From Our Readers
July 05, 2014 9:39 am

Three weeks and one day. That’s how long it took for me to realize what I lost when I lost my dog Yeti. That’s the night I cried the hardest, save the morning I was forced to say goodbye to Yeti. The morning I kissed her forehead for the last time, and the morning I thanked her for saving my life.

That morning, I lifted Yeti onto my lap and wrapped her in the threadbare blanket I bought her almost 12 years ago. She was limp and heavy, sedated and finally calm after nearly seven devastating hours of seizures—several hours too long because of my weakness, my inability to make the decision any sooner. The following days were difficult, but my thoughts were centered on the immediate loss and the absolute wretchedness of our last hours together.

But that night—three weeks and one day later—is when I finally and fully understood the full extent of my loss.

As I sobbed that evening, smearing makeup on my clean white pillowcase and making noises that would have irritated my independent and no-nonsense dog, had she still been alive, I said aloud the thing I hadn’t understood earlier: Without Yeti, I had no purpose. There is no one who needs me, no one who depends on me for her care. No reason to come home, and no one to come home to.

Suddenly, I could extend a weekend trip an extra day without neglecting any responsibilities at home. I could take off at a moment’s notice for a vacation or a business trip without any thought beyond what outfits to pack for the excursion. I could get off a plane and take a taxi directly to a concert to dance and drink wine all night without so much as a second thought.

And yet, when I get home, there is no one to greet me. No one to run to the door with a wagging tail or, in her later years, no one to clean up after or fool with medication-laced cubes of cheese.

This, I now understand, is the loss of a true companion. Yeti gave me reason; she gave me a purpose. She brought me joy, and she gave me love. She made me feel bigger – and better – than I am.

One day, I hope to find that feeling of worth again. Meanwhile, I’ll mourn my best friend and work to be thankful for the time we had together . . . In between sobs, of course.

A former journalist who now works in public policy, Angie Welling writes personal essays as a means of therapy. It’s less physically taxing than running and much healthier than drinking, both of which she does with vigor in happy times. She firmly believes that dogs are by far the best people.