A study in grief
By Dawn De Busk
I buried my dog two years ago in March. I cannot believe she has been gone that long.
I am happy that she died so peacefully, and is free of the pain a long dog life can bring.
But, oh boy, I miss having that dog in the physical world.
It would be heavenly to touch her luxurious neck fur again, or to be able to circle my fingers around her short muzzle, or to gaze once more at those adoring brown eyes set off by her gold and black mask. Nina was a wonderful companion for 17 years. I met her when she was five weeks old. The runt of a litter of 10 born under a shed in mid-January 1993, her tail was frostbitten. She was a survivor of epic proportions.
She died on March 12, 2010. I put her body into the earth that following Friday and placed a brick circle to mark her grave on Spring Equinox.
Anyhow, my daughter Danielle and I discovered that Girl Scouting was founded on March 12 (1912), which was the same day our dog had died. When Dani learned about this she said, “Mom, Nina died on that day so she could go to heaven and start a girl dog scouting troop.” That image was so wonderful to me, I instantly adopted it.
Nina is buried in the forest behind a home we rent. I chose a spot near a rock wall that people had placed as a boundary marker. I figured after I move away and come back 10 or 15 years later, I will still be able to locate the rock wall versus a tree that may have grown too tall for me to recognize. Plus, that location seemed to have great drainage — not on the top of the hill, but in the middle of a continuing slope, which would insure water ran away from her grave.
Although, she was too old to make the journey into these woods when we moved here in December 2009, where she is buried is the kind of place Nina would have loved to run. It reminds me of the forestland near her birthplace of Eagle River, Alaska.
It is a perfectly practical resting place. When I go to her grave, I do not go to be sad. I go to play on the swing we hung near there, on the granite rock that is twice as tall as me and a blast to climb, along a “trail” system that keeps me alert with its at-eye-poking-level tree branches.
As the March 12 date swung back around, I anticipated being sad about the anniversary. I suspected I might cry unexpectedly, and I made mental arrangements not to do so. All month long, I did not succumb to tears.
It’s April now. On Friday, I was on my yoga mat after an awesome workout. For some reason, my brain drifted to those moments — twice in the still darkened morning, a few days after Nina’s death, when I left my bed to lie on the carpet where she slept; and I wept uncontrollably that I could not reach out and pet that dog anymore. Suddenly — and, unlike the times I am able to keep detached from a thought or emotion — it was as though I was there again. It was as though two years had never passed; time dissolved, and a flash of fresh pain smacked into my body.
Again, a few of those tears are from the joy I feel that her old joints are pain free and her spirit travels like seagull wings away from the ocean’s storms.
The day I cried over Nina on my yoga mat, I drove to The Bridgton News, where the editor’s daughter had a new puppy. It was so nice to hold a newborn canine that was entering someone else’s life. The experience alleviated any pain I had felt earlier in the day.
And, that is how days go.
Tonight, while the moon is full, I can hear the coyotes howl. Or maybe, it is the coy dogs or a distant neighbor’s dog chained in its yard. But, I believe Nina is the one I hear howling. She is caroling with the puppies in her girl dog scouting troop before they run through the woods, and find the most beautiful places to play.