Grief is such a funny thing. One day, you almost feel back to your normal then in a breath, it kicks you in the gut again, perhaps brought on from seeing a picture, hearing a song, smelling a scent. Whatever triggered it, it doesn’t matter really because now all you want to do is curl into a ball and cry. At least..that’s how I feel. What brought on my bout was a facebook memory, a picture. It’s been almost a year since he’s been gone. This he being my little shih tzu, my best little buddy, Gunner. To know Gunner was to love him. He was my baby. He came into my life at a point in time I thought I was lost. I had just lost my child, a miscarriage, my fourth and I had decided I was done trying. I couldn’t take any more. I was living in a city I hated, with a man that I grew to detest with every fiber of my being as he was a cheat and a liar. I was worn down and felt like I had no worth. Then, I decided to get a puppy. I scoured the local classifieds until I found what I was looking for. A litter of shih tzu puppies of age to be going to their new homes and the breeder was not charging an arm and a leg for. I called the number and that night we went to see the puppies. After spending time with them all there were two that stood out to me, one was mostly white and was the tiniest of them all. The other was a beautiful mahogany color with black tips. He would run up to me, poke my knee with his nose then run off again to play with his siblings. That alone made my decision, he was a confident independent puppy. I brought my boy home that night. Oddly enough, I wasn’t the one to name him though. We went to visit the in laws, they had a corgi. My father in law was highly amused by Gunner’s long tail where his dog had none. I should also note we are a military family as well, so he was waving Gunner’s tail back and forth and laughed saying “Look he’s a little tailgunner!” and thus that is how Gunner’s name came to be.
We were inseparable. Thankfully due to my chosen profession, a dog groomer and trainer, he was able to go to work with me every day. He slept curled up on my pillow by my head every night. He had to be involved in everything I was doing. When I ate, he ate. He got a bite of everything on my plate. If I went to take a bath I had to make sure a towel or his bed was near the tub so he could be comfortable in the bathroom with me. Vacations were planned with him in mind as he went on all of them, there was no way he could be left at home or put into boarding. He was protective of me and would often put himself between me and my partner. My world revolved around this little ten pound ball of fur. He was my everything. To be honest, he still is. He has been my constant companion, my confidant, soaked up my tears and made me laugh for twenty years. He got cancer, he started going blind and losing his hearing. Oh how my heart ached, I could see him aging and I knew our time was growing short. It was the one thing I always promised him, that I would make the decisions in the best interest of him. The day he no longer recognized my voice and me calling for him, I knew. I was just as much his world as he was mine. To see my little buddy looking so confused and scared, not knowing where he was or who I was when he woke up from his afternoon nap gutted me. I could handle him getting lost in the front yard and need my assistance to find his way back to the front door, I could handle the occasional accidents on the floor as he lost control or just forgot his manners, but to see the fear on my baby’s face and his non reaction to me, it was to much. I owed him more than to let him live that way. With the guidance of our vet it was decided it was better to let him go now than be a day to late and him be in more pain.
Our last day was spent doing what he loved, hanging out with mom, sharing her food and just snuggling in and watching tv. That was his greatest joy in life. He would spend minutes digging at a blanket and making it just perfect before spinning in circles and plopping down with an exaggerated sigh. But don’t make the mistake of being obvious in watching him make his bed or he would stop and stare back at you and then have to start the process all over again. With a paw resting on my leg he’d tuck his little head in and we’d share the quiet. If he happened to fall asleep it wouldn’t be for very long and he’d snorting wake, his round head popping up to make sure his mom was still where he left her and he’d let out a relieved sigh and tuck his head right back in content with his place in the world, his place in my world. He received his favorite food, french fries and pizza crust. Oh how he would watch my plate as if to make sure he got to taste a bite of everything there and that I didn't sneak anything on him. The day went way too quickly as the last time spent together was doing another of his favorite activities. I groomed him for the last time. He absolutely loved being on his mama’s groom table. Every week from 8 weeks old to 20 years old he spent time on the groom table. All mama’s attention fully on him. Oh how he would prance after the groom showing off for anyone, he loved being told how handsome he was. Even at this last groom. After the groom we had another quiet cuddle session and before we knew it, the vet was pulling up at the front gate.
It was too soon, I wasn’t ready! My mind wailed in unison with my heart, how could I go through with this. Then I looked down into those cloudy little eyes, rubbed those ears that can no longer hear me whispering words of love and as my heart started breaking I carried him out to the front porch. I settled him onto my lap where he happily sprawled soaking up the sun and all the attention being lavished on him even as the vet gave him the first shot to help him relax and sleep. I felt his head and his body grow heavier in my arms, but I kept talking to him, whispering how much I loved him, how much I will always love him. Whispering words of thanks for being the best little doggo in the world, thanks for being my rock, always ready to lick away my tears or make me laugh, for being my sunshine in a world of gray. I tried to keep from sobbing because I knew that would only make you worried and I wanted to make sure you knew it was ok for you to go, that mama was ok, that mama would be ok. That was the first and only time I lied to him. It’s been almost a year and I am still not ok. His urn rests on my headboard. I still have moments where I pet the smooth wood as if it were his soft fur and I talk to that box as if it were his long silky ears ready to listen and carry all of my woes with me. How can my entire world fit in such a tiny little box. I sleep with a pillow made in his image. Oh how it still hurts. How I still cry. Gunner, my grumpy little man, you are still my world. I don’t know how to do this thing called life without you. I miss you. It makes me so mad when people say “it was just a dog” or they think I should already be “over it.” well i’m not and Lord knows you were so much more than “just a dog.” Grief is the price of love. My bill was exorbitant for you and I would pay it over and over again.
I still have days I question my decision, then I look through pictures documenting our first days together to our last and I can see you were tired and I know, I made the best decision for you my little man, all of it was for you. One day we will meet again across the rainbow bridge, how I can’t wait to hear your happy bark and see your tail streaming out behind you, your ears flopping as you race those little legs to me as fast as you can fly.
Rest in peace baby boy. Mama will always love and miss you.
About the author
Writing is something I've enjoyed since I was young. It is not something I've ever really shared with anyone until now. My other passion is animals. I am a certified therapy dog trainer and pet groomer in my other life.