The plastic box under the shelf in the garage is dusty when I pull it out. Snapping the lid open reveals a bin of dog gear. Bracken’s dog gear. Her red backpack (which I am giving to a friend) and her tracking harness (which I will never part with). A collar, some tracking articles, a toy.
My hand pauses over the rolled ball of tracking line and memories jostle against each other for me to see: teaching her how to track (she was a slow starter), the hours spent with friends tracking in New Paltz, NY, our test days where she passed easily and the one where we barely made it through.
My heart pinwheels between the happiness of those memories and the pain of her loss. Why do emotions have no half life? Shouldn’t pet loss get easier with time?
It was five years ago.
And then I remember the end, where her pain tackled her one day out of the blue and she screamed. The long talks with my beloved friend and trusted vet, Dr. Jim McKiernan. He tried everything but the pain broke through.
I curled around her on the floor at night. It was the only way she would sleep.
I never want my animals to feel the kind of pain she felt. I don’t know how I could have done it differently. Sometimes life just isn’t perfect.
Then my mind is sitting on the grassy rise behind Jim’s clinic. Bracken loved games with me so we invented a new paw me game as I waited for Jim to come sedate her. The last words Bracken heard on this earth were mine of love for her and thanks.
She went peacefully under Jim’s steady hand and was gone.
But here, years later, I weep again. Maybe I always will. Maybe if the grief softened so would my memories of her. Now that I could not bear.
The bond is a gift given freely but it has a price and this is it.
And I pay it; all of us dog people pay it. Even with the tears, it is still a very good deal.
I hope there is a rainbow bridge and if there is, I will see you there, Bracken.
I will see you there.