So Isn’t That Hard?
That’s the question I get when people learn that, just like other dogs, Seeing Eye dogs have a limited lifespan. I’m not the only person who will readily admit I love my dog even more than some of my blood relatives. Losing a beloved pet is one of the most traumatic events in the lives of some.
Yet, the dynamics of a service dog, particularly a guide dog, are much different than a pet. And another layer of it is that Garrett will be retiring, not dying. I’m letting him go and there is a decent chance I may never see him again. The loss is still there, but it’s different than a death. I’ve been able to retire all my dogs and am fortunate I’ve not had to go through a death. Bring in the service dog element…
Under the law, Garrett has been able go into any public establishment throughout his entire life. This includes airlines, restaurants, taxis, Ubers, hotels, bars, malls. About the only places I’ve not taken Garrett are on international travel and to rock concerts. He wouldn’t be happy at those kinds of things. Needless to say, Garrett has spent significantly more time with me as compared to an average American pet. That is another reason retirement is so hard. This dog has been a constant in my life since 2010. We have done EVERYTHING together. Just losing that much history with another being is tough.
I don’t do sad well. I have no problem admitting I’m sad and have been for, well, weeks. This is on top of a struggle with anxiety and depression that have existed for years. No shame in my game-history is one thing, but just holding all the things together in life that I do can be stressful. Really stressful. My struggles usually come out in the form of anger. If you read any of Dr. Brene Brown’s stuff, she highlights how anger is one of the only emotions many western males feel it’s safe to display. I’d like to think I’m better than that…but I’m not. Anger seethes out of my pores sometimes. I know it’s unhealthy for me and I know it’s unhealthy for my family. It’s something I continue to try to work on.
With retiring Garrett, I’m not mixing that up with anger. I’m just sad. I’ve spent significant amount of time crying over the last week. Just thinking that Garrett isn’t going to be around to hang out outside with me. Just to think my first order of business in the morning won’t be to get his food and water prepared and then to get him outside. Rituals and habits come to an abrupt end. I’m observant enough to know that these all play into a major life change…an unwelcome major life change. Because I want to practice resiliency before the fact, I’ve been meditating, writing and just trying to spend as much time as possible with Garrett while I can.
Last night, we sat outside on the patio with Garrett curled up in my lap. As I write this, he’s laying at my feet with one paw covering my toes. Tomorrow, we set out on this trip…this is the last day I’ll sit in my office with Garrett at my feet.
I told The Hotness yesterday, “I don’t know how to be sad.” Of course, I said this through tears and a body racked with sobs. Typically when I get sad, I turn it into anxiety or anger. Again, this is really unpleasant and I hate myself for it. With Garrett’s retirement, I know it’s just sadness. Maybe bordering on depression. I’ve taken naps the last few days. That’s not normal for me. I know sleeping and disengaging is a sign of depression. Maybe that’s me. Not forever, just for now, as the Uncle Tupelo song says.