I won't put you through a blow-by-blow of our grief. Everyone knows: it just sucks. But I would like to share a few thoughts.

It amazes me how much the support from family and friends, most definitely including all of you, has helped. It doesn't take the pain away, but it makes living with the pain easier. That's something to remember every time someone we know is hurting. Your little gesture, your reaching out - it's important. It's worth it. I thank every one of you for the caring and understanding you've shown us.

Because of Buster's fear and anxiety, very few people really knew him. We had to keep him away from most people. It took repeated contact in a controlled setting - and the special training we learned - for Buster to gradually trust. It was a time-consuming process, and the person had to be highly motivated to bother. So mostly, when someone Buster didn't know was in our house, we kept him on a leash, and one of us would always take care of him. As long as the "stranger" stayed a distance from him - we called it "his comfort zone" - it was ok. It wasn't a typical arrangement, but nothing ever was with him.

Because of this, the only people who really knew Buster were the dogwalkers and dogsitters who went through this training process with us. And, amazingly, their partners. Buster accepted two different boyfriends of two different dogwalkers, almost instantly. When our friend David K came over for dinner with his partner, during dinner, Buster lay down at that man's feet and put his head on his foot. At their first meeting. We were dumbfounded. How did he know?

In my email to my family and non-blog friends to announce Buster's death, I wrote this:
Because Buster was fearful and anxious, and because people were afraid of him, most of you never knew the Buster that we loved so dearly. He was incredibly intelligent, loyal, obedient, funny, sweet, affectionate, and above all, loving. Even by canine standards, Buster's love was intense. He was a true prince of nature.

Everyone says we did a lot for Buster, but he repaid us every moment of his life. We never gave him as much as he gave us.
Here are two beautiful comments from people who knew him, one quoted by me.

Sharing our lives with Buster was the canine equivalent of having a child with a disability. His care was very labour-intensive, and very expensive, and he became the focus of our lives. This somehow just made us love him more, because we had so much invested. The loss of a beloved animal is never easy, and should never be underestimated, but Buster's absence leaves a particularly large and painful void.

At the same time, our lives have just became easier. Our expenses have gone way down. Cody's life just expanded widely, too. She loves people and other dogs. Now we no longer have to avoid other dogs on our walks, and she can come with us on errands and trips. It's a huge loss to her, of course. She adored Buster and now he's disappeared. I can't imagine what she's feeling or thinking. But there's some compensation for her, too.

One more thought, if you're still with me.

Every night, since the day we found Buster, Buster slept next to me, on a cushion on the floor beside my side of the bed. And every morning - every single morning of his life with us - he greeted me with wild exuberance. As soon as I stirred in bed, his tail would start to thump against the wall, a loud thwack thwack thwack. He would wiggle and wriggle with happiness, and kiss my face like crazy, as if I had been gone for a week. He did this every single morning. "I'm still here, Mommy's still here, hooray, another day, joy joy joy."

Yesterday morning was so empty.

Cody came to the bedside, and put her face next to mine and gave me a few gentle kisses, in her typical low-key way. I thought my heart would break in two.

Trying to end on a more positive note here, we're still going to New Jersey for US Thanksgiving, but now we're taking Cody! We can't leave her alone with a dogsitter so soon after losing her best friend. She'd feel abandoned. She's a great traveler and loves people, so she'll have a great time. My mother has generously offered to have all three of us stay with her. We're driving down this Monday and driving back on Saturday.


James said...

You definitely have to watch out for Cody. At our place, Grendel wouldn't eat properly for the last month of Tigger's illness, or for a month after. We went through a dozen different foods to try to coax him back into eating. Fortunately, he's such a big cat that he could probaby go half a year without food, but for a while we were really worried about him.

James said...

As soon as I stirred in bed, his tail would start to thump against the wall, a loud thwack thwack thwack. He would wiggle and wriggle with happiness, and kiss my face like crazy, as if I had been gone for a week.

George Carlin had a routine about dogs, and one of his observations was that, for dogs, everything is forever. When you leave for the store, they're convinced that you're never coming back. When you return an hour later, they greet you as if you'd been away for years.

Cats don't care so long as you don't miss a meal time. :) (Well, that's not actually true, they're just more laid back about the whole thing)

L-girl said...

You definitely have to watch out for Cody.

The reason we adopted Cody has a lot to do with that. When we lost our Shepherd, Gyspy, the worst part of it was watching her little buddy Clyde. She was so lost and confused, waiting for her to come home. After she came back to herself, she was still lonely - she had never been the only dog. We felt she needed a friend, and that eventually led us to Cody.

That is really scary about Grendel. Poor thing.

L-girl said...

George Carlin had a routine about dogs,

Oh yeah, that's a good one - you go to take the garbage out, and it's like you've been gone forever.

I love that about dogs. Buster was extreme this way, but then again, he was extreme about everything. :)

hemlock said...

I've been away for a bit, unable to read your blog. And WOW. I'm so sorry about Buster.

I sit here crying because I know the pain you two are going through.

Buster knows it was a tough decision, and I'm sure he understands your empathy.

Take care.

James said...

That is really scary about Grendel. Poor thing.

Fortunately, he's back to his old self. Some habits have changed -- he curls up on the bed with us more than he used to, for example -- but he's normal again.

Zoe said...

Haven't dropped in in ages & just now reading about Buster. So sorry & I'm sitting here in tears.

Warm thoughts for all of you.

Peregrinato said...

My last cat that died was Merlin. Until the time he got sick, every night when it was time for bed, he woudl jump up on the bed and sit on my chest and literally sleep there. Sometimes, during the day, if I was napping on the couch, he would perch on my chest and join me for the nap. (When he got sick he did less jumping on the bed.) Soon after he died, I had repeated dreams in that liminal, am-I-awake-or-am-I-dreaming state, in which Merlin continued to join me for our naptime together. Call it what you will--I accepted these 'dreams' with joy. In time, the dreams also faded, but not the memory.

L-girl said...

Peregrinato, that's wonderful - and I envy you - that you could accept those "dreams" with joy.

I wasn't going to write this here, but now I will... My first morning without Buster, I was dreaming about him, I could feel him in my arms, feel his head on my shoulder. When I woke up and he wasn't there I was sobbing.

Allan said he expected that to happen, knowing how I shared my mornings with B.

This has always happened to me when I've lost someone I loved - I dream of them and I find it very painful. I've heard that some people can enjoy these moments, but I haven't been able to.

Trevor said...

Hey there -- I cam back to the blog on a whim to see how the move to Canada was going -- then I saw the Buster news. So very sad for you. We lost our hound, Sophie (aka The Soph, Loaf or when we were still in WaHe, J. Loaf)in July. She was always tentative about living in NYC, but we're glad she got to spend the last months out here in San Fran. We've gotten another canine pal now, Mitzi, but i thought i'd share the email i sent out after Soph passed on...

> Hey everyone -- sad news today...We had to say goodbye to
>Sophie. She'd been a little sluggish lately but still pretty sharp --
>then we noticed that she was getting a little potbellied (and i know you
>can call hear ME saying 'so what's the big deal?"). I took her in to the
>vet this morning, and she had cancer in her spleen and liver.
> I don't pretend to be a man of the world, but i've been around
>long enough to see some stuff I wish I'd never seen and done some things
>i hope never to have to do again. Having your friend of 5 years look you
>in the eye while they slip away, and with a seemingly knowing final
>thought of "hey no big deal..I'm going to be OK, but are you?" is
>something I never want to do again.
> Like so much in life, you may not appreciate it until it's gone
>-- so please give your pet a hug, scratch, snack, whatever for Miriam
>and I. And if you don't have a pet, hug your kids, call your mom or dad,
>call a friend. Pets may not be people, but they do become family -- and
>there's nothing else - no work project, no corporate ladder climbing,
>nothing -- you're doing right now that's more important than family --
>human or not.

Take care ---