
Even between the two of us, I’ve been the one driving, and T’s in the backseat saying, “are you really sure you want to do this?”
At least I thought I was, until last night when I was suddenly scared to death and incredibly sad.
Not that this is anything new, right? She’s been gone for a year. But the thought of somehow channeling all the love and cooing and singing and silliness that used to be exclusively hers to some other pup made me realize one fundamental fact.
This new puppy is not her.
Nor should he be. But it made me realize that I need to create space for him in my heart — not by getting rid of my love for Trooper, but by allowing myself to once again be stretched and pushed and grown to include them both.
Right now, as my grief resurfaces, it hardly seems possible.
But just as the Spring will come again, I trust that we will warm to the process of our own unfolding and bloom together as a family in beautiful ways we can’t yet imagine. With laughter, with tears, and with love that will bring us full to bursting again and again and again.
What have you created space for in your heart that you never thought you could?
I’d love to hear.
I know Trooper approves of our choice, though this pup has some incredibly large tracks to fill. In fact, I have felt her divine paw in this process ever since I first heard of the puppies’ birth a month ago. As it is, the very day our new addition reaches 8 weeks old and is ready to come home, we will also mark the first anniversary of her death — February 18th.
There are no coincidences. So when grief threatens to overtake me and I flounder — which of course it does and I will — I will hold fast to the knowing that she has brought him to us and is wishing us well.
With Trooper at the helm, all things are possible. Profound healing, among them.//