Saying Goodbye: Stooped Shoulders, Eyes to the Ground

Nov 19th, 2008 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Today was one of those days most of would just as soon skip. Our dachshund of 17 years, Zachariah, breathed his last. His diminished eyesight, impaired hearing, arthritis, a kidney infection, and numerous other difficulties indicated that he would be making more and more frequent forays to the vet.

We had told ourselves about a month ago that if/as his health diminished more and more we would likely have to make the dreaded choice. And so today, the choice was made.

After burying him in our pet plot, which has received four of our pets who predeceased Zach, it is beginning to be a little crowded. I put away the pickup and the tools and made my way back from the barn to the house. It is equivalent to about a three block walk. I found myself with stooped shoulders, eyes to the ground, as if every step was a walk of a hundred miles.

Years before I recall how, when walking Zach, it was always with zest, looking far beyond the next few steps, anticipating the discoveries he would make and we would enjoy… a squirrel, a fawn, an armadillo. Zach wasn’t with me today and my own walk had no energy or zip or even satisfaction.

Like Zach, my own aging was quite evident: the stooped shoulders, the downcast eyes. Oh, this will pass, grief will find acceptance, pain will ebb, loneliness will search for memories, but that emptiness that Zach filled will continue to ache. The grief and pain are fresh today. As if grief or pain at loss could ever be “fresh.” I think I need another word today. There is no easy way to say goodbye to a pet or a friend or a family member. Zach, of course, was all three.

Tomorrow we will start over. We still have two wonderful pets, Zebediah and Patton that we rescued from the ‘kill list’ last December who occupy their special places in our home and hearts. We will walk them and our steps will likely be lighter, our sight aimed beyond just the next upcoming step. Of course, we will talk about Zach and shed more tears for yet awhile. The pain and grief will begin to heal over. The loss will never be quite filled.

Special moments, such as those we discover and cherish with our pets, are treasures beyond imagination. At Christmas, it will be a little less cheerful, because that is also just four days after Zach’s birthday. Christmas will fade into the new year. Demands will begin staking their claims on our energy and attention. So for now, let us enjoy the brief sadness that comes with overwhelming affection for one who meant so much!



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