My dog, Paco, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Thursday, December 8th.
I wasn't home when it happened. I was in Tallinn, a 2-hour ferry ride from home. I had escaped there to work on my book.
My kids told me in the phone that Paco had seemed a bit unwell in the evening but not enough for anyone to get alarmed. At 4:30 the next morning they heard a terrible howl and found the little dog lying breathless on the floor.
Paco would have turned 12 in April.
Upon hearing the news I was as calm as a bowl of yoghurt. I did not cry. My daughter did. She sent me a photo where she held Paco´s little listless paw in her hand. Even seeing that did not make me cry.
In my feelingless state I heard myself saying: If he is dead, there is no reason for me to come home now. I really thought there wasn´t. My ferry ticket was booked for Saturday. I was supposed to do Christmas shopping on Friday plus have a lunch with a friend. Maybe I should just go back to sleep?
Mom, please come home, my daughter whispered. She is 29. She was staying home with her younger brother while I was away, to take care of the dog, among other things.
Like a robot, who only acts when given orders, I said OK. I went to the kitchen and made myself a cup of cocoa. It was cold. Why was it so cold? I was shivering. It was 5 am. I looked out of the window and saw the wet street and pale city lights piercing through darkness.
I started packing. Thanks to Whatsapp we were able keep the phone line open the whole morning. We needed to stay in touch even though there were long periods of silence. Coffee was being made. The dog was wrapped in a bed sheet. My ex was asked to come home, to take Paco to the vet in his car, for one last time.
I waited till 6 until I texted to my closest friend. She had recently lost two dogs and I knew she would be empathetic. OMG, she texted back immediately. My condolences. Paco was such a fine dog.
I waited till 8 until I texted to my older son who lives in the UK. He did not say much but he never does. And what was there to say, really?
An emotion started to develop in my brain. What was it? I could not tell. Somewhere in my Solar Plexus I felt dull pain. There was nausea, too. A thought started to take shape in my mind: I had lost something very important and it would never come back. Not ever.
Things would never be the same again.
I packed my bag. I called to the ferry office to change my ticket. I made a sandwhich and tried to eat it. I could have eaten sandpaper instead. At 9 I left the apartment and started walking towards the ferry terminal. It was a 30 minute walk. I dragged my rolling suitcase the icy rain whipping my face. It felt good.
When I got home, I found my ex asleep on the couch. The house was like a catacomb. Everybody was sleep deprived. In the afternoon we ordered a pizza. We drank red wine. I got tipsy and started crying. My ex hugged me. He was crying, too. But it was when my 19-year -old son said that although he was sad that Paco was gone, he was grateful that the little dog had been there for him when he had needed him the most, that the floodgates opened. I cried and cried. I cried for Paco and my failed marriage and my failed business and the kids in Aleppo and the collective misery of mankind.
The following week was strange. My mood kept changing from euphoria to despair. I was tired but I could not sleep. I feared the night. I looked at my bed as it was a tomb. My insides were sore. I shivered uncontrollably. The thought of food made me sick.
I could not watch Paco´s photos. Each time something reminded me of the dog I once had, my mind shut down. I threw his bowls and leash and bed to the trash can. I gave his food away to a friend whose sister has two cockerspaniels. I did all this with minimal brain activity.
Paco was a funny little fellow. He was mixed breed. His front is a Datsun and his rear is a Fiat, my brother used to joke. Paco ran in a weird way, throwing his back legs any which way. He used to tilt his head when spoken to. He had some weird habits, like carrying his food bowl in his mouth from kitchen to the living room when he wanted to eat. When he wanted to go out he used to stare at us until we got crazy. He loved long walks and car drives and whipped cream.
But most of all he loved us, unconditionally, absolutely and totally. Paco was like a diamond, huge love in a small package. His wasn't a small life. It was as enormous as the Universe.
Is it wrong to mourn for a dog in a world where so many people suffer? No. When we lose something precious, even if just a gerbil, our hearts crack open. Because of the crack, we are able to feel each others pain.
When I cry for Paco, I cry for everybody. I am with them in their longing and sorrow. Their grief is my grief.
And their light is my light.
There is a crack in everything. That´s how the light gets in, sang Leonard Cohen.
This is how it feels to lose a dog: it feels like a crack.
And the light that gets in through the crack is just incredible.