One year ago today, I was sprawled on a blanket in the vet’s office. My beautiful, spiritual, best companion – a Golden Retriever named Barbara Bush Mallory – had told me that morning that it was time. She needed to give up the fight. We laid down together, just to be there for each other. And later, I left the vet’s office without my companion. As I sobbed my way to the car, I held tight to her collar. Three days later, I returned to pick up her ashes and a plaster cast of her pawprint.
Today I write about her – for myself. The past year has been an emotional one, and at times I have felt so lonely, so alone, so misunderstood. I live in a new home now. I moved away from St. Petersburg and the home where I saw Barbara in every room after she was gone. Now I am in an almost-perfect small town, with love and friends and beauty filling my life. Still, it does not feel like home. I have been unable to fully unpack – especially in the room where I’d planned to hang my dog art collection – because I do not feel complete. I miss my precious Barbara. It isn’t home. How could it be? I am, for the first time in my 57 years, going through life without a dog.
I don’t mean to say anything negative about what’s happened since I moved here. I can’t count the number of fantastic trips I’ve taken. I can’t count how much I’ve laughed. So many happy days, so many new friends and new emotions. I even rode a horse, and hope to do it again.
Still, there are no words to describe what it’s like to wake up in the morning and still look down to see if Barbara is there, sleeping by my side. I dream about her regularly. And just this week, I SWEAR she barked to wake me up. It was just one loud bark, but it was indisputably her voice. “Get up, Mama. I need to go outSIDE…BARK!”
I have waited until today to go through “her” box. When I opened the box, oh, the wonderful perfume of that sweet dog filled the air. I laid my head on her little pillow and bawled. I have touched her collar and rubbed it on my face. I have thumbed through photos and little things I scribbled down over the course of her life. We had such a life. I’m sorry to say that much of it was bad. For me. I tried to keep my emotions away from her. We walked every day, went swimming, made friends, sang, danced, and did everything we could to enjoy life. And then she got cancer, and it was time for me to be her caregiver. Through it all, right up until the last day, she faced life with a wagging tail and constant kisses for her mama.
I’d give everything I have for just one more day with her. But today marks a turning point. She is not coming back, and I must go into the future with a happy, positive “Golden Retriever Attitude.” I call it GRAttitude. Makes sense to me.
Get those lizards, my sweet Barbara, just like you did in this picture. Chase all of heaven’s squirrels. Be young and free. Wait for your mama. I’ll be there one day, and I hope you’ll be right there, wagging your tail.
Mama always loves you.