By David Karp
(written on Jan 4th, 2020 and Jan 5th, 2020)
It has been a rough day.
There is one less jingle in the house. It was a relatively new collar, as she lost hers somewhere a few weeks ago on one of her chihuahua misadventures around the house.
Last night, I got to hold her for the last time. Held in my arms like a baby. I got home very late last night and I scooped her in my arms and held her close to me for a while. I had to get up early, but there was something inside me; a worry and a reflection. I stood in my hall until she started falling asleep in my arms. The silence of it all was almost deafening. The hall light shined over us and I couldn’t help but think of our time together. I gave her kisses and pet her little head.
I realized that silence was love.
If I ever have a kid, I imagine it is similar to the feeling of holding my baby close to me. Hell, she was as small as a baby. And it was so easy to love her, and for some reason it was so easy for her to love me. She had been there for every heartbreak I have ever had (I realize this now as I write it and wow) and even when I felt like I failed, no matter how much pain I sometimes found myself in, she would never hesitate to sit next to me as I cried. All my failure I felt, she kept me redeemed.
She had been sick with dementia, loss of senses and such for awhile. She was very near to seventeen which, I am aware, is old for a dog. It turns out the vet also found a heart murmur, which now we know contributed to a joint circulation problem. She lost a lot of weight and she could barely walk. I knew this day would come. As much as I dreaded it.
I had convinced myself from the day she came into my life fifteen years ago that she was actually, and quite literally, invincible.
The crazy things love makes us think, huh?
The first full day we had her, I was catching the bus I took every morning to my high school towards the end of my sophomore year. I was running late getting ready and all. I caught it just in the nick of time, but it did require some running. I dashed out my front door, not looking back, and jumped through the doors of my bus as they were about to close. I was thankful for catching it, but as I walked up the steps into the seating area, I heard jingles behind me. Confused, I turned around and saw nothing behind me.
Until I looked down.
Her black marble eyes, her orange tan fur, just staring at me as she attempted to hop her way up the stairs to follow me. I will never forget that smile on her face. And, even more, I will never forget the smile she put on my face, even when I scooped her up, went out of the bus, and met my father who had come to retrieve her.
Whether it was her silly antics of her adventures in the house and in the dog park or thinking she was a bigger dog than she was with other dogs, or just the general love that she radiated, she always had that power to put a smile on my face. She was around, essentially, for my whole emotional journey.
She helped me through some rough nights. As a young kid who was developing what would be my very own battle with anxiety and depression, it was the stage where I had sometimes felt like I was drowning in my emotions. The waves of sadness, the panic attacks, the all nighters.
I’m telling you, yes I am older now and (thank God) I have a good grasp on my anxiety and depression to a point where I truly love my life. But there were dark times. And she was a light in those times. A star in a sky that seemed to have none. A breath in the bottom of a deep ocean.
She was love, personified (well, dogified, I guess).
And I think that’s why this one hits home so much.
Our pets become family. They become a partner for this weird journey called life and, oftentimes, they are a beacon of hope and happiness and love, even when we or our lives feel loveless or unworthy. That is a power greater than anything I’ve seen on this earth.
There is a line from a song in the musical version of Rocky (yes, that Rocky. Judge me all you want. I love the series and I wish I could have seen the Broadway show. I quite enjoy some of the music in it) called “Fight From The Heart” that I remember hearing and it has stuck with me as I “grow up”.
“No one fights forever/I know the older I’m gettin’, the more disappears”
Those lines have been ringing in my head since she passed. I know it’s not a great way to look at things, but I’m starting to realize that there is some truth in that. Not so much the fact that she passed, but with her the era. The connection to the kid I used to be and the adult I am now. She watched me grow and learn and cope and find my own happiness. She was there for the whole fucking thing! And a lot has disappeared through this journey with her, but she was always there by my side still.
But even with this thought in my head, there is also a hope. The same hope that she gave me that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. An optimism of life and the world around me. And every adventure, every growth, every failure or heartbreak, and every relationship, from here on out, there will be a little bit of that hope in it. That joy of life, that curiosity (Her and I were wanderers. I still am. I don’t see that changing ever), I’m so thankful for it.
Oh, how she helped me find that light in myself.
Life is not perfect. There are wins and there are losses. Good days and bad. There is a balance in this world and in our own that is a journey in itself. It’s the journey I have learned the most from. My own story is long and, at times, complicated.
The cards I dealt were the cards I had to play, and the house really likes to win. But THANK GOD one of the cards I was given was Delilah. She was one of the aces. She pushed me to win, and that card is staying with me in my heart. My lucky draw. My aces high. My winning bet.
I could write for hours. I really could.
But the world must still spin, and my journey must continue.
Delilah D. Doggy (the “legal” name I gave her when she came into my life), my little big love, my monkey, my furball, my monk-monk, my best friend, my queen of the chihuahuas, my little light, my beautiful beautiful companion: Thank you for everything and growing up beside me. Thank you for all the joy you brought to my family and friends. Thank you for chasing me for treats, playing hide and seek, watching movies next to me, going on adventures and hikes with me. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your loyalty and your love over so many years, even when it didn’t feel deserved. You still make my heart shine a little brighter and my hope a little stronger. I smile and I cry writing this, and though I know you had to move on and that we must part for a little while, I also know you are still next to me with that jingling collar. Rest easy, rest in peace and in love, and know how missed you are in this family and in this world that is a little happier because of you.
I owe you a picnic day in Brookfield Park.
Until we meet again.