A Void in My Heart

Miniature Schnauzer puppy we named Nemo

Sometimes there is  a loss that leaves a void in your life.  It isn’t the worst kind of loss: the loss of a parent, a sibling, or child.  Rather, it’s the loss of a four-legged companion with whom you shared a lifetime.

We suffered that kind of loss in my home this past weekend.  If you are a pet lover, you understand.  If you are not, you have my permission to skip over this post

I’ve had pets most of my life.  And since pets lives are short, I have outlived many pets.  There are some pets, though, whose presence comes to mean far more than just companionship.  My miniature schnauzer, Nemo, was one such pet.  I’m including a snippet of one of my morning pages that explains a little of why Nemo’s presence was so very special in my life.

Morning Pages 3/17/12:  As I write this, Nemo’s labored breathing fills my ears. Tears well up and my heart aches. I’m losing him. I feel guilt for pain I think he must be suffering. Yet, he still eats, he still plays with his toys, and he still guards the yard from silly squirrels and crazy cats, although all of those things are accomplished much more slowly than in the past. I know he doesn’t know he’s dying. I know that I’m projecting my feelings onto him, my faithful companion, my buddy. His liver and his heart are failing him. Am I failing him?

Eleven years ago DH was recovering from open heart surgery complicated by a stroke. I’d been fortunate enough to have sick time to stay with him for nearly six weeks. But time was running out. DH was hurting and depressed. I could barely motivate him to get up and move about the house. I would have to return to work soon and I was certain he would get worse alone in the house. Then, two weeks before I had to return to work, I brought a tiny miniature schnauzer puppy home. I named him Nemo.

DH couldn’t believe I had been so mean. He argued that he would never be able to care for the puppy while I was at work. I put a gate on the front porch. Now DH could let the puppy out on the porch to do his business. In the evening I would hose off the offending output. DH argued that he couldn’t bend over to pick the puppy up. I taught Nemo to jump onto the couch on command. And too soon, I had to return to work.

DH spent the days on the recliner sofa. When he couldn’t bend over, he played ‘footsie’ games with the puppy. When he napped, little Nemo curled up in his lap and napped, too. And every few hours, DH would shuffle out onto the porch and sit while the puppy sniffed and circled until he found just the right spot to relieve himself.

Over time, the puppy grew into a handsome, sweet-natured dog. DH regained strength playing fetch and taking Nemo on walks. While DH’s physicians, physical therapists, nor I could penetrate his pain, fear, and depression, the pup snuck into his heart. I firmly believe that Nemo saved DH’s life.

Over the next few years we bought two more pups: a mutt and a yorkie. Nemo adjusted fantastically. He tolerated the pup who tugged out the hairs of his beard and the pup who hid all the toys. He groomed the babies and woofed at them to come in with him. They are inseparable.

The three amigos, my three dogs
left to right: Cosmo, Astro & Nemo, the Three Amigos

I worry how the two younger dogs will react once Nemo’s gone.

A bad liver is causing his heart to fail. His failing heart can’t pump enough blood so he breathes fast and heavy. He’s having syncopal episodes, fainting, because he’s not getting enough oxygen carrying blood to his brain. Sometimes these episodes look like seizures. Medications can only help for so long.

I’m trying to enjoy the time we have left. He still greets me at the door, begs for treats, and he brings me his favorite toy which he holds in his mouth until I command him to ‘leave it.’ It’s a game he plays for an extra ‘good boy.’ I pet him and tell him what a good boy he is. And I pray that God takes him gently when it’s time, but not just yet, please, because my heart is breaking.

4/7/2012: I wrote the above paragraphs when I was feeling very selfish. I couldn’t imagine my life without Nemo in it. I couldn’t say goodbye.  I wasn’t ready. Unfortunately, Nemo’s quality of life declined dramatically. His chest heaved in an effort to get more oxygen. Sick as he was, his sweet temperament never changed.

As I watched his health decline, my selfishness vanished. He would pick up his toy in preparation to go outside, but had to drop it so he could breathe.  He would stand beside DH or myself, his head against our legs because he couldn’t rise up on his hind legs to beg for a petting.  He tried so hard to continue to be the loving companion he had always been but his physical heart simply could not perform the way his spiritual heart wanted to.

We said our final goodbyes this weekend.  He laid his head in my hand and I stroked him as he left this world.  It was beyond hard.  My heart is full. Words fail me.

And can it be that in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!– Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

In loving memory: Nemo (2001-2012)

Nemo, miniature schnauzer

26 thoughts on “A Void in My Heart

  1. *sniff* So sorry for your loss. I can relate. I still have acute pain when I remember losing our dalmatian, years ago now, when he was 13 1/2. We have two dogs now and one is entering that ‘old dog’ stage. 🙁 Our other one is a mini-schnauzer and one of my best friends. I absolutely love the schnauzer personality.

    HUGS!!

    1. Ginger,
      Thank you so much. It’s been far more difficult than I expected. The schnauzer personality is wonderful. Nemo was a delightful dog.

      I hope your ‘old’ dog goes peacefully and not before his time.
      (By the way, years ago I had a dalmatian, too!)

      Lynette

  2. Trying to type this through tears…I’m so sorry for your loss, Lynette. Just heartbreaking. I went through this with my 15 yr. old yorkie about 7 yrs. ago. I spent two weeks curled up into a ball on the couch, inconsolable. One morning, my leg grew extremely warm in the spot where he used to curl up against me and I just knew that he was telling me he was okay and would always be with me.

    Hope this helps you a little. ((((hugs))))

  3. {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

    Trust yourself that you did EVERYTHING right. Nemo no longer hurts–and your own hurt will eventually be soothed with the fond memories. But it will hurt for a while. That’s as it should be. It’s a testiment to how much you loved Nemo, and he loved you.

    Your other pets also will mourn. Maybe with searches for the missing buddy–or maybe with little outward sign. It’s okay to tell them you understand their hurt, too. They’ll connect with your emotion, if not the words. Again, so very sorry for your loss.

    1. Thanks, Amy. I really appreciate your supportive comments and electronic hug. Yes, it hurts but I am so glad I found him and had him in my life.

      Yes, my two other dogs are mourning. The one that practically grew up with Nemo (the larger, blond dog) is definitely telling us he’s missing Nemo. I’m trying to give them a little more attention – an extra walk, an extra game of “it’s my toy,’and lap time, of course.

      Thanks again,
      Lynette

  4. Oh, my wee darling, Lynette,

    How awfully sad. He looks such a character and came to you at just the right time.

    Nothing I can say will make you feel better, but what wonderful, glorious memories he’s left behind. Of course you weren’t selfish, you did the right thing at the right time for Nemo and for you.

    BIG HUGS
    Christine xxx

  5. Sending you hugs, Lynette. I know this kind of heartbreak all too well. That Dickens quote is so apt. As you say, we outlive them, so we have to live with the pain of losing them. I still ache over a dog I had in high school and a cat I lost ten years ago. Just remember that Nemo was fortunate enough to be cherished. And animals always know those things.

  6. So sorry for your loss Lynette!
    I’ve been thinking about getting a dog (we’ve been a fish and bird family due to allergies) but the objections from my kids were that after experiencing the loss of 3 parakeets they said they can’t handle it.
    But I imagine the love far outweighs that con.
    Sending you virtual hugs.

    1. Coleen,

      My husband has terrible allergies, which is why I chose the breeds I did. We so enjoy having small dogs in our lives, I couldn’t bear to be without one. The loss is painful. And your kids understand that. So honor their choice for now and bring up the subject of having a dog a little later (maybe while visiting a puppy!)

      Thank you so much for your kind words,

      Lynette

  7. Oh Lynette, I am so very sorry. What a heartbreak! In all your sadness from your loss, it struck me that Nemo saved your husband’s life! If not for that sweet furry friend you could have lost your dear husband. So he played such an important part in your lives. He will forever be remembered for that and so much more. Animals sense these things and will always be treasured in our hearts and memories. I’m so glad you have your other furry friends to help you through your great loss. Take care Lynette! 🙂

  8. oh my poor daring Lynnette. I’m crying my eyes out as I type this. you know you did the right thing, but the pain is overwhelming. I was spring cleaning on Friday and finally moved the picture of my beloved Trixie, a toy poodle, that I loved on her way about 10 years ago. I miss her still.

    take heart and take care. I’m sure the grief of losing a pet is as awful as any other.

    {{{{{{{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

    1. Thank you, Louise. I have been overwhelmed with the grief I’ve been feeling over Nemo’s death and equally overwhelmed at the support I’ve received. It does help to know that others have felt deep grief for their pets, that I don’t have to feel guilty for feeling this way about a pet. Thank you.

  9. Oh Lynette… My heart and thoughts are with you big time. Thank you for giving Nemo such love. Because of you, he had a wonderful, happy life. I’ve heard that animals deal with loss better than their humans. I know that’s the case for me. May you feel the Carebear stare blasting through the web to you. You and your furry friends will get through this.

  10. Oh Lynette, I’m so sorry for your loss. Your Nemo was a precious part of your family. I don’t own any pets, so I know your loss is far greater than I can imagine. My thoughts are with you and those in your household, whether they be of the two-legged or four-legged variety. Hugs to you. May Nemo rest in peace.

  11. Of course it was beyond hard, Lynette, and you will miss Nemo for a long, long time, but you were kind to let him go when you did. To think the poor guy had to put down his toy in order to breathe.

    Nemo had a good life; he loved and was loved and knew he was of service.

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