Week 34: Loss While Pregnant
2008 was a difficult year for me. I spent most of that year suffering in silence and feeling very much alone and angry. I didn’t have a lot of hope at that point that something or someone could really help me either. Life felt like a hole I couldn’t get out of and the view wasn’t so great.
That all changed the day a little dog came into my life. She was an awkward thing. A bit scrawny with greasy hair that did what it wanted. Her ears and giant eyes were the most noticeable part about her. Ears too big for her head and the rest of her little body, and eyes that, though a bit fearful and submissive, warmed you up inside. I felt an instant connection to her. As if her situation – being trapped in a small see-through box in a mall pet store, surrounded by loud, obnoxious, uncaring people, grabbed and played with like a toy before being put away – mirrored the life I too felt trapped in. I visited her for a while, hoping that someone would come for her and take her away from that place. When I kept seeing her there, after so much time had passed, I had to accept the fact that the person that needed to take her away from that place was me. Before I even thought about bringing her home, she was "Delilah" to me. The name just came and stuck as if I had known her for much longer than those few weeks before she officially became mine.
I was no way in a position to afford paying for a pet shop dog. In addition, my life circumstances were not ideal to bring home a puppy, let alone one who had experienced traumatized and needed a lot of TLC to help train and bring back to “normal.” But, I did it, and we somehow did it together. She was six months old at the time, and while so difficult to potty train, and so fearful of most people, she instantly attached to me. On days I could sleep in, she never got up or bothered me. She too, in fact, loved to sleep in.
Ever since she came into my life, I have not felt alone. Lonely at times, sure, but never as though I was by myself. And oh, did she love me. When I was younger and less patient, she still loved me through my yelling and taking my frustration at the world out on her. She would just sit and listen, then come to me, and just lie there calmly, allowing me to sort through what I needed.
She healed me and over time, I became stronger, because I had her love every single day. Knowing she was there for me when I got home, knowing she was there to cuddle at night, and being responsible for her, made me expect more of my life and who I surrounded my life with.
Sure, the improvements that gradually came in my life since getting her in November 2008 could have been coincidental, but she still marked the beginning of a life that I have lived and she has been witness to ever since. A life that continued to get better with her by my side.
When she met my husband for the first time, I was worried. Delilah was deathly terrified of men. She kept her distance, or growled, or cowered when they came near her. I wasn’t sure how their first interaction would go. When she sat comfortably on the couch with him after a brief introduction, I felt such relief and excitement. Little did I know that the three of us would become the team, the family, we became.
Again, she loved so much and so fully. My husband and Delilah were so fun to watch. Best buds just hanging out, she got to exert her Westie stubbornness on him when it came to listening to orders or going on walks and sniffing more than walking. He would get so frustrated at how purposefully slow she could be and reluctant to doing what he asked. When I would do the same, she would respond promptly. I was in charge, but they had their fun. She would rough play with him, lounge at his feet in the office, and help him with the barbeque.
There are so many things that made her special. Daily moments that until December 2016, I perhaps took for granted. The way she would always lie on a pile of clean laundry if I left it on the couch or bed. The way she would get so excited when she heard me come home, and grab a toy to show me and squeak with glee. How she would lay on me and do her little sigh once she relaxed. Cooking with her in the kitchen. The way she’d follow me all over the house and “help” me clean or watch me work out. The way she would chomp at water that I splashed out to her from the bath tub. The way she’d dance in our early years together when my cell phone rang “Just Dance.” Our car rides together, watching her hop in so pumped that she’d get to come along. How sometimes she underestimated her hop and very ungracefully scrambled into the car, unphased. I especially loved the way she’d let me hold her however I wanted, like a stuffed animal in bed, like a baby in my arms, whatever I wanted, and she didn’t at all mind.
Her favorite thing in the world was to just be with us, and really, just be with me. She was and has been the best friend I’ve ever had.
I remember the first time I cried at the realization that an inevitable day would come when she would no longer be around. She was probably only four years old, if that, and I held her as she let me cry into her. I remember telling my husband that I couldn’t fathom her getting old and not having her around. I even looked into cloning dogs online…seriously. But, I let it go, and we continued living and living happily the three of us as we moved along through life.
I took her to the vet for a check up sometime in the middle of last year. The vet remarked that we can expect Westies, especially healthy ones like her, to live for 13 to 14 years, maybe more, she said. Especially her. So robust, so worry free.
So many times I hear how much I have done for her. That we gave her the best life. That she was so fortunate. And maybe this is true. The thought never crosses my mind though. I know that all that we have done, especially over the past year has been paying back a debt that I have owed her over the past eight years.
I never finished this. I wrote it on the balcony of a hotel room in La Jolla the morning after letting go of our beloved dog. When I sat down to write, I wanted to write about the events that unfolded leading up to and after her diagnosis. I wanted a record of what I was feeling, so raw. I rarely capture how I feel in the moment. I also wanted to have a space to celebrate some of the special moments we had this year, during the pregnancy, that I feel so fortunate for.
That morning, I didn't have it in me to go there all over again. I still don't. I may never. So I will leave it here. This is the way I shared the news publicly on social media and it sort of wraps things up in a way I can't do all over again.
Last December, we received some devastating news and a grim diagnosis for our little Delilah. Juxtaposed with our pregnancy news, things were very difficult and confusing at the same time. I only shared this with a few people because my superstition made me want to keep it as quiet as possible, hoping that keeping that energy from being exposed might buy us more time. What was a 6 week prognosis turned into a wonderful 7 month blessing. In that time, we have had the opportunity and foresight to celebrate our little mishka, take her wherever we could, bring her to work, smother her with kisses and all the chicken she could ever want. We celebrated milestones she made it through to include her 9th birthday this past May. As we got closer and closer to the birth of our other baby this August, I hoped she might get the chance to meet him. For the baby to have the opportunity to meet her. But time doesn't always work out that way. And it never feels like just enough time with the ones you love. Yesterday, we told her it was time to go to bed one last time. She went with peace and dignity before an awful cancer took away her faculties and the things she enjoyed the most. We are grateful for that, but we still are in pain. For all those who got to meet and love her too, I wanted to share this private news with you too.