Monthly Archives: January 2014

The New-Dog “Guilt”

 

Our pretty girl

Our pretty girl

The very month that I began this blog, I started to write an article about the guilt I felt adopting another dog (or in my case, three dogs) after having lost our beloved Roxie.

The blog went up in September 2011. That post still hasn’t been written.

Every time I tried, I cried. And, really, I ultimately found it hard to dig that deep.

She was so tiny when we got her.

She was so tiny when we got her.

Today it is easier, I think, because there is no longer any feeling of guilt. We certainly didn’t try to replace Roxie. (In fact, we couldn’t have adopted three dogs more different from her!) And when we got Cora, Dusty, and Hogan, deep down inside, I told myself that I wouldn’t love them as much as I loved Roxie. That I couldn’t love any dog as much as I loved Roxie.

What I have learned in the nearly three years of having my dogs is that one love isn’t really comparable to another or measurable against another. I cannot say with certainty that I loved Roxie more than I love these three—they most certainly have my heart today. But I did love Roxie differently.

Our family six months after Roxie joined us.

Our family, complete.

Roxie learning to go down stairs.

Roxie learning to go down stairs.

Roxie was the dog who completed our family. My stepson was five when we got her. They grew up together. She was the dog I had when I chose not to have children of my own, when I decided my stepson and Roxie satisfied my maternal instinct and that I had to look no further for that sort of fulfilment. Roxie became my surrogate baby. She loved to go for walks, chase toys, tear out stuffing, and hunt for hidden hot dogs (her favourite stuffed toys), but she also loved to be carried and cuddled and coddled.

Justin with Scratch and Roxie.

Justin with Scratch (my parents’ dog) and Roxie.

At the age of four, she was diagnosed with degenerative disks in her spine. We were told that if we kept letting her do stairs, jump on furniture, chase a ball, etc., she’d be paralyzed by the time she was ten. Roxie at that time was a Frisbee dog. She loved nothing more than catching a Frisbee mid-air. We decided that quality of life was for her; quantity was for us. Roxie deserved a quality life, and that’s what we gave her. (Enter monthly chiropractic treatments, because we really didn’t want to give up quantity, either!)

Roxie just enjoying the outdoors.

Roxie just enjoying the outdoors.

She was the best gift-opener!

She was the best gift-opener!

For nearly eleven years, we played fetch with Roxie from the time we got home from work till the time we went to bed. She had energy coming out the wazoo and almost every night would wake me at 3 a.m., pretending she needed to go outside but, really, she just wanted to play some more. Who needed a baby when my pup did the 3 a.m. wake-ups?

She loved our neighbours' pool and jumped into it from the ground one day, surprising all of us.

She loved our neighbours’ pool and jumped into it from the ground one day, surprising all of us.

Around the age of twelve, Roxie, our non-stop-playful Jack Russell terrier, started to slow down. By thirteen, she couldn’t do the stairs anymore, but she still loved to go for her walks, and we’d often still walk three kilometres or more a day. She was fifteen when we made that awful decision to let her leave this world and her pain behind. She went for four very short walks that day.

Age 13, still enjoying the snow!

Age 13, still enjoying the snow!

Our Frisbee-loving girl

Our Frisbee-loving girl in her prime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We still grieve for Roxie; in fact, I am having a hard time seeing my computer screen through my tears as I write this. Roxie will never leave our hearts. But I think our hearts just grew bigger when we adopted Cora, Dusty, and Hogan. There is plenty of room in there for four dogs. In fact, there is room for a whole lot more. I know I would—and someday will—grieve the loss of any of these dogs just as deeply as I have grieved for Roxie. No dog can replace another, but every one can leave a mark.

Once she stopped being able to do stairs, Wes built her this ramp. It was carpeted, lighted, and covered from the elements. One side was Plexiglas so she had natural daylight.

Once she stopped being able to do stairs, Wes built her this ramp. It was carpeted, lighted, and covered from the elements. One side was Plexiglas so she had natural daylight.

Her hair got crazy once in a while between haircuts!

Her hair got crazy once in a while between haircuts!

As for guilt? What is there to feel guilty about? Roxie knew love. Whole-hearted love. Unconditional love. Perhaps unreasonable love in the eyes of non-dog people. I have not taken anything away from her by loving Cora, Dusty, and Hogan. I have simply honoured her memory by demonstrating that the joy she gave me in her fifteen years was absolutely worth the pain of her inevitable loss. By adopting again, I said to Roxie, “I’d do it all over again, baby.” And that’s what I’m doing.

Roxie as I'll always remember her--bathed in sunlight, cherished, happy, loved beyond reason.

Roxie as I’ll always remember her–bathed in sunlight, cherished, happy, loved beyond reason.