Up until January 12, 2017, I had never lost a loved one. I grew up with three grandparents, one grandpa passing away shortly after I was born, so I was pretty lucky to grow up with three out of four grandparents. Sure, I had been to funerals for distant relatives I had met once or twice or my friend’s grandparents, and I grieved for them because they were hurting and I hate seeing people hurt. I, however, had no idea what that pain felt like until one of my best friends passed away in a tragic accident while she was on a family vacation in Mexico.
Abbey Connor, my sweetest, sassiest, most beautiful friend and fellow UW-Whitewater student, taken away far too soon. Getting the news that she was gone rocked me to the core. I had just celebrated New Year’s Eve with her a few short weeks ago, and now I was never going to see her again. How is that possible? Why would this happen to her? I had absolutely no idea how to handle this. Going from losing no one to losing one of my best friends so suddenly was something I was not prepared to deal with, but is anyone? I cried and cried and cried and listened to people tell me it was going to be okay, but those words didn’t mean anything. Of course, I appreciated the support of my friends and family, but nothing made the pain in my chest go away when I thought of Abbey. I hurt so much for her family, if I felt this horrible, I couldn’t imagine how her family felt. The only thing that I found comfort in was the one thing that couldn’t tell me they were sorry and that it was going to be okay, Luna.
There is no doubt in my mind that Luna knew I was hurting. I am convinced that dogs have a 6th sense and are much more aware of our emotions than we give them credit. Luna would just lay with me while I cried and her presence alone eased that pain. My crazy and energetic dog would just sit and let me pet her for as long as I needed to.
Not even a month later, February 11th, our family dog, Will, passed away after a long battle with cancer. For fellow dog lovers, you know how hard it is to let your furry companions go. We had Will since he was a puppy, so he grew up with my siblings and me. He was my four-legged brother and letting him go ripped my healing heart wide open again. This time, my whole family was hurting, including Will’s sister, Grace. Will and Grace had never spent a day apart; they slept in their dog crate together, chased chipmunks together, protected my family together, and she just couldn’t understand where he went. We couldn’t explain to her that he wasn’t coming back and that made the pain that much worse. The one thing that brought a smile to everyone’s face in the days, weeks, and months to come was Luna. She would grab her squeaker toy and run up to everyone shaking and squeaking it just begging for someone to play tug with her. She would light up the room and bring a smile, even if only for a second, to our faces. She was helping us cope, and she didn’t realize it.
Two months later, April 13th, my grandma passed away. I couldn’t believe that I had to deal with another death. I was still grieving Abbey and Will’s passing, and now I had another death to try and cope with. My grandma lived in Florida for half of the year, so while we weren’t the closest, she was my grandma, my dad’s mother, and of course, I loved her. I hurt for my dad as he had to say goodbye to his mom. I hurt for all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. I hurt for my mom and my siblings and I. We had never lost a grandparent, and now we had to deal with this while still grieving Will’s passing, I still grieving Abbey’s. It was such an overwhelming and stressful time, and once again the one thing that got me through each day was Luna. No matter how hard of a day it was, each night when I crawled into bed, Luna would lay right next to me, her head on my chest and just be there. I cannot put into words what that feeling is like.
John Grogan, author of Marley and Me, (if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, add it to your list) wrote one of my favorite quotes. He said, “A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart, and he will give you his.” This quote is undeniably accurate and I saw this proof in the months to come after I lost all of these loved ones. Luna didn’t care if I didn’t have time to take her for a long walk, or I didn’t want to get out of bed, or I didn’t have the energy to play fetch with her that day, she was there for me and comforted me every moment. She knew I loved her, and that was enough. The most comforting part of all of this is that Luna didn’t even know she was doing it. If more people loved each other like dogs love their humans, this world would be a much better place.