A year without Carmen

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure I’d make it this long without her. I worried losing my best friend would break me in so many ways, that I’d be reduced to nothing. But if there’s anything a saucy, little tripawd Mexican street dog taught me, it was life is what you make of it! So here’s to you my sweet angel. I made it.

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It was a tough year I’m not going to lie. Carmen made it through Christmas 2018 but shortly thereafter communicated to my husband and I that she was too tired to fight anymore. So we did the hardest thing we’d ever have to do, but by far the kindest, and that was to end her pain and suffering. We had a vet come to the house and put her to rest in our living room on a comfy bed, and her favourite blanket. It was clear she found it hard to leave us, just as hard as we found it to let her go. She tried to hold on. I kissed her and repeatedly told her it was ok. She didn’t have to worry about me. I knew she did though. How could she not. She’d been there through everything. Seen all my good times and bad. My sadness and sorrows. My failures, and set backs. But she was also there for every mountain we climbed together. For all the success and happiness. She was the one who helped me see who I really could be. We both worried what I’d become after her. For the first time in 8 years I’d have to do that without her.

Carmen wasn’t just any dog. She was my first dog. Who came at the most pivotal time. I was in my mid 20’s. I was lost. I was afraid, confused and trying to make a life I could be proud of. And then she came to me and everything started to make more sense. I stopped second guessing myself. She gave me courage. Hope. Confidence. Like any best friend in the world, she helped me believe in me. And what’s crazy is, she did this all with patience and understanding while I tried to navigate dog ownership for the very first time. I made mistakes, but like the most gracious of teachers, she forgave me and we became stronger together. 8 years was never enough time. But it was the best time I could have ever ask for.

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I try not to revisit the day she left us in my memory. It hurts way too much. Nothing prepares you for the moment your dog slips away. The days after we said goodbye I was a shell of who I used to be. I allowed myself time to grieve so completely that I thought at one point you could die of a broken heart. I would cry first thing when I woke up, try to hold myself together all day, and cry myself to sleep at night. My eyes were puffy and sore from crying so hard. For three days straight I gave myself permission to feel this low. But I would not allow it to consume me. I couldn’t. I had my 2 other dogs counting on me, my husband, my business…her legacy. And so, somehow I managed to go back to work, without her there. To accept people’s cards, kind words, hugs, and sympathy. I found a strength I didn’t know I had to just keep pushing on. That’s not to say the pain wasn’t still there. I still cried often. But I made a promise to Carmen that I would try my absolute best to do what she would have wanted me to do. And that would be to help more dogs, live with passion and purpose, and be kind to others including myself.

I look back at 2019 and wonder where the time went. It was a year that was both painstakingly slow, and yet passed in the blink of an eye. It was a tough year. Even with some awesome accomplishments, the highs didn’t feel as high without her there. Almost as if achieving things didn’t seem real when Carmen wasn’t there to be a part of it. Instead it was just a sad reminder that I couldn’t be fully happy without my best friend by my side. But I made it nonetheless and though it’s hard without her everyday, it still is something to celebrate. If nothing else, the worst is over. I lost the thing I cherished the most in this world. But my therapist once told me (yes I go to therapy, grief is hard to deal with on your own) relationships don’t die, they only change. I didn’t quite understand nor agree with that when she first said it, but it has since comforted me on the hard days. I know Carmen is not physically in this world, but I still feel her presence. I feel her every time I pull into The Dog Haus parking lot. I feel her when the sun shines on a dark day. I feel her before every training class I teach, every Meditation Walk, every time I go to sleep, every time Ty looks at me with his sweet soft eyes, and every time Baker gives me a stinky kiss. I can sense her when I work with a dog and find that connection. She’s always there, I know it. Watching over me, Jeff, our dogs and the Dog Haus pack. She’ll never leave us. A love that strong just doesn’t die.

I hope this vulnerable blog helps someone else going through the same pain I endured. And if I can share some advice let it be these 3 things:

  1. Give yourself time to grieve. Please don’t burry the pain, that is far too heavy a burden. You’re allowed to feel sadness for losing someone that close to you. Be fair to yourself and have a timeline of how many days you’ll permit yourself to stay in bed, cry and scream if you have to. And then, you must pick yourself up and try to move forward as best you can.
  2. Find support. I am so fortunate to have family, friends, staff, and clients who were there for me during all the hard times getting over the loss of Carmen. But I also found great support in a phenomenal therapist. That way I could talk about all the hard things in a safe space and also learn better coping skills. I’d encourage anyone struggling to find a professional who can offer insight and solutions as well as an objective listening ear.
  3. Take it one day at a time. That’s really all you can do. It is hard but it will get better. And I promise you, you’ll become stronger due to this experience. It will change you. It will open you up if you let it instead of breaking you down.

I do believe everything happens for a reason, and Carmen was a lesson in love and loss. She showed me how you can be strong, vulnerable, trust and let go in peace. And for that I am forever grateful. Good God I loved that dog more than any words in a blog could sum up and I will miss her everyday for as long as I live, but I will cherish all our moments together forever.

Thank you Carmen, for everything!

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1 thought on “A year without Carmen

  1. This is heart-wrenching to read as we lost our Lily May 2019 and she was ”my girl”. My comforter, peaceful, sweet baby girl. And she was also only 8. Each day we are reminded of our sweet baby girl- seeing a note on the white board in our kitchen left by our youngest- We love you and will always miss you Lily❤️ Part of our healing her loss has been the addition of our sweet boy Koda 🐻. He’s so different, yet so so sweet, like Lily. Thank you for sharing, you have reminded me of the importance of ”feeling” her loss, not escaping it xo

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