Over the weekend, we went through the traumatic experience of having our dog Taffy put to sleep. She was still young, and she did not appear to be mortally ill. When we took her to the vet on Friday morning to investigate something that had attracted my notice, we had no idea that in less than 24 hours she would be gone.
I’ve written about Taffy before, most notably in Time Is A Zero-Sum Game and Embracing Change. Her untimely passing has underscored yet another lesson for me: When the going gets tough, the tough get organized.
In the past few days, I have devoted myself to tracking down every bit of dog paraphernalia in my home. I threw out old medicines; returned or donated unused dog food; laundered her dog bed, collar, and leash; removed her dog shampoo from the bathtub; and put her food and water bowls in the back of the cabinet. I packed up the things that could be used for a future dog and put them in the closet. I thoroughly vacuumed the living room, where she spent a lot of her time and thus left behind many little white dog hairs that ended up on our clothes. I even perused online sites for an appropriate little funerary urn to hold her ashes.
Real life is unpredictable, uncontrollable and messy. For me, going into organizing mode is a way to try and reestablish some control. Nothing I do will alter the disastrous events of the weekend, but at least I can get my house in order.
I still feel a lurch in my heart when I walk into my bedroom and see the empty space where her dog bed used to be. But I would feel just as much of a lurch if her empty dog bed were still there, and at least now I can start getting used to the “new normal”.
The only souvenir I’ve decided to keep is her tags. I remember so clearly the day we went to Petco to pick out a bone-shaped silver ID tag imprinted with her name and phone number. I was getting my first dog, and even though I had read a lot of books in preparation, I was very nervous. I had no idea how much I was going to love this fuzzy little cutie, and how she would become an integral part of our family.
People process loss differently. I’m an organizer by nature, so organizing my way through loss is how I survive the messy stuff that’s not so easily fixable. I would love to hear what has worked for you.