On Monday we had to say goodbye to Arthur’s first playmate.
Tana was an old lady by the time he met her, and he really loved her, but I think that he mostly got on her nerves. When he was around she mostly just put up with him, thinking, “What is this little white thing?” But he kissed her constantly and would lick her ears, which always hurt her (since she was a puppy) so she tolerated him being around.
My mom got Tana (short for Montana) in 1999 as a gift. She was the world’s largest Springer Spaniel. She and I didn’t start out on great terms, she ate a brand new pair of my shoes in the first month we had her (I was in school and still lived with my parents at the time) and it took me nearly a decade to forgive her. When she was a puppy, and a young dog, she was a wild woman. She demanded affection and it drove me crazy. But, she was adorable. She had natural highlights on the top of her head, where she was mostly liver colored, and the sun would turn it a beautiful copper color. It literally looked like I had put in a few foils up there.
She and I really became friends after I got Arthur. All my siblings had moved away and Sawan and I were the only ones around to housesit and dog-sit for her. We liked coming down to Mom and Dad’s house, with their laundry in the basement and their garage that you could pull into with the remote control. So we didn’t mind staying there, even if it meant we had to put up with Tana. Spending that much quality time with a dog, you can’t help but fall in love. I remember telling my mom after the first time we house-sat, that after spending so much time with Arthur, a little dog with terrier fur, I kept thinking, “Oh, Tana, you’re so BIG. And so soft.” We became buddies.
When my mom would leave town, after Sawan died, Tana would sometimes come to my house to stay. She had gotten to where she was too old and her hips too sore to jump up on my high bed, but she couldn’t stand it that Arthur got to be up there with me and she couldn’t. So I would lift her. The first few times I would put her front feet up on the bed and then lift her back feet, so that she could help me. After that, when it became bed time I would be in the bathroom brushing my teeth and I would look down the hall and Tana would be waiting, standing on her back legs with her front legs on my bed, wagging her tail, ready for me to lift her.
These last few months, she had just gotten so old. Things weren’t working anymore. It was time. I knew all last weekend, and it’s strange how it made me grieve for the sweet little dog, but for my husband, as well.
I remember my mom telling me that when my dad first called her to tell her that Sawan died, he told her that he had some really bad news, and that she needed to prepare herself. She said that her mind immediately went to the worst thing that she could think of, and that she thought that something had happened to Tana.
In the strange ways that your mind tries to handle grief, I think, “What if they could have traded places? What if it had been Tana that night and I could have had these three years with Sawan? What would have happened?” It’s ridiculous magical thinking, but that’s what I’ve been dealing with these last few days.
It’s made me wonder how many times I’ll have to go back to the beginning. How many times will I go back to the first night, and relive it from a different angle? I know that the answer is: an unknown number, and likely many, many more.
|Arthur and Tana, spring 2010|
I feel, though, that it’s taught me an important thing about grief: that somehow all sadness is connected. I think every sadness, big or small, is connected to the Big Sadness in my life. I’m sad, but I’m learning about how sadness affects me, in good ways and bad. How to be sad but still be okay. Tana was a sweet, adorable, great, beautiful dog, and I loved her, and somehow her loss is connected to the sadness of something bigger that I lost, and some things that I still have to lose, and when those things happen, I’ll be okay then, too.