Feeling Invisible

Life after losing the girls has been a series of adjustments, big and small. I'm still processing it, finding it hard to write about.

It's so very quiet. 

The house feels bigger. I'm not constantly moving around or stepping over big snoozing Malamutes.

I'm no longer getting up regularly to let a dog in, or out, toss a toy, offer a treat, or rub, kiss, massage, tease. Things are much less busy.

One dog dish for breakfast and dinner instead of three. Less frequent filling of the water bowl.

I can sleep in if I want. Meadow no longer wakes me up for 6 am breakfast. Finn patiently waits for me to wake up on my own.

My socks and gloves stay put. Meadow no longer moves them around the house to let me know she misses me. I think I miss this more than anything.

I'm able to spend hours working at the computer without interruptions from Maia or Meadow, seeking attention, treats, a walk. I'm not sure this is a good thing. I liked the interruptions.

I laugh less. The girls were pranksters and commediennes who made me laugh daily. 

I talk less. I regularly talked to the girls, and Finn was included in those conversations but I was mostly addressing the girls. I'm learning to talk just to Finn. 

Every part of my speech had to change. "The girls" became "the girls and boy," then "the girl and boy" and now just "the boy." Plurals are now singular. 

I use fewer poop bags.

The lack of dog hair is amazing. The carpet, furniture, clothing, the car's interior - everything is slowly becoming free of Malamute fuzz, which makes me very sad. 

I don't feel as safe - at home, in the neighborhood or in the forest. Finn is alert and a wonderful companion, but he's not visually intimidating like the girls were. Even more, I miss Maia's ability to alert me to potentially dangerous wildlife (especially bear) on trails. I find myself being much less adventurous, unwilling to explore new trails without the girls.

Daily routines are the same, but...different. For several weeks, Finn couldn't believe I was inviting him for evening walks, as that had always been the girls' time.

Perhaps the biggest single change: I feel invisible. On some level I always knew that the girls and I were recognizable when we walked through the neighborhood, and that the girls' beauty and calm invited all sorts of strangers to approach and greet us.

[Shelly Singer took this wonderful photo in the summer of 2012, while both girls were still healthy. I told her I wanted a photo that showed what everyone but me saw when the girls and I strolled through the neighborhood. I'm so glad I asked for this perspective, and thankful for Shelle who gave me this and the rest of the great photos she took that day when she learned the girls were gone. Check out Shelle's work: Star Dog Photo.]

As a single woman who is an introvert yet enjoys regular interactions with people, having the girls break the ice was wonderful. People rolled down the windows of their cars to say "Your dogs are gorgeous!" as they slowly drove by us. We met so many people and dogs on our walks. These interactions, brief as they were, brought smiles to my face and made me feel a part of my neighborhood. It wasn't until the girls were gone that I realized how invisible I am now, without them.

A few locals, seeing me walking Finn most evenings these past two months, ask if I have a new dog. I understand their confusion, since the girls and I were in Idaho from late April through the end of their lives; I didn't return to Kirkland (except for a brief visit in June) until August. I came back with very short hair; I look different. Without the girls, without that context, who would recognize me? To those who do, and ask about Finn, I explain that Finn has been part of my family since 2008, that until I lost the girls, he was my morning dog - we'd go for runs most mornings, or long walks when we didn't run - and the girls were my evening strolling dogs.

This evening, walking Finn just before sundown on our usual after-dinner stroll, I finally feel less invisible. 

There's a sushi restaurant nearby. When I walked the girls in the neighborhood, we often passed close in front of its windows. A man I assume is the owner - he's always there, serving customers - would wave and smile at me and the girls as we passed, sometimes offering a thumbs up as well. His customers also frequently smiled and waved at us. We were free entertainment. It became a regular "thing" these past few years. While this man and I have never spoken, because of his friendliness he feels like a neighbor and friend. I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate his happy attitude. 

Since losing the girls, though, when Finn and I walk by the restaurant, the man doesn't seem to notice us. We haven't received the smiles and waves. We're strangers. Invisible.

Until today. As we walk by, the sushi man smiles big at me, and waves, and just to make sure I understand, he stops, points at Finn and gave me two thumbs up along with his smile. 

He sees me. He knows it's me. It feels like he's saying, in his unique way, "I'm sorry for your loss. I'm happy your have another canine companion."

It may have taken him awhile to put two and two together. Perhaps he finally did because I'm now wearing the blue fleece jacket I wear on dog walks when the weather's cool, a jacket that's almost as distinctive as the girls were. The jacket may finally have connected me - walking an Aussie - with the woman who used to walk the two gorgeous Malamutes.

Such a simple gesture offered by this stranger/friend, but to me, it meant the world.

I'm no longer invisible. 

Life goes on. I carry with me always the girls' spirits, all my memories of them. Finn and I feel our way through our new lives, making new routines and memories. It's all good.

Like this sunset Finn and I enjoyed on this evening's stroll. We meandered through a park the girls and I enjoyed so much over the years - the old and new mixing together as time marches on.



Rebecca WallickComment