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After last weekend, I’ve been thinking and wondering about how dogs (and other animals) mourn. I mean sure, in a lot of ways, they mourn like humans. They mope, they whine, they are confused, they don’t eat, they are clingy, they are desperate for love and attention…okay, in a lot of ways, they mourn exactly like humans. But what is it that makes mourning different for them? Does sadness affect different living species in different ways? I’ve gotten mixed answers when I search the interwebs (http://ask.yahoo.com/20030313.html). It’s just one of those things that is curious. I guess I don’t really want any scientific answers, to be honest. It’s just something I wish I understood better, as I think about how Gus feels about the disappearance of his best bud Rylie.

But Gus is a very vocal dog so I can typically understand if his bark is for excitement, fright, anger, play, or “intruder alert!” Sometimes I think it would just be fascinating to get inside of a dog’s (or other animal’s) head to understand how they are feeling or thinking about what’s happening in their world. I wish I could have understood why Rylie would get so aggressive in certain situations or moments. Because I know there was a dog in him who deeply wanted to love and be loved. Something just got in the way. And I think about that scene in Powder, in which a boy, Jeremy, possesses some higher power to use all of his brain and control energy, connect to the thoughts and feelings of animals, and the thoughts of the unconscious. In a hunting scene, he makes the man who killed a deer feel what it feels while it dies (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Uz80zTMO40). I wish I had that kind of power, to feel, to know.

It is hard to know what I feel about putting Rylie down, since for such a long time I felt like the damn dog hated me and wanted to bite my face off. I mean, once I moved back home after college things changed drastically, because I concentrated on working with him and trying to calm him and understand him better. But he still had his moments. And I grew to worry that a moment might arrive when Gus or Rylie would snap at each other and try to kill each other. But still, little Gus was Rylie’s loyal follower and friend. The end had been a long time coming as his health had deteriorated, but I never felt as connected to Rylie as I had to Bailey by the time it was “time.” And maybe that’s why it wasn’t as hard for me.

I remember when we had to bring Bailey to the emergency room to euthanize him, because we’d waited too long because none of us were ready to say goodbye. That was an awful last day- he was constantly vomiting and peeing everywhere and his nose was bleeding and he had no control over anything anymore. His time was way past due. But still, none of us wanted to say goodbye. I had inadvertently taught Bailey one of the coolest tricks ever (to dance on his hind legs for an extended period of time), always used him as a pillow and a snuggle buddy, and I loved the shit out of that dog. I cried so hard once we put him down that I started hyperventilating (I was a junior in high school by this point). And then we went home. And the next day, the house was silent. It was empty and had a huge hole missing. I always remember Bailey’s last day, and I know it would just not be possible for me to mourn Rylie in the same way.

I cannot say I did not love Rylie, because I did. He lived in my room when he was a puppy (though that didn’t last long), and I tried to train him, but he was resistant. And pretty soon, his weird behaviors kicked in, and I moved out to college. If I had never moved  back to my parents’ house, maybe I wouldn’t have thought much about it at all. But I moved home and became the dog whisperer of the house, trying to learn the relationships and habits of all dogs and family members involved, with an especially resistant participant (no, not Rylie, my dad, because dogs can do whatever they want “because it’s in their nature”). But I also grew to understand how important Rylie was to the rest of the family, especially Gus, and this, this is what made it hardest for me to say goodbye to that ornery old man dog (who was actually trapped in the body of a dog who was only six years old).

Sorry you had to live such a tortured life little buddy, but I hope you know you were loved and Gus misses you.

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