As I wrote about in an earlier blog post, I had to put down my adored older Weimaraner Tessa in December. I mentioned that I was glad to yet have another Weimaraner, Dash, at home. That he’d be my comfort.
Well, I won’t say it never entered my mind, but I will admit that I didn’t give much thought to Dash’s own grief cycle.
But he did grieve. And was sad.
It began that first night we came home without Tess. We were broken up, but still we noticed that he sat at the back door for an hour watching for her. Dash, the dog with the insatiable appetite, didn’t ask for dinner that night, and when I prepared it, he ate almost as an after-thought. I had to coax him to his dish. He ate most, but as he is a dog who usually cleans his bowl and then chases it all over the floor as he licks it clean, I understood he was not himself.
Thinking he might be sick, I began to watch him.
That first week, he looked out the window a lot, and when he lay in his bed, often stared at Tess’s empty bed. He became my shadow, never leaving my side. If a dog’s expression could be called grim, his could.
The dog who usually stood on my toes, nose glued to the edge of the counter while I prepared his meals, now sat politely in the middle of the kitchen and waited, almost lethargically. He followed me to his bowl and ate, but not with his usual relish. The only time he was really happy was when my husband took him to the park and he could run around. During one such outing, I took advantage of his absence and put Tess’s bed away. I’d already removed her feeding bowls.
I weeded out her toy basket—each dog had their own as their pursuits varied. Tess had pot-bellied stuffed toys to suckle on, something she’d done since she was a puppy. She would only play ‘catch me,’ a game in which she held one of her toys and we chased her around. She seldom wanted to give them up or chase and retrieve balls.
Dash, on the other hand, loves to play. He loves toys with squeakers, he loves balls. He chases and retrieves. And he’ll give up the house keys for a marrow bone.
So while Dash was at the park I threw all of her stuffed toys out except three. They were barely used and Dash sometimes carries one in his mouth when he greets houseguests. It keeps him from jumping up on visitors. Tess taught him that.
Christmas came. He was diverted with new toys and his stocking full of cookies, but he wasn’t really happy, and that evening I found him staring at the box her stocking was in. I’d hastily hidden it there when I unpacked the family stockings and then forgot it, unwilling to throw it out but determined not to keep it. He slept, deeply, by the box until bedtime.
Mid-afternoon on the Friday after Christmas, Dash got up from his bed and went straight to Tess’s toy basket. He took one of the stuffed bears in his mouth and stood still. Just stood there, staring into space. It was as if he were trying to remember her, or wondering where she was, or maybe he could see her. Who knows.
It is now a full month since our Tess is gone. Dash’s appetite has returned full throttle. He appears happy again. He continues to love his park outings.
When Tess was alive, she was the queen. He was the prince. She’d make her wishes known, be they petting or treats or going for a walk. He’d stand behind her and wait for us to do her bidding, knowing he’d receive his share. Now, a month after her death, Dash is learning to be his own man. He still follows me around, but he’s not Mr. Velcro anymore. If he’d rather stay in the sunny spot, he will. If he wants to be petted and scratched, he comes and asks—and receives. He’s not shy about asking for his treats anymore. By and large, he’s gotten to understand it’s good to be king.