A note on Sheila

Saving this from Instagram so I don’t lose track of it later.

Sheila died on April 6. The following day would have been her 12th birthday–although we invented that date based on a good guess, like we invented so much else for her. We defined the world for her and she defined the moments in it for us.

After a year when over half a million Americans died of a contagious virus, I’m weeping over a troublesome dog with bleeding in her pericardium. I’ve grieved for humans before, but Sheila was my first dog. When my dad died two years ago, my grief was an impossible knot of sorrow and anger and confusion and regret and sudden unwanted responsibilities. Grieving for a dog is different. My grief now is a hot, simple flame. I know I did everything for her. Nobody ever second-guessed too many head scratches or too many dawn walks. I loved her so hard. There’s no funeral to plan, no account passwords to recover, nobody else to call. This is it.

When she was young she spent considerable energy trying to bolt out the front door. We used to joke (“joke”) that she was in search of a better family.

In the end, of course, she stayed. She decided we were the best family for her after all.

Once she ate a rotting carp and half a bar of Ivory soap and vomited sudsy fish guts.

Sheila caused Brian a facial wound that required five stitches to repair (which she felt bad about) and a similar injury to a dogsitter for two stitches (which she did not).

She never regretted a dogfight.

She never cuddled, but if she was feeling affectionate she would butt her heavy, velvety skull into your palm, which was blissful.

Lately, Sheila and I spent roughly twenty-four hours a day together. She was exasperated when I coughed and I was annoyed when she licked her paws. We followed each other from room to room–if I’m unwary I will hear her toenails click now and cry again. She knew the time to about five minutes and could open doors without training or effort.

Despite being her last day, yesterday wasn’t her worst day (that would be the time she got her head stuck between the bars of our back gate). Her best day, like so many other dogs, was every literally every single other day of her life.

Those were my favorite days with her, too.

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