A Letter To My Dog
July 23rd, 2015. She’s gone. Just like that. My dog. My Peanut. I have to give a presentation tonight on addiction recovery. How will I get through it. How can I focus. My fiancee and family members comfort me. I want to crawl into bed and slowly fade to darkness.
The all consuming guilt. Thoughts of using. Thoughts of my death. Banging my head against the marble kitchen counter top. My refuge in life. Writing. Allowing my feelings to be known as I have for years with regards to my recovery from addiction and eating disorders. I can not allow the grief to be an excuse to tear away all the years of recovery. There will be therapy. There will be 12-step meetings. I have to let it out now. I will write my goodbye letter to Peanut.
My best friend of 14 years. My beloved rescue, beagle-mix, Peanut. You have crossed the Rainbow Bridge.
When my ex-wife Nikki suggested we get you all those years ago, I resisted. I had many excuses. Excuses that hid the truth about why I did not want a pet. When it came to being loved, I was completely closed off to anything or anyone who offered love to me.
I did not love myself so how could anyone or anything, even a wonderful dog like you, love me? I was hiding from myself in the abyss of alcohol, drugs and bulimia for nearly half my life — since I was 19. I was a master at hiding. Nikki knew I had built a wall, preventing her from getting close to me. She hoped the unconditional love of a dog would tear that wall down.
She took me to the “Rescue Weekend” at the local Pet Smart. She had already picked you out She introduced you as “Flower”, the name the rescue agency had given you. You licked my face furiously as if you was trying to heal all of my pain at once with all of the love you could give me in that instant. When we got you home, we decided that the elongated body with brown splotches on her black coat made you look more like a Peanut than a flower and changed your name.
You did not save my marriage . It was not your job. You were brought into my life to love and be loved. That is what you offered. I was too closed off and afraid of being loved or loving someone else. Healing and allowing myself to be loved would take more time.
Then came April 7, 2007. A new girlfriend of about a year, Amanda. An alcohol and drug-induced blackout. Then came April 8, 2007. The start of my recovery. A journey that would keep me clean and sober and eating-disorder free to this day. A journey that Amanda would show her ability to love deeply and believe in me, forever standing by me. Today we are engaged.
A journey through which you would always be at my side. I worked from home so there was rarely a moment when you were not sleeping next to me, on my lap or licking my face as you did that day at Pet Smart.
As I moved forward in recovery, I would have actual conversations with you, apologizing to you for not giving the attention you gave to me when I was drinking, drugging and purging. I would cry. I would grieve the little dog that had so much love to give but wasn’t getting back.
The recovery journey forced me to deal with your declining health with unmasked feelings as the passing time took its toll on your heart. It was hard. The anticipatory grieving. The denial. But, no matter how bad you felt, you was always there when I came home. Always barking in disappointment when I left and she saw the “suitcase monster” come out when either Amanda or I had to travel.
As you health became worse, with Cushing’s and congestive heart failure, the lawyer in me knew your time on earth with me was coming to an end. The heart that you opened up in me to express my feelings and love others wanted it to go on forever.
As you took your last breath, Amanda and I held you in her favorite blanket. I whispered to you over and over that I would see you again. Strange words coming from someone who never considered himself spiritual in either recovery or religion. I considered myself more agnostic than anything. However, in that moment, as I held my beloved Peanut during her final moments, I found myself in a divine foxhole. Was I just an “agnostic in a foxhole” or something more? I truly believe it was always there. The doubt of my belief and apathy. The wondering if there was something waiting for me. A flickering flame in a gas stove waiting for something to ignite it.
I continue to grieve you, my best friend. I know it will get better. I will always be grateful to Nikki for knowing what I needed to open my heart. I am forever grateful to my fiancee, Amanda as she stands by me, comforts me, even as she grieves herself. Amanda saw that part of me that you opened up, even in my worst moments. I am also grateful beyond measure to my father, mother and brothers who are always there for me.
And, of course, I am grateful to you Peanut. Thank you, sweet Peanut, for giving me the gift of unconditional love. You gave me the gift of allowing myself to be loved. You gave me the gift of faith. I now know there is something in the here-after for both of us.
I will see you again. No doubt, you will lick my face furiously.