It’s coming up to six months since my pup, Stringer Bell, passed away. To know me is to know how utterly besotted I was with that little nutcase. The three months between his lymphoma diagnosis to his passing were three of the hardest I’ve had, but the levels of the grief I’ve felt since his passing have completely sideswiped me. So, this just in from Obvious City: grieving is really hard, y’all!
I have cried every day since he died (hell, I’m crying right now as I type this!). I just miss him so damn much. I miss his energy, taking him for walks, his cuddles. I miss his crazy wild runs around the garden, I miss how happy he made me and everyone around me. Ahh, he was just the greatest.
So, let me address the obvious: Stringer was a dog. And I fully get to the outside, unfamiliar eye who may have seen my endless posts about this pup, that this level of upset may seem a little OTT, because he was ‘just a dog’. Thankfully, no one in my circle has ever actually said those words to me and not just because they’d probably garner you a swift punch to the throat, but because it’s just not true.
Dog owners will get me on this, but for non-dog people, let me explain. Stringer was so much more than a dog to me. He was my family. I live alone. I don’t have children. My parents and brother live hundreds of miles away. While I have an amazing group of friends, for all intents and purposes, I am essentially alone in a massive metropolis. When Stringer was here, it was me and him against the world. He was with me through one of the most difficult periods of my life. He provided stability and reassurance, he kept me calm and gave me affection. He came to work with me, on weekends away, on visits to friends’ houses. He was mine to care for, love and look after. He was an enormous part of my life.
Finding out he was sick was devastating, but I just went into autopilot: how can I help him? What can I do? What are the steps for me to make him as comfortable as possible? And for three months, my every waking hour was devoted to that. It’s not until after he passed that I was able to start processing how stressful all that actually was. And every time I think of it, my heart breaks all over again.
But I’ll tell you what, the love and support people have shown me during this time has just been incredible. Friends and family have been amazing. Riders at my spin studio have bought me Stringer-related gifts. A month or so ago, I was out for a walk in my neighbourhood and saw an old gent who I always see walking his dogs. When I had Stringer, we’d see each other all the time and stop for a little chat. When I saw him this time, he stopped me and said ‘I’ve been wanting to ask you, I haven’t seen you with your dog…’ and he trailed off. ‘Yes, sadly, he passed away on October 31st’ I told him. He sighed, tilted his head, put his hand on my arm, ‘Oh sweetheart,’ he said, as tears started to roll down my cheeks. He told me he’d been through it before so he knew how hard it was and said I could go round and pet his dogs whenever I wanted.
Two weeks after Stringer passed, his breeder called me and told me her dog had just had a litter, there were three boys – they’re Stringer’s brothers. She asked if I wanted one. Of course, I’d have taken all three of them, but the timing just wasn’t right for me. I asked her if I could go round and play with the pups, ’cause I thought it’d help me with my grieving to hang out with Stringer’s baby bros for a while. She agreed and a few weeks later, I went round and my soul just burst playing with the mini-Stringers. The breeder did not have to accommodate that request at all and I’m still bowled over by the kindness she showed me that day.
I’m still devastated by what happened to Stringer, but recently, my heartache has been making way for planning to get a new dog. I’m looking at getting another Boston Terrier probably around September/October this year and making plans for that is really helping me to process and deal with my grief. I think it’s probably because I’m thinking about all the wonderful things about having a puppy as opposed to focusing on those last few months of Stringer’s life, which were really hard.
I imagine I’ll probably be crazy protective of the new pup (who I will most likely call Biggie Smalls) and will be overly paranoid about him getting sick, but I guess that’s all natural.
I’ll never forget Stringer for as long as I live, but I also have to move on. If I do say so myself, I was a great mother/owner/whatever term you wanna use, to him. I didn’t know I could love something so much and I would love to give that to another dog.
Grieving is hard and it hurts and it comes in these huge, unexpected waves. I don’t know if it ever really leaves you as much as it just simmers in the background of your life. But with time, it opens you up to newness.
A few days after Stringer passed, a friend sent me this quote:
‘Grief is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat and that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.’
I’m learning to pour that excess love into all the other important bits of my life; my family, my friends, my work, my passions…and soon enough, another little pup.