We are getting through this the best way we know how. It helps to believe we did the best thing possible for Winnie every moment of her life––from the moment she stumbled into our laps, her Dalmatian spots and graceful, careful steps around her scampering, awkward litter-mates, including Pip, to the moment she closed her eyes for the last time while I held her in my arms, wrapped in my baby blanket, whispering close in her ear, "Papa is here, Bean. I'm here. It's okay. Find me again. I'll look for you." Our apartment is small and plenty full between Ken and me, Duncan, Olive and Pip, but the enormity of her absence is felt every moment, creating a much bigger space than I remember before.
Aside from myself Pip seems the most effected. I assured Winnie that he was safe, that I would look after him and make sure he always knows he is loved. We had the vet, Dr. Jason Cordeiro, come to our apartment to assist in her passing, sparing her the anxiety of being moved to an unfamiliar, sterile place away from the others. After she was gone, curled up on my lap, each of her siblings came to her, touching their noses to her nose, sniffing and then moving on. Only Pip lingered, standing over her protectively, his body taut and straight, unmoving, for a long time. He has stayed close to me ever since, snuggling to my chest, climbing onto my hip where she once laid, constantly reassuring himself that I am nearby. The night her ashes were returned to us and we placed her in the beautiful urn we picked out, Pip lingered long moments nearby as though understanding that his sister was back home where she belonged but unsure why he couldn't see her. Wednesday night, long after Ken and I had tucked ourselves into bed, Pip's screams pulled me, running, down the hall to him. It was a sound I'd never heard him make, a tortured yowl that was pained and desperate. I found him curled up on the arm of the couch looking at her urn, his body trembling. He ran to me when I appeared and let me carry him back to bed where he stayed curled against my shoulder all night. I stayed awake long after he and Ken had fallen asleep, each of them snoring in the soft way they have, stroking his back, running his paws between my fingers, kissing his ears and telling him he was safe, just as I promised I would.
I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel that Dr. Jason was the man who assisted Winnie in her transition. He was empathetic and kind, patient and sincere. He stayed with us for several hours, letting us take our time, laughing as we shared memories, holding our hands and hugging us when we needed it. Tonight I received a heartfelt condolence card from him that brought me peace even as it brought tears to my eyes. He is a good man, the kind of person I'd like to know better, and I am grateful for his presence at such an important moment in our lives. You can read more about the work he does on his website, One Last Gift. If you live in the Denver area and are in need of such services, I cannot recommend him enough.
We bought Winnie's urn at Hero's Pets, from a local artist, Lee Wolfe. Despite being larger than we needed, Ken and I knew the moment we saw it that it was perfect in every way, especially because of the feathers that were hand-painted across it, one more to give me strength as I move forward.
I still call out her name, especially when I'm in the shower, where she liked to join me in the mornings, sitting safe and dry behind the liner, watching me, occasionally talking and rubbing up against the plastic while she waited for me to finish so I could spank her gently on her rump while she rolled on the bathmat. I still see her from the corner of my eye, especially in those places she spent her last days with us, curled up behind the guitar, sleeping peacefully on the chair, perched on the table drinking from her glass of water.
It's still there. Waiting for her. As am I.