26 November 2019

Don't blink. Emily Anastasia Okerberg 20 October 2010 - 12 November 2019

Eight years ago, the bossiest, wiggliest, waggiest Dachshund barged into my life, changing everything for me. ...

Emily and me, 24 October 2019
When she came to me, I was going through some serious difficulties, and I was at a weird crossroads emotionally. I had just moved back to Ohio, during a rather… difficult relationship. Truthfully, I wasn’t really looking to take on another dog, as the one I had at the time was in another state and I was trying to figure out how to get on my feet again so I could get him up here to be with me, where he belonged.

Life… has a funny way of working out, though. They say, ‘If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans!’ Let me tell you, I’m sure He was having a right gut-busting laugh that day during that discussion! I had met this woman… I won’t use her first name here. She wasn’t the kindest individual. We were talking about animals and she mentioned she had two dogs, one of which was foisted onto her and she did NOT like the dog at all. She asked me if I wanted to take the dog, it was a Dachshund, a female. Still pretty young. Not potty trained (only because, as I later found out to my horror, she wasn’t with people who were willing to take the time to train her to do ANYTHING), and she was fed up with this little creature.

I didn’t dare say no. I wanted her, sight-unseen. Ended up rooming with this gal, and the moment I walked in the door, here comes Emily, barging into the room, barking her little head off at me. Bossy, bossy, bossy little thing she was! When she realized I wasn’t cowering in terror, nor fleeing for the hills from her, she decided I was her person and we were inseparable after that.

Not long after I got Emily, I ended up moving down to the city where I currently live, and I brought Emily with me. She was with me for eight wonderful years. I promised her from day one that I would always be there for her, I would always do my best to give her the best life I could give her, and when the time came to let her go, it would hurt a lot, but I would not let her suffer. I would also not leave her alone, I would be there for her right up to the end.

I am grateful that I was able to keep all of my promises to her. The one I gave her that I would be okay… that one’s… not the easiest, but I promise you, I’m fighting to keep my word. I’m fighting pretty hard. Some days are more difficult than others, but the determination to keep going is there and that’s why I haven’t given in.

And why I won’t.

As a Catholic, I have come to learn a few things about life and death:

  • Life is temporary. We are all, all of us, here on ‘borrowed time.’ None of us has a say in being here, and we certainly don’t have a say in dying. Death is inevitable. It’s what we do with the breaths we’re given that will matter.
  • Death really isn’t permanent, either. It’s really just… a change of address, if you think about it. If you die and you go to Purgatory, you’re pretty much guaranteed a spot in Heaven when you’re done in Purgatory.
  • Nary a person in Heaven is dead. Because of this, we can reach out to our loved ones at any time, whether we know they’re in Heaven or in Purgatory. They can – and do – hear us.
  • They can – and do – see us. They can – and do – watch out for us. And pray for us.

When Emily was slipping away from me, I was next to her ear, talking to her, whispering to her how much she is loved, and how grateful I am that I had as long as I did with her. I thanked her for all the laughter, the love, the kisses, the cuddles, all of it. I told her, right as she was going, that I hope when it’s my time, and when I come out of Purgatory, she will be waiting for me. I truly believe that she will be.

With all my heart, I believe she will be. I am grateful, so grateful, that I was able to be with her, and I know she knew I was there. I know she could hear me. Right before the sedative kicked in, she gave me a couple gentle slurps on my nose. I will forever remember that.

I was able to give a scared, abused little dog who had a terrible start to her life the best eight years ever and a peaceful passing with me holding her the whole time. Mine was the first kind hand she knew in her little life, and mine was the last kind hand and voice she knew as she slipped away from me.

My heart is shattered. As I write this, the tears flow, the ache is still there and still pretty raw.  But, I know that it isn’t irreparable. I know that this is going to take some time. I know that it is going to take a LOT of time and a LOT of hard work to get through this valley of grief, but I am not complacent. I am not going to sit and allow myself to feel guilty. I don’t have a single regret. I feel like I didn’t spend nearly as much time with her as I should’ve when she was alive, but do we ever really feel we’ve done enough for our pets? Really? I promise you, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ We do not.

We do not deserve dogs. Dogs are proof that God loves us and we take them for granted. When they go, they leave indelible marks on our hearts with their sweet paws. I do have Emily’s paw prints here. I am going to be getting her paw print tattooed onto my arm, I’ve got the artist picked out to do it, and I’ve been given a price. In a few weeks, I am going to make this happen for my sweet dog, so I will have her in a way that I used to tease her about, ‘Any closer, we’ll be sharing a body!’ because she always had to be within touching distance of me, and even then, sometimes she wasn’t satisfied with that, so she would wriggle her way so close to me, sometimes she felt like she was trying to wedge herself under my leg. Silly dog. Well, Emily, your wish is, once again, my command. We will now be joined forever. I am going to have the paw print done in black with one of the toe beans done in pink and the outline of a little blue duck because she was my little furry duck. She didn’t walk, she waddled. Lol

As I sit here and reflect on the gift she gave me, I have to admit, this is the fourth (or maybe tenth?  I don't know...) attempt to write something for her memory that would really sufficiently express not only how I feel about such a wonderful blessing from God that was my little dog, but to truly encompass all that she was to me, to 'share' her, in a way, with you all.

My dog, Emily, was a sweetheart, about 25 handfuls, and the goofiest creature I have ever had the honour of knowing and loving.  For eight wonderful years, we did everything together, we went through a lot together, but at the end of the day, we were still fighting through all the bad times, side-by-side and came out on the other end of things stronger and closer than ever.  To some, she was 'just an animal.'  To me?  She was a lot more than that.  And she always will be.

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