Many of you know from my Facebook posting earlier this week that my dog, Eli, passed away on Tuesday evening.
Right now, I write this with a dull ache in my heart. It starts there and spreads through my lower abdomen, making my head pound, my eyes tired. I know that I have lost part of myself.
Even now, tears fill my eyes and I don’t want to stop them.
Eli was a five-year-old Siberian husky. Black and white, fuzzy, slender and gorgeous, with eyes like the sky on a pale winter morning, right at dawn. For about the last month or so of his life, he was learning to walk, trot, and run on three legs after an amputation. He was enjoying life, as his normal, happy, vivacious self. He was inquisitive, investigative. Always hungry. Always eager to play. And yet so independent, with his own mind, which in turn had its own ideas.
I wonder if he ever really belonged to any of us. He was truly his own spirit.
As I think about Eli, my heart swells with adoration – it always will. First and foremost, we fawned over his physical beauty, his wolflike stature, his pointed ears as they stood at attention when his favorite brother walked into the room. We joked that when his ears perked up like that, his IQ became a full 210. As his ears drooped, so did his IQ. We were the only ones who laughed at that; it was a silly little inside joke for us.
I remember living at home with my parents and getting up early to take Eli for walks. He could go for miles, and when the walk was coming to an end, he would often stop and lie down in the grass either from a) the heat or b) an unwillingness to end the walk so soon. Far from obedient, he wanted life on his own terms. I wonder if I listened to that autonomous voice enough, if I indulged him enough. All I know is that those walks were among our most precious times.
As I sit here, typing this, tears stream down my face. The wound is still so raw.
…..the first day we had him. He was 6 months old. My mother initially said he was “weird looking” (her words, not mine), but within two minutes of meeting him, she was smitten.
……taking Eli to the park. Our favorite was Winter Park’s Fleet Peeples dog park – it had a huge lake, enormous oak trees, and at least two square miles of land that we loved to explore with Eli. He liked to run into the woods and freak us the hell out, because he was difficult to find in those thickets. I think he thought it was funny, in his own way. Eli, even in play, was often very serious.
…..the way his voice sounded. He never barked; he only talked to us. He had a sound for every scenario; our little land dolphin.
…..the way he loved my brother, Alex’s, bed. At one point, we lived in an apartment, and my brother’s room was nothing more than a partitioned enclave, with a huge window right by the bed. Eli’s favorite pastime was lying on Alex’s bed and watching anything and everything that moved. Squirrels by day, armadillos by night…. he would get SO excited.
…..seeing his face as we drove up to the apartment. He was usually on Alex’s bed whenever we got home, so we’d see his white face there in the window. He would see us, and immediately bolt for the door to meet us. God, I miss that.
…..how hard he pulled us on walks. I’m amazed that all our arms are still safely in their sockets. I swear that dog was stronger than an entire team of huskies.
……how deeply we all loved him. We showered him with kisses, pets, and playtime. We adored that dog, and we always will.
I know in my heart of hearts that Eli is still with us. His body is gone, yes; but we will always carry him with us. He made every single person in my family better, more capable of loving, more tender. I didn’t know I could love an animal the way I love Eli – I love him just like a human sibling. My only hope now is that we’ll all get to see him again, play with him again, and remind him once more how loved he was.