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Loving Your Sadness

I once read somewhere that you should never begin a blog post with mentioning how much time has passed since your last post and pretend like you never missed a beat. Generally, I would agree with that advice, but today I’m going to ignore it because I feel like I’ve missed a thousand beats in the last month.
On April 12th, I defended my thesis and received approval from my committee to graduate. Over the following week, I tied up some loose ends and started a new full time job. Finishing school was bittersweet. I was incredibly anxious to get back into the workforce and feel like an adult again, but I miss the projects, the professors and the academic environment.

On April 20th – Saturday – we woke up around seven o’clock. It was a beautiful day…something we didn’t see too much of during April here in Iowa. Keegan got dressed and left for a morning at the office, and I started my morning by changing the sheets on our bed, putting water on to boil for my coffee and watering my house plants. I realized that I’d let our dog Eddie out but not Miles, which wasn’t unusual. As Miles got older, he liked to sleep in more and more…usually stretched out in the early morning square of sunshine on our bed. As I suspected, I found him in our bedroom, lying on the floor. I said, come on, Bubba, let’s go out. But, he just lay there looking up at me with sad brown eyes. I offered him car rides and walks and treats and bones, but he couldn’t move.


Miles came into my life as a ten week old puppy, when I was 21 years old, a senior in college. He was my best friend and constant companion for twelve and half years. He accompanied me every time I moved, though I could tell he hated being uprooted yet again. He lived in five different states and rode cross country – from Pennsylvania to California –  at my side, then back again. He kept me company on the long nights during my pending divorce and when I was lonely and sad after leaving my family and friends behind to move to Iowa. He protected me from strangers on the streets of San Francisco, Portland and Phoenix, and he made me feel safe with his warm presence whenever I was home alone and scared.

Miles was bold as a puppy, as Labs often are, but he matured into the most affectionate, loyal and personable dog. Everyone who knew him loved him. He loved face rubs, belly rubs, hugs and kisses, swimming and hikes, and he hated squirrels, kitties and bicycle riders along with most vegetables. His welcome was loud and unforgettable, and if he really liked you, he’d offer you two shoes instead of one. He was prone to jumping out car windows and ripping up grass. In his youth, he was quite the escape artist, requiring us to give chase on more than one memorable occasion. He could often be seen dragging me and our other dog Eddie around Windsor Heights at a breakneck pace, even though he should have been arthritic and slowing down. He had the softest ears and the sweetest face, and he slept by my side every night. When anxiety or nerves or too much caffeine kept me up, I would reach over and rest my hand on his warm back for comfort.

As we pulled out of the driveway to take him to the vet, I sat with his head cradled in my arms and knew he wouldn’t be coming back with us. I’ve had only a few moments in my life that I think of in before and after terms…moments in which a switch flipped and my life completely changed in a permanent way. That was one of them.

I know a lot of people would say he was just a dog, but I never really thought of him that way. Miles taught me what it was like to unconditionally love another living thing. After college, I had to learn to be completely responsible for him…I never, not once, stayed out all night or at happy hour too long and left him home alone. I made major life decisions because I couldn’t bear the thought of giving him up. I talked to him like he was a person, because to me, he kind of was. Whenever I looked into his eyes, I felt like he understood me.

I’ve missed him so much these past 20 days that I haven’t had any interest in doing much of anything. For the first week, I avoided home by working, and I neglected Eddie who probably needed me. I had this gaping hole in my heart and all this love but no where to put it. The house felt empty and quiet and sad. I knew I needed something to distract me and keep me busy, and so we impulsively adopted a twelve week old white labrador whom we named Booker. And, life changed again.

I’m still sad and permanently exhausted…still prone to breaking into tears in the middle of the day when something jogs a memory of Miles. But, Booker needs constant attention and training, and so I’m keeping afloat by staying busy and distracted. I have high hopes that someday Booker will become a good, happy, lovable dog like Miles, and as cute as puppies are, I can’t wait for that day to come.

In the meantime, I am in keeping in mind a sentiment that I read in Danielle Laporte’s newsletter earlier this week: “Love your sadness. It won’t last long.”


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Jennifer Dugan-Burns

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

What a loving, heartfelt and heartbreaking tribute to Miles. Thank you for sharing your sadness with your readers. I wish I would have known him.I hope the passage of time makes your every day reminders of Miles hurt a little less.I am very sorry you've been so sad.


Monday 13th of May 2013

Jillian, I'm so sorry for your loss. I know how much losing a pet feels like losing a member of the family. It hurts just as much. I hope things get easier for you with time.


Tuesday 14th of May 2013

Thank you, Veronica! Hope you are doing well.

Melissa Peterson

Monday 13th of May 2013

Jill--This is a beautiful. It captures everything Miles was (and will always be). It is a beautiful tribute to a wonderful dog, who was way more than "just a dog". I am so sorry for your loss but so happy he was by your side for all of the big moments in your life. Love you guys and know time (and hopefully Booker) will help with the loss.


Tuesday 14th of May 2013

Thank you, Melissa...that is so sweet.

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